Category Archives: NFL

McGon’s Picks: NFL Divisional Playoffs

Wild-Card weekend lived up to the hype of being wild…

…as all four underdogs covered, and one got the win.

While there was not a great deal of excitement for most of these matchups besides Panthers-Saints, they all ended up being decent games. The Chiefs were absolutely rolling over the Titans, before the exact opposite happened in the second half. As great as the Rams have been all year, they did not look ready for the big stage as the experienced Falcons dominated. Jags-Bills was kind of boring, but the whole prospect of it being a Bills-Jags playoff made it interesting. And the final game was the best overall, as the Panthers nearly stole a victory down the stretch. While I enjoyed the games a lot, my picks did not do great, and the huge spreads did not help. I went 2-2 straight up, and 1-3 against the spread. Here’s a look back at the picks I made (winning team in red, spread winner in red):

Titans at Chiefs (-8.5)

My Pick: Chiefs 27, Titans 14

  • Titans 22, Chiefs 21- In the first half, the Chiefs were dominating even more than I predicted. They were clearly the superior team, and the Titans looked like they had no business being in the playoffs to start. But then halftime came, and I think you can argue this was a more impressive comeback than in last year’s Super Bowl. This deficit was 7 points less, but the Titans are not nearly as good of a team as the Patriots, and this was on the road versus on a neutral site. The teams we saw in the first half were nowhere to be found, and the Titans pulled off an incredible victory to earn a trip to Foxborough.

Falcons (+6) at Rams

My Pick: Rams 27, Falcons 24

  • Falcons 26, Rams 13- Well, looks like that experience factor played a much bigger role than I could have predicted. The entire night, you could just feel it was not the Rams night. They could not make any big plays, committed several turnovers, the crowd was not into it at all, and the Falcons were doing almost everything right. I think we can all still agree the Rams are a better team on paper. But the Falcons came in and took care of business when it mattered most, and that’s all that matters now as the Falcons will look to earn another trip to the NFC Championship.

Bills at Jaguars (-8.5)

My Pick: Jaguars 30, Bills 13

  • Jaguars 10, Bills 3- I knew the Bills would have trouble scoring, but I thought they could come away with more than a field goal. And I knew the Jaguars offense could be limited, but didn’t think it would be this bad. The Jags will have a tough time scoring on Sunday in Pittsburgh, but the same can be said about the Steelers, going up against the best defense in the NFL right now.

Panthers at Saints (-6.5)

My Pick: Saints 24, Panthers 17

  • Saints 31, Panthers 26- The Panthers did not play badly last week, but if you watched this whole game, it was clear that the Saints were the better team, and will pose a big threat to the Vikings on Sunday. However, props to the Panthers for almost stealing this one. After the Christian McCaffrey long TD, and the very questionable decision for the Saints to go for it on 4th down, the Panthers had a chance to steal this one. However, the Saints defense prevailed to move on.

2017 Playoffs Straight-Up: 2-2, 2017 Playoffs Vs. Spread: 1-3

The last weekend with a full slate of football is here.

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Falcons (-2.5) at Eagles

Falcons 23, Eagles 13

  • The Eagles are not dead yet, but I don’t think their stay in the playoffs will last very long. The Falcons were not able to completely light up the scoreboard last week, but they completely dominated one of the best teams in the NFL this season. We all know how good the Falcons can be when they are hot, and I think that could be the case right now. Once again, I don’t think they will blow the Eagles out, as they are at home and it will be a decently cold day in Philly. But besides against the Giants (when the Eagles’ defense gave up 29 points), Nick Foles and this offense have done nothing, scoring 13 against the Raiders (not counting the 6 points on the game’s final play) and getting shutout by the Cowboys (albeit Foles did not play the whole game). The Falcons are playing good football at the right time, and the Eagles are not set to succeed without Carson Wentz. The Falcons will win, cover, and move within a win of another Super Bowl trip.

  • 2016 Falcons-Eagles matchup, the last time these teams met.

  • These teams last met in the playoffs in the 2004 NFC Championship, and the Eagles moved on to the Super Bowl.

Titans (+13.5) at Patriots

Patriots 31, Titans 20

  • This game has a very similar feel to the Patriots second round matchup last season against the Texans. Saturday night game, and Patriots are a massive favorite at home against a team many felt was not good enough to make the playoffs. The Patriots struggled in that game, but were able to pull away late to get the win and cover. I think this game goes very similar, except the Titans are a little better and the Patriots have dealt with plenty of distractions the last week, so the Titans will cover. The Titans will come out fired up after their incredible second half comeback last week, and it will be a close one at the half. However, the Patriots will pull away in the second half to win, but the Titans will do enough to cover in this one.

  • 2015 Titans-Patriots matchup, the last time these teams met.

  • These teams last met in the playoffs in 2003, with the Patriots winning a close one en route to a Super Bowl XXXVIII win over the Panthers.

Jaguars (+7) at Steelers

Steelers 21, Jaguars 17

  • The big topic everyone has been talking about this week is how the Steelers will fare in this one after the Jaguars came into Pittsburgh and dominated back in Week 5. While the Steelers offense has obviously gotten better since then, the same can be said for the Jaguars defense. However, Antonio Brown may not be 100% and to go along with that, he has been dealing with an illness. He should be able to go, but I don’t think he will be the AB we have seen this season. That being said, the Steelers still have so many weapons that I don’t think they will lose this game. The Jags defense will play great, but their offense will struggle again, and the Steelers will win a low scoring game. The Jaguars will cover this big spread, but the Steelers will move on to the AFC Championship.

