College Football Playoff Rankings: The BGPR (#8)

1. Alabama (12-0, previously #1)

Beat Florida for the SEC crown and the Tide will be in the playoffs as the top seed. Lose to Florida and the Tide is still in — probably as the 1 or 2. On a side note, Jalen Hurts has quietly polished up his freshman resume quite nicely and might have earned himself an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
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2.Ohio State (11-1, previously #2)

The Buckeyes were victorious over Michigan in the best college football game I’ve seen this year — going back to last January’s National Championship Game. It backs up what I’ve said about OSU all year — they may not be impressive every week, but in the big games and the biggest stages, Urban Meyer’s teams never disappoint. Alabama has been outstanding this year, but Ohio State is one of just a couple teams that I think is capable of posing a serious threat to Tide’s title hopes.

3. Clemson (11-1, previously #3)

Clemson had the advantage of seeing all the events unfold in front of them before taking the field Saturday night against rival South Carolina. Yes, ‘Bama and OSU all but sealed their playoff bids, but Clemson responded in a big way, too; and the Tigers are now an ACC championship away from securing their playoff fate.

4. Michigan (10-2, previously #4)

I’ve said all season that the game against OSU would say all we need to know about Michigan and the progress head coach Jim Harbaugh has made in Ann Arbor. And it said a lot. Long story short — you can’t convince me that U-M is not one of the top 4 teams in college football. The Game — version 2016 — was outstanding and evidence that those two teams are two of the very best in the country right now. Selfishly, I want to see them both in. Realistically, I understand people arguing for Washington. But I do believe Michigan is better and has a better resume than the Huskies.

5. Washington (11-1, previously #5)

After pounding rival Washington State for the Apple Cup on Friday, it looked like the Huskies were free sailing into the playoff — knowing the Ohio State-Michigan loser would have 2 losses. But then “The Game” was played and people saw just how good both those Big 10 teams are. Many will argue for Washington, but a large number of folks will say Michigan is still better, despite the 2 losses.

6. Wisconsin (10-2, previously #6)

Wisconsin is playing the best football they’ve played all season. Beat PSU in Indy on Saturday and they’re going to make a serious claim for a top-4 spot. The reality is, even with a Big Ten title, the Badgers are still not getting past Ohio State or Michigan, having lost both those head-to-head games during the season. They’ll losses from Washington and Clemson somewhere along the way to break into the party.

7. Penn State (10-2, previously #9)

No one expected Penn State to be playing in the conference championship this Saturday. Few think they’ll beat Wisconsin. And fewer think they have any shot at making the playoff, even if they win the Big Ten championship. But that’s been the story of the Nitany Lions’ season — doing everything people say they can’t do. Seriously, though, they’d need some major help to find their way into the top-4.

8. Oklahoma (9-2, previously #10)

All that’s left for the Sooners is the Bedlam game against in-state rival Oklahoma State. Winner takes the Big 12 championship, but any hopes for either team to crash the playoff party is incredibly unlikely.

9. Western Michigan (12-0, previously unranked)

You have to give respect to the turnaround that head coach P.J. Fleck and his staff have engineered in Kalamazoo. A win away from a MAC title and, likely, a birth in the Cotton Bowl.

10. Colorado (10-2, previously unranked)

The Buffs have returned to top-10 status with a 6-game win streak and a Pac-12 South division title. Colorado has only stumbled twice this year — on the road both times against Michigan and, the very much improved, USC. The Buffaloes face their biggest and most important test of the season next Saturday when they face Washington for the Pac-12 championship and spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

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What Each NFL Team is Thankful For on This 2016 Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving week and as we all take a break from work and school for an extended holiday weekend, we will do some reflecting on what we are grateful for this time of year. As the NFL closes in on the final month of the regular season, teams around the league should take this time to examine what they are thankful for. And I’m here to images-6transcribe this list. Let’s have a look.

Arizona Cardinals

Ouch. This is a tough one. Less than a year removed from playing in the NFC title game, the Cardinals resemble a team that age has caught up to. They look slow and unable to be physical enough on either side of the ball. But a huge bright spot for this team is second year running back David Johnson, who’s 863 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns are good enough for 4th and 2nd in the NFL, respectively.

Atlanta Falcons

There must be a certain level of thankfulness that owner Arthur Blank has trusted and been patient with GM Thomas Dimitroff. The Falcons have been up and down for years and haven’t been able to maintain a great amount of consistency. But the offense is as potent as ever and head coach Dan Quinn keeps moving that defense in the right direction.

Baltimore Ravens

What else would you be thankful for in Baltimore besides the defense? Naturally. Few saw this unit playing so well this year, but the D ranks 2nd in the NFL in total yards, 1st in rush yards, and 5th in points against.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills have been a bit of a roller coaster this season, but you can’t argue or complain too much about their run game. If the defense could come along and be more consistent, this team would be a spitting image of what head coach Rex Ryan hoped to build in upstate New York — run the ball and stop the run.

