Super Bowl LIII Recap

17 years ago, the Patriots held “The Greatest Show on Turf” to 17 points. Tonight it all came full circle. Yes, Tom Brady has ring number six and Gronk may be retiring, but the story belongs to one man. William Stephen Belichick is a genius. A mastermind of the NFL defense, the architect of a sixty minute strangle hold on the Rams offense. The Patriots held the Rams to 62 yards of rushing, and under 200 yards of passing. They disguised pressure, they brought twists and stunts, and they went all out when called for. The Patriots don’t have a Brady on defense, nor do they have a Suh or Donald. They have 15-20 players who have brought into the system, into the “Patriots way.” Tonight, it took big performances from all of them, from Stephon Gilmore to John Simon. Brian Flores deserves much of the credit, and his hire is well deserved. However, the Patriots are so frustratingly good because of their leadership and consistency. They won 11 games when Brady missed the ’08 season with an ACL tear, and they won 3 of 4 during the “Deflategate” suspension. Players come and go, and coordinators come and go, and Belichick stays and wins. The Rams will be around, maybe they will come back next year and go one step further. It only took Sean McVay two years to prove to the NFL that he was it’s future. Offensive masterminds are the future, each rule change seems to favor offenses. Quarterbacks throw 5,000 yard seasons with regularity. Football is an increasingly offensive game, but there is a 66 year old defensive specialist who isn’t ready to concede just yet.

Super Bowl LIII Preview

One day Tom Brady’s career will end. Lebron James will say goodbye. Mike Trout will have a last at-bat. When those days come, I hope to be able to say I watched them. I really watched them, I tuned in from January to December and watched the greatest go to work. Some players are great because of a single moment, while others put up gaudy stats over a long career. The greatest ever in the sports of football and basketball separate themselves with wins. It is simply what they do, and we learn to accept it, even expect it. Jordan’s flu game, Brady down 28-3, Lebron taking down a 73 win Warriors squad. We know it must end, it always does. No one is undefeated, except time. However, a small part of us believes it will never end, that maybe this time he will play forever. Because just when the signs start to show, just when the great plays come only in bursts, it is then that they rise up and shock us again. There are some who seem so addicted to winning we just can’t imagine them doing anything else. Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan. They came to play every day, even when their fans and coaches were already looking towards the playoffs they kept coming. Maybe that is how you have the opportunity to put up career playoff numbers that are as good as a full career. For Brady, he is over ten thousand yards, over 70 TDs, and sitting at 29 wins. In the Super Bowl, he has thrown for over 2,500 yards and 18 TDs. He will enter his 9th and go for his 6th, but he is up against quite the task. Suh and Donald will come and they will keep coming. McVay will take some early shots to test New England’s secondary. This is not a team that is going to bend to the legend. They have played great football all year and they will play another great game on Sunday. The Rams will have to discover quickly how they plan to run, because you assume one RB will have the hotter hand. Too often in the last few years we have watched a great young team lead by a brilliant coach and a talented QB and we declare them the next dynasty. I don’t know about a dynasty for a Rams, but I see a team that will show up every year for a good number of years. There are so many storylines and so many things to watch. Will Brandin Cooks ball out against his old team? Will Gronk be more involved? The real game will be between the vaunted Rams defensive line and the steady and calm Pats o-line. Brady needs protection obviously, but they also need to set up the run to control the game. The chess match between Belichick and McVay will be incredible, but I can’t see the Patriots losing two Super Bowls in a row. Pick- Pats 31-24 MVP: Tom Brady.

