[Photo: Jose Chavez via Unsplash]

Trash Talk: Possession is 9/10ths of the Law

I am hijacking this weekend’s Trash Talk, taking adverse possession. I don’t give a fig right now about football — feel free to tell me what I’m missing though it doesn’t look like I’m missing much while the Redskins tear a new one into the Packers in the first quarter.

But Tiger Woods.

Jeez oh Pete, he was hot yesterday. HOT. He made an insane number of birdies in his first nine holes yesterday. He finished the third round of the PGA Tour Championship with a 65 — 12 under — three strokes better than second place Justin Rose with Rory McIlroy following. It was like watching early Tiger all over again, nailing exactly the shot he needed when he needed it.

I get heat from friends about watching Tiger. They can’t understand why I’m not hot for the rest of the new crop of golfers. Take a look at the field, I tell them. Take a look at the gallery. When Tiger began winning on tour years back I had big hopes for golf, that it wouldn’t continue to be a sport dominated by white men for a predominantly white male audience. After his marriage cratered and his sex addiction became public, along with increasing back problems, it looked like golf would sink back into a symbolism of everything wrong with capitalism.

But Tiger this year is a revelation. His is a comeback story when we need a comeback. I hope his improved performance after back surgeries is a sign of things to come and not a last hurrah.

And I hope he can once again be a symbol of what golf should be — not a flash in the pan but a life of striving for something more and better.

Yeah, all your favorites and heroes are problematic. This includes Tiger. But he doens’t need to save the world. He doesn’t need to save golf. He just needs to show that a man can straighten himself out and do better than he’s done in the past, and in doing so be a role model for others. I’m not alone hoping Tiger wins today.

Live coverage on CBS at this link. As I post this Tiger is wrapping up the second hole, having made his first birdie of the day on his first hole.

Bring it — what game are you watching? Treat this as the usual open Trash Talk thread.

Manafort Plea Agreement Weekend Trash Talk

Okay, this post will have nothing to do with Manafort’s plea. But this is the big weekend after the Friday of Manafort, and Trash must be talked. This will be a bit of truncated Trash because , well, I am tired after an early morning yesterday and then spending the rest of the day, and much of the night, trying to settle a couple of things as to the day job.

As to the Joes: I dunno, most of the college games this week look uninteresting. Can Florida State regain their footing and beat Syracuse in the Cuse Dome? You would think so, but FSU has stunk it up so bad to date that you have to wonder. I guess the Irish can handle Vandy at home, but you never know. BYU at Wisconsin could be a lot tougher game than the Badgers want. Probably most think LSU at Auburn is the early game of the day, but Boise State at Oklahoma State may be it. Ohio State may run into a buzz saw visiting TCU deep in the heart of Texas. USC at Texas is getting big buildup, but not sure it is deserved. Washington at Utah may be another curious game. Rice Stadium is not always particularly hospitable (though it sure was when I was there with the Stones in 1994!). Locally, and late, we will be watching ASU at San Diego State. The Devils somehow, miraculously, beat Michigan State last weekend. Can they make it to 3-0 tonight against the Aztecs? I will not bet on that.

As to the The Pros: Cinci already beat the Ravens, and did so rather convincingly. That is surprising. Cleveland is undefeated for the first time in forever, but don’t think they can win a shootout with Brees and the Saints in NOLA. The Chargers will kill Buffalo, which is just seriously bad. The Chefs at Steelers should be interesting. Still no Laveon Bell for the Stillers, but James Connor kicked ass last week. I’ll take the Stillers, but young Mahomes and the Chefs offense look like the real deal.

Miami at the suddenly explosive Jets Jets Jets looks fascinating. I think the Sammy and the Jets keep it going at home. Vikings at the Cheeseheads will be interesting IF Rodgers and Adams are on the frozen tundra at home. If not, then Kirk Cousins gonna win that game. Cardinals going to get humiliated for a second week in a row against the Rams in LA. The Cards billed this as the Year of New Hope, instead is the year of nope.

