Your Early NFL Lines Which Are Always Subject to Change

Reid
Reid
Andy Reid has the Chiefs rolling in the AFC West and now they head to Oakland for a Thursday night game.

Kansas City (-7) at Oakland – The Chiefs find themselves tied with Denver atop the AFC West at 7-3 although a home loss to the Broncos in week two gives Denver the edge. The Raiders are… The Raiders who haven’t won now in a calendar year.

Cleveland (+3) at Atlanta – The Browns laid a serious egg at home in losing to Houston Sunday while the Falcons have suddenly won two-straight and sit atop the NFC South at 4-6. If Brian Hoyer struggles to put points on the board in the first half, sound the Johnny Football alarm.

Tennessee (+10.5) at Philadelphia – This line could move substantially depending upon how the Titans did last night. Mark Sanchez came crashing back to Earth while getting buried in Green Bay Sunday. Look for the Eagles to get back to some normalcy at home.

Gray
I'm sure you all saw the performance of Jonas Gray coming didn't you?

Detroit (+5.5) at New England – The Lions put up a valiant effort in losing to the Cardinals in the desert and now face falling behind a hot Packers’ team in the NFC North. What more can be said for the Patriots who are getting it done in numerous ways?

Green Bay (-9.5) at Minnesota – Aaron Rodgers and the Packers take their high-scoring machine on the road to Minnesota where the Vikings are still struggling to find their way. What we have to be careful with here is the potential for a letdown.

Jacksonville (+14) at Indianapolis – I honestly don’t know what’s in the water in Jacksonville but it seems any QB that comes there just gets worse. The Colts will be ready for rookie Blake Bortles and they’ll be fired up after getting pounded by the Patriots.

Cincinnati (+2.5) at Houston – The Bengals may have saved their season with a big win at New Orleans and now face a Texans’ team that is suddenly just a game behind the Colts. Rookie Alfred Blue filled in for Arian Foster with a big day on the ground which helped Ryan Mallett in his debut.

NY Jets (+4.5) at Buffalo – The Jets ended their eight-game losing streak by beating the Steelers and now head to Buffalo where the Bills are clinging to life in the AFC at 5-5. A loss ends any chance of the Bills making the postseason while a win keeps them alive.

Tampa Bay (+6) at Chicago – Jay Cutler finally used the weapons around him to his advantage in beating Minnesota. Meanwhile the Bucs seem to be playing better and better and are getting good performances from young guys.

Arizona (+6.5) at Seattle – Let’s put it this way; the Seahawks cannot afford to lose. They are 6-4 while the Cardinals are 9-1. Not only would a loss end any reasonable chance at a division title but probably a playoff spot as well. Don’t forget, the Cards won in Seattle last year.

St. Louis (+5.5) at San Diego – At 4-6, you’d think the Rams would already be out of contention for the playoffs. Don’t tell them that though as they have played teams very tough in recent weeks and knocked off Denver this past Sunday. For the Chargers, they survived the Raiders but they’re looking up at both Kansas City and Denver in the AFC West.

Miami (+7) at Denver – The Broncos are dealing with injuries to both Emmauel Sanders and Julius Thomas and Miami is playing well. Can Ryan Tannehill survive the pass rush?

Washington (+7.5) at San Francisco – The Redskins seem near an implosion right now and a west coast road trip won’t help any.

Dallas (-3) at NY Giants – At 3-7, the Giants will be left to pay spoiler in the NFC East. Dallas is coming off a bye which had to be good news for Tony Romo.

Baltimore (+4) at New Orleans – Both teams will be looking for wins to stay alive in their respective divisions and the Saints are no longer infallible at home.

An Apology and Another Idea About Money in the NFL

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Could the NFL play a regular season "neutral site" game in a place like Ole Miss?

There are times when I find myself so enamored with getting you some good betting information that I make a mistake or two. Usually it’s a missed bit of punctuation or a double up on a word in my haste to get the information to you. Yesterday however I committed a pretty egregious error that I’m a bit embarrassed about for a couple of reasons.

