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Super Bowl 55 Game Preview, Part II: Five Thoughts & Prediction

| February 5th, 2021


This might be the most interesting Super Bowl in many-a-moon. A lotta star power. Two jolly, red-faced head coaches. The point spread hasn’t moved off three points, so the game is expected to be tight. The total has fluctuated between 56 and 56.5, so the game is expected to be high-scoring. And if those two things happen, we’re looking at an exciting Sunday evening.

Five Thoughts

  • Something about this game reminds me of those classic Patriots/Giants Super Bowls. A high-powered offense on one side and a big-game quarterback/pass rush on the other. If the Bucs are going to beat Reid and Mahomes, they will need the same Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul that terrorized Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship Game. With Eric Fisher out, the Chiefs are exploitable along the offensive line.
  • Early in the season, the Chiefs were not particularly threatening down the field. They dinked and dunked opponents to death. Don’t be surprised if they compensate for their issues upfront by taking a similar approach against the Bucs, especially early in the game. That could mean a lot of quick tosses to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Todd Bowles better have his boys in good tackling form.
  • Usually you can identify a special teams mismatch in these games but there isn’t one here. Both kickers are reliable. Both punters are effective but used sparingly. The Chiefs are narrowly better in the return games. When games are perceived to be this evenly-matched, it may not come down to which specials unit makes a play but instead which avoids the big mistake at a crucial moment.
  • Watch the weather forecast, especially if you’re planning to place any bets. There is predicted rain in Tampa Sunday but the belief now is that should be cleared out by the 6:30 PM ET kickoff. If it does rain, I tend to give an advantage to the quarterback who has seen everything and the steadier rush attack.
  • One can not underestimate the achievement of Mahomes winning his second title. Rodgers hasn’t gotten to a second title game. Brees never got to a second title game. Peyton Manning went along for the ride to get his second ring. Mahomes is four quarters away from football immortality. Will he recognize that?

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Super Bowl Gambling Guide, Volume II: Three Real Props

| February 2nd, 2021


Prop Bet #1

Leonard Fournette to Score a TD: +120

“Playoff Lenny”

The Chiefs allowed 122.1 yards per game on the ground this season but they haven’t really been tested there this postseason. (Cleveland only ran the ball 20 times against them but averaged 5.3 yard a clip.) If the Bucs are going to make this the game I think it will be, Fournette will have to play a major role. That means 20+ attempts, 100+ yards and points.

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Prop Bet #2

Tom Brady OVER 0.5 Rushing Yards: +130

Two points on this prop.

  • It is a situational bet. It requires the Bucs finding themselves in 3rd or 4th and 1 because Brady ain’t scrambling for yards. But Tompa is the greatest sneak quarterback of all-time and in this game every yard feels like twenty. Every first down feels decisive, and that’s especially true when the opponent seems to score at will like Kansas City. Arians will keep this game in the most reliable hands he’s got.
  • Brady has actually hit this number in two of his last four games. So at + money, this is a bet well worth making.

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Prop Bet #3

Travis Kelce OVER 8.5 Catches: +130

Often, it’s very easy to applaud Vegas for how they set these over/unders. But this one is a no-brainer. Here are Kelce’s catch totals over his last ten games: 13, 8, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 10, 8.

This is the Super Bowl. It figures to be a shootout. Kelce is the best receiving option in the sport and Todd Bowles will manufacture pressure every way imaginable, leaving Mahomes to look for his most reliable outlet. My projected line for Kelce: 11 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD.

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ATM: Bears Can’t Afford Half Measures at Quarterback

| January 27th, 2021

If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have proved one thing, it’s that the risk is always worth the reward at quarterback.

It’s easy to look back and say that signing Tom Brady was a no-brainer but tell that to the San Francisco 49ers, the team Brady wanted to go to. There were times when Brady looked flat out washed up over the last two years, but Tampa Bay still took the chance and gave him a two-year $50 million deal. If the decision didn’t work out, every person involved with making it would be finished in Tampa.

Signing Brady gave the Bucs hope. They went from 7-9 to the Super Bowl, with a 43-year-old quarterback who threw 40 touchdown passes during the regular season and seven more in the playoffs.

When it comes to acquiring quarterbacks, there are very few sure things. Jay Cutler looked like it as a 25-year-old Pro Bowler who had what was considered a magnificent season at the time. That 2009 trade didn’t work out quite the way the Bears wanted to, but its “failure” is no reason to be gun shy now.

While he had success, Cutler’s acquisition was as much about potential as anything. When it comes to Deshaun Watson, there is no wondering what he could become because he is already one of the five best quarterbacks in the league. If it takes four first-round picks, the Bears have to offer that. Quarterbacks of his caliber, at his age, don’t become available. Ever.

The other options are more uncertain. Dak Prescott likely won’t be available. Neither Aaron Rodgers nor Matt Stafford will be available to the Bears. Yet the quarterback carousel could still give the Bears an opportunity to grab a good player. Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo are two quarterbacks who are proven to be good, though the latter would require a solid backup as he simply can’t stay on the field.

