Monday, December 18, 2017

Steelers lost when they took timeout before that controversial call

After JuJu Smith-Shuster's 69 yard catch and run and with 34 seconds on the clock, Ben Roethlisberger immediately signaled a timeout. My brother pointed out Pittsburgh's mistake as it happened. It ultimately cost the Steelers the game and nobody will ever talk about it.

After the big gain, the Steelers should have sprinted up to the line and spiked it, saving the timeout so they could choose whatever plays they wanted to call on 2nd and 3rd downs. With the timeout in your pocket you can run on 2nd down, or maybe play-action pass into the end zone or out of bounds, and then run on 3rd. You have much more flexibility in what you can decide to do. Which also makes it harder for the defense, forcing them to respect the run (especially against Le'Veon Bell), defend the pass, and be aware of the 240 pound Roethlisberger possibly running a draw.

You can also use the timeout to ensure the Patriots don't get the ball back.

It would have taken some time to get to the 10 and get set. Maybe 15 seconds. So the options are:

2nd & Goal/10, 19 seconds on the clock, 1 timeout


1st & Goal/10, 34 seconds on the clock, 0 timeouts

Do you want 15 extra seconds on the clock that you might not need, or do you want to be able to use every play and player in your offensive arsenal, and make it harder on the defense to know what you're doing?

The Steelers set themselves down the path of bad decision-making, managed themselves into a corner, and paid the consequences.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Gronk should have been tossed from Bills game, would have avoided suspension

NFL refs suck. Just look how poorly and inconsistently they don't call pass interference when opposing defenders drape themselves on Rob Gronkowski.

Gronk should have been ejected from the Bills game for his late, and dangerous hit on Tre'Davious White. Sorry, Pats fans, it's true. If any Bill or Dolphin or Jet did what Gronk did to a Pats' player, we'd all be up in arms about it. We all yell and scream quite vociferously when Gronk or Brady is a victim of a cheap shot. You can't then ignore your own players crossing the line so blatantly.

Even Belichick thought it was a "bullshit" hit.

It was moronic. No matter what you think about fines or suspensions, it was flat out stupid. As if nobody was watching. As if nobody would see a 6' 7" silverback gorilla acting like Razor Ramon on the sidelines.

But if the refs had kicked him out, it would be hard for the NFL to suspend Gronk on top of the ejection. It was a 20 point game with under 5 minutes, the result long since decided, so Gronk being tossed would have little impact on the game.

And honestly, it's Week 14 now, the Pats are on the verge of wrapping up the division, I don't mind the most injury prone TE in history missing a game. Suspend away.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

College Football Playoff needs to add a 5th team, and a play-in game

Alabama vs. Ohio State is more exciting as a football game than an argument. I'd much rather watch these two teams determine the 4th playoff spot on the field, than watch sports pundits argue about it.

It's clear that the College Football Playoffs are a vast improvement over the BCS, but a modest increase in the playoff's size could yield a big increase in entertainment and drama, while still preserving the importance of the regular season.

I've always wanted a 6-team college playoff, with the top 2 receiving byes, and teams seeded 3 through 6 having to play an extra round. But now I'm thinking that 5 teams would be even better, with just one play-in game. Having just one play-in game is somehow more captivating. It's also not a 7 hour time commitment to my TV.

Forcing the a team to win an extra game for a playoff spot makes sense as the 4th and 5th teams typically have some blemishes on their record they need to atone for. They perhaps didn't win their conference, or have 2 losses, or are a non-power conference team like UCF. They could prove their worthiness by winning the play-in game, which is much more convincing than a panel or algorithm deciding they deserve a chance to win it all.

And a 5 team playoff maintains the importance, and subsequent drama of the regular season. It might even add a little more urgency and excitement, as title contending teams strive to ensure a spot in the top 3 to avoid the extra game, and more teams would have a reasonable chance at making the playoffs.

The play-in game could be played a week after the conference championships, and be hosted by the #4 seed to ensure good ticket sales and an intense college football atmosphere. It would also give us the treat of seeing powerful programs from different parts of the country forced to play each other outside of neutral locations. Or it could pit conference rivals against each other in a game with a national title shot on the line.

