Friday, January 27, 2017

FOOTBALL NEWS NFL CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,

The Super Bowl participants have been determined.

The home team favorites have dominated this year's playoffs.


Is Brady the GOAT???

Enjoy,

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL

NFL

After three weeks of the 2016 NFL playoffs, the favorites (all home teams) have now won 8 of 10 games (both straight up and against the spread).
Sunday’s games were two blowouts by the favored home teams.

And, the running games for each of the four teams was paltry; no running back rushed for even 50 yards from scrimmage. Collectively, 68% of all plays were designed to be passing plays, and 81% of all yards gained from scrimmage were from pass plays. Three of the four QB’s passed for over 300 yards.

CONFERENCE TITLE GAMES
Sunday, January 22nd

NFC
Green Bay +5 at Atlanta
PREGAME: Back in Week #8 Atlanta beat visiting Green Bay, 33-32.
The GB Packers have a specific injury problem; three WR’s are “questionable”: Jordy Nelson-broken ribs, Davante Adams-ankle, and Geronimo Allison-hamstring.

THE GAME
GB Packers’ WR’s Nelson and Adams were both activated for the game. The ATL Falcons got the ball first and scored a TD on a 6½ minute drive to take a 7-0 lead. Green Bay responded with a drive into Atlanta territory and FG range, but the 41-yard try was “no good” (kicker Mason Crosby’s streak of 23 straight was snapped). Atlanta came back with a FG to take a 10-0 lead after the first quarter.


The Pack came back and drove down the field, but fumbled at the Falcons’ 5-yard line and the Atlanta defense recovered it in the end zone. Another long Falcons’ drive netted another TD and then they tacked on yet another TD just before halftime to take a commanding 24-0 lead, a real back-breaker for the Packers. Atlanta got every “break” in the first half: outgaining the Pack 325-127 and winning the critical turnover battle 2-0.
Early in the 2nd half, Atlanta scored again to extend the lead to 31-0 and the game was virtually over.

Green Bay lost three offensive lineman to injury during the game and had to convert NT Letroy Guion over to the offensive line to fill in. And the secondary was just outmatched on this day. ATL Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan threw 4 TD passes (and rushed for another); in two playoff games this year, he has thrown for 586 yards and 5 TD’s with no interceptions (including 40 of 47 completions from the shotgun formation).
FINAL: ATL 44, GB 21

Atlanta now has a 6-game winning streak.
Green Bay had its 8-game winning streak snapped.

Did you know?
Atlanta’s defense starts three rookies: SS Keanu Neal (1st rounder), LB De’Vondre Campbell (4th), and MLB Deion Jones (2nd). Plus, the young Falcons’ defense starts four second-year players. And they are built for speed!

Quiz Question:
In NFL history there has only been one other team starting 3 rookies on defense as a Super Bowl participant. Can you name this team?
Answer:
The 1981 San Francisco 49’ers: Ronnie Lott (1st rounder), Eric Wright (2nd), and Charlton Williamson (3rd).

FAREWELL
This NFC Championship Game was the last game to be played in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. In the future the Falcons will be playing their home games next door at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

AFC
Pittsburgh +6 at New England
PREGAME: Back in Week #7 New England won at Pittsburgh, 27-16, a game in which the Steelers were missing QB Ben Roethlisberger.
Patriots’ QB Tom Brady has thrown 19 TD passes and zero interceptions in six games (and averaged 314.8 passing yards per game) when facing Mike Tomlin as the Steelers’ head coach.
Tomlin is 2-5 vs. New England as a head coach; however, this is the first postseason meeting.
New England HC Bill Belichick will be going for his 25th playoff game victory (he had one in 1994 as the HC of the old Cleveland Browns from 1991-1995).
New England is playing in the AFC Championship Game for the sixth consecutive year, an all-time NFL record.

THE GAME
New England won the coin flip and elected to receive the opening kickoff, after which the Patriots marched deep into Steelers’ territory but had to settle for a 31-yard FG two minutes into the game. The NE Patriots scored again at the end of the 1st quarter to lead 10-0. Pittsburgh responded with a TD early in the 2nd quarter, but missed the extra point kick and during the 13-play, 84-yard TD drive lost RB Le’Veon Bell for the game (groin injury). The NE Pats responded by driving to the PIT 34-yard line on eight plays, and then the ninth play was a well-designed flea-flicker for a TD to take a 17-6 lead. But Pittsburgh fought back with a 15-play drive – after the 2-minute warning in the 1st half, the Steelers scored a TD … no, wait … the call was reversed by replay and PIT instead got 1st-and-goal only ½ yard from the end zone. Two stuffed running plays later, the Steelers had lost five yards and faced 3rd-and-6 and were unable to convert; they settled for a short FG to trail at halftime 17-9. This was not a good sign for Steelers’ fans; the Patriots’ defense had controlled the line of scrimmage to send a message.