  • These teams met in Week 5, and the Jaguars dominated the Steelers to earn a 30-9 win on the road.

  • These teams last met in the playoffs in 2007, and the Jaguars edged out a close victory in Pittsburgh.

Saints (+5) at Vikings

Vikings 24, Saints 21

  • Once again, I think the best game of the weekend will be saved for the last one. These teams met back in Week 1, but much has changed for both of them since. The Vikings have a new QB, and may be the most well-rounded team on both sides of the ball in the league. The Saints defense has greatly improved, and they have elevated from an average team to a very good team. With the playoff experience Drew Brees and Sean Payton have compared to Case Keenum and Mike Zimmer (as a head coach), the fact that the Saints are getting 5 points says a lot about how Vegas feels about the Vikings. I think this is going to be a close one, and the Saints will cover. However, I have the Vikings winning it on a late field goal. In recent Vikings playoff games, field goals have been their nightmare. They lost the 2009 NFC Championship to these Saints in OT on a field goal, and Blair Walsh shanked a chip shot which would have beaten the Seahawks two years ago. The field goal Gods will work in their favor this time, as Kai Forbath will send the Vikings to the NFC Championship, one win from hosting the Super Bowl at home.

  • These teams last met in Week 1, with the Vikings winning 29-19 at home.

  • These teams last met in the playoffs in the 2009 NFC Championship, with the Saints winning an all time classic in OT, which sent them to Super Bowl XLIV, which they won over the Colts.

Hopefully this weekend will be even better than last. Be back next week for championship Sunday. Can the Vikings erase bad playoff memories of the past?

Seahawks Clean House; Some Potential Offseason Moves

The last two weeks of the Seahawks 2017 season was a rollercoaster of emotions.

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From no hope to tons of it, to seeing the Falcons win and Blair Walsh miss another important field goal to ensure the Seahawks’ loss in Week 17 and miss the playoffs. As a long-time Seahawks fan, I’m no stranger to seeing them miss out on the January festivities, but based on their success under Carroll, I really thought they could find a way. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and it’s time to move forward.

A good thing for the fans is that the Seahawks organization is clearly not accepting this failure. Yesterday, they fired offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and offensive line coach/assistant coach Tom Cable. There are also rumors that defensive coordinator Kris Richard and QB coach Carl Smith could be asked to hit the road, too.

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I personally would love to keep Richard. I think he has an extremely level head and is a calming presence in what is often a boisterous locker room. The numbers were only bad because the players on the field couldn’t stay healthy. But, he has interviewed for the job in Indianapolis, so if he is ready to move on, then let him walk. Also, former DC Gus Bradley, who left the Seahawks to be the head coach of the Jaguars in 2013, has been rumored to possibly make a comeback to the team (although those rumors were recently smashed). As for Carl Smith, I’m not sure why the Seahawks would let him go as Wilson had a great year and I’m sure Boykin was ready if need be. But he is old and could be moving to a consultant role in the organization.

Coaching is something nearly impossible to predict until rumors break down, so I am not even going to try. But I will play GM and highlight a few moves (albeit somewhat obvious) that the Seahawks should look into:

  • Resign Jimmy Graham/Luke Willson
    • Despite what people say about Jimmy Graham not being the player he was with the Saints, you cannot argue against his recent productivity. His 520 yards are disappointing, but his 10 TDs are impressive. Although, I will say his negligence in blocking is sometimes destructive, I am a big fan of bringing him back. As for Willson, he is the perfect #2 TE. He just seems to have a great rapport with Wilson and I feel he is one of the more underrated players in the league. If they cannot resign one, then I would rather see Graham walk and Willson stay.

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  • Draft an NFL-ready offensive lineman
    • Enough is enough. With only two capable players on the offensive line (Britt and Brown), fans have seen enough of Russell Wilson having to perform a magic act for every first down. Protect him. The Seahawks have drafted linemen in the draft over the years, but they haven’t turned into much. Ifedi and Pocic, still young, aren’t playing at the level they need to. George Fant got hurt, but was he that good anyway? It’s silly to say the Seahawks are ignoring the needs at offensive line, because they are not. But, I think they are relying too much on their “magic eye” that has been used on undrafted players like Doug Baldwin or late-drafted players like Kam or Sherman. Draft a lineman that is ready to go Week 1. If you need to trade up to get him, do it.
  • Don’t worry about running back
    • Chris Carson looked fantastic at the beginning of the year until he broke his leg and Mike Davis was effective in most games. In addition, C.J. Prosise should be healthy next year, although who knows if he really will be, and J.D. McKissic was actually great this entire year. So, there are plenty of options in the backfield, there is no need to waste salary space on another Eddie Lacy.

