“We’ve had a lot of good nights this year and this was a bad night.” Brady looked somber as he fielded questions from reporters after their Monday night loss to Miami. All of the analysts on ESPN’s pregame show picked New England to win. New England was also heavily favored in the season opener against Kansas City, their other widely televised game of the season when they were upset.

Upsets bring life to football because they knock me off my pedestal and remind me I actually know very little about how and why teams play well and win or lose. I’m going to pretend that I can look at what happened in the game to cause a ten win AFC heavyweight lose to a struggling, undermanned five win Dolphins team.

  1. Xavien Howard intercepts Tom Brady. Twice.
    1. If you have a paid subscription to profootballfocus.com (which I do) and look at the position rankings, you’ll find at the number one (out of thirty-eight) position for QBs is not Russell Wilson, not Carson Wentz, but forty year old man Tom Brady. If you check the cornerback rankings, you’ll find Xavien Howard is ranked at number eighty-eight (out of a possible 118). So Howard’s performance was puzzling for me, a big stats guy. The twenty-four year old second year defensive back has four interceptions on the season, two from last week’s contest against the Broncos (Trevor Siemian at QB), and two more from Tom Brady. What does this mean? It probably means that A. Miami’s pass rush was too much for New England’s Tackles to handle and Brady threw some poor passes to avoid getting sacked by T-Rex/Human hybrid Ndamukong Suh. It could also mean that B. Xavien Howard is an ascending player who is getting a hang of this cornerback thing and playing better as the season progresses. Or it could mean C. something is going on that PFF isn’t able to tell me right now. Or probably D. All of the Above. (Hover over the photos or they wont make sense)
  2. Miami pass rush overwhelms Patriots blocking scheme/offensive line – It turns out Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake are still effective pass rushers and  with all of the fervor that a great player on a bad team plays pressured Brady enough to force several incompletions, short/ineffective passes and two turnovers. The Patriots offensive tackles on the other hand haven’t played GREAT this season.
  3. Jarvis Landry scores twice – Jarvis Landry had eight catches for forty-six yards and two touchdowns. New England seemed like they didn’t know who to cover in the end zone this game.
  4. Kenyon Drake has his best game of the season – Drake totaled 193 yards of total offense, 114 rushing and seventy-nine receiving. One could point to injuries to Kyle Van Noy and Trey Flowers, two starters out for this contest as a possible reason for Drake’s success. Like Howard, Drake may be a budding star who finally has had a chance to prove himself this season.
  5. Rob Gronkowski suspension suddenly matters – The Patriots only scored twenty points when they’ve been averaging about thirty points a game. The Rob Gronkowski suspension from the Bills game suddenly seems much more impactful when the Patriots struggled with Miami’s coverage all game long.

In conclusion: Examining this upset has forced me to look at the past performance of some impact players (Howard, Drake) as improving players and not just average/low impact players. Or maybe the Dolphins were just more motivated than the Patriots. As usual, I find more questions and guesses than concrete answers when examining unexpected outcomes. But that’s what makes Football fun, right?

Attribution for photos: (Ndamukong Suh Picture) By Keith Allison – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43211057

Tyrannosaurus Rex picture: By Marcin Polak from Warszawa / Warsaw, Polska / Poland (Tyranozaur Rex  Uploaded by FunkMonk) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Vitruvian man: Leonardo da Vinci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

They beat the Superbowl champion New England Patriots in Foxboro Stadium. The next week, they beat Doug Pederson’s NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles. They even beat the DeShaun Watson-led Texans in Houston. After week five, Kansas City looked like the best team in the NFL. Game manager Alex Smith totaled twelve touchdowns in five games (20 total touchdowns in all of 2016).

Since week five, the Chiefs have gone 1-6. What happened? Is it because rookie breakout star Kareem Hunt hasn’t broken through the end zone after week three? Is it their uncharacteristically poor 30th ranked defense?

Losses to the Steelers by one score and a healthy Dallas team in JerryLand are acceptable. Those are tough places to win. Losses to the 2-10 New York Giants and identity-less Bills are mystifying at best for a club with so much talent on both sides of the ball.