New England Pats at Jacksonville could be highly entertaining. Brady and the boys were not really in synch last week in a win against the Texans. He hooked up well with Gronk and Dorsett, but the whole effort, especially the run game, looked suspect. The Jags may be without Leonard Founette, but their defense is almost as good and bit as Jalen Ramsey’s mouth. Seattle at Bears is a tossup.

F1: Not a lot of comment from me on the circus this week. They are in Singapore at the Marina Bay Circuit for the famous night race. Personally, I find the night race on the heavily cemented in pit at Marina Bay kind of flakey, but they run it nevertheless. The starting grid is Hamilton, Verstappen, Vettel, Bottas and Raikkonen in P1 through P5 respectively. Not easy to pass at Marina Bay, so take your cues from the starting grid.

And, with that, we are off! Also, last week a new commenter by the name of “Bill” suggested a Canadian band called The Big Wreck. I said I would check them out, I did, and they are indeed quite good. Do check them out. So they are this weekend’s music. We are a full service blog here at Emptywheel!

Trash Talk Returns From The Dead

Hi there Wheelheads! Trash Talk has been on hiatus since April, nearly five months, and that was kind of a one off NFL Draft discussion. But real football is back, fall is….almost….in the air (hey, it’s going to be 107º here today). For those new to the Emptywheel blog, Trash is open season for anything, and all about fun, music and cutting loose, even though it starts off sports based. So, welcome one and all, and welcome back to the longtime folks. Let’s rock and roll!

Okay, Saturday is for the student athletes, better known as NCAA, Inc. We have a bit of a big national game tonight just down the road in Tempe, with the Sparty’s of Michigan State coming to meet the newfangled ASU Sun Devils. The Devils have all new coaching, with former NFL head coach and ESPN analyst Herm Edwards taking over. He has promised a “corporate approach”. No idea what that means, and there is much fear and trepidation where a once proud, but now withered, program is headed. ASU won it’s opener over a woefully outmatched UTSan Antonio team, so that is no indication. The Spartans, expertly coached by Mark Dantonio, however, are a far different thing. It could get ugly for the home boys. The Devils are not without some weapons though. Senior QB Manny willing is a great kid, and a pretty heads up field captain. Receiver N’Keal Harry is one of the best receivers in the country and a potential lottery pick for the NFL later. On an ironic note, Sparty’s starting QB, Brian Lewerke, is a former high school star from right here. We shall see how Herm’s “corporate” style works, but place your money on MSU.

In some other college games of note, the Sooners host UCLA in Norman Oklahoma. The Bruins are already 0-1 and headed to 0-2. Georgia at South Carolina might be pretty good, though the 3rd rated Dawgs look like too much for the Cocks. If there are upset specials, I’d look to Nebraska at Colorado or Penn State at Pitt. Without much question, the best game of the day is #17 USC at #10 Stanford in Palo alto. That is a hell of a matchup for so early in the season. USC is starting a true freshman at QB. JT Daniels looked pretty promising versus UNLV in the Trojan’s opener, but, man The Tree is loaded. Looks like tough sledding for Tommy Trojan tonight.

In the pros, the Iggles edged out the Falcons, barely, in a penalty filled lackluster game Thursday night. A win is a win I guess, and Nick Foles keeps winning. The Niners at Minnesota might be interesting, Jimmy G versus Kirk Cousins. Lot of folks expecting big things from San Fran this year, but the Vikes are stacked. I don’t know why, but the Steelers at Browns interests me. There is a lot of noise around the Browns, but than they play yet?? Stillers are a tough opening game. Tennessee at Miami is a matchup of two teams that either both could be pretty good, or both could be pretty bad. Who wins that one? The Chargers are a real sleeper. Their team really started to come together last year, and they still have Phillip Rivers. Joey boss apparently out though, and he is a big play guy. The Bolts are at home in their cracker box soccer stadium, but still trust Andy Reid and the Chefs more.

