NFL Divisional Round Game Previews

Last week in the game previews, I also gave some game predictions. Although I thought deep down inside the Cowboys would win, I didn’t pick them because they’re the NFC equivalent to the Patriots* – we can’t stand them. The other game I got wrong was the Bears. That was a shocker. Not so much the loss, but not using Khalil Mack to get after an injured Nick Foles.

This week, let’s take a look at the divisional rounds. Every once in a while, two teams face off that the seeding is wanky, this year there are two – the Colts and Chargers. Both had early losses which landed them here and while on paper, usually you’d want to face a 5 or 6 seed, in these two cases, not so much.

SATURDAY

6 Seed Colts (10-6) vs 1 Seed Chiefs (12-4) 4:35 NBC

Referee Crew

John Hussey ref crew

No Walt Anderson for any team this weekend, so they should be cheering (except he is an alternate for this match-up so pray no one gets sick). Offensively, these teams aren’t that far off, especially if you look at the last month, not the first. Defensively, they’re worlds apart.

On offense, you have the veteran QB vs the newbie and the better defense vs the putrid. What Kansas City has going for them is home field advantage. Arrowhead stadium is LOUD. Arrowhead will be cold, snowy/rainy and miserable. Arrowhead on a good day for an outdoor team is a struggle, for a traveling dome team, it’s got to be counted as a 12th and 13th man.

I did see the Colts were outside practicing a little bit in their own nasty weather, so at least they’re trying to get ready. However, this will be their first snow game and it can’t be ignored. In poor conditions, throwing is usually kept to a minimum and the run game rules. This is where Indianapolis can gain some ground, their rushing attack was mediocre; however, over the last month, Marlon Mack and co have turned it on, while KC without Hunt has lost a lot of ground.

If teams go to the air, it’ll be up to the best defensive scheme and I don’t see KC’s man working well when trying to cover guys in a tough to see sky and slippery field.

This is bad news for KC who is ranked 29th with 19 rushing TD’s allowed and 132 yards per game. Indy is ranked 10th with 12 TDs and slightly over 100 yards. Marlon Mack was the leader last weekend in yards, plus he had a TD. This isn’t a good match-up for KC who would’ve had a chance to cream the Ravens or Texans.

Obviously, when it comes to Total points scored and TDs thrown, the Chiefs are leading with 50 TDs and 35 points per game, with Indy in second having 39 TD’s and 27 points per game. However, Luck’s short game is better than Mahones and that will be a big deal this week.

An area Kansas has better defensive stats is in the sack department with 52 compared to Indianapolis’ 38. However, the Colts have allowed a league low of 18 sacks, so something has to give. Mahones was sacked 26 times. When it comes total defense, Indy is 11th, and 10th in points allowed (21.5). KC is 31st in total and 24th in points allowed (26.30).

When it comes to defending the pass, Mahones may have a long day, Indy is tied for third in only giving up 21, but KC is 22nd with 30. As far as stopping the run, the Colts are 10th allowing 12 TD’s and the Chiefs are 29th with 19. The question is, what happens when a team that is tied for third least passing TD’s meets a team that is first in throwing them? KC gains 35 points a game, but Indy allows 21.

Indy gains 27 a game, while KC allows 26.  In bad conditions, will Mahones with Travis Kelce in the short (safe) passing game do slightly better than Andrew Luck and Eric Ebron? No one on the Colts defense can keep up with Tyreek Hill, but in a bad weather game, nature may even things out by negating the deep pass and his chance to streak away for a score.

I like the chances of Indy’s DL vs Mahanoes’ OL more than KC’s vs’s Indy OL. This game will come down to the run game and defense in bad weather – that’s Andrew Luck and Marlon Mack with some doses of TE’s. More than anything though, in a tight clash, I’m not sold on Andy Reid and his clock management skills.

4 Seed Cowboys (10-6) vs 3 Seed Rams (13-3) 8:15 FOX

Referee Crew

john parry referree crew

I don’t watch a lot of NFC games and never seek out the Cowboys, but since the NFL has anointed them, I’ve watched enough to know that the Rams have two jobs if they want to win: stop Zeke and protect Goff.

Dak Prescott needs everything perfect to win, remove one item and he can’t carry this team and I don’t think Jason Garret can, either. I’m not so sure Jared Goff is all that great with missing pieces, either, so this match-up should be a fun defensive one to watch.

Can Wade Philips and his squad draw up some plays to confuse Dak and keep him in the pocket? Prescott on the run is pretty good, in the pocket against good coverage? Not so much, his passes become wild too much of the time.

Not to mention, he’s among the worst for sacks being his fault (56 of them!). Dallas’s front seven is pretty dang good and could see them giving Todd Gurley fits, which in turn will force Goff to throw more. In a throwing match-up, I’ll take the Cali dude, his 10 more touchdowns and better accuracy.

Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliot should be the stars of the game…or why one team loses because whichever defense shuts down the run game, wins. The Rams give up more yards than Dallas, but they’re tied in scores allowed at 22 a piece. To be honest, I’m not sure if that’s due to LA’s goal line stance or teams decided to throw in the red zone instead since they stunk at defending passing TD’s. Maybe getting Aqib Talib back in form will help (please).

Meanwhile, Dallas has allowed ten less, so this will be a clash that LA could find itself on the wrong side of. However, when it comes to interceptions, the Rams are killing it and that is very bad news for Prescott. He’s pretty safe with the ball, but this could force him to be more cautious which means a slower release and more chance for sacks.

IF LA can keep him contained. LA has 41 sacks which could equal a very bruised Dak. A better defense facing a better passer on one side with a worse quarterback and worse defense on the other side. This could even out the passing side and as I said above, becomes a run game duel. If that’s the case, I’ll take the team with better rushing stats, more sacks and more interceptions.

SUNDAY GAMES

5 Seed Chargers (12-4) vs 2 Seed Patriots* 1:05 CBS

Referee Crew

ron torbert ref crew

My dearest Ron, America begs on its knees for you to go against every stat in New England and please call a fair game. Amen. The snow Patriot* fans were hoping for isn’t coming. The weather forecast shows sunny and around 25. Not ideal for a warm weather team, but there won’t be winds, so that helps.

Based on the weather, we should see both sides play fairly close to what we’ve seen on offense. My guess is both quarterbacks will play a bit cautious as turnovers will be in their mind. Tom Brady‘s arm lacks the juice it once had, don’t get me wrong, he can still make deadly throws, but he’s tossing far more, what was that?, balls than before.

As far as Philip Rivers, he’s a gunslinger at heart. Taming that (like we saw vs the Ravens) will be a game plan I’m guessing. Let their better defense and close run game lead the way. While NE* does have more yards, their yards per carry are lower and the touchdowns are only two more than LA’s no doubt due to the absence of Melvin Gordon. I’d say these two are about equal in this department.

When it comes to passing, both teams are also very close. Rivers has three more touchdowns. Where the two differ is LA’s offensive line is offensive, they’ve allowed 34 sacks and unlike in places like Houston and Dallas, it’s not on him, they just aren’t good.

That is the key for NE* (in a fair called game), abuse the OL. Of course, the same is true for Brady*, not that his OL stinks, they don’t, but he struggles when pressure is his face. LA has two really good pass rushers, but Gus Bradley will need to find creative ways with some stunts to send them through the A and B gaps, not just the C’s. Or send Joey Bosa up the middle with Melvin Ingram screeching around the edge. Whatever it takes to disrupt Brady*. Rivers is better used to pressure in his face, so for him, they’ll need to actually sack him.

The key to this game is turnovers. The Chargers haven’t been very good in the differential, but the Pat’s have been and maybe last week was a trial run of how much LA can get away with without passing. Anyway, as I wrote, both QB’s are pretty close with Rivers a tad better. Including last week, they are 8-1 on the road and that’s huge. If they make it to the Super Bowl, that will weigh heavily in their favor no matter who they face. The Saints would be the worst though.

The Chargers have 38 sacks, 13 interceptions, have given up 23 passing TD’s, 228 air yards and 11 rushing. New England* has 30 sacks, 18 interceptions, allowed 29 passing TDs, 246 air yards per game and seven rushing touchdowns. In total, NE* gave up 2 more TD’s. This also is close.

Overall, the Chargers are ranked 9th in defense to the Patriots’ 21st, but when it comes to stopping scores (not including kicking ones) they’re really close. Only .3 per game separates them. We’re talking 4 points for the season.

HOWEVER, when you look at their DVOA’s, the Chargers are better – DVOA takes into consideration the teams they played. With all this said, it’s going to be a close game. Hopefully, LA learned last week that if you’re ahead a bunch, don’t take the foot off the gas and NE* is the most lethal to pounce when a team does.

