Tag Archives: Aaron Rodgers

Detroit Lions – Wins At Home Must Be A Priority

So far for the 2018 season, the Detroit Lions have been, historically, what they have always been:  A team on the cusp of greatness filled with doubt and unwarranted cockiness that leaves them no better than a .500 team.

Let’s talk about the ability (or in this case, the inability) of the Lions winning at home.  There is a lot of doubt that if the Lions ever got to the playoffs and played at home, that they would actually win.  As we all know, the last time the Lions won a playoff game was in 1991, ironically, a home win over the Dallas Cowboys.  After that, Lions played 9 playoff games on the road and lost all of them.

I’ve chosen two other teams to use for comparison, both of which stress the importance of protecting the home turf.  And I’m pretty sure no one is surprised in the teams:  Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots.

I am going to use 3 spans of time, the longest being 28 years and the shortest being 5 years.  I’ve chosen from 1990 to 2017 for the longest amount of time…and no, there is no other reason other than I wanted to start in the 1990’s.

28 years – 1990 to 2017

From 1990 to 2017, the Lions posted a 117-107 record at home, a winning percentage of 0.522.  Being a .500 team at home isn’t going to get a team into the playoffs all that often.  And the 8 years they made the playoffs in that time proves that.

The Green Bay Packers posted a 161-62 home record, a winning percentage of .722.  They averaged, over the 28 years, 6-2 at home.  No wonder they have 19 playoff appearances in 28 years.

New England?  Almost as good as the Pack over that time span, putting up a 155-69 home record with a winning percentage of .692.

The crux of this is that because the Lions are just above .500 for the home games and because they are at .299 on the road, they have averaged a record of 7-9 over 28 years.  While the Packers and Patriots who win at least 5 and 6 games a year at home respectively, their records are guaranteed to be 10-6 and 11-5 overall.

10 years – 2008 to 2017

The Lions, if anything, are at least consistent.  However, over the past 10 seasons, the Lions posted a 38-42 home record.  Most of that can be attributed to the winless 2008 season as well as the 2-14 season that followed.  But again, Lions averaged a 4-4 home record and a 3-5 road record to be a 7-9 team.

Packers made the playoffs in 8 out of the 10 years because of a 59-20 home record.  They were barley above .500 on the road but that’s what you expect.  In this 10 year sample, the Packers average an 11-5 overall record…yep, that will get you into the playoffs just about every year.

As for the Patriots, it didn’t really matter if they were home or away.  Posting a 68-12 home record to go along with a 59-21 away record, they made the playoffs 10 out of 10 times due to an average record of 13-3.  But to lose only 1-2 games a year at home in 10 years shows what a premium that Bill Belichick emphasis on protecting the home turf.

5 years – 2013 to 2017

The last 5 years have been better for the Lions.  In that time period, they have averaged and overall record of 9-7, getting to the playoffs twice.  In 2014, the Lions did a great job in winning at home, posting a 7-1 record and going 4-4 on the road to accomplish an 11-5 record.  Unfortunately, the Packers went 12-4 to take the division and the Lions played in the Wildcard game at Dallas, losing 24-20.  In 2016, the Lions went 6-2 at home  but only 3-5 on the road but still snuck into the playoffs, again losing this time to the Seattle Seahawks 26-6.  But they protected the home turf well and got there which is all we can hope for, right?

The Packers have won at nearly a .700 clip over the past 5 seasons, making the playoffs 4 times.  They have been basically a .500 team on the road but doing well posting a 27-12 record.

The Patriots?  Win/Loss Record average at home:  7-1.  Win/Loss Record average away:  6-2.  It’s hard not to make the playoffs when your team goes 13-3 every year.

Both Green Bay and New England put a premium on winning at home.  And their respective successes proves that winning at home gives them a much better chance to make the playoffs on a consistent basis than going 4-4 at home every year.

Now we can sit here and bring up all of the bad drafts the Lions have had and the fact that neither Green Bay or New England ever had a bad GM as Matt Millen.  But much of the bad decisions made were as a result of the ownership hiring second rate GM’s, Head Coaches and Scouting personnel.  Both the Green Bay and New England had their seasons of crappiness.  There was a stretch from 1972 to 1992 the Pack made the playoffs only twice.  And New England had a stretch from 1971 to 1995 that was almost Lionesque with few double digit win seasons and sporadic playoff appearances.

The Packers righted the ship by hiring Mike Holmgren in 1992.  And in his 6 years, he got the Packers in the playoffs 5 times, putting them in the Super Bowl twice and winning one of them.  He and Ron Wolf made a great team.

As for the Patriots, they did make two Super Bowl appearances prior to the Belichick.  The first was in 1985 and were blown out by Mike Ditka’s Chicago Bears 46-10. Bill Parcels got the Pats to Super Bowl 31 and lost to Holmgren’s Packers 35-21 in 1996.  But in 2000, Tom Kraft brought in Bill Belichick and gave him near complete control of all football operations.  Scott Pelosi was the GM up until 2009 but all final decisions were left to Belichick.

The Lions hire Bob Quinn away from the in 2016, one of the first moves made by Martha Ford since her husband Bill Ford, Sr. passed away in 2014.  In turn, despite Jim Caldwell’s limited success in his 4 years, Quinn hired Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to his first head coaching job in the NFL.  Let’s hope that this combination brings up the talent and skill level across the organization to one that Lions fans have been so desperately wanting since the 1960’s.

