The NFL’s Best Team is in L.A. But It Isn’t The Rams

As the games in the NFL are starting to heat up many teams are starting to gain notice that weren’t the early favorites. Now of course you look around and the 8-1 Kansas City Chiefs playing the 8-1 Rams jump out at you. The only team that has played both actually has the longest winning streak in the AFC at 6 straight… and that is the Chargers.

Gordon has been the most electrifying back in the AFC.

Keep in mind we haven’t seen the Chargers at full potential yet as DE Joey Bosa hasn’t hit the field in 2018. Without him the Chargers are still 8th in sacks (26) with 5 1/2 by Melvin Engram III and a respectable 14th overall. Yet the loss of ILB Denzel Perryman, lost to IR this week, could come back to haunt.

On offense Phillip Rivers is enjoying an MVP level season completing 67.2% of his passes for 2,459 yards and 21 TDs. The fact he has matured and has only 4 interceptions shows he has turned the corner. He isn’t having the late game meltdowns as he had earlier in his career or mind numbing interceptions to derail the Chargers when they play inferior competition. His career has been plagued by that.

In all actuality he is playing for his legacy. This is his 15th season and he is in no man’s land with history connecting him to Drew Brees (NFL’s leading passer) and fellow draft alums Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger. These men have 5 Super Bowl championships and 9 conference championship appearances between them. All this before bringing up Tom Brady who won 3 more titles during his era and defeating him in the only AFC Championship he appeared in back in 2007.

Even now he sees the future in a young Patrick Mahomes and what he is doing with the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs. What will history say about Rivers once his playing days are over?? He is stuck in this twilight and needs a Super Bowl championship to escape this purgatory.

Aiding him in the NFL’s 8th ranked offense is the tremendous play of 4th year back Melvin Gordon. Not only is he on pace for a 1,300 yard season on the ground (672 yards rushing/361 yards receiving) he has 11 combined touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who’s mother wouldn’t wear his jersey when he didn’t score as a rookie. He now has 35 in 2 1/2 seasons. Yet all he hears about is the Chiefs Kareem Hunt, who led the league in rushing last year, and fellow L.A. running back Todd Gurley.

This forgotten team out in Los Angeles is dangerous and has no obvious weaknesses. The one thing they could work on is getting more turnovers.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room… the chip on the shoulder of every one of these LA Chargers. Not only are they vagabonds in LA, ushered away and playing in a soccer stadium in Carson, but they’re complete afterthoughts nationally. They have to drive by billboards touting the Rams and the press has all but anointed them Super Bowl champions. Even in their own division the Chiefs are running away with the AFC West… if you listen to pundits.

Yet when it comes to championship competition like the NFL playoffs, keep your eye on the team that feels they have something to prove. The Chargers are 6-2 with their only losses coming to the Chiefs and Rams. They have a rubber match with Kansas City in 5 weeks where AFC home field advantage could be at stake.

The Rams?? Well… keep in mind the Chargers are to be tennants in their stadium being built in Hollywood Park. It’s been more than difficult for this team to gain traction in Los Angeles where they’re not wanted. What better way for Coach Anthony Lynn’s bunch to get back at all that ails them then to go to Atlanta and pound LA’s favorite team in Super Bowl LIII?? You know… that team that abandoned L.A. back in 1980 for the friendly confines of Anaheim.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves here but talk about some juicy plot-lines… and do not sleep on these Chargers.

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Return of The Over The Hill Gang

One of the most interesting 1st place teams during this opening stanza of the 2018 season is the Washington Redskins. In the Nation’s Capital this team has foraged out to a 4-2 record and first place in the NFC East.  On Sunday they knocked off Dallas 20-17 one week after the upset of the Carolina Panthers 23-17 as CB Josh Norman gained a measure of revenge against his former team and nemesis Cam Newton.

You’ll remember these two were teammates on the 2015 NFC Champions that went 15-1 before losing to Denver in Super Bowl L. That season began with a heated fight between Norman and Newton in the preseason. Now everyone said the right things after it was over however you could tell from some of the taunting and talking on field Sunday, time hasn’t healed all wounds.

The spirit Norman played with in an emotional 23-17 victory where he picked Newton off once and forced another fumble, helped thwart the favored Panthers. Cam Newton’s bunch believes they are back among the league’s elite. A perch they haven’t sat since Norman took his talents to DC after signing a 5 year $75 million deal.

Peterson is one of history’s finest runners and ran for 99 yards Sunday v Dallas.

Now off the win over Dallas this team is gaining notice nationally as they have thoroughly outperformed what prognosticators, including yours truly, thought at the outset of this season.

