The Annual ‘Phil Jackson Is Ready to Coach Again’ Story…

PHIL

PJ in his PJs…3 Bong rips deep

ESPN– Phil Jackson is “ready to go back to work,” a source with knowledge of his thinking told ESPN.com on Friday…He would not consider any coaching position that did not have a significant guarantee of personnel power as well, sources said.

Sources previously told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that New York Knicks president and general manager Steve Mills recently met with Jackson regarding the possibility of him becoming the team’s next coach. The sources said Jackson, 68, told the Knicks he was not interested in the position.

A source, meanwhile, confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Begley that the Knicks have offered Jackson a front-office position.

You know why Phil Jackson is always smiling? Because he’s stuffed with so much friggin money it’s coming out of his asshole and tickling his taint. The guy’s clearly shown he’s a great coach…of teams loaded with egos…from stars…and superstars. Yet for some reason all these teams keep throwing money at him to be a “basketball consultant”

I can’t even hate, but the jealousy within me is at OJ/Ron Goldman levels. For any NBA fan, you ask them their dream NBA job that’s not being a superstar and they’d say something along the lines of “I wish I could work like 2 months out of the year and on 1-2 days in those two months I’d walk right into the sloppiest of the shit’s front offices, sit down, comb over their rosters, tell them they suck, head to the bathroom, stall spank (not flush), go back to the car (Benz, Bentley…probably hybrid), rip a couple bowl hits, go back into the offices, bang the owner’s daughter, tell them they need a superstar, extend my hand for payment, then cash the 1-2 million dollar on the way home”

Maybe not ANY NBA fan’s dream job. Some may say be a mediocre role player, get high, have 30 kids and repeat…but the point is Phil lives the fucking dream.

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Other Kansas/OkSt. Takeaways…

Eddie Sutton posted up

Eddie Sutton posted up in his day

Some other things I learned while watching yesterday’s Kansas/Oklahoma State game:

  • Marcus Smart is in DIRE need of ProActiv. Every time they did a close-up of him on the court his face, neck and arms looked like the back of a fucking toad. I was convinced it was some form of the measles but then I was like no way man, measles are damn near extinct these days. Oh, fuck.
  • At one point the camera flashed to the crowd and zoomed in on Eddie Sutton. The real-life inspiration for Jeff Dunham’s puppet dude, Eddie’s always been an ugly bastard. But holy shit the booze has taken a toll on him. He looked like he’d been to Korea, got the clap, cured it, went to ‘Nam, got the clap, cured it, went to Stillwater, got alcoholism and then never cured it. While this brief bio is actually 99% true (he got alcoholism in Lexington), Sutton’s looking his age (117).
  • Joel Embiid is the next great big man prospect, and just like the majority of the previous great big man prospects he’s going to be a never-ending injury. Embiid is freakishly athletic and tremendously skilled for a fucking giant and to save all the hyperbole you’ve heard on every ESPN college basketball show, the dude is scary good on offense which is almost always a weak spot for big men at this  level. That being said, he fell awkwardly in the second half, wrenched his back and never looked to be healthy the rest of the game and you heard it here first- the rest of his career. People aren’t supposed to be that fucking big never mind basketball players. People honestly die from being that big so is it unreasonable that we can expect Embiid to squander his potential from various injuries? He’ll probably go #1 overall, not much question there, the real question is what body part(s) will be his undoing…Feet? Back? Knees? Shins?
  • Despite their talent, Kansas will not make the Sweet 16. Unless Bill Self can pull of the coaching job of the century, this is not a title contender. Bill Self gets a freak class of Freshmen and he can’t do shit with ’em. People overlook Coach Cal’s coaching abilities saying he always has the best players but what they don’t understand is when they’re all young and inexperienced, talent only helps so much. Kansas turns the ball over WAY too much and the only thing some mid-major squad has to do to beat these guys is out rebound them.
  • I’m tired of court-storming. I never thought I’d get to this point as it never was anything I gave two shits about but shit, act like you’ve been there before, bros.

A Tale of Two Smarts…

ProActiv's next urban achiever

ProActiv’s next urban achiever

Unranked Oklahoma State took down No.5 Kansas at home yesterday. Prior to the game I saw Joe Lunardi putting Kansas as one of his 4 regional #1 seeds for the NCAA tournament and I think that can be put to rest after this loss. I’m not sure this was that great of a win for the up and down Cowboys, despite it likely ensuring they’ll be in the tourney, but it was certainly an impressive showing by Marcus Smart. For Smart, it was all about his turn-around in the second half after he literally shit the bed Trainspotting-style in the first half.

Smart scored 20 of his 21 points in the second half and what was most impressive was how he adjusted his game after being so utterly unimpressive shooting the ball in the first half. I think he was something like 0 for 7 from the field in the first half yet he continued to jack threes like he was JR Smith. It was ugly, but he came out in the second half and did what he does best- play physical, fast-paced basketball by running the floor and getting the ball to the rim.

