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Friday, February 9, 2018

Tuesday's Gone: Week 21 #NFL Game Reviews SUPER BOWL LII EDITION


2017 NFL SEASON

T U E S D A Y ’ S   G O N E:
S U P E R   B O W L   L I I


Week 21: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Wild Card Round: 2-2 wins; 3-1 v. spread
Divisional Round: 2-2 wins; 2-1-1 v. spread
Championship Round 2-0 wins; 2-0 v. spread
Super Bowl LII: 0-1 wins; 1-0 v. spread

2018 NFL Playoffs total: 6-5 wins; 8-1-1 v. spread


Note/Key: Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN).

Philadelphia Eagles #1 (-4.5) @ New England Patriots #1 (48.5): Patriots 27-24 Eagles 41-33
Sunday, 6:30 PM, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Patriots are playing in the Super Bowl for the second straight year and the third time in the past four seasons while the Eagles haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 2004, when they lost to the Patriots. Not these Patriots, per se, but certainly Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Or should I say that the other way around? That was a close and exciting Super Bowl, highlighted by a puking Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens on a broken leg for Philadelphia and a win for New England. My in-laws have never gotten over it. Super Bowl LII should be just as exciting as both conferences’ top seed ended up in the title game, despite the Eagles losing their MVP-candidate quarterback Carson Wentz towards the end of the regular season. After winning Super Bowl LI in miraculous fashion, and then having the best off-season of any returning Super Bowl champion in the league’s history (sans losing top wide receiver Julian Edleman in the preseason), New England entered the 2017 season the heaviest Super Bowl favorites in Las Vegas history; the same could not be said for Philadelphia. Despite the long odds, Carson Wentz, a top-3 running game realized over the course of the season and a frightening defense led by arguably the best front line defender in the NFL in Fletcher Cox helped propel the Eagles to the Super Bowl as the best team in the NFC; in other words, the Eagles are no Cinderella. The problem is, even Eagle fans are secretly worried Nick Foles could turn into a pumpkin once the lights go on and the Eagles are suddenly face-to-face with a team that has been to five Super Bowls since they lost to these Patriots 14 years ago.

Philadelphia’s offense ended the regular season tied for 2nd in points scored (28.6), only 1.3 ppg from the league’s top spot; guess who they tied with? New England. Philadelphia’s intimidating defense only gave up 18.4 ppg, good for 4th in the NFL; New England’s ridiculed defense ranked 5th at 18.5 ppg. If that shocks you, it shouldn’t, because the Patriots have long been known for their “bend-don’t break” defensive mentality and most of that media coverage came when people were shocked the Patriots were near the bottom of the league in defense. It’s amazing what a good coach can do with game film and some time. A more seasoned fan might point to the difference in yards allowed, where Philadelphia ranks 7th and New England ranks 20th, but I would counter with the fact that only 59 ypg separates the two teams and those 59 ypg could be explained away by early season miscommunications, or more realistically, teams racking up garbage passing yards in lopsided games.

These two teams are very evenly matched, but they don’t match up great, if that makes sense. The Patriots get after the quarterback (7th w/ 42 sacks), but the Eagles don’t (15th); the Eagles are ball hawks (4th w/ 19 INTs), but the Patriots, stacked with Pro-Bowl defensive backs, don’t (18th). The Patriots have the league’s top passing attack; the Eagles pass defense is ranked 17th. The Eagles have the league’s top rushing attack; the Patriots run defense is ranked 20th. One of the key matchups in the game will be the Eagles top-ranked run defense against the Patriots 10th-ranked rushing game. That matchup could largely depend on how well the Patriots defend Cox, which will certainly be double teams and a running back chip, which is going to leave an Eagles defender, most likely Chris Long or Brandon Graham, wide open; that’s a problem for Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who’s going to have his hands full all game. Another key matchup will be tight end Rob Gronkowski, fresh off the concussion protocol, against the Eagles linebackers, some of the worst tight end defenders in the league.

