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Super Bowl Preview: The Data Prediction

| January 29th, 2020

I’m very excited for this Super Bowl matchup between two of the best teams in the NFL. Here’s what I’ll be watching for on Sunday night.


When Kansas City Has the Ball

  • I can’t wait to see Patrick Mahomes vs. San Francisco’s defense. The NFL’s best QB against the NFL’s best front 7. How can you not love that?
  • San Francisco has played 4 games against the top 10 QBs in passer rating this year (Wilson 2x, Lamar Jackson, Drew Brees). 3 of the 4 averaged less than 7 yards per attempt, threw 2 or fewer TDs, and led their team to 27 or fewer points. San Francisco’s defense is really good.
  • The 4th was Drew Brees, who averaged 8.7 yards/attempt, threw 5 TD, and put up 46 points. What did Brees do differently? He got rid of the ball before he could get hit. His average time to throw was 2.45 seconds, which was faster than any QB in the NFL as a whole this year (the other 3 were all over 2.7 seconds). As a result, Brees didn’t get sacked. This meant that he had to throw the ball short, with his average completion traveling only 5.1 yards past the line of scrimmage. Instead, he relied on his pass catchers to pick up yards after the catch, and they responded with an average of 6.9 YAC.
  • Patrick Mahomes generally doesn’t get the ball out super fast; his average time to throw this year was 2.82 seconds, and it was 2.91 seconds in 2018. Yet he’s had 5 games in his career where the ball has come out in under 2.6 seconds, and his results there have been remarkable: 73% completion, 10.2 yards/attempt, 19 TD, 0 INT, and only 6 sacks on 198 dropbacks. His team has averaged 35 points per game in those contests too. If you want to get even pickier, he’s had 2 games getting the ball out in under 2.5 seconds: 79% completion, 11.5 yards/attempt, 9 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack. He’s capable of getting the ball out quickly and effectively, even if it’s not his preferred style.

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Super Bowl Preview: Mahomes is Ready to Take Over the NFL

| January 28th, 2020

Patrick Mahomes didn’t even have to sweat.

The 2019 version of the Chicago Bears defense was very good. Not as good as the team’s 2018 defense, but certainly among the better units in the league. They had, for the most part, shut Aaron Rodgers down a week before, but Mahomes was different.

The stat line wasn’t amazing. Mahomes completed 23-of-33 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for another score. It was as ho-hum as three-touchdown games get. But the numbers don’t tell the entire story.

The Bears defense didn’t play poorly.

It was among Khalil Mack’s better efforts, turning Kansas City’s offensive tackles inside out numerous times.

It didn’t matter.

Mahomes was able to step up, move to his right or his left and use different arm angles to deliver passes right on the money. Wide receivers that shouldn’t have been open were because Mahomes can make throws no other quarterback thinks about. Mahomes is just better than any quarterback we’ve ever seen.

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On the Prospects of the Bears Making a Super Bowl Run.

| December 21st, 2018


I was sitting on a stool at The Copper Kettle, my local in Woodside, Queens, and a liquored up friend of mine, a mumbling Irishman known as “Mel” who loves the Pittsburgh Steelers, turned my way. “You know I think you’re going to the Super Bowl,” he said, referring to the Chicago Bears. He actually said, “Joe, binky broofer soul” but I got where his brain was going.

I did what I always do when that particular suggestion is made (and it’s happening more often these days). “We’ll see,” I said. It wasn’t a response out of modesty or fan humility. It wasn’t an attempt to avoid a jinx. In other words, it wasn’t bullshit. It was about altering expectations. That can take time.

I came into this season, especially after the acquisition of Khalil Mack, believing the Bears could weasel their way into the postseason if the quarterback and offense came along by midseason. After watching the Bears dismantle the Vikings from a Paris hotel room in the middle of the night, those expectations changed to a division title. The Bears were clearly the best team in the NFC North. They needed to finish the season atop the table. They did.

Now, with two weeks to go in the regular season, there are only a pair of teams in the NFC with better records than the Bears: the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. And I’m no longer convinced the Bears can’t beat both of them. In any building.

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ATM: Defensive Performance Makes Championship Dreams Valid

| December 11th, 2018

After holding one of the ten best offenses in the history of the league to just one legitimate scoring drive, Super Bowl dreams no longer seem far-fetched for the 2018 Chicago Bears.

Yes, they have to take care of business the rest of the season and any playoff run is going to require Mitch Trubisky to be infinitely better than he was Sunday night. But now that we’ve seen the defense be that good, there’s no reason to put a cap on what the Bears can accomplish this season.