We still don’t know for sure what the draft will offer the Bears, but if they miss out on Watson, Prescott or Carr, there’s a very good chance the Bears will be spending their first pick on the position. What they can’t do, however, is hope that a quarterback they like drops to them.

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Bears Beat Brady: Rapid Fire, Quarter-By-Quarter, Real Time

| October 9th, 2020


Did something a bit different with this week’s recap. Took notes quarter-by-quarter. So don’t judge what you read in quarter one, follow the entire narrative.

Quarter One

  • Troy Aikman in the pre-game commentary suggested that the Bears running game was built around Mitch Trubisky’s abilities and had to be rethought for Foles. I had never seen or heard that anywhere, but it should be assumed that came from the Bears.
  • Roquan Smith missed a big TFL opportunity and I’m thinking, “Bears need their defensive stars to PLAY like defensive stars.” Smith has to make that play and all-but kill the drive. Khalil Mack has to make the interception last week. This defense has opportunities every single week. They have to take them,
  • Where is Robert Quinn?
  • Nick Foles absolutely can’t miss the easy third down conversion throw on the Bears’ first drive. That’s amateur hour.
  • Does Ted Ginn ever catch punts on the fly? His ball awareness as a return seems severely lacking through a few games. (And boy it seems the Bears miss Tarik Cohen more than I expected they would.)
  • Get the sense Tashaun Gipson more an old school strong safety, even though that position doesn’t actually exist anymore.
  • Allen Robinson, perfect back shoulder throw, off both of his hands, intercepted. Does this guy ever win a contested ball? It seems weekly the answer is no. I know he’s a very good wide receiver but I’m not giving $80 million to a guy who does this every single week.
  • The touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Evan was absolute perfection. He’s Tom Brady for a reason.

Quarter Two

  • Deep ball to Darnell Mooney and third down pass to Robinson, Foles threw the ball to the wrong spot. Foles looks absolutely lost in the playbook right now.
  • Bruce Arians going for it with a sneak on fourth and inches inside his own 20 is borderline insane. But it was the decision I did not want him to make. So that makes it he right one in that spot.
  • Roquan Smith again exploding into the hole and not wrapping up the ball carrier. After Sunday’s game, he’s pitching a dud.
  • Jaylon Johnson called for a pass interference on a deep ball. Terrible mistake on a pass that had no chance of being caught. He’s got to learn to trust his coverage skills. Because he has them.
  • Is it bad that when a kickoff goes over Cordarrelle Patterson’s head my first thought is, “Get a first down before you punt”?
  • Terrific drive orchestrated by Foles to get the Bears into the end zone. Made short, precise throws and gave his guys a chance to make plays.
  • Khalil Mack knocking down Brady’s first down thrown on the Bucs’ final drive of the half was a crucial moment.

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Week Five Game Preview: Bucs at Bears on Thursday Night Football

| October 7th, 2020


How much does a pirate pay for corn?

Buck an ear.


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And I think the offense will get better in the weeks to come. Do I think they’ll be at full stride tomorrow? No. But I think signs of progress will be evident, as they work towards getting the new quarterback up to speed.


On Brady’s Bucs…

As always, you can go look at the statistical rankings and draw your own conclusions on Tampa’s strengths and weaknesses. I watch the Short Cuts of all their games on Sunday Ticket and try to give you in-game insights.

  • Tom Brady’s approach isn’t particularly different than it was in New England. Every once in a while he’ll take a deep shot (Scotty Miller is his guy down there) but his bread is still buttered by the quick toss, intermediate stuff to tight ends and small white receivers and a diverse collection of screens. When Brady’s in rhythm, he’s unstoppable. When he’s pressured out of that rhythm, he’s been giving the defense opportunities to make plays on the football.
    • It could be a product of age, but Brady’s arm strength seems to come and go over the course of a game. He had no zip on the football early against LA. He was flinging it in the third quarter.
    • Mike Evans has become a possession receiver. And a good one.
    • The injury report will have a massive say in what this offense looks like tomorrow night. Most of the skill guys in Tampa are on their report.
  • Ronald Jones power runs are the tone-setters for this offense but Jones has been a real asset in the passing game lately. Will be an interesting test for Roquan Smith, coming off arguably his best game as a Bear.
  • Defense can be attacked vertically, especially on early downs. If the Bears think they can take the same approach they took Sunday and try to bully the Bucs on first downs with the run game, they’ll find themselves behind the chains all day long. (The Chargers had zero success with early-down runs.) When the Bears find themselves chasing down and distance, they need to expect Todd Bowles to bring pressure and attack that pressure with the screen game.
  • An element of the Bucs passing game that the Bears must be ready for is the tight end verticals. O.J. Howards is out for the season but don’t be surprised if that injury doesn’t increase Rob Gronkowski’s role in the game plan.

In Honor of the Buccaneers, My Five Favorite Big Screen Pirates

(5) Steve the Pirate, Dodgeball

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(4) Captain Hook, Hook

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(3) Pirate King, Pirates of Penzance 

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(2) Smee, Disney’s Peter Pan

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(1) Dread Pirate Roberts, The Princess Bride

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Two Veteran Quarterbacks (with Arm Strength Concerns) Over Five Pivotal Days

| September 30th, 2020


Phil Rivers was paid a fortune to take over a franchise that saw their 2019 derailed by an early retirement and injuries at the sport’s most important position.

