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Who's the Real Bad Guy?

by Stephen Nover

Wednesday, Jan 05, 2022

The year was 1942. Ted Williams won the American League Triple Crown that season. He also led the league in runs, walks, slugging percentage and on base percentage.Obviously Williams was the unanimous choice for Most Valuable Player, right? Nope. He didn't even win the award! It went to Joe Gordon. Williams hit twice as many homers as Gordon, drove in 44 more runs and batted 33 points higher than Gordon. But certain biased voters screwed Williams because they didn't like him personally. That's just plain wrong. I bring this up because it could happen to Aaron Rodgers this season when it comes to NFL MVP voting. This isn't a no-brainer like it was in baseball for Williams. Rodgers isn't head-and-shoulders above other worthy candidates Tom Brady, Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp. Brady leads the NFL in passing yards and TD throws. Taylor leads the league in rushing. He's 529 rushing yards ahead of No. 2 Joe Mixon. Kupp is having a record pass-catching season well ahead in receptions, receiving yards and TD's. Rodgers has a 35-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Yet Rodgers' strongest qualifications are related to the team. Green Bay is 13-2 in games he has played. Thanks to Rodgers, Green Bay finished as the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC and has the best record in football. No player is more important to his team than Rodgers is to the Packers. That should make Rodgers the MVP favorite. Not according to Hub Arkush, though.  Arkush said he won't vote for Rodgers because Rodgers is a horrible person for misleading people about his vaccination status. This is what Arkush said about Rodgers during a radio interview with a Chicago radio station: ''I just think that the way he's carried himself is inappropriate. I think he's a bad guy, and I don't think a bad guy can be the most valuable guy at the same time.'' Bad guy? You'd think Arkush was talking about Antonio Brown, or Henry Ruggs. Rodgers is complicated. But a bad guy? Even if Rodgers were that, it isn't a reason to disqualify him for MVP consideration. I think Arkush is a bad guy for blackballing someone out of personal feelings when he has an obligation and voting honor to act responsibly and objectively. Arkush is a long-time Chicago NFL fixture, who has done writing and announcing for the Bears. Perhaps he's jealous that the only really good quarterbacks the Bears have had during their 100 years in the NFL were Jim McMahon and Sid Luckman. 

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NFL Week 17: Top 10-Ranked Teams

