Every NFL Team and Division in 3 Words

3 words can tell the entire story.

With the dog days of summer winding down, NFL training camps are officially underway. While most want to jump the gun and predict the NFL season now, let’s start with 3 words to describe every team and every division in the NFL.

AFC North: Beat ’em up.

afcnorth

Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger goes diva.

Baltimore Ravens: Binding Flacco contract.

Cincinnati Bengals: Picture of complacency.

Cleveland Browns: Hope? LOL. Nope.

The AFC North is a brutal division, one in which the teams beat each other up so much during the season come playoff time, they’re out of gas. The Steelers are the best team in the division, but Ben Roethlisberger discussing retirement this early smells like trouble. The Ravens will be competitive, but they’d be more competitive if not for QB Joe Facco’s contract. The Bengals never seem to aspire to be better than average, and the Browns are a doormat.

AFC South: First round exit.

afcsouth

Houston Texans: Won with Osweiler.

Tennessee Titans: Rise of Mariota.

Indianapolis Colts: Out of Luck.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Gag on Coughlin.

The AFC South Division winner has the luxury of hosting a home playoff game and promptly losing. The Texans won with Brock Osweiler at QB, so rookie QB Deshaun Watson could be a step up. The Titans continued progress will depend on the health of QB Marcus Mariota, the Colts can’t continue relying on QB Andrew Luck to be a contender, and the “new look Jaguars” with Tom Coughlin in the front office will continue to be woeful until QB Blake Bortles is deported.

AFC East: Pats stand pat.

afc-east

New England Patriots: Please stop winning.

Miami Dolphins: One year wonder.

Buffalo Bills: Sabotaged by Pengulas.

New York Jets: J-E-T-S spells L-O-S-E.

Since 2001, only the Jets in 2002 and Dolphins in 2008 have won the division. The Patriots have nothing to worry about in this cakewalk of a division. The Dolphins won’t be able to replicate last years success, the Bills’ ownership prevents them from being even halfway competent, and the Jets are essentially tanking.

AFC West: Most competitive division.

Oakland Raiders: Just Win Baby.

Kansas City Chiefs: Kings of almost.

Denver Broncos: Mile High controversy.

Los Angeles Chargers: Soccer stadium tenants.

The AFC West is easily the NFL’s most competitive division, as 3 of the 4 teams posted records above .500 last year. The Raiders will want to continue their newfound commitment to excellence all the way to a division title. The Chiefs will sport a good team but aren’t legitimate contenders. The Broncos will be hindered by their QB controversy between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, and the Chargers were rewarded for moving to LA LA Land by being tenants in a 30,000 seat soccer stadium.

NFC North: Cold and predictable.

Green Bay Packers: Default division winner.

Minnesota Vikings: Bridge(water) too far.

Detroit Lions: Roar no more.

Chicago Bears: Should’ve ditched Mitch.

The NFC North is known for being a rather chilly division come late October, but its utterly predictable. The overrated, over-hyped, and overblown Packers will win the division. The Vikings need QB Teddy Bridgewater to come back if they have any hope of being a playoff contender. The Lions surprised many last season with a postseason appearance, but that seems unreasonable to expect this season. The Bears were swindled by the 49ers and picked a QB who started 13 games in his collegiate career, it’ll be a cold winter for them.

NFC South: Worst to first.

NFC-South

Carolina Panthers: Dab strikes back.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Winston’s next step.

Atlanta Falcons: Super Bowl hangover.

New Orleans Saints: The final Brees.

This division always seems to have the worst to first syndrome, where a team that finished in last place the previous year ascends to first place the next. QB Cam Newton and the Panthers will continue this trend, as the dab will strike back. QB Jameis Winston could potentially lead the Bucs into the postseason, the Falcons won’t be over their epic collapse, and the Saints will be looking to move on from QB Drew Brees.

NFC East: Beasts in East.

Dallas Cowboys: Inmates running asylum.

New York Giants: Odell rights ship.

Philadelphia Eagles: Winners of off-season.

Washington Redskins: Kirk or Kurt?

The NFC East is always one of the roughest, toughest divisions in the NFL, and this year will be no different. While the Dallas Cowboys resemble more of a Federal prison than a football team, they’re the best team in the division. Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. will overcome the ghost of his ill-fated boat trip and have an MVP caliber season. The Eagles impressed many with their off-season acquisitions, but will there be team chemistry? Meanwhile, the Redskins will continue to be petty and mispronounce their overrated QB’s name, Kirk (Kurt?) Cousins.