I’m still not sold on Smart’s NBA potential, however. Obviously, he can’t shoot to save his fucking life. Really. If Kim Jong-un had Smart chained in a field (not cotton, come on bro) with 30 rabid dogs at the ready and all Smart had to do was hit an open 25-footer there’s a 98% chance he’d be eaten alive.

I also think his defense is way overhyped. Sure, he can lock down the TCU & Oklahoma & Texas Tech, etc. point guards out there (I have zero interest in google-ing these guys and I can’t for the life of me remember any Big 12 PGs outside of Smart & Baylor’s Kenny Cherry/Gary Franklin) but what’s he going to do against NBA PGs?

I think his NBA future is at SG, and well, when you give me a list of the 10 best in the NBA at a position and your list has Gordon Hayward, Kyle Korver, Danny Green, and Jimmy Butler on it then you can assume that position is not where the best go to play. He’s a tank though, and extremely competitive so while I think he can develop into an All-Star I’m NOT picking him if I have a top-5 pick the draft and I’d have to think long and hard about top-10 as well.

Richie Incognito Is A Nut…

Richie...owning the devil on his shoulder

Richie…owning the devil on his shoulder

Richie Incognito is undergoing treatment at a psych ward…honestly. I really can hardly believe it myself.

In other surprising news Russia is taking military action on a former Soviet Republic, the Knicks are an embarrassment to the NBA, Chris Bosh supports a ban on homosexual slurs (such a queer), Jonathan Martin is a pussy, and I took a sloppy dump this morning.

Darkness…

Lebron's much ballyhooed facial tire

Lebron’s much ballyhooed facial tire

As the late, great Rick James once said “The milk’s gone bad, Charlie Murphy!” Lebron James, everyone’s favorite villain…wait…he led the league in jersey sales last year? Oh, well…then all these “haters” must be buying his jersey just to burn it then, right? Maybe they needed to warm their homes, or clean their dumpers? Maybe they own a gerbil ranch and they need fabric for them to chew up and turn into beds and shit?

Or…maybe…Lebron’s without a doubt the most beloved NBA superstar, and possibly the most beloved athlete in the continental United States? (Dog the Bounty Hunter has that title on LOCK if we allow Hawaiian entrants) I think that’s the most likely of cases here, in fact, that’s a fact. Sure, I don’t like the guy because he’s as contrived as my memories of slaying Katy Perry, but I  wouldn’t say I’m a “hater” by any means.

He’s the best I’ve seen since Jordan, and he may eventually be the best all-around player ever. But just because I think his mask makes him look like a fucking retard (it’s 2014, you can only say the R-word if it really fits) does NOT make me a “hater.” It makes me a realist and at first I was slightly impressed as I thought this was a Lebron original. Then I learned that Kobe and Kyrie Irving had worn black masks in the past and I slapped myself for ever thinking the name Lebron could ever be linked to the word “original.” Unless you count “Lebron stole it from ______ who originally did it…”

NFL…Playoffs?!…

JIM

Yes, Jim, the God Damn Playoffs!

The NFL’s 2011 regular season has come to an end and even though we already have coaches being fired, other coaches getting ready to pack their bags, and the Colts gearing up for their first #1 overall draft pick since Peyton Manning, we here at The Universe are not desperate enough to ignore the real story: the Playoffs!

I can begin with thanking the good Lord above for leaving that fat slob Tex Ryan and that nooodle-armed Pretend-xican of a QB Mark Sanchez far from our playoff blotter. I want nothing more than to see them fail, year after year (well, maybe I’d like it more if BOTH the Jets and Giants failed, but…can’t win ’em all). Sometimes, I stay up late at night wishing that all the feet in the world just disappeared along with every bottle of Cheese Wiz. That’s how much I enjoy seeing Tex Ryan NOT getting what he wants. Hell, he clearly eats everything else, so you’d think he’d enjoy eating his words after this season’s Super Bowl talk, and maybe he does, but I must say he handled it like a coach should: shouldering all the blame. Which is more than I can say about that coward Santonio Holmes. Woof. I hope Bart Scott gave him a tombstone pile driver from hell after that game!

Alright, that’s enough of that. I can’t stand the Jets and their terrible coaches/players, but I don’t want to give them any more attention than they’ve already suckled out of the NFL’s magical teet of a season. Let’s move on to some winners!

I’m going to go team-by-team, breaking down the AFC first, followed by the NFC, and within those breakdowns, we’re going to be making a little progression towards the ultimate goal: that Vince Lombardi trophy!!

AFC:

New England Patriots (13-3)

The Patriots’ destruction of the Bills in the final week of the season helped solidify the #1 overall seed in the AFC for them as well as home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. This team is obviously one of the most well-coached in the league and is a legitimate powerhouse for the ‘chip. They get a first-round bye which helps Belichick and the gang get a head-start on their potential opponents which is scary. Their offense is as always, legendary, but what distinguishes this year’s Pats’ offense more than any other one we’ve seen from them since the 18-0 Randy Moss team is the big-play ability of The Gronk and Aaron Hernandez. Not since Moss have we seen a red zone threat like these two, and I’d argue they’re even better than Moss in that not only are there two of them, but their athletic prowess is much better as well. They’re big, they’re strong and they’re ridiculously skilled in both blocking and receiving. Sprinkle a little Wes Welker on top and this is arguably the best Pats’ offense, ever.

