Hello Football Fans,
Tomorrow: Senior Bowl
Sunday: Pro Bowl
Feb 7th: Super Bowl 3:25PM Pacific
I've provided you with some details on all of these to whet your appetites, plus I've got some other good stuff including a quickie look at a few 2016 topics.
The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL
PLAYOFFS - CONFERENCE FINALS
The #1 and #2 seeds in both conferences advanced to the conference championship games. One of the #2 seeds was actually favored ATS on the road – New England Patriots over the Denver Broncos.
I know rigor mortis has set in on this news, but I was under the weather this week.
#2 Arizona +3 at #1 Carolina -3
The CAR Panthers jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter behind soon-to-be 2015 League MVP QB Cam Newton. The AZ Cardinals suffered seven turnovers in the game, six by QB Carson Palmer (2 fumbles, plus 4 INT including 3 in the 4th quarter), and the result was a blowout. Palmer had only thrown 1 interception in the 4th quarter during the whole 2015 regular season; this game was a disaster for the Cardinals.
RESULTS: CAR 49, AZ 15
#2 New England -3 at #1 Denver +3
The game was hyped as another confrontation (the 17th overall) between NE QB Tom Brady and DEN QB Peyton Manning (old guy not showing his age vs. old guy in Denver… well, you decide).
This game was Tom Brady’s 31st postseason game of his career; it was Peyton Manning’s 26th.
The first half was relatively pedestrian, with Denver seemingly the better team and ahead 17-9 at the intermission, but allowing the NE Patriots to stay in the game. The Patriots stayed in the game all the way, and TV viewers were watching in the 4th quarter, posting a 31.8 rating, the highest in an AFC title game since “The Drive” game in 1987 in which Denver QB John Elway engineered the long winning drive late in the contest.
Cutting to the chase, Denver led 20-12 after kicking a 31-yard FG with 10 minutes remaining in regulation play. On the ensuing drive, New England matriculated down the field in 11 plays to the Broncos’ 16-yard line and opted to “go for it” on 4th-and-1 and were denied by the impressive Denver defense. Still, there were six minutes left – plenty of time.
The Broncos’ defense went 3 plays and out, punted, and gave New England another opportunity with 4:35 on the clock. The Patriots drove again down to the Denver 14-yard line in 8 plays and then again decided to “go for it” on 4th-and-6, and again could not get the first down and turned the ball over on downs – but still 2½ minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Once again, it was “three and out” and a Broncos’ punt only to midfield. Only 26 seconds had ticked off the clock, leaving New England 1:52 to score and send the game into overtime. But QB Brady threw three straight incompletions and faced 4th-and-10 from the 50-yard line. A perfect pass down the middle to TE Rob Gronkowski for a 40-yard gain miraculously kept the drive alive and gave NE a 1st-and-goal with 1:34 on the clock. But again, the Denver defense stifled Brady and the Pats, leaving them with another 4th down play from the Broncos’ 4-yard line and 17 seconds left. The snap…no receiver immediately located…scramble… “Hail Mary” (a 4-yard Hail Mary?!!?)… TE Gronk runs around in the end zone and under the desperation toss for a TD. The score was now 20-18 and a successful two-point PAT would result in overtime.
From the 2-yard line for the 2-point conversion, QB Brady missed seeing an open receiver on the right side and ended up throwing into the middle of the field, where the ball was tipped and intercepted. Game over.
UPSET RESULTS: DEN 20, NE 18
As the game unfolded, the result eventually came down to whether a two-point conversion would extend the game. But if NE kicker Stephen Gostkowski hadn’t missed an extra point attempt after a Patriots’ TD in the first quarter, and the rest of the game had played out exactly the same, New England would have only needed a 1-point PAT kick for the tie to send the game into overtime. Gostkowski has made 463 consecutive regular season extra-point kicks dating back to 2006 (although the new rule to force a 33-yard kick instead of a 19-yard kick now makes it more difficult to maintain such a streak). For his regular season career (starting in 2006) he is 502 of 503 on extra point tries. His only miss was during his rookie season in 2006; it was blocked.
One critical impact on the game was how the Denver defense continued to make Patriots’ QB Tom Brady uncomfortable with their pass rush. He was hit over 20 times (varying reports stated 21 to 24 times) behind the line, twelve of those came with only a four-man rush.
Did you know?
New England has not won a true road playoff game since 2006 at San Diego (0-3 record since then; Super Bowls were at neutral sites). It ended up being significant that this year the Patriots lost 4 of their last 6 regular season games and handed the #1 seed and home field advantage in this game to Denver.