The Chiefs at 6-6 sit in a three way tie to claim the AFC West with the Chargers and Raiders. Their remaining schedule has a combined record of 20-28, with competitive games against the Raiders and Chargers and then bouts against the defective 5-7 Dolphins and broken 3-9 Broncos to finish out the regular season. On paper, Andy Reid’s team looks like it should be able to finish with at least eight wins. Whether they can handle a motivated Raiders team and angry Chargers team will decide whether these Chiefs go to the playoffs for the third time in three years or are forced to regroup in the off-season.

The NFL Draft is in one hundred and forty one days. Which of course means I may as well write up a mock draft for the top ten teams. I’ll be rating positions as they are right now. There’s a lot of improbable things going on here. Like Baker Mayfield going in the top 25 picks. Or a guard being drafted in the top ten.

  1. Cleveland Browns – Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma – If the Browns are really all about analytics then they should love Mayfield. Sure he’s “too short” to play Quarterback. But so was Russell Wilson. And Drew Brees. And Michael Vick. I really can’t say if the Browns are going to draft yet another quarterback. But if they do. Mayfield is the best passer of the football in this draft. Not best tall guy, or best fast guy, or best looks good on tv guy (Sam Darnold).
  2. San Francisco 49ers – Roquan Smith, ILB Georgia – Smith’s played at a high level in the college football playoffs. The Butkus award winner would fill a position of need as the 49ers now have Reuben Foster and part time players at linebacker now.
  3. New York Giants – Lamar Jackson, Louisville QB – Jackson’s improved from his Heisman season though his supporting cast hasn’t been there. He’s got a lot of measurables that coaches value (height, improving stats year over year, size). The Giants may look to replicate the kind of production Houston got from DeShaun Watson in his rookie season.
  4. Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb, DE NC State – The Colts need help. Jacoby Brissett has improved as a passer as the seasons’ progressed, but he doesn’t play defense. His former teammate, Bradley Chubb does though. Chubb was a big part of why NC State was relevant this season finishing 8-4 ahead of Louisville and Florida State in the ACC Atlantic. The Colts’ awful pass rush will benefit greatly from Chubb’s impact.
  5. Chicago Bears – Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS Alabama – Amos has been playing at a high level for the Bears this season. Fitzpatrick has been a technician and John Fox likes to build a beast on defense. The Bears could also go with a wide receiver here.
  6. Denver Broncos – Sam Darnold, QB USC – The Broncos have to get a quarterback. If Alex Smith or Case Keenum are available, they may go after a free agent. Darnold has arguably the highest ceiling of all the passers in the draft but will need a couple years to adjust. If Darnold did start year one, he would have DeMaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to throw to.
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame OT – The Bucs offensive line play has been atrocious. They would like to take hometown guy Derwin James here. But Winston’s health is too important. McGlinchey played well against major competition this season and was a big part of Notre Dame’s success in the ground game.
  8. Cleveland (through Houston) – Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB – The Browns should probably draft an eventual replacement for Joe Thomas here. But they need to get as much talent on the field as possible. Barkley has so much potential as a runner and pass catcher.
  9. Arizona Cardinals – Josh Rosen, UCLA QB – The time was last year to draft a QB for Arizona. Palmer may retire, and even if he doesn’t the Cardinals desperately need to groom a replacement. Rosen’s been described as the most ‘pro-ready’ of the quarterbacks in the draft and plays in a west coast offense like the Cardinals run.
  10. New York Jets – Quenton Nelson, OG Notre Dame – If there is a run on Quarterbacks the Jets may draft a standout at a position of need. The Jets of old thrived on a stingy defense and a suffocating ground game. The defense has improved with last years’ draft class. Nelson would mark a major step towards New York reestablishing themselves as a running team.

Philadelphia is down three to seventeen against Seattle as I am writing this. I’ve been hard on Seattle all year. Losing to the Redskins. Barely beating the 49ers by a field goal when their defense was healthy. Russell Wilson’s had that 5’11”, ‘they never believed in me magic’ keeping the Seahawks in games all season.

