NFL Final Four

The NFL version of the final four is here and should be an exciting Sunday.

It’s not college basketball’s March Madness, but it’s the NFL’s version of it.  The final four teams left in the playoffs, Vikings, Eagles, Patriots and Jaguars, are ready to determine who’s going to the Super Bowl.  It’s no surprise the Patriots are there once again!  After all the injuries I think everyone is surprised the others made it this far.  If you are tired of the Patriots being here again, there is a simple solution, just step up and beat them.  Until that happens or Tom Brady  retires, get use to it.

This weekend of playoff games could be very interesting.  If the Jaguars can keep from turning the ball over and play their style of defense, I give them a good chance to win.  This has to be a game of no mistakes, including untimely penalties.  Turnovers, defensive penalties, and giving the Patriots great field position will allow Tom to put a lot of  points on the board.  I just don’t see Jacksonville scoring 40 points again.  If the Jaguars can keep Tom and the Patriots under 23 points, I think they will win.  Everyone knows that Tom and the Patriots have been here before, many times, but this is the first kick at the can for Blake Bortles.   Hopefully he can stay calm and keep up his error free play.  The old saying, “Defenses win championships” may never be to put to the test more than this weekend.  Personally, I love the underdogs but it is hard to bet against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

The NFC Championship game is full of incredible stories.  Both quarterbacks, Nick Foles of the Eagles, and Case Keenum of the Vikings are great stories with potential storybook endings.  Basically Case was the third quarterback on the Vikings roster.  Right now, in my opinion, he is the league MVP.  The way he has played this year and how he has led the Vikings is something Disney couldn’t have scripted.  Nick Foles stepped in for Carson Wentz, who at the time of his injury was the leading candidate for this years league MVP.  Now he is in the position to take the Eagles to the Super Bowl.  Before this season started, you could’t have made this up.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS always talks about his his gut feelings.  My guts are telling me that the Eagles are going to win.  But the rest of my anatomy is on the Vikings.  Nothing would be better for the NFL than to have the Vikings become the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl hosted by their home town.  If that happens, Disney will come out with a fairy tale type movie, guaranteed!

The Outdoor Quarterback

 

The NFL Playoffs Continue

The Vikings against the Saints should be the best game of the weekend, it’s indoors so no blizzard just great football!

I am still depressed over the Chiefs loss!  It’s time to get over it and move on.  The next round of the NFL playoffs are coming up and there will be some great games.  In my opinion the Vikings against the  Saints  will be the best game of the weekend.  Even though I played for the Vikings and I like their chances, there is something about the Saints this year.  They may have to best tandem running backs in the NFL with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, who is in the running, no pun intended, for offensive rookie of the year.  It has been a long time since I have seen two backs that complement each other like they do.  If the Vikings stop the run, which their defense can, then you have to deal with Drew Brees.  I am not sure there would be many other quarterbacks I would rather have playing for me in the playoffs than Drew, maybe Tom Brady, Joe Montana or John Elway.  I know it is a short list!

One thing about the Saints this year is the improvement of their defense.  They are fast, play with great intensity and everyone runs to the ball.  They are led by Cameron Jordan, who’s engine never stops running.  Of all the defensive players in the league right now, I wouldn’t hesitate to turn the channel to a Saints game to watch him play.  There are not many other defensive players I would do that for, JJ Watts, Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Luke Kuechly are about it.  Along with Cameron, all of the players are game changers, keep an eye on 94.

Two of the best stories in the NFL this year are quarterback Case Keenum and wide receiver Adam Thielen.  I can absolutely make a case for Case Keenum as the NFL MVP.  To do what he has done for the Vikings this year is incredible.  I have been so impressed with how he has led this team and what he has accomplished.  I have become such a fan of his, I made him my starting quarterback in fantasy football.  The other big story this year for the Vikings is the play of wide receiver Adam Thielen.  He has caught 91 passes for 1,276 yards. Not bad for a free agent.  Adam had the longest pass reception for the vikings this year, 65 yards.  No question about it, he will be Case’s favorite target against the Saints.

Just a reminder, both teams play in a dome stadium, so no advantage for the Vikings.  The noise for the home town team will be!

The Outdoor Quarterback

Playoffs Are Here And The Chiefs Are At Home!

The Chiefs are in position to win a home playoff game, let’s see if they can!

Well of course I am going to talk about the Chiefs winning the division and getting a home playoff game!  Let’s just hope there isn’t a mid- season relapse and that they continue to play like they have for the past three weeks!  Very proud of how they have battled back to the way they started the season.

The Titans will be coming to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs.  Tennessee  has beaten the Chiefs the last two times they played.  Over the years, playing at Arrowhead has been a huge advantage.  I guess they will find out if that is still true late Saturday afternoon.  Should be a great game!