Carolina Panthers

In what can be classified as a terribly disappointing follow-up season to their Super Bowl runner-up year of 2015-16, it doesn’t appear the Panthers have much to be grateful for. However, let me look bigger picture and move away from wins and losses for a moment. God forbid, right? Maybe what comes out of this season will be some sort of change in how the NFL does business at the front office-level. Reigning MVP Cam Newton has been highly critical of officiating and how he feels he’s been treated as it pertains to hits on the quarterback; and then during the Thursday night game a couple weeks ago, all-pro linebacker Luke Kuechly was carted off the field in tears and hyper-ventilating after a hit to the face and head area. So maybe these cases will get the NFL to look in the mirror and fix what’s clearly wrong with this league.

Chicago Bears

Ummm….uhhhhhh……ayyyyyyyeeeeee……soooooo. Can we just agree that the city should still be thankful for the Cubs?

Cincinnati Bengals

There’s a lot of disappointment in Cincy this year,  but when you lose as many pieces as they have over the last few offseason, you have to see something like this coming. But don’t fret Bengal fans, you do still have AJ Green — albeit injured right now. But c’mon, this guy’s a freak.

Cleveland Browns

Be thankful Browns fans that there are still five games left — and all you need is to win ONE of them!!!

Dallas Cowboys

Boy, where to start? The offensive line? Rod Marinelli? Dak? Zeke? So many things in big D to be grateful for. How about simply the return to, not just relevance, but a return to consistent winning football and a belief that the expectations they’ve set can be achieved? I know, that seems a very roundabout thing to be thankful for, but I’d just say “greatness” but they’re not quite there yet. But at least the ‘Boys are in the serious conversation.

Denver Broncos

Be thankful that Von Miller is on your defense and rest easy knowing that because he’s there, you will never be completely out of the discussion when it comes to legitimate Super Bowl contenders. No matter how the quarterback plays.

Detroit Lions

Two words — Matthew. Stafford. I’ve never been one of his biggest fans — in fact, I’ve thought of him as mostly an underachiever with a cannon for an arm, who makes less than smart decisions with the football. This season with a decimated offense, led by at times Dwayne Washington as the lead RB, Stafford has shouldered the load and carried the Lions to first place on Turkey Day, setting up a rare must-see 12:30 game for fans to watch as they prepare to feast with family.

Green Bay Packers

Yikes. How have things gotten so bad for such a proud franchise? But fans in GB should be thankful that they have history on their side and that the front office is proven — they will put the right people (players and coaches) in place to get back to winning. Aaron Rodgers has under-performed and the team has really struggled in their last 22 games, going 9-13 over that time, but we know what Rodgers is capable of and a quick turnaround after a down stretch is easily in the realm of possibility.

Houston Texans

The $72 million man is starting to earn his money — kind of. Brock Osweiler isn’t living up to the mega-contract, but he’s getting better and still has the Texans atop the division. It’s not a complete bust. At least not yet.

Indianapolis Colts

Despite general manager Ryan Grigson’s “maybe true yet still asinine comments” earlier this season, the Colts and their fan base should be so thankful they have Andrew Luck as their QB. This is a 3 or 4 win team without him. With him, they’re still not great, but they’re in the hunt for the division and he gives them the best chance at winning every week he’s out there.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Another high draft pick is coming. But seriously, how disappointing for those who expected so much more from this team in ’16.

Kansas City Chiefs

That a Jamaal Charles injury for the 2nd straight year doesn’t totally cripple your backfield — be thankful KC. Spencer Ware and Chacanderick West have, again, stepped into the opening left by Charles. Alex Smith missed a game, too; yet, the Chiefs are right in the middle of a steel-cage match with the Raiders and Broncos for AFC West supremacy.

Los Angeles Rams

Todd Gurley and the defense. Once the Rams figure out their QB question, there are pieces in place at other positions for this team to be successful.

Miami Dolphins

Adam Gase took a second — well, 5 weeks to be exact — to get things going in Miami. The Fins are 6-4, riding high on a 5-game win streak, and the head coach is probably the most responsible.

Minnesota Vikings

The fans of the Vikings should be most thankful that their team got out of the gates so well this season. The 5-0 start is what may save them from bottoming out and missing the playoffs. They put a lot of hay in the barn in those first 5 weeks — now the question is can they scrape and claw and hang on long enough to make it hold up?

New England Patriots

Obviously, we can point to the easy ones — Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. But let’s look a little deeper. How about be grateful that LeGarrette Blount is in New England’s backfield, is happy, and is a force that frees up Brady’s playmaking receivers? The dimension that he adds to Josh McDaniels’s offense is invaluable.

New Orleans Saints

That Sean Payton hasn’t seemed to have lost his touch, even things have seemed bleak at time over the last couple years in the Big Easy. Payton still knows what he wants and how he wants to play the game — put the ball in his QB’s hands and let him chuck it!! If nothing else, Saints for should be thankful that their team is at least entertaining. They could live in Chicago.

New York Giants

The Giants decided to play defense this season!! That’s been, arguably, the team’s biggest flaw over the last 3 years. And all it took was a rookie safety to bring that unit to life. Landon Collins is a defensive MVP candidate, putting up Ed Reed-like stats.

New York Jets

That you’re not the Browns.