Oh, and those wanting Matthew Stafford’s head on a platter?  Let’s cut the nonsense on that right now.

Stafford’s first 9 years in the league compares very favorably with Arron Rodgers first 9 as well as Tom Brady’s first 9.  And just for kicks, since he has been compared to him a lot, I included Brett Farve’s first 9 years

Passing Yards – Average per year

Rodgers – 4,055

Stafford – 3,861

Farve – 3,856

Brady – 3,426

Completion % – Average per year

Rodgers – 65.34

Brady – 63.33

Stafford – 61.4

Farve – 60.91

Touchdowns – Average per year

Rodgers – 31.22

Farve – 28.33

Brady – 25.00

Stafford – 24.00

Interceptions – Average per year

Rodgers – 7.89

Brady – 10.56

Stafford – 13.00

Farve – 16.33

Stafford is right there with all three of these “elite” quarterbacks.  What the other 3 had was consistency at head coach and the GM spots, drafting wisely and making smart free agent signings that gave Rodgers, Brady and Farve the tools they needed to win.  Yes, I know that Stafford had the great Calvin Johnson to throw to but little else.  For most of his career, Stafford didn’t have a running game that was worth a damn, leaky defenses that would give up big plays toward the end of games and just bad play designs that were predictable.

Put Stafford on the Green Bay or New England teams and I think we’d be talking about Stafford in a much different light.  Conversely, put Rodgers or Brady on those Lions teams and we’d be talking about them differently as well.

So I would take Stafford as my starting QB.  But in order to have him be as successful as Rodgers and Brady, let’s give him the same tools as they have had.  Quinn and Patricia are heading that way…I think Patricia needs another year and another draft (another road-grading guard to complement Ragnow)  And while I hate to see Golden Tate go, he was under-utilized and the Lions got a 3rd round pick in 2019 for him in the trade with the Eagles.

Hard choices have to be made…Quinn made his first one in trading Tate.

 

Detroit Lions – Look Forward to 2017 and Beyond

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Well damn.

The Detroit Lions came to Seattle to play in the NFC Wild Card game with some lofty expectations…only to discover that the Seattle Seahawks were indeed a very large obstacle they could not get around.

Some of it was of their own doing. The four dropped passes (three of which would have led to first downs). Four very stupid 15-yard penalty calls (two by 13 year veteran Anquan Bouldin and one by Haloti Ngata, an 11-year vet. Those two players should know better.) And of course, the most evident, they were made one-dimensional when the Seahawk defense took away the Lions anemic running and forced Matthew Stafford to put the game on his shoulders.

Not that Matthew Stafford didn’t relish the challenge. I mean, after all, he did lead the Lions this year to an NFL record of 8 fourth quarter comebacks in 2016. And don’t give me that tripe that they accomplished that feat against mediocre teams. Ticks me off to no end when Peyton Manning, Eli Manning or Tom Brady accomplish something similar to this and they are hailed the greatest. But when Matthew Stafford does it, it’s for some other reason.

I’m not going to re-hash the season nor am I going to re-hash the wild card game. You all saw it. Suffice to say, I was rather uncomfortable when I showed up to a friend’s house to watch the game in my Golden Tate III jersey…and even more so after the game had ended. Thankfully I have fantastic friends so the needling wasn’t too awful.

I will say this: I am going to give the Lions organization a pass for 2016. Not that it is of any great importance that I do so since I really, really doubt that what I write here for Beer Thinker Sports is read by anyone in the Detroit Lions organization. None the less, I’ll give them the pass.

My reasons are that since this is the first full season for GM Bob Quinn. And while some of the moves and acquisitions he made prior to the start of the season got the Lions a chance to be in the playoffs, there is more work to be done. And I’m sure Mr. Quinn will be the first to admit it.

What I am going to offer is just my opinion on what’s needed for the future of the Detroit Lions.

  1. The road to the NFC North Division runs through Green Bay. Not a big surprise. Since 2011, the Green Bay Packers have won the NFC North title five out of the last six years. Not sure how they can accomplish that other than to say it rests all on how well Aaron Rodgers plays. And for the last three years, when it looked as though each time the Pack had no chance of even getting to the playoffs, they find a way to dig deep and pull yet another miracle season. So the first step for the Lions to be successful is to build a team that can stop Aaron Rodgers. Best way to beat him is to keep him off the field. That means the Lions need to get themselves a running game that can tire out an opportunistic Green Bay defense and keep their best player on the bench. That means improving the Lions offensive line and getting a dominating running back to take pressure off Mathew Stafford. It also means the Lions need an upgrade to the defense, particularly in the secondary as well as the defensive line. Darius Slay is a good cornerback but Rodgers pin point accuracy can defeat just about any one on one coverage. In order to force Rodgers into mistakes, pressure has to be put on him, force him into making mistakes. Unfortunately, it’s a Catch-22 as Rodgers has an insane ability to escape and keep plays alive until someone gets open. But if the Lions can get another speed rusher to complement Ziggy Ansah and replace an aging Haloti Ngata, they just might be able to at least stay with the Packers.
  2. The Lions need to get a big running back to help Matthew Stafford. No surprise here. For the last 10 years, the Lions have averaged an anemic 92.8 yards a game and only once did a player top 1,000 yards for the season, Reggie Bush in 2013 for 1,006 yards. I don’t know about you but I am pretty fed-up hearing the words the Lions need an “effective running game.” It’s a bunch of bull. The Lions need a rusher that will carry the ball 25-30 yards per game and get you 110 to 125 yards per game. That leads to better time management and keeps the opposing offense off the field. It may be boring but it does lead to wins despite the fact the NFL has become a pass-happy league. And that requires a big running back, one that can make up for any deficiencies in the offense line yet capitalize when blocking is done correctly. Not a big play back, Lions have that in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. But a big back that will wear down a defense and allow Abdullah and Riddick to hit big gains when they do come in for a change of pace. And since a big back will force the linebackers to come up, that opens up the passing game and all of a sudden, the Lions dominate on time of possession.  It will also give the Lions a bigger threat in the red zone. Don’t know about you…I like Matt Prater and all but I’d like to see games where he just kicks extra points instead of field goals.