Washington and Cardinals here will be interesting. Cards, like the Sun Devils above, are all changed in coaching and roster. How will Sam Braford work with Larry Fitzgerald? Can any of the other really young Cards receivers play? A LOT of unknowns to be fleshed out in that game. The Bears visit a kind of revamped Green Bay, but, uh, the Pack has that Aaron Rodgers guy. Seattle at Denver is interesting in that both teams look to be in turmoil; Mile High always tough though. Houston at New England is pretty clearly the game of the week. Deshaun Watson was ripping the league up last year before getting injured, but now he is back. The Tejans also have added Tyrann “Honeybadger” Matthieu to an already killer defense and have JJ watt back. The Pats, well, they have a couple of old geezers named Brady and Belichick. That has been enough usually. Discuss any and all other games, or anything else, at your leisure.

Crank it up, Trash is back from, and with, The Dead. Hat tip to Rosalind, who loves The Dead!

Okay

Baku, Belichick and the NFL Draft

Okay, it has been a while since we had a real Trash Talk. So here we go. Not a particularly deep one, but between the NFL Draft, which has been pretty interesting, and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku, it seemed like a decent opportunity for one of our off season points to talk a little sports trash.

First up, Baku. Frankly, Azerbaijan has made significant and important strides since the breakup of the USSR. While I am not totally comfortable with the support that a continuing Grand Prix provides, it is nowhere near as troublesome as F1 bucking up truly oppressive and evil middle eastern nations like Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. At any rate, it is what it is, and the street course in Baku is truly beautiful. Extremely so. It does not, however, allow many opportunities for overtaking and passing.

Starting grid position is at a premium, and Vettel of Ferrari and Hamilton of Mercedes are on the front row. Kimi Raikkonen was on pace to be the pole sitter through early sectors in Q3, but had a blip. Was amazing driving to pull his butt out of it without shunting his car into a wall, but the time blip cost him dearly and he will start in P7. The race looks to be very promising, even if a tad processional, especially at the front. Alonso, seems slow, and could not even get his McLaren out of Q1.

Now the NFL draft. Rounds 1-3 are in the books. Many teams seem to have done quite well for themselves, including the Brownies and Jets. I figure I will totally jinx the local Cards by saying this, but I think their first round to move up and get Josh Rosen, the best pure, and pro style ready QB in the draft, was wonderful. They followed up by getting a fantastic long term answer at slot receiver, local Scottsdale prep product, later of Texas A+M, in Christian Kirk. Very much a Julian Edelman/Danny Amendola kind of talent, but maybe slightly faster and shiftier. Oh, and the Cards’ next pick will, seriously, be announced by a dude standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona.

You cannot really rate a draft class until it is over, but, so far, the Cards are having a very good year. And, for Scribe, I think it is extremely notable that the Steelers maneuvered to select Mason Rudolph. Groomed right, Rudolph is very much a Big Ben clone successor. Will need the grooming, but sure looks like a great value pick, and with incredible upside, to me. And Pittsburgh did not stretch to get him, at all, either.

As to the Belichick angle, the Pats have been all over the board moving around and trading up and down repetitively. The national sportswriters seem to be joking that it is so much that nobody will ever know the real value of the Jimmy G trade with San Francisco late last year, because it is all too confusing. That may be true! Belichick loves to obscure things. My question is whether Bill Bel will take Richmond QB Kyle Lauletta with the fifth pick in the fourth round if he is there, and he may well be. The Pats seem like they are going to take a QB somewhere, even if just for camp fodder. Lauletta seems like a real prospect though, and a perfect flyer for the Patriots. We shall see.

Alright Wheel nuts, let loose with your draft, F1 and general sports and other thoughts. Let’s let our hair down and have some fun. Music by Pink Floyd from Obscured By Clouds, one of the great under appreciated albums ever, for Floyd and in general. So, bring some chatter about your NFL team, what they have accomplished in the offseason and draft, and about F1.

