Some Perspective on Kaepernick in the Wake of Terence Crutcher

Some Perspective on Kaepernick in the Wake of Terence Crutcher

Kyle Battle “When to Jump” Contributor - I like to write

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Being an Ivy League graduate millennial that grew up poor, you can imagine the span of reactions in my Facebook feed as racial conversations have flooded the airways this summer. From the defeated and hopeless Black people filled with confusion and, literally, dying for understanding, to the privileged and aloof White people with an unwavering allegiance to the flag regardless of the accuracy in execution of what it represents, I’ve seen it all.

Ali: The Spirit of a Legend

Ali: The Spirit of a Legend

 

 

I remember when I first learned that one of Muhammad Ali’s nicknames was the Louisville Lip. Being from Cincinnati, just 100 miles from Louisville, Muhammad Ali was the first person to get me to realize that a little boy from seemingly nowhere could aspire to greatness.

We millennials threaten to leave the country if Trump is elected — a move I believe to be largely inspired by Muhammad Ali’s refusal to go to war for a cause he didn’t believe in. We are known for passion and understanding the “why” — a mindset on a path paved by that butterfly floating, bee stinging, pretty, bad man named Ali.

I remember watching the Opening Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. I was just seven years old but a lot of foundations were laid for me at that time. You see, I was just becoming old enough to understand perspective. I watched this old, fragile man shiver his way to the torch and in that moment realized the importance of the Olympics. Anything that could inspire a man in his condition to endure the obvious physical strain to be a symbol of greatness — American greatness, Black American greatness — had to be bigger than just lighting a torch. Muhammad Ali is responsible for my love of the Olympics.

If Ali taught us anything, it was that the spirit of a champion is far more powerful than even his body. As we mourn his passing, we have to remember that because even though he’s no longer here in the flesh, his spirit will never die. 🙏👊🙌

 

Worst Coach in NFL Playoff History has League's Best Job Security

Worst Coach in NFL Playoff History has League's Best Job Security

I remember when the Bengals first hired Marvin Lewis. Being the defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl Baltimore Ravens meant that he would bring a new defensive mentality and a winning tradition to the Queen City. His pedigree and calm optimism brought great hope to Bengals fans and, in a city less than two years removed from racial riots, it didn't hurt that he was Black. 

It didn't happen quickly but overtime Marvin was able to clean the roster and put together one of the best teams in Bengals history. In his time with the Bengals, Lewis has amassed the most victories as a head coach, the most playoff appearances as a head coach, and NFL Coach of the Year in 2009. However, the big cloud hanging over his career has grown into something like a donut-shaped cloud like the spaceship in Independence Day. 

as much as I love Marvin Lewis and what he's done for the Cincinnati Bengals, the community, and the city of Cincinnati itself, I think it's time to realize that he has maximized his potential and in order for the franchise to move forward, it must be under different leadership. I don't say this because I don't like Marvin, in fact I do. But when I look at the numbers are staggering that he still has a job in this league. 

 

 

Consider this:

 

Of all the coaches in NFL playoff history that are winless, Lewis leads them all with seven losses. The recent loss to the Steelers on Saturday moved him out of a tie held between him and Jim Mora at 0-6. Sticking with Marvin through seven playoff losses, the Bengals have maintained trust in Lewis three years longer than any other franchise being led by a coach with a winless playoff record. The next highest is four but the Saints got rid of Jim Mora before he could lose a fifth in a row. 

 

In NFL playoff coaching history, there are five other coaches with a 7 in their L column. The average value in their win column: 9.6.

 

Before Marvin came to Cincinnati a .500 season was a good year. Three years into his tenure in Cincinnati and the Bengals were 11-5 and AFC North Champs. Cincinnati has had four straight ten-win seasons and currently has arguably the most talented roster in the league. His accomplishments should not go unnoticed. He recreated a culture of regular season success at Paul Brown Stadium.

But in order for the Cincinnati Bengals to move forward, they must cut ties with, statistically, the worst coach a team could have ever had in a playoff game.

The most recent reports are that Marvin Lewis' job is safe.

