As we sit in the rarified time of year where all four major North American sports are rolling, now is as good a time as any to do some quick hits on the New York sports scene, as well as anything else I can fit into a paragraph of a take.
New York Mets: A second year in a row of failing to find a president tells me something: you’re doing it wrong. Yes, a team president can change a culture. But the St. Louis Cardinals have had back to back losing seasons once since 1960, and I’m almost positive that they’ve had more than one team president in that time. Maybe culture starts at the top?
Also, I am available for the GM position. And unlike other GM’s I won’t trade any of the top 5 prospects unless I think they stink.
New York Yankees: Need a shortstop? Wait until a week into free agency, and see what the Mets would take for Francisco Lindor. I get the feeling that you could move a bad contract or two and get a bargain price based on the savings. Maybe move Gerrit Cole’s deal, because without super glue in the glove that deal seems like it’s about to blow up.
New York Rangers: See what happens when you get a good coach? Amazing. Hopefully the Mets take note.
New York Islanders: While you’ve been the most successful team in New York for the last two seasons, realize that’s always a tenuous position. On that theme, Zdeno Chara needs a rest. Time to make that guy a 7th defenseman and give Robin Salo or Samuel Bolduc a chance.
New York Knicks: You need an all star. Watching Julius Randle shoot in the clutch is like watching…Kirstaps Porzingis shoot in the clutch. You need the guy that ends opponent’s rallies. You need the guy that looks forward to getting the ball with 8 seconds left on the clock and the team down by one. You have 4000 draft picks over the next few years. Seems easy to look to move picks and pieces starting with Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robrokenson.
How many times do we need to watch a Knicks 10 point lead evaporate in the last 3 minutes of a game before you address this?
Brooklyn Nets: Trade Kyrie Irving. I get he is wholly overpaid and few teams can afford him. But he is a me first player. Always has been, always will be. No one wins with him unless they have 3 other all stars, and then they don’t even win. A swap with the Sixers for Ben Simmons would help with the salary differential, and Simmons doesn’t need to shoot with James Harden and Kevin Durant willing to throw even more shots up. Plus, Philly hates winning, so Irving will fit in nicely.
New York Giants: You are hard to watch. You need an identity. You wasted a 2nd overall pick on a running back when you had so many more issues. That’s like a homeless guy buying a Ferrari. You can’t even sleep in that, which makes it a total waste.
New York Jets: You are hard to watch. You need an identity. And a new owner. You have a head coach who was a defensive guru, and your defense is absolutely horseshit. You have the second best quarterback in the draft playing like he was chosen in round 5. You’re a dysfunctional franchise.
Jet and Giants: If you merged these two teams into one? They would win 4 games all season. Think about that. Also, call yourself New Jersey, for fucks sake. You’ve been there for 40 years.
All Major Sports: Stop firing people today over things that happened years or decades ago. It’s a stupid practice to use modern standards to not only evaluate the past, but to punish it. Or in many cases, punish it a second time. It’s even dumber to have the people who originally made those initial decisions making new ones that are even worse. Unless you can dig up Hitler’s bones – who actually did bad stuff- and make him apologize? Shut the fuck up, be glad the world is a little better now than it used to be which isn’t much, and then learn what forgiveness is so that we continue progress instead of falling into retroactive justice for none of your concern that makes society even worse than it used to be. Let he or she who is without sin case the first stone, but everyone else? SHUT THE FUCK UP. We’re not chasing Nazi’s hiding from Holocaust crimes. Most of these sins are from emails and tweets that hurt your feelies. Remember that sticks and stones rhyme? Time to grow up.
Besides, why should behavior occurring outside of work affect your job? If your lawn looks bad you should lose your job? If your wife is ugly you should lose your job? How about losing your job when you’re bad at your job, and dealing with personal matters personally?
