Introducing My NFL Mid-Term Awards

Murray
Murray
Despite the fumbles, DeMarco Murray is my mid-season choice for NFL MVP.

Believe it or not the National Football League is entering week nine which means we are at the half-way point of the 2014 season. I couldn’t live with myself (OK I probably could) if I didn’t give you my thoughts on who is headed for the podium to receive awards. I’m also going to give you some awards that might not necessarily appear in most publications.

NFL Most Valuable Player

DeMarco Murray. The easy answer here is always Peyton Manning and he is having an MVP-worthy season and will probably win it but I’m going with Murray. Behind a much-improved offensive line, Murray has been absolutely dominant in leading the Cowboys to a 6-2 record. Others: Philip Rivers, J.J. Watt, Ben Roethlisberger

NFL Offensive Player of the Year

Manning. With all due to respect to Murray who could eclipse 2,000 yards rushing, my gut feeling is that Manning’s numbers will be hard to ignore. The fact that he’s 38 years old doesn’t hurt his chances either. Others: Rivers,Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell,

NFL Defensive Player of the Year

J.J. Watt. The only reason I’m even mentioning this is because there is still half the season to go but to this point Watt is the front-runner by miles. Others: Von Miller, Justin Houston

NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

Odell Beckham, Jr. Yup, I know… He’s hardly played this season but now that he’s healthy he’s been tearing it up and I believe he will continue to do so. Others: Kelvin Benjamin, Sammy Watkins

Barr
Anthony Barr is quietly putting together a great rookie year in Minnesota.

NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year

Anthony Barr. This could go to one of several guys but considering that Barr is basically the only true pass rushing threat the Vikings have that’s pretty damn good for a rookie. Others: C.J. Mosely, Ryan Shazier

NFL Coach of the Year

Bruce Arians. What more can we say about Arians? After “retiring” from the Steelers, he was the offensive coordinator that led rookie Andrew Luck into the playoffs then led the Cardinals to a 10-6 record last year. Now his Cards are 6-1 and he’s seen his team win with a banged up Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton at QB. Others: Jason Garrett, Jim Caldwell

Surprise Team of the Year

Detroit Lions. At 6-2, the Lions have gotten here despite injuries to Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. They’ve also pulled rabbits out of their hats in the last two weeks with crazy comebacks. Either way, wins are wins. Others: Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers

Coach on the Hottest Seat

Mike Smith, Falcons. There are worse records out there but Smith’s Falcons have been brutal over the last season and a half and Sunday’s loss in London was the clincher. Others: Rex Ryan, Joe Philbin

Most Irritating Owner

Jerry Jones, Cowboys. Jones is a media whore and the networks like ESPN just follow his every move like a lost puppy. Others: Jim Irsay

Luckiest Man in the NFL

Dennis Allen. The former Raiders’ head coach was the first casualty of the season and he couldn’t have been luckier to get out of there.

Best Celebration Award

Randall Cobb, Packers. Cobb’s recent “Lambeau Leap” wasn’t all that unusual until someone’s hot dog got ketchup all over his jersey. So red was it that the trainer had to make sure it wasn’t blood. Others: Jeremy Hill’s “Ickey Shuffle”

Most Disappointing Division

NFC South. 3-4-1 leads this division right now. ‘Nuff said.

Worst Uniforms

Steelers Throwbacks. Flight of the Bumblebees is more like it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFL Bullets for Week Seven

Cutler
Cutler
Jay Cutler and the Bears fell to 0-3 at home and it didn't sit well with Brandon Marshall.

The National Football League used to be a place where a “sure thing” actually was a “sure thing.” In the 1970’s, we knew that teams like the Raiders, Steelers, Cowboys and Dolphins would be favorites almost every week.

In the 1980’s, teams like the 49ers, Broncos, Giants and Redskins were the “givens” while in the 1990’s the Cowboys and Niners established themselves as “go to picks” when gambling.

Those days are gone because we are now in an era of parity that may be unlike any seen in professional sports. Great teams are a thing of the past because now we have “good teams” that are capable of winning many games but they are also capable of losing games that shouldn’t.

Oh well, this is what the league wants so I guess we have to deal with it.

On to this week’s bullets…

Hoyer
Brian Hoyer was brutal in the Browns' loss to the Jags which opens up questions about Johnny Manziel.

-The Cleveland Browns once again showed why they are the “Cleveland Browns.” A week after blitzing long-time nemesis Pittsburgh, the Browns followed that up with a loss to lowly Jacksonville.

-Any great team always has guys in the locker room who are edgy and aren’t exactly “choir boys.” Seattle’s “choir boy” apparently has been singing the wrong tunes as Percy Harvin was traded to the Jets.