The plight of a Bengals fan

The plight of a Bengals fan

There was about a ten minute span of real time in Saturday's AFC Wild Card game between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh that represented everything it means to be a Bengals fan. With 1:56 left in the fourth quarter, AJ McCarron found AJ Green on a corner route that resulted in both of their first playoff touchdowns. The score put the Bengals up 16-15 and they could almost touch the light at the end of the dreaded playoff tunnel. They went for two but failed and then kicked off to the Steelers. 



With Ben Roethlisberger out of the game, backup Landry Jones entered the game only to be intercepted by Vontaze Burfict on first down. With the ball, the lead and two timeouts to try to end the game. 

As a fan, it was truly overwhelming. The possibility of a 26 year streak being ended was right within our grasp and it looked as if the players had stepped up to the occasion and showed their valor. The cloak of pessimism that covers the city of Cincinnati was temporarily lifted by the spirit and cheer of Bengals fans everywhere. Although I'm physically in Los Angeles, my Facebook timeline is very much still Cincinnati and my girlfriend was even on Facetime with her best friend who lives back in Cincy. We all went crazy. I accidentally stepped on the Maltese's tail while celebrating. Sorry Wembley.

But I was experiencing history. The team that I cheer the hardest for was about to do something it hadn't done in my lifetime and with 96 seconds, two touchdowns and Jeremy Hill running angry, there was reason for Bengals fans to have that optimism. 

Then just as quickly as the Bengals took the ball away, they gave it back because Jeremy Hill fumbled on the next play which was recovered by the Steelers. With 1:23 left in the game, Roethlisberger trotted back into the game in true Willis Reed style and I knew we were really about to be tested. Our schemes were about to be tested. Our fundamentals were about to be tested. Our resolve was about to be tested. 


The defense gave up eight to Martavis Bryant on first down and after an incompletion to Antonio Brown on second, they let Toussaint get outside for seven yards where he stopped the clock and moved the chains. 

Toussaint then burst off another ten yards and the Steelers stopped the clock with their first timeout. There was :41 left on the clock and the Steelers had the ball on their own 34. 

Three plays, two timeouts and thirteen game-seconds later, it was 4th and 3 on the Steelers' 41. Who else, but Antonio Brown caught the ball for 12 yards and extended the drive crossing the Steelers into Bengals territory. The Steelers spent their last timeout to stop the clock at :22. 

Still about 15 yards from Boswell's field goal range, the Bengals could essentially seal the game with a stop. Bend but don't break. 

Everything fell apart on the next play. Roethlisberger threw incomplete deep to Antonio Brown but Burfict was flagged with, and ultimately suspended for, an aggregious hit to the head that gave the Steelers 15 yards and a first down. The Steelers were at the edge of their field goal range.

Amidst a scrum resulting from the Burfict hit, Adam Jones got into an altercation with Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter on the field and Jones was also flagged for a personal foul.

When the Steelers finally lined up, they were on the 17 yard line with :18 seconds left. Boswell made the chip shot field goal and the Steelers won the game by two. 

I could psychoanalyze the whole situation and explain my feelings throughout the waning moments of this game but, it doesn't take a rocket scientiest, the last two minutes of that game epitomizes everything it means to be a Bengals fan: cheer the good moments when you have them because they'll find a way to lose it in the end. 

Same old Bengals.

My Reaction to Al Jazeera’s HGH Documentary

My Reaction to Al Jazeera’s HGH Documentary

When I first heard the rumors that Al Jazeera would be releasing a story that exposed Peyton Manning as having used Human Growth Hormone back in 2011, I was mixed with skepticism and doubt. I know Al Jazeera to be a reputable news source so the logical part of me trusted that they had done their homework and had legitimate reason to believe these claims to be true. Owing it to myself as a fan and spectator on the issue, I watched the 50 minute documentary and here are some of my thoughts .

There’s no doubt these journalists found dirty doctors. Long story short, a former runner trying to break back into the 2016 Olympics does some poking around while wearing a hidden camera and eventually meets this guy Charlie Sly.

It’s pretty unconvincing for a while until Sly starts talking about the different nuances of his dealings with various professional athletes: Who is afraid of using certain drugs, who can’t get enough. It was all just sketchy enough to be believable but my skepticism remained, albeit less. The film built a certain mysticism about a coveted IV called D2, or Delta 2.

It was hard to maintain a doubtful mindset after he walked into a hotel lobby and was met by Taylor Teagarden, a current MLB pitcher. Teegarden talked about using various drugs, both legal and illegal, and gave a very convincing account of his own doubts and reservations about jumping over to “the dark side.”

