McGon’s Picks: 2018 NFL Divisional Playoffs

Wild-Card Weekend sure was wild…

…with 3 road teams winning and all 4 covering.

The Colts were by far the most impressive team of the weekend, making a statement in the early Saturday slate. The Saturday night game was arguably the best overall, with the Cowboys winning the BTB Bowl, but the Seahawks covering in an all time bad beat (more to come on that). The Chargers completely flipped the switch from Week 16 and held on late to beat the Ravens. The final game of the weekend was not the best, but had the best ending, with the Eagles scoring late before the double post field goal from Cody Parkey. The games will be less sloppy, but hope this weekend is just as wild.

The craziness led to a few bad beats and a tough weekend to pick winners. I went 1-3, both outright and against the spread. Here’s a look back at the picks I made (correct pick in blue, incorrect pick in red):

Colts at Texans (-1.5)

My Pick: Texans 27, Colts 21

  • Final Score: Colts 21, Texans 17

Seahawks at Cowboys (-2.5)

My Pick: Cowboys 24, Seahawks 20

  • Final Score: Cowboys 24, Seahawks 22Great win for the Cowboys and great game, but gonna focus in on one of the worst beats of all time. I wagered on Cowboys ML, so I didn’t care of course, but the Seahawks went for 2 to cover instead of kick the extra point due to Sebastian Janikowski’s injury. Just awful

https://twitter.com/StuSource/status/1081771792304353280

Chargers at Ravens (-3)

My Pick: Ravens 23, Chargers 17

  • Final Score: Chargers 23, Ravens 17Well I was right about the score… just not the teams

Eagles (+6.5) at Bears

My Pick: Bears 23. Eagles 20

  • Final Score: Eagles 16, Bears 15 Was cheering for the Eagles in hopes of sending the Cowboys to LA instead of New Orleans. Had the Cowboys lost, cannot even begin to describe how angry I would have bene that the Eagles won in the way that they did

https://twitter.com/barstoolcarl/status/1082077949455749122?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1082077949455749122&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fbarstoolcarl%2Fstatus%2F1082077949455749122

We’re onto the second round.

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Colts (+5.5) at Chiefs

Chiefs 31, Colts 28

  • No one’s looking past the Colts any longer after their incredibly impressive 21-7 win over the Texans in Houston last weekend
  • Under first year starter Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs enjoyed their best season in the Andy Reid era, going 12-4 and clinch the AFC’s top seed
  • As incredible as their offense has been this season, the Chiefs defense has been pretty poor- advantage red hot Colts offense
  • Colts defense has been pretty great lately too, and Mahomes has had some of his tougher games against good defense
  • I have the Colts covering, but the Chiefs offense is good enough right to make up for their poor defense right now, I think they win a very competitive game by a field goal

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  • These teams last met in 2016 with the Chiefs winning 30-14 (highlights)

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  • The last playoff matchup between these two teams, the 2013 Wild-Card, was an absolute thriller with the Colts rallying from a 38-10 deficit to win 45-44 (highlights)

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Cowboys (+7) at Rams

Cowboys 27, Rams 24

  • Last week was the typical blueprint for a Cowboys win: low scoring first 3 quarters led by Zeke and the defense, before scoring some points and controlling the clock with some clutch and gritty play by Dak Prescott in the 4th to seal the win
  • The Rams had an incredible season in their 3rd season back in Los Angeles, winning 13 games for the first time since 2001, a season in which they made the Super Bowl
  • While the money line pick has some heart in it, I definitely think the Cowboys will cover
  • Against the other 4 NFC playoff teams, the Rams went 2-3 outright, and 0-5 against the spread
    • They have been great this year, but the majority of their big wins have come against bad teams, while they’ve struggled with the better teams
  • The stadium is going to be loaded with Cowboys fans, and the Rams (and Chargers too) have struggled a little when opposing crowds have taken over their stadiums, such as against the Packers and Eagles
  • Ultimately, the Cowboys have improved as the season has went on, while the Rams have not. I see the Cowboys coming in with momentum from all of the reasons above and upsetting the Rams

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  • These teams last met last season, with the Rams winning 35-30 in Dallas, a game which was seen as a coming out party for the new and improved Rams (highlights)

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  • This is the first playoff matchup between these two teams since 1985, in which the original LA Rams beat the Cowboys 20-0 in the Wild-Card round (the teams will wear these same uniforms on Saturday)

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Chargers (+4) at Patriots

Chargers 24, Patriots 21

  • The Chargers returned to their dominant road selves last week, making it appear that the last time they played the Ravens was Week 1, not just two weeks prior
  • The Patriots had a “down” season, yet went 11-5, clinched their 10th straight AFC East title, secured their 9th straight first round bye, and are one win away from their 8th straight AFC title game appearance
  • This spread feels like a trap- Vegas is begging you to take the Chargers, and the public loves the Chargers as well
  • But it was the same scenario last week at the Ravens, and the Chargers won that one
  • The Patriots have a major advantage with their experience and home field, but not only does the eye test tell you the Chargers are the better team this year, but the records do too
  • Going against Tom Brady is very risky, but I feel that the Chargers are just the better team now and play better on the road. I see the Chargers winning a low scoring game by a field goal