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  • DO NOT TRADE RICHARD SHERMAN
    • There are already rumors floating around about this, and I absolutely hate it. Yes, he is in a contract year, and yes, he is beginning to age, and yes, he is coming off a very tough injury. But you are not going to find a cornerback that is feared like him, and will produce like him when healthy. His wisdom at the position is unmatched. He is willing to be a Seahawk for life, and I’m sure whatever problems he and Russell Wilson, they can act like men and figure it out. If anything, draft another cornerback like they did last year with Shaquill Griffin, and allow Sherman to mentor him. Only problem with that is, Sherman might feel inclined to walk if he feels to Seahawks are trying to replace him. It’s a unique situation, but trading him is not the best option.
  • Improve the pass rush
    • The idea of cutting Cliff Avril is, in my opinion, a good one. He is owed $7.5 million and is getting old (31), and I would love to see Frank Clark and Dion Jordan get more time. Last year’s draft pick Nazair Jones was a pleasant success, but who knows if Malik McDowell will see the field after 1) getting into a very serious car accident and not playing this entire year and 2) being arrested in December. He has all the talent in the world, but there’s a chance his off-field issues can’t be beat.
  • Address Kam Chancellor injury
    • His season-ending neck injury is something that could also end his career. This could be tragic for a player with so much talent, but I think the Seahawks need to evaluate their options at this position if Chancellor can never reach full health again.

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  • Kick Blair Walsh to the curb
    • He wasn’t the worst kicker on Earth, but he was close. I don’t want a kicker on my team that more than half the world assumes he is going to miss. While he was able to be relatively good this year, he missed too many important kicks to be apart of this team next year.

I think it’s also important to note that the Seahawks dealt with a LOT of injuries this year. Prior to the season, a healthy Seattle Seahawks team had 8:1 odds to win the Super Bowl. A complete shift in the direction of the team is NOT necessary. Changes need to be made to keep up with the rising talent in the NFC, specifically the division rival LA Rams, but just because we missed the playoffs, the whole world does not have to end. The key to this offseason is DO NOT PANIC. Evaluate the injuries, and move on from there. A healthy Seahawks team can still 100% contend, and I look forward to any changes they can make to improve an already talented roster.

#GoHawks

Continuity is a Good Thing

When I heard the other day that Marvin Lewis would be coming back for a 16th season as coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, I was surprised.  The guy has no playoff wins, and the Bengals have disappointed for the past two seasons.  However, I cannot argue with the Bengals’ decision.  Continuity is a very important thing for a team to have – most specifically continuity at quarterback, head coach, and general manager.  We have heard stories of quarterbacks like Alex Smith cycling through coach after coach and offensive coordinator after offensive coordinator.  Usually, this cycling does not result in great success on the field.

Meanwhile, many people find it laughable that Hue Jackson remains coach of the Cleveland Browns after winning once in 32 tries as Cleveland’s head coach.  However, I am glad that Cleveland has finally resisted the urge to fire a coach after two or fewer seasons.  Before Jackson took over the reins, the Browns had 4 coaches, none lasting more than 2 seasons, in 7 seasons.  Eventually, a team has to stick with someone and let him grow a program.

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As for another team who has had minimal success in recent years, the Jets have done the right thing by letting Todd Bowles keep the coaching job and grow into (in my opinion) a strong coach.  The Jets’ organization now has a corps of talented young players and a stable climate that should both be beneficial if the team drafts a young quarterback and if the team tries to lure free agents this offseason.

I like to think that the Jets and Browns “get it” in these cases.  Good for them, as it is rare that either of these teams “get” anything.  In my mind, a team should only look to change its head coach (or GM or quarterback, but my focus here will stay on the head coach) if either a) the coach is clearly not the right coach or b) there is a great coaching candidate on the free market.

By that logic, the Rams were right to part ways last offseason with Jeff Fisher.  I do not know if the Rams had Sean McVay in mind when letting Fisher go, nor could the Rams have guaranteed that McVay would become as successful as he has been this season.  However, by last season, moving from Fisher to anyone else seemed like a good plan.  As for the second clause listed above, I was surprised that the Raiders fired Jack Del Rio.  I thought that his playoff appearance last season had earned him the ability to keep his job after a disappointing 2017 in which Derek Carr was never fully healthy, in my mind.  However, once the Jon Gruden rumors began to circulate, I understood the Raiders’ decision.  Granted, coaches who return after long layoffs are rarely successful, but at least the Raiders did have a Super Bowl-winning coaching candidate in play.

Meanwhile, the Giants were generally correct in their two most recent “firings”.  Tom Coughlin had been a great coach, but the 2015 season saw too many moments where Coughlin seemed overmatched by end-of-game strategies.  It was time to get a younger coach.  That younger coach, Ben McAdoo, was similar to Del Rio in that his 2016 playoff berth was followed by a disappointing 2017.  As you would probably guess, I think it is ridiculous that the Maras fired McAdoo because of “the way he handled the Eli benching”.  The Maras were like me in that they were shocked by the uproar over the Eli benching.  Therefore, even though the Maras probably initiated said benching, they needed to sacrifice a scapegoat to the Giants’ fanbase.  That scapegoat became McAdoo.  Anyway, I never liked McAdoo either, so I am OK with his firing; I just do not like using the Eli benching to be the reason.  At the same time; now that the season has ended, I suppose the end justifies the means.  But I digress…

The Giants, Raiders, Rams, Browns, Jets, and Bengals have all made defensible coaching choices; unlike the Lions.  Look, all football fans like to make fun of Jim Caldwell.  Ever since Peyton Manning’s reaction to Caldwell’s awful timeout call in a 2010-season Colts playoff game, it is easy to do.  At the same time, look at the stats.  From 2001 through 2013, the Lions made exactly one playoff appearance and had exactly one season finishing above .500 (2011).  After taking the Detroit coaching reins in 2014, all Caldwell did was lead the Lions to 2 playoff appearances and 3 seasons above .500 in 4 seasons.  Also, in my opinion, the Lions are one of the several NFC teams who are not in this year’s playoffs but who would have likely been a Wild Card team if in the AFC.  Furthermore, Caldwell has coaxed two 9-7 records these past two seasons out of a team who lost the top wide receiver (Calvin Johnson) in the league after 2015.