That being said, this team possesses a GLARING weakness that cannot be overlooked: their defense. Ranked 31st in the league overall, Belichick throws out a sieve of a secondary every game, and if Andre Carter or Shaun Ellis forgot to drink their Ensure that morning, their pass-rush is just as porous. It’s been said that you can’t win a championship without defense, and there’s nobody in the world praying that this isn’t the case more than Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. And speaking of the Bill, who was once such a vaunted strength for this team, his sideline magic hasn’t done squadoosh for the Pats in the way of playoff victories since 2007!

Luckily for the Pats, there’s really only one team on the AFC side of things that can pass the ball well enough to expose their secondary. Unlucky for them, however, is that they’re probably going to be facing that team in the 2nd round in the form of Ben Rapelisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Final Prediction: Super Bowl Pretenders

Baltimore Ravens (12-4)

Coming in at the #2 spot is Bodymore’s favorite team, the Ravens. As always they have one of the best defenses in the league and though time has slowed them (Ray Lewis in particular) somewhat, Ed Reed, T-Sizzle and Haloti Ngata are still in their prime. Yes, Lewis has slowed, but name 5 other MLB’s that you’d rather have leading your defense when it matters than Mr. Five-Deuce. You can’t, because he’s a born leader of men and let’s not forget that Lew Dog had a nice 4-game respite about 3/4 of the way through the Ravens season. Nobody in the playoffs benefits more from a first-round bye than the Ravens do as they can come into the playoff stretch fully rested and focused for a ‘chip.

rizzle

Not Since Napolean Has Such Big Expectation Been Shouldered by Such a Small Man

They’re not ONLY defense, however. A one Mr. Ray Rice will be the first to tell you this, and I will agree, that he is without a doubt the key to Baltimore’s Super Bowl engine. Rice has gotten 15 or less rushing attempts 5 times this year and in those 5 games the Ravens are 1-4 (the lone win coming against the lowly St. Louis Rams). Using Rice a lot eats up the clock, giving the defense plenty of rest and keeping scoring responsibility out of Joe Flacco’s hands. John Harbaugh needs to utilize his stud of a back early and often, especially if (and when) they get matched up against division rival Pittsburgh down the road.

The key for the Ravens’ success comes down to the play-calling of Harbaugh. Will he be content to pound it, and pound it, and pound it with Ray Rice until the long pass to Torrie Smith or Anquan Boldin becomes open? Will he wise up and ask as little as possible from Joe “Spatter Cannon” Flacco? I think he will, and I think the Ravens have a legit shot at gold. Final Prediction: Super Bowl Contenders

Houston Texans (10-6)

Dragging themselves into the #3 ranking are the Houston Texans. Losers of 3 straight, the Texans look ripe for an embarrassing showing in their first-ever playoff appearance. Not so fast. This team has the league’s 2nd-rated Total Defense and Rushing Offense; two stats the are synonymous with winning franchises. Whether it’s Ben Tate or Arian Foster rushing the ball for them (or both?!), this team should not be laughed at. And if you do laugh, get ready to be punched in the face by Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans and the rest of that beastly defense. Their defense is good enough to dominate and win in an ugly game, and they’re going to have to be dominant because this offense is seriously lacking through the air.

Obviously, you’ve heard of their QB troubles and now it looks like TJ Yates will be gone as well, so we could be looking at a team that’s going to be starting Jake “I was a Free Agent to start the year because I was cut by the FUCKING BROWNS” Delhomme. As good as this defense is, I don’t think this TEAM is good enough to get any further than the second round as evidenced by their losing streak to end the season which came at the hands of 3 teams with a combined 17-31 record (Carolina, Indianapolis, Tennessee). Ultimately, I think they beat the Bengals at home, then get blown out by the Ravens on the road. Final Prediction: Super Bowl Pretenders

Denver Broncos (8-8)

No team has had a larger, more undeserving spotlight this year than the Denver Broncos. I’m sorry, but it’s just true, and believe this when I tell you, I am a TEBOW FAN! As much as I love Tebow though, this team has won this year thanks almost exclusively to a FILTHY defense and stout rushing attack. Led by co-defensive rookie of the year Von Miller (see below for my other co-winner), John Fox’s defense completed an amazing turnaround not only from last year’s group which ranked dead last in total defense, but also from a dismal start to 2011. Paired with this young and able defense is a rushing attack that’s true and tested featuring “Whatchu’ talkin’ bout” Willis McGahee, Lance “Gimee da” Ball and even Tim “The Toolman” Tebow. It’s no secret what this team is going to try and do: run, run the ball, and run the ball some more. They feel as though if they’re slightly ahead or within striking distance come the 4th quarter that they’re going to win the ball. And why blame them? They have Tim Tebow in the backfield…

timmy

The Craze That's Sweeping the Nation: "Tebow Losing"

The same Tim Tebow that willed the Florida Gators to a national championship, started his NFL career 8-3 and along the way drew comparisons to God’s other favorite son- Baby Jesus. Like I said, I love the kid, I want him to win EVERY single game EVER. I don’t think there’s ever been a better example of a Professional in the NFL. But let’s be real here, while he’s very capable of doing amazing things and willing his teams to victory through faith alone, he’s more Mother Teresa, less Jesus. He will persevere and reach deep into his soul to do wonderful things, but the guy is NOT a miracle maker. His inefficiencies at this point in his career are just too much to overcome, and I think his coach’s lack of faith in him hurts the team the most. I get that he’s not a great passer, but 271 passing attempts vs. 122 rushing attempts? Come on, man!