NFC West: One team matters.

Seattle Seahawks: Winning trumps animosity.

Arizona Cardinals: Gasp for Arians.

Los Angeles Rams: Scoff at Goff.

49ers: Still York owned.

This division has one relevant team. Despite the fact every player on the roster hates QB Russell Wilson, chief among them CB Richard Sherman, the Seahawks’ winning will mask their dysfunction. This season could very well be the Cardinals’ final run at a Super Bowl title. QB Jared Goff of the Rams will prove himself to be one of the biggest Draft Busts ever. Lastly, the 49ers are still owner by Jed York, who hired John Lynch, a former color commentator with no front office experience to be their GM (*Does Matt Millen ring a bell?*). Lynch went on to hire the man who called 5 running plays in the second half of Super Bowl 51 when he was up 28-3, Kyle Shanahan, the spoiled brat son of a tomato (*Mike Shanahan*).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Curse of the Quarterback Contract Extentsion

Forget the Madden Curse, it’s all about the curse of QB contract extensions.

In a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, the Oakland soon to be Las Vegas Raiders signed franchise quarterback Derek Carr to a 5 year, $125 million contract extension. That averages out to $25 million annually, and includes $40 million in guaranteed money. Carr undoubtedly deserved the extension, as through three NFL seasons he has amassed 11,194 passing yards and thrown for 81 touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 87.9. However, history has shown many quarterbacks have struggled the next season after receiving a contract extension. Such examples include:

Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams: 6 years for $62.5 Million

marc-bulger

Bulger signed this extension after the 2006 season, where he threw for 4,301 yards, 24 touchdowns and 8 interceptions with a quarterback rating of 92.9. The next season, Bulger threw for only 2,392 yards, 11 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 70.3. Bulger never came close to living up to the extension, as he was released after the 2009 season and finished up his career backing up Joe Flacco for the Baltimore Ravens in 2010.

David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars: 6 years for $60 Million

alg-giants-jaguars-cotfield-jpg

In 2007, David Garrard threw for 2,509 yards, 18 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 102.2 while leading the Jaguars to the AFC Divisional playoff round. Garrard was then rewarded with this contract extension, similar to the one the aforementioned Marc Bulger received. In a 2008 season that saw the Jags have lofty Super Bowl aspirations, Garrard threw for just 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and the Jaguars finished 5-11, good for last place in the AFC South.

Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs: 6 years for $62.7 Million

20121223_pjc_sm8_062-0

Matt Cassel threw for 3,693 yards, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 89.4 in 2008 for the New England Patriots with Tom Brady injured. This was enough for the Kansas City Chiefs to trade for him and sign him to a new contract, as the Chiefs thought they had finally found their franchise quarterback. The Chiefs went 4-12 in 2009, and Cassel threw for 2,924 yards, 16 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and had a quarterback rating of 69.9. While Cassel did earn a Pro-Bowl bid and led the Chiefs to an AFC West Divisional title in 2010, Cassel never came close to matching his supposed worth, as he was cut after the 2012 season after struggling mightily in 2011 and 2012.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: 6 years for $120.6 Million

rc-ravens-steelers-assaf30

To be fair, Joe Flacco was coming off a postseason in which he threw for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions on his way to a Super Bowl victory with the Baltimore Ravens. He had made it to 3 AFC Championship Games since 2008 and was legitimately deserving of a new deal after the 2012 season. Unfortunately, the 2013 season saw Flacco and the Ravens experience a Super Bowl hangover, as Flacco threw 22 interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 73.1. The Ravens finished 8-8 and missed the postseason that year, and have only made it to the postseason once since signing Flacco to that extension.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: 6 years for $108 Million

grant_g_romo_cr_64011

Tony Romo already holds the mantel of the most overrated quarterback in NFL history because his stats were admittedly astounding for fantasy football geeks and he played for “America’s Team.” This led to Owner/ GM of the Cowboys Jerry Jones to give his illegitimate son this massive contract extension after two straight seasons of Romo choking in the final game of the regular season that could’ve put the Cowboys in the playoffs. 2013 saw him gag important games against the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers (*the Cowboys blew a 23-point lead and Matt Flynn started for the Packers that game*) and the Cowboys missed the playoffs. While Romo did lead the Cowboys to a 12-4 record and an appearance in the NFC Divisional Playoff round in 2014, injuries and Dak Prescott prevented Romo from playing out the rest of his contract, and he is now the lead color commentator for CBS.