Sports Teams Across the Nation: It costs $2 to make a t-shirt. Here’s an idea: start selling them to fans at $5. Not all of them- you can have some kind of fancy t-shirt, maybe with frills or flip flop paint or something. But a basic, made in China t-shirt? You give that shit away to fans at games in rocket launchers. Offer fans some free advertising for your awful franchise at low prices as a thank you for putting up with our milking you for every dollar you have while we have a 300 winning percentage offering. You know, actual decency? Instead of firing a guy that said “Ching Chong” 20 years ago? Speaking of, Shaq is still on the air, so get cracking, social justice warriors!
While baseball fans prepare to celebrate the 74th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking MLB’s color barrier on April 15, 1947, few people know of another rumored to beat Robinson to it 42 years earlier.
Almost 90 years before Martin Luther King Jr. made his five-day, 54-mile trek from Selma to Montgomery, William Clarence Matthews made his.
Born in Selma on January 7, 1877, Matthews lived with his two siblings, Fannie, the oldest, and Walter (or Buddy), the second oldest. His father died in the 1890s, and his family moved to Montgomery, Alabama.
Where did this rumor start?
In his seminal “Only the Ball was White” in 1970 on the Negro Leagues, Robert Peterson described Matthews as a great college player at Harvard in the first decade of the century and cites his rumored entry into the National League.
Sol White’s book “History of Colored Baseball” – published in 1907 – referenced this note on Matthews
“It is said on good authority that one of the leading players and a manager of the National League is advocating the entrance of colored players in the National League with a view to signing ‘Matthews,’ the colored man, late of Harvard.”
Most thought that manager was Giants legendary manager John McGraw, an enormous believer in the talent residing in anyone who could help his team win. McGraw, in 1901, tried to sneak Charlie Grant, second baseman of the Columbia Giants of Chicago, a black team, onto his roster as Tokohama, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian. McGraw also employed two black stars, Rube Foster and Jose Mendez, to coach his pitchers.
Article in “The Boston Traveller“
On July 15, 1905, local paper “The Boston Traveller” (some sources reference the spelling with one L and others with two) – one of nine local Boston papers and known to stretch the truth sometimes for sales said this.
“It is very probable that [Matthews] will become a member of the Boston Nationals very soon.
It has been hinted at for the past few days. Now it is rumored that it will transpire.
A person ‘on the inside,’ one who generally knows whereof he speaks, has this to say: ‘Captain Tenney has long been hunting for a lively second baseman to strengthen his infield. On hearing of Matthews’ remarkable ability, and after following the career of the young negro collegian-professional while at Harvard and Burlington, (he) decided that William C. was just the laddy buck he needed.’
The source “on the inside” then offers a rationale for Matthews’ acceptance where others would fail:
“As Matthews is a Harvard man, he should prove a great attraction… Matthews is a well-educated, gentlemanly fellow, as well as a clever ballplayer.
If Harvard men do not object to associating with and idolizing the negro, certainly none of the National IJeague players will object to breaking bread with him.”
The article refers to player/manager of the Boston Beaneaters (became the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves) Fred Tenney (fellow Ivy Leaguer from Brown and off-season teacher at Tufts University).
Boston was awful – middle infielders Ed Abbaticchio and Fred Raymer had combined to commit 80 errors by mid-July on a team that finished 51-103. Would Boston’s futility open the door for talented players like Matthews?
He enrolled at the Tuskegee Institute from 1893 until 1897, where he graduated second in his class Tuskegee (was first football coach). Booker T Washington arranged for him to continue his study in the north, first at the Phillips Andover Academy, where he was the only African-American in his class of 97 students. Then, in the fall of 1901, at Harvard University.
Aaron Molineaux Hewlett & William Henry Lewis
While few schools provided opportunities for African-Americans, Harvard broke ground in many categories. Aaron Molineaux Hewlett, hired in 1859, became the first physical culture teacher in the nation. Hewlett also taught physical education, sparring lessons and coached baseball and rowing from 1859-71.