There are 4 running backs in the 2017 draft that I think would be a great fit in the Lions running game. In most cases, any one of these running backs will make Ameer Abdullah expendable.

  • Leonard Fournette, LSU. At 6-1 and 230 lbs. and a 40 time of 4.5, Fournette might not be available to the Lions as he is projected as a top-10 pick. But I list him in case GM Quinn can do some magic to move up in the draft to get him. He has been compared to Adrian Peterson. In his 2016 season, he gained 1,953 yards with an average of 6.5 yards per carry. He is a powerful downhill runner that can run through tackles and can break off big gainers.
  • D’Onta Foreman, Texas. 6-1, 249 lbs. Ran for 2,028 yards for an average of 6.3 yards per carry for Texas in 2016. He isn’t much of a receiver but that’s not what the Lions need since Theo Riddick fills that spot nicely. Foreman is a load who can run over the opposition and bring a bit of attitude and toughness the Lions so desperately need.
  • Samaje Perine, Oklahoma. 5-11, 237 lbs. Perine reminds me a lot of Marshawn Lynch in that he will just not be tackled. Again, toughness and attitude the Lions need and Perine would definitely get Green Bay’s attention. His position in the draft has dropped due to being banged up this season but Perine rushed for 735 yards with an average of 5.2 yards per carry in limited action. He is a decent receiver as well with 10 receptions for 106 yards. Love to see this guy in screen pass situations on first or second downs.
  • James Conner, Pittsburgh. 6-2, 250 lbs. Is listed as a possible 4-6 round pick due to a serious knee injury in 2015 and then being diagnosed with cancer. He was proclaimed cancer free in 2016 as well as coming back from a torn ACL. He responded with 1,092 yards with a 5.1 yard per carry and scored 16 TD’s. He also caught well out of the backfield with 21 passes for 302 yards and four scores. He is worth taking a chance on since he has the potential to become a 3 down back and be a major threat in the red zone with his running and receiving abilities.

3.  Lions need to upgrade the secondary. Granted, NFL rules will favor the receiver in most cases. However, there are 2 places that teams really can’t shortchange themselves: The offensive line and the secondary. Both are exposed if the talent isn’t there. I feel the Lions offensive line is good enough going into 2017 but the secondary has been exposed. The Lions need another good cover corner to compliment Slay and a safety in the league of an Earl Thomas to help cover the middle.

  • Jalen Ramsey, Florida State. 6-1, 209 lbs. I doubt the Lions will have a shot at this guy but I felt the need to list him just in case GM Quinn can maneuver to get him. He is projected as a top-5 pick so it is a longshot. Ramsey is comparable to Richard Sherman. However, it is felt that he would do better at safety than corner. Teams have high regard for Ramsey and they love him off the field which pretty much means you aren’t going to see his name for any off the field antics. With his great character and impressive skill set, a lot of teams want him on their roster.
  • Eli Apple, Ohio State. 6-0, 199 lbs. He has Number 1 corner potential in the NFL with his size, agility and speed. He does need coaching to stop grabbing receivers but that’s just a matter of technique. Possible he’ll be available late first round or early second.
  • Su’a Cravens USC. 6-1, 226 lbs. Cravens was moved to linebacker in 2016 but most experts feel that Cravens potential in the NFL reside in playing safety. I’d like to see him gain at least 10-15 lbs. to play in the NFL. He is physical, strong and quick and has shown to be a capable tackler. A good defensive coordinator would be wise to use him in a variety of ways. Could be that game changer on defense.

4.  Protect the den. It is one of the most important aspects of the game. Great teams know how to win at home. Winning 6-8 games at home and go .500 on the road gives you 10-6 to a 12-4 season and pretty much gives the Lions a playoff slot. Lion’s fans are more than willing to do their part and if the Lions get that big running back and beef up the secondary, Lions will be able to challenge the Green Bay Packers better for the division title.

There are other aspects that I’m sure need to be addressed. I, for one, am not sure that current head coach Jim Caldwell is the one to lead the team to the Super Bowl. But he is close with owner Martha Firestone Ford who really likes him. Caldwell has Jim Bob Cooter as his offensive coordinator and is a good one. He and Matthew Stafford are on the same page and in his first full season, got as much as he could out of Stafford. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is a good one as well. But he has been mentioned for several head coaching jobs and with 6 openings this year, he may be gone. Whoever comes up next needs to improve the coverage and mitigate the big plays the Lions seem to give up.