Championship Weekend Recap

For the first time in history both championship games went into overtime. The Super Bowl is only two weeks away and it feels like a year, but we couldn’t have asked for two better games. Patriots vs. Rams in Atlanta in two weeks. Rams 26 Saints 23 OT- The no-call is what everyone else will focus on and for good reason. I’m going to discuss the other 59:55 in the game, but to be clear the Saints should have won. The Saints started off brilliantly with Brees looking calm and collected. The defense came up with a huge interception deep in Rams territory. Despite being in the Redzone for both of their beginning drives the Saints only took six points away. After a forced punt Drew Brees got the ball back and wouldn’t settle for a field goal. He threw a TD to Garrett Griffin who was an undrafted player off the practice squad. The Rams finally showed signs of life by going for it on 4th and 5 with a pass by their punter, Johnny Hekker. They ended that drive with a field goal to get on the board and make it 13-3. The two teams traded punts until Goff was given the ball with 2 minutes left of the half. He promptly lead them down the field including completing a 36 yarder to Brandin Cooks. The drive was capped off by a Todd Gurley TD, one of his four carries of the day. The Saints started the second half much like they started the first, they forced a three and out and scored a TD. Brees exploited the mismatch of Kamara being taken by linebackers and ended the drive with a 2 yard TD pass to Taysom Hill. The Rams answered with their own TD drive with another long pass to Cooks. This time Tyler Higbee caught the short TD to make it 20-17. The teams again traded a few punts and then the Rams went on a drive to the Saints one. Nothing at the goal line worked so they kicked the field goal to tie it up. The Saints answered with a field goal of their own to retake the lead with just a minute forty left. However, Goff did his job and so did Zuerlein who nailed the 48 yarder to send the game into OT. The Saints won the coin toss, but that’s all they could win. Brees was pressured and hit as he released the dooming interception. The Rams only advanced to the Saints 39, but somehow it was enough for Zuerlein who hit the 57 yarder with ease. The Rams haven’t been in the Super Bowl since 2002. Patriots 37 Chiefs 31 OT- The Patriots started the game off with an 80 yard TD drive of 8:05. Then they sacked Mahomes on 3rd down and began to drive again. A rare Brady interception at the goal line kept the Patriots from scoring again, but the Patriots defense kept giving the ball back to Brady. This Patriots drive before the end of the half was quicker and was capped off by a 29 yard TD pass to Phillip Dorsett. The Patriots went into the half with a 14 point lead, but more importantly Mahomes was being picked off the turf by his linemen every play. Something in the locker room worked because Mahomes came out firing. He completed a 54 yard pass to Sammy Watkins and a 12 yard TD to Travis Kelce. The Patriots took advantage of a bad punt with a field goal to push their lead to 17-7. Mahomes ended the 3rd quarter with a nice drive and started the 4th with a TD. Brady got down to the 25 of the Chiefs, but on 4th and 1 they were stuffed and the Chiefs took over. The Chiefs couldn’t go anywhere and punted the ball which appeared to go off of Julian Edelman giving the ball back to the Chiefs with great field position. After a review it was determined that he didn’t touch it, but then Brady threw a pick off the hands of Edelman and the Chiefs took the ball anyway. The Chiefs took their first lead of the game on a 23 yard TD pass from Mahomes to Damien Williams. With 7:45 on the clock and his team down by 4, Brady used a combination of good passes and good runs to retake the lead with just 3 and a half minutes to go. We had seen Brady do it many times, but could Mahomes rise to the challenge? He only needed 5 plays. With the score 28-24 in favor of the Chiefs, Brady returned to the field with 2 minutes to go. The Chiefs looked like they won the game when they forced another interception, but an offsides call negated it. Burkhead ran it in to make it 31-28 with 40 seconds left. Nothing fazes Mahomes as he drove them into field goal range and watched as Butker tied it to force overtime. The Patriots won the toss and Mahomes watched the end of his season from the sidelines. Brady brilliantly drove the Patriots down the field again and Burkhead punched it in. The Patriots advance to their 3rd Super Bowl in a row and Brady’s 9th.