Oakland Raiders

So much in Oakland to be grateful for this year. But in a quarterback-driven league, Raider fans should feel really good about having a young gun like Derek Carr under center.

Philadelphia Eagles

The future. Head coach Doug Pederson seems to have a vision of what he wants his Eagles team to look like and play like. This year won’t end with a playoff game or anything, but Philly fans should be thankful that their rebuild doesn’t show signs of lasting too long.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Steeler fans should be glad that the AFC North is a mess — an un-Steeler-like 5-5 record at this point in the year still has Pittsburgh right in the hunt. Thank you Cleveland and Cincinnati.

San Diego Chargers

Despite injuries to almost every key offensive position, Phillip Rivers has not just steadied the ship — he’s playing at times like he has his full compliment of weapons at his disposal. If San Diego fans didn’t appreciate Rivers before this year, I sure hope they are thankful for him now.

San Francisco 49ers

Chip Kelly’s inaugural season at the helm in San Fran has been abysmal. But with a horrendous season comes a high draft pick. You can bet your life’s savings that Kelly will finally be able to draft his quarterback that best fits his system. In four years as an NFL head coach, he’s never drafted a QB to be the man. He will this spring.

Seattle Seahawks

That Russell Wilson’s early season injury has healed. The QB is playing MVP-caliber football and the Seahawks are again atop everyone’s list of teams that could walk away this February hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Success isn’t coming overnight with the Bucs. But the fans in Tampa can feel good that they see flashes of brilliance from James Winston and that the team has Mike Evans on the outside. The team has gotten hammered by injuries at the running back position — bad luck more than anything else. Luck has a way of turning around.

Tennessee Titans

Titan fans must be thankful that Chip Kelly misused DeMarco Murray so badly in Philly that he just had to get out of there. The RB is providing the Titans with balance and an ability to win the time of possession battle in most games. Couple that with how Marcus Mariota has the offense humming along, and it’s no wonder Tennessee has a top-10 offense in the league.

Washington Redskins

That Jay Gruden didn’t listen to the media — or to complaints coming from his own locker room after week 2, when Kirk Cousins’s job was being questioned. The former Spartan has the Redskins in the thick of a very tight NFC East race and has gone 6-1-1 after the 0-2 start.

 

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College Football Top 10: The BGPR (#7)

1. Alabama (11-0, previously #1)

A date with Auburn is all that stands in between Nick Saban and an undefeated regular season. The Tide will be heavily favored in the Iron Bowl as well as the SEC Championship game — and likely any playoff game or games they play in. Rightfully so.college-football-schedule

2.Ohio State (10-1, previously #2)

The Buckeyes had to grind out an old-school Big Ten battle with one of the few teams in the country, Michigan State, that has been a thorn in head coach Urban Meyer’s side since joining the Big Ten. A 17-16 win over the 8-loss Spartans wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring, but it makes no difference. Barring a loss at home to Michigan, Ohio State will be in the playoff. With just the one loss on a flukey blocked field goal return, I can’t see the Bucks getting passed over.

3. Clemson (10-1, previously #3)

It’s simple for Clemson — win out, win the ACC Championship game, and they are in. I will argue all day long that the Tigers are one of the only 3 teams in the country that show up big in big games — despite looking out of sync at times this year, Clemson is still a team that should seriously be seen as a national title contender.

4. Michigan (10-1, previously #5)

To say the Wolverines’ offense has been struggling as of late would be a major understatement. Through a six-quarter stretch, Michigan managed just 16 points against the likes of Iowa and Indiana, before De’Veon Smith got loose for 2 long touchdown runs against the Hoosiers to cement that 20-10 victory. Jim Harbaugh has a week to get the offense humming like it had been for the first 9 games of the season or else it’s going to be a difficult task expecting to beat OSU in Columbus.

5. Washington (10-1, previously #6)

The talk around the Pac-12 has ratcheted up a lot over the last week. The confusing thing is that people are talking about the wrong teams — USC and Colorado. Washington can shut everyone up if they take care of Wazzu for the Apple Cup and then win the conference championship game a week later.

6. Wisconsin (9-2, previously #7)

Wisconsin is, perhaps, playing the best football of any Big Ten team right now. They are sitting in the cat bird’s seat as it stands right now — win the Big Ten Championship game and they can’t be kept out out the top-4. And if Penn State’s their opponent in Indianapolis, the Badgers will be the well-deserved favorites.

7. Houston (9-2, previously unranked)

The early season darlings, the Houston Cougars, could not capitalize on their opening weekend victory over Oklahoma after dropping 2 of 3 games to Navy and SMU a month ago. But they leapt right back into the picture with a dominant 36-10 win over the Cardinals on Thursday night.

8. Louisville (9-2, previously #4)

After weeks of up and down, impressive then unimpressive performances, Louisville finally ran into an opponent who was up for the challenge and got up early and didn’t let up. Where does Louisville go from here, now that they’ve dropped 2 games? Well, they’re certainly all but eliminated from getting back into the top-4; a runner up finish behind Clemson in the ACC will still probably land Louisville in a New Year’s Six bowl game — especially taking into account that Lamar Jackson is still the clear favorite for the Heisman.