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: 7 years for $126 Million

NFL: Chicago Bears at New England Patriots

Although the Bears hadn’t made it to the postseason for the third straight season, Jay “My arm is bigger than John Elway’s” Cutler signed this massive contract extension after the 2013 season. The Bears went on to finish 5-11 in 2014, and Cutler was run out of town and the league after the 2016 season amid questions about his leadership abilities. He is now a color commentator for Fox.

While Carr is most certainly better than many of the quarterbacks listed here and the Raiders are better than the teams those quarterbacks played for, Raiders fans should be somewhat concerned about the 2017 season. History indicates many quarterbacks struggle the season after they receive a contract extension, and Carr could be the next victim of this curse. Factor in the fact that the Raiders’ schedule is already one of the toughest in the league, Super Bowl expectations, and the looming move to Las Vegas into the equation, and the 2017 season could turn out to be a major letdown for the silver and black. This may not be the Curse of the Bambino, the Billy Goat Curse, or even the Curse of the Black Pearl, but the Curse of Quarterback Contract Extensions looms large over the Raiders’ 2017 season.

 

Bro-Commentary: Evaluating the Raiders 2017 Regular Season Schedule

Does the 2017 schedule suggest the Raiders will maintain their commitment to excellence?

The 2017 NFL schedule has been released, and pundits everywhere are already predicting teams’ records for the upcoming season. Not so fast everyone! We haven’t even made it to the NFL Draft, so predicting how a teams’ season will play out in April is a bit premature. However, that does not mean we cannot analyze teams’ schedules based on their difficulty and how many prime-time games they will be playing. Being the Raiders fan that I am, I thought it would be engaging to assess the Oakland soon to be Las Vegas Raiders’ 2017 schedule.

Week 1: Sep 10 @ Tennessee Titans

Week 2: Sep 17 New York Jets

Week 3: Sep 24 @ Washington Redskins (Sunday Night Football)

Week 4: Oct 1 @ Denver Broncos

Week 5: Oct 8 Baltimore Ravens

Week 6: Oct 15 Los Angeles Chargers

Week 7: Oct 19 Kansas City Chiefs (Thursday Night Football)

Week 8: Oct 29 @ Buffalo Bills

Week 9: Nov 5 @ Miami Dolphins (Sunday Night Football)

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: Nov 19 New England Patriots* (Home game in Mexico City)

Week 12: Nov 26 Denver Broncos

Week 13: Dec 3 New York Giants

Week 14: Dec 10 @ Kansas City Chiefs

Week 15: Dec 17 Dallas Cowboys (Sunday Night Football)

Week 16: Dec 25 @ Philadelphia Eagles (Monday Night Football)

Week 17: Dec 31 @ Los Angeles Chargers

The Raiders 2017 schedule appears to be tougher than their schedule in 2016. For starters, three out of their first four games this season are on the road. They first travel to Nashville to face the Titans week 1, go home to have their home opener against the Jets week 2, fly back east to the nation’s capital to face the Redskins on Sunday Night Football week 3, and then travel to Denver to face their division rival Broncos week 4. The Titans are a team on the rise much like the Raiders, the Redskins are tough at home, and any divisional match-up is always a war. We’ll definitely learn a lot about the Raiders within the first four weeks of the season.

The Raiders also play the NFC East, arguably one of the toughest divisions in football. All of the teams in that division had seven or more wins last year, making their 2017 campaign against the NFC more difficult than last year when they faced the lowly NFC South. Interestingly enough, three of their last five opponents are from the NFC East, as they will face the Giants at home week 13, the Cowboys at home week 15 on Sunday Night Football, and the Eagles in Philadelphia week 16 on a Christmas Day edition of Monday Night Football. This is arguably their toughest stretch of games in 2017, as they also have two road games against division rivals Chiefs and Chargers sprinkled in to end the regular season.

The Raiders also have a relatively late bye week this year, as they will play in nine regular season games before having their bye week in week 10. Personally, I prefer later bye weeks, as it gives teams a chance to rest and replenish themselves before the home stretch of the season. Additionally, their bye week comes before their most important game of the season and is also a potential AFC Championship preview: a “home” game against the reigning Super Bowl Champion Patriots in Mexico City. As wrestling legend Ric Flair once said, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” This game would allow the Raiders to prove themselves as the heir apparent to the AFC throne, and maybe even as the team to beat in the AFC.