When it came to Peyton Manning, I no longer saw this guy Sly as an entirely non-credible source. His claim was that he worked as a pharmacy intern at the Guyer Institute in Indiana in 2011 which was while Peyton was receiving treatment there following his neck surgeries.

Al Jazeera confirmed that Sly worked there during this time. However, that point is being challenged. According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, a source known to be close with the Manning family, Dr. Guyer has confirmed that Sly was an intern there in 2013, two years after Peyton was receiving treatment. I can’t call either of these sources a liar but they can’t both be right. The truth behind this fact will determine a lot in this case.

Once Sly was informed that his comments were recorded, he recanted them and said that he was trying to “pull one over” on Collins.

Ultimately, I’m not sold that Peyton did this. No one said they injected him. No one saw anyone inject him. The most anyone could say is that Peyton’s wife Ashley received regular shipments of HGH that were really for Peyton: A long shot at best.

At the end of the day, I’m not convinced that Peyton had anything to do with this guy but I also acknowledge the likelihood that they could have crossed paths. Especially if it turns out that he did in fact work at the Guyer Institute in 2011. I just really hope that Al Jazeera has the evidence and money to lawyer-up for all of these slander law suits coming their way. Because if they don’t and these claims turn out to be built on the lies of an international drug smuggler, it’s not good news for their future.

Why McCarron Provides Bengals Best Chance in Playoffs

Why McCarron Provides Bengals Best Chance in Playoffs

The dark cloud hanging over Andy Dalton's reputation has always been his inability to perform in the playoffs. Although he is one of only five quarterbacks to lead their team to the playoffs in each of their first four seasons, his record is 0-4 in said games and he's thrown one touchdown and six interceptions. Heading into a fifth consecutive playoff appearance for the Bengals, Dalton won't be starting this time. Instead, his backup, 2 time BCS National Champion at Alabama AJ McCarron will bring his four games of NFL experience into Paul Brown Stadium for the biggest game in Cincinnati since the last time the Steelers traveled there for a Wild Card game; the same game in which Carson Palmer went down with an ACL injury in the first quarter. It's not the biggest game just because it's the playoffs - the Bengals have made the playoffs the last four years - but rather because it's the Steelers in the playoffs. While the Steelers-Ravens rivalry is probably best known to the casual NFL fan, seldom fan bases have more disdain towards a team than do Bengals fans towards Steeler Nation. 

As I recently reflected upon, that could be in part due to how it went the last time Pittsburgh came to Cincinnati for a playoff game. It resulted in Carson Palmer being carted off the field and every ounce of hope being sucked out of the city. The hatred goes back to include when Hines Ward broke Keith Rivers' jaw on a peel back block that today would have cost him a couple games and a couple hundred grand and resulted in a rules-change. The disgust includes James Harrison joining the Bengals only to return to Pittsburgh after a single season. This game is just bigger because it's the Steelers. 

With so much on the line and big game reputations considered, are the Bengals better off with AJ McCarron at the helm than Andy Dalton?

McCarron is technically 2-1 as a starter but let's consider him 2-2 considering he filled in for Dalton after he hurt his thumb against the Steelers and went on to throw 32 passes. So he's 2-2 in his four games as a pro. His only two interceptions came in that game versus the Steelers: a game in which he didn't have the week to prepare as the starter. Further, the Pick6 he threw in that game, you know? The one where William Gay celebrated three times as long as Cam Newton ever did finishing with a knee walk chest bump with linebacker coach Joey Porter, yeah that one. He'll never make that mistake again. The reason Gay celebrated so much was because it was the easiest interception of his career. It was a simple misread Cover 2 that I don't expect McCarron to make again. 

If the game plan is to run the ball, which is likely given the forecast in Cincinnati for Saturday afternoon, McCarron is the safer play. Consider this, McCarron only has one game with an interception (his first) and has managed to control the ball since then. In Dalton's four playoff games thus, he's thrown six interceptions. If the plan is to run the ball, manage the clock and move the ball on the ground, McCarron gets the edge because he's proven to be safer with the ball, even if he doesn't have a playoff game under his belt yet. 