The Day The Music Died In F1

This is not to detract from a few other similar dates, Von Trips and Senna come to mind (see here for background on Von Trips at the Italian at Monza and Senna at the closely related venue of Imola).

They are dark days, but bookend maybe the greatest loss in F1, that of Jim Clark, on April 7, 1968. Fifty years ago today. At Hockenheim. I was reminded of this this morning by the great Paul Henri Cahier.

It is fascinating how, now, when discussions of “the greatest driver ever” militate towards people like Hamilton and Schumacher, excellent drivers both, but with ridiculous relative equipment advantages, both, in their era of dominance. Too short of shrift is given to the lions of a different, more competitive, age like Jim Clark.

So, on the eve of the Bahrain Grand Prix, a beautiful location, but a shit show that F1 and Ecclestone should have never agreed to or tolerated for human rights reasons, raise a toast to Jim Clark. The man won two World Championships AND the 1965 Indianapolis 500. That is something you will never see again, and he was special.

Down Under F1 Trash Talk

Welp, we have not had a Trash Talk thread here in a while. Since the Super Bowl by my guess. So, maybe it is time, and consider this an open thread because I know not all share the historical love of Formula One that this blog does.

The Circus season is about to open. As usual lately, it will be in Albert Park in Melbourne. And it is a fair and fast circuit to open the season with. Last year provided a shocker with Vettel and Ferrari taking the opening win. The rest of the season devolved into another Hamilton coronation though. Sadly. All things racing are better with better competition.

So this year, coverage of the Circus moves from NBCSN, which was abominable, back to ESPN from whence it came long ago. Personally, I loved Leigh Diffey, Steve Matchett and David Hobbs. But other than that, the always changing, and unpredictably located coverage by NBC was shit. As was their babbling and unctuous on scene pit row “reporter” Will Buxton, who is distressingly still present on the Sky feed ESPN uses. Can we swap Buxton for Leigh Diffey somehow?

ESPN may be doing it on the cheap, but they are doing so by utilizing a far superior European feed. Frankly, I am good with that, so far, so much the better. And we are not even into qualifying yet.

Okay, off we go for qualifying. We shall see that out before I post this, but the race, like The Dude, will have to abide.

And Qualy is off! The start of the season is always pretty exciting. Albert Park is a good spot, but not necessarily one of the classic circuits in F1. Probably a little warmer there than ideal, but still a decent track.

Wow. Just wow. The difference in the feed from the NBCSN years, as well as Fox/Speed, is like night and day. Incredibly superior. Hamilton takes pole, but Raikkonen and Vettel are in P2 and P3, with the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo right behind.

Sadly Fernando Alonso in the McLaren starts out the season once again out of the top ten in qualifying. Couldn’t even make it into Q3. At some point he will no longer have it, and that day is quickly approaching, but Alonso is not done yet and the fact he is not in competitive equipment is a tragedy in the Circus. Put Fernando in Botas’ seat and Hamilton might pucker. But that is not happening, which is a sad thing for F1 fans.

So, we are off with a new season of Trash. It will be inconsistent until football really starts again, but will pop up every now and then. This weekend’s music is by Jimmy Barnes, a great Aussie import (for the Australian GP) that never got enough cred here in the states. In this clip, with Joe Bonamassa, but it is totally a Jimmy Barnes song (and it is awesome). Give it a listen, it is pretty great. Other than that, keep rolling, we have a long way to go yet.

What Jackie Wallace Said, And Less Important Super Bowl 52 Trash Talk

Here we all are, at the end of yet another NFL, and other, football season. Like parting,the Super Bowl is always such sweet sorrow. It is the ultimate American football game, and yet it is also the end. Sure, there is the pretentious and ever petulant star driven NBA, and, sure, pitchers and catchers are reporting within days for those who think the boys of summer really belong in the pre-spring.

But, this weekend, is the Super Bowl. Even in an insanely Arctic like location as the 6º stupidity of Minneapolis, it is the biggest event there is. Sure, Goodell and the @NFL needs to encourage every franchise city to rape their taxpayers for a publicly funded stadium, but placing the biggest event in American sports in insanely inhospitable locations is a craven price to pay and play.