SUPER BOWL 50 PREVIEW
Sunday, February 7th 3:25PM Pacific (6:25PM Eastern)
Santa Clara, CA in Levi’s Stadium (“Field of Jeans”), home of SF 49’ers
CAROLINA PANTHERS (-5h) vs. DENVER BRONCOS (+5h)
Carolina opened as a 3½ point favorite, and the line has subsequently moved to 5½, since according to bookmaker William Hill, over 80% of bets have been made with the Panthers.
Denver is the designated “home team” for the game, giving the Broncos choice of uniform color. They chose “White” for this year’s game.
In past Super Bowls, Denver has won only 2 of 6 and all four losses were suffered wearing their Orange uniforms (1977, 1987, 1989, 2013 seasons), with one win in Blue (1997) and one win in White (1998).
Carolina’s only previous Super Bowl appearance was after the 2003 regular season, and the Panthers lost wearing White.
This Super Bowl has an historical quarterback matchup; it marks the largest difference in age between the starting QB’s – Peyton Manning at age 39, and Cam Newton at age 26.
Carolina LB Thomas Davis broke his arm in the AFC title game and had surgery on Monday. He expects to still be able to play in the Super Bowl, but most are skeptical.
THE PRO BOWL EXHIBITION
This Sunday, the NFL Pro Bowl will be played in Hawaii. 86 players were selected for the game, after which 36 of those players were subsequently replaced with alternates (that’s 42%, folks). 14 of those have a good excuse; they’re playing in the Super Bowl (10 for CAR, 4 for DEN). The other 22 bailed out because of injuries or for personal reasons.
Six QB’s were selected for the game, and five of them were replaced:
NE Tom Brady TB Jameis Winston
CAR Cam Newton BUF Tyrod Taylor
CIN Carson Palmer MIN Teddy Bridgewater
GB Aaron Rodgers OAK Derek Carr
PIT Ben Roethlisberger NYG Eli Manning
SEA Russell Wilson “Say What?!!?” He’s joining the game.
The game is no longer AFC vs. NFC, but instead it is a “pick-up” game where sides are chosen, as we used to do across the street from my house at the water tower “field”.
Here some of the particulars:
Team Captains JERRY RICE MICHAEL IRVIN
Coaching staff KC Chiefs GB Packers (minus HC Mike McCarthy)
Player Captains WR Odell Beckham RB Devonta Freeman
DT Aaron Donald DT Geno Atkins
1st QB Selections NYG Eli Manning SEA Russell Wilson
OAK Derek Carr
THE SENIOR BOWL
Tomorrow on the NFL Network, the Senior Bowl will be telecast and be played in Mobile, AL. It will feature seniors who are eligible for the 2016 NFL Draft (not declaring underclassmen).
For the North squad, the coaching staff will be the DAL Cowboys.
For the South squad, the coaching staff will be the JAX Jaguars.
Following are the QB’s playing in the game, and a few others of interest:
QB Carson Wentz NDSU (FCS) 6’6” 235#
QB Kevin Hogan Stanford 6’4” 218#
QB Dak Prescott Mississippi State 6’2” 230#
QB Cody Kessler USC 6’1” 215#
QB Jake Coker Alabama 6’5” 232#
QB Jeff Driskel LA Tech 6’4” 234#
QB Brandon Allen Arkansas 6’2” 210#
QB Jacoby Brissett NC State 6’4” 235#
WR Braxton Miller Ohio State 6’2” 215#
WR Aaron Burbridge Michigan State 6’1” 208#
TE Glenn Gronkowski Kansas State 6’3” 234# (yes, brother)
TE Henry Krieger-Coble Iowa 6’4” 250#
OC Austin Blythe Iowa 6’3” 290#
2016 EARLY HEISMAN TROPHY ODDS
Since the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft has passed (January 19th), the oddsmakers have already posted betting odds on highly touted college players to win the Heisman Trophy next season.
QB Deshaun Watson Clemson 9/2
RB Leonard Fournette LSU 5/1
RB Christian McCaffrey Stanford 5/1
QB JT Barrett Ohio State 10/1
QB Baker Mayfield Oklahoma 10/1
RB Nick Chubb Georgia 12/1
RB Dalvin Cook Florida State 12/1
RB Royce Freeman Oregon 12/1
QB Chad Kelly Mississippi 12/1
RB Samaje Perine Oklahoma 12/1
WR Calvin Ridley Alabama 16/1
QB Joshua Dobbs Tennessee 16/1
QB Brad Kaaya Miami of FL 25/1
It looks like a three-man race to me, with three or four quarterbacks as possible long-shot winners.
FFHL Week #18 continues and finishes on Super Bowl Sunday.
Following are the updated results with one game to go.
YO MAMA vs. THE FUGITIVE
It’s already over.