This is a fun team to root for, but certainly not a fun team to watch. Final Prediction: First-round losers

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

Meet the team that’s going to be the Judas to Tim Tebow’s Jesus. Uncalled for, I know, but the first-round match-up between the Steelers and Broncos could turn into an ugly demolition. The Steelers are my AFC pick for the team you least want to play. Battle-tested, well-coached, and disciplined this is yet another “Pittsburgh Steelers” team. I use quotations because there’s something about the Pittsburgh franchise that constantly produces humble, under-the-radar, championship caliber teams year after year. This year is no exception. Assuming the Big Rapist is healthy and ready to go, Pittsburgh possesses arguably the most balanced team on both sides of the ball in the league. It’s looking like they’re going to be without starting RB Rashard Mendenhall for the duration of the playoffs, but if there’s any position in this league that can simply be “plugged in”, it’s running back (see the 2010 Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers). Isaac Redman has proven plenty able to take over for Mendenhall and in an offense that relies more on passing than rushing, Steelers’ fans shouldn’t worry.

I don’t even have to go into their defensive prowess, I’ll simply list what may seem like a Pro Bowl roster, but in reality is what is starting for the Pittsburgh defense: Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, James Harrison, Casey Hampton, Lawrence Timmons, James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, and Ike Taylor. This is a Super Bowl winning, nay, a Super Bowl WON defense that could be the x-factor in the Steelers run this year.

That being said, there’s one thing that concerns me about this team: their performance in big games. Their four losses this year came at the hands of the Ravens (2), Texans, and 49ers. Some may say that means they don’t have a single “bad loss”, but I would argue that they only have A SINGLE “good win”. Their Week 8 win against the Patriots in Pittsburgh is the only win on their schedule that impressed me. They had a chance to stand out by beating any of those 3 teams above, but they couldn’t get the job done and a combined record of 3-4 against playoff teams (2 wins coming against the barely eligible Bengals) doesn’t strike me as impressive in any way.

That being said, I think the Steelers roll all the way into the Conference finals against the Ravens in Baltimore. Who wins this game, it’s anybody’s guess, but I think a Steelers’ victory comes down to the old law of common sense: it’s damn near impossible to beat a good team 3 times in one season in the NFL. Final Prediction: Super Bowl Attenders

Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)

Another team limping into the playoffs, the 9-7 Bengals make a surprise appearance in this year’s playoffs. Picked by every person with a brain to finish near or at the bottom of the AFC, Andy “Red” Dalton, AJ Green and a surprisingly potent defense all came together to create a magical season for the striped cats. You can argue that no matter where this playoff run goes, it will be a success as it gets some playoff experience under Dalton’s belt and it saves Marvin Lewis’ job (one of the most underrated coaches in the NFL) for one more year. Combine all this with the fact that Cincy pulled an Ocean’s 11 on Oakland’s draft pick vault, and this team is set for long-term success all around.

But, I don’t think this year’s going to amount to much. Granted, they get a dream match-up in the first round against the STRUGGLING Houston Texans, but I don’t even see them winning that game. Maybe if they pulled off that final week victory against the Ravens I’d be singing a different tune, but their offensive talent is simply not enough to challenge the Texans’ defense. In what could be the ugliest game of the playoffs, I see a young Cincy squad succumbing to Texan mania. Final Prediction: First-round losers

NFC:

Green Bay Packers (15-1)

The defending Super Bowl champions saunter into the #1 overall seed in the NFC and end the year with the best overall record in the NFL. Their offense comes equipped with the same championship pieces of a year ago PLUS a newly emerging star in Jordy Nelson, a fully healed Jermichael Finley, and a double-headed monster at RB in the form of a healthy Ryan Grant and 2nd-year man James Starks. The #3 ranked total offense in the league is led by co-MVP Aaron Rodgers, and backup Matt Flynn proved in the final week of the season that a Colts-esque crumble if the starter goes down WILL NOT happen here. Add return man Randall Cobb and this offense is no joke. With the best QB in the league calling the shots, it would NOT be a hard sell to have the Pack being the first team going back-to-back since 2005.

the champs

This Belt Is Up For Grabs

But, just like the New England Patriots, this team has a MAJOR flaw that cannot be overlooked: defense! The worst statistical defense in the league belongs to the Packers, and one has to wonder whether that can be overcome. “Well, they won it last year with the same defense” some may say, but that’s simply not true. Last year’s defense was ranked 5th overall and it lost KEY pieces in its transition to this year in the form of DE Cullen Jenkins (Free Agency), MLB Nick Barnett (Free Agency) and defensive quarterback S Nick Collins (injury). You’d think that’s not enough to cause such a massive downfall, but losing Collins for the year is arguably the second-biggest injury loss throughout the league behind Peyton Manning in Indy.