Unlike previous seasons where the Raiders struggled to be featured in prime-time match-ups, the Raiders will play in five prime-time games in 2017. They will play three games on NBC’s Sunday Night Football: @ Redskins, @ Dolphins, and home against the Cowboys. They will also be featured in a mandatory CBS/ NFL Network Thursday Night Football (*aka the plague of the earth*) match-up against their division rival Chiefs, and a previously mentioned ESPN Monday Night Football Christmas Day showdown against the Eagles. After going 12-4 last season, the Raiders caught the eyes of many, resulting in them being under the spotlight more frequently in 2017.

Lastly, it would be unfathomable to talk about the Raiders’ 2017 schedule without mentioning the news of their move to Las Vegas in the near future. Not since the 1995 Cleveland Browns has a team had such high aspirations going into the season while also experiencing such a mammoth distraction during it. Of course the players will say it’s not a distraction and that they want to focus on the on the field results, that’s what they are paid to do. But one must wonder if the constant pestering of their future move to Las Vegas will play a dooming role during their season. This is especially pressing considering their final game in the Oakland Alameda Coliseum could be their biggest game of the season in a possible Super Bowl match-up against the Cowboys.

While the Raiders will face an uphill battle considering owner Mark Davis’ decision to relocate the team to Las Vegas and a tougher schedule in 2017, the Raiders will be a popular pick to win the AFC West and make it to the Super Bowl. They have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in DE Kahlil Mack, who will look to continue his dominance. They have an explosive offense led by franchise QB Derek Carr. Whether you are a fan of them or not, there’s little doubt the Raiders will be a compelling team to watch throughout 2017.

 

 

 

Bro-Commentary: The Raiders Move to Las Vegas

Las Vegas Raiders. Let that sink in.Las Vegas Raiders Football

I was born a Raider. I bleed silver and black. I remember the sinking feeling I had when the Raiders lost to the New England Patriots in the infamous “Tuck Rule” game in the 2001 Divisional Playoffs that birthed a dynasty. I remember tuning in to Super Bowl 37 and watching the Raiders get crushed by former Raiders coach Jon Gruden and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I remember the feeling I got every Sunday from 2003 until 2015 expecting the Raiders to lose. “Just Win, Baby” became “Just Lose, Baby”, as the Raiders became synonymous with losing.

None of those feelings compare to the one I have now with the news that the Oakland Raiders are no more. They are now the Las Vegas Raiders. On Monday, the Raiders received conditional approval from the NFL to relocate from Oakland, California to Las Vegas, Nevada. They received “yes” votes from every owner in the NFL with the exception of Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins. Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement the Raiders plan on playing at the Oakland Coliseum for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, as the new stadium in Las Vegas is not set to open until 2020.

The city of Oakland took a hard stance in new stadium negotiations throughout the last decade or so, refusing to use public funds to pay for a new stadium. Oakland made a last ditch effort to keep the Raiders by sending the NFL a revised $1.3 billion stadium proposal. On Saturday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf gave an impassioned speech in which she pleaded to the NFL to keep the Raiders in Oakland. I was moved by her speech. I couldn’t help but feel this was a woman who wanted to see the city of Oakland, the birthplace of the Raiders, keep their beloved football team. However, this was a move just to save face. It was an 11th hour PR strategy. The very definition of a Hail Mary pass in the closing seconds in the fourth quarter. She could have done more. Oakland could have done more. They lacked the urgency to do more.

One can hardly blame the Raiders for their decision. The city of Las Vegas put up $750 million in public funds from a hotel tax to build a new stadium. That number could be $950 million when accounting for the extra $200 million in public funds that suddenly became available over the weekend. Las Vegas ponied up. Whatever the Raiders needed, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval provided it. Governor Sandoval had the political power to do so. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf didn’t. There was no alternative for the Raiders. Las Vegas was the only option on the table. The Raiders had to go all in. The move resulted in a payout larger than one you’d see at any of the Las Vegas casinos.

Mark Davis also said in a statement Monday that his father and former Raiders owner, the late Al Davis, once told him ” ‘the greatness in the raiders is in its future.’ ” That future no longer includes Oakland. Losing the Oakland in the Raiders name just doesn’t feel right. No matter what decade you were playing the Oakland Raiders, you knew you were in for a rough afternoon. Oakland epitomizes the toughness, grit, and win at any cost mentality that everyone came to know the Raiders by. Even in an age where techies are gentrifying the city, Oakland still maintains its blue collar identity, the same one everybody also came to know the Raiders for. Even when they moved to Los Angeles in 1982 those same qualities remained. Something about putting Las Vegas in front of the Raiders’ team name just seems wrong. Sure, the jersey colors, players, and logo will remain, but those aforementioned qualities get lost once Las Vegas is stamped onto the team’s name.