9. Penn State (9-2, previously #8)

Everything went the way PSU needed it to go this past weekend — beat Rutgers and remain tied in a three-way logjam with U-M and OSU atop the Big Ten East. Now the Nitany Lions just need to put down Michigan State and hope that the favored Buckeyes handle Michigan in Columbus — neither of which seem unrealistic in the least. Those things happen — PSU and Wisconsin meet for the conference title in Indy with the winner staking a huge claim to one of the top-4 spots.

10. Oklahoma (9-2, previously #9)

“The Sooners don’t have any big, memorable wins on their resume this year” — that’s from last week’s BGPR. Well, a week later, the Sooners have added that big resume-enhancing win, as they went into Morgantown on Saturday night and hung 56 on the previously 8-1 Mountaineers. As well as they’re playing right now, OU has a low ceiling and will only be able to move up the rankings so far. Probably not going to be able to break through into the top-4.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

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After Week 10 in the NFL, Here’s 20 Things We Know

1.  The NFL would probably solve all it’s television ratings issues if they scheduled the Steelers-Cowboys each weekend. Seahawks-Patriots aren’t bad either.images-6

2. Ezekiel Elliott is a legitimate MVP candidate, and Dallas is a real threat in the NFC. There are the most complete team through 10 weeks.

3. Pittsburgh has twice been below .500 this late in the season since Ben Roethlisberger took the reigns at QB. And both times, the Steelers missed the playoffs.

4. Seattle has vastly improved it’s offense — Jimmy Graham is a threat again, the running game looked impressive in Foxboro, and a healthy Russell Wilson makes all the difference in the world. Dallas may have put together the best overall 10 weeks in the NFC, but no one is playing better right now — perhaps in all of football — than the Seahawks.

5. New England will need to solidify their defense — maybe the Jamie Collins trade had the unit “off” a little bit. But they will recover and despite not playing a great game, the Patriots were a play away from tying that game in the last seconds.

6. If Green Bay “relaxes” much more, they might give up 70 next time out. I’m not sure that will be Aaron Rodgers’ plan of attack this time around. The Packers can’t stop anything on defense, and they can’t run the ball.

7. The Vikings continue their freefall. The Lions didn’t play this weekend, but come out of the bye in first place in the North. The Bears are still alive after getting hammered by Tampa Bay 36-10i, if that gives you any indication of how this division is going.

8. Houston sneaked past the Jaguars, who might be heading to Detroit next week without head coach Gus Bradley; the Colts were on a bye; and the Titans put up 47 on the league’s number one rush D. Are we ready to give Tennessee a little credit finally? They look like the best team in the division more weeks than not.

9. Washington is doing their best to challenge the Cowboys. After their 0-2 start and players within their own lockeroom calling for Kirk Cousins’s benching, the Redskins have gone 5-1-1.

10. No one thought the Eagles would be 5-4 after week 10, but here we are. Big wins over the Steelers, Vikings, and, now, the Falcons should have Philly fans feeling good about their team’s chances against anyone down the stretch.

11. You win by the arm of Phillip Rivers, and other times you die by the arm of Phillip Rivers. Hard to realize San Diego is 4-6 this year — they seem like they’ve been much better. No teams are going to want to play the Chargers in the final month and a half of the season.

12. The AFC West is one tough division. Denver won with a little bit of help — the ol’ let-the-other-team-score-so-we-can-block-the-PAT-and-return-it-for-two-points play. The Raiders were on a bye, but their Sunday night win a week ago is still fresh in everyone’s minds — and may be one of the more impressive wins of the season by any team. And then there’s Kansas City. The Chiefs came back from down 17-0 on the road against the defending NFC champs and the reigning MVP. The winner of this division will be very deserving.

13. Cleveland is still looking at challenging the ’08 Lions for the worst regular season of all-time, 0-16. Stay focused Cleveland.

14. Baltimore somehow flies under the radar, doesn’t offer up too much in the form of a good offense, and just wins enough to lead the AFC North. Their defense has been above average, but this isn’t a great team — just in a very weak division right now.

15. Monday night’s performance from the Bengals feels like many of their 2016 performances — decent, not horrible, not many huge gaffs, but not enough offense in the red zone to win — what was — a winnable game.

16. The Giants were the beneficiaries of the Bengals’ inabilities to capitalize on scoring chances. The Giants have been the anti-Bengals this season in a way. Ben McAdoo’s club is taking full advantage of their opportunities and Eli Manning is spreading the ball around to all his weapons. And maybe most surprising — and definitely most important — is that the G-Men are playing defense, led by rookie Landon Collins.

17. The 49ers-Cardinals game didn’t follow the script that we all expected it to. Instead, like they’ve been all season-long, the Cardinals struggled with consistency and failed to run the ball with any sort of success — against the league’s worst run defense, mind you. Carson Palmer looked fine (30-49, 376 yards), but an ill-timed interception in the final minutes nearly helped throw this game away. As for the Niners, a 3-point loss to the Cards in the desert isn’t all the bad, considering San Francisco’s woes this year.