Detroit Lions – Getting Hosed By National Media

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The Detroit Lions are in first place in the NFC North and are currently the third seed in the playoffs.

How come the national sports media seems to brush these facts aside?

No, it’s still about the Cowboys, the Packers, the Seahawks and the Saints.  Not that I have anything against these teams (with the exception of the Cowboys and Packers) but regardless the record of these teams, they still get more nationally televised games than just about any other team in the NFC.

Go to NFL.com and do you see anything about the Lions?  Nope, it’s got headlines about the Cowboys avenging the lone loss against the New York Giants.  It’s got an article about the Kansas City Chiefs taking control in the AFC West.  I peruse NFL.com a lot but rarely do I see anything about my beloved Detroit Lions.

Take the Cowboys.  They are having a great season this year.  But regardless of what type of season they have, Cowboys get a lot of national press.

Take last year for instance when they ended up with a record of 4-12.  How many articles were written by national media about the Cowboys and how can they get back to winning?  How many times did we see on ESPN or Fox on what’s wrong with the Cowboys or is Tony Romo done?  Countless times on both.

Pretty good coverage for a team that went barley over .500 for the past decade (not including this season).

And how about the Packers?  Seems to me that the national media is reasoning the only way the Lions are in first place is because the Packers are having a bad season.  Now I will grant you the Pack has been very good over the past 10 years.  A .650 winning percentage over that time period proves that as well as a Super Bowl win in 2011.

But this year has been a difficult one.  The Packers have aged quickly and lost a lot of players to free agency.  And Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a decent O-line to protect him and he hasn’t had a lot of time to throw.  When he does, his receivers are not in synch with him.  Still, they are a dangerous team and one to watch.

But this down season by the Packers isn’t the sole reason the Lions are in first place in the NFC North.

Let’s talk about the fact the Lions have played, especially in the 4th quarter.  Up until the New Orleans Saints game, the Lions have trailed entering the 4th quarter in every game.  And in seven of the eight wins the Lions have, they came back and won with Matthew Stafford tying the Manning brothers record (Peyton in 2009 and Eli in 2011) of seven comeback wins in a season.

That’s something that many great quarterbacks have not done.  Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Dan Marino, John Elway, Dan Fouts…none of these guys have had as many comebacks in a season as Stafford and the Manning brothers.  And with 4 games left in the season, Stafford has the chance to own the record outright.

Look, I’m saying these teams don’t deserve the recognition they are getting (except the Cowboys…we’ve been deluged with Cowboy drama for over 25 years now…shut up about the Cowboys…nobody outside of Texas gives a darn).  But how about some recognition of how well the Detroit Lions are doing?

Yes, I know that from 2006 to 2015, the Lions have a 57-103 record including the wonderful 0-16 record of 2008.  National media has no problems pointing out all that is wrong with the Lions.

But this is 2016, the Lions are 8-4 with a 2 game lead in the NFC North with four games to go.  The Lions are currently 3rd in the playoff picture, a mere 1/2 game behind the Seattle Seahawks and if by some miracle, could sneak into second place and get a bye in the first round and host a playoff game in Detroit.

At some point, the Lions luck has to turn…but I don’t see this year as being lucky.  I see this team working hard, playing good defense and Stafford putting his team in position to win.  I know, as well as everyone does, we bemoan that we don’t have a running game.  We only have 947 yards rushing on the year.  But we do rank 15th in passing and since the NFL is turning into a pass-happy offense, I’d say we are in good shape.

Still, imagine if we had Barry Sanders with this personnel.  To be honest, I don’t think the record would be any better since we’d still give the ball to Barry too much.  However, the Lions could draft a good running back in the 2017 draft.  Perhaps Christian McCaffery out of Stanford or Alvin Kamara from Tennessee?

GM Bob Quinn knows what’s needed for the Lions and a running game could put the Lions in a very sweet spot for the next 5 years or so.  I know we haven’t really had a decent running back since Barry but that had a lot to do with the front office evaluations instead of talent.

I suppose we need to earn the respect of the national media by making a strong showing in the playoffs.  I’d like to shut them all up with a Super Bowl win but the Lions aren’t there yet.  But they are a helluva lot closer than they have been in years…

All I’m sayin to the national media, how about some love for the Lions?

 

Super Bowl 50 – Carolina Panthers Take It, Dang It

 

So we have the Denver Broncos going up against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

For me, it’s about as much fun as trying to pick the lesser of two evils for the Republican Party.

Neither team catches my interest…I’ve had a dislike for the Broncos ever since John Elway became part of the team. I think it comes from how he kept the Cleveland Browns from getting to the Super Bowl a few times back in the 1980’s.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Detroit Lion fan but back then, the Cleveland Browns appealed to me. They were a good, hard-nosed football team with players such as Bernie Kosar, Ernest Byner, Kevin Mack, Clay Matthews and Webster Slaughter.

But John Elway and those Denver Broncos broke the hearts of Cleveland fans everywhere, not once but twice. 1986 Conference Championship when Elway connected with Mark Jackson for a 5-yard TD to tie the game and send it into overtime. Then he drove the Broncos into Browns territory for a game winning 33 yard field goal.