One of the foremost football minds of any generation, William Henry Lewis earned All-American honors at Harvard (the first African-American to do so), then coached the Crimson from 1895-1906. Harvard won over 85 percent of their games under Lewis (114-15-5).
Standing at 5’8″ 145 pounds, Matthews gained popularity with his classmates after arriving on campus in the fall of 1901. Under Coach Lewis’ guidance, his “wonderful quickness and pertinacity” helped him succeed playing QB.
Baseball Career and Racism from Opponents
During his Freshman season, Matthew’s hitting coach was Wee Willie Keeler, while Cy Young coached the pitchers (both HOF).
While Harvard initially sat Matthews when opponents like the University of Virginia refused to play if he was in the lineup, they eventually stood behind him. Georgetown and West Point considered forfeiting but relented after Harvard declined to accommodate their threats.
Despite playing with future MLB players Eddie Grant and Walter Clarkson (combined to play 15 MLB seasons), Matthews was Harvard’s best player (2B-SS).
He led the team in hitting his final three years (he hit .400 and stole 25 bases during his senior year). During his four years at Harvard, the Crimson won 81 percent of their games (76-18).
Breaks Northern League Color Barrier
On July 4, 1905, Matthews became the starting second baseman for the Burlington, Vermont team in the Northern League. Matthews became the only African-American playing in white professional baseball leagues at the time. He got three hits in his first game and fielded excellently. He played well for the whole season, with the Burlington team taking second place and narrowly missing first place.
Matthews was one of only four players who played the entire season for Burlington. 1905 was his only year in professional baseball as he entered Boston University School of Law to work on his law degree in Fall 1905.
Matthews other accomplishments
married wife married Pamela Belle Lloyd from Hayneville, Alabama, in 1908.
Replaced his mentor at Harvard, William Henry Lewis, as the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Boston area.
Named chief legal counsel for the Marcus Garvey founded Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League.
named the Head of the Colored Division of the Republican National Committee in 1924. (Matthews’ position was the first time a major U.S. political party put an African-American in charge of organizing the African-American vote).
Following the 1924 election, Matthews delivered a list of seventeen demands to improve African-Americans’ position in the Coolidge administration.
Under Coolidge, Matthews became U.S. Assistant Attorney General.
Matthews died on April 9, 1928 (51 years old) of a perforated ulcer.
Obituaries for Matthews ran in most of the major newspapers in the country. The New York Times called him “one of the most prominent Negro members of the bar in America.”
Over 1,500 people attended his funeral in Boston, with William Henry Lewis serving as an honorary pallbearer.
He’s buried in the Cambridge Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Negro Leagues historian Larry Lester
We have to look at this in the context of history; America during that period was under the separate but equal doctrine, upheld by the 1896 Supreme Court decision [in Plessy v. Ferguson, which allowed state-sponsored segregation]. The most visible Black athletes at that time were jockeys. The Black athlete was not acceptable in mainstream society and especially not in the most popular sport in America. That tells me that William Clarence Matthews must have been one hell of a shortstop.”
Boston Globe (1905 quote concerning Matthew’s ethics)
“For seven years, Matthews could have earned much money by playing for semi-professional teams, but this he has refused to do … Here is a man who, to maintain his amateur standing, has repeatedly refused offers of $40 a week and board to play semi-pro baseball in the summer. He had the example of many contemporaneous college ballplayers who were accepting ‘indirect’ compensation in an underhanded way, but he has kept his record clean, and his, it is sad to say, is an exceptional case.”
William Clarence Matthews
“I think it is an outrage that colored men are discriminated against in the big leagues. What a shame it is that black men are barred forever from participating in the national game. I should think that Americans should rise up in revolt against such a condition. Many negroes are brilliant players and should not be shut out because their skin is black. As a Harvard man, I shall devote my life to bettering the condition of the black man, and especially to secure his admittance into organized baseball”.