Tom Brady was paid a fortune to take over a franchise that saw their 2019 derailed by a quarterback who stubbornly refused to stop throwing the ball to the other team.

Neither is the player they once were. They both do everything in their power to avoid contact. They both lack the zip required to fit the football into tight, intermediate windows. They both lack precision on the deep ball, not uncommon for quarterbacks in the twilights of their careers.

But how the Chicago defense performs against these two wily veterans will greatly determine what kind of season this team is going to have. To this point, the defense has been far more bend-don’t-break than recent vintages. They have forced the three opposing QBs – Stafford, Jones and Ryan – to execute long drives to threaten to the end zone. (With the glaring exception being the Atlanta opening drive Sunday.) Being that the unit is ranked 9th in points allowed, it’s hard to argue that strategy hasn’t worked, to a point.

These next two games, that must change. The run defense must be better because both of these quarterbacks are at their best when they get ahead of the chains. The pass rush must dominate because neither of these quarterbacks can operate with players around them. The coverage must be tight because neither of these quarterbacks can make the kinds of throws Stafford make in Week One. If you allow Phil and Tom to dink and dunk you to death, it’s EXACTLY what they’ll do.



The Bears needed to come out of their first three games at 2-1, minimum. They exceeded that, in somewhat miraculous fashion, managing to also close the book on The Trubisky Affair. Now they need a split of these next two. 4-1 (or long shot 5-0) means they’ll have ten days before a a game in Carolina they’ll be expected to win. That is exactly the kind of start that means you’re playing meaningful games in late December, and hopefully beyond.

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A Four-Quarter Game Prediction For Super Bowl 53

| February 1st, 2019

Quarter One

This game starts fast. Both of these offensive coaching staffs thrive on the two weeks of preparation and script out the first 15-20 plays to perfection. Tom Brady does it with his trademark short passing game, exploiting the Rams underneath with a ton of James White. Jared Goff hits the Pats secondary over the top. Call it Brandin Cooks for a 54-yard TD. Three possessions. Three touchdowns.

Score: 14-7 Patriots


Quarter Two

Things slow down. Both offenses try and get their running games established, to limited success. Goff makes the first major mistake as halftime approaches, tossing an interception to Stephon Gilmore, and setting up the Pats for an easy score and a comfortable half-time lead.

Score: 28-14 Patriots


Halftime

Shit.

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Three Thoughts on the Actual Football Game Being Played Sunday in Atlanta

| January 31st, 2019

The best bar in Atlanta.


Thought 1. The Rams need a steady & consistent interior pass rush

Nobody pressures Brady from the perimeter because no quarterback in the history of the league is more comfortable stepping up quickly in the pocket and delivering the short-range bullet to a wide open, usually-white receiver. If your game plan to defend him is reliant upon edge pressure and disguised coverages (*cough* Vic Fangio *cough*) Brady will dice you up like a sous-chef working a garlic bulb.

You must put defenders in his face. And few teams are better equipped to do so than Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and these Rams. This game has career-defining potential for Donald.


Thought 2. Where the hell is Todd Gurley?

A few months back, the player Bill Belichick would have completely removed from this game would have been Todd Gurley. “Eliminate Gurley and force Jared Goff to beat us” might have been his rallying cry. And it would have been the correct approach. The Bears showed the league that if you take away the Los Angeles rushing attack and pressure Goff, you control the game.

But Gurley seems to have eliminated himself, unless you believe the injury fairy tale spewing out of the City of Angels. C.J. Anderson has somehow become every bit the horse but Anderson does not have anywhere near the game-changing explosiveness of a man many considered the best offensive weapon in the sport in, like, October! If the Rams are going to win this game, Gurley can’t be riding the stationary bike on pivotal possessions.


Thought 3. Return Men

Three names will be involved.

For the Rams, JoJo Natson.

For the Pats, Cordarrelle Patterson and Julian Edelman.

All three are capable of conjuring the kind of game-altering play that decides which team is holding the Lombardi at the end of the evening. (And all three rank in the top ten at all the relevant return statistics.)

Who will it be? Watch out for Patterson. If Greg the Leg gives him an opportunity to give the Pats an easy six, he may just do it.

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ATM: All About Matt and Mitch

| January 29th, 2019

As the New England Patriots prepare to play in their 79th Super Bowl of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era, they serve as the sport’s finest example of what the Bears – and every other organization – are trying to accomplish.

We can talk about Chuck Pagano, Khalil Mack, future first-round picks, draft steals and everything else, but what this era of Bears football becomes depends almost entirely on the quality of the head coach and the quarterback. And the first year got off to an adequate start for Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky.

The Bears were a top ten offense in both points per drive and DVOA until the QB was injured. Then they slid back. They struggled for most of the playoff game, but the quarterback made enough big plays to give them a chance to win.

Then Ray Finkle blew it.



Despite what Lt. Lois Einhorn did with those uprights, the Bears coach and QB gave us hope for the future. Hope that this thing could be special.

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