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  • These teams last met last season with the Patriots winning at home 21-13 (highlights)

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  • Tom Brady is 7-0 all time against Phil Rivers, including 2-0 in the playoffs. The last playoff matchup came in the 2007 AFC Championship, with the Patriots beating the Chargers 21-12 (Rivers played on a torn ACL) to advance to 18-0 on the season (horrible memories typing that)

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Eagles at Saints (-8)

Saints 31, Eagles 17

  • Nick Foles delivered the winning TD, but the story for the Eagles last week was their defense performance and a miracle to advance over the Bears to the their second straight Divisional Round
  • The 2018 Saints were arguably as good as the 2009 Saints that won Super Bowl XLIV, winning 13 games and earning the NFC’s top seed
  • The Eagles have now played 4 must win games in a row- it has been a major physical and emotional grind for Philly the last few weeks
  • The Saints have been the best and most consistent team in the NFL this season, and while they didn’t finish the season as strong as they started, they still won 3 of their last 4 (excluding Week 17 loss) and are coming in well rested
  • This will be even tougher than the Super Bowl last season, and with the Eagles obviously not as healthy this year, I don’t see Foles doing it again
  • If the Cowboys win, I’ll be cheering for the Eagles, but see the Saints offensive fire power showing to win and cover over Philly

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  • These teams met in New Orelans in Week 13, with the Saints dominating 48-7 (highlights)

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  • These teams last met in playoffs in the 2013 Wild-Card Round, with Drew Brees and the Saints beating Nick Foles and the Eagles 26-24 in Philly (highlights)

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That’s all for the Divisional Round, be back for Championship Sunday.

In January 1996, the Cowboys won their 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years. In July 1996, I was born. Can the Cowboys stun the Rams to go to the NFC Championship for the first time in my life?

Five Thoughts from Wild-Card Weekend – Don’t Worry; Only Three are About Kickers

Wild Card Weekend has come to a close, and I am not here to provide full recaps of the four games.  I would, however, like to cover five thoughts from the weekend.  Yes, most of them deal with kickers.  Let us dive right in.

  • Maybe teams should activate second kickers for playoff games.

 Yes, Seattle did overcome the loss of Sebastian Janikowski by converting the team’s fourth downs and two-point conversions.  However, the Seahawks had no chance at an onside kick and gave the Cowboys good field position on the regular kickoffs.  Furthermore, had Seattle recovered the onside kick in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks would have unlikely been able to attempt a field goal at all, though the team was down by only 2.  This got me to thinking….What is more important, carrying a last depth linebacker or special-teams guy or making sure that an injury does not end your entire kicking game?  While I never like to overreact to the worst-case scenario (which occurred to Seattle), the debate has merit.

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Photo via The Seattle Times
  • Coaches should not be able to call timeouts.

It has now been more than ten years since the league changed the rule to allow coaches to call timeouts.  Before that, only players could call timeouts.  I believe that it was an unintended consequence of this rule change that coaches now call timeouts as kickers are kicking game-winning field goals, but all coaches use this tactic.  Sometimes the kicker makes the nullified kick and misses the second (as Cody Parkey did).  Sometimes the opposite happens.  Sometimes, the kicker misses both.  Sometimes, he makes both.  It does not matter – I cannot stand this rule.  If you are a sports fan at all, it does not feel right when the timeout is called as the kicker is striking the football.  You cannot call a timeout mid-free throw or mid-penalty shot.  You should not be able to do it as a kicker approaches a field goal either.  Thus, leave timeouts to the people on the field.  Yes, teams could still ice kickers under my rule change, but at least teams would have to ice the kickers before they boot field-goal attempts that end up not counting.

  • Do not ask kickers what happened when they missed a field goal.

As if it was not tough enough for Cody Parkey to miss a do-or-die playoff field goal, he then had to answer questions from a million media members about how he missed the field goal.  The simple answer is that, when people try to kick an oblong object 43 yards through the air and between two goalposts, even the best people are not perfect.  We all watched Parkey miss the field goal, and we all saw him strike the ball like any field-goal kicker does.  We have all seen kickers miss field goals, and this was another such case.  It happens.  There is no magical explanation.

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Photo via NJ.com
  • It is funny how athletes’ narratives change based on things completely out of their control.