So this is what we'd get with a play-in game:

  • The fourth playoff team forced to earn their spot 
  • The fourth playoff team legitimately proving their worthiness
  • More importance for top teams to finish in the top 3 
  • More teams with a shot at making the playoffs
  • An extra 60 minutes of exciting football between top teams 

Just ask yourself, would you rather watch talking head sports pundits argue about Bama and Ohio State, or watch the Tide and Buckeyes figure it out for themselves in front of 100,000 fans in Columbus or Tuscaloosa? Which do you think would get better ratings, the game or the selection show?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Which Patriots team is the real one: Week 1 or Week 2?

The Patriots looked like two different teams between Week 1 and Week 2. What changed, is the change sustainable, and which performance reflects who the Patriots really are?

1. The Chiefs are much better than the Saints
Kansas City won 42 games the past three seasons, the Saints have won 21. The Saints have some talented players, but also have inexperienced and exploitable guys, especially on defense. And Brady exploited the hell out of them. A win is a win is a win, but let's not get too hard about beating a team that hasn't finished above .500 since 2013.

2. Brady was at his Bradyest
Even against a mediocre team, you still need to make the plays to win, and Brady did that to near perfection, especially in the 1st quarter. He was poised in the pocket, read the Saints' defense well, and made all the throws. Frankly, he sucked in the Kansas City game, and at times seemed to feel ghosts around him in the pocket. He was the most improved player from Week 1 to Week 2.

The subpar Brady we saw in Week 1 has made maybe 10 career appearances. The near perfect Brady from Week 2 has made about 40 appearances. The other 220 games have seen Brady be nearly this great or at least very good. So that's what we should expect to see week to week. He won't be as amazing as he was for the first 15 minutes, but he'll be closer to that than to what he did against KC.

3. Extra days and no days off
The Pats try to be the best practice team in the NFL. And that's why they win. Give them a few days extra to work and it typically shows on the field. Unfortunately it's rare to have a long week without also having a short week before it, so this advantage can't be exploited much.

4. Pats play better in adversity than perfect conditions
The Patriots play better in difficult circumstances than any team in the NFL. Whether it's injury, false media leaks about air pressure, a teammate being arrested for murder, Tim Tebow, the Pats thrive when the shit hits the fan and outside distractions threaten to undermine them. They have a sharper edge when working through adversity. So maybe a handful of injuries can actually help the team in some weird way? Maybe not.

5. Gronk looked 100% for 60% of the game
Gronkowski was flaccid in Week 1, he looked fiercer in Week 2, until he got hurt. When healthy the Brady-Gronk combo might be the most dangerous passer-catcher duo in the history of the game. He's also one of the best blocking tight ends in the League. With the injuries at WR, his health is something the Pats' season will swing on, and that's a flimsy backbone to lean on.

The Saints are mediocre, but so is most of the NFL. The Patriots showed in Week 2 that they should have regular season success against most NFL teams, so long as they have a minimum number of players they can put on the field. It was a good rebound, and it was great to see everyone step up any way they could: 7 players rushed the ball, 9 caught passes, 11 touched the ball, 20 of Brady's 30 completions were to non-WRs.

But as far as gauging the Pats as a contender, I need to see much more, either consistently against mediocre teams, or once against a good team.

I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer, just a Rational Rob.

Photo Credit: AP

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Patriots vs. Chiefs Drinking Game: Banner Raising Edition

Football season is back and it begins as it should: with the Patriots raising a championship banner. This one made even sweeter by the failed attempts of the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell to punish the Pats for not kneeling to him and kissing his ass.

The Patriots begin their title defense against the Chiefs, and hope to become the first back-to-back champions since themselves back in 2003 and 2004. The team is loaded with talent but it's all about execution. Having talent is like stocking your fridge and liquor cabinet with great booze. Assembling it is the first step, but knowing what to do with it is far more important.

We're happy to help guide you to drinking your way through the 2017 season. And we begin with a drinking game to play as the Pats host the Chiefs, hoist a banner, and you destroy your internal organs and your life with toxic levels of alcohol.

Here are the rules...