The biggest mismatch in the game will be experience. Tom Brady has more Super Bowl experience than the entire Eagles team. The Patriots have 60 combined Super Bowl games worth of experience taking the field Sunday; the Eagles have six. Philadelphia entered the game the biggest underdogs in Super Bowl history, although that mark may have been bet down over the course of two weeks. The Patriots, on the other hand, are 9-1 in the playoffs in the past four years, have won two Super Bowls in that stretch, and came into the season so favored it wasn’t even worth betting on them unless you were a multi-millionaire. So what gives? That one New England loss in those previous ten playoff games, that’s what gives. Tom Brady was pressured 24 times in that game and they lost; therein lies the key to the Eagles winning Super Bowl LII. Pressure Tom Brady, disrupt his timing, make him regret the timing of his Tom v. Time documentary release, and Philadelphia wins the game. It could be that simple. If the Patriots gain anything on the ground and open up play action, the Eagles are dead, as I doubt Foles can keep up with a free flowing Brady; but if they stop the Patriots run game and pressure Brady, we could see the Brady we saw in those two Super Bowl losses against the New York Giants. The difference here is Philadelphia has a much better offense than either of those Giants teams, and an equally scary defense, especially if Cox, Graham and Long get loose. The Philadelphia Eagles may have entered Super Bowl LII media week the largest Super Bowl underdogs in the game’s history, but all the pressure is on New England to keep their 40-year-old Golden “Boy” upright, otherwise they have no chance. New England wins their 3rd Super Bowl in four years, but the Eagles cover, turning the City of Brotherly Love into the City of Patriot Hate…if it wasn’t already.

   The New England Patriots provided yet another thrilling Super Bowl last week, their second straight, and eighth in the past 17 years, but ultimately came up short against the Philadelphia Eagles, a city destined to burn to the ground. The Eagles, led by Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles (28-43 for 373 yards; 3 TDs; 1 INT), completed 12 of 18 3rd- and 4th-down conversions on offense, almost unheard of, especially against a Bill Belichick-led defense, and made the defensive play of the game when the moment was biggest, strip-sacking Tom Brady as Brady attempted the go-ahead drive. Sound familiar? The Patriots managed the same type of momentous defensive play to help seal their fate in Super Bowl LI, but that was miraculous; this Eagles play, led by Brandon Graham and assisted by Chris Long (sound familiar???), wasn’t miraculous, it was just incredible. I think I may have mentioned those guys making a difference. Another major difference was that Dante Scarnecchia vs. Fletcher Cox matchup, which Scanecchia largely won. In fact, the Eagles defensive front didn’t really shake Tom Brady up at all (1 sack), as Brady threw for a playoff record 505 passing yards, but it was that pivotal strip-sack that sealed the game for the Eagles. That’s all these games take sometimes is one pivotal play; or, as in this game, it takes myriad. 

   Super Bowl LII provided record-breaking combined total yards (1151) and individual performances (Tom Brady: 28-48 passing for 505 yards; 3 TDs), but also provided a game in which the Eagles never trailed until 9:22 in the 4th quarter, when the entire city of Philadelphia started collectively shitting themselves, despite what they might tell you at the parade as they actually eat horse shit. Unfortunately that’s not even trash talk, but I digress. Super Bowl LII also provided plenty of drama and controversy, with several key injuries, several blatant non-calls, a few controversial TDs, special teams melt downs and a mystery about the Patriots best defensive back, Malcolm Butler, who was mysteriously benched hours before the game despite playing a team-high 98% of defensive snaps throughout the season. The mystery only deepened as Belichick gave us nothing, but the media gave us theories ranging from the flu to weed to Rick Ross. Regardless, it could be argued – very successfully – that Belichick’s normally rigid working ways turned into foolish pride on the biggest stage in American sports and helped cost the Patriots their record-tying 6th Super Bowl championship.