As bad as this defense is, the Pack still managed to flirt with perfection and lock up Lambeau for their run at repeating. The Pack will be a tough team to face, clearly, but I think they ultimately come undone due to their porous defense. The Chiefs’ supplied the formula on how to beat them: stingy defensive line play paired with a solid run game and a QB who doesn’t make mistakes= a Packers loss. New Orleans certainly is not going to pull this off against the Pack, but fortunately for Bourbon Street’s finest, they won’t have to- Green Bay loses a heart breaker to…be revealed shortly. Final Prediction: Super Bowl Pretenders

San Francisco 49ers (13-3)

My personal favorite of the playoff teams this year comes in the form of the team from the Bay. I can’t help but root for them: they’ve got a coach that I like in Jim Harbaugh, a QB I can’t help but root for in Alex Smith, and a defensive leader in Patrick Willis who will not only knock your fucking block off, but who has a pretty amazing story himself. The winners of one of the weakest divisions in football, I’m not sure what to make of the Niners just yet. While Smith has played extremely well leading the West Coast styled-offense, it’s no secret that this team’s success is rooted in their defensive performance. The 4th-ranked defense in the league is led by the Ray Lewis clone, Willis, and co-defensive rookie of the year Aldon Smith. While Willis is the unquestioned leader, and Smith is a sack machine (his 14 fell a half sack short of Jevon Kearse’s rookie record), the kudos doesn’t stop there as the defense features 4 Pro Bowlers total. Carlos Rogers is resurrecting his career at CB and 2nd-year LB NaVorro Bowman is 2nd in the league in tackles while uber-underrated S Dashon Goldson is finally getting the recognition he deserves. I watched this team play against the Steelers in Week 15 on MNF and it was one of, if not THE most entertaining game I watched all year. This defense is a thrill to watch and I can’t help but root for Jimmy Harbaugh to continue bringing San Fran W’s.

I also can’t help but wonder just how good this team is. I don’t know if it’s their record the past couple of years, the fact that Alex Smith is their QB, or that this is essentially the same EXACT team that has played so terribly the past 3-4 years; their only relevant addition being Coach Harbaugh. I want it to be true, but I simply can’t believe it: can a coach REALLY make this big of a difference? I don’t know for sure, and while I will say that the Niners are a contender, I will also say that they could be packing their bags after going up against Drew Brees and New Orleans in Round 2. I’m not sold on the Niners’ title chances at this point because they’re such an enigma, but they have the talent (9 Total Pro Bowlers) and the determination to do it. Final Prediction: Super Bowl Pretenders

New Orleans Saints (13-3)

Naw’lens is led by red-hot, record-breaking Drew Brees and a Sean Payton orchestrated offense that could probably outscore an NBA team. Fresh off a season in which he broke Dan Marino’s record for total passing yards and set a new record for completion percentage, Drew Brees looks prime to bring another ring to the ‘Nolia. Owners of the #1 ranked offense in all of football, New Orleans can hang enough points on the scoreboard to beat anybody. For some reason, teams continue to sleep on the best TE in football, Jimmy Graham, and whether they overlook him or simply can’t contain him, Darren Sproles is the best all-purpose RB in the league. Sproles and Graham, to me, are the difference between this Saints team and last year’s Saints team (the one which experienced a significant Super Bowl hangover). Sproles’ production on special teams is Hester-like in that if you don’t kick AWAY from him, he WILL give his offense a short-field to work with. And handing the ball to Drew Brees within 60 yards of the end zone is something you simply cannot do if you want to beat the Saints. Then there’s Graham, whose skill is just beginning to take shape. I will now become the Saints’ offense as well as Johnny Beatwriter, as I play the dual role of interviewer and interviewee: Who are you going to go to on 3rd and short? Jimmy Graham. Who are you going to go to when you need a big play? Jimmy Graham. When nothing’s working and you need a spark, who are you going to turn to? Jimmy Graham. One number, one play, whose number are you calling? Jimmy Graham. Jimmy Graham is the answer to any question you could ever have about this Saints’ offense, from A to Z, Brees and Payton channel everything through the former Hurricane basketball player.

ds

Darren Sproles: Another Little Guy With Big Responsibility

Yet the offense is anything but one-dimensional. They have a stable of stud RB’s as well as a talented core of WR’s. How’d they ever lose, then, you ask? Well, their defense is certainly a weak spot. While not as bad as Green Bay’s or New England’s, New Orleans’ defense is far from a dependable unit. Ranked 24th overall, they lack a double-digit sack producer and they only have one player with more than a single interception (Patrick Robinson has 4). You can attribute some of these gaudy defensive numbers to the fact that teams who face them are constantly playing from behind, but the simply fact of the matter is this defense does not cause turnovers. They are the worst of all NFC playoff teams in turnover differential (-4) and when you’re on the field as much as they are, you’d expect more TO’s, but that’s just not the case.