Every time a commentator says:
Banner = take 1 drink of beer
Raise = 1 drink
Five = drink beer for 5 seconds
Time = 1 drink
Champion (in any form) = 1 drink and raise your ring fingers in the air as an FU to Goodell
Defending = 1 drink
Super Bowl = 1 drink
Fifty-one = drink for 51 seconds
Greatest/best = 1 drink

Do = 1 drink
Your = 1 drink
Job = 1 drink
No days off = 1 drink

Chiefs = 1 drink
(Kansas) City = 1 drink
Eric = 1 drink
Mitchell or Mitch = 1 drink
Ware = 1 drink
Any first name that begins with "De" (e.g. De'Anthony or Dee) = 1 drink
Smith = 1 drink
Game manager = 1 drink
AFC West = 1 drink
Chris (or Cris) = 1 drink
Marcus = 1 drink
Al = 1 drink

Deflate = 1 drink
Gate = 1 drink
Suspended = 1 drink
Roger = 1 drink
Goodell = 1 drink

Any time this is on screen:
The score 28-3: drink for 25 seconds
A banner = 1 drink per banner
A Lombardi Trophy = 1 drink per trophy
A Super Bowl ring = 1 drink per ring
Roger Goodell = finish your beer

Injured Spencer Ware = 1 drink
Injured Julian Edelman = finish your beer, toss it in the air, and whoever makes the most ridiculous catch get 1,000 points
Video of Ware and/or Edelman getting hurt = drink during entire clip

Super Bowl highlights = drink during the entire clip
The number 51 (including on the clock): 1 drink
Roman numerals = 1 drink per letter (bonus points for drinking Dos Equis, or Molson XXX)

Vince Wilfork = 1 drink, 1 shot, eat a turkey leg
Ernie Adams = 1 shot of liquor (bonus points if it's gin, Ernie seems like a gin guy)
Jimmy Garappolo = 1 drink

Bob Kraft = 1 drink
Kraft talking = drink the entire time he talks

Any time this happens:
Andy Reid mismanages the clock = finish your beer

Tom Brady yells in anger = 1 drink
Tom Brady yells in joy = 1 drink
Brady headbutts someone = 1 drink
Brady points out the "mike" = 1 drink (bonus points if drinking Mike's Hard Lemonade, but only if you're a girl or weigh under 100 pounds)
Brady says "alpha milk" = 1 drink

Pats go no huddle = 1 drink per snap
Chiefs run the ball = 1 drink
James White gets the ball = 1 drink
Matthew Slater makes a special teams tackle = 1 drink

Rob Gronkowski makes a catch = 1 drink
Gronk makes a big block = 1 drink
Gronk scores a TD = finish your beer, spike it (bonus points for glass containers spiked on hard surfaces)
You get worried that Gronk is hurt = 1 shot

Stephen Gostkowski barely makes a kick = 1 drink
Gostkowski misses a kick = 1 shot

So enjoy the game between the Patriots and Chiefs. And if you play this game, please also enjoy the trip to the hospital, the morgue, and the cemetery.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Alabama knows how to make a football schedule

Alabama opened their 2017 season with a convincing win over Florida State Saturday, giving the Tide an even firmer grasp of the #1 spot in the country.

But even if Bama had lost, because the game is so early in the season, they still would have been able to climb back up the rankings into a playoff spot. That's what's so ingenious about scheduling a marquee game against an elite opponent so early. It's the best time of the year to lose because you have almost 3 months to move back up as other top teams around the country lose games later in the year.

You're also guaranteeing yourself the spotlight in a Week 1 that is typically saturated with boring cupcake games. Penn State vs. Akron, Stanford vs. Rice, Howard vs. UNLV... well not that one. Anyway, with the spotlight on you, if you win, most of the college football world will see it and talk about it all week, enhancing your status as a top team.

The key to playing these top-tier non-conference opponents is a neutral location. This keeps Bama from going into a tough place to play (there's plenty of times they do that already in the SEC), and also gives their players the experience of playing big games away from home. So no home-field advantage, but no advantage for the opponent either.