The classic case of this is how Mike Mussina is not considered a “winner” as a Yankee, yet, had Mariano Rivera closed the door on the DBacks in the Bottom of the 9th Inning, Mussina would be considered a “winner”.  The same thing is true right now with Nick Foles.  Look, I love Nick Foles.  I would love Nick Foles to be the Giants’ starting QB next year.  However, he did lead the Eagles to only 16 points on Sunday.  If Cody Parkey’s kick were an inch to the right, we are all talking today about how Carson Wentz would have been able to lead the Eagles to more than 16 points.  Instead, we are discussing Foles’s magic in leading the Eagles on another game-winning drive.  At least Foles did lead a dramatic game-winning drive and lead Philly to more than 10 points.  The most egregious example of my “narrative” point came three years ago with the Blair Walsh Seattle/Minnesota miss.  Seattle won that game because Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal to give the Seahawks a 10-9 win.  People are unfairly treating Parkey’s 43-yard attempt as a chip shot.  It was not.  Blair Walsh’s, however, was a chip shot….and he missed it.  What happened immediately after the game?  The FOX NFL crew (Terry Bradshaw and pals) praised Russell Wilson for doing enough to win.  Yes, I am sure that is exactly what they would have been saying had Walsh made a kick that kickers make 98% of the time to give the Seahawks a 12-10 loss.

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Photo via The Ringer
  • Who foresaw the “Allen Robinson catch/no catch” issue coming? This guy.

Last year, I responded to the Jesse James play by saying that the issue was not that it is wrong to have to complete the catch to the ground.  After all, if a guy is tumbling to the ground, he might take three steps and have the ball pop out.  If that receiver has never actually gained his footing, it seems wrong to call a fumble.  That was the case with Anthony Miller.  We have all seen many plays like this, and we know these passes are incomplete.  With James, however, he clearly planted two feet before diving for the end zone and then having the ball pop out.  We all knew that should have been a touchdown. Therefore, it is a bit arbitrary to decide when receivers must complete the catch to the ground and when they need not.  That is why I proposed last year to leave the catch rule alone but to limit reviews to one minute.  This way, the obvious bad calls are reversed, but we do not end up with ridiculous overturns like with Jesse James.  Furthermore, the Anthony Miller play would have ended up “incomplete” as it should have been.

 

That sums up my key thoughts from Wild-Card Weekend.

McGon’s Picks: 2018 NFL Wild-Card Playoffs

In Week 17, the Indianapolis Colts won on Sunday Night Football to clinch the final spot in this year’s playoffs. Fitting.

While it sucks that there won’t be another full slate of football until September, these upcoming games are the one’s we will remember forever, especially if your team is involved. This year’s Wild Card matchups are among some of the most intriguing I can ever remember. It starts on Saturday afternoon with the Colts traveling to their division rival Texans in a matchup of two teams who turned around early season struggles to both win double digit games. Then on Saturday night, in arguably the most anticipated of the weekend, we have our 3rd Below the Belt Bowl (and first in the playoffs) between Bert’s Seahawks and my Cowboys. Just like the earlier matchup, both teams were afterthoughts early in the season, and are suddenly teams that no one wants to see. While it may not be as anticipated, the early matchup Sunday may be the best of them all, with the Chargers traveling to Baltimore to take on the Ravens, who they lost to at home just two weeks ago. And finally, we end the week with another great matchup, with the defending champion Eagles traveling to take on a very dangerous Bears team in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. If you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited.

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To quickly recap Week 17, it was a little less unpredictable than anticipated. I went an okay 7-9 ATS, but went a season-high 13-3 outright. Here’s a look back at the picks I made (correct pick in blue, incorrect pick in red):

Lions at Packers (-7.5)

Cowboys (+7.5) at Giants

  • Went to the Post Malone concert Saturday night, went to this game on Sunday. This tweet sums up my weekend pretty well.

https://twitter.com/Bulldog_Graphic/status/1079513268341886977

Jets (+14) at Patriots

Jaguars (+7) at Texans

Panthers (+8) at Saints

Falcons (-2.5) at Bucs

  • Lucky to have Falcons +1 in my spread pool, cause this would have been a tough beat.

Dolphins (+5.5) at Bills

Eagles (-6) at Redskins

Raiders at Chiefs (-14.5)

Chargers at Broncos (+7)

Bengals (+14) at Steelers

Bears at Vikings (-6)

Cardinals at Seahawks (-14.5)

Browns (+7) at Ravens

49ers at Rams (-10.5)

Colts at Titans (+5) 

  • Kept my Titans ATS picked, but switched my outright pick to Colts.

2018 Straight-Up: 156-98-2, 2018 vs. Spread: 109-136-11

Let’s make up for a tough regular season.

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Colts at Texans (-1.5)

Texans 27, Colts 21 

  • After starting the season 1-5, the Colts made of the greatest in-season turnarounds in NFL history, winning 9 of their last 10 games and getting great play on both sides of the ball to earn the AFC’s 6th seed.
  • But don’t let that overlook the Texans turnaround. After starting off 0-3, Houston won 9 in row before finishing 11-5 and winning their 5th AFC South title in the last 8 years.
  • Everything would point to these teams being pretty evenly matched, yet the home Texans are only laying 1.5 points- good value to get them at
  • As great as the Colts’ second half has been, they’ve shown vulnerabilities, needing double digit comeback wins at home against the lowly Dolphins and Giants, and getting shut out in Jacksonville
  • The Colts may be the better team in this rivalry in the coming years, but I think the home Texans are the better team this season and will win by less than a score to move on to New England