That being said, I have the confidence in defensive coordinator Greg Williams to game plan like a champ and shore up any deficiencies come playoff time. The difference between the Packers and the Saints? Their second round match-up. Final Prediction: Super Bowl Attenders

New York Giants (9-7)

The New York Football Giants come in at the 4th seed after finally showing up in a win and get in scenario at home against the Cowboys. The Giants are without a doubt my second most hated team behind the Jets, but for some reason I’m okay with them getting into the playoffs. Maybe it’s because She-Li Manning finally dropped the “mediocre QB” label in my book, or because as much as I hate the Giants I don’t think there’s a better coach in the NFL for them than Tom Coughlin, and this playoff appearance saved his job. Let me rephrase, the appearance didn’t save his job, but the performance they’re about to put on without a doubt will. Remember my earlier claim about a mystery team dethroning the Packers? Well, meet surprise guest #1- the New York Giants. Obviously, in order to face the Pack the Giants must first beat the Falcons and the Saints need to prevail against the Lions but I foresee both “musts” occurring. This Giants team barely squeaked into the playoffs not because of a lack of skill or talent, but because they seem to always do this, every year. They kind of sandbag it throughout the season, tuning out Tommy C and letting their opponents push them around. But they’re in, again, and they’re my NFC pick for the team you least want to face.

Their defense isn’t what it has been in the past, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential for that and more. With Jason Pierre-Paul taking over for Osi Umenyiora as the freak pass-rusher, and Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, Aaron Ross, Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara anchoring the league’s most underrated secondary, this is still a New York defense. A New York defense that can give the likes of Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers FITS. The only question mark I see with this team is their ability to stop the run, with an AWFUL line backing corps, the G-Men face a potential first-round exit when they go up against the run-happy Atlanta Falcons. I don’t think that happens, however, and I see the Giants rolling into Lambeau come round 2.

And that’s where Eli Manning comes in. Yes, the Giants defense can stymie Aaron Rodgers, but if Eli is back there throwing interceptions left and right it won’t matter in a Packers blowout. What the G-Men need is consistent Quarterbacking and I don’t think they’ve ever had as consistent or as good quarterbacking as they do this year. Pre-season, I was the biggest Eli hater around, attributing his Super Bowl win to a great defense more than anything else. While my stance on that win hasn’t softened, Eli’s now one of the Giants’ biggest strengths, and when you throw out an offense with Eli, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, you have a shot at hanging with Rodgers and co.

I think the G-Men are destined for an NFC championship game match-up with New Orleans. And while the Giants have a defense that can stop Aaron Rodgers, something that the Patriots and Saints don’t, I don’t think they have enough offense to compete with the Saints in the Super Dome. There’s something about that place come playoff time that’s special. Brees, at home, on turf= scary. The G-Men knock off the Pack, but go down in the bayou. Final Prediction: Super Bowl Contenders

Atlanta Falcons (10-6)

Leading what could be the 2nd most balanced football team in the NFL is young QB stud Matt Ryan. Matty Ice turned in a hell of a year for the Peach State’s favorite team. While Ryan went from possible weak spot to obvious strength, much like Eli Manning did, the Falcons’ offense took a major step back in the run game. The addition of Julio Jones could have been what led to a change in philosophy from pound on the ground to air it out, or it simply had to do with an added trust of Ryan. I’m not sure what it was, but the way this team is built now makes for a very good regular season team, but they’re simply not good enough to compete in the playoffs. They grab a short straw in having to travel to the Meadowlands to face the Giants and despite having an above average offense and defense with no glaring holes, the Falcons will be heading home early. Not much to say here other than they’re still young, and their future is amazingly bright. Final Prediction: First-round Losers

Detroit Lions (10-6)

A posh pick to make the playoffs this year, Detroit didn’t disappoint its many believers by just squeaking into the final wild card spot. Matt Stafford is clearly the answer in Detroit, when healthy, and Titus Young emerged into a solid 2nd option in the passing game. Their defense is accentuated my head coach Jim Schwartz’s intensity and the nasty play of 2nd-year DT Ndamukong Suh. While I love the direction this team is headed in, I think they face an unfortunate situation in round 1 by having to head down to Naw’lens to face the Saints. I like this team against the Falcons, Giants and Niners, but NOT against the Saints. Again, not much to say here beyond the fact that this was a hard fought and successful year for the Lions. They have a glaring need at RB for the future, but can they really afford another first-round miss on offense? I don’t know how they shore up their running game moving forward, but if they develop a refined rushing attack and add another play maker or two on defense then the Lombardi trophy could be parading down the streets of the Motor City next year. Let’s hope it doesn’t get stabbed, shot or robbed in its time there. Final Prediction: First-round Losers

Super Bowl Prediction

So judging quickly by my write-ups, we’re looking at a Saints vs. Steelers Super Bowl which would make the 2nd in the past 4 years for whoever were to win (2nd in 3 for the Steelers). While I think defense is important, and it’s a must to win a championship, I don’t think the Saints’ defense is THAT bad to where you’d have to say the offense won in spite of it. I admittedly do NOT like the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re too Yankee-like for me: business-like, professional, winning; but they play with some serious fire (see: James Harrison). While I think Pittsburgh can easily win this game based on the simple fact that Ben Rapelisburger is THE BEST big game QB in the league (yes, over Brady and Rodgers and Colt McCoy [joke]) because of his ability to prolong plays, I don’t think they do it.