Many teams schedule easy opponents in Week 1 partly because it can be a quasi-preseason game. Coaches want their players to get into a groove, especially their new starters. However the reality is, there is no disadvantage to playing a tough opponent in Week 1. The opposing players are just as rusty, their freshman just as inexperienced. It's an even playing field.

So instead, Alabama elects to play its easiest opponents in November, the Saturday before their Iron Bowl rivalry game against Auburn. Bama will host Mercer this year in the week before playing Auburn. Last year it was the Chattanooga Mocs. In 2015 it was Charleston Southern.

These games are like dress rehearsals for Alabama. The opponents are like sparring partners for the Tide to practice on, without any real threat of being hurt. The players get a bit of a break but also maintain their rhythm the week before going into what is often the biggest game of the year.

Bama doesn't leave Tuscaloosa unless they have to. They do not play non-conference road games. FSU was in Atlanta, the others will be at home (7 of Bama's 12 games this year are at home, 4 on the road, 1 in Atlanta). Alabama hasn't played a true non-conference road game since 2011 at Penn State.

None of this is a criticism of Alabama or Nick Saban. This is in praise and admiration. I'm also a bit jealous because I wish Bill Belichick and the Patriots could create their own schedule the way college programs are able to.

I also think it's weird that you don't see other teams adopting some of these approaches to scheduling (although many teams do not play non-conference road games). Why schedule a cupcake in Week 1 when you can add them into the schedule as a semi-scrimmage before a big game? Why avoid quality opponents when you can perhaps meet at a neutral location early in the season and either win to add to your resume, or lose and have 11 more games to recover.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Patriots vs Steelers Drinking Game: AFC Championship Edition

Patriots vs. Steelers. Tom Brady vs. Big Ben. Bill Belichick vs. Mike Tomlin. SpyGate and DeflateGate vs. a coach trying to block a kick returner on the field. Two teams, lots of recent success, lots of rivalry, lots of respect, and lots of shared hatred for Roger Goodell.

Get ready to share your drunken thoughts on SpapFace and InstaChat, because it's the motherfucking AFC Championship.

Belichick says that players play, and coaches coach. And we say that drinkers drink. So here's a drinking game to play during the AFC Championship:

Anytime a Commentator Says...
"AFC" = 1 drink from a beer
"Conference" = 1 drink
"Championship" = 1 drink
"Game" = 1 drink
"Super Bowl" = 1 drink
"51" = 1 drink
"Houston" = 1 drink
"Playoffs" = 1 drink
"Home field" = 1 drink
"Rivalry" = 1 drink
"Record" = 1 drink
"History" = 1 drink
"In a row" = 1 drink

"Tom" = 1 drink
"Ben" = 1 drink
"Brown" = 1 drink
"Bell" = 1 drink
"Killer bee" = 1 drink (bonus points if you're buzzed by the time you drink it)
"Malcolm" = 1 drink
"Jones" = 1 drink
"Bill/Will/Williams" = 1 drink

Anything about Tom Brady's or James Harrison's age = drink 39 seconds for Brady, 38 seconds for Harrison
Anything about Brady's or Harrison's workout routines = 1 drink (bonus points for light beer), 5 push-ups, 10 crunches, 1 shot of liquor

"Roger Goodell" = 1 drink with your middle finger in the air (something both Pats and Steelers fans can agree on)

Anytime this is on screen...
A trophy = 1 drink per trophy
The AFC logo = 1 drink
A Super Bowl ring = 1 drink per ring
The Super Bowl logo = 1 drink
A Terrible Towel = 1 drink per towel
A tri-cornered hat = 3 drinks per hat (1 per corner, bonus points if drinking Sam Adams)

Highlights of Patriots beating the Steelers = drink for the duration of the highlight (bonus points/bonus drinking below)
-Clip of Bledsoe throwing a TD = drink for 11 seconds
-Troy Brown punt return TD = drink for 80 seconds
-Rodney Harrison INT return TD = drink for 37 seconds
-If you're the first to spot Corey Dillon, Deion Branch, Ted Johnson, or David Givens, you can distribute drinks to everyone else until the end of the quarter