First I gave you everything you needed to know about the Arkansas State at Louisiana-Lafayette game. The only problem is that the game isn’t being played tonight. It was played Tuesday night. I completely read the date incorrectly. Worse yet was I thought for sure the Red Wolves would win in Lafayette but nope. The Rajun Cajuns prevailed 55-40. Please accept my apologies…

On to the topic of the day.

I read with great interest an article at Peter King’s MMQB website about the potential for expansion to Europe that quickly turned to a discussion about the length of the regular season. Jenny Vrentas wrote about getting the idea for this regular season change from a reader who commented on an article of hers about NFL expansion to London.

The reader suggested a regular season of 19 weeks with a 17-game schedule. Each team in the league would have eight home games, eight away games and one neutral site game. Obviously with 17 games in 19 weeks, there would be two bey weeks for each team. On the surface, it looks like a good idea but it has flaws and lacks originality.

Cowboys Texans
Where would the Cowboys and Texans play each year for a neutral site and would it even make sense?

First of all, the idea of two bye weeks has already been done. In 1993, all NFL teams had two bye weeks. The regular season at the time was 16 games and that’s the way it remained. On this particular issue therefore, it isn’t exactly revolutionary.

One of the major flaws of the proposal is how do we determine who plays who at neutral site games? Right now, NFL schedules are based upon a rotation between divisions across the conferences, one division within the conference, two games against division opponents and then two in-conference games based upon order of finish the previous year.

So for example, the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing the NFC South this year (four games), the AFC South (four games), in-division opponents (six games) and then Kansas City from the West and the New York Jets from the East. That adds up to 16 games. Now let’s say we add a 17th game. How do we determine who that neutral site game is against and where shall it be?

Would it be fair for the Steelers to play the Eagles perhaps? What if they are the defending NFC Champs and the Steelers are coming off of a 3-13 season? Plus, where would you play that would be “neutral?”

Many in the NFL would like to see regional rivalries like the one I mentioned played every year. Dallas vs Houston, San Francisco vs Oakland, the Jets vs the Giants and so but how do you balance the schedule to make it as fair as it is now? Also, what do you do with a team like Atlanta? Who would there regional rival be or Buffalo for that matter?

The overriding problem with any such addition to the current schedule flies in the face of everything that the NFL currently stand for which is “player safety.” Playoff expansion, regular season expansion, blah, blah, blah. If they would just admit these ideas are about money above all else I’d at least have a little respect for their honesty.

Texans, Steelers Look to Kick-Start Their Seasons

Bell-Ben
Bell-Ben
Le'Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger host the Texans tonight in Monday Night Football.

It’s my turn to take on Monday Night Football and this evening we have two teams with 3-3 records looking for some way to find consistency and stay in their respective division races. Pittsburgh hosts Houston tonight and both teams are looking up in the AFC and both know they need a win desperately to maintain an edge before the season gets away from them.

Houston (+3.5) at Pittsburgh (O/U 43.5) – The Steelers enter tonight’s game on a pattern we do not want to dismiss. Starting with week one, they have won, lost, won, lost, won and lost. So according to that pattern, the Steelers should win so there is no use in me going any further right?

This is the National Football League where the team that battered Pittsburgh a week ago, the Cleveland Browns, were beaten like a drum by previously win-less Jacksonville yesterday. The Texans started 2-0 but have not lost three of four but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Texans’ last two games were losses to Dallas and to Indianapolis by less than a combined ten points.

Foster
Arian Foster has had decent success against the Steelers in the past.

Those two teams are arguably the hottest in the NFL right now so those two losses don’t look so bad. What does look bad is the loss column of the Steelers which includes losses to Tampa Bay, Baltimore and now hard-to-figure Cleveland. Let’s breakdown tonight’s game.

