Josh McDaniels Burns the Colts

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This was a fun experience for me when the news broke. I had just gotten done with a workout and I checked my phone and saw that Josh McDaniels, whom everybody assumed was going to be the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, had backed out of the agreement they’d had in place in order to return as offensive coordinator of the Patriots. I told my Colts-fan buddy that I’d been working out with “hey, McDaniels rejected the Colts” and he was incredulous and didn’t believe me. I showed him my phone and he went on a tirade that lasted through our post-workout dinner, which accumulated to about an hour of rage. Plus a large portion of my Twitter feed is Colts fans who were irate about the decision so that gave me even more pleasure, which was huge for me because the Patriots’ loss to the Eagles still stings a bit. But here’s a live look at how I’ll be arriving to classes tomorrow:

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That would be dancing on peoples’ graves. But that’s the asshole Pats fan in me. Here’s what we know about the McDaniels situation.

The Things We Do Know

From what I’ve gathered, Kraft reportedly “sweetened” McDaniels’ contract to entice him to return, which obviously worked. I wonder what the added stipulations must have been. From what I’m reading from Adam Schefter’s ESPN article about it, apparently the late push the Patriots made to retain him was very aggressive. It was also a better decision for McDaniels from a family perspective, as he doesn’t have to uproot them and move them out to Indianapolis as he’s had a few weeks to think over the decision since interviewing for the job during the Wild Card Round. Ultimately, he felt uncomfortable with moving his family out of New England. We also know that the Colts had already hired McDaniels’ assistants who are now under contract. Whether or not they can be fired right away is unknown to me, but if not, that puts the Colts in a REALLY bad position. It’s interesting to me, though, that the Colts hired the assistants McDaniels wanted before actually inking McDaniels to a deal. You would think they’d have their guy set in stone like all the other teams do before going out and hiring the people he wants.

What We Don’t Know

The biggest question for me is whether or not Andrew Luck’s health played a factor in backing out of the Colts job. Luck missed the entire 2017 season after having offseason shoulder surgery and according to Chris Mortensen, there are doctors who aren’t sure that Luck’s shoulder is totally healed and that he may need more surgery done on it. But if the Colts’ franchise quarterback is having shoulder issues that could derail his career, that seems to be a pretty legitimate reason to back out of the job. He’d be setting himself up for disaster, especially considering this will be his second gig. The first was such a failure that another failure would likely prevent him from ever getting a third chance. I also think it’s possible that working under Jim Irsay wasn’t ideal for McDaniels. Irsay’s history with drugs and alcohol have been well-documented and perhaps McDaniels wasn’t comfortable with a loose cannon like him being his boss when he’s been so used to a guy like Robert Kraft all this time. But the biggest thing that we don’t really know that intrigues me is what this means about Bill Belichick’s future in New England. McDaniels has stated before that the ideal situation for his next head coaching gig would be as Belichick’s successor with the Patriots. Is it possible that Belichick may be gone soon? His contract is up after 2018 but given his success with the Patriots, if wants to keep coaching he’s going to get an extension. So perhaps McDaniels may be aware that Belichick is considering calling it a career after next season and doesn’t want to burn the opportunity to replace him by taking the Colts job. There’s a lot to digest here.

So What Do the Colts Do Now?

Well there are a few options on the table here. Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is an option, as the Eagles’ defense has been terrific since he took over and he’s had moderate success as a head coach with the Lions in the past. I’ve also heard that Leslie Frazier could be a candidate. Frazier was on the Colts’ staff when they won Super Bowl XLI and also has head coaching experience with the Vikings. I’ve heard that several Colts fans want Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub. I really don’t know anything about the guy but the Chiefs’ special teams have been really good these last couple years, particularly in the return game. Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich could also be a potential candidate after how successful his RPO’s were this season as well as the development of both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles leading them to a Super Bowl win. There are plenty of other options out there so just because McDaniels is out of the picture doesn’t mean the Colts are royally screwed.