Say what positive you will about the Bears teams of the early-to-mid 2000s, but they never faced — much less beat — an offense like the 2018 Bears just did.

  • 2005 Bears held a Carolina team that averaged more than 24 per game to just three but then got smoked in the playoffs by a legendary Steve Smith performance.
  • 2006 Bears limited the fifth-ranked Saints to 14 points, but that’s still not really comparable as indoor Saints and outdoor Saints are very different things.
  • 2010 Bears played two top-three offenses and gave up 26 and 36 points in those games respectively.

While the defense’s performance Sunday makes the games against Brock Osweiler, Eli Manning and gimpy Aaron Rodgers even more confusing, it also gave validity to their claim as a potentially historic defense. If they can do THAT to the Rams, they can beat anybody — especially when you consider the defensive issues the other top scoring teams have.

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A Somewhat Incoherent Ramble on Why I Don’t Care Much For the Super Bowl

| January 29th, 2018


The Copper Kettle is an actual Irish bar in Woodside, Queens. When I say actual I mean it’s not one of these paint-by-number bullshit paddy joints that spring up in big cities with names like Flanagan’s and Murphy’s and The Perfect Pint. These are bars that throw a couple coats of purple and pink paint on the front facade and think their Guinness is worth $8 because of the “authentic experience”. Meanwhile the Monday night trad session features a fiddle player from Staten Island with an Italian last name.

The Kettle is run by actual Irish people. It is frequented by them too. Folks who identify themselves by county and when they banter about “the football” it ain’t American football OR soccer.

This is usually where I watch the Super Bowl. It’s my local. Two blocks from my apartment. I play golf with the owner once a week. The bartenders are my friends. There’s rarely a face in there I don’t recognize and every time I walk in I hope upon hope that won’t be the case. (If you have a local, you don’t need further explanation.)

I go to the Kettle to watch golf every Sunday. And often Saturdays, Fridays and Thursdays. The bar has comically gained the title “New York’s preeminent golf bar” because (a) I’m good at giving things nicknames and (b) there is NEVER a Sunday during golf season where the final round of a PGA tour event won’t be found on one of it’s five large TVs in the bar area.

That includes Super Bowl Sunday.

Two years ago, well after “the big game” had started, I commandeered prime television real estate to watch Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama battle in a playoff down in Scottsdale. Nobody complained. You know why? Because it’s my local, I’m bigger than everybody else in there and a half dozen Irish fellas in the joint had WAY more money on the golf than on the football. (Shane Lowry falling outside the top five cost Mickey Gobbs at least a grand. Though nobody knows with Gobbs.)

All this was a long-winded way of saying, you know, I just don’t care all that much about the Super Bowl. To me the Super Bowl is to football fans what St. Patrick’s Day is to drinker: a chance for the die hards to step aside and let the amateurs have a go.

I don’t care about your tips for hosting the perfect Super Bowl party. I don’t care about the national anthem or the halftime show or the commercials. And while this may seem odd coming a football fan, I don’t give a damn who wins or loses the game. That’s why I don’t go anywhere special or doing anything of note. Hell, I don’t even bother hopping on the subway to Josie Woods in Manhattan – where I watch every Bears  game – because who cares?

When the Bears were in the game, I spent two sleepless weeks calling random radio shows – Sporting News used to have a station in New York – and playing out the match-up in black and white composition notebooks. If I had been accused of murder in the days after the Super Bowl, those notebooks would have gotten me the chair.

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Five Things the Bears Can Learn From the Patriots

| January 25th, 2018


1. Everything
2. Everything
3. Everything
4. Everything
5. Everything

This was the easiest piece Jeff has ever assigned me!

Seriously, though. The Patriots are back in the Super Bowl for the eighth time in the Brady/Belichick era, and unless the Eagles play absolutely lights out and/or Brady gets legitimately injured and Hoyer has to play, they’re likely going to be lifting up their sixth Lombardi. Love them, hate them, every single football fan would kill to have their team be even half as successful as the Patriots have been these past 16 seasons. So with that in mind, what lessons can our beloved Chicago Bears take from the Patriots as they seek to build their own winning franchise?


1. Consistency is Key

In the 16 years they’ve been paired together as starting QB and head coach, Brady and Belichick have:

  • Made it to the Super Bowl 50% of the time.
  • Been 1st in their division 14 of 16 seasons.
  • Only missed the playoffs twice, and one of those years Brady was out for the entire season.
  • Never had a losing season.

Now it’s impossible to say exactly what their career trajectories would’ve looked like had they never been paired together (obviously Belichick already had success as a coach pre-Brady, and Brady is clearly the GOAT), but you can pretty much guarantee they wouldn’t have achieved this insane level of greatness separately.