When Houston has the ball… It doesn’t get much simpler than this; the Texans will use their zone blocking scheme and Arian Foster against a Steelers’ defense that has been gashed by teams that also deploy the system. In two games against Cleveland, the Steelers have given up over 300 yards rushing and the Browns use the zone blocking system.

Pittsburgh will have to make do without nose tackle Steve McLendon who is out. That means Cam Thomas or rookie Dan McCullers takes over there and that isn’t good.

I also believe you’ll see the Texans target cornerback Brice McCain who will replace Cortez Allen. McCain is a former Texan who had up and down moments for them. Allen has been brutal in recent weeks so we expect to see McCain. If Andre Johnson gets hooked up with him, look for that match-up.

When Pittsburgh has the ball… The opposite of simple is hard and that’s the test that awaits the Steelers’ offensive line as they have to deal with the best defensive player in the NFL right now in J.J. Watt. Pittsburgh can expect to see him lined up all over the line which means they will have to communicate about where he is. I doubt man-on-man blocking will cut it so look for the Steelers to double and chip on Watt.

The Steelers have a plethora of weapons on offense and those start with Ben Roethlisberger getting the ball to Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. If the offensive line can give Big Ben time then I expect the offense to move the ball. Where the team really struggles though is in the red zone. That has to improve tonight.

Trends: Houston is 1-9 straight up in their last ten games on the road… The total has gone OVER in five of Pittsburgh’s last six games at home… The Texans are 8-15 against the spread in their last 23 games… The Steelers are 6-2 SU in their last eight games at home.

The Pick: I’m going to buck Pittsburgh’s on again off again system and take the Texans getting the points. Take the UNDER as well.

Here is Your Brief Glimpse at All of the NFL Lines for Week Seven

Romo
Romo
Tony Romo and the Cowboys are red-hot and now host a depleted Giants' team this week.

As is the usual case, I’m taking a look at the early lines for this week’s National Football League schedule. These are, and will change in almost all cases so stay tuned but here are my thoughts on each game as they exist today.

NY Jets (+10) at New England (O/U 46.5) – Double-digit spreads in the NFL are always tough to swallow and this rivalry game in the AFC East will be no different. Right now I like the Pats to cover simply because I have zero faith in the Jets’ offense to score more than 14 points.

Cincinnati (+3) at Indianapolis (O/U 49) – This line will move solely on the availability of A.J. Green. Doctors are recommending rest and no surgery but that rest means he is likely out another week or two. The Colts offense will be licking its’ chops after the Bengals surrendered 37 to Carolina this past Sunday.

Tennessee (+4) at Washington (O/U 46) – Here is you ugly game of the week… The Titans seem to play everyone tough and they were fortunate to get a few win over Jacksonville. The Redskins need to get the running game going because while Kirk Cousins can put up impressive numbers he also makes mistakes. Right now I like the Titans and the points.

Philbin
Ryan Tannehill and Joe Philbin need to get their act together as they head into Chicago.

Miami (+3) at Chicago (O/U 49) – It’s going to be a long week in Miami where head coach Joe Philbin didn’t do his team any favors in their last second loss to the Packers. In Chicago, the Bears righted the ship with a solid win over Atlanta that featured Jay Cutler playing much better than he had lately. Take the Bears in this one.

Cleveland (-4) at Jacksonville (O/U 45) – The Jags remained winless last week while the Browns knocked off long-time nemesis Pittsburgh in a big way. The schedule sets up nicely for the Browns who have Tampa Bay and Oakland in the next two weeks. The loss of Alex Mack will hurt but I still like Cleveland to cover.

Seattle (-6) at St. Louis (O/U 43.5) – Seattle is 3-2 and already has a loss at home. In their two losses, both San Diego and Dallas did two things; converted on third down and kept the Seahawks’ offense off the field. Still like them to cover.

Carolina (+7) at Green Bay (O/U 48.5) – Great performance by Carolina last week in a tie. Better performance by Aaron Rodgers in a Packers’ last-second win. Take the Panthers and the points.