If LA plays a clean game, limits mistakes and pressures Brady* all game they win. If they commit dumb penalties, they lose, that’s how close these teams are.

6 Seed Eagles (9-7) vs 1 Seed Saints (13-3) FOX

carl cheffers ref crew

This game does have the right ranking, the Eagles are the worst of the NFC teams that got in and the Rams, the best. Even so, it’s tough to say this will be a blow-out only because Philadelphia has a way of doing the impossible.

In my predictions above, I picked the most balanced teams to win. Going with that again. The Saints are far and away a better team; however, when it comes to scores against them, Philly isn’t that far behind.

Against the pass, both defenses stink. I can see Drew Brees and Nick Foles having a bunch of air yards. To note though is the Saints have given up eight more passing touchdowns. This game is inside and that will help Foles.

When it comes to stopping the run, New Orleans is a little better, that might not matter much, both teams are keeping offenses under 100 yards. Where the Saints have the run away stats is for that – the run. 26 rushing TD’s, 126 yards a game and 4.3 per rush.

That’s the game right there. If the Eagles can’t stop the run, they’re done. The Eagles are only averaging 98 yards a game, so there’s no break out chance for them in this category – they’re facing a decent run stop team.

If the Eagles want to win, they’re going to need to pass and pass often. When it comes to TD’s they only have four less. They may need to pass because of time of possession. If the Saints go with the run heavy game with short passes, they’ll use up the clock.

To counter that, Philly will need to run more hurry up unless they score first. If they can get a TD up first, now they can be more balanced, but with only 12 rushing touchdowns, not sure how.

Since this game is in the Saints’ dome, crowd noise will make the Eagles go silent snap count and I’m not so sure about that success because getting the defensive line to jump will be tougher. Little things like that will matter. I’m going with the run game and Drew Brees.

NFL Wild Card game predictions.

NFL Wild Card game predictions
Here it is, the first week of playoffs and while the Jaguars aren’t in it, the best teams, are. Instead of doing an AFCS game preview, this will replace that with my NFL Wild Card game predictions.

SATURDAY 4:35 ESPN

6th Seed Colts (10-6) vs 3rd Seed Texans (11-5)

This is a home game for Houston, they have a better record and therefore should get the nod. I disagree. Indy has a better offense, slightly better defense, much better passing and about even rushing.
In the cold of January, that rushing stat would be worrisome, but the Texans play in a dome, as do the Colts. Which means, passing and defense is what will matter more – for this game.
Houston’s defense only allows 19.8 points a game, while Indy gives up 21.5. Against QB’s, Houston is 13th and Indy 16th in total QBR. I look at this number because it shows how they did in allowing completions. The real eye opener though is how many each allowed in passing TD’s and for Indy it was only 21, for the Texans is was 28.
The Colts score 27.1 a game and the Texans 25.1.
Against the rush, Houston is third in TD’s allowed, while Indy is 10th. Both teams have the same interceptions, but Houston has five more sacks. Since the Colts have protected Luck the best in the league, the big advantage goes to Indy since Deshaun Watson has been creamed the most.
Away teams tend to do far worse in the playoffs than the home teams, usually it’s because the home team earned it by being better. In this case, Indy got off to a slow start because they have a new head coach and had a rusty QB. Both are now clicking. I chose Indy by 6.

8:15 FOX

5th Seed Seahawks (10-6) vs 4th Cowboys (10-6)

Lord, I don’t like Dallas and can’t be objective when looking at stats. Nine is the number that matters. That’s how many rushing TD’s Seattle has allowed. In the red zone, they’re keeping teams out of the end zone.
Dallas’ offense is wrapped around Zeke Elliot and the run game. Take him away and stick a dagger in their heart, their defense be damned.
Seattle allows one more point a game than Dallas and that’s coming from the pass. They’re not great against it, but when it comes to tossing them, they’ve got Dallas beat by 13 TD’s.
Dallas has to find a way to keep up in scoring in order to win. They lag by 5 points per game, hence nine is the key. Nine means the Seahawks have had games with zero rushing TD’s allowed. Do that vs Dallas and you’ve got a big win for Seattle.
In my subjective view point, Seattle plays bend don’t break defense while Dallas plays more flashy, that can get them into trouble. And FYI, Seattle has more rushing TD’s than Dallas. 15 to 13. My prediction, Seahawks by 7 because Dak Prescott will be strip sacked.

SUNDAY 1:05 CBS

5th Seed Chargers (12-4) vs 4th Seed Ravens (10-6)

LA has a big thing going for them, they travel well. 7-1 to be exact which means they aren’t afraid of playing in loud stadiums, plus they have shown time changes don’t bother them, either. In their first match-up, offensive penalties killed them. This is an area to see if it was cleaned up – it’ll go to coaching.
The Chargers have to stop the run, which they’re not bad at, but they’re going to need to be great. Baltimore is number 3rd at the run TD’s, so not a good match-up.
Against the pass, Baltimore is second in QBR and LA is 9th. Both teams on total defense is top ten. Offense is where the gap is.
When it comes to points on the board, LA has scored almost twice as many TD’s. So, this game is about slowing Rivers through the air and stopping the Ravens on the ground. Kind of funny that rivers run on the ground and ravens fly through the air but each team is the reverse. Yes, I’m goofy.
In January (outside), the run game and defense, win. No one is really talking up the Charger’s run game, but they have three less TD’s than Baltimore and more yards per carry and that’s with Melvin Gordon missing time. Both defenses have given up 11 rushing TD’s.
Baltimore keeps points to 17.9 a game while LA scores 26.8. Baltimore is scoring 24.3, while LA gives up 20.6. Based on just this, LA wins by a FG in a slug fest.

4:40 NBC

6th Seed Eagles (9-7) vs 3rd Seed Bears (12-4)

The Eagles are the feel good team this season, once Nick Foles came in and won. The difference between this season and last is one, teams have now seen enough of him in this offense to know him and two, da Bears.
When it comes to consistency, I’ll take Foles over Mitch Trubisky, but Matt Nagy has found a way to scheme around him and it works. Plus, Chicago has 50 sacks. I don’t think Nick or that OL is ready for Khalil Mack.
Where the two teams are equal is on defending the pass for the score. Both have allowed 22. This opens the door for the quarterbacks to have a decent day provided they don’t get creamed, first. However, Chicago has intercepted the pass an amazing 27 times, needless to say, that’s very bad for Foles. His mental game must be on high alert.
Foles’ total QBR is ranked lower middle, Trubisky is ranked third. Which shows he makes plays even in his inconsistency and that’s what matters. Not to mention, Nick has bruised ribs – against a team with 50 sacks. I’m not seeing a happy ending for the fairytale.
Philadelphia has done better as the season wore on, their defense found its legs, but they’re not a top team and on the road in Chicago, I predict da Bears by 14. This is my one blow-out game.

The thing is…why the Jacksonville Jaguars may not draft a quarterback.

why the Jacksonville Jaguars may not draft a quarterback

Most of us would LOVE a shiny new toy at quarterback, one the franchise can have for twenty years. Of course, that’s my gut and heart wishing…then the cold-hearted logic side of the brain kicks in and throws icy water all over the happy party. There are three (or four) reasons why the Jacksonville Jaguars may not draft a quarterback.

First, none of the rookie candidates are setting the world on fire. One could say Dwayne Haskins is the most well-rounded and best choice; he’s the right size, accurate, mobile, and played for a top school. But then, so have a slew of other college QB’s who didn’t pan out. The main reason: they often don’t need to call plays in a huddle, be a leader, diagnosis defenses…exhibit the mental side of the game that makes the difference.

This leads to why drafting quarterbacks is difficult. A franchise should have a guy who is methodical, can march his team down the field, played against defenses that are tough, and played in a pro-system because it shows he can handle a huddle. He must make pinpoint throws and lead his receiver.

Let’s say this guy is found so everything is peachy now, right? Not really. A franchise must also have a good offensive line AND a run game, because no matter how smart the rookie is, the NFL will be faster than what he knows and that requires time to think and help to carry the load.

Without that, you have a guy more focused on avoiding getting hit instead of reading defenses and working on his pocket presence.

Next, does he have the right scheme and coaches? Does the general manager and the coaches want the same things and are on the same page? Often quarterbacks drafted high aren’t busts, they merely landed on teams where the above answers were “no”.

Coaching is Everything.

To keep this brief, let’s jump to a biggest factor that seems to be overlooked by those weighing in: weapons.

Jacksonville doesn’t have any – skill positions on offense that can give a rookie quarterback confidence to make iffy throws because his tight end or wide receiver has good hands.