The Raiders will always have the classic Al Davis-isms. Commitment to excellence. Just win, baby. But it’s the “autumn wind” anthem that is perhaps the most apt description of how the whole Las Vegas saga has unfolded. “The autumn wind is a Raider. Pillaging just for fun. He’ll knock you ’round and upside down, And laugh when he’s conquered and won.” That wind no longer blows in Oakland. It’s the Raider Nation that’s been pillaged, knocked ’round and upside down. Mark Davis can now laugh that he has conquered and won his new stadium, but it comes at the expense of a city and fan base that has now lost its team twice. Even with all of my disappointment and heartbreak with the news of the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, I can’t help but fall back on this phrase: Win lose or tie, Raider Nation till I die.

Bro-Commentary: The 5 Moves the Oakland Raiders Must Make In Free-Agency

The Oakland Raiders are just a few moves away from solidifying themselves as Super Bowl contenders for years to come.

The Oakland Raiders enjoyed a return to prominence last season, making it to the postseason for the first time since 2002 when they reached the Super Bowl. For the last decade and a half, free agents in the NFL avoided the Raiders at all costs, seeing it as a destination where careers go to die. This off-season, however, the Raiders appear to be a premiere destination for free agents, seeing the Raiders as a team on the rise. On top of that, the Raiders don’t have as many glaring needs as they’ve had in past off-seasons. That being said, if the Raiders want to legitimize themselves as Super Bowl contenders for years to come, these are the 5 moves the Raiders must make this free agency period.

5. Sign a ILB

One position the Raiders have played musical chairs with the past few seasons has been the Inside Line Backer position. They drafted Ben Heeney in the 2015 NFL Draft, but he has had injury issues and has been a liability in coverage situations. Curtis Lofton was a bust free agent signing for them in 2015, and was promptly released. Perry Riley Jr. played well for the Raiders this past season, but it seems the Raiders are comfortable letting him walk. Same goes for Super Bowl 48 MVP Malcolm Smith, who had a career year in 2015 for the Raiders, but regressed mightily in 2016 and has become a major coverage liability for the Raiders.

The Raiders should take a look at Patriots ILB Dont’a Hghtower, but not overpay him. Hightower is a tremendous talent, but has an extensive injury history. Pittsburgh Steelers ILB Lawrence Timmons, while 31-years-old, could also be an option. The Raiders need to add a play-maker as it pertains to the ILB position, as it will bolster their defense that needs to improve.

4. Sign DT Calais Campbell or NT Dontari Poe

While the Raiders have already tendered DT Denico Autry, they still need help along their front seven. Adding a veteran presence like Arizona Cardinals DT Calais Campbell (8.0 Sacks in 2016) would not only improve their pass rush which ranked last in the NFL with 25 Sacks, but also add a locker room leader as well. If he’s not available or too expensive, the Raiders should poach NT Dontari Poe from the Kansas City Chiefs. He had a down year last season due to a back injury, but he’s younger and would still improve the Raiders’ defensive line. Plus, he’d be one less player to fret over when playing the Chiefs.

3. Add to the Secondary

The Raiders thought they struck gold by signing CB Sean Smith last season. While Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 18th best CB in the NFL last season, he recorded only 2 interceptions and got beat BADLY at times in 2016 (*see Week 1 98-yard TD allowed against Saints WR Brandin Cooks, Week 2 against Atlanta Falcons WR  Julio Jones, Week 15 47-yard TD allowed against Los Angeles Chargers WR Travis Benjamin*). CB David Amerson is a solid 2nd string CB, but at times he was asked to play like a 1st string CB, a position he is at best average. CB D.J. “Toast” Hayden is not getting re-signed due to injury issues and being burnt like toast one too many times since being drafted 12th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. The Raiders need to add another CB to assist their secondary. There are options out there for the Raiders, namely Houston Texans CB A.J. Bouye, New England Patriots CB Logan Ryan, and Jacksonville Jaguars CB Prince Amukamara.

2. Sign RB Adrian Peterson, For the Right Price

Rumor has it the Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has narrowed his interest down to two teams: the Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks are a viable option for Peterson, but have an offensive line that needs a lot of work, not exactly a dream scenario for a veteran RB. The Raiders on the other hand, have one of the best offensive lines in football, and ranked 6th in the league in rushing offense with 120.1 yards per game in 2016. Yes, Peterson was limited to only 3 games and rushed 37 times for 72 yards last season due to a knee injury. Yes, Peterson is 31-years-old. This is why I caution the Raiders not to overpay Peterson should he choose to sign with them. He’s looking for $4-$6 million per year, a significant reduction in salary considering he was due to make $18 million this season had he remained with the Vikings. If he can stay healthy, the Raiders would add another weapon to their already explosive offense should he choose to join the Silver and Black.