Atlanta (+6.5) at Baltimore (O/U 49.5) – Atlanta? Outdoors? Forget it. Take the streaking Ravens to cover.

Minnesota (+4) at Buffalo (O/U 43) – Minnesota was stifled at home by a decent Detroit defense. Look for the Bills to cover here.

New Orleans (+2.5) at Detroit (O/U 50.5) – The Saints understand this game could be their season. Another loss and making the playoffs becomes most difficult. If Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham are both out, expect scoring to be down. Take the Lions to cover.

Kansas City (+5) at San Diego (O/U 44.5) – This could be the game of the week. The Chargers are playing as well as anyone and the Chiefs seem to be in every game they play. I like the Chiefs and the points.

NY Giants (+5) at Dallas (O/U48.5) – Victor Cruz is gone for the season. Dallas is on fire and at home. Take the ‘boys to cover.

Arizona (-3.5) at Oakland (O/U 43.5) – I said last week that Tony Sparano would have his Raiders ready and they were despite losing. The Cards are too good on both sides though. Take them to cover.

San Francisco (+6.5) at Denver (O/U 47) – The 49ers seem to have bounced back a bit and are playing better on defense. No matter, the Broncos offense is too good at home. Take them to cover.

Houston (+3.5) at Pittsburgh (O/U 44.5) – The Texans are a bit of a mess at quarterback while the Steelers are a mess period. Take the Texans and the points.

Embrace J.J. Watt in a Time Where Others Are Embarrassing the NFL

Watt
Watt
J.J. Watt is having a season for the ages. We all need to be paying attention.

I wasn’t one bit surprised to hear some fans of the National Football League actually complaining about how much attention Houston Texans’ defensive lineman J.J. Watt has been getting. Fans by nature get tired of feel-good stories long before they tire of dramatic or controversy-filled ones.

I guess this is just how we are wired because it isn’t any different in the larger society is it? For every piece of good news there are the Ray Rice’s and Kim Kardashian’s of the world who demand our attention.

My message to those who are tired of hearing about and seeing J.J. Watt on all kinds of commercials is this; Shut up!

This guy scored his third touchdown in as many games Thursday night and just in case you forgot, he plays on defense! Watt has more touchdowns right now than Calvin Johnson does. He has more touchdowns than Roddy White does. He also has more TDs than DeSean Jackson or A.J. Green as well.

But you’re tired of hearing about him and seeing him on television all the time huh?

Peterson
We need to be less interested in Peterson and more interested in players doing the right things.

You obviously want more coverage of Ray Rice knocking his wife out cold in an elevator. Perhaps you need to hear more about Adrian Peterson telling a court official that he got high just before his first court appearance for abusing his child with a tree branch.

Right now, Watt could probably miss the remainder of the season and still win defensive player of the year honors. Furthermore, if he continues on his torrid pace, there’s a good chance that he could be deemed the most valuable player in the entire NFL.

Only two other defensive players have ever won the award and they would be Lawrence Taylor and Alan Page. There will certainly be calls for quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers to win the award and both are having good seasons, but what Watt is doing right now is as dominant as anything anyone in the NFL is doing.

The other reason you shouldn’t be tired of Watt is that he’s a quality individual. He’s active in the Houston community and rarely turns down an opportunity to do things with or for kids. He’s not afraid to make fun of himself either as he does in commercials for any number of advertisers recently.

This is a time where we as fans should be embracing a guy like Watt rather than “tiring of him.” We should be making more out of guys who take time out of their Tuesday off-days to spend time doing charitable works but we don’t. We’d rather hear salacious stories of what guys are doing wrong.

I’m not a Texans’ fan in any way, shape or form but I’m a J.J. Watt fan and you should be too.

Sparano Buries the Past

In case you missed it this past week, new Oakland Raiders’ Head Coach Tony Sparano’s first act as the new leader was to gather the team at the far end of the practice for a meeting. Upon their arrival, the team found a small hole dug and a shovel.

