Eagles On the Brink, Chargers Rally and Other NFL Notes

Kelly
Kelly

Has the glitter disappeared from Chip Kelly's offense which has lost three straight?

It wasn’t that long ago that Mark Sanchez was the darling of Philadelphia and right alongside of him was his head coach Chip Kelly. Now, both might as well be the red-headed step-sisters at the nearest Philly orphanage.

The Eagles went into Washington last night and lost on a Kai Forbath field goal with five seconds left by the final of 27-24. The loss sends the Detroit Lions into the playoffs and now means the only way that Philly can get in is as a division champion. They will need the Cowboys to lose to the Colts today, then to the Redskins next week and they have to beat the Giants in their finale.

In other words, things aren’t so good. Chip Kelly’s no-huddle system is the greatest offense in the history of football when the team is doing well but he is now about to be run out of town after three-straight losses. On his coat tails will be Sanchez whose numbers don’t look too bad (37/50 374 yards 2TD/1INT) but he had a costly fumbled and his interception came at a horrible time and led to winning field goal.

To be fair, Sanchez as far from the only problem. Cody Parkey was one of three in field goals, the Eagles had 13 penalties and also dropped four passes. The imperfect storm happened at the worst possible time for the Eagles.

If you’re in Philly today, you are a Colts’ fan for sure.

McCoy

Mike McCoy's Chargers rallied to stun the Niners and kept their playoff hopes alive.

Bolts Stay Alive

On the left coast last night in the late game, San Diego rallied from a 21-point deficit to defeat San Francisco 38-35 in overtime. The victory keeps the Chargers playoff hopes alive as they move to 9-6 on the season. Denver has already won the AFC West so the best the Bolts can do is a wild-card but it’s a logjam in the AFC to say the least.

Division rival Kansas City is in Pittsburgh today. The Chiefs are 8-6 and are looking to keep their playoff chances alive as well with a win over the 9-5 Steelers who can clinch a playoff spot with a victory. Also at 9-5 is Baltimore and then Buffalo is 8-6.

While we entered this week knowing all 12 playoff spots could be filled, I’m starting to think we’ll see a few contests next week that will determine both positioning and berths into this year’s playoffs/

Nothing in LA in 2015

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear yesterday that there will not be an NFL franchise in Los Angeles in 2015. Goodell told St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland that any relocation would not happen until at least the 2016 season.

That doesn’t mean the Rams, Chargers and Raiders can’t file for relocation on or after January 1st though. The problem is that a “super majority” is needed and Goodell made it pretty straight-forward comments that this won’t happen for 2015.

The question in my mind is why is the league so adamant about having a team in the LA area? It’s a bit of a rhetorical question because LA is the second biggest TV market in the country but is there really a fan-based demand for a team? I’m not saying there isn’t because I don’t live in SoCal but from everyone I talk to and listen to I get the distinct feeling a team in LA would be a rather “ho-hum” type of move.

Of those three teams I would think the Rams have the greatest chance of heading to Los Angeles and I say that because their owner seems dead-set on it. The Raiders are flirting with San Antonio which appears hungry for NFL football and I believe the Chargers will eventually get a new stadium.

Stranger things have happened though…

 

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Random Thoughts on the NFL for a Thursday in December

Snyder
Snyder

Perhaps Daniel Snyder needs to look in the mirror if he wants to find the problem in Washington.

I sat down to write and discovered that there were a number of things on my radar and couldn’t decide on just one. Therefore you’re getting my thoughts on several issues related to the National Football League.

SI.com’s veteran NFL writer Don Banks finally became the first true writer to say what we mere little folk have been saying for a long time; the problem in Washington is Daniel Snyder. When he took over in 1999, the Redskins had gone through a period of great success that including winning seasons and Super Bowl wins. Snyder has now been through eight head coaches and his team just set a dubious mark by losing double-digit games in five of the last six seasons.

Banks calls Snyder “the one constant” throughout this period of futility and he’s absolutely right. While some suggest owners like the Rooney Family in Pittsburgh can often be “too hands off” Snyder has proven to have his hands in everything and nothing he does seems to work. Perhaps it’s time to let football men do their jobs rather than be micro-managed by Snyder.