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So why would Detroit make the decision to fire Caldwell without having a great candidate on deck?  Probably to appease the fans.  Right now, Bengals fans are probably unhappy to keep Lewis while Lions fans are happy Caldwell is gone.  However, if I were to put money right now on one of these two “cats of prey with a decent veteran QB with no career playoff wins” teams, I would bet on the one whose quarterback does not have to take on a new coach and likely a new offensive system in 2018.

Gut Reaction to Every Wild-Card Weekend Game

Wild-card weekend was not exactly “wild”, as of the four games, only Chiefs/Titans was really particularly entertaining, and that was after a brutal first half. My football analysis ability isn’t exactly Mel Kiper level (my hairline is way better though), but here are my gut reactions to the four games this weekend.

Titans 22, Chiefs 21

Poor Chiefs. I don’t feel for their fans as much as I do Bills fans, but it’s definitely close. I feel like every year, the Chiefs tease us and make everyone go “wow they’re legit,” only to ultimately fail in the playoffs. That team still has a lot of promise going forward, but you have to expect Alex Smith’s time in Kansas City has come to an end. As far as the Titans, Marcus Mariota put the team on his back to propel them to the win, and Derrick Henry made us all wonder why the hell he hasn’t been the team’s feature back all along. Now the Titans head to Foxborough to take on a Patriots team that hasn’t played since the ESPN article saying Brady/Belichick/Kraft actually aren’t all best friends. No disrespect to the Titans, but I would NOT want to be in that position right now.

Falcons 26, Rams 13

The Falcons looked like a team that was just in the Super Bowl last year (how did that game go again? I forget), and the Rams looked like a young team that had never been in the playoff spotlight before. This game was pretty hard to watch, but the takeaways are clear: the Falcons have as good of a shot as anyone to win the NFC, and the Rams aren’t quite there yet, but have the pieces to be a Super Bowl contender for years to come. The Falcons will now go to Philly to take on the Carson Wentz-less Eagles in what should be an extremely intriguing game. Despite the Eagles being the #1 seed and at home, the Falcons have to be the favorites in that one.

Jaguars 10, Bills 3

The videos of Bills Mafia tailgates were absolutely the highlight of this whole weekend.

Unfortunately, the highlights for the Bills ended as soon as the tailgates did. In what was a painful game where Blake “Vick” Bortles ran for more yards than he passed for (88 to 87), the Bills failed to score a touchdown. You hate to see Tyrod Taylor go down on the last drive of the game, although a Nathan Peterman game-ending INT made for a great time. The funny thing is, as bad as the Jags are, you can’t count them out against the Steelers. Obviously Bortles has to be WAY better for them to have a chance, but that defense is absolutely legit, and if they can get Fournette going that could be a great game.

Saints 31, Panthers 26

Had the Saints -6.5, was looking great until Christian McCaffrey’s 56 yard touchdown catch late. Thanks, Obama. Regardless, my main takeaway from this game is how fucking hard Cam Newton gets hit and wondering how he’s still alive. He couldn’t even make it to the sideline without falling down after one hit he took! Truly amazing what this guy can do. He did a great job of keeping the Panthers in it, but Drew Brees and the Saints proved too much. They now go to Minnesota to take on the Vikings in what should be a wildly entertaining game.

It’s Hard to Be a Bills Fan…But Impossible Not to Be

Disclaimer: This article is long, the Bills play-off drought was longer and more painful, so suck it up.

I am a guest writer at BTB. Like all of the writers here on BTB, I grew up most of my life in North Jersey rooting for New Jersey and New York City teams. Three years ago, I moved to Rochester, about an hour due east of Buffalo, and while I was carrying boxes to help move in, I noticed a Bills flag in the neighbor’s window. I thought to myself “Wow look at that, a Bills fan, I can’t believe fans even exist for such an irrelevant team.” Little did I know three years later I would be listening to my car radio on a frigid cold New Year’s Eve to hear “15, 10, 5 Touchdown!” describing Bengals QB Andy Dalton’s touchdown pass launching the Bills into the playoffs and one of the most euphoric moments of my life.
There are a lot of teams out there that have put their fan bases through suffering: the Mets in the MLB, The Maple Leafs in the NHL, the LA Clippers in the NBA, and even the Cleveland Browns (0-16) are just some examples. The Bills, however, have put their fan base through a unique kind of misery over the past 30 years that no other team can equal.
To start, the Bills have never won a Super Bowl but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The Bills first qualified for the Big Game in the 1990 season. The 1990 Bills were arguably the best ever football team to represent the city of Buffalo. Their offense seemingly scored at will and the defense stopped teams cold. QB Jim Kelly had the highest passer rating in the league, and they possessed the defensive player of the year in Bruce Smith. Their dominance earned them the nickname “The Greatest Show on Turf”. They steam rolled their way to the Super Bowl, winning the AFC championship game 51-3 over the Raiders. Whereas their opponents, the Giants, scraped by winning 15-13 on a last second field goal in a game where they failed to reach the end zone. The Giants also had lost their starting QB and were forced to us back-up Jeff Hostetler whose mustache is really just an insult to the male gender.