To cut to the chase, New England scored 16 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter to lead 33-9 heading into the final period and then coasted to victory.
FINAL: NE 36, PIT 17

Pittsburgh’s 9-game winning streak was snapped.

New England only has one first-round draft pick in its offense’s starting lineup – OT Nate Solder, a first round pick in 2011 out of Colorado.

Patriots’ QB Tom Brady now has 22 TD passes and 0 interceptions against HC Mike Tomlin. The Steelers’ defense did not seem to appropriately adjust their pass coverage schemes during the game and the veteran Brady picked them apart (32 of 42 for 384 yards). Many of the pundits are now anointing Brady as the G.O.A.T. (“greatest of all time”).

SUPER BOWL LI
February 5, 2017   6:30PM Eastern
Houston, TX
New England -3 vs. Atlanta +3
Over/under: 59½ (the biggest # in Super Bowl history, I’m told)

PREGAME:
This game matches up the immovable object and the irresistible force. The NE Patriots have the #1-ranked scoring defense and the ATL Falcons have the #1-ranked scoring offense. Historically in the Super Bowl, the great defense has won out over the great offense in four of five such matchups.


New England and Atlanta had the least number of turnovers of all 32 teams during the regular season.

Atlanta made the Super Bowl for the second time in their history; the Falcons’ first appearance was after the 1998 season in SB XXXIII. Denver won its second consecutive title with a victory over Atlanta, 34-19.
ATL Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn will be making his third appearance in the last four Super Bowls; he was the DC for the Super Bowl participant Seattle Seahawks in 2013 and 2014.
In his career, QB Matt Ryan has beaten 30 of the 32 NFL teams; he has yet to beat New England and Pittsburgh.

New England is making its NFL-record 9th Super Bowl appearance (4-4 record in previous title games). Three other teams have participated in eight Super Bowls:
Pittsburgh (6-2 record), Dallas (5-3), and Denver (3-5).

The Patriots have not trailed at any time in any game since Week #12 of the regular season.

OTHER FOOTBALL NEWS
2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT

On January 19th Draftnik Mel Kiper Jr. came out with his first mock draft (Version 1.0). Following are his 1st round projections for the 2017 NFL Draft to be held on April 27th through April 29th.

#1 CLE     DE        Myles Garrett              TX A&M
#2 SF        QB        Mitch Trubisky            UNC
#3 CHI      DL        Jonathan Allen             ALA
#4 JAX      S          Jamal Adams               LSU
#5 TEN     WR      Mike Williams              CLEM
#6 NYJ      CB       Marshon Lattimore      OH ST
#7 SD/LA  OT       Cam Robinson             ALA
#8 CAR     RB       Leonard Fournette        LSU
#9 CIN      DE       Solomon Thomas         STAN
#10 BUF   QB       Deshaun Watson          CLEM
#11 NOR   LB       Reuben Foster             ALA
#12 CLE   RB       Dalvin Cook                FSU
#13 AZ     CB       Teez Tabor                  FL
#14 PHI    CB       Quincy Wilson             FL
#15 IND    LB      Takkarist McKinley      UCLA
#16 BAL   S         Jabrill Peppers             MICH
#17 WSH  S         Malik Hooker              OH ST
#18 TEN   CB      Marlon Humphrey       ALA
#19 TB     DE      Taco Charlton             MICH
#20 DEN   OT     Garett Bolles               UTAH
#21 DET   LB     Tim Williams                ALA
#22 MIA   LB      Jarrad Davis                FL
#23 NYG  OT     Ryan Ramczyk            WISC
#24 OAK  DT     Malik McDowell          Mich St
#25 HOU  S        Budda Baker              Washington
#26 SEA   CB     Cordrea Tankersley     CLEM
#27 KC    WR    Corey Davis                W.MICH
#28 DAL  CB     Sidney Jones              Washington
#29 GB    RB     Christian McCaffrey    STAN
#30 PIT   LB     Charles Harris             MISSOURI
#31 ATL  DE     Derek Barnett             TENN
#32 NE   TE      O.J. Howard               ALA

NFL COACHING CHANGES

Only one team still needs to fill its head coaching position for next year – the SF 49’ers. The Niners are waiting for Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to finish up his
season at the Super Bowl, and then he will be hired as the next HC. The team is still looking for a new GM (it appears nobody credible wants the job).