If couldn’t get any worse with Head Coach Jay Gruden, the defense and Robert Griffin III, yesterday there was a fight at practice between two teammates. Good times in the beltway once again…

New Discipline Policy Already Off to a Bad Start

Yesterday the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the new player discipline policy. This was needed because of the mess surrounding the Ray Rice domestic violence situation. The National Football League Players Association immediately issued a statement saying the following;

Our union has not been offered the professional courtesy of seeing the NFL’s new personal conduct policy before it hit the presses. Their unilateral decision and conduct today is the only thing that has been consistent over the past few months.

The NFL claims it involved the NFLPA each step of the way so again, we have someone not telling the truth which sums up this entirely ridiculous situation. Things got worse for Goodell Wednesday when transcripts of the Ray Rice Disciplinary Hearing were released. TO say that there are “inconsistencies” with Goodell’s comments would be a gross understatement. As they say, stay tuned.

Manziel

The Johnny Football Era officially begins Sunday in Cleveland.

Johnny Football is Coming

We saw a brief glimpse of former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in Buffalo nearly two weeks ago but that was a dress rehearsal. The real thing is about to go down this week at home when the Browns host the in-state rival Bengals.

While Head Coach Mike Pettine will have to answer all kinds of questions related to this decision, I feel it’s the right one. The Browns have slipped to 7-6 and are now looking up at everyone in the AFC North. Brian Hoyer has struggled and even though I don’t think he’s received a lot of help from his pass catchers, the move had to be made.

Besides the fact that Hoyer has been less then average recently, Pettine feels this is the right time because the Browns are at home but I can also see where this could backfire. If Manziel struggles early, the home fans in Cleveland aren’t exactly known for patience and they could get on him especially if the team is trailing. Playing on the road can sometimes galvanize a team in times like this but I could be wrong too.

The move also sets into motion the placing of Manziel at the QB position for years to come. Should he play well in the final three games, it’s unlikely the team would sign Brian Hoyer to another contract. One way or another, the Johnny Football era has begun.

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The Redskins Host the Seahawks in Monday Night Football

Lynch
Lynch

Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks head to the nation's capitol to play the Redskins.

The defending Super Bowl Champions make the long trip across the country to play Washington in a game that is critical for both teams. The Redskins are 1-3 and all three NFC East foes are above .500. Philadelphia and Dallas are both 4-1 while the New York Giants are 3-2. A loss by Washington makes a playoff spot extremely difficult even this early in the season.

For Seattle, the Arizona Cardinals dropped their first game yesterday at Denver and are now 3-1 while the San Francisco 49ers defeated Kansas City to move to 3-2. A win lets the Seahawks keep pace with Arizona while a loss drops them to .500.

Look below this game for some early lines for next week’s NFL games.

Seattle (-7.5) at Washington (O/U 45) – Washington returns to the field ten days after quarterback Kirk Cousins threw four interceptions in a 45-14 beat-down at the hand of the New York Giants. That poor performance likely is making people re-think just how badly they want to see Cousins take over permanently even when Robert Griffin III comes back.

Cousins has thrown two touchdowns with no interceptions in wins while he’s thrown four touchdowns and five interceptions in losses. His QB rating is 109 vs 78 in wins versus losses. What can we expect from him as he takes on one of the best defenses in football?

Cousins

Kirk Cousins has to play better for the 'Skins to have a shot at beating Seattle.

Some think the secret is out on Seattle’s Richard Sherman because the Chargers went after him and had some success. In order for Cousins to find similar success against Sherman and the Seahawks’ secondary his line is going to have to give him adequate time to throw and I’m not sure if that can happen.

For Seattle offensively it will be pretty much status quo. Establish the running game with Marshawn Lynch and then work the play-action with Russell Wilson off of that. The earlier the success of the Seattle running game the tougher it will be for Washington defensively. My guess is that Redskins’ defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will force Seattle to throw as quickly as possible.

Trends: Seattle is 5-2 straight up in their last seven games on the road… The Redskins are 1-3-1 against the spread in its last five games playing Seattle… The total has gone OVER in four of the Seahawks last five games on the road against Washington… The Redskins are 2-4 ATS in their last six home games.

Key Injuries: SEA: TE Zach Miller, Out WAS: CB Tracy Porter, Out, QB RGIII Out

The Pick: I just can’t see a scenario where the Redskins win here. Take Seattle to cover and I like the OVER.

Intriguing Early Lines for Next Week

Denver (-6) at New York Jets – Not sure how this isn’t a lot larger of a spread after yesterday.

Pittsburgh (+2) at Cleveland -Steelers are not playing well and Browns are coming off an epic comeback.