Yet look around this roster. Its not necessarily the group George Allen put together in the early 1970’s but this team has retreads off the scrapheap leading the charge.

Peterson is running as though it’s 2008.

Adrian Peterson (438 yds / 3TDs), who was signed after losing 2 RBs to injured reserve and he runs as though he has found the fountain of youth. Good for 9th in rushing although he was signed in week 3. At 33 he’s averaging 109 yards per game. Not bad after a lackluster season in Arizona after being released by the Saints.

What about 34 year old QB Alex Smith?? Twice shown the door in Kansas City and San Francisco, has been the safe/cautious QB (1,373 yards 7 TDs v 2 ints) that may get you in trouble in the playoffs, however he never leaves the NFL’s 5th best defense with a short field to defend.

Do you realize Alex Smith has ridden this formula to the NFL playoffs 6 of the last 7 years??

Along with Pro Bowl TE Jordan Reed he has 34 year old former 49er Vernon Davis to make a clutch catch when needed. Remember it was Smith to Davis, The Catch III, with :09 to go to beat New Orleans 36-32 in the playoffs to advance to the NFC Championship Game.  Although he isn’t as explosive as he was then, he’s able to take over for 4 or 5 games should Reed get injured. However if Reed can stay healthy its hard to focus and account for a 2nd TE on a ‘backer in pass coverage from a run heavy offensive set of 2 TEs.

This team is coming downhill and gain a measure of physicality on their opponents behind Peterson running the football. It fires up and gets the Offensive Line in a nasty mood and does so to their top 5 defense. They held the big bad Dallas front 5 and Ezekiel Elliott to 33 yards on 15 carries after holding Christian McCaffrey to 20 yards on 8 carries in subsequent weeks.

Scheduling brings the Giants (18th in Defense), Falcons (30th), Bucs (29th), Texans (9th), before a rubber match with the improving Cowboys. It’s plausible this team could be 7-2 or 8-3 going into this encounter.

In 6 weeks, this team takes on the reeling World Champion Eagles with supremacy of the division at stake. If this team can continue to lay physical dominance over their opponents and Peterson keeps running like a man possessed, they could wrap up the division right after Thanksgiving. He is already the runaway winner of “Comback Player of The Year” as he is on pace to rush for more than 1,400 yards despite missing the first 2 games.

Aside from injuries it is hard to derail a veteran laden team playing with something to prove. When it’s fueled by a series of veterans playing with something to prove, the sky is the limit.

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New Roughing The Passer Emphasis is Ruining The Game

Roughing the quarterback where you cant land on them is going to lead to really hard hits on the quarterback. Defenders are going to speed into the collision so the hit knocks them down instead. This will lead to plays that cause concussions not lessen them.

Matthews flagged again under the new bogus “roughing the passer” emphasis.

This isn’t about fantasy football… this about the game of football. Defense, hitting, and tackling are the essence of the game. What is ironic is they keep flagging Clay Matthews for the take down tactics that Anthony Barr injured Aaron Rodgers with last year when he got hurt. The NFL in a knee jerk reaction made a stupid rule change and doesn’t want to admit they were wrong.

Every former NFL player is talking about how idiotic the rule is and only those who haven’t played the game could come up with something so impossible to do.

The act of a tackle that has been taught for nearly 100 years is a simple one. Make contact with your shoulder with your torso lowered into the offensive player. Your head is to be in front to impede the ball carrier or quarterback’s progress. Then take them down with your weight on the ball carrier. It doesn’t matter what position the offensive player is deployed…take the man down with some force.

No one wants to see injuries however they are a part of the game. Its a tough sport and the corporate soft men at the top who never played have too much sway. They don’t understand the visceral side of the game that many of us love and why we played the sport and appreciate NFL players who took their craft further.

Make the game safer? Yes.

Make the game softer? No! Do you remember when former President Theodore Roosevelt saved football at the turn of the 20th century??

After a string of deaths during games in 1905, President Roosevelt met with elite coaches in a closed door meeting at The White House to save college football. It was there that Roosevelt revealed that collegiate men had become soft and a gladiator game like football was needed to keep men hardened. In fact he went on to reveal his “Rough Riders”, the first voluntary cavalry in the Spanish American War of 1898 were made up of football players.

Instead of the game being abolished new rules were made to make the game safer. Of those who met with President Roosevelt that day, Walter Camp went on to father the forward pass as an offensive tactic. The 10 yards needed to gain a first down was another rule change. So the game remained a rough tough  sport however fatalities were reduced.

The men who President Roosevelt summoned for that closed door meeting in the White House went on to found the NCAA. Pro Football was in its infancy and took it’s cues from college football at the time. It would be another 15 years before the NFL began play in 1920.