The Jaguars ranked first in dropped passes. Some of that can go to the passer, but some of it is lack of talent. That must change, Jax has to draft guys with good hands, including a running back that can catch.

The logic could be: “Great, let’s draft a quarterback plus the above and have them grow together!” Sounds perfect in theory. However, the reality is, WR’s and TE’s rarely, and I mean rarely, do well as rookies. The reason is because of the stem route, and the best way for rookies to grasp that is a veteran signal caller.

(If you want to learn more about stem routes and why they’re so important, click the link.)

If Dede Westbrook and a slew of rookies is all he has, he’s going to be in a tough spot. It’ll be the blind leading the blind. We saw that already with Blake Bortles, Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee.

A good veteran quarterback can help receivers and tight ends get better. They know the playbook well, know defensive schemes, often know the players they’re facing. He can give tips to his guys, be their guide on the field. That won’t happen with a rookie QB.

Rookies are at the mercy of his OC and his center. Yes, the center. I’ve written two articles about the OL, one simple and one more detailed. You can find them under offense. The entire Jaguars OL went down this season, leading to all the backups playing. IF the OL can stay healthy all season, a rookie QB will be ok in that department; if not, he’s in big trouble.

The Jaguars, knowing they need a slew of help on offense, may choose to sign a veteran and develop the skill guys so that in a year or two they can draft a quarterback into a team that has experienced players to help him. This would show that Dave Caldwell learned a lesson.

The flip side could be sign (pay) for veteran skill players and draft the rookie. The downfall to that is…the Jaguars will have a new offensive coaching staff.

For the future, it might be best if this new staff has a vet under center that they don’t need to babysit while they work on rookies. Doing this will set up the future so when they draft, that guy has a smooth functioning offense, one easier to learn behind.

  • a rookie needs a good OL
  • weapons
  • coaching stability
  • vets to help him learn

Until all those boxes are checked, the Jacksonville Jaguars may not draft a quarterback.

NFL Week 17 game predictions, He Said/She Said.

This week, She is changing it up because she doesn’t care about the results this week. She’s choosing who she wants to wins in this NFL Week 17 game predictions, He Said/She Said.

1:00 GAMES

Falcons (6-9) vs Buccaneers (5-10) FOX

Jay: Falcons. Next. As an aside, ownership should force Jameis Winston out of the lineup this week so they can actually make a decision regarding his future when he can still pass a physical.

Jules: Neither team is in the PO’s, so this is a game to evaluate players (and coaches) for next season. This applies to any team with an (*). If Jameis Winston wants a job in TB, he needs to ball out. If he wants loads of cash on another team, he needs to ball out. That’s all I’ll be watching. Oh, and Koetter no matter what happens needs to go. Bucs win at home.

Cowboys× (9-6) vs Giants (5-10) FOX

Jay: this game has hangover written all over it. Giants win because Dallas has quick hooks for Zeke, Dak and Amari.

Jules: NYG are fools if they don’t play their rookie QB the entire game. If they play Manning, then I say, beat the snot out of Dallas and spoil their season. Squash them like bugs. Giants.

Panthers (6-9) vs Saints∞ (13-2) FOX

Jay: Saints because they won’t sit as many starters as people think they will. Won’t wanna be rusty in 2 weeks.

Jules: TEDDY BRIDGEWATER TIME. Go Saints, second teamers and all, Panthers shouldn’t play Cam Newton and they also should shut down their starters.

Jets (4-11) vs Patriots*∞ (10-5) CBS

Jay: patriots need this. Patriots will get it

Jules: How convenient the Patriots* have week 17 at home (as usual). They win, but I hope they lose and have to play on the road, this will assure no NE* in the SB.

Jaguars (5-10) vs Texans× (10-5) CBS

Jay: Texans. They need this if they’d like to at least play 1 game at home in the playoffs, and also have a shot at a bye.

Jules: I know I should say Texans. Jax will be going with a PS guy as their starting RB (Dave Williams), and chances are Tanner Lee plays (he’s the guy they inexplicably drafted in the 5th round this season). If he plays they’re losing by a bunch; however, there are several defensive guys who must kill it and they could make Watson pay. Go Jags.

Lions (5-10) vs Packers (6-8-1) FOX

Jay: Bad game. Packers

Jules: I hope to hell they don’t play Rodgers. If they make that smart decision, Lions could win because Matt Patricia should want to win. I’m rooting for Detroit to pull off a miracle.

Dolphins (7-8) vs Bills (5-10) CBS

Jay: bad game. Bills

Jules: Bills if Asweiler plays. Bills even if Tannehill plays which would be dumb because they need him healthy to sell at auction for a bag of leftover halloween candy, a fruitcake and a pair of Elmo fuzzy slippers.

4:25 GAMES

Cardinals (3-12) vs Seahawks× (9-6) FOX

Jay: Seahawks but in a game closer than the experts think

Jules: These 4:25 games are a joke. Most are with one crap team who wants to lose. Seahawks, duh.

49ers (4-11) vs Rams∞ (12-3) FOX

Jay: Rams need it. They’ll get it

Jules: Tell you what, it wouldn’t shock if SF won even if it’s better they lost. Kyle Shanahan (heart emoji) has got that offense playing pretty well and he’s most likely gotten Nick Mullens a starting a gig on some team next season. But the Rams are desperate to win. LAR.

Chargers (11-4)∞ vs Broncos (6-9) CBS

Jay: I wanna say Broncos, but I don’t have the guts to pick them.

Jules: Denver’s game was their running back, Phillip Lindsay, who’s out. If LA can’t beat a team that is imploding from the top floor on down, they have no business going to the super bowl. Also, there is no heart left in the Broncos to have the will to play spoiler, those players have checked out. Chargers.

Eagles (8-7)× vs Redskins (7-8) FOX

Jay: I dislike both teams equally. Eagles win

Jules: Who doesn’t want to see Philly pull off a win?

Bengals (6-9) vs Steelers× (8-6-1) CBS

Jay: Steelers need this. They’ll get it

Jules: I think Steelers win at home because Cincy is that bad.

Bears (11-4)∞ vs Vikings× (8-6-1) FOX

Jay: Both teams need this win, badly. Minnesota for obvious reasons, but also because if the Bears were to lose, they’ll see Minnesota next week in the wild card round. You don’t wanna play a team 3 times.

Jules: Finally, a match-up worth looking forward to. If my man Dalvin Cook can roll like the thunder, MN has a small chance to win, but if it’s on Cousins’ shoulders, game over. I want Chicago to win because I have really liked watching the da Bears this season.

Raiders (4-11) vs Chiefs∞ (11-4) CBS

Jay: Chiefs crowd will push the team to home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Jules: I have seen Andy Reid choke week 17 so many times, I’m not so sure I have faith that he can beat Jon Gruden. Oakland has many first round picks, they may say, screw it and go balls to the walls. I’m probably alone in this, and most likely wishful thinking, but I think the Raiders could eke one out, sending LAC to the 1 spot.

Browns (7-71) vs Ravens× (9-6) CBS

Jay: Ravens obviously need this, but does anyone wanna play Cleveland now? Baltimore in a slugfest that ends up somewhere around 16-13

Jules: Who’s not excited to see this game? Lamar Jackson (the red headed step child of the media) and the darling of their eyes, Baker Mayfield? I’m pulling for Pompano Beach Lamar and his defense. P-O-M-P-A-N-O.

8:20 GAME NBC

Colts× (9-6) vs Titans× (9-6)

Jay: Can’t wait to watch this. And I have no feel for this game, so I’ll go with the home team in a battle.

Jules: I love Mark Vrabel, but detest the Titans more than the Texans. Houston is pretty hurt, but Marcus Mariota spent four days this week with no feeling in half his body. I’m banking on the Texans to stop Tennessee’s run game just enough to get a W.

Week 16 NFL game predictions – He Said/She Said.

Week 16 NFL game predictions - He Said/She Said.

Even though it’s been a crazy season, He and She are actually doing pretty well compared to the men behind desks who get paid to make predictions. We’re hovering between 70 and 75%.

These last two games shouldn’t have any surprises, but who knows? This is typically when high flying offenses start getting grounded because the best defenses have adapted and the run game wins in bad weather.

SATURDAY GAMES

Redskins (7-7) vs Titans (8-6) 4:30 NFL Network

Jay: Home team, short week, better defense, better quarterback…Titans by 7.

Jules: Titans, and I don’t care who wins, neither team is in any condition to get to Atlanta, but the game is in TN and they have a better defense and run game.

Ravens (8-6) vs Chargers (11-3) 8:20 NFL Network

Jay: This is going to be a very fun game and I have a sneaking suspicion that Baltimore walks into LA and wins by 3. I’m looking forward to being proven wrong though.