18. A Bryce Petty – Case Keenum matchup was hardly what the NFL hoped for when this game made it to the schedule. And hardly what we hoped to see.

19. The NFC South. What can be said? If the Falcons don’t wrap that division up and stop playing games, this could be a repeat of a couple years ago when the winner of the South was below-.500. Carolina is not the team they were a year ago; the Saints are game and are playing tougher than I give them credit for; and every time I think I know what Tampa Bay is, they go ahead and prove me wrong. I beg Atlanta to please win this thing so we can stop talking about these other 3 teams.

20. After the disappointing 1-4 start, the Dolphins have reeled off 4 straight wins, are running the ball with authority, and Adam Gase look, indeed, like the “quarterback whisperer” he was all hyped up to be when Stephen Ross hired the young, former OC.

 

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College Football Rankings: The BGPR (#6)

1. Alabama (10-0, previously #1)

Freshman quarterback Jaylen Hurts gives head coach Nick Saban another indefensible dynamic that he doesn’t need — and the fact he has Hurts seems quite unfair to the rest of college football. Not even a loss in the Iron Bowl should drop the Tide from the top-4.college-football-schedule

2.Ohio State (9-1, previously #6)

After back-to-back 62-3 blowout wins over Big Ten foes Nebraska and Maryland, the Buckeyes have that look to them again. But all that means little when November 26 rolls around. If the Bucks take care of business (no matter the scores), they’ll find their way in the playoff on New Year’s Eve.

3. Clemson (9-1, previously #2)

It had the makings once it got going of a nip-and-tuck, tit-for-tat scoring onslaught from both Pittsburgh and the Tigers. DeShaun Watson threw for nearly 600 yards — and despite the 3 interceptions, it appeared with 3 minutes or so remaining that Clemson was going to be able to run out the clock with one more first down and hold on to win the nail biter. Not the case, however. But Clemson’s loss didn’t sting for but a few hours — losses from Washington and Michigan help to keep the Tigers in playoff position.

4. Louisville (9-1, previously #3)

This was about as unimpressive as a 44-12 win can be, especially in the first half — and when people start comparing a handful of 1-loss teams to see who’s most worthy of a spot in the top-4, this win will not do the Cardinals any favors.

5. Michigan (9-1, previously #4)

The first true road test of the season did not go the way Jim Harbaugh would have liked. But in the end, it still comes down to the game at Columbus in 2 weeks. But this was not a good look for Michigan on national  television in primetime. They have to fix their run game before heading into the November 26; and they better figure out how to shut down offensive playmakers or else it might turn out to be another forgettable game against their rival.

6. Washington (9-1, previously #5)

Tough loss for the Huskies to a fast-improving USC club. Washington isn’t totally out of it just yet — thanks to some losses and subpar play from other top teams this past weekend. But their road just became a lot bumpier.

7. Wisconsin (8-2, previously #7)

Wisconsin is the best of any team in the land who is considered third in their conference. It would require some very unusual circumstances for the Badgers to navigate their way into the playoff. But stranger things have happened. Wisconsin just needs to hang around until the Big Ten Championship game.

8. Penn State (8-2, previously not ranked)

After a slow start to the season and injuries that had the Nitany Lions looking more like a lower tier MAC team, Penn State is playing very well and is right in the thick of the Big Ten race — in fact they are in a prime position to win the Big Ten east division. Amazingly enough, all Penn State needs to do is take care of Rutgers and Michigan State and hope for a Buckeyes win over U-M — and they’re going to Indy. Who would have thought?

9. Oklahoma (8-2, previously not ranked)

The Sooners don’t have any big, memorable wins on their resume this year — instead, most people are only able to remember the rough opening weekend loss to Houston and then the primetime drubbing at home against Ohio State. But those two losses aren’t that bad, and Oklahoma is still unbeaten in conference play.

10. LSU (6-3, previously #10)

A week after their defense held Alabama to just 10 points, LSU ran roughshod over Arkansas. The Tigers are not getting the respect in the polls or the playoff rankings. LSU’s 3 loss all have come against top-ranked ‘Bama, weekly top-10 Wisconsin, and Auburn, who’s loss this weekend will barely bump them from the top-10.

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

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15 Things We Know Through Week 9 in the NFL

I was all set ready to post this article after the MNF game as soon as I plugged in some thoughts on the Seahawks and Bills. But a simple “plug in” isn’t going to suffice here. For anyone that saw that game Monday night — in particular, the scenario that unfolded as the first half was ending — please explain to me how the NFL continues to get by without employing their officials full time. Please, I beg of you. How can one single play set in motion a string of missed calls, uimages-6tter confusion, and chaos in such a short amount of time? We’re talking three seconds!! Three seconds left in the half — how can a play (that doesn’t even get off by the way because the penalty) wreak this much havoc??!! And then, as if the play wasn’t mind-blowing enough, the multiple explanations afterwards by the NFL’s Head of Officiating Dean Blandino, referee Walt Anderson, and countless experts commenting on TV and on Twitter were enough to send onlookers into a state of “huh?”. Maybe this is exactly what the league needed in order to push commissioner Roger Goodell into fixing the officiating problem that the NFL clearly has right now. Then, again, haven’t we been through something like this before? On a Monday night? In Seattle?…..