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No caption needed.

It was the Bills’ game to lose and that they did. BTW – the mastermind behind the upset victory for the Giants was none other than Buffalo nemesis Bill Belichick. Belichick, the Giants defensive coordinator, came up with an innovative defensive scheme with only 2 down lineman and 5 linebackers. The surprised Bills offense sputtered. Meanwhile, the Giants offense chewed up clock, further minimizing the opportunities for the normally high-flying Bills. The game plan was brilliant, keeping the game close. However, it looked like the Giant effort may still fall short as the juggernaut Bills marched to the 30 yard line with 8 seconds left to play with the score Giants 20, Bills 19. Scott Norwood lined up to kick a game-winning, no…. Super Bowl-winning 47 yard field goal, and then this happened.

Wide right! Wide right! The Bills lose.

The next day a beautiful, but relatively unknown, moment in sports history took place as fans gathered in Buffalo to greet their Second best Bills. The crowd, 25,000 people strong, chant “We want Scott! We want Scott!”. The fans of Buffalo publicly and warmly forgave their kicker. Scott made his way to the podium holding back tears and says, “I have never felt more loved than right now.”

Various other players and coaches made their way to the podium that day and promised the fans the Bills would return to the Super Bowl. And the Bills did, three more times. For a total of four straight Super Bowl appearances in a row, an NFL record, and they lost all four.

Super Bowl XXVI Bills 24 Redskins 37
Super Bowl XXVII Bills 24 Cowboys 52
Super Bowl XXVIII Bills 13 Cowboys 30

The Bills would go on to reach the playoffs in the 1995, 1996, and 1998 seasons but never advance past the divisional round. The last year the Bills made the playoffs was 1999. Yup, Bill Clinton was President, YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter were the stuff of science fiction, heck the Patriots hadn’t even won a Super Bowl.

The Bills were playing the Titans in the Wild Card round. The Bills kicked an apparent game winning go ahead field goal to make it 16-15 with 16 seconds left in the game. On the ensuing kick- off this happened.

The country knows this play as the “Music City Miracle”. Here in Western, NY it’s just “The Forward Pass”. Either way, it is the play that sent the Bills into what ended up being the longest playoff droughts across any of the four major American sports.

The 2000 season saw the Patriots acquire both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The famous duo would go on to build a dynasty winning the AFC East 14 of the next 17 years and five Super Bowls. In week 14 of the 2000 season the 7-6 Bills played the 7-6 Colts. Prior to the game the Bills head coach, Wade Phillips, said both teams, “were basically out of it”. The Bills lost 44-20 and the Colts later would go on to clinch a playoff berth.

In 2003, the Bills opened the season with a 31-0 trouncing of the Patriots in the season opener. Newly acquired safety, Lawyer Milloy who had just been cut by the Patriots helped secure the shutout victory with a sack. In week 17 of the same year the Patriots shutout the Bills 31-0 and go on to win a Superbowl.
In the 2004 draft the Bills selected Lee Evans (Lee who? exactly) 13th overall, passing up Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger. The Bills started the season 0-4 but rallied to a 9-6 record going into week 17. To make the playoffs the Bills needed the Jets to lose to the Rams, and for the Bills to beat a Steelers team starting their 3rd stringers. The Jets lost, and so did the Bills missing the playoffs for the 4th straight season.

The Bills select defensive tackle Kyle Williams 134th overall in 2006. Remember that name for later but forget that the team had a 7-9 record.

The walk in the wilderness continued in 2007 when the Bills draft Marshawn Lynch 12th overall. In week 5, the Bills were featured on MNF for the first time in seven years to play the Cowboys led by, you guessed it, Coach Wade Phillips who the Bills had let go in 2005. No matter, the Bills led the whole way and were set to pull off a huge upset win. The Bills scored with 24 seconds left to play to cut the lead to 24-22, but the ensuing tying 2-point conversion the pass intended for Terrell Owens is batted down to the delight of a rowdy and packed home crowd. The Cowboys, however, go on to recover the onside kick and convert a last second 53 yard field goal to win 25-24.

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Kicker, Nick Folk, celebrates his game winning kick as Bills players watch the ball sail through the uprights

The Bills acquire fading star Terrell Owens in 2009 and he is presented a key to the city. At age 35, TO’s antics continued, but his elite play did not. Week 1 of the season the Bills faced the Patriots on MNF. The Bills were up 24-19 with just over 2 minutes to play as the Patriots kicked off. The Bills return to the 30 but the ball is fumbled and recovered by the Pats. Brady throws the game winning touchdown shortly thereafter. The Patriots finish 10-6 and win the division, the Bills finished the season 6-10, dead last in the AFC East.

Exhausted yet? Heck we’re just a little over halfway through, we’ve got eight years more to go. Imagine living it as a Bills fan.

The 2010 draft the Bills select defensive tackle Torrell Troup, Rob Gronkowski was selected with the very next pick.