NEW YORK, N.Y.- Have we lost our minds? I understand that the last calendar year has flipped the entire world upside down, but we as football fans still need to hold on to our common sense. As the feuding between Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks plays out, there’s no justification to siding with the organization over one of the best quarterbacks in the game currently. The Seahawks are nothing without Wilson and that if they trade him away, they would surpass the Houston Texans as the most incompetent franchise in the NFL.
Get with the times and realize where your bread is buttered is what I would tell Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. Carroll’s old school philosophy of playing hard-nosed defense, running the football and not turning it over have produced plenty of wins, including a championship. But as we approach the 2021 season, things are different both on the field and with decision making. Carroll is no longer the most important piece of the franchise and him jettisoning the player most responsible for winning should send the head coach out the door quicker than Russ can say “Go Hawks.”
Let’s straighten one thing out first: Russ’ frustrations were never solely about the offensive line. That unit was a façade as Wilson was speaking more about of the lack of input he’s had in multiple different aspects of the offense, from scheme to play calling to philosophy. Take this anecdote from The Athletic of an incident that happened leading into Seattle’s Week 11 game against the Cardinals.
“Before the Thursday night game against Arizona, Wilson met with his coaches. For some time, Wilson has sought – even pushed – for influence within the organization regarding scheme and personnel. In the meeting, he outlines his own ideas for how to fix the offense. His suggestions were dismissed, another reminder to Wilson that the Seahawks did not see him the same way he saw himself, as a player who had earned greater control over his situation, his future, his legacy. He stormed out of the room.”
As you can remember, Russ was cooking the first half of the season. Through the first seven games of the season, Wilson threw 26 touchdowns to six interceptions as Seattle jumped out to a 6-1 start. The following two games against the Bills and Rams, in which Wilson committed a total of seven turnovers, led to the meeting between coach and quarterback detailed above that left the signal caller miffed. Since that meeting where it was “decided” (more like demanded) that the offense throttle down, Wilson threw just 12 touchdowns to three interceptions the final seven games of the season.
While the turnovers were reduced, so was the potency of the offense. The final eight games of the season (including the playoff game), the offense was neutered, turning the Seahawks from legitimate Super Bowl contender to playoff flop. Seattle averaged just 23.6 points per game after that infamous meeting detailed above, which would have tied them with the Lions for 20th in the NFL in terms of points per game if extrapolated out for the entire season. In a league that’s seen the successful teams pivot to a more aggressive style, Pete still clutches the philosophy of playing not to lose. This has led the team to win games at times in spite of Carroll’s conservative coaching. Carroll is trying to buy a Ferrari but drive it like it’s a Prius. I’m no expert, but I would love to know how handcuffing one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL is conducive to winning.
Now that we’ve outlined the importance of Wilson to winning and why it would be asinine to trade him away, what happens if a trade does go down? How on Earth can Seattle expect to make up the value of losing a top-3 quarterback in the league? With how much of a crapshoot drafting his replacement is, there’s no guarantee that even five first round picks would be enough to equal the value that Russ brings to this organization. Carroll doesn’t want to enter a rebuild, so which quarterback is coming back in a trade that can step in and lead this team to the playoffs? Dak Prescott? Jameis Winston? Derek Carr? Good luck with that.
The NFC West, which was the most competitive division in the NFL in 2020, will become even tougher next season with the Rams acquiring Matthew Stafford, the 49ers getting healthier and the Cardinals making a splash with their signing of J.J. Watt. The only hope of repeating as division champs rests on the shoulders of number three. If he’s anywhere else but Seattle, it’s curtains on any hope of even making the playoffs.
As we look ahead to the upcoming season, the ball is in the head coach’s court to decide whether his ideal principles of winning or actually winning are more important. If wins are truly what he cares about, Russ should be cooking more than a Popeyes employee after their chicken sandwich was introduced. If instead ego wins out and Seattle decides to trade their top-3 quarterback, not only will Wilson be gone, but so will the wins.