Jules: The word is Baltimore will give LA’s defense fits because of Lamar Jackson and their defense. The thing is, LA’s run game and defense is very close, but they have a better passing game. In warm LA, I’m going with Rivers.

SUNDAY 1:00 GAMES

Texans (10-4) vs Eagles (7-7) CBS

Jay: Wentz-Magic….I just trust Houston’s defense more here. Houston by 4

Jules: I’m reluctantly picking Houston, but with little film on Foles, I think Philly has a good chance to win. If Wentz plays, the Teams win.

Packers (5-8-1) vs Jets (4-10) FOX

Jay: Blah. Jets

Jules: Who cares? I’m going with home team.

Bills (5-9) vs Patriots (9-5) CBS

Jay: New England in a game that will be tougher than most people think it should be.

Jules: NE* because the game is there.

Vikings (7-6-1) vs Lions (5-9) FOX

Jay: Lean on Dalvin and Latavius…lean away from Stafford.

Jules: Dalvin Cook, not Cousins. Dude can’t carry a team.

Buccaneers (5-9) vs Cowboys (8-6) FOX

Jules: I trust Jameis over Dak, but the game is in Dallas, so I’m picking Zeke to be responsible for a win.

Jay: I have zero trust in Jameis Winston, and the game is in Dallas, so I will go with Dallas here.

Bengals (6-8) vs Browns (6-7-1) CBS

Jay: Browns in the battle for mediocrity (which is a huge upgrade for Cleveland).

Jules: Williams over Lewis. Cincy needs to make bold changes at HC and QB.

Falcons (5-9) vs Panthers (6-8) FOX

Jay: My guess is go with the better QB here. I’ll take Atlanta even with or without Julio.

Jules: Last season, this would’ve been a good game. Newton is playing poorly due to injury, even so, I’m going with them because their run game will give the Falcons fits.

Jaguars (4-10) vs Dolphins (7-7) CBS

Jay: Miami…they need this and Jacksonville stinks out loud.

Jules: Miami, two sons will be at the game, but I think they may leave heartbroken, Jax offense is pitiful.

Giants (5-9) vs Colts (8-6) CBS

Jay: Colts need this. Giants don’t. Home team.

Jules: While NY has looked better with Shumur, Eli is so hit or miss, tough to see him outscoring Luck.

4:05 GAMES

Bears (10-4) vs 49ers (4-10) FOX

Jules: the one fear is this could be a trap game. First year starter vs this defense and they made Denver look silly, but Chicago has seeding on the line, so going to say Nagy doesn’t let them take any W for granted.

Jay: Very much a trap game, but the 2 seed is still technically in play here, so Chicago gives it their all and wins by 3 in San Francisco.

Rams (11-3) vs Cardinals (3-11) FOX

Jay: LA. Blah

Jules: Just what LA needs, a team they should beat to get their confidence back. If they lose, and the Bears win, I say Chicago is SB bound.

4:25 GAME CBS

Steelers (8-5-1) vs Saints (12-2)

Jay: Saints at home is very safe

Jules: Saints, that home crowd will be rocking and NO is 2/3’s better.

8:20 GAME NBC

Chiefs (11-3) vs Seahawks (8-6)

Jay: I love this game. Just because my brother in law is a Chargers fan, I’m taking Seattle just out of family loyalty.

Jules: Oh, this could be a real slugfest. Three top games this week – Chargers, Bears and this one. If Russell Wilson is on his game, I think they could pull off the win in that loud stadium. Losing Kareem Hunt hurt KC and Gus Bradley is a Pete Carroll disciple.

MONDAY 8:15 ESPN

Broncos (6-8) vs Raiders (3-11)

Jay: Home team because of sentimental, nonsense reasons. Oh, and Denver is checked out.

Jules: Why these two teams have a Monday night game is beyond me. Gruden’s job is safe, Vance is out the door, so could see an easy win go out the same door with him. The players have bad-mouthed him, so can see them playing without any heart.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

To tank or not to tank, that is the question for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

to tank or not to tank

There are two streams of thoughts when it comes to what the Jaguars should do for these last games: win for pride or lose for a higher draft pick. Pride shouldn’t be a choice. Players should have that every game. It should be, win for next season. To tank or not to tank?

Wins help the team more for 2019, or does drafting top 5 or 10 ? Most believe the Jaguars need to draft a quarterback. At this point, there are three on the table: Dwayne Haskins, Will Greir and Justin Herbert.

There are three teams in the same boat as Jacksonville: Denver, Giants and Redskins. All three could finish with six wins. There are other teams with quarterbacks that may want to draft because of contract issues or age. However, do the Buccaneers and Titans feel one of these rookies is better than what they have?

No matter how you look at it, teams with rookie QB’s almost always tank. Most often it’s due to youth, but in addition, teams that draft quarterbacks at the top, have issues beyond a signal caller. This often is a toxic mix.

This season there were five QB’s taken in the first round and their records aren’t good. Browns finally got a good GM who made the right coaching calls, and now they’ve won because Mayfield was the missing piece to team that was loaded with talent, but needed better coaching. Before some house cleaning, they’d been drafting in the top ten for years without wins.

The Cardinals are 3-10, The Bills and Jets are 4-9. The Ravens are 7-6, but they drafted LAST.

Four quarterbacks drafted top ten and four have losing records, the one drafted last is on a winning team. Can it all be blamed on the young guns? No, because poor coaching or other issues plagued the teams going into 2018.

To tank or not to tank?

That is why it is NOT in the best interest of the Jags to tank. They need to show they can win the last three. The team has a very talented defense, but injures decimated the offense. Before the players started dropping like dominoes, Jax was 3-1.

Look around the league, KC lost last night and part of that was due to their secondary, which is hurt. They could lose the next two because of it and now become a wild card. The Redskins were up two games in the NFCE and then injuries struck.

The Texans started the season with a phone book of injuries, same for the Colts and then they got players back and they started to win.

The point is, good coaches find a way to win even with a depleted team. The Redskins are beatable. The Dolphins could be a problem, but the Texans could end up sitting their starters week 17. So, two or three winnable games left.

Another reason to win is cap space. Doug Marrone needs the rookies and second year players to ball out which allows Dave Caldwell to make cuts. While it’s always sad to see favored players leave, the team needs the future to step up.

In addition, despite fans wanting to fire everyone, it’s rare for franchises to hire new coaching staffs and then get to the play-offs the following season. It’s for three reasons: this typically happens because the franchise is a mess and/or they don’t have a good head coach or QB.

The franchises that have been successful at it, had a great quarterback like Peyton Manning who also acted like a coach. There is no Manning available to sign, or anyone remotely like him to come save this franchise if they lose the next three.

NE* hasn’t drafted in the top ten in a decade, and have had drafts without a first round pick and yet, every year, there they are, going to the playoffs.

COACHING IS EVERYTHING.

Many would say it’s because Brady*, but it was Belichick who found him, it’s Belichick who coached him, it’s Belichick who has players people never heard of, winning. If you believe it was all Brady*, where was he drafted?

Meanwhile, teams like the Browns and Jacksonville repeatedly have had top ten picks and where did it get them? We need Marrone to show he can motivate this team to keep their head in it. He can’t do much about having Kessler, but if they lose, it needs to be solely because of him, not the team lacking effort.

If this team loses the next three, the players are listless, and they need a new quarterback, the Jags won’t be winning for a while. Maybe three years from now. However, if the franchise is just missing a QB and a few healthy players, then 2019 should be a big improvement.

Will a rookie QB make the difference between making the play-offs and not? Extremely doubtful because it goes to coaching. A franchise must have a plan in place and be in full agreement on how to develop him.

The owner, president, VP, GM, head coach and offensive coordinator must be on the same page, have the same vision and commitment to their drafted quarterback. They also can’t pick a quarterback and then the next season bring in another new staff. If so, you have incompetent Denver who chose Paxton Lynch and wasted that pick.

If Jacksonville loses and does it by looking like they did in some of these games this season, then Shad Khan will need to clean house from top to bottom and I don’t believe there’s a franchise out there that put in a place a brand new staff, drafted a quarterback, and won the next season.

The fans need these wins if they want to see them next season. While they may not get the top quarterback, they could get the second best one and based on the drafts lately, that’s not a bad thing.

Better to have the next (healthy) Carson Wentz and a steady staff on the same page, than Jared Goff and a revolving coaching carousel. Goff, who stunk, until he got the right coach for him.

Speaking of which, the reason franchises that keep changing coaches tend to stink is because they change schemes, playbooks, and styles of players they like. Plus, they want their guys. Jon Gruden is in Oakland cleaning house so he and his coaches have who they picked.