1. Extend DL Khalil Mack and QB Derek Carr

Some moves don’t need that much explaining.The 2 pillars of the franchise, DL Kahlil Mack and QB Derek Carr, need to be locked down for the long term.

Defensive Player of the Year winner Khalil Mack ( 73 tackles, 11 sacks, 5 FFs , 1 INT, 1 TD) has a 5th year option, which the Raiders should have picked up… yesterday. After doing so, they need to sign him to an extension. It’ll more than likely make him one of the highest paid defensive players in the NFL, and he’s worth every penny.

QB Derek Carr (3,937 YDS, 28 TDS, 6 INTS,  63.8 CMP%) was an MVP candidate before breaking his Fibula in Week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts. He’s the franchise QB the Raiders have searched desperately for since their Super Bowl season in 2002, when QB Rich Gannon was under center and won NFL MVP honors. There may now be questions as to whether or not he can stay healthy, but he makes the offense go. He should be rewarded a contract extension this off-season as well.

 

 

 

 

Super Bowl 51: No, It’s Not the Greatest Super Bowl Ever

Many will say Super Bowl 51 is the greatest Super Bowl ever.Well… its not.

Super Bowl 51 came and went. The Patriots mounted a furious comeback (*or the Falcons taught everyone how to spell CHOKE, depending on your perspective*) to beat the Falcons 34-28 in the first ever overtime in a Super Bowl.  Atlanta was up 28-3 in the 3rd quarter. This game was over. But never count Tom Brady out, as he and his explosive offense scored 31 unanswered points to earn his 5th championship, the most all time for a Quarter Back. We got the reality TV moment everyone wanted, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell shaking Brady’s hand and getting drowned out by boos whilst handing the Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots.

A comeback for the ages? The first ever Super Bowl to feature an overtime? A player being anointed as the G.O.A.T.? All of these elements surely make Super Bowl 51 the greatest Super Bowl ever, right?

WRONG.

The 1st quarter of this game was a dog, with the score even at 0-0. Neither offense could get anything going. There were some nice plays made by the defenses, but those plays were the result of inept offenses, not great defense.

Then Atlanta finally got it going in the 2nd quarter. RB Devonta Freeman scored first on a 5 yard run to make it 7-0. TE Austin Hooper caught a TD pass from MVP QB Matt Ryan to make it 14-0. Patriots QB Tom Brady inexplicably threw into double coverage and CB Robert Alford took it back for a pick 6 to put the Falcons up by a commanding 21 points. New England added a field goal at the end of the 1st  half, but Tevin Coleman caught a 6 yard TD pass from Matt Ryan early in the 3rd quarter to put the Falcons up 28-3.  This game was over.

But then we saw the single greatest performance by a football player EVER, along with the greatest comeback/ biggest choke in Super Bowl history. Tom Brady willed the Patriots to win, throwing TD passes to RB James White and WR Danny Amendola to inch the Patriots closer to a tie. He drove the Patriots down the field on 2 of their last 3 possessions in regulation and overtime to set-up RB James White to run in the game tying and game winning touchdowns. Brady’s final stat line reads 43-62 for 466 Passing Yards (a Super Bowl record), 2 TDs and 1 INT. HE WAS DOWN BY 25. HE SPOTTED THE FALCONS 25 POINTS AND THEY STILL COULDN’T BEAT HIM.

Now all I just wrote there sounds pretty incredible, right? Make no mistake, Super Bowl 51 was something to behold. However, it doesn’t crack my list of all time Super Bowls. The Super Bowls I’m about to list (in no particular order) as better than Super Bowl 51 had a combination of  3 things going for them: Either history was on the line, there was back and forth drama, or a play/ plays that ultimately decided the game.

  • Super Bowl 42: Giants V Patriots. 1. History on the line:  Patriots had a chance at going 19-0. 2. Back and forth drama: There were 3 lead changes in the 4th quarter alone. Giants WR David Tyree’s TD catch to make it 10-7 , Patriots WR Randy Moss’s TD catch to make it 14-10, and Giants WR Plaxico Buress’s TD catch to make it 17-14. 3. Play(s) that Ultimately decided the game:  David Tyree’s helmet catch and  Plaxico Buress’s game winning TD catch mentioned above.