NEW YORK, N.Y.- When a once in a lifetime opportunity presents itself, would you want your team to pass it up? That opportunity could arise this offseason as Houston Texans franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson is furious at his organization for their handling of the offseason process so far. If this gets to the point of contention to where the only solution is for Watson to play elsewhere next season, how many teams could justify not trading for the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback? The answer is just one.
Outside of the Chiefs, every other NFL team should be on the horn with the Texans trying to facilitate a trade to bring in the stud quarterback. Whether it’s because of age, production, or consistency, Watson is an upgrade for every other team outside of Kansas City.
Aaron Rodgers is a better quarterback than Watson. I’m not going to tell you different. Rodgers will most likely win his third MVP award in just a few weeks, so while he gives the Packers a better opportunity to win the Super Bowl this season, the long-term view favors Watson. The former Clemson standout is entering the prime of his career, as he’ll be just 26 years old next season.
If you are Green Bay, would you rather have a Super Bowl window of another year or two with the 37-year-old Rodgers, or would you rather have a decade long window to win a championship with Watson? Don’t forget, the Packers are going to trade the former Cal quarterback within the next two years anyway because they moved up to draft Jordan Love in the first round this past offseason. If you are going to move on sooner rather than later, I’d rather pivot to Watson than an unknown commodity in Love.
Other teams with aging quarterbacks even have less of an argument to hold onto their current starter than the Packers do. Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger, Tampa Bay with Tom Brady, New Orleans with Drew Brees (although I’d be shocked if he does decide to return in 2021) and even Seattle with Russell Wilson all would be better off ditching their guy to bring the current Texan on board. The NFL is about sustained success. Winning a title in the short-term is great, but consistently contending year in and year out is just as important. Watson provides both of those options.
Despite organizational chaos, Watson’s play has stayed consistent throughout his short career, and it’s been consistently good. In the three years he’s been healthy for a full season, Watson has made the Pro Bowl all three times. The former first round pick has been able to keep the ship afloat despite seeing three general managers come and go. Rick Smith, the man who drafted him, stepped away to tend to his ill wife. Brian Gaine took over before he was relieved of his duties after one season. Bill O’Brien was able to wrestle power away and become both the head coach & general manager before he was canned during this past season.
Despite all of the turbulence and turmoil going on in the front office, Watson was still able to stay focused and play at his best. When looking across the league, consistent quarterback play is far from a given. Guys like Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Ryan Tannehill, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Jimmy Garoppolo all have had up and down careers. Some have reached highs greater than what Watson has achieved so far, but all have reached lower lows that have led to bad play and questions about their future in some cases. Watson has been more consistent than all of these guys above, another reason why he would be an upgrade for all of those teams.
Finally, we reach the production side of Watson’s game. Not only has he been one of the most dynamic players we’ve seen the past few years, no single caller has done more with less. Heading into the 2020 season, O’Brien thought it would be a savvy business decision to trade away one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and Watson’s security blanket in DeAndre Hopkins for an injury prone running back and a second-round pick. Not only did Watson have one of the best receivers taken away from him, he also had to deal with a Houston rushing attack that was the second worst in the entire league while also getting sacked the second most times of any quarterback in the NFL.
Despite that, Watson had himself a career year. He led the league in passing yards (4,823) and finished second in passer rating behind only Rodgers. Watson threw 33 touchdown passes, a career high, while only tossing seven interceptions, a career low. He also set a career high in completion percentage (70.2%), which was good for third in the league.
How many quarterbacks are having career years after their top weapon was taken away, their run game was nonexistent and their offensive line doubled as a turnstile? From the production perspective, Watson would be an upgrade over Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert and even eventual No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence.
Whether it’s the age of Deshaun Watson, his consistent play or his production, 30 out of the 31 teams should be begging the Texans to trade the franchise quarterback to their team. It’s unprecedented to have such a dynamic player at the most important position in sports become available, so when the opportunity of a lifetime presents itself, there’s no excuse to not pull the trigger.