Sparano took the shovel and announced that he was burying the first four games of the season. He then invited each and every member of the team to drop some dirt in the hole.

I’ve seen and heard of this type of thing before and frankly if I were Sparano I’d be looking for some way to change the culture too. While burying a ball isn’t going to make players better it at least sends the message that things are changing if even a little.

AFC South Battle Takes the Top Spot for Thursday Night

Luck

 

Luck
Andrew Luck and the Colts face the Texans in Houston tomorrow night.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Houston (O/U 46) – These two AFC South rivals meet for the first time in 2014 and with both tied at 3-2 atop the division, the game takes on even greater significance. They won’t meet again until the Texans visit Indianapolis in mid-December.

Even though this is just week six, the game is significant because division foes Jacksonville and Tennessee are a combined 1-9 which means that both teams will stand really good chances of making the playoffs as division champs and a wild-card. The assumes they both hod serve against both the Jags and Titans.

Through the first five Thursday night games, the average margin of victory is over 20 points and only once was one of those winners a road team (Giants two weeks ago over Washington). This stat obviously bodes well for the Texans but I really think the string of blowout games on Thursday nights comes to an end tomorrow night.

Watt
J.J. Watt will do his best to slow down the Colts' offense.

The Texans will do their best to stop the run and force Andrew Luck into poor decisions with pressure up the middle from J.J. Watt and company. The Colts will follow a similar gameplan because I have to believe they don’t think Ryan Fitzpatrick can beat them without a solid running attack.

Indianapolis was pretty impressive in defeating Baltimore last weekend as the Colts defense held the Ravens to just 13 points. The Texans have to be kicking themselves for letting one slip away against in-state rival Dallas in overtime.

Trends: Indy is 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games when playing on the road against Houston… The total has gone OVER in seven of Houston’s last nine games when playing the Colts at home… Indianapolis is 20-4 straight up in their last 24 games against the Texans… Houston is 3-7 ATS in their last ten games at home.

Key Injuries: Colts DT Arthur Jones, OUT (ankle)… Texans Jadeveon Clowney LB OUT (knee)

The Pick: I like Indy to cover and the OVER but I expect a close game.

BYU at Central Florida (-3.5) – The Cougars will come to Orlando with the memories or what might have been in their minds. While they dropped a 35-20 game to Utah State, the bigger concern was the loss of do-everything quarterback Taysom Hill. Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said this week that Hill’s broken leg, suffered late in the first half, is much worse then originally thought.

His surgery required a plate and eight screws and he had severe ligament damage as well. Back-up Christian Stewart will get the start after a less-then solid relief role against the Aggies. Stewart completed just 10 of 29 passes and had three interceptions.

The Knights aren’t exactly going to feel sorry for Hill and the Cougars. They are coming of a very nice conference win at Houston last week to get to 2-2 on the season. UCF’s two losses are to Penn State on a last-second field goal and to Missouri who beat them up pretty good.

Nothing tests a team and head coach like a injury to the quarterback especially one who is so well-thought of by his teammates. Can the Cougars rebound?

Trends: BYU is 2-7-1 against the spread in their last ten games… The total has gone UNDER in four of UCF’s last five games at home.

The Pick: UCF’s offense concerns me and that’s why I’m taking BYU getting the points and I like the UNDER.

Odds for the AFC South Division for 2014

Luck

 

Luck
Andrew Luck should have the Colts in the top spot in the AFC South in 2014.

The AFC South is on tap today!

Indianapolis -200 – Talk about having everything in place for a division title… The Colts have Andrew Luck in his third year and let’s be honest, he needs to produce another playoff win or two as he was one horrendous choke job by Kansas City from being 0-3. The biggest question I have regards Trent Richardson. If he can be  the running back he’s capable of being then the Colts will be tremendous. If not, they could struggle to remain balanced.

Last time we saw the defense, the Colts were getting run over by LeGarrette Blount and the Patriots in the divisional round of the AFC Divisional Playoffs. The unit has to be better and has to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks as well. I don’t find the schedule that difficult other than the final four games three of which are on the road in Cleveland, Dallas and Tennessee.