1. Setting aside the buffoonery that ensued as the first half came to a close, the game was actually pretty entertaining. Fantasy owners of Jimmy Graham and Russell Wilson, finally, cashed in. If Seattle continues this play on the offensive-side, they will be just as dangerous as they’ve been for the last few seasons. On the other hand, while they were in the game the whole time, Buffalo suffered another loss and more poor play defensively. After four straight wins, the Bills have come back to earth and are looking more like the team that started out 0-2 and was firing offensive coordinators.

2. Is it possible the Packers team and Colts team that we’re seeing now, are the true versions of each? Both started out in quite the opposite fashion. And now after Indy dominated most of the game in Lambeau, the Colts are poised to move on the first-place Texans in the AFC South while the Pack are free-falling in the NFC North.

3. Are we seeing some separation in the AFC West? Kansas City , Denver, and Oakland all have made cases thru week 9 to be the divisional power. KC seems to be able to rotate anyone they want out of the backfield and be productive. The Broncos D is bar-none, the scariest in the NFL. But the Raiders may have staked the loudest claim to the division with their start-to-finish throttling of the defending champs in primetime on Sunday night. What’s most impressive is that the Raiders did their damage on the ground, out-rushing Denver 218 yards to 33.  And let’s not totally dismiss the Chargers. The defense was phenomenally opportunistic against the Titans on Sunday and the offense doesn’t seem to be impacted by all their injuries. But it looks like Oakland has a leg up on the competition out west for the first time in over a decade.

4. Minnesota was, just 3 short weeks ago, thought to be the best in the NFC. Now they’re on the verge of a complete collapse. Sunday’s overtime loss at home to the Lions puts the Vikings’ divisional lead in a great amount of jeopardy. And puts the Lions a half game back after winning 4 of their last 5 — not always pretty but wins are wins in the NFL.

5. The AFC North is in such disarray, even the Browns are alive to win the division! Okay, seriously, they’re not. The Browns are terrible in every sense of the word. But, c’mon, no one else can separate themselves?? The Steelers have regressed and have looked more like the team that Philadelphia dominated earlier in the season; the Ravens are up and down and not consistent; and the Bengals are the same. Parity is fine, but this is a little much.

6. The Titans are a fun team to watch. Marcus Mariota still has to work on limiting the mistakes. But for all the mistakes, he makes the big plays and has Tennessee playing better football than most thought at the onset of the season.

7. Dallas is proving each week that they have staying power. They have it all — the poised QB, the elusive running back, the star WR, the veteran tight end, the best o-line in football, and a defense that bends but doesn’t break and plays it’s best in the final quarter. It’s been a long time since we could talk about the Cowboys like this.

8. The Eagles have fallen off after their fast 3-0 start, but that’s to be expected. Five or six wins is really what Philly expected and should still be happy with. Carson Wentz is good and head coach Doug Pederson is learning more and more about his team each week. He’s going to have them contending soon. Just not this year.

9. The Giants offense finally looks like what we all thought it would be when the year began. Eli Manning spreads it around nicely — running game or not, they don’t care. The weapons Eli has at receiver are lethal.

10. Speaking of offensive weapons, Atlanta has them and has utilized them, nicely, all season. Dan Quinn’s defense still isn’t playing at the consistent level that he’d like. But when Matt Ryan has the offense rolling like it is, it doesn’t much matter what the defense is doing.

11. The Rams and Panthers met up Sunday in a matchup that, oddly enough, showed just how close teams in the NFL are this year. Neither has been at all consistent this season and neither has played defense the way many expected both units to play. But Sunday, we saw how two teams, who in our minds, are completely different — Carolina has all the offensive weapons and the reigning MVP and L.A. has a strong defense led by tackle Aaron Donald — can actually be pretty equal. Neither team really proved it’s better than the other — a 13-10 score only proved why, perhaps, TV ratings are down and audiences don’t really care to watch these games.

12. Jay Ajayi went for over 100 yards on the ground for the third straight week. The Dolphins look like a different team after winning their last three.

13. The Jags and the Jets should be thankful that the Browns are around this season. If not, both those teams would be dominating the headlines, nationally, as the two biggest disappointments of the year.

14.  When New Orleans locked up with San Francisco on Sunday, an offensive explosion that Levi Stadium might not be able to endure was expected. Neither of these two teams is known for a stout defense — or even having ones that try all that hard. Drew Brees is going to have some outrageous numbers when this year ends, but it won’t reflect in wins. And San Francisco hopes that it finds their own Drew Brees in this Spring’s NFL Draft — because if that offense cannot generate more than a field goal in the second half against the Saints defense, there’s little hope for them.