   In the end this game belonged to Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles from beginning to end, highlighted by Pederson’s signature aggressive play calling and 4th-down decisions, an offensive line that kept Nick Foles upright all day, and a defense that made the right plays at the right time. New England did what they do best, playing from behind and nearly snatching the victory right out of the talons of Philadelphia, but the Eagles are no Falcons, and the same guy who helped the Patriots win Super Bowl LI helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII, and it couldn’t have happened to a better man (Chris Long moonlights as a social activist and has donated his entire 2017 $9.1M salary to various social causes). 

   In the end this game was a microcosm of the 2017 NFL season: The two best offenses in the NFL (OK, LA Rams scored 1.3 ppg more than these two teams) battled, 2017 MVP Tom Brady broke records and almost stole the victory from one of the best defenses in the NFL, and the Patriots defense, near the bottom in yards allowed all season, gave up a record amount of yards to the Eagles to lose the game. There’s never any telling where Super Bowl contenders will go heading into a new season, but for the first time since the Legion of Boom days I’m inclined to predict the same two teams could make Super Bowl LIII in 2019, but it depends on many things: Will Belichick retire? Will Tom Brady? Who will be the Patriots coordinators? Just kidding, we know Josh McDaniels is coming back. <Chuckles quietly> Will the Eagles team survive the parade? Will Philadelphia be rebuilt by next season? If the team and city survives will pride, contract extensions, an impending quarterback battle and/or the talk show syndicate destroy their 2018 playoff chances? We’ll answer those questions next season. Until then, enjoy the Philadelphia Eagles fans, world. You wanted insufferable Patriots fans to disappear and you got your wish. You know what they say…


SUPER BOWL LII

New England Patriots 3341 Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl LII MVP: Nick Foles




Stay tuned for ProFootballMedia.com 2017 NFL Season Review coming February 12th.




Saturday, February 3, 2018

Week 21: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) SUPER BOWL LII EDITION


2017 NFL SEASON

S U P E R   B O W L   L I I


Week 21: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Wild Card Round: 2-2 wins; 3-1 v. spread
Divisional Round: 2-2 wins; 2-1-1 v. spread
Championship Round 2-0 wins; 2-0 v. spread

Note/Key: Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN).


Philadelphia Eagles #1 (-4.5) @ New England Patriots #1 (48.5): Patriots 27-24
Sunday, 6:30 PM, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Patriots are playing in the Super Bowl for the second straight year and the third time in the past four seasons while the Eagles haven’t been to the Super Bowl since 2004, when they lost to the Patriots. Not these Patriots, per se, but certainly Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Or should I say that the other way around? That was a close and exciting Super Bowl, highlighted by a puking Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens on a broken leg for Philadelphia and a win for New England. My in-laws have never gotten over it. Super Bowl LII should be just as exciting as both conferences’ top seed ended up in the title game, despite the Eagles losing their MVP-candidate quarterback Carson Wentz towards the end of the regular season. After winning Super Bowl LI in miraculous fashion, and then having the best off-season of any returning Super Bowl champion in the league’s history (sans losing top wide receiver Julian Edleman in the preseason), New England entered the 2017 season the heaviest Super Bowl favorites in Las Vegas history; the same could not be said for Philadelphia. Despite the long odds, Carson Wentz, a top-3 running game realized over the course of the season and a frightening defense led by arguably the best front line defender in the NFL in Fletcher Cox helped propel the Eagles to the Super Bowl as the best team in the NFC; in other words, the Eagles are no Cinderella. The problem is, even Eagle fans are secretly worried Nick Foles could turn into a pumpkin once the lights go on and the Eagles are suddenly face-to-face with a team that has been to five Super Bowls since they lost to these Patriots 14 years ago. 


 The New England Patriots are playing in their 8th Super Bowl in the Bill Belichik-Tom Brady era, nearly a Super Bowl appearance every other season.