Todd Bowles would get my vote for coach of the year if I had one. But they don’t give coach of the year awards for coaches that have losing teams (5-7). The New York Jets, a team that looks like they were designed to go 0-16, beat the Kansas City Chiefs today, 38-31. Five of the seven Jets’ losses this season have been by one possession. That includes close losses to both participants of last years’ Superbowl, Matt Ryan’s’ Falcons and Tom Brady’s Patriots. When you are a person at your job, and your coworkers like you; the Robby Andersons and Bilal Powells of your office will put their proverbial butts on the line for you, because they like you. So whatever charisma Todd Bowles has to propel a roster of burned out veterans and backups to the level of play he has, has extracted five more wins out of the Jets than otherwise should be naturally possible.

I genuinely can’t make sense of what the Vikings are supposed to do with Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater on their roster right now. Letting Teddy Bridgewater go seems like a mistake. He’s younger and may have more upside than Keenum (Bridgewater was offensive rookie of the year). But letting Keenum go, who has won very real games against teams that used to humiliate Minnesota also feels like a bad move. They COULD franchise Keenum and attempt to trade him to, say, the Giants or Broncos. Or if they see Bridgewater as an injury concern they could attempt to trade him to a team like Cleveland.

I watched clips of the Bills/Patriots game from today and it reminded me what I like so much about football. No matter what is going on with these two teams, they will play each other aggressively hard. There was so much violence, and anger, and hitting on the TV screen. I watched Rob Gronkowski get repeatedly pushed by Bills corner Tre’Davious White past the five yard limit and then after White intercepts Brady’s pass, Gronkowski body slams White’s horizontal and stationary body. This drew a lot of ire from spectators as well as a penalty flag from the referees. The Patriots fan in me loved it. If you persistently mess with a guy twice your size, he will eventually mess with you back.

There is one more week thirteen event that demands attention. I shouldn’t write this because the post will be too long and no one will read this far. But it’s important. Former Baylor wide receiver and recovering alcoholic Josh Gordon participated in an NFL game for the first time since December of 2014. He caught four passes for eighty-five yards. Gordon might instantly be the Browns’ best skill position player. And more importantly he’s doing something positive in his life.

Now go in peace, and don’t let your children play football.

https://www.outsports.com/2017/6/20/15835374/ryan-ocallaghan-gay-nfl-new-england-patriots-kansas-city-chiefs

I don’t know what it’s like to be gay nor have I ever tried to kill myself. My stance on human beings is that they should not kill themselves. Most especially if there is a chance they can live a life not filled with suffering.

Ryan O’Callaghan was a millionaire/professional, world-class athlete who started for two NFL teams. He was not afraid of the crushing workload that accompanies being an NFL starter. The thought of openly discussing his sexual orientation with friends or family, however, was too daunting.

After his Football career, O’Callaghan said he was planning to end his life because he could no longer use football to hide his sexual orientation from others.

O’Callaghan eventually met with a specialist who encouraged him to come out to his friends and family.  O’Callaghan has been away from football for many years and has created a life not shaped by hiding his feelings or lifestyle. “I love life now” He said after having told his friends and family about his struggle.

I don’t really know how to help people struggling with suicidal thoughts. The reality of O’Callaghan being as hard working, intelligent and successful as he was, and still had fears he felt he could not navigate is telling of the seriousness of societal rejection from close friends and family. I definitely haven’t been the most accepting of people in my life who’ve chosen not to continue the same course that I have. I think I still don’t entirely understand what it is like to be on the other side of that fence. Listening to Ryan talk about his experience, and others share about their challenges, have helped me to understand a little better the gravity and darkness others may feel.