Enough of that though. It is now Super Bowl weekend. Eagles and Patriots. There are a ton of compelling stories athletically.

Yet none of them stack up. None even hold a candle, to the story that NOLA photojournalist Ted Jackson published today about Jackie Wallace:

One foot in front of the other, the hulking old man trudged up the ramp to the Pontchartrain Expressway. A cold wind stiffened his face, so he bundled tighter and kept walking. His decision was made. A life full of accolades and praise meant nothing to him now. A man who was once the pride of his New Orleans hometown, his St. Augustine alma mater and his 7th Ward family and friends was undone. He was on his way to die.

The man was tired. In his 63 years, he had run with the gods and slept with the devil. Living low and getting high had become as routine as taking a breath. A hideous disease was eating his insides. He was an alcoholic, and he also craved crack cocaine. He was tired of fighting. He was tired of playing the game.
He crossed the last exit ramp and continued walking the pavement toward the top of the bridge. He dodged cars as they took the ramp. No one seemed to notice the ragged man walking to his suicide. If they did notice, they didn’t stop to help.

Only a half-mile more and it would all be over. One hundred and 50 feet below, the powerful currents of the Mississippi River would swallow his soul and his wretched life. He dodged another car. But why did it matter? Getting hit by a car would serve his purposes just as well as jumping.

How did it come to this? This was long after Jackie had turned his life around, or so we both thought.

Jackie Wallace played in three Super Bowls. He was not just a good player, but a great one. Yet Ted Jackson found him in a fetal position underneath a bridge in New Orleans. Yes, there was a heartwarming redemption story:

But the best was yet to come. Three years later, I sat working at my desk writing photo captions for some run-of-the-mill story. Above my desk, a large glass wall separated the photo lab from the newsroom. As I worked, I was startled by a sharp rap on the glass. I looked up to see Jackie Wallace’s 6-foot, 3-inch frame towering over me, dressed in a three-piece suit with his arms stretched as wide as he was tall.
Beaming with his gap-tooth grin, he exclaimed, “Do you believe in miracles?”

But, no, it did not end there. It went very dark. These are the NFL stories none of us want to hear. But their presence and message are all to clear. Let them whisper in your ear. Please, I implore you, read Ted Jackson’s account on Jackie Wallace. It will rip your guts out, and you will be better for that.

For Act II, I want to point out a seriously awesome contribution from my friend Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer titled, and legitimately so, “I nearly quit watching the NFL. The humanity of Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long brought me back”:

For Chris Long’s former high school football coach John Blake, there is one moment — and one image — that really showed the world what the Eagles defensive end is all about. And it wasn’t Long’s headline-grabbing announcement that he’d donate all his 2017 game paychecks to worthwhile causes, including two scholarships to send underprivileged kids to his Charlottesville, Va., alma mater, the St. Anne’s-Belfield School.

It was the preseason game back in August when the 10-year NFL veteran stood up for the national anthem and — in a gesture of solidarity and support — put his arm around his teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who was raising his fist to protest racial injustice in America. It was no little thing, as Long became the most visible white supporter of the protests that have roiled pro football for the last two seasons.

“What Chris was trying to do, basically, was to say that we need to listen — he’s got a point, all of these guys who are doing this are doing this for a reason,” said Blake, still head coach at the Virginia prep school. It was a brave political statement around the time when no less than the president of the United States was berating any athlete who protested during the anthem as a “son of a bitch,” but that arm-wrap also set the stage for all the giving-back good deeds that Jenkins, Long, and, increasingly. their Eagles teammates did in the Philadelphia community in the days that followed.

It does not end there. Will Bunch’s discussion of what Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles has done, and how he has conducted himself, is even better.