The Bills select defensive tackle Marcell Dareus in 2011 passing up on Von Miller, A.J Green, Julio Jones, and J.J Watt. (Dareus now plays for Bills opponent on Sunday, the Jaguars). The Bills beat the Patriots in the season opener for the first time since 2003 and open the season 3-0 but drop the next seven games and miss the playoffs.

In the forgettable 2012 season, team owner Ralph C. Wilson shows signs of aging and gives up the role of team president, starting swirling rumors about the team’s future in Buffalo.

The Bills later hire up and coming Syracuse coach Doug Marrone for the 2013 season. He referred to himself as “St. Doug” alluding to the idea it takes two miracles to become a Saint, first was his revitalizing of Syracuse, next was the Buffalo Bills who finished 6-10.

Ralph Wilson dies at age 95 intensifying rumors the Bills will leave Buffalo. Sabres owner Terry Pegula, however, buys the team for $1.4 billion quelling fears the Bills would relocate. The Bills finish 9-7 and would have clinched playoff berth if not for losing to the 2-12 Raiders in week 16. After the season Coach Marrone essentially quit the team. There was a $4 million opt-out clause written into his contract in case the Bills relocated. The Bills stayed in Buffalo but “St. Doug” did not. Marrone now coaches Marcell Dareus and the Jacksonville Jaguars who will square off against the Bills later today in the first Bills playoff game in 18 years.

Meanwhile the passage through NFL purgatory would trudge on in 2015 with the hiring of Rex Ryan. He won the head coaching job convincing new owner Terry Pegula that his defensive “wizardry” would frustrate Brady and his Patriots. That is when I enter the picture. I had just moved from New Jersey to Rochester, and not fully realizing this sad history at the time I joined the Bills fanhood. The Bills Mafia was excited about the bombastic Ryan, but having watched him coach the Jets, I knew Brady had more football “wizardry” in his left toe nail then Ryan did in his entire 300 pound frame. In games Brady played in against the Bills during Ryan’s tenure the Patriots were 3-0 where the pats averaged over 33 points a game. But 2015, some key rays of hope began to show with acquisition LeSean McCoy and the QB role was given to Tyrod Taylor.

In week 16 of the 2016 season the Bills played the Dolphins in a must-win game. The Bills punted on 4th and 2 in overtime because “it was a long 2 yards”, according to Coach Ryan. The Dolphins went on to kick the game winning field goal the next drive, eliminating the Bills from the playoffs for the 16th straight season.

Now we finally come to the 2017 season. I could fully recap the 2017 season, but I don’t see the point. The Zay Jones dropped pass vs Carolina, the blowout loss to the Jets on MNF, the Peterman game, none of it matters anymore. The Bills are in.

To understand the Bills and their fans one needs to understand western NY. When one thinks of the state of New York the first thing that comes to mind is of course New York City, then maybe Long Island and next might Albany (upstate New York which is different than western NY). Western NY is always the afterthought. Western New Yorkers carry that cross as a chip on their shoulder. People here don’t try to change that by seeking glamour they change it by earning respect, but still it seems nobody cares to notice.

The Bills face the same the issues of the people they play for. The Pats are the dynasty team of the AFC East. The Bills are third in line of their own state behind the Jets and Giants (whose stadium is actually in New Jersey). The Bills are the grinders, like their fans. There aren’t many cities that would not only stand by their team through such misery, but also come to be known as one of the rowdiest and most loyal fan bases in the country in the “Bills Mafia”. What people don’t realize about the Bills Mafia is that they are more than drunken football fans jumping from RV’s into tables.
Like a graduating class from Marine boot camp, they are a band of brothers and sisters who have suffered and fought together. They have fought to keep their beloved Bills in Buffalo. They have watched a field goal fly wide right denying their closest shot to a Super Bowl, they have watched the Music City Miracle crush their last playoff dreams, they have watched devastating loss after devastating loss in pivotal games, they have watched 10 different head coaches, and 17 different starting quarterbacks fail to clinch a playoff berth, and on December 31st, 2017 they watched the Bengals line up for a 4th and 12 from the 48 with 50 seconds left on the clock. For once in the history of the Bills, the unthinkable, the impossible, broke the Bills way as the feet of Bengal’s receiver Tyler Boyd touched pay-dirt in Baltimore. The Bills were going to the playoffs. Putting words to the collective euphoria would be a disservice to what it meant to Bills fans. So let’s watch.

 

Folks outside of Buffalo seem to think the excitement is misplaced, “You guys are just gonna lose to Jacksonville” is something you often hear. But the people don’t understand how exciting it is just to be in the playoffs. Perhaps the Bills will have finally earned the respect they have strived, worked, and cried for over the past 17 years. With rumblings about a power struggle in New England, maybe 2018 will mark the beginning of a new era in Buffalo. Nobody can know for sure, Bills fan can only hope, but after the past 25 years hope is the one thing the Bills and their fans are really good at.

-JJ

P.S.- I have only been a Bills fan for 3 years. I do not intend to act as if I know what it was like to live with the Bills over the past 25 years. Instead this article is my display of respect to the loyalty and passion displayed by Bills fans over their history.

McGon’s Picks: NFL Wild-Card Playoffs

It sucks that the NFL regular season is over, but you know what that means.