NEW YORK, N.Y.- Can’t. It’s been the operative word used by all of us in 2020 more than we could have ever wanted. “Sorry we can’t come visit this weekend.” “We can’t be inside for too long.” “We can’t do this, and we can’t do that.” The word can’t has long been associated with negativity. But how about we use “can’t” in a positive way? As in when looking at the landscape of the NFC, which team can’t make a run to the Super Bowl?
Through the 12-week mark in the NFL, we have a pretty good idea of who the contenders and pretenders are. In the AFC, the Chiefs and Steelers have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack, while in the NFC, it feels as if each team is only closing the gap on the other. Excluding the winner of the NFC East (for obvious reasons), the other six current playoff teams have a reason why I think they can represent the conference in the Super Bowl and also have a reason why I have pause in hitching my wagons to their postseason success. So let’s dive into each team and layout one reason why they can head to the Super Bowl and one reason why could be watching the big game on their couch.
No. 1 Seed: New Orleans Saints (9-2)
Reason To Believe: Balance.Few teams in the NFL, let alone in the NFC, are this strong on both sides of the ball. While Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara get most of the headlines on offense, this defensive unit can make the case that they are the strength in New Orleans. Through 11 games, the Saints are first in total defense, fifth in pass defense, second in rush defense and are allowing just 20.5 points per game, good enough for fifth in the league. This defense is good enough to slow any offense in the NFC down, which is key when looking at teams like the Seahawks, Packers and Cardinals, who can score on anyone.
Reason(s) To Be Concerned: Drew Brees. This concern is actually two-pronged. Let’s start with his health. Brees suffered 11 rib fractures and a punctured lung stemming from first a hit he sustained back in Week 9 against the Buccaneers before getting crushed again in Week 10 against the 49ers that forced the 20-year veteran to go on injured reserve. He’s eligible to return in Week 14, but there’s been zero updates suggesting that he will indeed play then. At 41-years-old, it’s a waiting game to see when Brees can return and how effective he’ll be.
Assuming he’s healthy and can return in midseason form by the playoffs, there is also some real concern whether the Super Bowl champion can be the reason why the Saints win in the playoffs. The last two postseason runs especially have me concerned that Brees can’t elevate this team in order to get them to the Super Bowl. In the last two years the Saints made the playoffs (three games), Brees has averaged 252.6 passing yards per game, a 93.9 quarterback rating and a 1.6 touchdown/interception ratio. Comparing those recent postseason numbers to his regular season stats in those two seasons, Brees averaged 268 yards per game, a 113.1 quarterback rating and a 6.5 touchdown/interception ratio. The 13-time Pro Bowler has had his own postseason struggles the past few seasons when he’s been healthy. What happens when he’s not 100 percent?
No. 2 Seed: Seattle Seahawks (8-3)
Reason To Believe: The Potential League MVP. The Seahawks will go as far as Russell Wilson will take them, and for most of this season, that’s pretty far. The one-time Super Bowl champion is top 10 in every important statistical category, from touchdown passes (2nd), total passing yards (3rd), QBR (7th) and completion percentage (2nd). The only issue with Wilson’s play has been his sudden propensity to turning the ball over, which peaked in a four-game midseason stretch in which Russ committed 10 total turnovers as Seattle lost three of those games. The good news is that Wilson has been turnover free the last two games, both of which resulted in wins. The connection Wilson has developed with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett has been deadly. The case can be made that Seattle is in the driver’s seat in the NFC with Wilson leading the way.
Reason To Be Concerned: Secondary. The biggest weakness on this team is pass defense. Heading into Week 13, Seattle has allowed the most passing yards per game in the league, surrendering 328.8 passing yards per game. The good news is that the tide is turning since the addition of Carlos Dunlap. The pass rusher from Cincinnati has given this unit a much-needed lift in rushing the passer, which in turn has helped out the secondary.