  1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett – DE, Texas A&M – Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller says Myles Garrett is far and away the number one guy in the draft.
  2. San Francisco 49ers – Solomon Thomas – DE, Stanford – John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan both went to school out west, and I think they would prefer one of the Pac 12 passers for 2018 (i.e. USC’S Sam Darnold or UW’s Jake Browning) over QB’s Trubisky, Kizer, or Watson. Thomas has been compared to Justin Smith, a 49ers pro bowler for many years before his retirement.
  3. Chicago Bears – Deshaun Watson – QB, Clemson – I don’t see how the Bears don’t draft a passer here. Mike Glennon is not a starting quarterback. It’s possible Watson may not pan out, but the Bears have to try and compete. Watson’s a top competitor who will bring a refreshing enthusiasm to the QB position in Chicago.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette – RB, LSU – Bortles took a step backwards last season. If Jacksonville can create a strong ground presence to gel with their defense Bortles won’t feel the need to force so many passes. Fournette is a devastating runner that can move Jacksonville up in the AFC South.
  5. Tennessee Titans – Jonathan Allen – DL, Alabama – Allen lining up next to Jurrell Casey would be a glorious sight to behold in Tennessee. Tennessee looks like a team on the verge of making the playoffs with Marcus Mariota and their defense performing well last season.
  6. New York Jets – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State – The Jets signed stopgap qb Josh McCown and want Christian Hackenberg to learn on the bench. The loss of Revis will hurt, and HC Todd Bowles will want a strong defense for his brand of football. Lattimore’s a star cornerback who can compete with Brandin cooks and the other young receivers in the AFC east.
  7. Los Angeles Chargers  – Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State – I like Garett Bolles for what Philip Rivers needs. His perceived value for San Diego will not be a top ten player. Hooker can take over for Dwight Lowery and ultimately replace the departed Eric Weddle. Hooker may not be polished and ready to start on day one but HC Anthony Lynn will want a defense like the one Hooker can help build with his size and playmaker potential.
  8. Carolina Panthers – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin – The Panthers can only ignore their needs at tackle for so long. Michael Oher’s been passable at best and right tackle Mike Remmers is a patchwork option. Ramczyk has played top college talent and gives the Panthers the best shot at stabilizing on offense.
  9. Cincinnati Bengals – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan – The Bengals have other needs but had serious trouble closing in the red zone in 2016. If they believe they can solve their offensive woes from 2016 with the guys on their roster right now, I could see Cincinnati looking closely at Solomon Thomas, DE at Stanford if he is available.
  10. Buffalo Bills – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson – Unless the Bills fall in love with Jabrill Peppers or one of the remaining safeties, Williams looks to be a steal here at number ten. The Bills have a need at wide receiver and apparently liked Clemson WR Sammy Watkins to give up two first round picks for him. Dalvin Cook would also be a value pick at number ten.
  11. New Orleans Saints – Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC – Drew Brees is 38 years old.
  12. Cleveland Browns – Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama, – The Browns can go several directions here. Foster should help the Browns play the run better, allowing 143 yards a game on the ground last season. Foster was part of an Alabama defense that allowed 35 yards from the super-productive Leonard Fournette with only 2.1 yards per carry.
  13. Arizona Cardinals – Jamal Adams, FS, LSU – Signing Antoine Bethea is not a replacement for losing Tony Jefferson. Adams has been compared to Darren Woodson and could reassert the cardinals secondary as the best in the league.
  14. Philadelphia Eagles – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama – The Eagles have plenty of help for Carson Wentz after signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. Philadelphia needs fresh blood at corner now that former starter Nolan Carroll is with Dallas and Leodis Mckelvin is a free agent. Humphrey has been praised for his toughness and athleticism.
  15. Indianapolis Colts – Haason Reddick, LB, Temple – The Colts have all sorts of issues on their roster. Forrest Lamp, the top graded guard could slot well here and provide a significant need for the Colts. Dalvin Cook, an excellent back from Florida State could be the top back for Indy. Reddick is a worker at linebacker and should help begin to turn around Indianapolis’s defense.
  16. Baltimore Ravens – Garett Bolles, OT, Utah – The Ravens have needs at running back, offensive guard, tackle, and maybe receiver if Brett Perriman doesn’t show up to play this season. Bolles is a little raw after playing one year of division one football, but he’s excelled at every level of football. The Ravens’ brand of football requires a physical presence on the offensive line. They lost Ricky Wagner to Detroit and don’t have a suitable replacement. Bolles has potential to be great at right tackle.