           Philadelphia’s offense ended the regular season tied for 2nd in points scored (28.6), only 1.3 ppg from the league’s top spot; guess who they tied with? New England. Philadelphia’s intimidating defense only gave up 18.4 ppg, good for 4th in the NFL; New England’s ridiculed defense ranked 5th at 18.5 ppg. If that shocks you, it shouldn’t, because the Patriots have long been known for their “bend-don’t break” defensive mentality and most of that media coverage came when people were shocked the Patriots were near the bottom of the league in defense. It’s amazing what a good coach can do with game film and some time. A more seasoned fan might point to the difference in yards allowed, where Philadelphia ranks 7th and New England ranks 20th, but I would counter with the fact that only 59 ypg separates the two teams and those 59 ypg could be explained away by early season miscommunications, or more realistically, teams racking up garbage passing yards in lopsided games. 


 The Philadelphia Eagles defensive front is led by Fletcher Cox (91), arguably the hardest man to defend in the entire NFL.


           These two teams are very evenly matched, but they don’t match up great, if that makes sense. The Patriots get after the quarterback (7th w/ 42 sacks), but the Eagles don’t (15th); the Eagles are ball hawks (4th w/ 19 INTs), but the Patriots, stacked with Pro-Bowl defensive backs, don’t (18th). The Patriots have the league’s top passing attack; the Eagles pass defense is ranked 17th. The Eagles have the league’s top rushing attack; the Patriots run defense is ranked 20th. One of the key matchups in the game will be the Eagles top-ranked run defense against the Patriots 10th-ranked rushing game. That matchup could largely depend on how well the Patriots defend Cox, which will certainly be double teams and a running back chip, which is going to leave an Eagles defender, most likely Chris Long or Brandon Graham, wide open; that’s a problem for Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who’s going to have his hands full all game. Another key matchup will be tight end Rob Gronkowski, fresh off the concussion protocol, against the Eagles linebackers, some of the worst tight end defenders in the league. 


 Tom Brady has more Super Bowl experience than the entire Philadelphia Eagles team, which could be the key to game. Duh.


           The biggest mismatch in the game will be experience. Tom Brady has more Super Bowl experience than the entire Eagles team. The Patriots have 60 combined Super Bowl games worth of experience taking the field Sunday; the Eagles have six. Philadelphia entered the game the biggest underdogs in Super Bowl history, although that mark may have been bet down over the course of two weeks. The Patriots, on the other hand, are 9-1 in the playoffs in the past four years, have won two Super Bowls in that stretch, and came into the season so favored it wasn’t even worth betting on them unless you were a multi-millionaire. So what gives? That one New England loss in those previous ten playoff games, that’s what gives. Tom Brady was pressured 24 times in that game and they lost; therein lies the key to the Eagles winning Super Bowl LII. Pressure Tom Brady, disrupt his timing, make him regret the timing of his Tom v. Time documentary release, and Philadelphia wins the game. It could be that simple. If the Patriots gain anything on the ground and open up play action, the Eagles are dead, as I doubt Foles can keep up with a free flowing Brady; but if they stop the Patriots run game and pressure Brady, we could see the Brady we saw in those two Super Bowl losses against the New York Giants. The difference here is Philadelphia has a much better offense than either of those Giants teams, and an equally scary defense, especially if Cox, Graham and Long get loose. The Philadelphia Eagles may have entered Super Bowl LII media week the largest Super Bowl underdogs in the game’s history, but all the pressure is on New England to keep their 40-year-old Golden “Boy” upright, otherwise they have no chance. New England wins their 3rd Super Bowl in four years, but the Eagles cover, turning the City of Brotherly Love into the City of Patriot Hate…if it wasn’t already.



SUPER BOWL LII

New England Patriots 27 – 24 Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl LII MVP: Tom Brady




Stay tuned for Tuesday’s Gone: Week 21: #NFL Game Reviews SUPER BOWL LII EDITION coming February 6th.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Tuesday's Gone: Week 20 #NFL Game Reviews CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND EDITION


2017 NFL SEASON

T U E S D A Y ’ S   G O N E:
C H A M P I O N S H I P
R O U N D


Week 20: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Wild Card Round: 2-2 wins; 3-1 v. spread
Divisional Round: 2-2 wins; 2-1-1 v. spread
Championship Round 2-0 wins; 2-0 v. spread

Note/Key: Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN).