Results to date:
Yo Mama 3-3 ATS The FFHL Champ
Fugitive 1-6 ATS Sad-sack didn’t “validate, so gets only 3rd place
Results to date:
Kid Rust 3-3 ATS (Roy has “home field advantage” if tied)
Wild Man 3-3 ATS
The Rounders 3-4 ATS
Moore Money 1-6 ATS
Results to date:
Mighty Duck 3-3 ATS
1-800-Opposite 3-3 ATS
Tommy Boy 2-5 ATS
FFHL LOP-SIDED and CONTESTED PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
Listed below is a breakdown of our 13 picks for Week#18C-Conference Finals Weekend. We miraculously had only one contrary pick.
The NFL favorites were 1-1 ATS and cumulatively for the playoffs are 5-5 ATS.
In the playoffs, the home teams were also 5-5 ATS.
Team For-Against Result / Unsolicited comments
NE Patriots -3 at DEN 7-1 LOSS, Denver won outright at home, 20-18
CAR Panthers -3 vs. AZ 5-0 WIN, Carolina thumped Arizona, 49-15
FOOTBALL NEWS and MINUTIA
2016 NFL DRAFT
After the January 19th deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft, the
league released the 96 players who gave up their remaining college eligibility to get the opportunity to enter the NFL. Plus, 11 other players notified the league that they had fulfilled their college degree requirements and would become draft-eligible.
Among the notable names and likely early selections on the list are:
QB Paxton Lynch Memphis
QB Jared Goff California
DE Joey Bosa Ohio State
RB Ezekiel Elliott Ohio State
LB Myles Jack UCLA
DE Shaq Lawson Clemson
CB Mackensie Alexander Clemson
DB Jalen Ramsey Florida State
OT Laremy Tunsil Mississippi
Counting the 11 who fulfilled their degree requirements, nine Ohio State players have early-entry status. Another graduate, FSU’s Roberto Aguayo, is one of three kickers on the list. In the latest mock draft by Josh Norris on RotoWorld, his projected first nine picks are all underclassmen/early entries (see above).
The 96 underclassmen granted special eligibility marks the second-highest total ever. Two years ago, 98 early entries entered the draft.
NEW LOS ANGELES TEAM(S)
LA Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke is going to do what’s right for him and his franchise. His best outcome could be to own the Los Angeles market, with the Chargers staying in San Diego and the Raiders staying in Oakland or going to anywhere else other than LA.
For the Chargers, the best outcome could be staying put. With $100MM in new money from the NFL and $550MM in NFL relocation fees that would be avoided by not moving, that’s plenty of extra cash that could go toward building a new venue in San Diego, if owner Dean Spanos would be willing to surrender on the issue of trying to finagle public money (which presumably isn’t available).
More on the Raiders later, after the Chargers make a decision. Da Raida’s could end up in San Diego or San Antonio or Oakland, or longshot Santa Clara with 49’ers; or interestingly but unlikely due to NFL resistance, moving to Las Vegas to share with UNLV a new $1 billion stadium to be built by The Sands.
The SD Chargers are still talking to the Rams about eventually sharing the new stadium to be built in Inglewood. But if the Bolts move, they’re still going to need a temporary place to play for three years until the new stadium is ready for the 2019 season.
The L.A. Memorial Coliseum Commission currently has a lease agreement with the NFL for one NFL team to share the field with the USC Trojans, but will consider a change in the 3-year lease to expand to two NFL teams (and USC), allowing three teams to share the Coliseum through the 2018 season.
FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTIONS
QUESTION #1: Carolina Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera has a chance to join elite company if his team wins Super Bowl 50. Who are the only three individuals to win the Super Bowl as both a head coach and a player?
HINT: All 3 are relatively big names, but not icons – well, some of you may consider one of the three an icon.
QUESTION #2: Carolina Panthers’ QB Cam Newton could be the fifth player in Super Bowl history to win all of the following: the Heisman Trophy, an NCAA title, and a Super Bowl title.
Who are the four players to have already accomplished this feat?
HINT: None were quarterbacks; one was a defensive player.
QUESTION #3: Only four different quarterbacks have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl in the previous 13 years. In 12 of the last 13, it has been Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, or Peyton Manning. Who is the fourth QB from the AFC who started in a Super Bowl in the last thirteen years?
Tom Flores, Tony Dungy, and “icon” (or more accurately “iron”) Mike Ditka, HC of the Shuffling 1985 Chicago Bears.
2015 Denver HC Gary Kubiak didn’t win the Super Bowl as a player, but he did advance to three of them as John Elway’s backup and was on the winning side of three Super Bowls as an assistant coach with the SF 49’ers and the DEN Broncos.
RB Marcus Allen, RB Tony Dorsett, DB Charles Woodson, and RB Reggie Bush.
Joe Flacco of the BAL Ravens