This often means second and third year players are wasted and not fully developed because they don’t fit their new coaches’ preferences. Nor do coaching techniques or personalities mesh. When that happens, you end up with a boatload of dead money, wasted cap space and rosters of players riding the bench.

Readers, cheer for the win, not root for the loss in the dreams 2019 will be all better because the next Peyton Manning, or whomever drafted in the top ten is your GOAT., is walking through the door.

COACHING IS EVERYTHING

I’m cheering the coaches show they can be the answer next season. I’m cheering for a coaching staff on the same page when choosing the next quarterback, and they stick around to develop him. I’m cheering for continuity and consistency, a crucial key to success. I’m cheering Khan has made the right choices in front office staff. I’m cheering for #DUUUVAL to shine, not tank.

I’m cheering for WINS!

Week 15 NFL Game predictions, He Said/She Said

Week 15 NFL Game predictions, He Said/She Said

Last week, had the predictions done, but things came up and didn’t get them posted. Even though we don’t do Thursday games because we feel they’re too far out, I did tweet the result would be Chargers 31-30. If I’m losing on Sunday, I’m going to count it. 🙂 Here’s our Week 15 NFL Game predictions, He Said/She Said

SATURDAY GAMES

Texans (9-4) vs Jets (4-9) NFL Network 4:30

Jay: I’ll take the better team here on the short week, Houston was woken up last week against Indy.

Jules: If Jax could smack the Jets, seriously doubt the Texans can’t. Houston is clicking and Darnold is a rookie with lots up down and some ups.

Browns (5-7-1) vs Broncos (6-7) 8:20 CBS

Jay: Boy this is a tough one…I’ll take the home team, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in this pick. Cleveland is very tough.

Jules: It’ll be the Chubb show as viewers will get to see the cousins face off. Chubb’s’s legs or Lindsay’s legs? These two teams are almost identical when it comes to scoring and allowing points. Home field the advantage? No, Denver is struggling with stopping the run and Nick Chubb gives Mayfield a chance vs a secondary without Chris Harris.

SUNDAY 1:00 GAMES

Titans (7-6) vs Giants (5-8) CBS

Jay: Which Titan team do we see? Which NYG team do we see? I trust the Titan defense. I don’t trust the Giant defense, therefore I will take Tennessee.

Jules: Can’t believe I’m picking NYG even without OBJ. The reason is, the Titans are inconsistent, are poor at scoring points and after the Jax blow-out, they may drop back. Plus, Shumur has Eli looking pretty good.

Dolphins (7-6) vs Vikings (6-6-1) CBS

Jay: Pressure bursts pipes. The Vikings need this one (as do the Dolphins) and the Dolphins are coming off an emotional high that is extremely difficult to come down from. YOU LIKE THAT?!?!

Jules: I’ve said all season, I’m not a Cousins fan and don’t trust him. Tough to see Cousins stinking at home though; however, Miami does have a winning record. I could see Cousins trying too hard to show he’s better and make dumb decisions to get more.

Redskins (6-7) vs Jaguars (4-9) CBS

Jay: Redskins are like Fife and Drum at this point. I’ll go against my previous rule of picking against Jacksonville here and take them, but I’m not happy nor comfortable with it.

Jules: I know I always pick them, but this is the last home game, they’re coming off a bye, the Redskins have Johnson as QB, a guy Wash knows well and I’ll be there. Not to mention, there’s a few players that must show they’re worth being kept and/or getting paid elsewhere. Oh, and Washington is as beat up as us. As an aside, Kevin Harlan is doing this game (yay!).

Cowboys (8-5) vs Colts (7-6) CBS

Jay: Both teams gotta have it. Low scoring, field goal affair. 16-13 either way. I’ll take the home team.

Jules: Colts, better QB by far and Indy has gotten pretty good lately vs the pass. Don’t see Prescott, especially with questions over Zeke, doing well or the Cowboys secondary keeping up.

Raiders (3-10) vs Bengals (5-8) CBS

Jay: Crappy game…I’ll take the Raiders who have the better QB

Jules: Crap game (JINX!) and who cares? I’m saying Oakland because they seem to be clicking a little better and the Bengals are a mess.

Packers (5-7-1) vs Bears (9-4) FOX

Jay: This is a “gotta have it” game for Green Bay…must have. I also love the Bears here, but don’t love it.

Jules: Yes, GB looked better without McCarthy, but I love this Bears team. They’re fun, creative and surprising. If Tribisky can keep mistakes to a minimum, should be a win.

Lions (5-8) vs Bills (4-9) FOX

Jay: This is garbage. Bills

Jules: Yawn. Bills. Don’t see Detroit having the will to chase Allen around all day. Side note, what is Detroit going to do with Stafford? He’s like Cousins, you just can’t bet on him.

Buccaneers (5-8) vs Ravens (7-6) FOX

Jay: Jameis will throw 3 picks and we’ll all still be wondering whether they should pay him $20 Million next year (Answer: they shouldn’t).

Jules: Big game for Baltimore…and Jameis Winston. The Ravens defense is really good, can Winston outsmart their safeties which make mistakes? I think I trust them more than TB who may be losing a head coach.

Cardinals (3-10) vs Falcons (4-9) FOX

Jay: Falcons are better but Arizona is playing with some pride. Falcons at home.

Jules: Both bird teams are grounded and wingless. Going with home team.

4:05 GAME FOX

Seahawks (8-5) vs 49ers (3-10)

Jay: Seattle runs the ball 43 times and this game is over in 2 and a half hours.

Jules: Seattle keeps their wild card status alive.

4:25 GAME CBS

Patriots* (9-4) vs Steelers (7-5-1)

Jay: Patriots. What have the Steelers done this year to show they deserve to be picked in a tight spot?

Jules: NE* is tied for the worst road record of all winning teams. 3-4 and the Pats have lost back-to-back away games this season. In addition, the Bears are the only away team with a winning record they beat. Which is why I’m going with Pitt, but not with much faith.

8:20 GAME NBC

Eagles (6-7) vs Rams (11-2)

Jay: I’ll take the Rams here but there will be a massive contingency of Eagles fans in that crowd.

Jules: Luckiy for the Rams, there is enough film on Foles for them to have an idea of what’s coming. If they don’t win, I don’t see a trophy in Goff’s hands.

MONDAY 8:15 GAME ESPN

Saints (11-2) vs Panthers (6-7)

Jay: Saints. Just too good right now.

Jules: Newton is hurt, give me Brees and the Saints.

How to fix the NFL Referee problem: 10 simple and common sense solutions.

NFL referee problem

Don’t know about you dear readers, but it seems to me we’ve seen some truly bad reffing this season. Full-time refs were supposed to be the answer, but that hasn’t happened. It’s because it was done half-assed. There is a NFL Referee problem and I’ve got a list on how to fix this.

*I write “he” for ease, but assume there will be females here or there in a crew. Also, I use the word referee to encompass all the officials*

  • Draft referees from the NCAA like the NFL does.
  • House them in a non-Pro football city that’s in the central time zone like Birmingham, Alabama. Since Birmingham has three, maybe four college teams (and a couple top notch high school teams) within fairly close proximity, they can use their players and facilities for practice.
  • They will act like players – practice or watch film during the week. This way all referees are on the same page. In addition, during practices, players will fake penalties and supervisors will watch and rank how the refs do
  • They draft enough refs to have two crews at every NFL game. This way if a ref or line judge, etc. stinks during a game, his replacement is there. Just like players. There will also be a crew of third teamers left in the home city to fill a “B” team crew due to any benchings (see below). for future games.
  • Like the NFL, have awards for best refs at each position. They will get bonuses and get to officiate the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl. Refs who officiated throughout the season, but receive no votes, get the heave-ho.
  • If a ref has two failed challenges in a game, he is benched during the game and suspended from reffing the team(s) he messed up on for the rest of the season and/or the next one. His calls will also be under review to see if he needs to be benched for other games.
  • If a ref has more than one game with two overturned calls, he’s fired.
  • Each year, refs will go under a review board made up of members of the NFL officiating committee, an owner rep, a HC rep and a player rep.
  • Top ones get a raise and are kept. Bottom ones are sent back to the NCAA.
  • Each year a referee is kept, he gets more perks, like his choice of what games to call, a 401 type savings plan and better living quarters.

The plan is find the cream of the crop, and make it pay to do their best.

As far the current referees, the review board I suggested weighs in on them. The top ones (the non-NFL staff decides on how many) are given seniority for 2019 and can be the instructors (with an additional bonus) at the training city.