If the game plan is to throw the ball, however, the best quarterback I've seen in stripes this year was a healthy Andy Dalton. Luckily, I think the elements and roster will dictate a strong rushing attack which leads me to my real X-factor: Jeremy Hill. If Jeremy Hill can continue to move the ball consistently on the ground, allowing the offense to keep a balance of run, pass and playaction, McCarron will be able to maintain his aggressiveness and move the ball against Pittsburgh. However, if he isn't able to move the ball on running downs and leaves the offense in 2nd and 3rd and longs with regularity, that's when the game plan relies too much on McCarron's playmaking ability in the pass game and puts the team in jeopardy because we know the Steelers will bring the heat.

As long McCarron is empowered to go out, play his game, and not lose it, I think that gives the Bengals their best shot. However if the game trends in a direction where McCarron is asked to make plays and bail out the offense on those 3rd and longs, that's when I worry. It's funny how it all works out but it really does come down to defense and the run game in the playoffs and given the Bengals' quarterback situation, that's the best news they could have asked for. 

When the Steelers and Bengals meet in the NFL Playoffs

When the Steelers and Bengals meet in the NFL Playoffs

As a millennial Bengals fan, reaching the playoffs is still a big deal. I remember the 90s — when a .500 season was a good year. I know Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton’s performance reputations in the playoffs. So all things considered, I haven’t exactly grown accustomed to my team playing in the postseason.

That said, I remember their post-season games vividly. I started watching the Bengals when I was 4 but they wouldn’t have a playoff appearance until I was 16. In all my life, I’ll never forget that game.

Carson Palmer had sat his rookie year behind veteran Jon Kitna — Kitna was the only quarterback in the league to take 100% of his teams’ snaps that year. The team drew criticism for sitting the Heisman Trophy winner but it all worked out because when Carson stepped under center in his sophomore season, he was ready! He led the Bengals to 8–8 in 2004, the same as their record the year before, but in 2005 led the Bengals to its first AFC North title, winning record, and playoff berth since 1990.

We ended up playing the Steelers. Ask anyone in Cincinnati how they feel about Pittsburgh and, as long as they aren’t apart of the Steeler Nation that finds its way into the cracks and crevices of every corner of the country somehow, they’ll be glad to share their disdain for the bumble bees. Prior to 2005, the sentiments towards Pittsburgh came from a place of envy and frustration. They were always competitive and seldom had off-the-field or character issues. Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, we hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1990 when we lost in the Super Bowl and there were more arrests on the team than wins. In 2005, Cincinnati had a reason to dislike the Steelers, we were finally good enough to make waves in the playoffs and, even if temporarily, unseat the Steelers from the AFC North throne.

Our defense was exciting that year. That was the year both David Pollack and Odell Thurman led the defense as rookies out of Georgia. Big Ben completed a couple of passes in the opening drive and handed off to “Fast” Willie Parker but ended up punting after eight plays and 24 yards.

Out came the Bengals offense. Our weapons were as dangerous then as they are abundant now. No one could guard Ocho Cinco. TJ Houshmandzadeh knew how to complement Chad in the slot. Rudi Johnson had over 1,400 yards rushing. Rookie Chris Henry (RIP Slim) was running by and jumping over DBs with ease. And Carson was a bona fide Heisman quarterback. It was our year.

We handed off to Rudi the first play for a one yard gain. We broke the huddle for the next play as CBS showed the starting lineup graphics for the Bengals offense. Carson surveyed the defense and then took his place under center. Directly behind him was running back Chris Perry flanked by tight end/full back Matt Schoebel. Carson stepped back and sent Schoebel in motion to his left where he lined up just outside the tackle as a tight end, towards the bottom of the screen. Chad was alone at the very bottom of the screen and motioned to the referee as he stepped back off the line of scrimmage. At the top of the screen were Chris Henry on the far outside and TJ Houshmandzadeh in the slot inside him.

Carson hiked the ball and the Steelers only rushed four. Carson looked to his right where he found Chris Henry streaking down the field a solid two steps ahead of his defender. Sixty six yard completion. Paul Brown Stadium went nuts. I was jumping around like a mad man with my family at my grandmother’s house and then the TV cut to Palmer.