Then, in 1987, Elway engineered “The Drive” killing perhaps the best chance the Cleveland Browns getting into the Super Bowl to face the Washington Redskins. I truly believe the Browns would have put up a tougher battle than the Broncos did…but I was pretty happy when the Skins trounced them 42-10.

As for the Panthers, there are several reasons why I have an intense dislike for them. One is the fact they dispatched my second hometown team, the Seattle Seahawks, from the playoffs this year. Second is Cam Newton.

Look, you can point to all the statistical information you want regarding Cam. You can point to his size and speed and his ability to throw a solid deep ball. I won’t deny that he is a talented and special football player. I just don’t like the way the man plays the game.

His cockiness and attitude toward opposing teams is bush-league and every damn game, I hope that some huge defensive lineman pops him a good one and shuts him up. He is an attention whore and he looks for people to tell him how great he is. I will admit I don’t know the man but all outward appearances show him to garner attention and be a show-off.

I’m sure those in the Cam Newton camp will have their arguments…but do me a favor and save your breath. There will be nothing you can say that will bring me over to your side. Would I feel the same way if he was on the Detroit Lions or the Seattle Seahawks? Hard to say though I would still disapprove of the way he carries himself and how he calls himself “Superman.” The attention should be on his team, not him…and he certainly shouldn’t call himself out for praise.

Sure, there have been other quarterbacks that have done celebrations. Aaron Rodgers does his discount double-check routine, Tom Brady has his screams, Brett Favre, who enjoyed the game as much as anyone, would run down the field with his hand in the air to celebrate with whatever receiver caught the ball. But for the most part, these were spontaneous, not the premeditated celebration that Cam does. I’m sure he sets aside an hour a day to make sure he gets the celebration down pat.

I have always been a fan who disliked the planned celebrations…even as far back as the infamous Billy “White Shoes” Johnson with his weird little dance that he used to perform when he scored a TD. Hated the Washington Redskins “Fun Bunch” planned group celebrations after scoring. Thought the Icky Shuffle was idiotic. And the worst was my own Detroit Lions celebrations to the tune of “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen in the 1980’s.

All of those cases were a collective “look at me and what I did” celebrations. Selfish and self-absorbed. On the other hand, I don’t want to see robots on the field. Celebrations are the best when the person scoring looks for his teammates to high-five or chest bump and spike the football in warrior style conquest that gets the crowd into it as well as the rest of the team. I would say more so than any planned celebration…because it’s genuine.

But Cam will be Cam and I doubt anything I write will change anything. And before anyone accuses me of being racially biased, stop right there. I could give a damn if the man was white, black, green, purple or orange. If he acts like a jerk, looks like a jerk and smells like a jerk, then he’s just a jerk.

OK, enough of traveling down this road.

Who will be the winner of Super Bowl 50? As much as I hate to say it, I believe it will be the Carolina Panthers. They are just too much in a groove right now and I can’t see Peyton Manning getting the protection he will need to have any chance. And I won’t be surprised if Brock Osweiler comes in to relieve Manning.

Statistically, Carolina has the edge being ranked number 11 for 2015 scoring an average of 31.2 points per game over the 16th ranked Broncos coming in at 22.2 points per game. We need to take into consideration that Manning has not played the full season.

Below is the statistical information for the Denver QB vs. Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton:

Denver QB’s: Yards – 4,126, Avg. per Pass – 7.0, Completion % – 60.8%, TD’s – 19, INT – 23, Sack – 39

Newton: Yards – 3,837, Avg. per Pass – 7.8, Completion % – 59.6%, TD’s – 35, INT – 10, Sack – 33

We also need to take into account Newton’s threat to run…he has 10 running TD’s as opposed to 1 between Manning and Osweiler.

Edge: Panthers

Running Game:

Panthers are geared to run the ball first, pass second. They ranked first in the NFL with 32.9 rushing attempts per game, second with 2,282 yards gained, tied for first with 19 scores and ninth with an average of 4.3 yards gained per attempt. They don’t have a 1,000 yard rusher but between Jonathan Stewart leading the way with 989 yards and Cam Newton adding 636 yards, that’s a combined total of 1,625 yards.

Denver came in at the middle of the pack for most of the running stats. 17th with 22.2 rushing attempts per game, 17th with total yards gained, 12th with 13 scores, 11th coming in with 4.2 yards gained per attempt. Broncos failed to have a 1,000 rusher as well but the combination of Ronnie Hillman (863 yards) and C.J. Anderson (720 yards) put up 1,583 yards to go along with 12 TD’s

Edge: Panthers

Receiving:

If Denver is going to have any chance to win this game, this is where I think they can exploit the Panther secondary, provided their defense can hold the Panthers from starting out too quick.

Panthers are ranked 24th in the NFL in receiving, averaging 242.1 yards per game. Much of that is probably due to the fact they had huge leads and were just running out the clock. Panthers have some weapons so the Broncos need to be careful here. Their top receiver is tight end Greg Olson who finished the regular season with 1,104 and 7 TD’s. He is a clock killer and has a knack for getting open on critical 3rd downs and gains 14.3 yards per catch. Next up is Ted Ginn who is having a breakout year with the Panthers. He’s caught 44 passes for 739 yards and 10 TD’s to go along with his team leading 16.8 yards per catch. The next 3 receivers, Jerricho Cotchery, Devin Furness and Cory Brown have combined for 1,406 yards, 12 TD’s, and an average of just over 14 yards per catch.