While Jenkins drew flak from some for raising his fist during the anthem, he was also forging close ties with the Philadelphia Police Department, not just meeting with top brass but riding around with rank-and-file officers to learn how cops and the communities they serve can develop better trust — a real-world strategy for reducing shootings by police. While some angry fans, with Donald Trump’s hateful “son of a bitch” rant burning in their ears, chortled that protesting black athletes didn’t even know what they were protesting for, Jenkins made a mockery of that ignorant claim. He was busy writing a searing series on criminal justice in the Philadelphia Citizen, traveling to Harrisburg to lobby lawmakers on “Clean Slate” legislation to wipe clean the records of low-level nonviolent offenders, urging sweeping reform of the broken bail system, and calling on Pennsylvania to release inmates given life-without-parole sentences as juveniles. One such ex-offender who did win his freedom recently, Kempis Songster, will be in the stands at the Super Bowl — because Jenkins paid his way to get there.

Seriously, go read it.

Okay, enough for the emotional moralizing. Though I think it is a more than decent time and platform to do so on and from. Let’s get down to the Wild Night:

Lot of people yak about the high holy commercials. Save for a couple (Hi early Apple!) I think they are WAY overrated. So, let us talk for a moment about the halftime shows. As Vulture does with many bands and things, they have drilled down to an all time ranking of Super Bowl halftime shows.

Honestly, I take issue with a LOT of their rankings. There are two I do not, however. The first is their top rank for Prince in 2007. In the driving rain, Prince was beyond awesome. That was indeed the best.

The second best, however, to me was Diana Ross at Super Bowl XXX which Vulture has at only number 6. I will have to admit, I am far from impartial as that was at Sun Devil Stadium and I was there about fifteen rows up from the floor. Diana was unreal, and the helicopter thing was simply insane. Were the acoustics etc. perfect? Nope. But Diana Ross owned the place. I wish I could describe it, but I can’t do better than that. It was more memorable than the game, and remains so to this day (Aikman and Cowboys beat Neil O’Donnell and the Steelers in a fair, but not that close game).

So, the Pats are taking on the Eagles. Who wins? For all those saying it is a slam dunk, remember, the Pats never win by much or clearly in Super Bowls. They may be the dynasty they are, but the margin in the Super Bowls, whether they win or lose (Hi Eli!) is always small, at best. This looks to be another one of those. Nick Foles is better than people give him credit for, and, AGAIN, if Doug Peterson turns Foles lose and lets him rip, this may be a far different game than most people and oddsmakers think. I see it as a pick em 24 hours ahead of time. Enjoy!

Okay, in the musical selections for this week, I may have substituted Jackie Wilson for Jackie Wallace. The joy with which Van Morrison plays on Jackie Wilson and Wild Night seem right for the joy Jackie Wallace played with in his prime. Let’s remember that, and think of Jackie and all the aging stars of our youth. They brought great joy then, time to give back that appreciation. Enjoy the Super Bowl one and all.

Under Tom’s Thumb Conference Championship Trash Talk 2018

Here we are in the penultimate weekend of the professional football season for 2017-2018. The final four. And, usually, a far better weekend of football than that of the Super Bowl.

The early game is Jacksonville at New England. There has been a lot of chatter about this one. Started with chatter about the Jag’s awesome defense and D-Line ability to get to and rattle Brady. And, to be fair, Brady is nowhere near his usual self if you can really put the wood to him. But then things went bonkers with news of the injury to Tom’s thumb. Hand. Whatever. If Betty Grable had “Million dollar Legs”, you have to wonder what Brady’s right hand is worth. Word is, however, after not doing much in practice Thursday, he back at it on Friday and looking good. Pats are favorites by 7.5, and that seems about right. The Jag’s defense sure seems to be everything advertised. Calais Campbell was panned as costing way too much for Jax to pick up off the Cardinals in free agency. All he has done is have an all-world season and be in contention for defensive player of the year. Jalen Ramsey is almost as good as his mouth says he is. So, the defensive edge goes to the Jags. But Tom Brady, bum thumb or no, just has way more savvy and mojo in big games than Blake Bortles does. The fact that Pats killer Tom Coughlin is with Jacksonville now gives serious pause. But as appealing as it seems, no way to bet against New England.