Rob Gronkowski = finish your beer, spike it (bonus points for spiking glass containers)
Josh McDaniels = 1 drink
Dante Scarnecchia = 1 shot of gin
Ernie Adams = 1 slug of moonshine
Bob Kraft = 1 drink
Kraft talking to someone = drink entire time he's talking
Mike Tomlin = 1 drink, then block someone from walking to the fridge

The number 7 or 12 (in the score, the clock, on a uniform, in the stands) = 1 drink

Roger Goodell at Gillette Stadium = finish a keg of beer because it won't happen

Anytime this happens...
Tom Brady points out the 'Mike' = 1 drink (bonus points for girls if drinking a Mike's Hard product, negative points for guys drinking Mike's Hard products)
Brady says "Alpha milk" = 1 drink (bonus points for White Russian drinking)
Brady throws to a non-WR = 1 drink
Brady gets pissed at himself or others = 1 drink
Brady throws deep incomplete = 1 drink
Brady throws deep complete = 1 shot
Brady throws to Julian Edelman = 1 drink
Edelman gets the ball in a non-receiving way (punt return, run, throw, etc.) = 1 drink
Dion Lewis gets the ball in a non-running way (catch, return, etc.) = 1 drink
LeGarette Blount runs someone over = 1 drink
Patriots RB runs for 10+ yards = 1 drink
Patriots RB runs for 20+ yards = 1 shot
Matthew Slater makes a special teams tackle = 1 drink
Patriots try a trick play = finish your beer
Patriots successful (at least 20+ yards) with trick play = finish your beer + 1 shot

You think Ben Roethlisberger is sacked, but he escapes = 1 shot
Antonio Brown touches the ball = drink until he's tackled
Brown is just too fast to be covered/tackled = 1 drink
Le'Veon Bell hesitates = pause, then drink, but the last one to drink after pausing has to finish their beer

A kicker misses a kick = 1 drink for PATs, 3 for FGs
A team goes no huddle = 1 drink per snap
Kickoff or punt return = drink during entire return
Touchback = 1 drink

So enjoy the game. Get lubed up. Don't drink and drive. In fact, don't play this game at all because it will kill you.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ray Lewis calls out Tom Brady's toughness, even though Brady played with no fear against murderer Ray Lewis

In Saturday night's Patriots-Texans game, Jadeveon Clowney was not penalized for what seemed to be a late hit on Pats' QB Tom Brady. Clowney began the tackle shortly after Brady released the football, but probably should have been called for roughing the passer as the tackle extended long after the ball was out, with Clowney eventually dragging Brady to the ground.

Brady made little effort to hide his feelings, yelling at the refs with such anger that he fell to the ground again.

And maybe the forceful lobbying worked, as later a roughing call was finally called on Clowney. Be that as it may, Brady has a well-deserved reputation as someone who gets angry about calls and non-calls failing to go his way. He's seen as a complainer, because that's what he does to refs on the field.

And so what? Seriously, how is this a criticism? The NFL has bad, inconsistent officiating. Tom Brady gets angry at bad officiating. Fans at home who yell at their TV about bad officiating, complain about Tom Brady yelling at the ref about bad officiating.

It doesn't make sense.

What baffles me most of all is that by yelling and complaining, it somehow makes him less tough. He's seen as a whiner and a baby. Ray Lewis, for example, Tweeted this last night.

As if Brady doesn't know what football is, what the game entails, and that hard contact is part of the game.

It's funny for Ray Lewis to call out a player for lack of toughness, when on the football field Brady has been fearless, even when facing people who have participated in murder. Such as Ray Lewis.

If you don't like the complaining to refs, fine. That's kind of silly because NFL officiating is horribly inconsistent and overly obsessed with defining things that can't be defined while simultaneously ignoring the spirit and intention of the rules.

But Brady's complaining has nothing to do with toughness or lack thereof.

Photo Credit: USATSI

Patriots didn't play crappy game against Texans, but need to improve to beat Steelers or Chiefs

You can't turn the ball over 3 times in a playoff game and expect to win. Unless you're the Patriots and you win by 18, putting up 34 points on the #1 defense in the NFL. Tom Brady, by the way, is now 4-1 in playoff games against #1 NFL defenses. It's amazing how unamazed I am by that tidbit.