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  • These two teams split the regular season series, with the road team winning by a field goal on both occasions (Week 4 highlights, Week 14 highlights)

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  • This is the first playoff matchup between these two teams

 

Seahawks at Cowboys (-2)

Cowboys 24, Seahawks 20

  • With nearly every member of the Legion of Boom gone, the Seahawks were given small odds to make the playoffs this season by most. After starting 0-2, the Seahawks beat the Cowboys in Week 3 to start an incredible run that ended at 10-6 and the NFC’s first wild card
  • After starting 3-5, the future of the Cowboys’ leadership was being questioned by many. But the arrival of Amari Cooper and the strength of this defense has changed everything, as the Cowboys won 7 of their last 8 to win the NFC East for the 3rd time in 5 years
  • Both teams have changed dramatically since they met in Week 3, so don’t put too much stock into what we saw that day (not just saying that because the Cowboys lost)
  • The Cowboys are 7-1 at Jerry World this season, and are coming off the most meaningful meaningless game ever, with Dak Prescott balling out despite missing Zeke, Tyron Smith, and Zack Martin
  • The Super Bowl winning pedigree is a big advantage for Seattle as it comes from their most important pieces (Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Pete Carroll), but the rest of the team is very different from the old days, especially defensively
  • Ultimately, these are two extremely evenly matched teams. 12 of the Cowboys 16 games this season were decided by a score or less, and they’re 9-3 in those games, so I like that and their home record as a big reason why they edge out a close win Saturday night

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  • As mentioned, these teams last met in Week 3 with the Seahawks winning 24-13 (highlights)

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  • These teams have met one time in the playoffs, the 2006 Wild-Card round in which the Seahawks won 21-20. This was a great game but is only remembered for one of the most infamous plays in Cowboys history

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  • Good luck Bert (but not really)

 

Chargers at Ravens (-3)

Ravens 23, Chargers 17

  • The Chargers have been enjoying one of their best seasons in franchise history, going 12-4, and many people are picking them to be the first Wild Card team to win a Super Bowl since the 2010 Packers
  • The Ravens first half was up and down under Joe Flacco, but since turning to rookie Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are 6-1 and locked up the AFC North title, and suddenly are a team most will not want to play
  • These teams met just 2 weeks ago in Los Angeles, with the Ravens defense dominating the high powered Chargers offense
  • I actually kind of like the Chargers more as a road team, but I don’t love them in this matchup
  • The Ravens are small favorites, but the public has made it clear who they like- 72% on the Chargers as of Friday night
  • The Ravens, like the Cowboys, have been winning close games against any team, and I like them to do the same on Sunday as they edge out the Chargers by less than a score

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  • As mentioned, these two teams met in Week 16 with the Ravens defense dominating to win 22-10 (highlights)

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  • This is the first playoff meeting between these teams

 

Eagles (+6.5) at Bears

Bears 23, Eagles 20

  • After what they did last year, especially with a backup QB, this Eagles team has been nothing short of a disappointment this season. But to their credit, they rallied to win 5 of their last 6 games, including the last 3 in a row under Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles to earn the NFC’s last playoff spot
  • The young Bears came mostly out of nowhere this season. With the additions of Khalil Mack and head coach Matt Nagy, and QB Mitch Trubisky’s sophomore season, the Bears put together a phenomal year, going 12-4 and winning the NFC North
  • There’s truly something different about the Eagles under Nick Foles. While he may not be as talented as Carson Wentz, he brings a different animal out of this team, and he’s also been able to get weapons other than Zach Ertz more involved
  • We saw what a less talented but more experienced Falcons team did to a more talented but less experienced Rams team last year in the playoffs- they domianted them
  • I think the Eagles will keep up their strong play and cover in this game
  • But this Bears team doesn’t play like a young and inexperienced team, as seen last week dominating the Vikings in a must win game for Minnesota, and a virtually meaningless game for the Bears
  • The weekend concludes with the Bears winning by a field goal

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  • While this means virtually nothing, these teams last met last season with the Eagles dominating 31-3 (highlights)

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  • The last postseason meeting between these teams came in the 2001 Divisional Round, with the road Eagles winning 33-19

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Now, here’s a look at how I think the playoffs will play out. These’s are not my final predictions, as the matchups could change and I could of course change my mind. And let’s be honest, if the Cowboys advance, you know I’m willing to live and die with them.

Wild-Card

  • AFC: (4) Ravens over (5) Chargers, (3) Texans over (6) Colts
  • NFC: (4) Cowboys over (5) Seahawks, (3) Bears over (6) Eagles

Divisional

  • AFC: (2) Patriots over (3) Texans, (1) Chiefs over (4) Ravens
  • NFC: (2) Rams over (3) Bears, (1) Saints over (4) Cowboys

Conference Championships

  • AFC: (1) Chiefs over (2) Patriots
  • NFC: (1) Saints over (2) Rams

Super Bowl LIII

  • Saints over Chiefs

That’s it for this weekend, hopefully these games are as great as I’m expecting them to be. Who will win the latest chapter of the Below the Belt Bowl between Bert’s Seahawks and my Cowboys?