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Eight Thoughts on a Bizarre Super Bowl

| February 6th, 2017

I couldn’t believe what I was watching. The morning after, I still can’t believe it. Eight thoughts…

  • The better team won this game. A lot was made of the adjustments made by the Patriots coaching staff as this game progressed but the truth is the Patriots were simply playing an awful game for the better part of three quarters. Brady missed wide open receivers. Edelman had a drop that was an easy 30-35 yard gain. Josh McDaniels couldn’t get a handle on things. When those mistakes stopped, the Pats scored at will.
  • After the brilliant Julio Jones catch, the Falcons are three kneel downs away from taking an 11-point, two possession lead and essentially ending the game. But what did Kyle Shanahan do? He went pass heavy. He went pass heavy!?!?!! Sack. Hold. For the second consecutive Patriots Super Bowl, their opponent lost their mind when the moment got too big.
  • The difference between 4-3 in the Super Bowl and 5-2 is night and day. The Patriots were staring down the barrel of being remembered as a slightly above mediocre Super Bowl team, with many pointing to luck (Pete Carroll) as the only reason they weren’t 3-4 in the Fantastic Football Foray. Instead, the coach and quarterback have five championships and lay claim to the label of the greatest ever.
  • Julian Edelman’s catch (pictured above) was poetic justice. For Tyree. For Manningham down the sideline. For the Welker drop in the open field. No, it didn’t happen against the Giants but there were few eyes not thinking of Big Blue when Edelman scooped the ball off the field of a Falcons defensive back. When that catch happened I thought, “this game is over”.
  • This was not the greatest Super Bowl of all-time. This was the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all-time. It’s hard to call a game great when one team completely folds. The Falcons didn’t sleep last night. They won’t sleep tonight. They won’t sleep tomorrow night. This is the kind of loss franchises have a hard time getting over and Atlanta immediately becomes the most fascinating team in the NFL in 2017. History and the odds will tell you this group will more than likely be sitting home next January.
  • How is James White not the MVP? His versatility and production were the number one key to the Patriots comeback. It’s always somebody you don’t expect with the Pats. This year it was White.
  • Shea McClellin, Super Bowl Champion.
  • The word I’d use for the game: surreal. I was texting with four different people over the course of the game. Here is a text from each one of them:
    • “Wow. This is just…wow.”
    • “I can’t believe this is happening.”
    • “Are the Falcons serious?”
    • “I can’t watch this.” (Jets fan)

One of the most memorable Super Bowls in history. And now the offseason begins.

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Super Bowl LI Prediction

| February 2nd, 2017

Honestly, I haven’t spent much time thinking about this Super Bowl. The NFL starts to drift from my mind moments after the conference championship games are concluded. (At this point, golf begins to take the leaves the lounge and comes into the showroom.) But having seen a boatload of both teams over the course of the season, here are five thoughts:

  • I don’t think the Falcons have enough in their secondary to handle the Patriots spread game. But Dan Quinn’s defense will need to do two things to keep Brady & Co. from piling up the points: (1) avoid the deep hit and (2) tighten up against the run inside the red zone.
  • Brady has lost two Super Bowls and both of them were not solely because of Eli Manning’s heroics. He lost those games because both of those Giants teams got after Brady with their defensive lines. Both of those Giants teams did not require blitzing Brady – which is schematic suicide – to pressure him into quick throws. While Vic Beasley led the league in sacks, the next guy on the Falcons had 4.5. They’ll need more than Beasley.
  • Is it safe to assume the Patriots will take Julio Jones out of this game when the entirety of the football universe believes the Patriots will take Julio Jones out of this game? If we all assume that, doesn’t Kyle Shanahan also assume that? And wouldn’t that mean there’s probably a healthy helping of Sanu and Gabriel and the two backs coming? I think Atlanta is going to have an easy time moving the ball.
  • This has nothing to do with Sunday’s game but I wonder where the Bears would be today if Phil Emery had listened to me and brought in Kyle Shanahan five years ago. I believed then, as I believe now, that Shanahan is going to be an excellent head coach in the league.
  • This game comes down to one player: Matt Ryan. He’s got a checkered playoff past but he has an opportunity to cement his legacy in the league Sunday and don’t think that hasn’t weighed on him the last two weeks. A Super Bowl title gives a quarterback a blank check for the rest of his career. Joe Flacco could write an essay for the Baltimore Sun denouncing the use of Old Bay seasoning and he’s still not going to be replaced as the Ravens signal caller.

The “expert” analysis seems to be moving towards Atlanta every day. I’m not going there.

New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 31

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