15. The offense is not the problem in Tampa Bay. If the Bucs can figure out a way to stop teams from marching right through them, they might be able to get competitive fairly quickly in a division that no one is running away with. Until then, the offenses in the NFC South are way too dynamic for Tampa to get by with a less-than-mediocre defense.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

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College Football Top 10: The BGPR (#5)

1. Alabama (9-0, previously #1)

LSU gave the Tide all they could handle — at least for the first three quarters. Alabama’s defense was steady and dominant despite the close score. And the Jaylen Hurts does not look like a true freshman.college-football-schedule

2. Clemson (9-0, previously #2)

Clemson probably won’t be tested much until the ACC Championship Game — and who knows how much of a test they will encounter there. Opponents can only hope that quarterback DeShaun Watson’s bruised shoulder bothers him to the point that he makes mistakes and doesn’t play like his normal “Heisman-candidate” self.

3. Louisville (8-1, previously #3)

Can we save everyone the time, the effort, and the trip to NYC? Let’s get that Heisman in Lamar Jackson’s hands please.

4. Michigan (9-0, previously #4)

Maybe the Wolverines would look sluggish, worn out, fatigued against Maryland after the emotional game versus rival Michigan State the week earlier — not so much.

5. Washington (9-0, previously #5)

When are we all whole-heartedly going to buy into Washington being a top team? They routinely destroy their weaker opponents and find ways to win the tough ones. They’re a lot like every other team in the top 5 — aside from Alabama; but they don’t seem to get the respect they deserve. I said it last week, Jake Browning is a legitimate Heisman contender.

6. Ohio State (8-1, previously #6)

One week the Buckeyes look like they have some worrisome flaws, the next they are dismantling a top-10 team. Get to the Saturday after Thanksgiving and we will all know what kind of team Urban Meyer has.

7. Wisconsin (7-2, previously #7)

The Badgers are taking huge advantage of how highly the Big Ten is ranked this year. Yes, 2 losses, but no one is going to blame Wisconsin very much for losing to two of the nation’s best.

8. Auburn (7-2, previously not ranked)

Going back to week one of the season, the Tigers were a game opponent for Clemson. Since that loss, they’ve been in every game and played very well against some very good competition. Now Auburn controls it’s own destiny — with the Iron Bowl looming large in a few weeks.

9. Texas A&M (7-2, previously #8)

Sadly, for Aggie fans, A&M did what we have all come to expect A&M to do over the years — play very well early in the season, lose a tough one to Alabama, then fail to show up in a game or two later in the season that they should clearly win.

10. LSU (5-3, previously not ranked)

A disappointing year has gained steam since the dismissal of longtime head coach Les Miles early in the season. LSU played very tough against top-ranked Alabama on Saturday night; and the Bayou Bengals have an edge about them that would make them a dangerous foe for any team in the country. But the offense has to be able to help out the defense.

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

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Michigan HS Playoff Game of the Week: Cass Tech at Dearborn

One team is trying to right the wrong that was the end of their 2015 season at Ford Field in the Division I title game against Romeo. The other is trying to do what it hasn’t done since 2007 when they defeated Wyandotte Roosevelt to win the district crown and advance to the regional championship.20161102_165153

Cass Tech enters Friday night’s affair at Dearborn High with the highest of expectations: win the State Championship. Tech can take a big step in that direction if they can defeat the Pioneers on their home turf, where they are 5-1 this season with their lone loss coming opening night to Northville.

To say the Technicians have played with a chip on their shoulder, after enduring the disappointment from the loss in the State Finals a year ago, might be an understatement. Over one 3-game stretch early in the season, Cass Tech outscored their opponents 166-0. Twice, the team easily handled rival Detroit King by a combined score of 72-38.

Cass Tech has the look of a team poised, prepared, and determined to get back to Ford Field in a couple weeks. The offense has averaged 47 points per game and can score with anyone in the state. But Dearborn will not be intimidated or pushed around. This Pioneer team has shown perseverance, coming off of a 2015 season that saw the team barely get above .500. This year has been quite different — 9 straight wins, a victory at rival Fordson, and an offense that has gotten big plays with few mistakes, led by quarterback Michael Phillips. The signal caller has posted 23 touchdowns with 0 interceptions. He’s given his offense every opportunity to score efficiently on all their possessions this season.

Here are four keys to Friday’s District Championship:

Dearborn must…

1. Run the ball effectively.

The Pioneers have shown to be effective on the ground this year (139 yards per game) when they commit to it. Running back Hussien Hannawi has averaged 73 yards per game and will need to be the workhorse Friday night, if DHS is to upend the top team in Division I football. If the Pioneers can rush the ball with consistently, it will allow them to control the clock, which will be critical against the high-octane offense that Tech brings, led by national standout superstar WR/DB Donovan Peoples-Jones. In short, keep Cass Tech’s offense on the sideline and chances grow exponentially that Dearborn could march on to the Regional.

2. Make other players, besides Donovan Peoples-Jones and Donovan Johnson, beat you.

This one is easier said than done. But Dearborn’s defense has been stout all year long — allowing less than 12 points per game — albeit the Pioneers’ defense has not seen an offense like Tech’s. Few defenses have. If Dearborn can rattle Peoples-Jones and stop the run at the same time, perhaps senior QB Rodney Hall will be forced into some uncomfortable decisions.

Cass Tech must…

1. Disrupt Michael Phillips.

The Pioneer QB has been perfect this year — 23 TDs, 0 INTs. The fast, ball-hawking defense of Tech has forced quarterbacks into trouble all year. If they do the same Friday night against Phillips, the team will find itself with a lot of opportunities to turn Dearborn mistakes into points.