Two key players will be absent from the Chiefs roster, De’Anthony Thomas and Akeem Hunt.  Both have contributed significantly to the Chiefs offense and special teams this season.  Running back C.J. Spiller has been signed to the Chiefs roster for the fourth time this year.  Spiller knows the offense and should add depth to the running back position and on special teams.  He could be a factor in this weeks playoff game against the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans are led by third year quarterback  Marcus Mariota.  No question Marcus is a play maker and can hurt you throwing the football as well with his legs.  A key scramble with a picture perfect stiff arm, led to a critical first down that put the game on ice for the Titans and secured their playoff position.

I think their defense in underestimated.  They are number one in the NFL in not giving up deep passes, while the Chiefs, believe it or not, lead the NFL in  deep throws.  This could be a key factor in winning or losing the game.  If the Chiefs can complete one pass play over 40 yards, I believe they will win.  They need to stretch the field early to open up the running game for Kareem Hunt.  The Chiefs have the weapon that can do that, Tyreek Hill, the Cheetah!

Go Chiefs!

The Outdoor Quarterback

 

NFL Playoff Picture Is Getting Clearer

Christmas may come early for some NFL teams.

This past weekend cleared up some of the NFL playoff scenarios.  New England, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville have all secured playoff spots.  Congratulations goes out to Jacksonville and Minnesota for their year so far.  Minnesota had to go to their backup quarterback, Case Keenum, who is now in the running for the league MVP.  The Jaguars quarterback, Blake Bortles, has come on strong in the last three games.  Blake has the highest QB rating over those three weeks than any other quarterback in the NFL.  Both the Vikings and Jaguars defenses have played a huge role in their success.  Don’t be surprised to see both of these teams go deep in the playoffs.

That is what we know.  What we don’t know is how things are going to shake out in the divisions that are undecided.  The Chiefs needs to win just one of their two remaining games to win the AFC West.  The Rams, Saints and Panthers are all 10-4 and look good to make the playoffs.  The Panthers are at the top of the wild card picture.  The Falcons, by winning out, could actually win their division.  They hold the tie breaker over the Saints.  They need to win at least one more game to make the playoffs.  Their last two games are against the Panthers and the Saints.  All of these teams, Saints, Falcons and Jaguars are playing playoff level football.  I like the Saints.  I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these three teams makes it to the Super Bow.  The last two weeks of the season for the NFC South are going to be intense!

The team, I think, that may be a big surprise in this years playoffs is the LA Rams.  This past week they put a beating on the Seahawks, which I didn’t think was possible, especially in Seattle.  The only thing that will stop the Rams is the lack of playoff experience.  They are my long shot to make to the NFC championship.

Santa is going to come early to some of these teams on Christmas Eve!

The Outdoor Quarterback

Great NFL Match Ups in Week 14

Week 14 in the NFL is must watch TV! Don’t miss it.

There are some great games this week in the NFL.  One particular game is the Chiefs vs Raiders.  Both teams are 6 and 6 with division implications written all over it.  The loser of this game maybe out of the playoffs for this year.  I know the Chiefs have won 6 out of the last 7 meetings, but the Chiefs have been in a downward spiral for past six weeks.  The Raiders won the first meeting on a late fourth quarter touchdown in Oakland.  This is one of the best rivalries in all of the NFL, I am sure that loss doesn’t sit well with the Chiefs.  But for the Chiefs to win, they must tackle on defense and play less conservatively on offense, much like they did against the Jets and the New England Patriots.

Another game that I will be watching is the Saints vs Falcons.  As a former quarterback, this game offers two of the best in the league.  A for sure Hall of Fame’r, Drew Brees and a potential Hall of Fame’r Matt Ryan.  Love to watch these guys play.  Neither one of them are afraid to toss the rock in tight spots.  Both the Saints and Falcons can run the ball well, which will present challenges to each teams defenses.  My two favorite players in this match up are, Julio Jones (Falcons) and Alvin Kamara  (Saints).  Jones may be the best receiver in the NFL and Alvin could be offensive rookie of the year.  Each of these players can do it all at their positions.  Should be exciting to watch.

One other game that I will turn on this weekend is the Rams vs Eagles.  The two quarterback were drafted 1 and 2 two years ago.  Both Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are exceeding everyone’s expectations.  The Rams and Eagles are leading their respective divisions.  Each of these quarterbacks are having, statistically, great years.  More importantly they are winning games.  Must see TV for the football junkies.

A great weekend for meaningful games.  Don’t miss them!

The Outdoor Quarterback

A Catastrophic Fall From First Place

The collapse of the Kansas City Chiefs is now at historic proportion!

The Kansas City Chiefs have managed to do something that has only been done by three teams in the Super Bowl Era.  That is start the season 5 – 0 and lose 6 of the next 7 games.  That isn’t a statistic you want to be known for.  It is a catastrophic fall that has only happened two others times.  Collapse would be the most appropriate adjective.