They are also given choices on whose crew they want to be on or pick the crew they want of the current refs, but no more than two per crew. After officials are drafted, they will be parceled out to be as balanced as possible.

The NFL is a multi-billion dollar business and can afford to do this. Especially since bad NFL referees can and do cost franchises millions when games are lost.

It’s time they become serious about this and get tough. The NFL this season feels like the officiating crews, not the teams, are deciding who wins, which in turn makes the NFL seem corrupt. It’s tough not believe this has come about for two reasons: legal gambling and ratings.

Actually, I believe gambling is why viewership is up – bettors want to see how their players are doing. With the NFL now in bed with gambling organizations, they absolutely want certain endings, to think otherwise is naive.

Give fans competent and impartial refereeing and you’ll grow the fan base by having butts in seats. How many stadiums are selling out? That should be the measuring stick, not who’s watching their money perform on their TV’s.

Soapbox over.

For Justin Simmons, the NFL is an affirmation of his hard work and faith.

* Below is a repost from my time writing about the Broncos. The Simmons are such a great family, I wanted to send it out again. Besides, you never know, he could move back to his home state and become a Jaguar.*

This article started out about Justin Simmons and football, but what was unearthed grew it into far more. It became not just a tale of his love of football, but a tale of two sets of couples and their love for each other. Of a son learning from his parents about loyalty and commitment to both football and family.

It began with an interracial couple fighting the odds

Kimberly and Victor Simmons first met at West Virginia Wesleyan. He was there for football, she for a degree. Even though she moved on to Marshall University to get her MBA, the two stayed in touch through old-fashioned love letters. Their long distance relationship of poetry turned into marriage, three sons, and a winding journey to the NFL.

For them, being an interracial couple required more than just a great love, it took deep faith and strength.

A star is born

That faith, not just in each other and their religion, but family itself was passed on to their sons, Justin, Nate (DB-WV Wesleyan) and Tristan (DB-Arizona Western).

After the Simmons finished college, they moved to Manassas, Virginia where Victor did ten years in the Air Force Reserves. This is where their sons were born and Justin honed his leaping skills. Kim shares a story of him loving his bouncy chair so much as a toddler, he’d try to reach the top of the door frame. They’d raise the height to keep him from being so crazy; however, he’d just try harder. 

Those powerful legs built as a youth, can be seen on Sundays. It was no fluke in New Orleans he blocked that kick–the little Tigger has been practicing his jump skills since he was a toddler.

Virginia was also where he first played football. His keen feel for the game was seen even as a child. During one play when he was eight, while running for a TD, a faster kid chased him down. As he was about to be tackled, he did a quick side step leaving the defender eating dirt. When asked after the game how did he know to juke, his reply was, “I saw his shadow.”

Athletic genes run in the family, from an Uncle who was a pro basketball player, to his father and a grandfather who played football in NJ. Back then, it was tough for blacks to get a chance to play, but he persevered. Showing grit and determination is another Simmons’ family trait.

Kimberly was born in Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It gives one pause to consider someday Justin may have family members from there, watching him don a gold jacket and no doubt give a well thought out speech.

His gift was seen at a young age 

When asked if any play or game gave an indication Justin may be good enough to make it at a higher level, his parents said it was during a Jr. Pee Wee Super Bowl game in Orlando, Florida. They lost against an Indiana team, but Justin made plays beyond his age. It was the catalyst that set the future in motion.

Unless you grew up in Florida, especially along the east coast, it’s tough to describe to outsiders how sports dominate the culture. Some states like Texas, know about the football side, or states like Indiana and basketball, but in Florida, minus under 32° sports, it’s all sports, all the time.

Not only does the wildlife flourish in Florida, but so many athletes do as well, that it’s tough for most to get noticed. This is especially true at small schools like Sandalwood, Trinity or Martin County. The athletes who perform extraordinarily and make it into top colleges, worked harder to gain the spotlight than their peers in other states.

The right mentor

This is why Victor Simmons moved his family to sleepy Stuart. He figured if his sons could make it in Florida, they could make it anywhere. The NFL wasn’t really a dream, though. Because of his slender build, basketball was more of a reality, especially since his team went to State. It wasn’t until his sophomore year did his defensive backs coach, Gary Blackney, say he had a shot.

It was Blackney who taught Justin about playing the DB position well, and to watch game film. Simmons often discusses the importance of film study as a tool to improve reading offenses, quarterbacks and the opposing team’s tendencies. Peyton Manning would have liked having Simmons as a teammate, his cerebral approach would have found a kindred rewind connoisseur.

Gary Blackney told Justin his grades would need to be more of a focus if he wanted a chance to play in college. That carrot motivated Simmons to do better in school, a message he shares with school-aged kids. While Justin knows the importance of talking to kids about education and hard work to achieve their dreams, he also feels he needs to use his standing to spread the word of God. His faith is part of the fabric of who he is and his family.

Philanthropy is a given

His history of giving back and learning to be a leader, began in high school when he was a Best Buddy and a Safe School Ambassador. The former was teaming up with special needs kids and taking them under his wing. The latter was mentoring children how to stand up to bullying. Being involved in his community lead to he and a friend starting an Athletes in Action chapter at Boston College. He also belonged to the Student-Athlete Advisory Council.

While in high school, he learned how to balance family, school, church, giving back and sports. That’s always an issue for most athletes, finding the right combo and right hierarchy of what’s most important and fulfilling those commitments. Kids who make it to the NFL, rarely do so in a vacuum. At home, there’s someone pushing them, believing in them, making sacrifices and these parents or grandparents are just as important to each player’s success.

Overcoming the odds

Simmons has always been a coachable kid who learned from his dad how to “cheat well”. That doesn’t imply being a Patriot*, it means learning to find ways around what you don’t do well. To mask the less, with the more. Simmons isn’t quick off the line, but he’s fast once he gets going. He might not get to point ‘A’ stride for stride with a slot, but Simmons will out think or out jump him.

Some of it came from years of baseball and basketball, but mostly from being on both sides of the ball. Simmons grew up playing wide receiver and on defense. It helped him become so good, so quickly in the NFL. His 70 tackles, 2 interceptions and a sack, while being a back-up in the No Fly Zone, wasn’t from lucky play.

As a former WR, he knows more than most how to read routes, to know where the QB is going and anticipate. Cheat well. Add in his length, plus Tigger legs and you’ve got a special talent.

He’s around the ball all the time. He’s a guy that has a high football IQ. He’s long and tall, so when he’s in those windows, he’s made two or three interceptions that nobody else could make out there because of the height and the length. He’s a very smart player that we’re counting on this year.”-Vance Joseph

Mind over matter

To truly get a feel for how mentally tough Justin is, understanding his Boston College challenge will give you a better idea. As often happens with coaching changes, the one that ‘brung ya’ sometimes leaves and you’re left without a dance partner to cover your back. That’s exactly what happened to Simmons when the coach who recruited him, departed for a better opportunity.

When Don Brown became the new Defensive Coordinator, he and his staff wanted to clean house. Not just remove players, but free up scholarships for the players they selected. To achieve this, he rode the guys hard. Turned practice into basic training, military style. It worked. Players left in droves.

Not For Justin, though. He refused to cave and be gotten rid of. He kept ahead of that shadow of doom. He worked hard and made it through a tough, emotional year. He survived Brown chewing him out during a nationally televised game, and he played through injury in another. For his perseverance, he became part of the #1 pass defense in the NCAA. Even in college, Simmons was, ‘No Fly’. The end result was he and Brown became good friends.

The women in his life give him strength

Through his high school and tough college days, he’s had two women in his life who have been there. His mom, Kim, the “silent glue” as Victor calls her and his wife, Taryn.

Taryn Simmons was a 1,000 point basketball player and on the homecoming court in high school. The two parted ways physically and scholastically when she became a Seminole and he a Screaming Eagle. Fall games must have been fun since BC and FSU are ACC rivals.

Like his parents before him, Justin weathered a college induced long distance relationship and it, too evolved into marriage. Although they’re often still a part from the traveling and many obligations that comes with being in the NFL, he has great mentors to lean on for guidance.

Taryn and Justin often speak together at seminars to give wisdom on dating, marriage and relationships using their experience with God and each other’s life stories. Taryn is also who holds down the fort. She keeps the thousands of little details that NFL players need to deal with, off Justin’s plate. There’s more to being in the NFL than shoulder pads. All the game film he talks about watching, is able to happen because he has his partner carrying some of the load.

As far as the woman who gave him life, Simmons’ mom once watched her baby during a divisional championship game, be loaded into an ambulance after he landed on his head. At the ER, they sawed his helmet off. His younger brother Nate was still playing, so Victor had to stay for him while Kim coped at the hospital.