by Wayne Root

Thursday, Dec 30, 2021

Handicapping is a difficult task. Making the profitable grade yearly for 36 years is daunting and has its moments. But I remain successful. At the start of this week’s handicapping, there are 230 players among the NFL Covid protocol. Many will be cleared and many will play. And some may also be added between Wednesday and Sunday’s game time. As any good professional, we will make the proper adjustments and move from five (5) games to releasing our top three (3) games. The top three is where the money has been made for my 36 year handicapping career. Here’s to no cancellations or game day changes. Thank You, WAR 10. Arizona Cardinals (10-5) Could Kliff Kingsbury actually end up back on the hot seat? The calls for Kliff Kingsbury to be fired will only get louder if the Cardinals flame out of the playoffs. Coach Cool has his issues, but firing a winning coach without a solid upgrade plan usually ends in disaster. Just ask the Lions. Furthermore, center Rodney Hudson is a player that might not be on the stats page. Hudson is Kyler Murray's eyes and ears on the line of scrimmage, helps set the protection, alerts Murray and the rest of the offense to formations and takes care of the rest of the lineman on seemingly a play-by-play basis. Whenever Hudson is out, the Cardinals struggle in some way. He has missed five games thus far this season, and Arizona has lost three of them 9. Buffalo Bills (9-6) They’ve finally realized that they need to let Josh Allen carry the offense. Dion Dawkins said it best after the Bills' win over the Patriots: "Josh [Allen] makes a quarter of a billion dollars. Josh is worth every penny." Let’s also look at their defense.  The league's No. 1 pass defense in a variety of categories is anchored by the safety duo of Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. They are the only safety tandem in the NFL with at least five interceptions each this season. They are individually tied for the fourth-most interceptions in the NFL this season and have combined for 19 passes defensed (10 Hyde, 9 Poyer). That’s nice to have in the pass orientated league.  8. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) Joe Burrow has thrown for 941 yards (!) in two games against the Ravens this season. Baltimore DC Don Martindale might want to update his list of quarterbacks who deserve the "gold jacket" treatment from his defense. Cincinnati wanted an immediate playmaker when it drafted WR Ja’Marr Chase, and it certainly appears to have that in the 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner. NOW; beat the Chiefs, and everyone will be on notice about these Bengals. 7. Tennessee Titans (10-5) That win against the 49ers serves as a reminder of how dangerous this team can be. What a difference A.J. Brown makes. The star receiver dominated the 49ers' patchwork secondary and showed Tennessee can still be dangerous in January, especially if Derrick Henry returns. Chances are Jeffrey Simmons is the catalyst every time there's a big play from the Titans' defense. Simmons' ability to collapse the pocket from the interior has led to multiple interceptions by the Titans. He anchors the middle of the defensive line by routinely blowing up interior offensive linemen and stopping opposing ball carriers for a loss.  6. Indianapolis Colts (9-6) RB Jonathan Taylor's production has helped lighten quarterback Carson Wentz's load significantly, and the running back's ability to dominate on the ground helps keep a defense that has forced 31 turnovers this season fresh throughout the game. The Colts should be a threat in the AFC playoffs, but their most significant obstacle to a deep run might be COVID-19. Indianapolis has among the lowest — if not the lowest — vaccination rate in the NFL, including quarterback Carson Wentz. A dome team perhaps has the best chance of winning in the elements in the postseason. BUT, all I hear and read is that the Colts are the team nobody wants to play. Hopefully the players aren’t reading the same comments.  5. Los Angeles Rams (11-4) The dodged a bullet on the road at Minnesota. Elite teams win road games in which their quarterbacks throw three interceptions. After a winless November, the Rams swept their December schedule and now are back on top in the NFC West. Now we get to find out if Matthew Stafford is the Super Bowl-worthy quarterback many (including me) claimed he could be while wasting away in Detroit. After all, he has Cooper Kupp. Kupp is setting a new standard with more than 90 receiving yards in 11 consecutive games. With the additional 17th game, Kupp is on pace to tie the single-season receptions record and break the single-season receiving yards mark.  4. Dallas Cowboys (11-4) The slump that Dak Prescott wasn’t in is now over. The Cowboys' offense finally came alive Sunday while playing against the Football Team. When Dak is locked in, Dallas is hard to beat. Hopefully, the old adage that defense wins in playoffs is still true. LB Micah Parsons should be a lock selection for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award and also should be one of the top contenders for the Defensive Player of the Year. Parsons leads the team in sacks, has made key plays in key moments and has dominated at the line of scrimmage and off the ball.  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) It’s hard to feel sorry for Tom Brady. as the injuries keep piling up. Can they keep winning despite them? A year after having the best injury luck in the NFL, the Bucs have been decimated as the playoffs approach. If anyone can drag a team to the Super Bowl by himself, it's old No. 12. His big problem though is that there's no way to replace what WR Chris Godwin brings.  2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) Maybe they needed to bottom out before they could start climbing again.After 16 weeks, we are right back where we started — wondering if anyone in the AFC has what it takes to knock off the Chiefs. S Tyrann Mathieu still leads the Chiefs in interceptions (with three) and fumble recoveries (also with three). He also is the locker room leader who wouldn't let the Chiefs quit on themselves after the season's rotten start. Maybe he’s the answer for those perceived defensive woes.  1. Green Bay Packers (12-3) Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and DeVonte Adams might be the best triangle of offensive power in the NFL.Adams is arguably the best receiver in football right now, and his connection with Rodgers is unmatched. What's more, teams have been known to dedicate so much attention to him, like the Ravens did in Week 15, that his presence alone is invaluable. It’s not always pretty, but the outcome was very sweet for Green Bay as the Browns shots themselves in the foot last Sunday. The sportsbooks dodged many money line bets. 

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NFL Week 16: Top-10 Ranked Teams