-I’m guessing Harvin had supporters and detractors and Sunday’s loss in St. Louis was evidence of that as several players said the timing was pretty bad. They were informed as they boarded the plane to Missouri on Friday.

-Apparently there is more dysfunction in Chicago where the Bears were soundly beaten by Miami. The Bears are 0-3 at home and loud screaming was heard after the game as Brandon Marshall was allegedly calling out Jay Cutler. Why does this surprise anyone? Resigning Cutler was a mistake.

-I have no problem saying that Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of all-time. Just make sure you put “regular season” in front. Manning is under .500 in the playoffs and I’m sorry, but that’s where the great ones are truly defined.

-New Orleans wasted a great opportunity on Sunday. They led Detroit by 13 points with four minutes to go. A win would have put them at 3-3 and at the top of the NFC South but they blew the lead and fell to 2-4. Good for them that their division stinks or else it would be too late.

-I still have concerns about Green Bay’s defense and the Packers’ offensive line but I would not want to mess with Aaron Rodgers right now or in the playoffs.

-I have no idea what to make of the Cincinnati Bengals who are now looking up in the standings at Baltimore. Indianapolis is playing well, but shutting out the Bengals? I never saw that coming. If this Bengals’ team misses the playoffs or goes one and done Marvin Lewis would have to be out.

-I have no idea how the Seahawks fell for that Rams’ punt return. How on Earth do you not know where the ball is?

-Antonio Brown and J.J. Watt were once part of the same offense at Central Michigan.

-Congrats to DeMarco Murray who rushed for 100 yards in his seventh straight game to open the season. All he did was break the record of Jim Brown but no big deal right?

-As long as the Cowboys’ offensive line stays healthy I think that offense will thrive. Lengthy injuries however could derail Jerry’s boys.

Atlanta Hosts Dallas on Sunday Night Football

Tony Romo's 13 interceptions have been a huge problem for the Cowboys this season, but his 19-2 record in November will give the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons something to think about on Sunday Night Football.

As Sunday Night Football rolls around again this week, viewers will get their chance to see the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons host the reeling Dallas Cowboys.

This marquee match-up between the team with the only perfect record in the league and America’s favorite team will have bettors on the edge of their seats. It’s highly likely that they’ll remain on the edge of their seats until the very end as well.

If you’re unsure who to pick in this one and need a few pointers, read on to find a few nuggets of truth that may sway you one way or another.

 

Unbeaten Falcons Looking for More

There’s still an air of criticism surrounding the Atlanta Falcons (7-0, 3-0 home), and rightfully so.

The Georgia side may well be perfect but that is a record achieved against a very soft schedule. Atlanta has faced just one team (Denver) that currently has a winning record. The team’s opponents have gone a combined 19-33 (.365), hardly a record that is going to be imposing to any semi-decent side. But, as the old adage goes, you are what your record says.

Atlanta will look to ride this unbeaten streak further towards the playoffs. And ride the Falcons can. At this point in time, the schedule going forward is almost as soft as that which has passed. Future opponents have a record of 27-38 (.415), and only one team with a winning record (NY Giants) lies in wait.

Of course there’s a big difference between what happens on paper and what happens on the gridiron. With five games remaining against divisional rivals, Atlanta can expect the run to the postseason to be tougher than it appears. And it might not take until next week’s showdown with New Orleans for the Falcons to chalk one up in the loss column.

 

Dire Times in Big D

Anyway you slice it up, Dallas (3-4, 2-2 road) has had a bizarre season so far. It’s not that the Cowboys’ 3-4 record is that strange. The team has certainly played like a 3-4 team for much of the year. It’s not even that there is a huge imbalance between the almost non-existent running game and the passing game. It’s the fact that this is a team with obvious talent, but nothing to show for it.

Dallas has the number three passing offense in the league in terms of yards per game (297.3). It also has the number three pass defense in the league (187.7 YPG). Those two statistics should translate to a high-scoring offense akin to New England or New Orleans. It doesn’t.

Dallas scores just 19.6 PPG (25th). Part of this is down to a weak rushing game that has seen neither DeMarco Murray nor Felix Jones put in any kind of consistent play. Murray (foot) will be missing for the third straight game Sunday. Part of it is down to Tony Romo.

Romo has thrown a completion rate of 65 percent this season with nine touchdowns. He’s even ran one in, putting him one behind Murray for the team lead in rushing touchdowns. But he’s thrown 13 interceptions! Far too many drives have finished with Romo giving the ball to the other side.