Crawling on the ground in pain, desperately gripping grass with a close up shot on “Palmer 9” on his back, our quarterback was down. Responsibly, CBS showed the replay from the sideline and it showed a Steeler falling into Palmer’s leg and knocking him down. Then they showed the back angle. From behind, you could see former Bengal Kimo Von Oelhoffen dive at the side of Carson’s knee and bend in a way that it was clear that he may not get up. After a few minutes, a cart arrived on the field to take Carson to the locker room.

As if matters couldn’t have been worse at this point, Chris Henry completed the 66 yard play but also sustained a knee injury on the tackle which removed him from the game. Forced to rely on backup Jon Kitna who had already mentored and been usurped by Palmer, tanks of hope fueling the spirit of Bengals fans everywhere had already been emptied. I don’t even remember what happened after that. Second play on offense. It resulted in a torn ACL for Palmer and the Steelers won the game 31–17 and went on to beat the Seahawks 21–10 in Super Bowl XL.

Whether the play was dirty or not will be debated amongst Bengals and Steelers fans for years but either way, it was merely more fuel to the fire of hatred towards the Steelers. It didn’t help that they went on to win it all.

We now know that the Bengals and Steelers will match up this weekend again in Cincinnati for an AFC Wild Card game. The Bengals have evened the score during the regular season of late but while us fans recall the last playoff meeting as a nightmare we’d rather forget, the players don’t. There are no players still on the roster that played on that team. In fact, unless they’ve been around longer than 5 years, all they know is the Bengals making the playoffs. Hopefully that’s enough to get them over the playoff hump because I can’t handle another devastating loss to the Steelers and I’m not sure Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton’s reputations can either.

Biggest Fantasy Football Winners and Losers by Position

Biggest Fantasy Football Winners and Losers by Position

In determining a player’s fantasy football value once the season is over, there are essentially two factors at play: how high they were drafted andwhat they ultimately produced on the field. The best possible value would be if a player that wasn’t drafted in any ESPN leagues went on to lead the league in fantasy scoring. The worst possible value would be a unanimous number one pick that didn’t score any points at all. Below is a breakdown of the best and worst value fantasy football players from the 2015–16 NFL season. There are obviously other players who performed better than some of these guys but, given how and when they were acquired, these are my votes for best value.

Quarterbacks

👎Andrew Luck — Coming into the season, Andrew Luck was the starting quarterback for a Super Bowl contender. Three weeks into the season, the Colts were 1–2 and Andrew Luck had already thrown seven interceptions to his five touchdowns. His season ended after Week 9 when he lacerated his kidney and tore an abdominal muscle against the Broncos. Luck’s average draft position was 17.0, second among quarterbacks. However, he only scored 126 fantasy points which is 28th among QBs. All things considered, if you drafted Andrew Luck, you were disappointed.

👍Blake Bortles — With 25 quarterbacks having an average draft position higher, it’s more likely than not that Blake Bortles wasn’t even drafted in your fantasy league. However, before all was said and done, Bortles finished the season with the fourth most fantasy points amongst signal-callers. Between he and the two Allens (Robinson and Hurns), the Jaguars offense showed promising sparks throughout the year including a 50 point game against the Colts. Bortles threw for three or more touchdowns five times and surpassed 300 yards six times and while he did throw 18 interceptions, he also threw 35 touchdowns.

Wide Receivers

👎Randall Cobb — Who knew the Jordy Nelson injury would mean so much to the Packers offense. It turns out, the reason Randall Cobb was able to be so effective was because Jordy was outside stretching the defense. Without Nelson in the lineup this year, Cobb wasn’t able to be nearly as productive which is why he is the worst value pick at wide receiver this year. On average, he was the 8th wide out taken, just behind AJ Green. What people didn’t notice, or give enough credit to anyway, was how critical, and more importantly irreplaceable, Jordy Nelson was. Cobb finished 30th in fantasy points amongst receivers in 2015 as opposed to seventh in 2014. We can now say that a lot of that was because his boy Jordy was out there.

👍Allen Hurns — Don’t lie! You didn’t draft Allen Hurns. On average, he was the 64th WR taken meaning that even in a 12 team league, if every team picked 5 WRs, he still would not be chosen. Well, owners that did see some upside in Hurns were greatly rewarded because he went on to accumulate 155 fantasy points this season, ahead of names like Sammy Watkins, Emmanuel Sanders and TY Hilton. Hurns finished the year with 64 catches, 1,031 yards and 10 TDs. Not bad for a free agent pick up.