by Wayne Root

Thursday, Dec 23, 2021

There are so many teams still in the playoff race that the next three weeks will be the most exciting finals in years.   10. Buffalo Bills (8-6) Sean McDermott, the AFC's Mike McCarthy, is ready for another shot at the Patriots. The victory over Carolina, combined with a Patriots loss in Indy, puts destiny in Buffalo's hands. Beat the Pats on Sunday in Foxborough and take care of business against the Falcons and Jets, and this frustrating regular season will end with the desired result: a division title and home playoff contest next month. Will these Bills rise to the occasion? Be careful now as the preseason predictions are needing validation. It all comes down to Sunday at New England. 9. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) What were they thinking? Over and over, the Chargers passed on easy points on Thursday night in favor of bold risks that didn’t pay off. Two trips inside the Kansas City 5-yard line ended with fourth-down incompletions; another trip imploded with a goal-line fumble. I guess we are in the beginning of the new analytics. The only mistake Brandon Staley made vs. the Chiefs was not going for two when the Chargers were up seven. Every other decision was sound. He believes in his team, and they’ll be dangerous in January. The coach had the final word; “ With a quarterback like ours, with an offense like ours, that’s how we’re going to play.”. Others say; “ The future is bright. The present is murky.”. 8. Indianapolis Colts (8-6) Once again, it was Jonathan Taylor to the rescue. One Jonathan Taylor run ended a decade-plus of the Colts getting outcoached, out-toughed, and outplayed by the Patriots. These Colts are contenders even with a Carson Wentz-sized weight around their ankles. Frank Reich remained committed to the run down the stretch, showing a noticeable lack of faith in Carson Wentz. The Colts have proven their bona fides as legit AFC contenders. They’ll go as far as Jonathan Taylor takes them. 7. Arizona Cardinals (10-4) There’s much to love about the final quarter of the NFL season. From a number one seed to possible wild card, in the course of six days. The Cardinals have now lost four of seven after their 7-0 start. Sunday brought the season's most disappointing moment: a 30-12 defeat to the Lions. Kyler Murray says the Cardinals aren’t about to fold down the stretch like they did last season. I’ll believe it when I see it. And this week is set to witness against a very hot opponent. A home showdown with the surging Colts should tell us a lot about Kliff Kingsbury's team. 6. Dallas Cowboys (10-4) The Cowboys lead the league with 23 interceptions and are tied for first in takeaways with 31. The D will take Big D to an NFC East title, but there's no road back to the Lombardi unless the offense finds its groove. Ugly wins are still wins, especially when other high-end NFC contenders are losing. The Cowboys have become the NFC version of what the Chiefs were in the AFC for much of this season: a team filled with high-profile stars on offense getting regularly carried by its defense. Dak Prescott hasn't looked right since he returned from injury. The Cowboys need No. 4 to get back to balling if they want to make any noise in January. 5. New England Patriots (9-5) The Hood should be in a bad mood this week at practice. The lack of energy in the first half was uncharacteristic for a  Bill Belichick team. The seven-game winning streak is a memory after multiple uncharacteristic mistakes and breakdowns in fundamentals led to a 27-17 loss to the Colts on Saturday night. The Patriots beat themselves for three quarters and still almost came back to knock off the Colts. The AFC is still there for Mac and Hoodie to take on Sunday against the Bills. 4. Los Angeles Rams (9-4) Survive and advance. After three straight losses, three straight wins. How many more will there be? The Rams worked their way through the COVID-19 week from hell, then found a way in a 20-10 win over the Seahawks. The Rams now find themselves tied with the Cardinals atop the NFC West with three games to play. This should be fun. The Rams appear to have benefitted from their game vs. the Seahawks being pushed back to Tuesday. The Seahawks are losing guys to the COVID list as the Rams get healthier. Them’s the breaks. The Offensive Player of the Year Award should come down to Cooper Kupp. 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4) A 17-game season is a war of attrition, and the Bucs lost a huge battle on Sunday night. Brady struggled without his key playmakers, committing two turnovers in his first shutout loss in over 15 years. The Saints are Tom Brady’s Kryptonite, but the Bucs have bigger issues than a loss to the Saints as Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette all left Sunday’s game with injuries putting the team's hopes for a playoff bye in serious doubt. Mike Evans (hamstring), Chris Godwin (knee) and Leonard Fournette (hamstring) all exited leaving Tom Brady in a vulnerable and frustrating situation. As much as the coaching staff deserves blame for the implosion against the Saints, it also deserves a ton of credit for helping this team win 10 games despite being decimated in the secondary. Time for Brady to find more magic and take over this year’s destiny. 2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) Just like that, the Chiefs are back in first place in the AFC. Same as it ever was. The Chiefs are on the verge of winning their sixth straight AFC West crown, and they control their own destiny toward winning the AFC's top playoff seed. Is Travis Kelce the teams MVP? Kelce has rarely performed like a dominant force this season, so consider the veteran's sudden re-emergence as a game-wrecker an early Christmas present for the Chiefs and their fans. Kelce lit up the Chargers for a career-high 191 yards and two touchdowns on 10 catches. Three straight Super Bowl appearances suddenly isn’t out of the question. 1. Green Bay Packers (11-3)  The Packers are 11-3 despite their special teams being dog water. They might be impossible to beat if they ever get that ironed out. Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, is now in the driver's seat for his fourth MVP award (and second in as many years). Rodgers posted three more TD passes and has been the league's best quarterback for the past month. Crunch-time performance counts in this race ... or at least it should. Can they finish the job this year?  

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