Justin Simmons pop warner
(photo courtesy of the Simmons family)

A higher power

Faith, a constant in this tight knit family, kept them going. Kim may be the silent glue, but for ‘#TeamJesus,’ a higher power is the motivator. Even though Justin heard a ‘pop’ during that neck injury, he didn’t panic, and mom and son survived the scare. Steel spines indeed. The team lost without him, however.

When an athlete comes from a college without a ton of NFL players, and he doesn’t check all the boxes for that position, questions abound over what round he’ll go. His family figured he’d be a late second round, early third because of his record combine and pro day, but as he fell, they got nervous. Dad stepped outside to pace when the call came in. Had no idea it was John Elway.

When asked if they had any clue their son would get chosen by the (then) best secondary on the planet, the answer was a laughing, “NO”! They still are shocked it happened, Denver had not called or interviewed him. It’s still new to them, having Justin not only play for the No Fly Zone, but see him on TV making interceptions.

Since he had worked out for the Cowboys, the Simmons’ family thought it would be Dallas drafting Justin. Jerry Jones may have indeed wanted him as the third pick in the fourth, but Elway out scooped Jones.

From feeling anxious about falling to day two, to being selected by the best secondary in football, the Simmons family ran the full gauntlet of emotions. Agony to ecstasy in one phone call. Not long after, came a text from TJ Ward, making it even more surreal.

The will to achieve what the mind can conceive 

He admits during his rookie season, he was focused on trying to stay afloat, learning as much as he could about football and not mess up. As he enters his sophomore season, he says he’s more confident in what he’s doing during a play and why. Based on his off season of wreaking havoc against both quarterbacks, it appears he’s made the leap with flying colors. He wasn’t shoddy at it as a rookie, either.

Want to know why Justin Simmons has been succeeding and will continue to? He has every tool in the box. He’s learned courage and commitment from his parents, has a strong and loving partner, has the will to achieve what his mind can conceive, and he believes.

There is something to the phrase so many athletes use: faith, family, football. It’s real. It’s powerful. Together it’s powerfully real and it is what drives Justin Simmons, husband, son, free safety for the Denver Broncos. 

 

Week 12 NFL Game Predictions – He Said, She Said

Week 12 NFL Game Predictions

This week, we only chose 12 games because the editor forgot about the three Thanksgiving match-ups. The following teams have byes: Chiefs and Rams. Last week, he got five, she got eight and they missed on two (only 10 were predicted as 6 teams were on bye). Read our Week 12 NFL Game Predictions:

1:00 GAMES

49ers (2-8) vs Buccaneers (3-7) FOX

Jay: Couldn’t care less. Bucs at home in a bad football game.

Jules: Tampa has a QB turnover issue, but SF hasn’t shown they can be a complete team. I’ll take TB only because I don’t think the niners have the defense to stop the Bucs.

Giants (3-7) vs Eagles (4-6) FOX

Jay: Just because Philadelphia is the reigning super bowl champion, they don’t look anything like that team from last year. But they look better than the Giants. Philly

Jules: Just because Eli finally had a game that he looked like an NFL QB doesn’t mean I think he can string back to back games like that (plus there was some questionable reffing). Philly is certainly missing their coaches; however, at home, think the crowd helps them win.

Patriots* (7-3) vs Jets (3-7) CBS

Jay: Patriots in a tough football game. There has been a lot of “is this the end of the Patriot run?” in the media over the last two weeks. My guess is that it’s not going to come to an end against the Jets.

Jules: NE* is two teams – one at home with the refs helping them and another on the road. Not to mention, Brady has looked poor this season; however, he’s coming off a rest and the Jets don’t have the firepower to rush him every play or the offense to match them.

Browns (3-6-1) vs Bengals (5-5) CBS

Jay: Browns will play hard, but Cincinnati in a nail biter.

Jules: Bengals are so sporadic, but Cleveland on the road isn’t good, so taking Cincy in a squeaker. If they lose, fire Marv Lewis, this is getting ridiculous.

Seahawks (5-5) vs Panthers (6-4) FOX

Jay: Carolina, but I have no confidence in this pick. These two teams are like looking each other in the mirror, so I’ll take the home team in an equal game that will have BIG playoff implications

Jules: Carolina. They’re a slightly better team, the loss last week has got to have them fired up and the game is at home.

Jaguars (3-7) vs Bills (3-7) CBS

Jay: We gotta stop with the fire the staff narrative all across the NFL. Teams that keep firing coaches are typically at the bottom of the heap and that’s not by accident or coincidence. I’ll take the Bills because I think Jacksonville has some player issues in that locker room and I think that some things need to be addressed at the player level, especially looking in a mirror (speaking to you, defense).

Jules: Bills fans want this win so badly; however, Jax defense (which looks a lot better with DJ Hayden at 100%) vs Josh Allen doesn’t seem like a good match-up for him or the Bills. If they lose, fire Marrone and his staff at the end of the season. 😉 Not really, who should go though is Blake Bortles, sad to say.

Raiders (2-8) vs Ravens (5-5) CBS

Jay: Ravens because the Raiders suck

Jules: Not sure which QB is starting at this writing, but it doesn’t matter. If Baltimore can’t win at home against Oakland, fire Harbough. I’m channeling a certain orange person pre-2016. That defense has way too much talent to lose.

4:05 GAME

Cardinals (2-8) vs Chargers (7-3) FOX

Jay: Chargers cause the Cardinals suck.

Jules: Seems like every time I pick a duh team to win, they lose. Even still, the Chargers can’t blow this can they? Just don’t kick.

4:25 GAMES

Steelers (7-2-1) vs Broncos (4-6) CBS

Jay: Steelers cause the Broncos are not very good and they won’t let the Broncos hang around like LA did last week.

Jules: Ben looked bad vs Jax and if not for about the worst reffing I’ve ever seen, he’d not have come back to win. Based on that, Denver would be the clear choice; however, Ben rarely has two crappy games back-to back.

Dolphins (5-5) vs Colts (5-5) CBS

Jay: This is a very important playoff game here. I’ll take the Colts in a nail biter.

Jules: Why this is a 4:25 game beats the hell out of me. The good news for Dolphin fans is no more Osweiler, the bad news is they’re getting a rusty Tannehill back. I don’t see Miami’s defense stopping Luck (dammit).

8:20 GAME

Packers (4-5-1) vs Vikings (5-4-1) NBC

Jay: This is a de-facto playoff game and I’ll take Minnesota as I see them as a better team right now, but an “Aaron Game” would not shock me either.

Jules: At the beginning of the season, this would’ve seemed like a must-watch game, but now it’s, whatever. In fact, none of the games this week get me excited. Rodgers, outside of a few jaw-drop throws, has looked, eh and Minnesota got ripped off (no surprise) with their bank robbery from Cousins. If GB loses, add McCarthy to the fire list or at least bring in a better OC to call plays.

MONDAY 8:15 ESPN

Titans (5-5) vs Texans (7-3)

Jay: This is big for playoff positioning. You’ve got an owner who died on Friday, and you never know what that can do to a locker room. My guess is that BOB will be just fine here. His teams play tough no matter the circumstances and I have no reason to pick against them again today.

Jules: I don’t care. Jags season isn’t mathematically over, but I’m going to guess that by the time this game rolls around, it will be. Based on that only, I pick Bob McNair’s team. My grandmother died today, so I’m going with the weepy win.

NFL Week 11 Game Predictions: He Said/She Said

We've decided we should just throw pizza dough at the wall with a team's name and go with them.

We’ve decided we should just throw pizza dough at the wall with a team’s name and go with them. The results will make as much sense as what we witness each week. Not sure the last time we saw such a crazy and unpredictable season.

For what it’s worth, between each other, we chose the Seahawks, but we don’t do Thursday games because there’s enough lead time for the Sunday games.

1:00 GAMES

Steelers (6-2-1) vs Jaguars (3-6) CBS

Jay: This is getting easy honestly…I have no faith in anything Jacksonville and I’m beginning to think last year was the aberration and this is what this team is. Pittsburgh by 5.

Jules: There’s 0 reason to pick Jax – they’re on their sixth LT, the C went down and the defense looks as if it forgot how to play. Even so, this is all the marbles and this team has owned the steelers. I’m going to be there, so my good Ju-Ju will over rule their Smith-Schuster.

Texans (6-3) vs Redskins (6-3) CBS

Jay: Home team in a battle. 23-20 Skins (picked with no confidence)

Jules: Two 6-0 teams and yet, I can’t say this will be a good game. As a Jag fan, I hope Washington wins, but their team is so beat up, it’s tough to see a W. But, Texans will be missing a couple key pieces and that may save Smith, except it won’t.