2017 NFL Mock Draft (First 12)

Posted: February 22, 2017 in Football, New entries, NFL
  1. Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett – DE, Texas A&M – Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller says Myles Garrett is far and away the number one guy in the draft. The Browns need all the help they can get. 
  2. San Francisco 49ersJonathan Allen – DE, Alabama – GM John Lynch is in charge of drafting for the Niners. If this pick isn’t traded, the 49ers can create the Jets west on the defensive line with Allen. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan both went to school out west, and I think they would prefer one of the Pac-12 passers for 2018 (i.e. UCLA’s Josh Rosen or UW’s Jake Browning) over QB’s Trubisky, Kizer, or Watson.
  3. Chicago Bears Deshaun Watson – QB, Clemson – I don’t see how the Bears don’t draft a passer here. The Bears are actively shopping Cutler. Barring a pickup of Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, or Tony Romo (I think are unlikely) they need someone to lead the team. Watson came up huge against college football’s top competition and has the potential to start week one.
  4. Jacksonville JaguarsLeonard Fournette – RB, LSU – Bortles took a step backwards last season. If Jacksonville can create a strong ground presence to gel with their defense Bortles won’t feel the need to force so many passes. Fournette is a devastating runner that can move Jacksonville up in the AFC South.
  5. Tennessee Titans Marshon Lattimore – CB, Ohio State – Tennessee struggled against the pass while simultaneously ranking 6th in the league in total sacks created. Lattimore’s a top cover guy who can be that nickel man they need. Lattimore is young but highly productive at Ohio State.
  6. New York Jets Marlon Humphrey – CB, Alabama – The Jets have no QB, but went to the playoffs with Mark Sanchez under center. The loss of Revis will hurt, and HC Todd Bowles will want a strong defense for his brand of football. Like Lattimore, Humphrey is young but showed up big against division one’s toughest competition. 
  7. Los Angeles Chargers  – Garett Bolles – OT, Utah – The Chargers are struggling at offensive tackle. King Dunlap isn’t performing at the same level he was since 2014, and Joe Barksdale has been a weak link on that line. Bolles is a fast riser at a program the Chargers have liked in the past. He can compete for right tackle and eventually take over for Dunlap in the coming seasons. Bolles, in his first and only year in FBS football was an all Pac-12 first teamer at left tackle.
  8. Carolina Panthers Ryan Ramczyk – OT, Wisconsin – The Panthers can only ignore their needs at tackle for so long. Michael Oher’s been passable at best and right tackle Mike Remmers is a patchwork option. Ramczyk has played top college talent and gives the Panthers the best shot at stabilizing on offense.
  9. Cincinnati Bengals Corey Davis – WR, Western Michigan – The Bengals have other needs but had serious trouble closing in the red zone in 2016. If they believe they can solve their offensive woes from 2016 with the guys on their roster right now, I could see Cincinnati looking closely at Solomon Thomas, DE at Stanford.
  10. Buffalo Bills Mike Williams – WR, Clemson – Unless the Bills fall in love with Jabrill Peppers or one of the remaining safeties, Williams looks to be a steal here at number ten. The Bills have a need at wide receiver and apparently liked Clemson WR Sammy Watkins to give up two first round picks for him. Dalvin Cook would also be a value pick at number ten.
  11. New Orleans Saints Sidney Jones – CB, Washington – The Saints have multiple holes on defense. They may hesitate to pull the trigger on another young pass rusher with Hau’oli Kikaha and Sheldon Rankins still waiting to make an impact. They have a definite need at starting corner and Sidney Jones has elite instincts. If Jones can put on some weight he can give the Saints a fighting chance against the NFC South’s giant wide receivers (Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Mike Evans, Julio Jones all 6’3” or taller)
  12. Cleveland Browns Reuben Foster – ILB, Alabama, – The Browns can go several directions here. They could look at Center with Ethan Pocic, Running Back with Dalvin Cook, Safety with Adams/Hooker whoever is available. Foster should help the Browns play the run better, allowing 143 yards a game on the ground last season. Foster was part of an Alabama defense that allowed 35 yards and 2.1 yards per carry from the super-productive Leonard Fournette.