The late game is Vikes at Eagles in Philly. Hey, a lot of folks thought this game would be Atlanta at Saints. The number one seeded Eagles were even home dogs against Atlanta, but they won a hard fought game. Same for the Vikes, who literally needed the “Minneapolis Miracle” in the last second to emerge. But emerge they did. And now they are favorites by 3.5 over the, yet again, home dog Eagles. Not long ago, Nick Foles and Case Keenum were both on the Rams. Now they are squaring off in the NFC Championship game. Keenum is on a far more, and better, roll than Foles. My prescription is same as last week for Philly…take the shackles off and let Foles rip. You are going to either win or die, might as well let him play. They did not really do that last week and still managed to eek out a win. Maybe their defense is that good, we shall see. I’ll take the Vikes though.

Okay, that is it, let er rip. Music is, obviously, by the Stones. If you have super vision, and look close enough, maybe you can spot me just left of center stage, about ten to fifteen people back. It was a hell of a beautiful day.

Divisional Playoffs 2018

Four more games, two today, two tomorrow. Win or go home. All the platitudes. I have been spending a great deal of my time the last week with the porcelain god in the bathroom, and nearly all of it the last 24 hours. Also have a pretty important little trip have to make here early this morning, so one and all please feel free to fill in background and predictions on the games.

First up for Saturday is Atlanta at Philadelphia. The weather will be freezing cold, and temp expected to keep dropping during the game. Atlanta is a southern dome team with not much, uh, exposure to such conditions. That heavily favors the Eagles, and their superior defense, who are. But the Falcons have Matt Ryan at QB and the Iggles are stuck with backup Nick Foles. A great kid, who can be pretty good on occasion, but Foles is no Matt Ryan. The trendy pickers seem to all be taking the Falcons. And I will too. Philly needs to open up their offense and see if Foles can’t get on a run. Again, he is capable of that streakiness. But if they go conservative, they are toast. Play to win the game.

Late game Saturday is Tennessee at Patriots. More cold weather will be in store in Foxborough. Keep them balls inflated boys! Seems like every year that the Pats are the Saturday night game in Divisional week. Go figure. Marcus Mariota is young, talented and mobile. The kind of QB that can give New England fits. The Pats’ secondary has really come along nicely since the start of the year. So, really, this will come down to the ability of their D-Line to pressure and contain Mariota. James Harrison should get significant opportunity to help them out in that regard. The Titans are a nice story, and look like a team growing a solid core for the future. Hard to see them slaying the Pats tonight though. Also, how can a team win a history on their team name like this?? (c/o our wonderful friend @StephStradley)

Early game Sunday is Jacksonville at Steelers. This could be a great defensive struggle….or not. I tend to think not. Pittsburgh defense may not be what the Jag’s currently is, but it is not bad at all. And it is just really hard to see how the Jags are going to produce enough offense to keep up with Big Be and the Bumblebee Boys. In fairness, the passing game may be more check offs and mid range stuff if Antonio Brown is hobbled or out. But I expect Brown to suit up and do fine. This is Pittsburgh and the playoffs dammit, not some meaningless late season game. The Steelers are itching to get back to the Patriots in Foxborough, and I think they are going to get their wish.

Last game standing will be Saints at Vikings. Vikes are 4 point faves at home. Seems about right I guess. That said, this is the one game that truly looks like a pickem to me. Case Keenum and the Vikes have been quietly excellent on offense, and scoring plenty of points this year. And the Minnesota defense is fantastic. Saints are a little up and down this year, but did seems strong down the stretch for the most part. The Nawlins defense is quite improved over what they have suffered for many years. But it is not on the level of the Vikings. If the Saints are going to win this, and there is a path for that to happen, will have to be by Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara running wild. Hey, it could happen, but not putting hard money on it.