The PLAYOFFS are here, and we have some exciting matchups coming this weekend. While the point spreads do not necessarily reflect it, I think we will have some good games on our hands this weekend. The early Saturday game, Titans-Chiefs is not that exciting, but you have the defending NFC Champion Falcons playing the rising Rams in their first playoff since 2004 (which was also against the Falcons) on Saturday night. On Sunday, you have two of the longest playoff droughts coming to an end in the Bills-Jaguars matchup, and the most intriguing matchup of the weekend comes late Sunday with NFC South rivals squaring off in the Panthers and the Saints. Despite a Super Bowl for the ages, only 3 of the 12 playoff games last year were decided by one score, as the other 9 were 13-point plus blowouts. And of those 3 close games, the Packers were up 21-3 on the Cowboys before a second half comeback, and the Falcons were up 28-3 on the Patriots before a second half comeback, in case you forgot (JK, no one forgets). So especially with the way NFL ratings have gone down this year, the league needs some better games this postseason.

As for the regular season finale, Week 17, things were pretty unpredictable like I predicted. However, I did not do so badly. I went 10-6 straight up, and 8-8 against the spread, which helped me finish with an above .500 record against the spread for the regular season. Here’s a look back at the picks I made (winning team in red, spread winner in red):

Cowboys (-3) at Eagles

Packers (+7) at Lions 

  • Lions 35, Packers 11- It’s very hard to succeed with a backup QB in this league, but despite only playing in less than half the games, Aaron Rodgers may have proved he is the league MVP this season.

Texans at Colts (-5.5) 

Bears at Vikings (-12)

Jets (+15) at Patriots

  • Patriots 26, Jets 6- Another #1 seed for the Patriots, but is there trouble in paradise in New England? We will see if this latest report impacts the Patriots on the field over the next few weeks.

Redskins (-3.5) at Giants

  • Giants 18, Redskins 10- Despite the frigid temperatures, this game was actually great to attend, as it felt like a late season baseball game in which the crowd was pretty empty, and everyone was just there to have a good time. As for the game, the Giants only TDs came on a long run and off of a turnover, but Kirk Cousins and the Redskins could not get anything done.

Browns at Steelers (-6)

  • Steelers 28, Browns 24- I left the Giants game at halftime, so I caught the end of this one. My boy Jabrill Peppers had his first career INT, but what a heartbreaking way for the Browns to clinch an 0-16 season.

Panthers at Falcons (-3.5)

Bengals at Ravens (-9.5)

  • Bengals 31, Ravens 27- Holy Andy Dalton! This game definitely felt more like a Bills win than a Bengals win. How crazy that after the Ravens had played great down the stretch, all they had to do was beat the Bengals at home, and they could not get it done. I thought this spread was too big, but I took Ravens after because the Bengals had looked so horrible just 3 and 2 weeks prior. The Bengals did not make the playoffs, but at least they played spoiler in Weeks 16 and 17.

Bills at Dolphins (+2.5) 

  • Bills 22, Dolphins 16- Buffalo did it! It felt right that the Bills would lose and ruin any playoff chances, but even if they did win, I didn’t think there was any chance the Ravens would lose at home. Let’s go Buffalo!

Saints at Buccaneers (+6)

  • Buccaneers 31, Saints 24- After two weeks of nearly upsetting a division rival, Tampa finally pulled through. However, this did not affect the Saints, as the Panthers loss clinched the NFC South for New Orelans.

Jaguars (+2.5) at Titans

  • Titans 15, Jaguars 10- The Jaguars had nothing to play for, and the Titans had everything to play for. This may have not been a great pick, but if these two teams were matched up again this week, I would definitely go with the Jags.

Chiefs (+4) at Broncos

Raiders (+7) at Chargers

  • Chargers 30, Raiders 10- The Chargers are definitely better than the Titans and Bills, but they have to pay the price for their 0-4 start by watching from home this weekend.

49ers (-4) at Rams

Cardinals (+8.5) at Seahawks

  • Cardinals 26, Seahawks 24- Considering the Cardinals were able to finish 8-8 without Carson Palmer or David Johnson, suddenly my bold prediction before the season of the Cardinals finishing 12-4 is not so far off.

2017 Straight-Up: 173-83, 2017 Vs. Spread: 125-121-10

Enough of the regular season. It’s playoff time.

Image result for nfl playoffs gif

Titans at Chiefs (-8.5)

Chiefs 27, Titans 14

  • The Titans did not finish the season very strong, and are lucky to be a playoff team, yet they were able to earn the first wild card spot. However, they may have been better suited to be the second wild card and face the Jaguars, because I think this is a bad matchup for them. Outside of struggling to finish the season, they will be missing DeMarco Murray, who is probably their most experienced player in big games, as he played a few playoff games and plenty of prime time games with the Cowboys. The Chiefs, meanwhile, finished the season strong after their midseason slump, winning 4 in a row (3 under Alex Smith). The Chiefs won’t blow the Titans out of the water on the scoreboard, but they will control the clock with Kareem Hunt in the cold weather and clearly be the superior team on Saturday to win and cover.

  • 2016 Titans-Chiefs matchup, the last time these teams met.

Falcons (+6) at Rams

Rams 27, Falcons 24 

  • Records get thrown out the door in the postseason, but everyone who has watched football this year knows the Rams have been significantly better than the Falcons, even if they were only one game better in the standings. While this game is home for the Rams, they don’t necessarily have a home field advantage, and the likely good weather will play to both team’s advantage. The Falcons are obviously more experienced in the postseason than the Rams, and of course come in with a chip on their shoulder after last season’s Super Bowl collpase (however, their play has not exactly reflected a chip on their shoulder). At the end of the day, I think the Rams will get this victory strictly on being a much better team than the Falcons this season. The other factors will make this a close game, however, and I think the Falcons cover. If the Falcons can get by this game, they have a great chance to turn a somewhat disappointing season into an NFC Championship appearance, as they would play the shorthanded Eagles the following week.