Denver came in at 14th in receiving for 2015 with 263.5 yards per game. Leading the way is Demaryius Thomas with 105 catches for 1,304 yards and 6 TD’s to go along with 12.4 yards per catch. Emmanuel Sanders finished with 74 catches, 1,135 yards, 6 TD’s and 14.9 yards per catch. TE Owen Daniels pitched in with 46 catches, 517 yards, 3 TD’s with 11.2 yards per catch average. Vernon Davis, who was brought in to give the Broncos another weapon has virtually disappeared contributing only 20 catches, 201 yards, 0 TD’s and 10.0 yards per catch. If he can return to the player he was while with San Francisco, he could be a game changer for the Broncs.

Edge: Broncos

Defense:

Where ultimately I think the game will be decided.

Carolina has a pretty stout defense with a strong secondary though they will be playing with second string players at corner opposite Pro-Bowler Josh Norman. In addition to Norman, Panthers have several dangerous players the Broncos will need to account for such as Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Curt Coleman as well as Kawann Short who led the Panthers defense with 11 sacks in 2015.   Because of that rush, Panther ranked first in interceptions with 24 including 4 pick-sixes.

Panthers are going to go after Manning, and why wouldn’t you? He has a 4.8 40 yard time but that was way the hell back early on in his career. I’d be surprised if his 40 yard time isn’t somewhere in the lower sixes with him being 39 years old. He still has a quick release but he really isn’t a threat to go deep anymore. If there is a real advantage here it’s that Manning is so good at reading defenses and making adjustments. He will outthink the defense and get the ball out as fast as he can. He doesn’t take many sacks. In the 58 regular season games he has played for the Broncos, he was sacked a mere 72 times which breaks out to be about 1.24 times a game. The one area that has been an issue of late is his interception rate. From 2012 to 2014, he was intercepted 36 times over 48 games, less than once per game. In the 10 games he has appeared this season, he was intercepted 17 times in 10 games, a rate of 1.7 times. And some of the passes he’s thrown look dreadful. Look for the Panther D-line to get their hands up if they can’t get to him. They will need to force Manning to go deep where his passes will tend to lose velocity and be easy pickings for the Panther secondary.

Denver ranked first in team defense, the first time any Denver Bronco team accomplished that in their 55 year history. They limited offenses to an average of 283.1 yards per game, sacked the QB 52 times leading the league in both categories for 2015 and forced 22 fumbles, recovering 13 of them.

Denver’s defensive coordinator Wade Phillips put together a masterful plan forcing Brady to throw 56 times while limiting the Patriots rushing total to just 44 yards. And you know you are doing well when the leading rusher is Brady with 13 yards. The only rushing TD was by Steven Jackson from 1 yard out late in the first quarter.

Granted, Brady threw for 310 yards and 1 score but he was also intercepted twice, sacked 4 times and the Bronco defense harassed him all day. Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski 8 times for 144 yards and the one score but the rest of the 4 receivers collectively caught 19 passes for 166 yards and no TD’s.

Cam Newton presents a whole set of other issues for the Bronco defense. Granted he’s no Tom Brady when it comes to passing but he also has tools that Brady doesn’t have such as being mobile, huge (Newton is listed 6-5, 245 lbs. and has run a 4.59 40 yard dash time) and very difficult to bring down. He won’t be a sitting duck back there and if he gets flushed from the pocket, he has no issues becoming a rusher. He gained 636 yards to go along with 10 TD’s. When the Panthers get close to the goal or in need of a first down on third and short situations, Ron Rivera has no problem calling Cam’s number to get what’s needed.

Edge – Even

My heart wants the Bronco’s to beat the snot out of Carolina. But logic dictates to me that the Panthers have just too much for Denver to overcome.

Carolina Panthers 31, Denver Broncos 17.

Detroit Lions – Green Bay Loss Hurt But Need To Stay Hungry

Stay Hungry

I, like many Lions fans, was sure the game was won Thursday night.  We outplayed them for 60 minutes and we had them.  But a small yellow flag gave the Packers another chance…and they took advantage of it.

I could be stoic and say it’s all part of the game.  But I can’t.  I am pissed that the game was basically decided on a referee’s decision.  Packer fans can say what they want but that was no face mask.

But shame on the Lions as well.  Granted, the Packers got the opportunity but where the hell was our defense?  Did no once consider the Packers would attempt a Hail Mary?  With no time left and only one shot, how the hell can you not expect it?

The Lions are pretty much out of the playoffs for this year.  I don’t know how anyone could have expected a team starting out 1-7 would have qualified but the Lions played well enough over the 3 games prior to this loss to give us a glimmer of hope.

And they played well enough Thursday night to make people think that it just might happen.  The Lions offense clicked well in the first half and the defense was lights out for the whole game.

We all know what happened.  The call the refs blew yet again and yet again it went against the Lions.

Facemask

Look, I am all for player safety.  But I also think that common sense needs to be instituted.   Devin Taylor’s thumb brushed Aaron Rodgers’ facemask…it wasn’t blatant and there was no harm done.