Meet the One Person in America Who Likes the MNF Announcing Crew

This year, ESPN completely overhauled its Monday Night Football announcing team, as the network handed duties over to play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore and analysts Jason Witten and Anthony “Booger” McFarland.  We did not have to wade too deep into the 2018 season for NFL fans across the United States to begin ripping this announcing trio.  It seems that football fans have decided that this announcing team is not ready for prime time.  Well, I have come across one person who actually likes this crew of announcers, and that person is yours truly.  Yes, I admit it – I enjoy Tessitore, Witten, and Booger.  Before you have me committed to a mental institution, please allow me to explain myself.

When I analyze an announcing team, I ask myself the following questions:

  • Does the play-by-play announcer do a good job describing the play?
  • Does the play-by-play announcer have a good voice for TV?
  • Do the analysts have serviceable voices for TV?
  • Are the analysts are able to dissect a play that has just happened in a way that educates me but does not feel “over my head”?
  • Do the announcers discuss the most important storylines of the game at the appropriate times?
  • Do the announcers converse comfortably with each other?
  • Do the announcers avoid embellishment, exaggeration, and self-fabricated storylines?

 

Very simply, the more “Yes” responses I can give to the questions above, the better the announcing team.  In terms of the MNF team, I am actually able to answer “Yes” to all seven questions above.  Allow me to explain, question by question.

 

  • I believe that Tessitore notes everything that is happening in a comfortable way. He does not embellish anything to try to put himself above the moment.  His voice rises and falls appropriately, based upon the moments he experiences.

 

  • Tess has a great, deep announcing voice.
Image result for joe tessitore monday night football
Image via USA Today
  • This is where most people will start to disagree with me. I think that Witten and McFarland have serviceable TV voices.  Their voices are not James Earl Jones-level great, but, for analysts, all I need is “serviceable”.  In other words, their voices need to avoid being Jerry Glanville-level annoying.  (Yes, I realize that most of you college students will have to Google “Jerry Glanville”, and some of you will even have to Google “James Earl Jones”.)  Anyway, it has become very easy to mock Jason Witten for the long pauses he tends to take mid-sentence.  I do not deny that these pauses exist, but I do not find that they hurt Witten’s ability to make points.  His pauses are his thing.  The guy played an entire NFL career and never missed games due to injury.  If the sole repercussion of Witten’s 15 years of NFL collisions is that he pauses mid-sentence, I can live with it.

 

  • The “Booger”-mobile is something that I initially thought would not work, but I have actually enjoyed it. I feel that the combination of Witten in the press box and Booger at field level do a great job of analyzing plays immediately after they happen.  I am not going to compare these guys to Cris Collinsworth nor Tony Romo, as those are the best two analysts in the business.  However, just because there are people better does not make the MNF trio bad.  In fact, it is weird to me that people’s bar for judging these announcers seems to be at the elite level.  Have you ever watched any announcing team below the networks’ top teams?  I covered some of this a few weeks ago, but there is plenty not to like about those announcing teams.  Furthermore, even if you use a higher bar for national announcing teams than for other teams; I ask you to remember Troy Aikman, Jon Gruden, and Tony Kornheiser.  It is fun to mock Aikman, but I would say he is on a par with the Witten/Booger duo (which is a compliment only when it comes from me).  As of the other two guys, I put Witten and Booger well above them.  I will return to this discussion in a bit.
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Image via The Big Lead
  • As I also discussed a few weeks ago, it is very annoying when all of the viewers at home are discussing a different aspect of a game or play than the announcers are. For example, an announcer might be analyzing whether or not a receiver has kept his two feet inbounds, while everyone at home can see that the ball came loose to render the “feet” discussion irrelevant.  The MNF team successfully avoids this awkward scenario.

 

  • My favorite thing about the MNF team is that Witten and Booger often disagree with each other but do so in a respectful manner. The classic example came during Week 3’s Pittsburgh/Tampa Bay contest; as Witten argued that Le’Veon Bell was wrong for holding out while Booger argued that Bell was correct.  Both analysts provided compelling cases for their sides, and the two announcers were civil the whole time.  We are used to seeing forced laughter between broadcast partners (which does sometimes happen with the MNF team too) and especially between studio hosts on FOX and CBS.  We are used to announcers mindlessly agreeing with each other about everything.  (Aikman says “You’re exactly right, Joe.” in his sleep.)  Therefore, it is refreshing to hear differing opinions within the same broadcast.

 

  • For those who forget this question read, “Do the announcers avoid embellishment, exaggeration, and self-fabricated storylines?” In other words, do the announcers avoid doing the main thing that ESPN always does???  Ironically this announcing team does.  For years, we were saddled with Jon Gruden singing the praises of guys like Preston Parker and Blake Bortles.  We heard him say that Jarvis Landry is as good as OBJ.  We heard Gruden say, “I like this guy” about at least 75 players per team per game.    Prior to that, we had Tony Kornheiser try to do three hours of PTI during every MNF game.  That meant that Kornheiser would awkwardly try to weave 3 or 4 storylines like “Are the Cowboys the most popular team in America?” into every minute of every game.  That stuff worked on PTI.  It did not work during games.   You are announcing a football game; you do not need to fabricate storylines.  The game presents its own storylines.  Kornheiser did not get it.