Tight Ends

👎Jimmy Graham — It’s hard to give this to anyone other than Jimmy Graham. Coming from a Saints team that lit up the scoreboard, the Saints brought in Jimmy Graham hoping to add another dangerous dimension to their offense. However, quarterback Russell Wilson struggled to involve Graham in the game plan early and identify his role. Ironically, the Seahawks offense significantly improved as soon as Graham got injured. He finished the season with 48 catches, fror 605 yards and 2 TDs totaling 69 fantasy points, 17th best among tight ends. From 2nd at the beginning of the year to 17th at the end, Jimmy Graham earns my vote for worst value tight end.

👍Gary Barnidge , CLE— My hunch is that 99% of football fans had never heard of Gary Barnidge before this year. Right around his third straight double-digit fantasy scoring day is when he solidified himself on the TE radar. Possibly the highest scoring free agent pickup this year, Barnidge finished the season third amongst tight ends in fantasy points with 149. Barnidge finished with 79 catches, 1,043 yards and 9 TDs. From undrafted to third leading scorer at his position earns Gary Barnidge my most value tight end vote.

Running Backs

👎Le’Veon Bell — While Le’Veon Bell, when healthy, is arguably the best running back in the league, he’s had trouble staying off training tables as of late though resulting in him seeing the field in only six games this year. Well, actually, he missed the first two games of the year because of a suspension stemming from a marijuana charge but fantasy owners still took the chance on him as a first round pick. In fact, Le’Veon Bell was the highest drafted player in ESPN leagues with an average draft position of 3.0. After returning for five games, and averaging 15.6 fantasy points in those games, Bell suffered a season-ending ankle injury Week 8 against the Bengals. He finished the season with 83 fantasy points, 43rd amongst running backs. Getting just 83 points from the most popular player in fantasy earns him the worst running back value.

👍👍👍Devonta Freeman — In the average ESPN fantasy league, 39 running backs were taken before Devonta Freeman. Being that he finished the season leading all running backs in fantasy points with 230, he’s an easy choice for best running back, and overall, value. His versatility in both the run game and pass game made it easy for quarterback Matt Ryan to get him the ball and is also evident by the fact that 74% of his receiving yards came after the catch — a fantasy football owners dream. Consequently, Devonta Freeman is my vote for best value running back and overall fantasy pick.

How to Build a FanDuel Lineup — My Strategy After a Year

After recently completing a full season of playing daily fantasy football, I’ve been testing out a strategy that, after a full body of work, I can say works. I’ve won more money than I’ve deposited, at least. Now, full disclosure, I’m no big spender. I started playing DFS after being bombarded by their ads online and on TV and said, “I’ll deposit $25 and when it’s gone, I’m done.”

I had two lineups the first week and won $60.

Over the course of the season, I’ve netted $113.85, roughly 150% of what I deposited. I’m not claiming that this strategy is a get-rich-quick tactic but I also believe that my success rate applied to a high enough deposit could become lucrative.

So here’s what you do:

Step 1 — Make a list of all games being played that week. Something like…

PIT @ CIN
KC @ HOU
SEA @ MIN
GB @ WAS

Step 2 — Decide which players you like in each matchup. This step is really what sets one DFS player apart from another. Whether you stick to the Eye Test or you have tabs and tabs of spreadsheets full of data, the ability to choose the right players in Step 2 will separate good from great.

PIT @ CIN
A. Brown vs. CIN
T. Eifert vs. PIT
Bengals D vs. PIT
M. Jones vs. PIT
F. Toussaint vs. CIN

KC @ HOU
J. Maclin vs. HOU
D. Hopkins vs. KC
Chiefs D vs. HOU
S. Ware vs. HOU
T. Kelce vs. HOU

SEA @ MIN
R. Wilson vs. MIN
M. Lynch vs. MIN
Bridgewater vs. SEA
S. Diggs vs. SEA

GB @ WAS
K. Cousins vs. GB
J. Reed vs. GB
J. Starks vs. WAS
J. Jones vs. WAS

Step 3 — Of the players chosen, group them by position

QB
Bridgewater vs. SEA
K. Cousins vs. GB

RB
M. Lynch vs. MIN
J. Starks vs. WAS
S. Ware vs. HOU
F. Touissant vs. CIN

WR
A. Brown vs. CIN
M. Jones vs. PIT
J. Maclin vs. HOU
D. Hopkins vs. KC
S. Diggs vs. SEA
J. Jones vs. WAS

TE
J. Reed vs. GB
T. Kelce vs. HOU

D/ST
Bengals D vs. PIT
Chiefs D. vs HOU

Step 4 — Rank the players by position: quarterbacks by one, running backs by two, wide receivers by three, tight ends, defense and kickers by one.