In the game of football either you want to hit or get hit, if not go play lacrosse or one of those sports Roosevelt was talking about that was making American men soft. If you want to watch a man fling a ball all over the field and not get hit go watch lacrosse. All these roughing the passer penalties are ruining the game and giving teams cheap first downs. It’s a sport first not a television show. So every week your favorite actor (QBs) won’t be in each episode because there are injuries in a game.

So we have to wait all year with this dumbass rule because they won’t pay players in the concussion settlement. They are trying to act as though its about player safety. Its about limiting potential legal litigants later when this group currently playing retires. It’s about protecting the shield. Then also to water down the product where quarterbacks don’t leave the field after being hit….however

If Don Majkowski doesn’t get hurt in 1992 we wouldn’t know who Brett Favre was…

If Trent Green didn’t get injured in 1999 we wouldn’t know who Kurt Warner was…

If Drew Bledsoe didn’t get hurt in 2001 we wouldn’t know who Tom Brady was…

Be careful what you wish for. It was injuries that led to each of these Hall of Fame quarterbacks to emerge in a sport and not a television show.

You cant have a gladiator game without gladiators.

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2018 NFC Predictions

Although we made it through week 1 of the NFL season we still have to get in our selections for the NFC. The majority of the offseason centered around the Los Angeles Rams amassing a defensive arsenal equal to what they deploy on offense. However we have seen this in the past not play out as it does on paper. Do the Rams have the mettle to make it to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII??

3d illustration of an NFL logo behind a transparent silver American football over a metallic silk background

Another team which looks to make a move are the San Francisco 49ers now that QB Jimmy Garopplo is fully entrenched. Can they build off the 5 straight wins to conclude the 2017 season?? We watched the Chicago Bears tilt the field with the trade for Khalil Mack and the terrorizing affect he had against Green Bay in week 1. Do you realize there are no Pro Bowl Tackles in that division?? What does that mean to Minnesota??

2018 Predictions:

NFC North: Minnesota Vikings 12-4*

NFC West: Los Angeles Rams 12-4

NFC South: Carolina Panthers 11-5

NFC East: New York Giants 10-6

Wildcard: Philadelphia Eagles 10-6

Wildcard: Atlanta Falcons 10-6

NFC Champion: New York Giants

This is a season starting with tremendous parity where many teams face unbelievable stretches in their schedule. One team that will have a stretch kill their season is Green Bay. They should finish 4-2 going into their bye week. Then they play 4 of 5 on the road against the Rams, Patriots, Seahawks, and rubber match to today’s game in Minnesota. Honestly ask yourself in which of these 4 games would they be favored?? An Aaron Rodgers 20 point come from behind miracle was needed just to make it to 1-0. Its realistic the Pack could be 5-6 going into the stretch run of the season.

Talib and the Rams defense is star studded.

As for the 49ers and Rams in the NFC West, Los Angeles is a legitimate threat with All World DT Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh (when he starts playing), and the best corner tandem in Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters fortifying that defense. However by week 6 the NFL will have an 18 game sample size to study Coach Sean McVay and QB Jared Goff dating back to last year. In week 4 they play Minnesota (#1 defense in 2017) and Denver (#3 defense in 2017) out in Mile High where they could stumble.

Jared Goff was 0-2 against Minnesota and the World Champion Eagles last year and those two played for the NFC Championship. Will this team grow in stature to leapfrog these two teams?? Or can a chemistry issue show up and derail a championship team on paper like the ’94 Miami Dolphins & ’00 Washington Redskins?? Will Jared Goff and Coach McVay make adjustments to offset defensive coordinators taking away what they do best?? Its a long time until January.

The 49ers will make a move next year. Teams will scheme Jimmy Garoppolo and expose him as a second tier quarterback. Keep your eye on what happened to him in Minnesota in week 1. They’re not ready yet and Jimmy G is reading his press clippings.

The Eagles have to navigate uncharted waters as a defending champion with a backup QB a Super Bowl hero. Not only are they going to get everyone’s best shot, Nick Foles isn’t playing well to begin the season. We still may not see QB Carson Wentz until we get out to week 6 or 7. This will short circuit their ability to establish an offensive rhythm before the end of the season. Their defense will keep them in every game, however there will be a few balls that will bounce other teams way this season.

In New York the Giants have a home run hitter in RB Saquon Barkley to team with WR Odell Beckham. This may be the NFC version of the Steelers LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown. However the signing of New England’s LT Nick Solder allowed Erick Flowers to be moved to RT where he should be more effective. Then you add massive rookie G Will Hernandez and this line is improved to a strength where they were a liability last year.