Buccaneers (3-6) vs Giants (2-7) FOX

Jay: Tampa Bay has certainly seen enough to know that Jameis isn’t the answer (please spare me the “he needs time”…he’s a poor decision maker on and off the field and at that position, your ability has to be peak to be a successful quarterback that makes poor decisions, and he is not). Jameis belongs in bubble wrap for the rest of the season as his $20 million dollar 2019 option is only guaranteed for injury, meaning that Tampa can cut him at any point between now and March without any further financial obligation to him (provided he can pass a physical). Now to the game…Tampa has more talent. Tampa by 3 in a boring ugly game that I’m sorry most of New York and Florida will have to endure.

Jules: Everyone loves a Cindefella story, but it’s a fairy tale for a reason. I like Fitz, but the book is out on him, so picking the Giants by a point.

Titans (5-4) vs Colts (4-5) CBS

Jay: This is a de-facto playoff game right now…I’ll take Indy at home by 3.

Jules: Obviously, I want Indy to win. Tennessee defense is pretty good, Luck is better than Mariota, so what a coin flip. Luck hasn’t lost to the Titans, so going with them in a squeaker.

Panthers (6-3) vs Lions (3-6) FOX

Jay: The Panthers need to win games that they’re supposed to win as their division is too tough to give away games you should win. Newton does his part.

Jules: Newton is having a pretty good season in this system and Detroit is still finding its way.

Bengals (5-4) vs Ravens (4-5) CBS

Jay: I don’t know who the QB is going to be for Baltimore, but I do know that the Cincinnati defense is garbage, so I’ll take Baltimore here with zero confidence

Jules: We could see RGIII this game and that may not be be a bad thing, but it’s Baltimore’s defense that is the real story. I think they’ll pull out some old school smash mouth and win.

Cowboys (4-5) vs Falcons (4-5)

Jay: This is for your playoff hopes both of you…Falcons get it at home

Jules: yuck, who cares who wins? Dak is spastic and Atlanta doesn’t know how to play defense. I flipped to see a winner and the coin went under the sofa. Flip #2 had Cowboys (heads because Jerrah Jones is one). Hope the coin is wrong.

4:05 GAMES CBS

Broncos (3-6) vs Chargers (7-2)

Jay: Chargers. Next

Jules: Phillip Rivers struggles against Denver and more Bronco fans show up than Chargers it seems like; however, LAC is a better team because they have a better coach and QB.

Raiders (1-8) vs Cardinals (2-7)

Jay: Don’t care (just like 30 of the Raiders players). Arizona

Jules: This game is a: who drafts first, battle. Don’t care who wins and glad this crap won’t be on my TV. I love Larry, so picking them.

4:25 GAME NBC

Vikings (5-3-1) vs Bears (6-3)

Jay; This is the game you give up a first round pick for. I’m a biased Bears fan, but I do see some X’s and O’s issues coming for the Bears offense. I trust Diggs and Thielen just a little more. Vikings by 3.

Jules: Cousins is more consistent than Tribinsky, but Chicago seems to have better chemistry for lack of a better description. Vikings lack heart. They could win, anyway, but there’s something about Chicago this season that I like.

MONDAY ESPN 8:15

Chiefs (9-1) vs Rams (9-1)

Jay: I’m stoked for this game. Give me as much Pat Mahomes and Jared Goff as I can get please. Rams by 3 in a game that ends 37-34 or something like that.

Jules: Being billed as the battle of the SB. Both teams are missing pieces on defense, so could be a passing back and forth affair. Picking Rams because KC’s defense is ranked 31st, although with Kupp, agree it could be a 3 point game.

Hit or be Hit: 16 reasons why the Jags struggled.

Hit or be Hit: 16 reasons why the Jags struggled.

There’s been lots of angst among the fans about who to blame, who to fire, etc. but, sometimes it isn’t one thing, it’s a whole lot of things. However, it’s easy to look at this team with the same coaches from last season and almost the same defensive roster and think, what happened?

Some missteps could be seen, but oftentimes there’s not much you can do to fix them. I’ve listed the misstep or mistake or unforeseen circumstance that has lead us here.

16 reasons why the Jags struggled.

  1. Blake Bortles. For his team friendly deal, they really had no choice but to keep him because of the free agents and their price tags that were available. Do you see Case Keenum being an upgrade at the same price? They could’ve drafted a rookie, but that would’ve for sure sent them back. Look around, how are they doing? Granted, the Jags are 3-5, doing as poorly as the drafted teams; however, who saw that coming?
  2. If the defense gave up after the offense stumbled week 3, then that’s on coaching and the fact we keep seeing such a disconnect in the linebacking and secondary goes to coaching. But it also goes to losing Paul Posluszny. No, he didn’t play a lot, but he was a leader and when he was out there, the defense knew what they were doing.
  3. Myles Jack was moved inside to Poz’s spot and there hasn’t been the same production. We’re missing an edge guy. Leon Jacobs hasn’t filled that role, Telvin Smith, either. There’s a void at the LB position that’s affecting the entire defense. An unseen outcome?
  4. Losing Aaron Colvin hurt, too because that changed the DB dynamic, but that was a cap issue and one they thought DJ Hayden and Tyler Patmon could fill. Unseen? Maybe.
  5. Last season, Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue and Malik Jackson had sacks because of two reasons: the DB’s playing man, shutting down the WR’s/TE’s and a legit edge guy that made Olines change their assignments. The lines losing their gap integrity allowed those three to barrel through.
  6. An offense that kept them on the field too long, lead to injuries and apathy. This should have been seen once they realized they had no receiving stars. That’s a front office fail.
  7. Too much zone because of injuries. The defense has seen DJ Hayden miss weeks, Tre Herndon, AJ Bouye and Tyler Patmon and a time or two Jalen Ramsey was also on the injury report.
  8. Man takes far more energy than zone. Zone takes more communication and trust. Trust that comes from spending lots of time together as a unit, not having a hodgepodge. That’s the issue Jacksonville has in the back half – there has been no continuity which leads to good communication and trust. The most crucial elements needed to play zone.
  9. Tashaun Gibson and Barry Church have been silent, Gibson was injured weeks ago and while he’s not on the injury report, he could be dealing with a power zapping ailment. Church showed he’s no longer invested in the team after his London outing.
  10. Jacksonville’s claim to fame was how fast they played. Have you seen that this season? No, but that could go to the injuries. It’s easier to play man when you’ve got a 5th DB out there, not a linebacker in coverage.
  11. Right now, you’ve got each player kind of doing his own thing on each play, a combo of man/zone and it’s not working. That goes to coaching.
  12. As far as offense, beyond Bortles, they lost their star WR in Marquis Lee and then their number one running back and number one tight end. Not until Carlos Hyde was brought in were any of those holes filled. That’s on Doug Marrone or Dave caldwell or Tom Coughin. One them thought these three holes were ok. It wasn’t.
  13. When you’ve been through four left tackles and the remaining O-Lineman are the walking wounded, bad things happen to mediocre quarterbacks. Add no weapons and I think even good QB’s would fail. To me though, broken record here, the lack of tight ends was the worst fail of all. Against the Colts was the first time we saw just what has been missing.
  14. The Jags lost their power back, and three tight ends, but didn’t use Tommy Bohanon more. That’s on Nate Hackett. A run-first team without the run needs a FB. In addition, a team built for the run, put a passing game on Bortles and then gave him no weapons.
  15. With all that said, the D-Line has been the most disappointing. Sure, sacks are splashy, but stopping the run is crucial and they’ve been failing at it. If teams can run the ball, they don’t turn the ball over, they can win. Is Campbell dealing with an injury most of the season why? If so, what isn’t Taven Bryan playing more?
  16. One or more of those four should be doing something and they’re not. Name one player who week after week is a guy OC’s fear. Granted, with the backend not doing a great job, it’s tougher to get sacks, but maybe if they made bigger pushes, they’d force QB’s to dump the ball quicker, setting up mistakes.

How can this be fixed? The easy answer is, stay healthy. That’s what the team had going their way last season. Since that’s not feasible, it goes to coaching and players taking responsibility for playing their guts out.

Maybe that’s the real culprit. It’s been said the easiest way to not get hurt, is to not play, to not get hurt. Yes, that needs to be re-read. The pursuer is the one hitting instead of being hit, having more control. More control equals less punishment and injuries.

Right now, the players and coaches are getting punched in the mouth from being passive. It’s time this team got proactive, accepted what’s going on, get on the same page and go HIT SOMEBODY. It’s simple, but football is about HIT or BE HIT. Fix that and we could salvage this season.