QB
2.Bridgewater vs. SEA
1.K. Cousins vs. GB

RB
2.M. Lynch vs. MIN
1.J. Starks vs. WAS
2.S. Ware vs. HOU
1.F. Touissant vs. CIN

WR
1.A. Brown vs. CIN
2.M. Jones vs. PIT
1.J. Maclin vs. HOU
1.D. Hopkins vs. KC
2.S. Diggs vs. SEA
2.J. Jones vs. WAS

TE
1. J. Reed vs. GB
2. T. Kelce vs. HOU

D/ST
Bengals D vs. PIT
Chiefs D. vs HOU

Step 5 — Lastly, build your FanDuel lineup using these players. Try to fit as many of your #1s into a lineup as you can but you’ll almost certainly have to sprinkle in some #2s and even #3s to stay under the salary cap. It’s okay. You’ve already identified that you like these players and their matchups so although you’re settling for a #3 over a #1, it’s still a matchup that you showed confidence in.

My NFL Wild Card Weekend Predictions

The Vikings and Seahawks met about a month ago, on December 6th. It was the third straight win for the Seahawks and they absoutely dominated the purple people 38–7. The legion of boom bottled Adrian Peterson up, holding him to a meager 18 yards rushing and the Vikings would have been blanked if it weren’t for a Cordarelle Patterson 101 yard kickoff return at the end of the third quarter. If Minnesota is to change their fate and continue on to the NFC Divisional playoffs, they’ll have to correct these issues on Sunday. The good news is that the Vikings seem to have figured out a winning formula winning their last three games averaging 112 rush yards per game and holding their opponents to 15.6 points.

For the Seahawks, their offense is on fire heading into the playoffs winning six of their last seven games to squeeze into the NFC Wild Card spot. Wilson has had 72% completion percentage during those seven games and Doug Baldwin has been the beneficiary of most of his passes. Baldwin has hauled in 40 passes for 590 yards and an astonishing 11 touchdowns during those seven games. As if the pass game weren’t threatening enough, Marshawn Lynch is expected to be active reinfusing Beast Mode into the Seahawks offense that has won the NFC the last two years.

Ultimately, I have to give the edge to the Seahawks. Their experience in the playoffs the last two years is a real factor that, in a close game, will push them over the top. I expect their success passing the game to spread the defense and open up running lanes for Lynch, and Wilson as well. I like the Seahawks defense to contain Peterson again and force Bridgewater and his receivers to win the game. Against the legion of boom, I don’t see it happening. Seahawks win 28–20.

 

If you had asked me at the beginning of the season if I’d take an Aaron Rodgers led team or a Kirk Cousins led team in a playoff game, I would have laughed at the comparison. However, looking at that exact matchup in the NFC Wild Card game, I find myself weighing wavering on my answer to that question. On one hand, Rodgers is of a unique pedigree and at any point can prove why he’s been considered an elite QB — even though his performance this year does make you wonder. Defensively, although Clay Matthews is now dominating at middle linebacker, he always has looked most comfortable in a pass rushing role. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers needs to find ways for Clay to do that on Sunday and pressure Kirk Cousins.

On the other hand, Kirk Cousins is riding high right now and it’s hard to count against Washington who won four straight to end the regular season and win the NFC East. Also, Jordan Reed is as much of a matchup nightmare as any tight end in the league and together, the quarterback-tight end duo could disrupt things in this game.

I think Mason Crosby will keep the Packers in the game but as the Packers struggle to close drives and without an answer for Jordan Reed on defense, I like Washington 31–27.