The amazing has become the typical for Brady, Belichick, and the Pats.

"Amazing" is not how I would describe the Patriots' performance last night. Brady was off for most of the game (18 for 38, 2 picks). There were times when the O-line couldn't stop the pass rush up the middle. The Pats failed to punch it in from 1st and goal on the 3. And as great as Dion Lewis looked for most of the game, you simply CANNOT fumble a kickoff return. Who does he think he is? Cyrus Jones?

The Patriots can't play 60 minutes like that and expect to beat the Chiefs or Steelers. Those teams probably won't give the ball back 3 times. And those teams will score TDs off turnovers, not field goals.

The Chiefs had the top takeaway/giveaway differential in the NFL at +16. Compare that to the Texans at 26th and a -7 differential. KC only lost the ball 17 times (8th best in NFL). They won't give you the ball back the way Osweiler did last night.

Then there's Pittsburgh, who have a much more dangerous offense than Houston's. Compare Le'Veon Bell to Lamar Miller. Antonio Brown is one of the few WRs out there better than DeAndre Hopkins. And Ben Roethlisberger is just on a different planet compared to Brock Osweiler. Comparing Big Ben to Osweiler is like comparing how great Shaq the basketball player was with how awful Shaq the actor was. And like Osweiler, Shaq the actor was paid a ridiculous amount of money considering the crappy results.

There's room for improvement, but the Pats didn't play a crappy game. The kickoff return TD was the result of excellent blocking and Lewis' agility and outright speed. Edelman seemed to disappear for stretches but finished with 8 catches and 137 yards. Most of the night the O-line protected Brady and gave him plenty of time.

Defensively, the Pats forced 3 turnovers, limited Hopkins to 6 catches and 65 yards, gave up fewer than 300 yards (285), held the Texans on 13 of 16 3rd downs (81.3%), sacked Osweiler 3 times, hit him a few more, and held on 2 of 3 Texans trips into the Red Zone.

I'm optimistic the Pats' offense will perform better. They have no choice. Turn the ball over like that again and the Chiefs or Steelers will make you pay. I also have concerns that some key players like Brady, Blount, Bennett, and Amendola are banged up and it's affecting their usage and/or performance. At least the Pats get an extra day to recover.

And ultimately what matters is that for the 11th time in the Brady/Belichick era and for the 6th year in a row, we're on to the AFC Championship game.

Photo credit: Elise Amendola/AP Photo

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Patriots-Texans Drinking Game: Playoff Edition

Saturday night the Patriots host the Texans in t he AFC Divisional round. The annual tradition of Patriots football extending into mid-January continues. Hopefully the Pats aren't too overly confident in this game, but you can go ahead and get as overly confucked up as you want. And the best way to do so is to play this Patriots drinking game:

Everytime a commentator says...
"Divisional" = take 1 drink of beer
"Round" = 1 drink
"Playoffs" = 1 drink
"AFC" = 1 drink
"Home field" = 1 drink
"Seed" = 1 drink
"Gillette" = 1 drink
"Tom" = 1 drink
"Brady" = 1 drink
"Brock" = 1 drink
"DeAndre" = 1 drink
"Vince" = 1 drink
"Malcolm" = 1 drink
"Jones" = 1 drink
"Bill/Will/William(s)" = 1 drink
"Jim" = 1 drink
"Phil" = 1 drink
"CBS" = 1 drink
"Cold" = 1 drink
"Super Bowl" = 1 drink

Anytime this is on screen...
Highlights of the Patriots beating the Texans = drink during the entire clip
Highlights of Tom Brady in the playoffs = drink for entire clip
Super Bowl highlights = drink during entire clip
JJ Watt = finish your beer, do 10 pushups, then post on social media about working out
Rob Gronkowski = finish your beer and Gronk spike it, bonus points if spiking a glass container
Jacoby Brissett = drink for 7 seconds
Josh McDaniels = 1 drink
Dante Scarnecchia = finish your beer
Ernie Adams = finish your beer, 1 shot of liquor
Bob Kraft = 1 drink
Kraft talking to someone = drink entire time he's talking
Vince Wilfork in a Patriots uniform = 1 drink, eat 1 slice of pizza
Wilfork on the sideline = 1 drink, 1 shot, eat 1 turkey leg
A star (including in logos, but not on helmets) = 1 drink per star