The Los Angeles Chargers have picked up former JAX Jaguars’ HC Gus Bradley to be their new defensive coordinator.

The IND Colts have fired their General Manager, Ryan Grigson, but will keep HC Chuck Pagano for at least the 2017 season.

NFL TEAM UPDATE
On January 19th the OAK Raiders filed with the NFL for relocation. Owner Mark Davis intends to move to Las Vegas and a 65,000-seat domed stadium is being planned.

PRO BOWL
Is anyone interested?
The game will be played in Orlando, FL (previously in Hawaii) on Sunday, January 29, 2017. The players cannot be liking this change; many guys selected for the team have bailed out (or are playing in the Super Bowl) and replacements seemingly are coming from the “middle of the pack”.
After three years of a "drafted" format with former-player captains, the NFL announced that it would return to the "conference" format previously used for 42 years. The coaches will be Cowboys’ HC Jason Garrett for the NFC and Chiefs’ HC Andy Reid for the AFC.

FFHL LOP-SIDED and CONTESTED PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS)
Listed below is a breakdown of all of our picks for FFHL WEEK #18C (Conference Finals).

                                            ATS Picks
Team                                   For-Against                Result / Unsolicited comments
NE Patriots -6 vs. PIT               6-3                       WIN, New England wins 36-17 to cover by 13
ATL Falcons -5 vs. GB              5-2                       WIN, Atlanta wins 44-21 to cover by 18


FOOTBALL QUIZ QUESTION
QUESTION #1: QB Ben Roethlisberger started his 20th career playoff game at New England last weekend. There are five other quarterbacks in NFL history that have started more playoff games in their careers. Name them.

QUESTION #2: The combination of head coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady will be making their seventh Super Bowl appearance together. Three other HC/QB combinations have been to four Super Bowls. Name those three elite runner-up combos.

BONUS: Belichick will be making his 7th appearance as a head coach, breaking the previous record of six. Name the head coach that was previously tied with Belichick for the all-time record.

BONUS: Brady will be playing in his 7th Super Bowl as a player, breaking the previous record of six. Name the player that was previously tied with Brady for the all-time record.

ANSWER #1:
                               Games (# of wins)
Tom Brady                   33 (24)             The CHI Bears only have 19 playoff wins in the
                                                           franchise’s existence (1st playoff win in 1932)
Peyton Manning            27 (14)
Brett Favre                   24 (13)
Joe Montana                 23 (16)
John Elway                   21 (14)
Ben Roethlisberger        20 (13)
NOT QUITE:
Terry Bradshaw            19 (14)
Dan Marino                  18 (8)
Jim Kelly                      17 (9)
Roger Staubach             17 (11)
Donovan McNabb         16 (9)
Aaron Rodgers              16 (9)
Troy Aikman                15 (11)
Joe Flacco                    15 (10)

The old-timers didn’t have much of a chance in this category, since there were fewer playoff games each year prior to the Super Bowl Era. Still, Staubach did quite well.
Some other old-timers:
Bart Starr                     10 (9)
Johnny Unitas                8 (6)
Otto Graham                 7 (4)
Sid Luckman                 6 (5)
Sammy Baugh               6 (3)
Bobby Layne                4 (3)

ANSWER #2:

HC Tom Landry and QB Roger Staubach                   Dallas (2-2 record)
HC Chuck Noll and QB Terry Bradshaw                    Pittsburgh (4-0 record in six-year stretch)
HC Marv Levy and QB Jim Kelly                              Buffalo (0-4 record; four years in a row)

The Belichick/Brady combo has a 4-2 record in their previous Super Bowls.

BONUS:
Belichick by himself, as a head coach, will be breaking the tie (of six Super Bowl appearances) previously held with HC Don Shula (1 loss with Baltimore Colts, 2-3 record with Miami Dolphins).

BONUS:
Mike Lodich, defensive lineman for the BUF Bills and DEN Broncos out of UCLA.
WR Don Beebe’s team was in the Super Bowl six times, but he only played in three of those six games.

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