However, because Taylor brought Rodgers down by his shoulder pad, it looked like it was a facemask.  This play should have been reviewable…and if it had been, I am almost sure that New York would have reversed the call since the contact with the face mask was incidental.

All right, I’ve vented my frustrations and have accepted the condolences of my friends, none of whom can understand why I continue to root for this team.  I can only compare it to when people ask me what it’s like to ride a Harley Davidson.  If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.  About the only thing the Lions can expect is yet another apology for blowing yet another call.

Now is the time to start looking forward.  The Lions, if they get the right GM in, are in a great position to improve themselves in specific areas, which I believe are the offensive and defensive lines…and in that order.

We have the quarterback in Matthew Stafford that I believe is finally showing the type of QB we all have been waiting for.  Of course for years I have been saying the Lions needed to get him an offensive line to give him time to display those talents.  And while the line has been better the last 4 games, depth is needed to make it even more successful.

It is possible the Lions will have as many as 11 picks in the 2016 draft.  Let’s call it a departing gift from Martin Mayhew.  While losing Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairly, Corey Hilliard, Kellen Davis and Jed Collins to free agency without signing any unrestricted free agents, the Lions will be rewarded with at least 3 compensatory picks in addition to the eight draft picks the Lions currently have.

That gives them a ton of options and I think for the Lions to move to the next level, they are going to need depth on the offensive and defensive lines.  And they need to seek players that will compete with the current starters and push them to excellence.

And this next observation is critical:  Those players that cannot accept competing for the jobs each week need to be shown the door.

It started with new leadership at the top when Martha Ford removed Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand.  It continued when Jim Bob Cooter replaced Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator.

And head coach Jim Caldwell, despite whatever success he may have for the rest of this year, has to know he is on the hot seat.  I’m willing to give him one more year since changes he has made have resulted in some success.  But now, after this loss, he has to prove his coaching chops and continue success by winning as many games as he can the rest of this year.

Draft position isn’t going to matter for 2016.  There are so many players out there that can be had in the later rounds and rookie free agency, the Lions can upgrade in many areas without breaking the bank.

So the mantra for the rest of this year is the Lions need to stay hungry for the rest of this year…and need to stay hungry from this day forward.

Go Lions!

 

Russell Wilson Is A System Quarterback – Myth or Fact?

All he does is win games.
All he does is win games.

So I am going to weigh in on the Russell Wilson contract issue again.  But I am going to try and look at this from a different perspective.

About six years ago, I wrote an article for the Bleacher Report called The Myth About A System Quarterback.  At the time, I was writing under the pseudonym of Seattle Lion Fan.

According to Wikipedia, a system quarterback is defined as “is an American football quarterback who flourishes under a particular offensive system, specifically one that focuses on passing.”

Under another definition, a system quarterback could be defined as one that is successful but not talented.

I, for one, believe that every quarterback in the NFL is a system quarterback.  Each team has its own system whether they drafted a quarterback that fit the direction the head coach wants or they built a system to exploit the talents of a quarterback.

I think the best example of this was when the Miami Dolphins, then coached by the great Don Shula, took Dan Marino.  Shula made six Super Bowl appearances, going 2-4 in those games.  His teams from 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1982 were all keyed by a run-first offensive strategy, including the undefeated team of 1972.

That all changed when Dan Marino, drafted in 1983 and became the full-time starter in 1984 when he threw for over 5,000 yards and threw 48 touchdowns.  Shula recognized what he had in Marino and built a system around him which in my eyes, makes Marino a system quarterback.

Another great example is Joe Montana.  Bill Walsh needed to find the perfect quarterback to run his West Coast offense and in 1979, Walsh found him in the third round.  Montana, coming out of Notre Dame, was not your prototypical quarterback.  But Walsh kept saying is that “all this kid does is win.”

Four Super Bowl wins in a span of 13 years with San Francisco as well as never losing one puts Montana in a very elite class.  Many, myself included, put him as one of the greatest quarterbacks to have played the game.

In both of these examples, each quarterback fit the system designed by the coaches…one had a system built for him (Marino) and the other was a perfect fit for a system already in place (Montana).

In Pete Carroll’s system, he needed a quarterback that had the capabilities to:

  • Have lots of mobility but still look to throw
  • Take care of the ball on their possessions
  • Make smart and intelligent plays
  • Be the leader on offense
  • Make the big play when needed.

Russell Wilson fills each of these needs very, very well.  How can you argue when all this kid has done in his past three seasons as the Seahawk quarterback is win?

  • Three straight post-season appearances.
  • Two straight Super Bowl appearances (and it should have been two straight wins!).
  • 36 – 11 regular season record over three seasons.
  • Career passing percentage of 98.6 over those three seasons and averaged 100.6 over the last two years.
  • Has not missed a game in those three years.

I truly believe that Russell Wilson is the best fit for this Seahawk offense.  Is there another QB worth a damn that can do better than Wilson at this point?  Tavaris Jackson?  Been tried and he could do no better than 7-9.  Granted he didn’t have Marshawn Lynch as a running back but even with Beast Mode, I doubt he do much better than 9-7.  T-Jack is a turnover machine and checks down way too much.

Wilson fits the system that Carroll has designed.  Wilson needs the Seahawks and the Seahawks need Wilson.  What the question is now is what is the magic number to get the deal done?