 

  • Super Bowl 25: Giants V. Bills. 1. Back and forth drama: The Giants played ball control offense against the Bill’s prolific offense, but it was a close contest throughout. 2. Play that Ultimately decided the game: Bills kicker Scott Norwood misses 47 yard field goal to lose the game.

 

  • Super Bowl 32: Packers V. Broncos. 1. History on the Line: Broncos QB John Elway, playing in his 4th Super Bowl, was attempting to win his 1st Super Bowl, the missing piece in his otherwise illustrious career at that point. 2. Back and Forth Drama: While the Packers were favored by a historic 11 points, the game was contentious throughout. This included a back and forth 1st quarter where both teams scored Touchdowns, and a 4th quarter that saw the Packers tie the game at 24 and the Broncos scoring the game winning touchdown with 1 minute and 45 seconds remaining. 3. Play that Ultimately Decided the Game: In one of the most memorable moments in Super Bowl history, QB John Elway dove head first, and was spun around like a helicopter, for a first down on a key 3rd down play. It was at that moment everyone knew not only how badly Elway wanted to win, but that the Broncos would in fact win.

 

  • Super Bowl 43: Cardinals V. Steelers 1. Back and forth Drama: There were 2 lead changes in the 4th quarter that were go-ahead touchdowns, one by Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald to make it 23-20, and one by Steelers WR Santonio Holmes to make it 27-23. 2. Play that Ultimately decided the game: Santonio Holmes caught the game winning TD pass with an immaculate tip-toe catch in the back corner of the end-zone.

 

  • Super Bowl 34: Titans V. Rams. 1. Back and Forth Drama: After being down 16-0, the Titans came back to tie the game at 16. The Rams scored the go-ahead TD with Rams QB Kurt Warner throwing  a 73 yard TD to WR Isaac Bruce, but left 4 minutes and 5 seconds on the clock for the Titans to tie the game. 2. Play that Ultimately decided the game: Rams LB Mike Jones tackles Titans WR Kevin Dyson 1-yard short of the goal line to win the game.

Yes, there was history on the line in Super Bowl 51, namely an opportunity for Tom Brady to earn his 5th ring. And yes, RB James Whites’ 2 yard TD run in overtime decided the game, but the Patriots were at the 2 yard line.You knew they were going run it in to win (*Take note Seattle Seahawks, that’s what you do when you’re close to the goal line and are about to win the Super Bowl *). Sure, it wasn’t a complete dog of a game like last year’s match-up between the Panthers and Broncos, or countless other Super Bowls that turned out to be blowouts. But something about it just doesn’t resonate with me.

I’m not trying to take anything away from this game. Super Bowl 51 featured the greatest comeback/ the biggest choke-job ever. It had the single greatest performance from a football player ever. But I refuse to be a prisoner of the moment. The Super Bowls I mentioned above are ones we’ll talk about forever. They have a number of attributes that make them all time great games. I just don’t believe Super Bowl 51, due to its lack of back and forth drama and having predictable plays that decided the game, should be spoken of in this manner. It was compelling, but not the greatest one we’ve ever seen. Nor should it be ever mentioned as such, ever.

 

 

The Screw Roger Goodell Tour Finale: Super Bowl 51 Preview

Super Bowl 51 is upon us everyone. After 6 arduous months of football, it comes down to two teams: The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.

The New England Patriots were expected to be here. They’re playing in an NFL record 9th Super Bowl, and have been the epitome of consistency ever since head coach Bill Belichick was hired in 2000. While undoubtedly the villains of the NFL to all except for those who root for them, the Patriots have embraced this label. The 2016 season for the New England Patriots can only be described as a revenge tour, The **** Roger Goodell that is. The headliner and lead singer of this tour? None other than the golden boy himself, QB Tom Brady. After serving a 4 game suspension for his role in the over-publicized Deflategate saga, Brady went on to have an MVP caliber season (3,554 passing yards, 28 passing TDs, 2 INTs in 12 games) and is out to win his 5th Super Bowl.

But it’s not all about Tom Brady. The New England defense also deserves credit. They’ve allowed opponents to score just 15.6 points per game, good for first in the NFL. They’re also 7th in total defense, allowing 326.4 total yards per game. That low number is thanks to a rushing defense that holds opponents to just under 89 yards per game, ranking third in the NFL. The Patriots defense may not be flashy, and they may not have a stud pass rusher like a Khalil Mack (DE Raiders) or Von Miller (OLB Broncos), but they live by the motto of their head coach: “Just do your job.” Make no bones about it, the New England Patriots have used this season to rally behind their Quarter Back to get back at Roger Goodell for what they believe was an unjust suspension.