Season Projection: 11-5

Clowney
The Texans hope Jadeveon Clowney plays a great 'Robin' to J.J. Watt's 'Batman.'

Houston +200 – Hard to believe a team that finished 2-14 last year is the second favorite to win the division. The Texans and new coach Bill O’Brien will enter 2014 with a clear plan in place. With Ryan Fitzpatrick the QB, the running game has to be good because Fitzpatrick can’t win games with his arm. The other clear plan is to attack on defense and the selection of Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick was a clear indication of that.

Clowney has already flashed his explosiveness and will create an incredibly scary tandem with J.J. Watt. If they can create enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks to the point where the secondary can just ‘ball-hawk’ then look out. The Texans schedule is not difficult but they do have five of their first eight games on the road and some of those stops include Dallas and Pittsburgh.

Season Projection: 8-8

Tennessee +700 – This is the make or break year for quarterback Jake Locker who has battled injury and sub-par play so far in his career. What’s going for him though is the fact that new head coach Ken Whisenhunt knows how to get the most out of quarterbacks. He did it with Ben Roethlisberger and he did it with Kurt Warner in Arizona. Can he now work his magic with Locker?

The defense wasn’t atrocious by any stretch finishing in the middle of the pack overall, in rushing and in passing. They have the ability to keep things close is the offense can be balanced and take care of the football. The schedule features a fairly ugly stretch in November when the Titans have three road games in four weeks. Those trips are to Baltimore, Houston and Philly with a home against the Steelers.

Season Projection: 7-9

Jacksonville +1400 – Head Coach Gus Bradley has a tough choice to make in terms of the quarterback position. Does he stay with veteran Chad Henne knowing what that he’ll get some big plays but also turnovers or will he go with rookie Blake Bortles? The original plan was to sit Bortles this season but he has been so impressive so far in the preseason that he’s making the choice difficult.

Regardless of who is at the helm, they need the running game to get going and take pressure off of the passing game. The defense is coming together nicely in Jacksonville but I think it’s a couple of studs away from really making a serious dent in the division. The Jags have a brutal opening schedule with three of four on the road in Philly, Washington and San Diego plus a visit from Pittsburgh.

Season Projection: 5-11

Overall: I just don’t know how the Colts lose this division outside of a significant injury to Luck. Take them and don’t look back.

Long Shots That Could Win Super Bowl XLIX

Arians
Arians
I beileve Bruce Arians' Cardinals are a great threat to the rest of the NFC in 2014.

On Tuesday I looked at the top five favorites to win Super Bowl XLIX which will be played in Arizona. Today I shift to some teams that aren’t favorited quite as high yet still have a chance to win the Lombardi Trophy in 2015.

Picking long-shots is never easy especially coming off a year in the National Football League where two of the three prohibitive favorites both made the Super Bowl. While the odds are heavy in favor of Seattle repeating, that doesn’t mean there aren’t teams out there that can’t take them out.

Here are the teams I think could accomplish just that.

Arizona Cardinals 33/1 – The Cardinals finished 10-6 last season and those wins included a huge victory over the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 16. That win will give this team the motivation and confidence they need moving forward in 2014. The biggest issue is at quarterback where Carson Palmer showed flashes of his former greatness and also some real mediocrity. Can he elevate his game enough with great players around him to get this team to a Super Bowl?

The Cards get playoff teams Philly, San Diego and Kansas City at home and must travel to Dallas, New Orleans and Denver.

Manning
I expect a much better Eli Manning in 2014.

New York Giants 33/1 – I must be nuts right? Not if you follow the history of Giants’ Head Coach Tom Coughlin who almost always follows up bad seasons with very good ones. Obviously, Eli Manning has to play better and he needs help around him on a more consistent basis than he saw in 2013. The potential for a running game is there and the defense still has guys who can play but they will need to add some talent and depth through free agency and the draft.