The top seven highest paid quarterbacks (listed is guaranteed salaries, not the total contract) according to Sports Cheat Sheet:

  1. Colin Kapernick – San Francisco:  $61 Million
  2. Matt Ryan – Atlanta:  $59 Million
  3. Tom Brady- New England:  $57 Million
  4. Drew Brees – New Orleans:  $55 Million
  5. Tony Romo – Dallas:  $55 Million
  6. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay:  $54 Million
  7. Jay Cutler – Chicago:  $54 Million

So tell me, out of these seven quarterbacks, which one would you take over Russell Wilson?  If I had to pick, it would most likely be Aaron Rodgers.  Why?  Because he is a 6’2″ version of Russell Wilson…or to be more accurate, Russell is a 5’11” version of Rodgers.

Imagine how successful Rodgers would have been if he had the caliber of running back such as Marshawn Lynch as well as the defense of our beloved Seahawks!  Rodgers would be out of fingers with Super Bowls.  And yet, hardly anyone batted an eyelid when Rodgers signed one of the most lucrative contracts in the NFL.

I agree, you take away Lynch and Russell would be a different QB.  But I believe that he would still be successful because Wilson can adapt to compensate for the loss of a great running game…he would adapt to the changes in the system.

Russell Wilson deserves to be paid as one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league simply because of what he has shown what he’s done over the past three seasons.  Does he deserve to be the highest paid?  If he can get it, more power to him.  But this is one player the Seahawks cannot say “next man up!” because they don’t have a player of his caliber to take his place.

Pay the man, he deserves it.

 

NFC Championship: Nail Biter But Seattle Beats Green Bay, 28-24

Wilson and Rodgers

The road to the Super Bowl for the NFC runs through Century Link Field in Seattle.

This game is going to come down to the quarterbacks.  And forgive me Packer fans, with Aaron Rodgers at less than 100%, I don’t see the Packers winning this game.

Not that Rodgers won’t give a valiant effort.  But his inability to extend plays is going to limit his scoring chances.  The Seahawk defensive line will be after him all game long…and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn won’t be putting in any special blitz packages.  He is going to rely on the defensive line, as he has all year long, to pressure Rodgers and allow the linebackers and secondary to take care of the receivers.

If the Seahawks win the coin toss, this may be the time we take the ball instead of deferring to the second half.  Packers have the 23rd ranked run defense in the NFL.  I could see Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevel getting the rock to Marshawn Lynch early as well as Robert Turbin.

Russell Wilson, if he plays as effectively as he did against the Panthers he should do well against the Packers.  Pack finished 10th in the league on pass defense but that may be skewed as teams may not have thrown as much because they ran the ball more.

Packers have allowed 50 passing plays of 20 yards or more and 8 yards of 40 yards or more.

Playoff experience doesn’t come into play for this game.  Both teams have great playoff records but the Seahawks come into this game healthier than the Packers which will make the difference.

And for those of you who know I am a Detroit Lions fan, no, I am not picking the Hawks because of the Packers being a division rival.  I am picking the Hawks because right now, they are the better team.

I have a ton of respect for the Packer organization and really, this game could go either way.  But I like the Seattle defense to take care of business in this game.

Go Hawks!

Lions vs Packers – Time To Step Up Is Right Now!

Lions Beat The Packers to Make 2014 The Best Christmas Ever!
Lions Beat The Packers to Make 2014 The Best Christmas Ever!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

There isn’t a Lions fan out there right now that isn’t sending as much positive energy as they can to the Detroit Lions right now.

We head into Lambeau Field, a place that has been a nightmare for us for the past 23 years.  What better time to exercise a demon than this Sunday?

I was a little miffed that NBC decided to change the Sunday Night game from Lions/Packers to Bengals/Steelers.  After all, I am way the heck out here in the Great Northwest and Lions games are kinda hard to come by.

But I have the NFL Red Zone (A moment of pause here.  I would like to nominate the person that came up with this fantastic idea for the Nobel Peace Prize) so I will be able to see much of the game.  Granted, its not quite the same but we must make do with what we can, right?

I really hope that the Lions spent extra time watching tapes of the Packers and Buffalo Bills from two weeks ago. The Bills exposed some weaknesses that the Lions front four can use as well as the areas of the secondary that Matthew Stafford can attack with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.  Our two receivers are way better than the combination of Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods.

While the Buffalo Bills didn’t score any touchdowns thru the air and Kyle Chandler only threw for 158 yards, they were very effective yards.  It put the middle linebackers on their heels which allowed Fred Jackson and Company to run for 117 yards.

But it was the defense that saved the day for the Bills.  Bacarri Rambo intercepted Rodgers twice and the Bills defense sacked him once but harassed and knocked him down several times during the game.

Lions will need to go after Rodgers all day long and never let up.  Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin needs to dial it up with some blitz packages to put Rodgers on the ground.

It will be the offense that needs to really step up.  Stafford needs to have long drives to keep Rodgers on the sidelines and to tire out the Packers defense.  And those long drives need to end in touchdowns to keep as much pressure as possible on the Packers offense, to make them one dimensional and constantly play catch-up.

As you may have noticed, I am not putting a predicted score…but I do get a sense that it is the Detroit Lions time right now.  And as long as they have just one more point on the scoreboard than the Packers, we are the division champs and get a week off…and host a playoff game.

That would indeed make this a great football holiday season.

Go Lions!