Jacksonville Jaguars #3 (+7.5) @ New England Patriots #1 (48): Patriots 24-20 Patriots 24-20
Sunday, 3:05 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: On paper there might not a better team in the NFL that matches up better with the Patriots, or more specifically, provide the ultimate kryptonite to Tom Brady. The Jaguars finished the season ranked 2nd with 55 sacks and easily get to the quarterback with their four down linemen; that’s not good for a 40-year old quarterback in his 18th game of the season with a shaky offensive line. Jacksonville also boasts the league’s top running game in terms of rushing yards per game (JAX also ranked 10th at 4.3 ypc) and ranks 2nd in the NFL in time of possession. Then there’s the small matter of Tom Brady having a mysterious and potentially serious hand/thumb injury, which no one outside of the Foxborough Pentagon knows anything about. So basically if the Jaguars run the ball well, chew up the clock and then get to an injured Tom Brady early and often in less of time of possession the Patriots could not only lose, but get destroyed. That would be monumental task, however, because the Patriots not only possess the 5th-ranked scoring defense, but have been playing much better as the season has progressed, Bill Belichick is famous for taking away his opponent’s best weapon, regardless of which side of the ball said weapon plays on; that player will most likely be a hobbled Leonard Fournette, who New England could completely nullify, leaving the running game burden to a much smaller and slightly less skilled TJ Yeldon. The Jaguars one weakness on defense is their run defense (20th) and the Patriots run the ball well (10th rushing yards; 11th ypc), which means the Patriots could be chewing up a lot of the their own clock, keeping the Jaguars offense off the field and keeping an opportunistic Jacksonville defensive backfield at bay. Speaking of the Jaguars defensive backfield - certainly one the best in the NFL - Jalen Ramsey’s comments showcase the biggest advantage New England has, and possibly the Patriots only real advantage: experience. While the All-Pro cornerback was speaking of looking past the Patriots and winning the Super Bowl, Tom Brady’s rebuttal amidst a bunch of thinly veiled praises was, “I’ve watched a lot of film on Jalen.” In other words, Brady is saying, “Keep talking trash young buck, this is my 7th straight AFC Championship game, which broke my own record from last season.” Add the overall experience to the fact the Patriots and Jaguars just happened to scrimmage each other for three weeks in the preseason, including the first preseason game, which Tom Brady happened to not play in, and I can already hear the conspiracy theorists screaming. Brady and Belichick will likely take advantage of the Jaguars dominant front four with a hurry up offense that features dinking-and-dunking like only Tom Brady can do, sending out quick slants to receivers and screens to running backs until the Jaguars are exhausted and the game clock has expired. The Patriots can’t beat this Jaguars team by more than seven points, especially with Brady’s injured throwing hand, but the Patriots will get to back-to-back Super Bowls for the second time in 15 years. Don’t hate it; just appreciate it.