  • 2016 Falcons-Rams matchup, the last time these two teams met.

Bills at Jaguars (-8.5)

Jaguars 30, Bills 13

  • A playoff matchup between two perennial losing franchises is awesome, however, I think the Jaguars will ultimately show they are a much better team. The Bills may be without LeSean McCoy in this one, and even if he plays, he probably will not be at full strength. Whether he plays or not, the Bills will have a tough time up against Sacksonville and the best defense in the NFL. While the Jaguars offense is not always great, I think they will spend a lot of time on the field on Sunday and put up some points. I see this game being within a score at halftime, but then the Jaguars will pull away in the second half to win and cover.

  • 2016 Jaguars-Bills matchup, the last time these two teams met.

Panthers at Saints (-6.5) 

Saints 24, Panthers 17

  • I have the Saints covering a decently large spread, but I think this still has potential to be the best matchup of the weekend. It is hard to beat a team 3 times, but the Saints dominated in both matchups this season. The Panthers were playing well down the stretch, but looked shaky in each of their last two games. Combine the fact that the Saints are much better at home and the Panthers are much worse on the road, all signs point towards New Orleans. However, despite Drew Brees being the Super Bowl winning QB of the two, Cam and the Panthers have much more recent experience in the playoffs, including a trip to the Super Bowl just two years ago. The Panthers will play hard and this will be a good game, but I think the Saints are a touchdown better, and I think they will win, cover, and move on.

  • These teams met in Week 3 and Week 13, and the Saints won both times.

Now, I’ll reveal my pre-playoff playoff bracket. These picks are not necessarily the ones I’ll be making the next few weeks, as the matchups could change and I could also change my mind. However, this is how I think the playoff will shake out. I’m not going to give explanations, as I will save them for the week prior to the game.

Wild-Card Playoffs

  • AFC: Chiefs (4) over Titans (5), Jaguars (3) over Bills (6)
  • NFC: Saints (4) over Panthers (5), Rams (3) over Falcons (6)

Divisional Playoffs

  • AFC: (2) Steelers over (3) Jaguars, (1) Patriots over (4) Chiefs
  • NFC: (2) Vikings over (3) Rams, (4) Saints over (1) Eagles

Conference Championship

  • AFC: (1) Patriots over (2) Steelers
  • NFC: (2) Vikings over (4) Saints

Super Bowl LII from Minneapolis, MN

  • Vikings over Patriots

Let’s hope for a great Wild-Card Weekend, be back next week for the Divisional Round. Can the Falcons or Panthers score an upset and make another run to the Super Bowl?

You’ve Heard of the Steroid Era…But We Are About to Enter the Weed Era

A few weeks ago, Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon revealed to ESPN that he smoked or drank before every single game he played in the NFL…and still led the league in receiving in 2013. However he managed to do that, whether the alcohol/weed cooled his nerves or made him feel like he was on top of the world, it’s an incredible feat.

Today, Stephen Jackson, a former 20 PPG journeyman in the NBA, revealed to Bleacher Report he smoked his entire career.

A lot of high points during Jackson’s career.

A post shared by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

First things first, let’s not overreact to how good of a career Stephen Jackson had. He was good, probably never achieved over an 84 rating in 2K. He averaged 15.1 PPG for his career and never eclipsed more than 21 PPG. Good, but relax on the “Hell of a career” statement. Save that for the Hall of Famers, please.

Secondly, I think we are about to enter a whole new era of sports. Obviously, the 90s brought us the Steroid Era in baseball, which drizzled it’s way down into other sports over time. It was iconic, to say the least. It’s cheating, and it was entirely wrong, but Barry Bonds hit 73 HR in one season while batting .328…that is inhumane and absolutely incredible to watch. Bonds was hitting home runs with broken bats, and baseball reached a peak it had never known before.

But now, we are in the WEED ERA. Everybody and their brother is going to start revealing they smoked, drank, or did some other crazy shit before going out onto a field and being professional athletes.

Personally, I cannot wait until this happens. We’re gonna see things like Hines Ward smoked a blunt during halftime of Super Bowl XLIII, or Kershaw crushes Four Loko’s before every start. The Steroid Era took away from the accomplishments of athletes who used them, but the Weed Era is going to make your mouth drop at what some athletes accomplish while baked or drunk, further adding to their legacies.

A plethora of athletes are going to come forward, more likely when weed is entirely legal in more states so they avoid getting in trouble. Jackson could come out because he is retired and cannot exactly get in trouble with the league. Gordon came out because it was no secret and already got banned 7,000 times. Remember Michael Phelps? The guy smoked and got caught, but in case you haven’t heard, he was still an unreal athlete. The more people that get associated with this aspect of athletics, the more acceptable it will be, and the more people will continue to come out and say they followed the Josh Gordon Method. Not necessarily a good thing for sports nor the integrity of its players, but I believe it’s a trend that is about to hit this world hard.

Essentially, weed is going to be the backbone of athletics in like six years. Stay tuned.