So we really don’t know for sure why McDaniels changed his mind about becoming the Colts’ head coach except that Kraft sweetened his contract and he wasn’t comfortable uprooting his family from New England. Other than that we can only guess until people with more intimate knowledge of the situation step forward. But as a Patriots’ fan, this was very welcome news, especially after some of the crap that’s been coming out since they lost the Super Bowl. From the Malcolm Butler saga to the fact that Rob Gronkowski’s not only considering retirement, but his house was broken into and he was robbed of safes and guns. But getting to gloat around this Indiana University campus is something I’ll never take for granted and you can bet I’m going to get myself punched in the face before the day is out. That’s going to do it for this blog, let me know what you think about McDaniels punking the Colts in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

Super Bowl LII Preview

So it’s all come down to this. Super Bowl Sunday. The Eagles and Patriots took very different routes to get to this point. The Eagles were running roughshod over the league before losing their potential MVP quarterback in Carson Wentz to an ACL tear. He gets replaced by Nick Foles, who had been inconsistent up until the NFC Championship game, where he absolutely lit up the NFL’s #1 defense in the Vikings. Meanwhile the Patriots got off to a rough start and everybody wondered if this was the beginning of the end of their dynasty. Then they remembered they were the Patriots and proceeded to collect win after win en route to another AFC Championship game appearance, where they had to overcome a 10-point 4th quarter deficit to defeat the upstart Jaguars. So lets do what I always do with championship games and go position-by-position to see which team has the advantage.

Quarterback

Patriots: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

Eagles: Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld

Advantage: Patriots

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Was there really ever any doubt? Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time whether he has protective bandages over his throwing hand or not. While Nick Foles played extremely well in the NFC Championship game, he’s too inconsistent for me to really give him a chance here. And as much as I love Nate Sudfeld, him being the previous Indiana quarterback, he can’t hold a candle to Brian Hoyer. Hoyer was the 49ers starting quarterback to start the season and how many guys can say they have a winning record as a starter for the reborn Browns? Just Hoyer. So this was a pretty easy choice here.

Runningback

Patriots: Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, Kenjon Barner

Advantage: Patriots

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While I do think that the Eagles runningbacks are better rushers, the Patriots runningbacks are far more dynamic and versatile. Ajayi and Blount are good running the football, but they have bricks for hands out of the backfield. They usually have Clement receiving the passes. Lewis, White, and Burkhead are all not only good rushers, but they’re good receiving out of the backfield as well, which is why they’re getting the nod over the Eagles backs.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Patriots: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister

Eagles: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton

Advantage: Patriots

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A healthy Julian Edelman would’ve made this an easy choice, but alas, we take what we get. This is probably one of the most balanced receiving groups the Patriots have had since the Moss-Welker days as they have a speedster who can take the top off (Cooks), possession receivers that can move the chains (Hogan and Amendola) and a huge red zone threat (Gronkowski). The Eagles have a similar group of guys (Agholor moving the chains, Smith the speedster, Jeffery the huge red zone threat), but I think the Patriots have utilized them most effectively this season.

Offensive Line

Patriots: Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, La’Adrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming

Eagles: Hal Vatai, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson

Advantage: Eagles

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Finally, the Eagles are on the board here and it’s thanks in large part to probably the best right side of an offensive line I think I’ve ever seen. You can make an argument for all three of Kelce, Brooks, and Johnson being the best at their respective spots on the offensive line in the entire NFL. While the Patriots’ O-line is solid, they don’t have nearly enough talent to contend with the Eagles. And imagine if Jason Peters were healthy on the left side. Vatai is the weakest link on either of these offensive lines, but his teammates are so good they make up for his shortcomings.

Defensive Line

Patriots: Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Adam Butler, Alan Branch, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Ricky Jean Francois, Eric Lee

Eagles: Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Beau Allen, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Vinny Curry

Advantage: Eagles

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There’s just too much talent on this Eagles defensive front. In fact, I think Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan, the starting DT’s, are going to be the most critical pieces if the Eagles hope to beat the Patriots. Brady does pretty well when there’s pressure coming from the tackles but he’s like a deer in the headlights when there’s pressure coming up the middle. Cox and Jernigan are one of the best DT duos in the NFL and they’re going to need to get lots of pressure to stifle Brady. For the Patriots, their defensive line is a patch-up job as they lost a lot of their guys to either free agency in the offseason or to injury and it’s resulted in them being possibly the weakest unit on this team.