Anytime this happens...
Brady points out the "mike" = 1 drink, bonus points if drinking a Mike's Hard product (girls only), negative points for guys drinking Mike's
Brady says "Alpha milk" = 1 drink, bonus points if drinking a White Russian
Brady throws to a non-receiver = 1 drink
Brady looks pissed = 1 drink
Julian Edelman thrown to = 1 drink
Edelman makes someone miss = 1 drink
Martellus Bennett runs someone over = 1 drink
LeGarette Blount runs someone over = 1 drink
Blount runs for 10+ yards = 1 shot
Blount runs for 20+ yards = finish your beer
Matthew Slater makes a special teams tackle = 1 drink
Stephen Gostkowski misses a FG or PAT = 1 drink, 1 shot
Brock Osweiler makes a great throw = 1 drink
Osweiler makes a terrible throw = 1 drink
DeAndre Hopkins thrown to = 1 drink
Hopkins catches pass = drink for 5 seconds
Hopkins catches a pass for 25+ yards = finish your beer
Hopkins makes an insane catch = whole beer
A team goes no huddle = 1 drink per snap
Kickoff return = drink during entire return
Touchback = 1 drink

So enjoy the game. Get lubed up responsibly. Appoint designated drivers. Be prepared to dial 9-1-1 at any time. And hopefully the Pats will be moving on to KC or Pittsburgh while you're moving on to a stomach pump and liver surgery.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Patriots' Path to the Super Bowl

The Patriots secured the top seed in the AFC playoffs Sunday, ensuring that the road to the Super Bowl goes through New England. But what kind of obstacles will the Patriots face on that road? Who will stand in their path and what kind of challenge will they pose?

Just a sidenote about this year's NFL playoffs... between the Pats, Steelers, Chiefs, Raiders, and Dolphins, you've got tons of great AFC/AFL/NFL history. These teams combine for 16 total Super Bowl wins, or 2/3 of the 24 Super Bowls won by AFC teams. The Steelers, Patriots, Dolphins, and Raiders have won more AFC Championship games (25) than all other teams combined. Think about all the great players, coaches, and teams: the Steel Curtain, the perfect 1972 season, the Black Hole, the loudest stadium, Brady, Bradshaw, Stram, Madden, Marino.

Plus there's the Texans.

Here is a list of what the Patriots will face in each round:

DIVISIONAL ROUND OPPONENTS: Oakland, Houston, or Miami
The Patriots cannot face the #2 seeded Chiefs or #3 seeded Steelers in the Divisional Round, which is good news because these are the two teams I'd least prefer the Patriots to play. If the Raiders still had a healthy Derek Carr I'd include them in that group. But they don't.

So let's start with the Carr-less Raiders. They had a great offense with Carr. They still have plenty of talent on that side of the ball, but in a playoff game against Belichick and the rested Patriots, it's hard to imagine the Raiders posing much of a threat. You never know, though. Over-confidence can be a killer. And if the Raiders make it to the Divisional Round, that means they figured out a way to win, and did so on the road. Albeit against a soft Houston team. But momentum, confidence, and a backup QB with little game film of to study... you just never know.

You would hope the Pats would take the game 100% seriously and do their job.

If it's Patriots vs. Raiders in the Divisional Round, how many times will the phrase "Tuck Rule" be uttered before and during the game? Over/under on that would be 1,000,000.5.

I don't know which team I'd prefer the Patriots to play: Houston or Oakland. There's a strong chance it will be one of these two as I think the Steelers will easily handle the Dolphins. So do you want the team with an injured QB, or the team with the mediocre QB?

The 9-7 Texans were 4-6 outside of their crappy division. One of those losses was a 27-0 blowout at Gillette Stadium against Jacoby Brissett.

Houston averages under 200 yards in the air per game. For every position they're strong at, there are others that they are terribly weak at, quarterback being the most obvious.