In this case, it is easy to spread the blame.  There is no question several of the key players are under performing.  In this last game against the NY Jets, the Chiefs premier outside linebacker and pass rusher, Justin Houston, did not register a tackle, hurry or sack.  Key players like Justin have to step up in games like this.  Then the Chiefs have a player, Marcus Peters who, in my opinion, has become a detriment to the team, especially on the field.  He doesn’t tackle, he is giving up big plays and has had several untimely penalties do to his immaturity.  Something needs to be done with him!

The offense, in several of the previous 6 losses, must shoulder some of the blame.  But when your offense scores 30 and 31 points you should win games in the NFL.  This hasn’t been the case for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs have shown signs of undisciplined play on the field, both on offense and defense.  Dropped passes, offensive penalties and confusion.  The defense, has at times, been out of position at the snap of the ball.  How can you make your reads if you are not in position when the play starts?  Poor tackling is the most consistent thing being done on the defense.  These are not effort issues they are discipline issues.  Something good teams don’t have.

So who is responsible for the current situation?  It’s my opinion it is both the players and the coaches.  Andy Reed turned over the play calling to the quarterback coach, Matt Nagy, and they put up 31 points and over 500 yards of offense, that was a step in the right direction.  But Andy needs to get control of the confusion and undisciplined play on the field.

Just as important to a teams overall success, from an offensive perspective, special teams strategy and the defensive approach are the plays being called.  Whoever has that responsibility for the Chiefs defense, is not doing a very good job.  They can’t stop the run effectively.  It seems that every quarterback the Chiefs play against can escape when they need to on critical 3rd downs for first downs.  To me it appears the Chiefs defensive coaches are putting the players in bad positions and have no chance to be successful.

I would go back and look at what the defense did well in the first 5 games and compare it to the the last 6 losses.

One last thing, another trick play may have cost the Chiefs the game against the Jets!  Get rid of them!

The Outdoor Quarterback

Contenders and Pretenders!

It takes more than just good play to make you a contender in the NFL, you have to make the right decisions!

Right now in the NFL there are contenders and pretenders.  The contenders are teams that consistently play smart and aggressively.  The Patriots, the Saints, the Eagles and the Vikings are teams that come to mind.  You can always count on these teams on making the fewest mistakes, play smart and capitalizing on opportunities.  They don’t play with smoke and mirrors and don’t need trickery to win games.  Their play calling, both on offense and defense, is well designed and timely.  They seem to make the right calls at the most opportunistic times.  The contenders in the NFL today have balanced attacks on offense and aggressive style defenses.  Smart teams and smart coaches understand the meaning of, “take what they give you”, from an offensive perspective and,  “take away what they do best”, from a defensive perspective.  There is one other thing that separates the contenders from the pretenders, when the contenders smell blood in the water they take on the mind set of a feeding shark, they continue to attack!  That is the kind of mental make up a contender has.

Now for the pretenders, the Cowboys, Seahawks, Bills, Lions and the Chiefs!  First, injuries happen and when you loose a key player or two it can have a significant effect on a games outcome.  Second, those teams who are contenders also have injuries and manage find the next man up and keep things moving along.  Contenders also seem to find ways to win, even with new players.  You very seldom see drastic changes in their offensive or defensive production.  Teams who are pretenders just don’t do a good job with personnel changes.  Or sometimes it is just bad decisions on the coaches part.  This past week the Bills made a change at quarterback.  The Bills were sitting in the 6th wild card position and are contending for a playoff spot.  If this change at quarterback was an experiment in a science lab, it would have blown up the entire department.  That is how bad of a decision it was.  Five interceptions in the first half by the newly inserted quarterback.  Those five interceptions led to more than half the points scored by the Chargers and may have taken the Bills out of the playoff picture.  What were you thinking?  Not only was this a bad decision, but a really dumb decision!  Now the Chiefs, who are at the top of the pretender list, started the season 5 and 0, lose to a Giants team that was 1-8 and the 31st ranked defense in the league.  The Chiefs only scored 9 points and no touchdowns.  How does that happen?  By bad playing calling and poor execution on offense and really bad tackling on defense!  The Chiefs right now lead the AFC West, not because they are playing well but because the rest of the division is playing badly.   In the game against the Giants, the Chiefs used more trick plays than I have ever seen in an NFL game!  Two of the Chiefs three turnovers were on trick plays.  Those two turnovers led to Giants scores and a Chiefs loss.  Not what contenders do.  Andy,  you are better than that!

If you want to become a contender, do it the right way and get rid of bad play calling and poor personnel decisions.

The Outdoor Quarterback

How Important Are NFL Kickers and Punters?