2. Get out fast and get out early.

Cass Tech is no first-timer to big games, unfriendly enemy territory, or high expectations so don’t expect nerves to be much of a factor. But to score early and score often will help to put Dearborn behind — a position they haven’t been accustomed to playing from this season. If the Pioneers feel pressured early and panic, mistakes are more prone to happen. No team can afford to make many mistakes against Cass Tech.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

 

 

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26 Things We Learned From Week 8 in the NFL

1. Seattle’s loss in New Orleans isn’t earth-shattering. But the fact the offense couldn’t do better than 20 points against the Saints’ terrible defense is not good for Pete Carroll’s bunch.images-6

2. Oakland is 5-0 on the road for the first time since the 70s. That offense is very very good.

3. Ok, enough kidding around about the Browns. How many games can they pull defeat from the jaws of victory?? This looks more an more each week like a team destined to join the ’08 Lions at 0-16.

4. Atlanta has played a very tough stretch of games against playoff teams. The win over Green Bay was crucial to this team’s psyche after they collapsed last season. Might be time to really take the Falcons seriously.

5. Score zero points at home a few weeks ago against Buffalo; score 41 points against Buffalo in week 8. Safe to say Tom Brady is an upgrade over an injured rookie third stringer.

6. Kansas City did what good teams do — beat up a bad Colts team on the road, 30-14.

7. Is there a more dysfunctional team in the NFL than the Jets? But they’ve won 2 straight and the schedule doesn’t get much harder in the weeks ahead.

8. I’m done trying to figure out the Cardinals. I’m not even going to pretend to understand what’s going wrong in the desert.

9. At 2-5, I’m pretty sure Carolina’s win did not save their season; but that’s not a division that’s completely gotten away from them quite yet.

10. There goes Houston, again — doing just enough to keep fans hopeful. A home win over the Lions should not be hailed as some great victory. But now at 5-3, people will resume talking about how this is a playoff team and one of the top teams in the AFC.

11. DeMarco Murray has provided Tennessee with a ground game that is keeping them competitive. At 4-4, the Titans sit a game back of the first place Texans — don’t be surprised if this young team sticks around for a while.

12. Green Bay’s mediocre play wouldn’t really concern me too much because they’re talented enough to flip the switch at any given time — usually. What is concerning right now is that the Pack is losing to playoff teams that will probably be there in January.

13. Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon — how does Kirk Cousins not sling it for 400-plus yards every single week??!!

14. Cincinnati is now 3-4-1 and I’m really not sure how good or bad they are. I want to say they’re better than that record — the offense has the firepower.

15. Alright, maybe Philly isn’t that great and Dallas should not have had to work so hard to win that game. But this is the NFL and that was a primetime, divisional rivalry — and if you come away with a win, it counts the same as a blowout win. Dam Prescott continues to show his moxie and Ezekiel Elliott is not playing like a rookie.

16. After back-to-back disappointing losses, the shine has come off Minnesota. The offensive line cannot protect Sam Bradford and the defensive — which has been stout — got gashed by a rookie running back at Soldier Field.

17. Rookie running back Jordan Howard showed off some of his skills on a primetime stage against one of the league’s very best defenses, going for 153 yards with the Viking defenders unable to slow him down.

18. Thank you, Indianapolis, for not bothering to show up Sunday at home in a game that was “gettable”.

19. The Jaguars are hoping a change at OC will give Blake Bortles and company a spark. This is one of the worst scoring teams in the league — after a ’15 season where the offense was one of the most explosive.

20. Denver’s defense did the job, again. No matter what’s happening (or what’s not happening) with the offense, the defense never takes a game off.

21. Getting lost in the disappointing defeat at Mile High was that Chargers second-year RB Melvin Gordon crossed the 100-yard rushing plateau — the first back to do so against that Bronco defense in 22 games. Gordon’s had a very good bounce-back sophomore season.

22. Up, down, up, down. The Bills looked like they were ready to move on the Pats after a 4-game win streak a couple weeks back. Since, they’ve gotten hammered by the Dolphins and Patriots and are back to a 4-4 reality.

23. The Saints proved that not every win they get has to be some explosive 30-plus point outburst from the offense. Sunday’s home victory over the still very good Seattle defense was driven  by efficient passing and a sound run game. Hope you enjoyed it if you like that kinda thing — because it doesn’t happen too often with Drew Brees and those receivers.

24. The season has already been a success for the Eagles. They’ve found out the Carson Wentz sure appears to be their starting QB for years to come; head coach Doug Pederson has wiped the remnants of the Chip Kelly Experiment out of the building; and the team has gelled and played with some nastiness, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

25. Injuries have a way of eventually taking their toll on a team — even if the wins are still coming. Detroit found that out. Too many defensive holes to continue rolling along. It happens.

26. Tampa has proven how inconsistent they are from week to week. Many of the pieces seem to be there, but they’re not ready to be a division contender yet. Had the Bucs beaten the Raiders, I might be singing a different tune.

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