Since Dunlap’s acquisition, Seattle has allowed only 276.5 passing yards per game. In that same time, the NFC West leaders have recorded 20 sacks compared to just nine in the first six games of the season. Dunlap has given some energy to this defense, which in turn has aided the beleaguered secondary. While it’s trending in the right direction, the offensive firepower that the Saints, Packers, Cardinals and Buccaneers possess can rip this improving unit to shreds.
No. 3 Seed: Green Bay Packers (8-3)
Reason To Believe: The Other Potential League MVP. It’s been well documented how little the Packers did this past offseason to address their biggest need on offense: wide receiver depth. They signed Devin Funchess only for him to opt out of this season while not using any of their nine draft picks to nab a pass catcher. But despite the lack of additions, this Green Bay offense is more explosive and dangerous than the 2019 version that went to the NFC Championship Game. Why? Because Aaron Rodgers is playing his best football in years. After throwing just 26 touchdown passes last season while the team sat at 18th in total offense, Rodgers this season is leading the league with 33 touchdown passes and Green Bay is fourth in total offense. The 16-year veteran signal caller has single-handedly made this team extremely dangerous in the postseason. There is much more potency to this offense in 2020, something defenses will find out the hard way in the playoffs.
Reason To Be Concerned: Same Issue As Last Season. After getting chewed up by the San Francisco 49ers to the like of 285 rushing yards in the NFC Championship game last year, the run defense has still been the Achilles Heel for this team. In their three losses this season, Green Bay has allowed an average of 157 rushing yards per game. While the Packers are average in run defense (14th in rushing yards allowed per game), it’s their inability in key moments to slow down the likes of Dalvin Cook and Jonathan Taylor that have come back to bite them. While most of the contenders in the NFC rely on their passing game, the Cheesehead faithful can’t be too thrilled that their weakness last year, while improved this season, has still cost them games.
No. 5 Seed: Los Angeles Rams (7-4)
Reason To Believe: Elite Defense. This side of the ball for Los Angeles has been flat out dominant. Stopping the run? Check. Slowing down the aerial attack? Check. Holding teams out of the end zone? Check. They are second in total defense, third in pass defense, fourth in rush defense and have allowed the fourth fewest points per game. Only once in 11 games has a team scored more than 30 points. This defense can limit any team they face in the playoffs.
Reason To Be Concerned: Inconsistency. Through 12 weeks, the Rams have been consistently inconsistent. The last three weeks perfectly encapsulate this claim. Los Angeles slowed down the Seahawks, holding them to 16 points in a 23-16 win. They followed that up with an impressive 27-24 win on Monday Night Football over the Buccaneers. Then this past week, the Rams lost to a Nick Mullens-led 49ers team at home. Every time this team takes two steps forward, they take one step back. Can Jared Goff and this team play well enough in three consecutive games to be the NFC representative? So far, we haven’t seen anything to believe that answer is yes.
No. 6 Seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
Reason To Believe: Potential. Despite the offensive struggles, this team has the talent to go all the way. Pairing Tom Brady with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette and Rob Gronkowski is too much skill to not have success. While the offense is a work in progress, this defense is good enough to keep them in any game. They are the best run defense in the league and while they struggle in pass defense, they were able to hold the high-flying Chiefs offense to just 27 points. If the offense can figure it out, this team will be the hardest out in the playoffs.
Reason To Be Concerned: Continuity. All year long I’ve compared the Buccaneers to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Bucs, similar to the Clippers, are using the regular season as a testing ground to see what works with the ultimate goal of playing their best football in January. With just four games remaining until then, Tampa Bay hasn’t provided much to feel confident about. As we saw with the Clippers, having the most talent doesn’t ensure victory. If Bruce Arians and Brady don’t figure out how to get on the same page, the Bucs will be watching someone else enter their house and play for the Lombardi Trophy.