Super Bowl 46 is taking place inside, on turf, where Drew Brees and co. make their living. If this game were being played outside, in the northeast somewhere I don’t see how the Steelers lose. But, because it’s clearly going to be an offensive-led, high-paced battle, I don’t think the grit and experience of the Pittsburgh Steelers can outmatch the intensity and talent of the New Orleans Saints.2012 Super Bowl Champions: the New Orleans Saints

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Get Used to Seeing This

3/4 NFL Season Wrap-Up…

As we near the end of the NFL’s 2011-12 regular season, why not take a look back at some bold predictions I had made (on two separate occasions here & here) that in retrospect made me look like a complete idiot. While we’re back there, we can even take a look at some predictions I made that make me look like a GENIUS!!!

I Was Way Wrong About:

I can’t go any further without mentioning him. Cam Newton. Cam, fucking Newton. The runaway lock for Offensive Rookie of the Year was far from a favorite of mine at draft time. I slammed Newton as a cocky, fame-inspired son of a preacher man. A preacher man I felt was ruining Cam’s career before it even started. Not sure exactly what I said, but it was something like this:

“It seemed to me like he [Newton’s father] was at the forefront, exploiting, if not at least utilizing, his son’s talents. I think this approach by parents lends to a certain, how you say, wackiness feature in their children (See: aforementioned Lohan, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, and Justin Bieber [this kid’s only a couple years away from crack and street BJs, I’m tellin you!]) Add in Cam’s comments about wanting to be some sort of cultural icon, and you get a guy whose first and second priorities are obviously NOT football and football.”

rivera and newton

This Pair Has Struck Gold in Cam-olina

Far from high praise for what has so far been the most productive rookie QB in the NFL since Dan Marino in 1983. I’ll admit it, I was dead wrong about Newton, and I blame it on Mel Kiper and Todd McShay.

I’m not one to make excuses for being completely wrong, but I fell victim to the plague that hits every draft in all sports, year after year. The plague that over analyzes talent to a fault. The reason I thought Cam would be a bust is because of the baggage that came along with him. It was baggage that included a father asking schools for money and a player who was READY for Hollywood. That’s where I went wrong. This baggage wasn’t inhibiting Cam, it had already made him ready for the spotlight. His father was guilty of doing everything he could to make his family’s life better. A far cry from past family baggage cases like Todd Marinovich (overbearing father) and Jamarcus Russel (just a straight family of goons). The Newton family’s only fault was that they cared too much. They didn’t ignore their son, or push him too hard. They clearly knew the talent Cam had, and knew exactly what they could get as a result of that.

That brings me into the biggest aspect of Cam’s game that I overlooked: his talent. I harped on his decision-making and accuracy as the two biggest FAILS of his repertoire. I pointed out that not only was he in an offense at Auburn that simplifies his reads to 1 or 2, but that his biggest decision to be made on each play (run or pass) is usually based solely on the behavior of one defensive player. Throw that into the mix with the fact that the guy couldn’t hit the broad-side of a fucking barn at gun point and I figured it was a LOCK for him to fail. Again, I fell victim to the devils, McShay and Kiper who say that accuracy and decision-making are skills you cannot teach.

Wow, was I wrong. Cam has shown that his accuracy and decision-making inefficiencies are insignificant in the grand scheme of it all. I never took into account that the kid’s really only had a single year of high-level coaching (and I would barely call Gene Chizik’s staff @ Auburn high-level), and I clearly slept on the fact that the Panthers would tailor an offensive scheme perfectly for him. Rob Chudzinski took away Cam’s two biggest faults by making this an offense that goes all out. The majority of the passes go deep down-field, making accuracy a non-factor- just get it in the vicinity and let Steve Smith do the rest. There are few 10-15 yard patterns calling for Cam to thread the needle between LB’s and Safeties, and when all else fails it’s set up for Cam to run it, and at 6’5″, 250, Newton has already broken the QB rookie record for rushing TD’s.

All these factors were naively overlooked on my part, and I certainly apologize for sleeping not only on Cam Newton, but also the staff of rookie head coach Ron Rivera. The Panthers are in good hands as it’s clear that Cam has that “It” factor, or as it is going to be renamed shortly, that “Tebow” factor.

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DaQuan Bowers Was My #1 Pick?!?!?

The next thing I was clearly wrong about was my alternative suggestion for the top overall pick, DaQuan Bowers. Let me first preface this by saying that when I made my initial suggestion, Bowers’ injury problems had not yet been brought to light. Nonetheless, I will still say that was fucking STUPID. Bowers has played in 13 games this season so the knee injury has clearly not been much of a factor. From what I’ve seen, Bowers has struggled with the speed, strength, and size of NFL O-linemen. A measly stat line of 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks doesn’t even put Bowers into the discussion for defensive rookie of the year on his OWN TEAM (that distinction belongs to 1st-rounder Adrian Clayborn [33 tackles, 6.5 sacks] and 3rd-rounder Mason Foster [63 tackles, 2 sacks].