NFL punters and kickers now play a more strategic role than at any time in league history.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the comment ” kickers aren’t athletes!”  Not true my friends.  I had the privilege of playing with, and holding for, up until this year, the only kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jan Stenerud.  Jan went to college on a skiing scholarship.  Ryan Succop from the Tennessee Titans played on his college golf team.  I know several punters who played other positions and other sports.  Hall of Fame punter, Ray Guy, was a defensive back at Southern Miss.

I will admit they aren’t the greatest tacklers on the team. I have seen many punters and kickers fail in their attempt to tackle a punt or kick off returner.  They always make the highlights on ESPN when that happens!  A bit embarrassing for the kickers and punters, but they are used to it and just roll with the punches.  But when one of them actually hits someone, the guys on the special teams go ballistic!

Punters are a lot like soccer players in that when they get hit you would have thought someone had cut their leg off with a dull knife.  But, shortly after the penalty is called, they get up and run off the field like nothing happened and you wonder, what acting school did he attended?

All kidding aside, punters today have a unique talent for kicking the ball and having it land inside the ten yard line.  Punters have become a real offensive weapon.  The Chiefs punter, Dustin Colquitt, is year in and year out the best in the NFL for punting the ball inside the 20 yard line.  By the way, he is and avid outdoorsman and golfer.

I have seen several games this year where the Punters were the best offensive weapon the team had and that the place kickers were the only reason the team won.  During the Monday night game just recently played between the Colts and Titans, Ryan Succop kicked 5 field goals in their win against Indy.  His 43 yard field goal set a new NFL record for consecutive kicks made inside of 50 yards, 47! 

Just ask the teams who have lost games because their kicker missed a last second field goal, or had a punter shank a punt and giving their opponents great field position.  What would they have given for a stud kicker or punter?  A lot!

The Outdoor Quarterback

 

Brady, Most Regular Season Wins, Super Bowl Wins, Playoff Wins and ETC….

I believe Tom Brady will go down as the greatest quarterback to have ever played the game.

As a former quarterback who played in the NFL, I am always amazed when I watch Tom Brady play.  At 40 years old he still has one of the best arms in all of football.  I have always said his foot work, release point and overall fundamentals are better than anyone who has ever played the game.  He has Dan Marino’s quick release, Aaron Rogers arm strength with Payton Manning’s, Drew Brees’s and Joe Montana’s command of the game.  I could mention other quarterbacks to compare Tom’s abilities too, John Elway, Brent Farve, Warren Moon and Dan Fouts come to mind.  You would have to roll up all of their collective skills and successes to have one Tom Brady.

He now has the most regular season wins along with the most Super Bowl Wins, add to that the most playoff wins.  The list of his career achievements and where he stands with all time rankings, among NFL quarterbacks, is historic.

All of the quarterbacks I have mentioned are either in the Pro Football Hall of Fame or will be.  They all have had incredible careers in the National Football League.  When all is said and done and the dust is cleard, Tom Brady will be recognized as greatest quarterback to have ever played the game.

There is a short list of players I would stop what I was doing to watch play, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Joe Montana, Joe Namath and Gayle Sayers.  You can now add Tom Brady’s name to that list.

What makes all of this so amazing is that Tom is 40 years old!  If I were still playing, I would be studying Tom’s tapes and would try to duplicate his fundamentals.  Something all these young quarterbacks should be doing.  That’s my compliment to Tom.

The Outdoor Quarterback

Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Kareem Hunt?

Kareem Hunt is a rising start in the NFL, if he keeps this up, someday the Hall of Fame maybe knocking at his door.

I played professional football for 9 years and had the opportunity to play against, or see in person, some of the greatest running backs that ever played the game; Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith to name a few.  Think about the players I left off that list.  Hall of Fame backs like OJ Simpson, Tony Dorsett, Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson.  Let me tell you about a rookie running back who’s name is being mentioned and compared to all of these great HOF running backs, Kareem Hunt, running back for the Kansas City Chiefs.

In the first three games of the 2017 NFL season, Kareem has tied or broken records for a running back, going as far back as the 1920’s!  I can say as an spectator and not as a former Chief, maybe with a little bias, that Kareem is the real deal and possesses the attributes of all of the previously mentioned running backs.  In addition to all those skills Kareem appears to have the leg strength of HOF players like Jim Brown, Larry Csonka and John Riggins, who were all known for their powerful running styles.

He is quick, fast and demonstrates great vision.  For his size he has incredible leg strength and balance, all characteristics of a great running back.  In college he had over 800 carries without a fumble, which is ironic because his first carry for the Chiefs, he fumbled.  That turnover must have lit a fire or turned on the light, because what he has done since is historic.  I am sure I am like many other fans of the NFL, I can’t wait to see what he does next.

I am not putting him in the HOF yet, that is determined on your career accomplishments.  I am just saying barring any career ending type of injuries, he has all the abilities of every name I have mentioned, all who are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not bad for a rookie!

The Outdoor Quarterback