No. 7 Seed: Arizona Cardinals (6-5)
Reason To Believe: Murray Magic. Kyler Murray is one of the most exciting players in 2020 and has taken this offense to a new dimension with the addition of All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins. When things are cooking in the desert, Murray is slicing and dicing defenses with both his arm and legs. Murray has thrown for 19 touchdowns while rushing for 650 yards and 10 touchdowns. This team at their peak can score on any defense and can do so in a variety of ways.
Reason To Be Concerned: Inexperience. When looking at the landscape of the NFC, what do you notice? Playoff experience. From players like Rodgers, Brady and Wilson to head coaches like Pete Carroll, Sean Payton and Sean McVay, there is loads of experienced professionals who know what it takes to win in the playoffs. The postseason is a different game, where every weakness is magnified, and every tendency is realized. With this being both Kliff Kingsbury and Murray’s first trip to the dance, I worry that their lack of big game seasoning will be the difference as to why they are home like us watching another NFC team battle for the coveted Super Bowl crown.
The final quarter of the season will be as exciting as ever as teams jockey for positioning in a wide-open conference. While my pick is still the Seahawks to represent the NFC in Tampa, there’s a case to be made as to why any of these other five teams can make their own run at history.
The NFL trade deadline has come and gone. While the entire nation sits and waits while election results continue to count, we present the final look at Week eight.
Five Interesting Stats – NFL Week Eight
Jets Tie Worst Start in Franchise History Culminating with the Jets 35-9 loss at Kansas City, Gang Green tied the franchise record for most losses to start the season. Overall, the Jets are 21-51 since the start of the 2016 season. Another ringing indictment is how poorly Adam Gase adjusts his game plan. In the first half, the Jets moved the ball well in each of the last two games. The numbers drop drastically in the second half.
New York Jets Offensive Drives
Last 2 Games
Total Net Yards (Includes Penalty Yards)
Chargers Continue to Invent Ways to Lose The Los Angeles Chargers are certainly putting their fans through excruciating losses in 2020. Sunday marked the fourth time the Chargers blew a double-digit lead. Drew Lock’s GW TD pass to KJ Hamler with no time remaining, marked the third time Los Angeles allowed a game-winning or game-tying score in the final minute in 2020.
Chargers Blown Leads
vs Kansas City
Lost, 23-20 (OT)
at Tampa Bay
at New Orleans
Lost, 30-27 (OT)
>>allowed score in final minute
Steelers Tie Best Start in Franchise History The Steelers 28-24 victory at Baltimore helped them remain the only undefeated team in the NFL. Their 7-0 start matches the 1978 Super Bowl Champions for the best in franchise history, who finished 14-2.
Team Comparison, 1st 7 Games
Total Point Diff.
Yards PG Diff.
>>Best Start in Franchise History
Steelers Part 2 – Winning Ugly The Steelers victory on Sunday came despite registering a season-low 221 total offensive yards and 50 offensive plays. Since the merger, the Steelers are 4-17 when their offense produces such numbers.
Steelers Offensive Production, Regular Season
Fewer than 221 yards and 50 plays
Previous Win (Prior to Sunday)
11/06/05 at GB, 23-10
>>Regular Season Games, Since Merger
Rams Can’t Explain This Loss
Against the Miami Dolphins, the Los Angeles Rams defense allowed 145 yards and eight first downs. Since the merger, the Rams entered Sunday 9-1 when holding opponents to those totals. The Rams point differential in those ten previous games was +236.
The Rams 28-17 loss at Miami marked the second time since the merger they lost a game when holding opponents to such totals. Their other loss came on October 28, 2013, 14-9 hosting Seattle.
Rams Defense, Regular Season
Allow 145 yds & 8 1st Downs or Fewer
Prior to Sunday
Total Points Allowed
>>Included Seven Shutouts (Since Merger)
The Rams also outgained Miami 471-145, a difference of 326. Since the merger, the Rams were 5-0 prior to Sunday when such a drastic difference occured. Three of those wins came by shutout, while their point differential in those contests was +177.