Tom Brady, Danny Amendola and the New England Patriots overcame a 20-10 4th-quarter deficit, scoring 14 unanswered points to steal the hearts and souls of Jaguars players and fans alike, evidenced by Jalen Ramsey tears, the loudest on the eastern seaboard, from the top of Florida to the suburbs of greater Boston. Tom Brady (26 of 38 passing for 290 yards; 2 TDs), once again, at age 40, orchestrated a monumental comeback against the best defense in the NFL, and arguably one of the best defenses we’ve seen in a decade. Sound familiar? Danny Amendola (7 receptions; 84 yards) scored touchdowns of 9- and 4-yards on drives of eight plays for 85 yards (3:19) and five plays for 30 yards (2:10), respectively, to take the lead after Josh Rambo kicked a 49-yard field goal to put the Jaguars up by ten points. Sacksonville sacked Brady three times, forced a crucial Dion Lewis fumble and only allowed 24 points, 14 of which came in the final nine minutes of the game, but the vaunted Jaguars rushing attack only managed 101 rushing yards on 32 carries (3.2 ypc) against a Patriots defense that was ranked 20th in the NFL during the regular season. One could also argue, although futilely due to metrics such as QBR (64.5:69.0) and quarterback rating (98.5:108.4), that Blake Bortles (23 of 36 passing for 293 yards; 1 TD) outplayed Brady, but that one person would be from Florida and they’d be wrong. My snarky point is that Bortles played well, very well in fact, meaning that the loss wasn’t on Bortles at all; so if you’re looking for blame you might point to the Jaguars running game, right? Maybe, but it’s much more accurate to respect Bill Belichick’s ability to make halftime adjustments, certainly defensively, and marvel at Brady’s ability to make these types of special things happen with miniature wide receivers (Wes Welker; Julian Edleman; Danny Amendola). I’ve said time and time again that although I completely understand fan’s animosity towards Brady, Belichick and the New England Patriots, this is the greatest dynasty we’ve witnessed in NFL history, and arguably American sports in general, and the Patriots proved it again Sunday. We don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone, and we’ll never see something like this again. Oh yeah, and I called this game perfectly. Someone pay me, please


Minnesota Vikings #2 (-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles #1 (38.5): Eagles 21-17 Eagles 38-7
Sunday, 6:40 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Partly sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: Wow, the disrespect. The Eagles became the first top conference seed in NFL playoff history to be underdogs (+5 v. Atlanta) in the Divisional Round, which should go without saying, was an Eagles home game. Now the Eagles are underdogs again, although this time by only three points, but it’s no less disrespectful to Philadelphia. Clearly Las Vegas has no respect for Nick Foles, but I’m not sure why they have so much respect for Case Keenum. Nick Foles threw for 215.3 yards per game in the three games he started (including the playoffs) and threw five TDs to only 2 INTs, a 2.5:1 TD:INT ratio, which is only slightly worse than Tom Brady’s career ratio (3:1). Granted it’s a tiny sample size, and certainly not worthy of a “Golden Boy” comparison, but Foles is also the guy who threw 27 TDs to 2 INTs once upon a time and won many a fantasy football fan their fantasy league championship. Regardless, Case Keenum only averaged 21 more passing yards than Foles per game, all things being equal, and had the benefit of Adam Thielen (91 receptions, 8th; 1,276 yards, 4th; 14.0 avg.), Stephon Diggs (849 receiving yards, 25th; 8 TDs, t-8th; 13.3 avg.) and Kyle Rudolph (57 receptions, 10th among tight ends; 532 receiving yards; 8 TDs, t-8th and 2nd among tight ends) all year as opposed to Foles, who had Zack Ertz (74 receptions, 3rd among tight ends; 824 receiving yards, 3rd among tight ends; 8 TDs, t-8th and 2nd among tight ends), but whose wide receivers, Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery, combined for 119 receptions and 1,557 receiving yards, which was slightly more production that Thielen alone. Jeffery and Agholor did score 9 and 8 TDs, respectively, good for 4th and t-8th in the league. The point is Las Vegas and fans alike are disrespecting a guy that keeps pace with Keenum statistically with less help, but probably for good reason. The same reasons Foles should be praised for doing similar things with less talent around him are some the same reasons Las Vegas favors Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith shutting the Eagles receivers down. This game could come down to the air, too, because the field conditions are terrible. Still, the Vikings are a dome team, which doesn’t bode well for a team used to ideal conditions, sans their annual trip to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers. Add the field conditions to the fact the Vikings have the top scoring defense in the NFL and 11th-ranked total defense, while the Eagles are the 4th-ranked scoring defense and the 7th-ranked total defense, and even Philadelphia’s 3rd-ranked running game (total yards and yards per carry) might struggle to gain ground against Minnesota’s 2nd-ranked run defense and we’ll be left with a defensive game that falls well below the 38.5 over/under. Most fans and analysts alike believe the Miracle in Minneapolis is the stuff destiny is made of and feel the Vikings can ride that wave through to a Super Bowl victory. I don’t believe in destiny or miracles, but I believed in Jeff Hostetler. ‘Member him? We all know Eagles fans do.