Championship Weekend Preview

Rams (13-3) at Saints (13-3)- It wouldn’t be controversial at all to say the two best teams in the NFC have made it through. Both teams feature explosive attacks in the air and on the ground. Both have solid defenses that are capable of stopping the run. These two have met before, with the Saints ending the Rams perfect run at 8-0. The Saints won that one in week 9 45-35. In the Divisional round the Rams not only beat the Cowboys, but also discovered a gift in CJ Anderson. Anderson and Gurley give the Rams a two headed monster to try and match the Saint’s Ingram and Kamara. The Saints defense was impressive in their win over the Eagles, holding the defending champs to 14 points. They forced 2 interceptions and allowed only 49 yards of rushing. The two teams are hot, well rounded, and well coached. It should make for a crazy game. Drew Brees lead the league in both completion percentage and QB rating. The Rams defense was less than stellar as they allowed an average QB rating of 93.8 for 17th in the league as well as over 122 yards of rushing for 23rd. The Rams were unable to put too much pressure on QBs with only 41 sacks for 15th in the NFL. The Rams saving grace on defense is turnovers. They forced 30 turnovers for 3rd in the NFL. Jared Goff averaged the 5th most passing yards per game with 293. He may find even more success against a Saints squad that allowed 269 yards per game. The Saints tied for the 5th most sacks with 49, but their real strength was stopping the run. They allowed only 80.2 yards per game for second in the league. Very similar teams in a lot of ways, the separation may come via the run. Either way the veteran QB is playing at a high level. Pick: Saints 28-24. Patriots (11-5) at Chiefs (12-4)- The Patriots heard our criticism and answered. They came up big on both sides of the ball and effectively put the Chargers away early. The Chiefs had a similar outcome against the Colts. Here we are the young QB who lit up the football world vs the veteran who keeps beating time. This Patriots team is built well for their QB, despite not having the best weapons around him. They rushed for over 150 yards and didn’t allow a sack against the Chargers. Meanwhile the Chiefs won handily without a monster game from Mahomes. The defense showed up in a big way and they looked like a complete team. The Patriots have done most of their good work at home including a week 6 43-40 win against these Chiefs. It will be a test to see if they can pull it off on the road. Mahomes put together an incredible season and the key to stopping the Chiefs begins and ends with him. The Patriots can’t boast much on pass defense, but did finish tied for 5th in turnovers with 28. Overall defensively they were seventh in points given up a game with just 20.3. The Chiefs were tied for first in sacks with 51 and picked up 3 more last week. Their ability to make Brady uncomfortable would seem like their best shot. Although the talk of the football world will be on the QBs, the Patriots may decide to rely heavily on the run. The Patriots were 5th in rushing yards per game with 127.3 and tied for 4th with18 rushing TDs. They bring that to a Kansas City team that allowed 132.1 rushing yards per game which was a lowly 27th in the NFL. The Chiefs were the most penalized team in the NFL with 137. It will be cold but not the freezing whether we anticipated. The QBs will get the most coverage but beware of the New England running game. Pick: Patriots 34-28.

Divisional Round Recap

Colts at Chiefs- The snow came down along with the Colts offense. The Chiefs knocked out the Colts 31-13. The Chiefs offense has always been the story, but in this matchup many were focused on a hot Colts attack against a dismal secondary. The Chiefs defense came to play. They took care of business only allowing one offensive touchdown. The surprising star of the attack was Running Back, Damien Williams. Patrick Mahomes had a decent showing and proved the spotlight suits him. They will need him to be more proactive in the offense against New England. Cowboys at Rams- The Rams are moving onto the NFC title game. They quite literally ran there. C.J. Anderson ran for 123 yards and 2 TDs and Todd Gurley ran for 115 yards and a touchdown. The D-line did it’s job holding Elliot to under 50 yards rushing. Dak had a solid game and didn’t turn the ball over, but it wasn’t enough to carry Dallas. The backbreaker came with just over 7 minutes to go in the game when Sean McVay went for it on 4th and goal. C.J. Anderson powered it in and the Rams took a 2 score lead that they would not relinquish. Chargers at Patriots- A vintage Pats performance. The team was firing on all cylinders and scored early and often. The Chargers couldn’t even begin to try to run the ball because they were down so early. Two late TDs by Phillip Rivers made it 41-28. The Patriots are hard enough to beat as it is, but when they put up over 500 yards and 40 points, all is lost. Eagles at Saints- This one is kind of bittersweet. Drew Brees is an incredible QB and person, but the magic of Nick Foles was fun also. It seems that all things must come to an end. The Saints defeated the defending champs 20-14. The Eagles began the game with a quick start to get ahead 14-0, but a furious drive by the Saints and a last minute field goal made it 14-10 before the half. That is when Drew Brees orchestrated the drive of the playoffs. A 92 yard drive that took up 11:29! A field goal made it a 6 point game and gave Nick Foles a chance to show some magic. The Eagles got it into the Saints 30 yard line, but a drop by Alshon Jeffery was intercepted by Marshon Lattimore effectively ending the game. Michael Thomas had a career day catching 12 passes for 171 yards and a TD. Next Week- The 1 seeds and 2 seeds move on for the first time since 2015. The Rams will play at the Saints and the Patriots will play at the Chiefs. Both should be exciting matchups.