Okay fans and fannys, that is it. Hoop it up. Music this week is by Stevie Nicks playing with Bob Welch and his band. May be the best version of Gold Dust Woman around. For some reason, and never seen this before , the video is not interacting well with our blog. So here is the link. It is worth a watch.

Wildcard Weekend 2017

The regular season is finally over, and after a horrible schedule of boring games to close it out last weekend, we are on to the playoffs. Playoffs?!?! Yeah, here were for Wildcard Weekend 2017, and it is on to the games:

First up is Tennessee at the KC Chefs. The knee jerk is to say the Titans don’t have enough scoring potential to keep cooking with the Chefs. But KC has lost every home playoff game in the supposed ultimate home advantage of Arrowhead Stadium in the last 24 years (seriously, the last win there, the Chiefs had a QB by the name of Joe Montana). That is not good. KC also has some injury issues, especially as to returners, and will likely have to use star receiver Tyreek Hill in the fraught return game. Titans have their own injury problems with starting RB DeMarco Murray out with an MCL sprain. But they still have Derrick Henry, who is very good, but may be overworked. Injury problems at CB too for the Titans. You will be shocked to hear that the game will come down to which QB protects the ball better and gets yardage downfield, but Smith has Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce for that. Hey, Aaron Rodgers he is not, but I will take the experience and calm of KC’s Alex Smith over young and talented, but sometimes erratic, Marcus Mariota.

Late game for Saturday is Falcons at Rams. There are a lot of smart people, for one Mike Wilbon, thinking the edge here goes to the Dirty Birds because of their, and their quarterback’s, superior experience in the playoffs. I don’t know that that is wrong. By the same token, nothing seems false about the Rams. They already had a great defense, with true studs like Aaron Donald etc. The turnaround this year was the offense, and if Jared Goff gets past the original early game jitters, they are really solid on that side of the ball too. Todd Gurley is the serious beast we all thought he would be coming out of Georgia. Goff has bee steady, and at times spectacular. And, while there is no Julio Jones on their roster, the trio of Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp gives Goff solid targets across his read. I have no real reason why, but will go out on a limb and take the Rams, even if I do not feel good about it.

Early game Sunday is Buffal at Jacksonville. The Marrone Bow, because Jax coach Doug Marrone walked out on the Bills and landed as the current coach of the Jaguars after a stint as OC. The Jags also have Tom Coughlin in the front office, but he seems to be quite involved in the field work too. The combo has worked for the Jags. Blake Bortles has even looked like an upper half NFL QB lately. The Bills are a great story getting back into the playoffs (not since 1999) – finally – after a long drought. But they did it by the thinnest of reeds in tie breakers. Frankly, I think the Chargers would have been a harder out at this point. But here the Bills are. Shady McCoy looks like he will play for the Bills, but his ankle clearly is not in optimum condition. And the Jacksonville defense, led by the awesome Calais Campbell, is quite stout. I’ll take the Jags, Bortles and Leonard Fournette here, plus, of course, they are at home.

Last game is the Sunday late game of Carolina at Saints. Fittingly, it is last in the Saturday queue, because it is probably the best and most intriguing game. Both teams have experience in the playoffs. Cam Newton versus Drew Brees, two vastly different, but awesome QB’s. Nawlins won both head to head match ups this year in the NFC South. And, no, I do not buy that “you can’t win three games in a season against the same team” baloney. It may or may not be true, but it is a trope that came out of ACC basketball, not the NFL. The Saints defense is MUCH improved. Drew Brees is still Drew Breeeees. And he has a young and ridiculously dynamic running back in Alvin Kamara. Kamara may well be on the field in kick return situations too. I think this is too much for the Panthers, especially in the Superdome. Great game though.

Okay, there you have it. You all have good stuff to say, let it rip in comments. Music this weekend is by Willie Nelson. Willie is fucking great, and I went to see him again last Wednesday night. My wife had never seen him before, and her eyes were opened. Yes, it is not just his voice, but his guitar playing too. Really great. Have a great weekend folks.

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