The G-Men get Arizona, San Francisco and Indianapolis at home and have key road games at Seattle and Detroit.

Houston Texans 33/1 – Hard to believe considering this team was 2-14 but there is tons of talent on this roster and I believe Bill O’Brien will get the most out of it. The elephant in the Texans’ locker room is obviously the absence of a quarterback. Speculation right now is that with the first overall pick the Texans will select a potential franchise QB but don’t be so sure either. Houston will need to revamp the running attack as well if Arian Foster can’t stay healthy.

Houston hosts Baltimore, Philadelphia and Cincinnati while they have big road games at Pittsburgh, Dallas and the New York Giants.

Baltimore Ravens 40/1 – The Ravens will look to get back to the playoffs in 2014 and must get more production out of Ray Rice and fewer mistakes from Joe Flacco in order to do that. The defense was actually better than many thought it would be in 2013 but it can still improve and needs to add depth at several key positions. I have to believe the Ravens will be better than last year simply because John Harbaugh doesn’t have back-to-back bad years.

Baltimore’s key home games include San Diego and Carolina while severe road tests include Indianapolis, New Orleans and Miami.

Minnesota Vikings 75/1 – My first thought here is that Mike Zimmer will change the culture immediately in Minneapolis and will look for veterans to lead the team. There is some very good talent on the roster which of course begins with Adrian Peterson. Like other teams, the Vikings need to decide on a quarterback. Added weapons on offense will help any QB but so will just taking care of the ball. If they get consistent QB play I see good things for the Vikes.

They will host key home opponents like Carolina and New England and must travel to New Orleans and Miami.

Examining the NFL Firings… To This Point

Smith

 

Smith
Former Bears' Coach Lovie Smith is a highly sought commodity in several NFL cities.

Black Monday in the National Football League has come and gone and with it, five head coaches are out of work. That brings our total to six dating back to the removal of Houston’s Gary Kubiak. Today I’m going to focus on the men who are now looking for work as well as the potential options for those teams now searching for new leaders.

Let’s start in Houston because they were opening number one in the first place. Gary Kubiak is not a bad football coach. He simply ran out of answers for a struggling quarterback in Matt Schaub and an offense that just couldn’t click. Keep in mind the Texans were a very popular pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl and now own the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft.

I really thought Lovie Smith was a shoo-in for this job because the defense was tailor-made for his tremendous skills and defensive experience but Smith seems headed to Tampa Bay as of this writing so what next for the Texans? Owner Bob McNair has a serious problem. He needs a franchise QB and a coach that can groom him but McNair went the offense route with Kubiak. If he goes defense, he’ll need a seasoned offensive coordinator.

Schwartz
Schwartz is out in Detroit with lack of discipline being the major problem.

I believe Detroit is probably the best of the six openings for a coach to walk into. The Lions possess a franchise QB, the league’s best receiver and a very good front seven on defense. The now-departed Jim Schwartz should be credited with getting this franchise back to respectability but the one overwhelming problem under his regime has been a lack of discipline.

The Lions will no doubt look for a guy who will clean up the penalties and other disciplinary issues but they also need a guy who can work with Stafford to help with mechanics and decision-making. The Ford family will take their time but they know they need a big hire here.

The firing of Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay was a little surprising but at the end of the day the guy had a lot of baggage tailing him. There is some very good talent on both sides of the ball for the Bucs which is why I think the Glazer’s are going after Lovie Smith. He will take care of the issue of players not playing hard or to their potential or he’ll get rid of them.

In Washington, Daniel Snyder saw the signs on the wall and knew he had to part ways with Mike Shanahan. Personally I think Shanahan can still coach but I think he’s lost touch with players of this generation. Robert Griffin III deserved a much better fate at the end of the season and hopefully the new coach will relate to RGIII much better than Shanahan did.

Snyder has been around the way with coaches so he knows the college coach from the veteran hire. Which direction will he go is the question?