Philadelphia Eagles fan rejoice in your first Super Bowl appearance in 15 years. Minnesota Vikings fans take pride in the unbelievable season you just experienced and don’t let how close you came being the first team ever to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium bring you to the brink. For the rest of us football fan rejoice in the fact that this game is over and we’ll never have to see it again. After an AFC Championship that provided enough drama that Tony Romo’s added Oscar-worthy performances weren’t even necessary, the NFC Championship was a complete dud for anyone outside of Philadelphia or a cult of FOX Media haters. The Eagles possessed the ball for nine more minutes than the Vikings, outgained Minnesota by 123 total yards and forced three turnovers, all committed by Case Keenum (2 INTs; 1 fumble), who no doubt saw his stock drop from “top paid off season free agent quarterback” to “competing with Teddy Bridgewater for a spot on the Vikings” in one half. This game belonged to the Eagles from the start – well, after that opening touchdown drive by the Vikings – especially Nick Foles (26 of 33 passing for 352 yards; 3 TDs), Alshon Jeffrey (5 receptions for 85 yards; 2 TDs) and the Eagles defense, which not only forced three Keenum turnovers, but returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown (Patrick Robinson). Philadelphia seems to be embracing this underdog role quite well.


Stay tuned for Week 21: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) SUPER BOWL LII EDITION coming February 3rd.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Week 20: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND EDITION


2017 NFL SEASON

C H A M P I O N S H I P
R O U N D


Week 20: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Wild Card Round: 2-2 wins; 3-1 v. spread
Divisional Round: 2-2 wins; 2-1-1 v. spread

Note/Key: Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN).

 


 This symbol represents the men responsible for football not being played on a pitch. Remember that the next time you hate on one of the greatest franchises in NFL history.


Jacksonville Jaguars #3 (+7.5) @ New England Patriots #1 (48): Patriots 24-20
Sunday, 3:05 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: On paper there might not a better team in the NFL that matches up better with the Patriots, or more specifically, provide the ultimate kryptonite to Tom Brady. The Jaguars finished the season ranked 2nd with 55 sacks and easily get to the quarterback with their four down linemen; that’s not good for a 40-year old quarterback in his 18th game of the season with a shaky offensive line. Jacksonville also boasts the league’s top running game in terms of rushing yards per game (JAX also ranked 10th at 4.3 ypc) and ranks 2nd in the NFL in time of possession. Then there’s the small matter of Tom Brady having a mysterious and potentially serious hand/thumb injury, which no one outside of the Foxborough Pentagon knows anything about. So basically if the Jaguars run the ball well, chew up the clock and then get to an injured Tom Brady early and often in less of time of possession the Patriots could not only lose, but get destroyed. That would be monumental task, however, because the Patriots not only possess the 5th-ranked scoring defense, but have been playing much better as the season has progressed, Bill Belichick is famous for taking away his opponent’s best weapon, regardless of which side of the ball said weapon plays on; that player will most likely be a hobbled Leonard Fournette, who New England could completely nullify, leaving the running game burden to a much smaller and slightly less skilled TJ Yeldon. The Jaguars one weakness on defense is their run defense (20th) and the Patriots run the ball well (10th rushing yards; 11th ypc), which means the Patriots could be chewing up a lot of the their own clock, keeping the Jaguars offense off the field and keeping an opportunistic Jacksonville defensive backfield at bay. Speaking of the Jaguars defensive backfield - certainly one the best in the NFL - Jalen Ramsey’s comments showcase the biggest advantage New England has, and possibly the Patriots only real advantage: experience. While the All-Pro cornerback was speaking of looking past the Patriots and winning the Super Bowl, Tom Brady’s rebuttal amidst a bunch of thinly veiled praises was, “I’ve watched a lot of film on Jalen.” In other words, Brady is saying, “Keep talking trash young buck, this is my 7th straight AFC Championship game, which broke my own record from last season.” Add the overall experience to the fact the Patriots and Jaguars just happened to scrimmage each other for three weeks in the preseason, including the first preseason game, which Tom Brady happened to not play in, and I can already hear the conspiracy theorists screaming. Brady and Belichick will likely take advantage of the Jaguars dominant front four with a hurry up offense that features dinking-and-dunking like only Tom Brady can do, sending out quick slants to receivers and screens to running backs until the Jaguars are exhausted and the game clock has expired. The Patriots can’t beat this Jaguars team by more than seven points, especially with Brady’s injured throwing hand, but the Patriots will get to back-to-back Super Bowls for the second time in 15 years. Don’t hate it; just appreciate it.