Preview of Divisional Weekend

Life comes at you fast, here we are at week 2 of the NFL postseason. The Patriots, Chiefs, Saints, and Rams join the four winners from last week. So let’s dive in with an in-depth view of each game. Colts (10-6) at chiefs (12-4)- The Colts manhandled the Texans, running all over them. Luck looks healthy and confident. The defense is playing on top of their game and this team is red hot. On the other side they will face Patrick Mahomes who is the likely MVP. He took the NFL by storm throwing 50 TDs as a first year QB! The concern for the Chiefs is all 4 of their losses were against other playoff teams and in those losses they gave up an average of 41 points in those games. Offensively the Chiefs bring the advantage, Mahomes was first in TDs with 50 and second in passer rating with 113.8. The Colts defense was 16th in passing yardage, giving up 238 yards a game. As a defensive unit the Colts gave up 21.5 points a game which was 10th in the league. The true battle will be in the trenches because the Chiefs racked up 52 sacks this year to tie for the league lead. The Colts lead the NFL by only giving up 18 sacks. The Colts line is lead by 4 Colt drafted players and 3 in the first round. Despite having more time, Luck has thrown 15 interceptions and threw another against Houston in the Wild Card round. The Colts are hot and the DBs of Kansas City have shown their struggles against good QBs, but they will do just enough for Mahomes and that high flying offense. Pick: Chiefs 35-27. Cowboys (10-6) at Rams (13-3)- Ezekiel Elliot is a monster and showed it against Seattle. The Cowboys have been rolling, winning 8 of their last nine beating the Eagles twice and Saints once. Dak Prescott claims his knee is fine and Cowboys fans better hope so. Aaron Donald against the Cowboys line could prove critical especially if Dak is feeling any kind of pain. The Rams have their own concerns with Todd Gurley, but he also seems to be healthy. The Rams put together a strong campaign with the best record in the league and losses to only the Saints, Bears, and Eagles. The Cowboys rushing defense is one of the best in the NFL as they finished 5th in yards allowing a mere 94.6 per game. The Cowboys defense allowed only 20.3 points a game putting them in sixth in that category. This clashes with Todd Gurley and the Rams potent rushing attack, they finished 3rd in yards per game with 139.4 and second in TDs with 23. Another fight will be over 3rd downs as the Rams convert 45% of theirs for 5th in the league. The Cowboys are 27th on defensive 3rd downs allowing 42.5%. The Rams defense forced 30 turnovers this season which was 3rd in the league, they finished with a turnover differential of +11 to the Cowboy’s +3. The Cowboys allowed 56 sacks this season which was second to worst. Dak needs time and Elliot needs room and they may get some, but not enough. Pick: Rams 28-20. Chargers (12-4) at Patriots (11-5)- Two of the greatest QBs of our generation will again go head to head in a playoff matchup. Both of them are running out of time. The Chargers come into this one after holding on against the Ravens. The Chargers played well, but settled for 5 Field Goals. Melvin Ingram had his way and lead the Chargers to 7 sacks. They will take that momentum to Foxborough against a strange Patriots squad. The Patriots finished with less than 12 wins for the first time since 2009. Their 5 losses this year all came against non-playoff teams. However, Tom Brady is still the QB and Bill Belichick is still the Head Coach. The Patriots rush for 127.3 yards a game which is 5th in the NFL and they have only given up 21 sacks putting them at 3rd in the league. The Chargers passing defense only gives up 228 yards per game which is 9th. The Patriots are one of the more disciplined teams, they have only been penalized 93 times for 4th in the NFL. The Patriots are tied for 3rd in interceptions with 18 and have a turnover differential of +10 which puts them in 5th. The teams are tough to separate using statistics and both have good experienced QBs. This Patriots team has too many flaws for Brady to overcome and they will add a sixth loss. Pick: Chargers 31-28. Eagles (9-7) at Saints (13-3)- Foles magic keeps on rolling and Eagles fans are cautiously optimistic about another run. After watching last year’s run it is hard to pick against Nick Foles. The Eagles come off a last second win against a good Bears team which put them at six wins in their last seven games. They will try to get revenge from the Saints for their week 11 smackdown 48-7. The Saints haven’t looked as dominant in their last few games and an extra week of rest should help them. Drew Brees put together another incredible season leading the league with a 115.7 passer rating and a 74.4 completion percentage. The Saints only allowed 20 sacks which was second in the NFL. The Eagles haven’t relied on the run this year and they definitely can’t against the Saints. The Saints were second in stopping the run only allowing 80.2 yards a game. The biggest difference between the two teams seems to be in turnovers. The Eagles have a turnover differential of -6. while the Saints are +8. It should be a good game, but the Eagles can’t win forever. Pick: Saints 27-17.