 

Who does get it though?  Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten, and Booger McFarland.  Therefore, I would like to congratulate ESPN.  Even a blind squirrel catches a nut once in a while, and that is the case with ESPN and this announcing team.

 

If the Jets Were Going to Fire Todd Bowles After This Season, They Should Have Fired Him Before This Season

If the Jets were going to fire Todd Bowles after this season, they should have fired him after last season.

I lived through the entire 2018 offseason, and I listened to countless local radio personalities discuss what the mark of a successful 2018 Jets season would be.  Everyone seemed to be in agreement that we should judge this Jets season on the development of rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, not on wins and losses.

I felt that this was completely logical.  The 2018 Jets team had one of the least-talented rosters in the NFL, and most of the team’s talent was either first/second-year players (Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Chris Herndon), players with offseason issues (Robby Anderson), or players returning from major injuries (Quincy Enunwa).  Sure, Leonard Williams, Trumaine Johnson, and Darron Lee are also talented players, but the fact remains that most of the roster was composed of untalented players, unproven players, and players returning from major injuries or off-field issues.  Thus, if Sam Darnold could show some signs of success and progress as a rookie; it would be reasonable to assume that he would improve next year and in future years, as he gains NFL experience and as the team increases the talent around him.

Image result for sam darnold
Image via NJ.com

Anyway, what ultimately happened this year?  The Jets went 4-12, and Sam Darnold showed signs of success and progress.  He showed that he has a chance to be a true franchise quarterback for the Jets.  Meanwhile, the 2018 Jets went 4-9 with Darnold as a starter and 0-3 when Josh McCown was the starter.  As a result of this season, Todd Bowles was fired.  This makes no sense to me.  I thought that we all agreed that, if Darnold had a good enough rookie campaign, Todd Bowles would stay onboard.  Instead, the Jets moved the goalposts between the 2018 offseason and the end of the 2018 season and fired Bowles on Sunday.

Were there good reasons to relieve Bowles of his duties?  Sure.  Some believe that he was at fault for the Jets taking too many penalties.  Some believe that he was at fault for various forms of locker-room dissension.  Some believe that he is too dry and boring to be a good head coach.  (This was pretty much the main knock on Bill Belichick after his first six underwhelming seasons as an NFL head coach.  Once Belichick started winning Super Bowls, that “dry” and “boring” demeanor suddenly became an asset.)  Thus, yes, there were legitimate reasons to fire Bowles.

The only issue is that all of these issues existed before the 2018 season as well.  Thus, the Jets could have fired Bowles before the 2018 season (on the same grounds that they ultimately used to fire him on Sunday).  Then, the team could have hired a new coach to start 2018 fresh with Darnold.  This would have allowed Darnold to grow with the stability of one head coach (and likely one offensive coordinator).  Instead, the Jets decided to let Darnold have a solid rookie season, gain confidence, and then be saddled in 2019 with a completely new head coach and offensive coordinator.  Good move, Jets.  I am shocked that an organization that both fired Eric Mangini after two winning seasons in three years and put starting QB Mark Sanchez behind a third-string offensive line in a preseason game would make such a bad decision…

…but hey, at least the Jets did not fire their coach after his first season, a season in which he was given Sam Bradford, a rookie quarterback, and the 30th-most talented roster in the league.  No, that honor goes to the Arizona Cardinals and their recently deposed head coach, Steve Wilks.  I have vented in the past about teams firing coaches too soon, but I really feel bad for Wilks on that one.

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Image via Arizona Cardinals

That said, the Jets did mess up the Todd Bowles situation. I am not saying that he deserved to be fired last year or this year.  Bowles seems to be a respected football man who knows how to coach.  However, if the Jets were going to fire him after a solid rookie campaign by Sam Darnold, they should have fired him before this season.

McGon’s Picks: NFL Week 17

If you are a big football fan like myself, there aren’t too many phrases worse than “Week 17”.

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Last season felt like it went by fast, but this season was on level 12 on the treadmill. It feels great though as a Cowboys fan to be back in the playoffs at this time of year, after the painful season endured on and off the field last year. It even look like we’ll have a Below the Belt Bowl during Wild Card Weekend. You love to see it!

Even though I’ve struggled, writing these articles has been a part of the week I’ve looked forward to, so thanks to everyone who has read. It has definitely been a sophomore slump to say the least. It’s funny because I know so much more about gambling now than I did last year, between trends, fading the public, not making sucker picks, and so forth. Yet, my record is somehow worse. That’s just how gambling works. Like I said in the beginning of the season, there’s no chance whatsoever to make money if you bet on every game, that’s why the best gamblers only give you their top plays. For example, I’m in a spread pool where you make 5 picks a week. I’m 39-41 through Week 16, which is a losing percentage, but is good enough for 4th place in my league of about 20 people, and a much higher winning percentage than when I pick every game. That being said, hopefully I’ll be back making picks next season and winning more this time.