 

The last time the Steelers played the Bengals, Andy Dalton injured his thumb tackling Stephon Tuitt who had just intercepted him. Big Ben appreciated DeAngelo Williams’ two touchdowns on the ground, especially since those were the only points produced by the offense. William Gay accounted for six on his interception for touchdown and Boswell, the kicker, accounted for the rest.

After Dalton went out early, McCarron came in and threw a 66 yard bomb to AJ Green for touchdown. He finished the game 22–32, 280 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Now, the first interception, the pick six, was costly but is easy to correct in film study. Basically McCarron saw the corner backpedaling and assumed he would continue dropping into the cover 3 but instead he sat in cover 2 and easily broke on the screen pass. On the second interception, he stared down his receiver and the safety just read his eyes. Being that McCarron didn’t prepare that week as the starter, I give him some cushion on those two mistakes because they were both mental. When he makes the right decision, he protects and moves the ball as well as you can ask from a backup quarterback.

Defensively, the Bengals contained the Steelers pass game but gave up two touchdowns on the ground. I like the Bengals defensive line to continue to pressure Ben and him to look to his security blankets: Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. I expect Hue Jackson to keep McCarron aggressive via the game plan but a lot rides on if the run game can keep things balanced. In a close, high-stakes game I don’t trust the Bengals to pull it out so my educated prediction is Steelers 28–27. But WhoDey!

 

Andy Reid and the Chiefs have won 10 straight games to make the AFC Wild Card making it hard to bet against them. Jeremy Maclin surpassed 1,000 yards receiving and every running back they plug in seems to be productive enough. Defensively, the Chiefs are quietly the third best unit in the league in total points and Marcus Peters is tied for the league lead with eight interceptions.

On the flip side, the Texans’ defense has given up an average of seven points in the last three games. With JJ Watt pressuring Alex Smith and hispreponderence for scoring in the playoffs you can never really count out the Texans. Offensively, Deandre Hopkins is one of those unstoppable forces in the league — it’s just a matter of if his quarterback (whoever happens to be playing that role at any given time) can get him the ball.

While the Texans will look to the home crowd to effectively create a hostile environment, I like the Chiefs’ hot streak to continue. Behind a balanced attack and stoic leader, Chiefs win 17–13.

The “Concussion” Movie: Why you haven’t heard outrage

The “Concussion” Movie: Why you haven’t heard outrage

So after all the hype leading up to its release, I finally watched “Concussion.” Solid film. Fair warning, if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read this piece. Tons of spoilers. For those of you that have, let me know if you reacted differently than I did after seeing the film.

Going in to seeing the “Concussion” movie, I expected to be exposed to some new information or inside perspectives on how long the NFL actually knew about the long-term effects of concussions and what they did to cover up the facts. While “Concussion does shed light on the effects of Chronic Traumatic Encepalopathy (CTE), it doesn’t really expose anything that we didn’t already know; mostly that the NFL knew concussions were an issue and tried to silence anyone threatening that. They gave away that secret in the trailer.

The movie felt more like a piece of immigrant patriotism than it was about head trauma. While Dr. Bennet Omalu’s research could only be conducted on deceased former NFL players, that was really the only link to football that drives the story. In other words, the vehicle of persuading others that the protagonist had all odds turned against him was the real story. The concept of proving that the effects of CTE were real could have been replaced with anything. It could have easily been replaced with a medical salesman’s struggle to push a new technology. Oh wait, they made that movie already.

Wait, Will Smith starred in that movie already: The Pursuit of Happyness.

“Concussion” is an immigrant sports-related version of The Pursuit of Happyness.

Now, in all fairness, the acting was good and there were some powerful scenes. Will Smith was good as always and had his signature “Mad Will” scene where he destroyed some drywall with a 2x4. David Morse made a great Mike Webster. Alec Baldwin was solid as Dr. Julian Bales but it’s hard to forget that you’re watching Alec Baldwin. No “getting lost in the character” there.

It was disappointing that the climatic victory at the end of the movie was the NFL acknowledging that CTE was a real thing. As a viewer, I’m left unsatisfied. There was nothing about reform. Nothing about increased helmet technology. Nothing about the myriad lawsuits currently pending against the NFL as a result of this research having been validated. It was even more disappointing just before the final credits when the screen read that the NFL was never required to disclose what they knew about concussions and when. I guess I stupidly assumed that the film makers would be as bold in their depiction of the story as Omalu actually was in living it.