 The Minnesota Vikings have a historically great defense, but one that relies on the speed of indoor turf grass, where turf monsters don't exist. 


Minnesota Vikings #2 (-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles #1 (38.5): Eagles 21-17
Sunday, 6:40 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Partly sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: Wow, the disrespect. The Eagles became the first top conference seed in NFL playoff history to be underdogs (+5 v. Atlanta) in the Divisional Round, which should go without saying, was an Eagles home game. Now the Eagles are underdogs again, although this time by only three points, but it’s no less disrespectful to Philadelphia. Clearly Las Vegas has no respect for Nick Foles, but I’m not sure why they have so much respect for Case Keenum. Nick Foles threw for 215.3 yards per game in the three games he started (including the playoffs) and threw five TDs to only 2 INTs, a 2.5:1 TD:INT ratio, which is only slightly worse than Tom Brady’s career ratio (3:1). Granted it’s a tiny sample size, and certainly not worthy of a “Golden Boy” comparison, but Foles is also the guy who threw 27 TDs to 2 INTs once upon a time and won many a fantasy football fan their fantasy league championship. Regardless, Case Keenum only averaged 21 more passing yards than Foles per game, all things being equal, and had the benefit of Adam Thielen (91 receptions, 8th; 1,276 yards, 4th; 14.0 avg.), Stephon Diggs (849 receiving yards, 25th; 8 TDs, t-8th; 13.3 avg.) and Kyle Rudolph (57 receptions, 10th among tight ends; 532 receiving yards; 8 TDs, t-8th and 2nd among tight ends) all year as opposed to Foles, who had Zack Ertz (74 receptions, 3rd among tight ends; 824 receiving yards, 3rd among tight ends; 8 TDs, t-8th and 2nd among tight ends), but whose wide receivers, Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery, combined for 119 receptions and 1,557 receiving yards, which was slightly more production that Thielen alone. Jeffery and Agholor did score 9 and 8 TDs, respectively, good for 4th and t-8th in the league. The point is Las Vegas and fans alike are disrespecting a guy that keeps pace with Keenum statistically with less help, but probably for good reason. The same reasons Foles should be praised for doing similar things with less talent around him are some the same reasons Las Vegas favors Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith shutting the Eagles receivers down. This game could come down to the air, too, because the field conditions are terrible. Still, the Vikings are a dome team, which doesn’t bode well for a team used to ideal conditions, sans their annual trip to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers. Add the field conditions to the fact the Vikings have the top scoring defense in the NFL and 11th-ranked total defense, while the Eagles are the 4th-ranked scoring defense and the 7th-ranked total defense, and even Philadelphia’s 3rd-ranked running game (total yards and yards per carry) might struggle to gain ground against Minnesota’s 2nd-ranked run defense and we’ll be left with a defensive game that falls well below the 38.5 over/under. Most fans and analysts alike believe the Miracle in Minneapolis is the stuff destiny is made of and feel the Vikings can ride that wave through to a Super Bowl victory. I don’t believe in destiny or miracles, but I believed in Jeff Hostetler. ‘Member him? We all know Eagles fans do.


Stay tuned for Tuesday’s Gone: Week 20 #NFL Game Reviews CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND EDITION coming Wednesday.