Chicago (+3) at Atlanta – Both the Bears and Falcons suffered tough losses on the road yesterday. Matt Ryan comes back to the dome where he is much better than he is on the road.

New York Giants (+3) at Philadelphia – This is will be a major NFC East showdown with huge implications considering the Cowboys will have played at Seattle earlier in the day.

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Odds to Win the NFC East Division for 2014

McCoy
McCoy

LeSean McCoy and the Eagles should win the NFC East behind a dynamic offense.

Today begins my journey through the six divisions of the National Football League as I look at the odds for each and give you my winner. First up, the NFC East.

Philadelphia Eagles +125 –  The Eagles made the playoffs in Head Coach Chip Kelly’s first season and it wasn’t behind Michael Vick who is now with the Jets. It was behind Nick Foles who played tremendously and got the Eagles a home playoff game where they were beaten by the New Orleans Saints. Gone from the team is DeSean Jackson who is now with the rival Redskins.

To make up for his numbers the Eagles brought in Darren Sproles who should provide an amazing compliment to LeSean McCoy. If the defense improves, the Eagles could be viable contenders in the NFC. The schedule features the AFC South and NFC West so it’s the extremes in that case.

Record prediction: 10-6

New York Giants +300 – The Giants have missed the playoffs the last two seasons and I for one thought Tom Coughlin would be out of a job after they started 0-6 last season. Coughlin is back but things are different on the offensive side of the ball where more of a West Coast offense is installed. It’s really pretty simple for there; Eli Manning has to take care of the football a lot better than he has in recent years.

Jason Pierre-Paul looked good in the team’s first two preseason games and that’s good because they need him to anchor the defensive line. The secondary is upgraded and should be better as well. The G-Men get Indianapolis, San Francisco and Arizona at home but do have to go to Seattle. If the running game is clicking then good things are on the horizon.

Record Prediction: 9-7

RGIII

Can RGIII handle the transition to Jay Gruden's new offense?

Washington Redskins +375 – The ‘Skins welcome new head coach Jay Gruden whose number one job is keeping Robert Griffin III healthy. We shouldn’t see nearly as much read-option if any at all which means RGIII is going to be more of a pocket passer. What will help that transition is Alfred Morris running the ball well again. DeSean Jackson should help balance the offense as well.

Defensively, there is plenty of talent on that side of the ball but it can’t be utilized unless the front seven can get to the quarterback. Trent Murphy, defensive end from Stanford should help in that department. The second half of the schedule is brutal with trips to Indianapolis, San Francisco and the Giants but they do finish with Dallas and Philly at home.

Record Projection: 8-8

Dallas Cowboys +400 – If I had looked at the Cowboys back in the spring I might have said this team had a chance to compete in the NFC East but then Sean Lee was lost for the season and then Orlando Scandrick was suspended for four games. Toss in a few other injuries and you’ve got a defense that could rival last year’s in terms of ineptness.

Offensively, the Cowboys will ride only as far as Tony Romo can take them and I think his health is a serious question mark. Jason Garrett knows they have to run the ball to keep Romo healthy and his defense off the field. The question is, will he be able to do that? It’ll be tough with all the ‘toys’ that Romo has to play with but if he wants to win, he’ll have to.

Dallas has a favorable schedule with only a trip to Seattle being the toughest out of division road trip.

Record Projection: 6-10

Overall Thoughts: I don’t know how you can go in any other direction here other than the Eagles. I can see a scenario where the Giants start pounding opponents with their running game but I don’t think it’ll be enough.

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Giants Short Chalk on the Road at Washington

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The New York Giants take on the Washington Redskins in a matchup of two teams that odds makers had as the top contenders for the NFC East in the start of the NFL season.

However, at this point both teams are virtually eliminated from the post season. New York would need to win out and then get lots of help from other teams to have a shot at a wildcard or the NFC East title. New York is 4-7 SU and ATS.

Washington is even worse off. The Redskins are 3-8 SU and ATS and their odds of grabbing a playoff berth are far, far less.

The meeting on Sunday in the nation’s capital, or close to it, will feature two rivals that are coming off losses. It is the first of two games the two will play head to head over their final five games of the season.

The Redskins struggled Monday night and suffered a humiliating loss to the San Francisco 49ers 27-6.

New York lost last Sunday to Dallas 24-21, after they rallied to tie only to see Dallas drive the length of the field and kick a game winning field goal.