Week 16 was very similar to how much of the season has gone. Solid outright, but poor against the spread. I went 11-5 outright, but just 4-10-2 ATS. Here’s a look back at the picks I made (correct pick in blue, incorrect pick in red, push in green):

Redskins at Titans (-12)

  • Thoughts and prayers to anyone who had the under.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ByCfy298XM

Ravens at Chargers (-4)

Packers (-3) at Jets

Giants at Colts (-10)

Bengals (+10) at Browns

Vikings at Lions (+6.5)

Falcons (-3) at Panthers

Texans (+2) at Eagles

Bills at Patriots (-13.5)

Jaguars at Dolphins (-3)

Bucs at Cowboys (-7)

Bears at 49ers (+3.5)

Rams at Cardinals (+14)

Steelers at Saints (-6.5)

Chiefs at Seahawks (+1)

  • Like I said I might, I switched my pick to Seahawks after the Chargers lost, making this not a must win for KC.

Broncos (-2.5) at Raiders

2018 Straight-Up: 143-95-2, 2018 vs. Spread: 102-127-11

As for Week 17, we all know it’s extremely unpredictable, cause you never knows who’s playing and for how long, and you also don’t know what a lot of team’s motives are. I’ll do my best to point out which games to bet on and which ones to avoid.

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Lions at Packers (-8)

  • Both teams have nothing to play for, if anything the Packers will want to finish on a win streak and make their record look better
  • Lions have been really mailing it in
  • Packers win by 2 TDs in season finale to cover

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Panthers (+6.5) at Saints

  • Both teams have nothing to play for and are starting backup QBs
  • Teddy Bridgewater has seen minimal time on the field over the past 3 years, think Saints are laying too many points here
  • Avoid betting on this game, but I like Saints by a field goal with Panthers covering

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Cowboys (+5.5) at Giants

  • I’ll be in attendance
  • Both teams have nothing to play for here
  • I don’t think the Cowboys starters go the whole way, but they will play at least the first half
  • Definitely avoid betting this game, but you know I’m taking the Cowboys when it’s a toss up

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Falcons (-1) at Bucs

  • Neither team has much to play for
  • Falcons have played well the last two weeks, and as a good team who has underachieved like crazy, think they want to close the season on a high note and make their record look a little better
  • Falcons are the better team if both teams play their starters, they win by a TD

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Jets (+13.5) at Patriots

  • Pats need to win to lock up a bye, Jets fans probably want to lose and help their draft pick, but the team wants to keep up their solid play of late and possibly play spoiler
  • Pats didn’t cover this same spread against the Bills, and I think the Jets are better than Buffalo
  • Darnold has been playing well the past few weeks and wants to end his rookie season on a high note
  • Pats win by 10 but Jets cover

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Dolphins (+5.5) at Bills

  • Both teams have little to play for, but appear to be playing their starters
  • This could be Ryan Tannehill’s last start as a Dolphin, so he has something to prove
  • I think the Dolphins are the better team, and they’re getting 5.5 points
  • Dolphins cover the number, Bills win by a field goal

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Jaguars (+6.5) at Texans

  • Texans need a win to lock up division, Jags playing for pride/spoiler
  • Jags D has been playing well of late and Blake Bortles is back under center, who is a huge upgrade over Cody Kessler
  • Texans win by less than a TD to lock up the AFC South, but the Jags cover

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49ers at Rams (-9.5)

  • 49ers want to continue their hot play and play spoiler, Rams need to win to lock up a bye
  • Niners have played well of late, but all of those games were at home
  • Rams need to get their groove back before the playoffs
  • Rams win by 2 TDs to cover

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Bears at Vikings (-4.5)

  • Bears can still possibly get a bye and want to play spoiler, Vikings need a win to get in
  • I feel like Vikings motivation is a lot higher in this one as the Rams are almost definitely going to beat the 49ers which would lock the Bears into the 3 seed
  • Vikings and Kirk Cousins know this is going to be a long and painful offseason if they don’t even make the playoffs
  • Public on Chicago (60% as of Friday)
  • Vikings win by a TD to secure the final NFC playoff spot

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Eagles (-7) at Redskins

  • Eagles need a win and a Vikings loss to get in, Redskins not playing for much, but Josh Johnson wants an NFL contract next year
  • I’m not saying he’s a better QB than Carson Wentz, but it has become evident that the Eagles play better with Nick Foles under center
  • Redskins have covered the last two weeks, but they have been ugly
  • Eagles rout the Redskins to put their playoff hopes in the Bears’ hands

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Bengals (+14.5) at Steelers

  • Steelers need a win and a Ravens loss to get in, Bengals have nothing to play for
  • The Steelers almost always win this matchup, but it’s usually a fairly close contest
  • Bengals have played a little better the last few weeks
  • Steelers play an ugly first half after blowing that game last week, so the Bengals cover, but the Steelers win comfortably by 10 points to keep their playoff hopes alive