Linebacker

Patriots: Kyle Van Noy, James Harrison, Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers, David Harris

Eagles: Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Dannell Ellerbe, Kamu Grugier-Hill

Advantage: Eagles

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This was probably the closest one to choose from and I debated calling this a tie. But I hate ties so I decided to go with the pure talent aspect and that’s where the Eagles won out. Both teams lost their star middle linebackers midway through the seasons (Dont’a Hightower for the Patriots, Jordan Hicks for the Eagles) and they’ve both been trying to get by with the pieces they have. While Van Noy is having a career year, the talent around him in Elandon Roberts and a 39 year-old James Harrison doesn’t quite stack up to what the Eagles have in Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham.

Secondary

Patriots: Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Johnson Bademosi, Brandon King, Jordan Richards

Eagles: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas, Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Rodney McLeod

Advantage: Patriots

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It was a tale of two halves of the season for the Patriots’ secondary and no better was it personified than in the play of Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore looked lost in Matt Patricia’s system his first few weeks, as he would blow coverage after coverage while the Patriots would get lit up by quarterbacks that probably shouldn’t be doing so. He suffered a concussion midway through the year and after he returned, he’s been his old Pro Bowl-caliber self, locking down any receiver that he’s matched up on. Eric Rowe has also been a bright spot in this secondary as well and it’s interesting to note that the Patriots acquired him from the Eagles in a trade a couple years ago after a poor showing to start his career in Philly. For the Eagles, their secondary is considered their weak spot as their cornerbacks in particular have been very inconsistent this season.

Specialists

Patriots: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden

Eagles: Jake Elliott, Donnie Jones, Nelson Agholor, Rick Lovato, Kenjon Barner

Advantage: Eagles

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I’d probably give this a tie to the kickers and punters, as both units for both teams have been very solid this season. The thing that puts the Eagles over the top is Kenjon Barner as their return man. While he isn’t Devin Hester by any means, Barner would definitely be an upgrade over Lewis and Amendola as returners.

Coaching

Patriots: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia

Eagles: Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, Jim Schwartz

Advantage: Patriots

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Got to go with the Patriots here for obvious reasons. While it can’t be overstated the job that Pederson and company have done with this Eagles team, it’s Bill Belichick for Christ’s sake. Plus, he’s got two head coaches serving as his coordinators in McDaniels and Patricia, who will be taking over the Colts and Lions respectively after this game ends.

Scoreboard: Patriots 5, Eagles 4

No need to even watch the game now, congratulations to the Patriots on their sixth Super Bowl victory. As a Pats fan, I pray I don’t regret that sentence. This will be my third championship prediction segment, first time around I picked the Dodgers to win the World Series (I was wrong) then I picked Alabama to win the CFP National Championship (I was right). So really there isn’t anything to suggest how this is going to go based on my picks. Let me know who you think is going to win the Super Bowl in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Divisional Round Picks: Day 1

The Wild Card Round was rough for my picks segments, as the only game I hit on was Jaguars-Bills (one of the worst playoff games I’ve ever had the privilege to miss most of due to being on a plane). But now the winners of those games face the teams that had a week to prepare for them but history has shown that it’s not always a guarantee the team with the extra week will win. So with that, let’s get to the picks.