At this time, the Giants are favored on Bovada and topbet by 1.5 points, while the point total on betonline and sportsbook.com is currently 45.5.

On topbet and Bovada the line opened at 2 or even as high as 2.5 but with Washington as the favorite. However, their dismal showing on Monday night had the bookmakers flip and repost the line with New York as a short chalk.

Washington also showed little if any ability to score and that was reflected in the total points for this matchup. The line opened at 48.5, but has been bet down on betonline to just 45.5.

Dating to 2010, Washington is 5-0 ATS head to head with New York. However, in its last three games of this season, Washington is 0-3 ATS.

New York has been the favorite in each of their last 12 head-to-head meeting. Since 2009, New York is 16-21-1 ATS as a favorite.

New York’s offense has struggled this season especially Eli Manning. The Giants quarterback has 14 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions.

Andre Brown returned to running back in November from injury. His presence has helped the maligned running game and given Manning another target in the passing attack.

Many people have scrutinized and criticized the play of Robert Griffin III the Redskins quarterback. He had an ACL tear in the playoffs last season, but returned to play this season, but has not been the same as he was last season.

Even though Washington has covered their past five games with New York, this game feels different.

With the problems Griffin III has faced with media and fans, this matchup leans in favor of New York.

Pick: New York 21-17

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SI’s Peter King is Out of Bounds

Redskins
Redskins

The Redskins' name is once again under fire.

There was once a time when the first thing I read every single Monday morning of the National Football League season was Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback. MMQB was the first and foremost piece for pro football fans on the si.com website. It became so popular that King has done what ESPN’s Bill Simmons did with Grantland and has made MMQB its’ own entity.

King is one of the preeminent NFL writers and one of its most senior. While he’ll never hold a candle to the great Paul Zimmerman, King is well read and well researched. The problem I have come to find with King over the last several years is that he has become a New England Patriots’ homer and shill for the commissioner Roger Goodell.

King is a denier of Spygate and instead of accepting that it was much more than what the league made it out to be, he went along with them. In turn, he lost a lot of fans along the way.

His writing during that time has also become political in its’ nature. He has used his forum to spew sermons on such things as gun control and his disdain for the former President Bush. I have my opinions as well on those subject but I know where and when to share them.

King

Peter King has apparently decided to stop using the term 'Redskins' when discussing them.

To be fair, King has done positive things too. He is a major supporter of the Pat Tillman Foundation and has called attention to the plight of former players battling diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s and the like. I think King means well in most of what he does but if the reports are true about his latest political stance then I have a problem.

According to the websites awfulannouncing.com and deadspin.com, King’s MMQB has informally announced they will not use the term ‘Redskins’ any longer when writing or reporting on them. While King himself has yet to say anything publicly, it sounds as if the foundation for this political stance has been laid.

As you and I know, King has the Constitutional right to say, write and do as he chooses on his website. He is also fully aware that there will be a backlash because he’s seen it before when commenting on other testy political topics.

Owner of the Washington Redskins Daniel Snyder has made it clear he has no plans to change the name despite very minor political pressure to do so. I say “minor” because there are not a lot of people calling for this name change. It’s being pushed by a small group who find the term offensive and you know what? It is in fact an offensive term for a Native American. Not the point however.

Someone said it’s no different than calling them the Washington N-words. I disagree with that because the original intent of Redskins did not start out as racially insensitive. The term was coined by the British who saw a tribe of Native Americans who had painted their faces red using tree roots and other materials. It has since been used

Maybe that doesn’t matter in all of this because it is still ‘offensive.’ Is it offensive because it details the skin color or is it offensive because of it’s’ relationship to Native Americans? If it’s the latter, then King should stop using the term ‘Chiefs’ because that also deals with Native Americans. In fact, King should also stop using the term ‘Patriots’ because I know descendants of Great Britain who live here and they are offended by that name.

King should also not use terms like ‘Celtics’ because that could upset someone who isn’t Irish. He should also avoid ‘Packers’ because that would offend vegetarians and he should also avoid the term ‘Saints’ because that might upset non-Catholics or perhaps some atheists.

Maybe what King should be doing is working with Native American tribes and the Redskins to bring together an understanding of the culture much in the way the Seminole tribe of Florida has done with Florida State University.

If Peter King is going to report on all 32 NFL teams then he should respect that portion of his job and save his political stances for another forum. Sports are the release for millions and the last thing they want to be inundated with is more political opinion.

 

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