Up in Minnesota the Vikings need a little more bang than any of the other five openings. Not only do they need a guy who can find a franchise QB but they need a head coach who will fill seats in the brand new stadium the Vikings will open as well. There is talent on both sides of the ball but there is the issue of Adrian Peterson’s contract and durability. Most importantly, will the new coach try to go with a QB already on the roster or will he push for a new signal-caller?

And what would a ‘Black Monday’ be without a firing in Cleveland? Rob Chudzinski was canned after just one year which leads me to believe there were greater issues than what most of us were aware. Regardless, the Browns will continue to look for a franchise quarterback as well as a home run threat in the backfield.

With a host of draft picks the new head coach will have plenty of new toys to test out in training camp. At this point, I’m not real sure the direction the Browns will go but I do believe they’ll likely stay with a guy with NFL experience versus bringing in a college coach. Just a gut feeling based on the front office there in Cleveland.

Stay tuned because I don’t think the firings are through just yet. Oakland, Tennessee and Dallas could still see some movement.

Quick Hits From Around the NFL

Schaub
Schaub
Schaub has struggled this year but that doesn't mean his home fans should cheer his injury.

Somewhere along the way, we as people have forgotten that we are just fans. A small minority amongst the throng of fans of all teams and sports in this country are making themselves and the rest of us look foolish.

Case in point are the fans in Houston who cheered the injury to Texans’ starter Matt Schaub. Despite Schaub playing poorly for much of the season, it isn’t like he is out there doing it on purpose. Nevertheless, while the team was getting throttled by the Rams in Houston, fans cheered when he got injured.

They’ve been clamoring for T.J. Yates for a couple of weeks now and they got their wish. Proving karma is an absolute bitch, Yates threw a 98-yard pick-six. It was the fifth straight game in which a Texans’ QB has accomplished such a dubious feat.

This was a team that many thought would be a significant Super Bowl contender so I get the frustration. That said, cheering a player’s injury is atrocious and there’s no place for it.

Peterson
Peterson's choice to play so soon after his son's death is his business not yours.

Much of the NFL world grieved this week for the 2-year old son of Adrian Peterson who was killed by the child’s mother’s boyfriend in a domestic abuse situation. As is usual in these situations, people felt the need to chime in on whether he should play in Sunday’s game or not. Let me give you my opinion. It’s none of your freaking business.

We all cope with traumatic events differently but it’s how we as individuals cope with them that matters. Brett Favre played hours after his father’s sudden death. Baltimore’s Torrie Smith played just hours after his brother was killed. Peterson made the decision to play and regardless of the relationship he had or didn’t have with this child it isn’t our business on what he chooses to do.

Is it just me or is there something going on much deeper with Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots? ‘Gronk’ was thought to be ready to play yesterday against the Saints but was a no-go. To be fair, he has dealt with both forearm surgery and back issues so I don’t want to downplay those things in anyway.

The problem is that guys with much more severe injuries are already back on the field and are playing at a high level. A report came out yesterday that Gronk’s absence may be creating tension in the Patriots’ locker room.

I honestly don’t doubt that. Guys see him in the facility on a daily basis and have to wonder what his problem is if he looks so darn healthy. Some guys will interpret his actions one way while some will see it another. Either way, it has to be causing some consternation.

I’ve gone on record as saying I do not think the Redskins should be forced to change their name. I understand the term can be and has been used in a negative connotation but when you have a very small group in favor of change that doesn’t mean you do that.

It was announced this week that a local D.C. school was banning any Redskins’ apparel. Schools have a right to conduct policy as they see fit but in my opinion this will only cause more problems as kids bully each other over what they are or aren’t able to wear.

Eventually Daniel Snyder will be forced to change the name. You know it and I know it. It’s how politically correct our society has become. In fact I’ve heard schools aren’t even allowing kids to play ‘tag’ anymore!

Oh well, if anything, Snyder can use the name change to make a boatload of money as fans buy up the last of the Redskins’ merchandise. He’ll make a ton on people buying up the new logo too.