Granted, he’s still an amazing talent that could just need some time to develop and I STILL think he can be a dominant pass-rushing force in this league, but that’s just not enough for a top-10 pick. Bowers is a case where McShay and Kiper were right about baggage: injury baggage (see: Sam Bradford), is a very real factor and it has proven to be influential when it comes to the draft. I’m not giving up on Bowers yet, but clearly I was wrong in my predictions.

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On to my next boneheaded prediction: Zach Miller. I proclaimed Miller as one of my most influential FA’s available this off-season alongside Paul Posluszny and Jonathan Joseph (two players I will get to momentarily). Miller went to a Seahawks squad that also picked up Sidney Rice.

Now, I blame most of Miller’s sucking on the team he signed with and granted, I picked Miller as influential BEFORE he signed with Seattle, but that shouldn’t matter. When you’re billed as a top-tier FA, I feel like you need to be able to contribute no MATTER the system you go to.

My biggest praise of Miller was in his ability to help the running game. Yes, Marshawn Lynch has more yards this year than he’s had since 2008 (and is on pace for a career year), but Seattle’s rushing offense is a measly 26th overall. You can blame that on injuries (Tavris Jackson, Sidney Rice) and departures (starting C Anthony Spencer), but again, none of that should matter in the end. The Raiders clearly do not miss Zach Miller (especially after adding Kevin “THE” Boss), and the Seahawks clearly are no better WITH Miller. I took a swing at this one, and missed terribly.

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And as far as this final proclamation of idiocy I merely have three words to say: THE…..PHILADELPHIA…..EAGLES.

I WAS WAY RIGHT ABOUT:

Believe it or not, I made some golden predictions before this season started that, paired with the awful ones above, make me look a tad better than Skip Bayless. Yes, there was the easy lock of the Patriots in the Super Bowl (in progress) but beyond that here’s what I’m proud of.

joseph

J-Squared Locks H-Town Down

Jonathan Joseph. The Houston Texans’ off-season CB addition that has proven to be more valuable than Nnamdi to the Eagles. I said right here that Joseph would be the single most influential off-season signing and he has proven to be just that. On a Houston defense that lost its best player for the year (Mario Williams),  Joseph was exactly what the doctor ordered in H-Town. With a shut-down corner in the mix, the Texans are the league’s #1 overall defense, and as a team they just KEEP winning sans the Matt’s in the backfield (Schaub/Leinart).

I’m not naive enough to say that Joseph is the ONLY reason this defense is so damn dominant (Wade Phillips has a lot to do with it as well), but adding a lock-down corner to the mix like Joseph is puts a lot more freedom on the table for play-calling. Rookie DE J.J. Watt has also proven to be an amazing off-season addition but what this really comes down to is that Phillips CAN unleash a pass rush any time he wants because he knows that Joseph will be able to cover the other team’s best receiver by himself. This effect, originally known as the Deion effect, has been made famous in New York with Darelle Revis.

Staying on the defensive side of the ball comes my next “Told you so…”, Paul Posluszny of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The ball-hawk of a MLB was extremely overlooked in the off-season by everyone but myself and apparently Jack Del Rio. In fact, this is what I said about the Poz:

“The Poz goes to a Jaguars team that desperately needs a tackle-machine like him in the middle and I see that Defense being a top-10 squad, maybe even top-5 if their young D-Line keeps developing.”

And wouldn’t you know, guess who’s sitting at #4 in total defense for the year? Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars. I’m not going to gloat about this, or analyze it, that’s just a NASTY defense that REALLY needs a QB to help them out. Honestly, had the Jags held on to David Garrard, we’re talking about a Wild Card winner at LEAST in Jacksonville this year.

fatboy

If This Isn't the Face of A Blunted Cheeseburg-Addict IDK What Is

Finally, I would like to touch on Nick Fairley. I blasted Fairley alongside his former teammate Cam Newton for being overrated and over valued coming into the NFL Draft. I’ve already covered how WRONG I was with Newton, but can’t I cover how RIGHT I was with Fairley? Yes, the man missed almost half of the season with injuries but that’s no excuse. He’s still seen the field in 7 games and in those games he’s posted 9 tackles and 1 sack. Ew. Fairley’s injury to me clearly originates from a lack of work ethic and laziness that has carried over from college. Yes, he was a monster on the field in his last year at Auburn, but where was the track record before that?!

The Lions have been hesitant to play Fairley and Ndamakong Suh together and it’s less of a contrast of styles and more of a contrast in demeanor. Suh is a god damn monster out there who goes balls to the wall from sun-up to sun-down. The last thing the Lions need is Suh to ruin the psyche of their newest, pudgiest defensive addition. This could very well be a DaQuan Bowers-type situation where Fairley needs some time to develop. But as a top 15, non-QB pick, you don’t want development, you want results. Nick Fairley, thank you for wrapping up my record of genius predictions.