If the Cowboys are to achieve anything against the Falcons on Sunday night it starts with looking after the football. In an ideal world, Romo would hand the ball off and let the Cowboys’ running game punish a weak Atlanta rush defense. That perfect world wouldn’t include Murray out and Jones trying to cope with a niggling injury. Come kickoff time, the Cowboys may have no option but to put all of their eggs in the basket that is Romo’s inaccurate arm.

But then again, Tony Romo is 19-2 in the month of November!

 

Looking for an Edge

Dallas leads the all-time head-to-head 16-8 and has been dominant in recent years. The Cowboys have won seven of the last 10 meetings, including the last time the two sides met, a 37-21 victory in October 2009. Dallas is 7-5 all-time when playing the Falcons in Atlanta.

Atlanta is favorite heading into this one. A three-point advantage has risen to four points as kickoff approaches.

Dallas has gone 3-4 ATS this season while Atlanta is 5-2 ATS. The two games dropped by Atlanta came in close wins over Oakland and Carolina, and go some way to suggesting that the Falcons are not as dominant as their record might suggest.

The over/under is 47½. The last two times the sides met, the total exceeded that number, but neither has rewarded bettors taking the over this season. Both sides have seen the total go under four times in seven games. Dallas has also seen the total go under in seven of its last 10 games and six of seven on the road. All signs point to taking the under this Sunday in Georgia.

Monday Night Football Sees Dallas Host Chicago

Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys host Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears in an important matchup for both sides.

The Week 4 edition of Monday Night Football comes live from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as the Dallas Cowboys (2-1, 1-0 home) host the Chicago Bears (2-1, 0-1 road).

Both teams have had somewhat tepid starts to the season and will be looking for a victory to really kick start the season. For bettors, the matchup presents an intriguing clash of two teams difficult to separate.

Mirror Images

For Dallas and Chicago, the 2012 season has brought much comparison. In terms of record, the two are even whilst both feature quarterbacks under the microscope and teams that have yet to really set out a stall.

In Week 1, Dallas upset the New York Giants, earning a 24-17 victory on the opening Wednesday of the season. Chicago opened its season with a win over the Indianapolis Colts and the debuting Andrew Luck.

In Week 2, Dallas was upset by Seattle. Not only were the Cowboys upset, they were embarrassed, succumbing to a 27-7 loss. Meanwhile, Chicago lost its Thursday Night Football showdown with the Green Bay Packers, effectively being played off the field.

In Week 3, Dallas manufactured a tough 16-10 win over Tampa Bay on what was essentially an impressive defensive outing. Chicago defeated St. Louis 23-6 but didn’t look as dominant as the scoreline would suggest.

Now the two teams meet on Monday night, both considered underachievers despite winning records.

Statistically Speaking

The game figures to be a defensive battle with both teams ranking inside the NFL’s top five defenses. Dallas leads the league only giving up 250 yards per game, while Chicago has limited opponents to 279 yards (5th).

The Cowboys have been particularly effective against the pass, conceding just 137 yards per game. Chicago is more effective against the run, conceding just 76 yards on the ground compared to the Cowboys’ 113.

That’s bad news for DeMarco Murray (DAL), who has been stifled the past two games after beating the 100-yard mark against New York in Week 1. It could be good news for Michael Bush (CHI) who has had an impressive start to the season. Matt Forte (CHI) is listed as questionable with an ankle injury that kept him out of last week’s game against St. Louis.

Offensively, both teams have been somewhat limited. Dallas is averaging 342 yards (19th) while Chicago is averaging 290 (26th). Neither team will be particularly happy with those numbers. Alarmingly, the Cowboys are only averaging 15.7 points per game, an anemic number that would suggest the team should be worse off than 2-1. That’s another reason to expect a defensive affair on Monday night.

Looking for an Edge

Dallas leads Chicago 13-9 in all-time in head-to-head contests, including two playoff victories. Dallas has won five of the last eight meetings, but the Bears took a 27-20 win in the last meeting (September 2010) between the pair.

The spread for this game opened at three (in favor of the Cowboys) and has extended to 3½. Bettors looking for an edge might want to consider the following: Dallas is 1-2 ATS this season including 0-1 at home and 0-2 as favorites. Advantage Bears? Maybe not. Chicago is 2-1 ATS this season but is 0-1 away and 0-1 as underdog. Something has to give.

The total has gone under in the Cowboys’ last five games, so the smart money is on taking the under on 42½ points. Bettors in the know have already seen that figure drop from 45 at opening.

As to who is likely to come out on top of this one, it’s really anybody’s pick. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine either side coming out with the win. Even if Chicago were to pull off an upset win, would it be all that much of an upset? Not really.

Ultimately, for players, coaches, fans and bettors alike, the one outcome everybody’s looking to avoid is another controversial finish like last Monday night.