The last (and only) time the Texans beat the Patriots was in January 2010. That was the game Wes Welker got hurt in before the playoffs started. The Patriots are 7-1 against Houston all-time, and are in the midst of a 5-game win streak against them.

You can't not be happy if the Pats play the Texans.

If Miami beats the Steelers, then the Patriots play the Dolphins no matter what happens in the 4 vs. 5 game. Miami can sometimes give the Pats trouble, but not so much at Gillette Stadium in the Brady Era. The last time the Dolphins won in Foxboro was in 2008, when Matt Cassel was the Pats' QB. Brady has beaten Miami 10-straight times at Gillette, and is 14-1 against them at home.

But there's something unsettling about playing a team for the third time in a season. Those games can get weird. The Dolphins have seen (twice) how the Patriots can beat them. They can learn and possibly adapt. Third games can be unpredictable, which seems counter-intuitive considering there's already 120 minutes of football played between the two teams.

Over-familiarity and maybe over-confidence can be a recipe for a disappointing loss. And after all, the Pats' win in Miami this past Sunday was a few turnovers away from being very, very interesting. One or two big plays can turn an easy game into a tough challenge.

All 3 of the potential Divisional Round opponents are excellent matchups for the Patriots. There's no top tier QB to worry about. These are teams with multiple and significant flaws. The Raiders and Dolphins have limited playoff experience and the Texans only have playoff losing experience.

So the Divisional Round might be easy on paper. That is certainly not the case for potential AFC title game opponents...

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME OPPONENTS: Steelers, Chiefs, Raiders, or Texans
The Patriots can't play the Dolphins in this round. It seems unlikely that the Raiders or Texans would get this far, but it's possible, and would be fantastic for the Pats.

What's most likely is that either the Steelers or Chiefs would come to Gillette Stadium.

I think the Steelers will be the team to challenge the Pats for a Super Bowl berth. They have the momentum, riding a 7-game winning streak entering the playoffs. They have the history and experience. They have a Super Bowl winning QB, a receiver who is almost impossible to cover, and one of the best RBs in the NFL.

It's true the Pats beat Pittsburgh on the road in October. And that means a whole lot of nothing. The Steelers were banged up and without Roethlisberger. Meanwhile Rob Gronkowski was healthy. The tables have turned since then. The Steelers have the all their black and yellow Killer Bees at their disposal now: Brown, Bell, and Big Ben.

Their defense isn't as imposing as it used to be. They were 12th in overall defense, 16th in passing defense, 13th in rushing. They were 10th in points allowed. None of this is bad, but it's not what one usually thinks of when one thinks of Pittsburgh.

And 29% of their 7-game win streak was against the Browns. They were 2-3 against playoff teams, They were 5-3 away from Pittsburgh and their best road win was against the Ravens.

So maybe the Chiefs will beat them in Kansas City.

The Chiefs led the NFL with a +16 turnover margin. They protect the ball, and they go after it on defense. Most interceptions, most fumble recoveries.

They don't have a very good offense. And their Red Zone offense isn't impressive so even against the Patriots bend-don't-break defense it will be tough for KC to put up points. Andy Reid is also one of the worst game clock managers I've ever seen. Captain Hook does better with clocks than Reid does.

Either team would be tough. For the sake of continuing a rivalry, I'd prefer the Steelers to come to Foxboro. The Patriots and Steelers are tied for the most AFC Championship game wins at 8 apiece (Denver also has 8). So the winner would claim that honor, and have a chance to add to their franchise's legacy with yet another Super Bowl win.

SUPER BOWL OPPONENTS: Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, Green Bay, New York, Detroit
There are 2 teams in the AFC playoffs that scare me. There are 4 in the NFC. Thankfully the Pats will only have to play one NFC opponent to win it all. Just a quick thought on each possible opponent:

Dallas: I'd be worried unless Romo is still holding for field goals and extra points

Atlanta: Horrible defense and choking quarterback

Seattle: Championship caliber

Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers is 7-6 in playoff games and 3-5 since winning the Super Bowl

New York: Please, God, no

Detroit: Please, God, yes

Patriots play the Raiders in the Divisional Round and win. Then they play the Steelers and win a close game. Then the play the Cowboys in the Super Bowl and win.