Image result for juju smith schuster

Chargers at Broncos (+6.5)

  • Chargers can still win the division with a win and Chiefs loss (which is unlikely), Broncos mostly playing to try and save Vance Joseph’s job
  • Broncos are a tough home team and beat the Chargers a few weeks ago on the road
  • Chargers motivation may not be that high as they are almost definitely locked into the 5 seed with the Chiefs hosting the Raiders
  • Chargers win, but by less than a TD so Denver covers

Image result for broncos chargers

Cardinals at Seahawks (-13)

  • Seahawks need to win to lock up the 5 seed, Cardinals playing for virtually nothing
  • Seahawks have played great the second half of the season and want to keep that up
  • Cardinals have looked set on getting the top pick for a few weeks now
  • Seahawks rout the Cardinals and easily cover
  • BONUS: Bet Larry Fitzgerald to score a TD in what could be his final game

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Raiders at Chiefs (-14)

  • Chiefs need to win to lock up the division and top seed, Raiders playing for nothing
  • Raiders played their Super Bowl last week in potentially the final game in Oakland
  • Chiefs need to win and want to head into the playoffs off a rout before a bye
  • Chiefs win easily and cover the number as well

Image result for chiefs raiders

Browns (+6) at Ravens

  • Browns want to secure their first winning season since 2007, Ravens need to win to clinch the division
  • Browns have played exceptional of late and want to win before being this offseason’s “every member of the media picks them to make the playoffs in 2019” team
  • Ravens lost as 9 point home favorites last year in Week 17 with a chance to make the playoffs
  • Ravens win this time, but barely, by a field goal as the Browns cover

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAitXjJiJsM

Colts at Titans (+3)

  • Winner is the AFC’s 6 seed (or division champ if Texans lose), loser is eliminated
  • Spread will likely change when Marcus Mariota’s status is made official, so my pick could as well, be sure to check my twitter @mikejmcgon
  • Public is hammering Indy (78% as of Friday)
  • I think the Colts may be the better team on a neutral site, but are just 3-4 on the road this season
  • Titans are a sneaky 6-1 at home this season
  • This comes down to Mariota’s health, but my pick is the home underdog Titans to win this winner take all game against the Colts  Image result for titans colts

That’s all for the regular season, hope I go 16-0 to make my numbers for the season look better. I’ll be back next week for an in-depth look at every Wild-Card matchup, as well as my prediction for how the playoffs will shake out. Will Eagles fans be really happy at Vikings fans (and my) expense for the second straight season?

Never Forget Derek Jeter & Mariah Carey

Merry Christmas, everyone. You might be wondering why a retired Yankee and a washed-up pop star are an appropriate blog topic for Christmas Eve. Well, there’s a very clear reason.

 

Derek Jeter is my favorite Yankee and athlete of all-time. Everyone knows his baseball accolades; 14-time All-Star, 5-time World Series champion, sixth-most hits in baseball history, etc. Most people also know his illustrious dating history.

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I always thought he’d get married to Friday Night Lights star Minka Kelly, and was unsure why he didn’t.

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But, of course, being Derek Jeter, he lands on his feet and marries swimsuit model Hannah Davis, who he now has a child with.

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Jeter’s history of dating high-profile women all started with Mariah Carey, whom he was linked to early in his career. Obviously, this is where the story ties into Christmas, as she sings the best Christmas song of all-time. I won’t listen to any arguments saying All I Want For Christmas Is You isn’t the GOAT Christmas song. Not only will it send any ugly holiday sweater party into an absolute frenzy, you could play it at any time of year and people will gladly sing along. It’s just an absolute banger.

Jeter was always a guy who had a vision of what he wanted in his life. He was voted “Most Likely to Play Shortstop for the Yankees” by his classmates in high school because of how often he talked about doing exactly that; he was later drafted 6th overall by the Yanks out of high school. His teammate in the minor leagues, R.D. Long, visited Jeter in Kalamazoo after the 1993 season. Here’s what he said about the visit:

Long couldn’t believe his pal’s bedroom: wall-to-wall Mariah Carey posters, “like a little kid.” As far back as high school, Jeter would tell people that one day he would marry the pop diva. By 1996, he would be dating her.

I mean, that’s just insane. To grow up with posters of a celebrity on your wall, and then becoming a famous athlete yourself and dating her? Derek Jeter is a legend that will never be forgotten. But wait, the story gets better.

Image result for derek jeter dumps mariah carey

Rumor has it that Jeter was the one to dump Mariah when they eventually split. I’m not gonna elaborate on this too much because this is BTB and not TMZ, but that is some big dick energy right there. Growing up with posters of a girl on your wall and telling people how you’re gonna date her, then actually dating her, only to become a huge star in your own right and break up with her? Derek Sanderson Jeter was an absolute legend on and off the baseball diamond.

Nowadays, Jeter is retired with a wife and kid, and is busy absolutely tearing down the Miami Marlins (thanks for Stanton), while Mariah has seen better days.

Yeah, Jeets.

Merry Christmas everyone!