Atlanta Falcons (10-6) vs Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

The Falcons dispatched an inexperienced Rams team in Los Angeles in their 26-13 victory. The Rams special teams unit made botch after botch, most of them revolving around Pharoh Cooper and the Falcons managed to take advantage. They take on an Eagles team that is actually quite similar statistically. The Eagles averaged exactly one more yard per game than the Falcons did offensively and defensively both teams sport top 10 defenses. The Eagles were the talk of the NFL for most of the year, getting out to a 10-1 start and finishing the year as the 1 seed in a stacked NFC at 13-3. Quarterback Carson Wentz was having an MVP-caliber year and may be the favorite had he not torn his ACL in the Eagles’ 43-35 win over the Rams in Week 14. Nick Foles has been the Eagles quarterback since then and he hasn’t been particularly great, just good enough to get the job done. The Eagles were 2-1 in his starts, the one loss being when he didn’t play a whole lot in Week 17 against the Cowboys and was sat to rest in favor of former Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who actually finished with the highest completion percentage amongst quarterbacks playing their first game at 83% (minimum 20 attempts). Foles’ line as starter was 47-87 for 439 yards with 5 TD’s and 2 INT’s in 3 starts, which isn’t awful overall, but it’s a far cry from what Carson Wentz was doing. The Eagles’ rushing attack was also quietly very good, as the stable of LeGarrette Blount, midseason acquisition Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood combined to be the 3rd best rushing attack in the NFL. They also got a potentially career-saving year out of Nelson Agholor at receiver and a breakout season from tight end Zach Ertz. Defensively, the Eagles thrived under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who may be in line for his second head coaching gig when all is said and done. They were 4th overall in scoring and total yards and were best in the NFL at stopping the run. However I think they’re going to run into some problems against the Falcons. They’re going to have to ask Nick Foles to keep up with the reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan and I just don’t think he’ll be able to do that. It’s not 2013 where that isn’t so ridiculous a thought (seriously, go back and look at Foles’ stats when he was the Eagles’ starter in 2013. He was fantastic). But despite how good the Eagles have been defensively overall, stopping the pass has been more of a weak point for them, as they’re only average at that (17th against the pass). Their corners will have a hard time stopping the trio of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel. Plus, the Falcons were a top-10 defense this season and have guys that can fly around the field and cause problems for the Philly offense. I’m actually going to pick the Falcons to advance to the NFC championship game for the second consecutive year. However had Carson Wentz been healthy, I think this might be a different story.

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Projected Score: Falcons 27 Eagles 20

Tennessee Titans (9-7) vs New England Patriots (13-3)

What a game between the Titans and Chiefs. I expected the Chiefs to win in a bloodbath, which it looked like they were well on their way to doing. However Travis Kelce suffering a concussion late in the first half plus a lack of touches for Kareem Hunt really hurt the Chiefs as the game went along and allowed the Titans to creep back into the game. It was 21-3 at halftime in favor of the Chiefs, then Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown pass to himself and momentum seemed to swing in the exact opposite direction. The Titans were able to pull out a 22-21 victory over the Chiefs and will take on the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The Patriots had a year that seemed akin to their 2014 run with a blend of 2015 in it. They got off to a slow 2-2 start to the point where everyone was questioning if this was the year the Patriots would finally fall off. But then the Patriots remembered they’re the Patriots and finished the year going 11-1 and seemingly fixing every problem they had in the first four games. Except there’s one little blemish for New England that makes there some resemblance to the 2015 team: injuries. It started with Julian Edelman tearing his ACL in a preseason game against the Lions and it hasn’t let up since. The list of Patriots on IR include Edelman, Dont’a Hightower, Marcus Cannon, Derek Rivers, Malcolm Mitchell, Vincent Valentine, Shea McClellin, Cyrus Jones, Nate Ebner, and Martellus Bennett. That’s a lot of key contributors. But the Patriots have had guys step up in big ways. Kyle Van Noy was able to adequately fill the void left by Hightower’s injury. The combination of La’Adrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming have adequately filled in for Cannon. The Patriots have continued to follow their “next man up” mantra and it has helped them finish near the top in the NFL in many major categories. They’re the #2 scoring offense, #1 in total yards, #2 in passing, #10 in rushing, and #5 in scoring defense despite being #29 in yards allowed. That’s the definition of a bend-but-don’t-break defense right there. One of the breakout stars for the Patriots has been Dion Lewis, who has reinvented himself from just a scat back that was used as a change of pace to an all-around back that isn’t afraid to run through defenders from time to time. In fact, Lewis led the NFL in rushing in the second half of the season to finish with 896 yards rushing on just 180 carries (5 yards per carry). I’m predicting in this game that Lewis will again be a big factor in a Patriots victory over the Titans to advance to their 7th straight AFC Championship game against either the Steelers or the Jaguars.

at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Projected Score: Patriots 30 Titans 17

That’s going to do it for my picks for day one of the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Let me know what you think about this slate of games in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.