The Patriots seem invincible (also the name of a terrible football movie starring their biggest fan and a personal favorite of mine, Mark Wahlberg). But will they be able to stick it to the man and walk away from the Screw Roger Goodell Tour as Super Bowl 51 Champions?

The Atlanta Falcons, on the other hand, are a surprise representative of the NFC. Very few had the Falcons winning the NFC South, heck I didn’t even have them making it to the postseason. But here they are, appearing in only their 2nd Super Bowl (their first being super bowl XXXIII back in the 1998 season when they were known as “The Dirty Birds”). Led by MVP candidate QB Matt Ryan AKA Matty Ice (4,944 passing Yards, 38 TDs, 7 INTs), the Falcons also feature a high-powered offense that has a plethora of weapons. These weapons include WR Julio Jones (83 receptions, 1,409 receiving yards, 6 TDs) and the two head monster RB tandem of Devonta Freeman (1,079 rushing Yards, 11 rushing TDs) and Tevin Coleman (520 rushing Yards, 421 receiving yards, 11 total TDs). The Falcons’ offense seems like an unstoppable force, as they’ve blown past their playoff opponents, scoring 36 points against the  Seattle Seahawks “Legion of Boom”  defense in the NFC Divisional round and hanging nearly 50 points (ok… it was only 44) on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.

The Falcons defense, however, isn’t nearly as strong as their offense. Their defense ranked 25th in the NFL this past season, allowing opponents to gain 371.1 yards per game. Their scoring defense fared even worse, ranking 27th in the NFL with teams scoring an average of 25.4 points per game. That being said, the Falcons do have some key playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, chief among them OLB Vic Beasley, who led the NFL with 15.5 sacks this season. They also have a key veteran presence in their locker room, the 36-year-old and future Hall of Famer DE Dwight Freeney. Freeney previously won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006, when they won Super Bowl XLI (one of the worst ever, but featured one of the greatest half-time shows of all time with Prince performing).

The Falcons are somewhat of a mystery to national audiences across America this year, but will their history of choking in big game spots (* see Super Bowl XXXIII, 2004 NFC Championship game, 2010 Divisional Round, 2012 NFC Championship game, and the final regular season game of the 2014 NFL season as proof*) come back to haunt them?

Prediction: Patriots 28, Falcons 24

A lot of people have this as a high scoring game, with the over/under currently at 59 points. I think we’re going to see a lower scoring game, as I’m predicting neither team will score over 28 points. In the game of football, I have a theory: whichever team allows their opponent to score 28 points first, will more than likely lose. The Falcons defense just isn’t good enough to prevent the Patriot’s offense from scoring 28 points. Tom Brady and his electrifying offense will go on the classic drive that puts the Patriots up for good in the 4th quarter. Their solid, but not flashy, defense will force the Falcons to choke (*see previously mentioned choke jobs above*) in the 4th quarter.

Then, we’ll all get to see the reality TV moment of the millennium: Roger Goodell handing the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. They’ll all pretend to be nice and cordial up on the stage, but Goodell will probably defecate himself. Brady, Belichick, and Kraft will all scream into the microphone to FOX Analyst and Steelers Hall of Fame QB Terry Bradshaw “THEY HATE US ‘CAUSE THEY AIN’T US. THANK YOU ALL FOR JOINING US ON THE SCREW ROGER GOODELL TOUR! GOODNIGHT!” Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating. But even for all of those rooting against the Patriots (including me, I’m just not dumb enough to pick against them at this point, mainly because the aren’t playing Eli Manning, their kryptonite), one has to acknowledge that scene would make for compelling television.

Super Bowl 51 will be a captivating game, but it won’t reach the legendary levels of all time Super Bowls such as Super Bowl XLII (Giants V. 18-0 Patriots), Super Bowl XLIII (Steelers V. Cardinals, WR Santonio Holmes’ tiptoe catch), Super Bowl XXV (Giants V. Bills, K Scott Norwood misses wide right), or Super Bowl XXXIV (Titans V. Rams, 1 yard short). Tom Brady will be ordained as the G.O.A.T., and we will all have to live through a whole NFL off-season of hearing how great the Patriots are, every sensible persons’ worst nightmare, but a fitting end to the Patriot’s Screw Roger Goodell Tour.

*All stats from ESPN.COM