Now who do you take away first?? Do you commit to the run and leave Odell Beckham one on one in the back end?? If you have your defense focused on the pass where does that leave Barkley running the ball or catching out of the backfield?? Those same linebackers watching for Barkley out of the backfield will leave TE Evan Engram open. This weaponry will lead to Eli Manning’s rebirth. They will catch stride somewhere at the midpoint of the season as Head Coach Pat Shurmur has the chance to learn what they do best and their best element of attack.

By season’s end watch out as Eli could be heading to that 3rd championship we suggested a few years back. Experience and firepower might be too much for the leaders in the conference to hold off.

That is what the crystal ball of The Chancellor of Football shows.

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2018 AFC Predictions

It seems that we have been predicting the demise of the New England Patriots unsuccessfully for the last 7 years. This season the Patriots will miss this player or this player. Yet here we are again with the 2 time defending AFC Champions ready to battle off conference contenders who appeared to have closed the gap.

3d illustration of an NFL logo behind a transparent silver American football on top of a green football field

Yet here we are with a great number of marquee players returning from serious injury. How quickly can DeShaun Watson, Andrew Luck, and JJ Watt return to form?? Can the Steelers offense find a rhythm once they get LeVeon Bell to report to the team??

There is this team out in Los Angeles no one wants. Not only do they return with the NFL’s 4th ranked offense featuring Melvin Gordon (1,105 yds 8 TDs rushing / 58 rec. 476 yds 4 TDs) & Phillip Rivers (4,515 yds 28 TDs and only 10 ints) on a team that went 9-3 to finish the season.  It took the Chargers 4 weeks to get used to Coach Anthony Lynn’s staff and a new home as they started 0-4.

2018 AFC Predictions:

AFC Wast Champs: LA Chargers 12-4*

AFC East Champs: New England Patriots 11-5

AFC North Champs: Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6

AFC South Champs: Houston Texans 9-7

Wild Card: New York Jets 10-6

Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs 9-7

AFC Champions: LA Chargers

Yes the city of Los Angeles will have a team in Super Bowl LIII but not the team that everyone is anointing.

The Chargers best pass rush since the mid 80’s.

Keep in mind the Chargers defense was middle of the road ranked 15th and should improve as Joey Bosa returns from a foot injury. However a closer look shows this team gave up 319 yards per game in the last 8 games. Good enough to make the top ten. Fellow DE Melvin Engram III came on with 10.5 sacks to combine with Bosa’s 12.5 which anchored the NFL’s 3rd ranked defense against the pass. This team is ready to make a move.

A lot of pundits want to anoint Andrew Luck as back however The Chancellor sees nothing but rust, rust, rust. He hasn’t played football in over 600 days and Colts fans will wince everytime he hits the ground. Keep in mind he has 4 games against Sacksonville (55 sacks) and Tennessee (43 sacks) which finished in the top 5 in QB take downs. Oh…and 3 time NFL Defensive Player of the year JJ Watt also returns. Sorry Calvin Ladd the Colts will be losing a lot of games. Did you just see that Redzone interception??

Can Forunette stay healthy this season? Has a tendency to get nicked up.

The AFC South will have 3 even teams beating up on each other as no one will take command until the final week. The Titans and Jaguars play several close to the vest affairs. One bounce of the ball one way or the other spells win or loss in at least 6 of their games. Its going to come down to which QB can make plays beyond the X’s and O’s and DeShaun Watson edges Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles in that regard.

The Steelers and Patriots rule the AFC North and East respectively largely on Hall of Fame QBs. The underappreciated Ben Roethlisberger (4,251 yds 28TDs 14 ints) will have to keep the offense going in Bell’s absence. Pittsburgh is still the class of their division although this could be the last year on that perch. This situation with LeVeon Bell will linger all season. The back and forth between Pro Bowl C Maurkice Pouncey could prove disruptive to team chemistry once Bell joins the team.

This is how The Chancellor of Football’s crystal ball shapes up for 2018. It will be the L.A. Chargers traveling to Atlanta to play for this trophy:

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Armchair Coordinator – What To Do with Khalil Mack in Week 1 v. Green Bay

For those of you new to Taylor Blitz Times we usually offer a parallel to current events with an episode from a generation or so ago. When the Raiders traded Khalil Mack to Chicago The Chancellor of Football dubbed it “The dumbest trade of a defensive player in 30 years!” To what am I referring to and what significance does it have now?

Khalil Mack tilts the field in the NFC North

Well in 1981 the San Diego Chargers were at an impasse with Pro Bowl Defensive End Fred Dean. Yes over contract issues and Dean held out and Charger Owner Gene Klein decided to trade Dean to an NFC “have not” in the San Francisco 49ers/ At that point a team that had not made the playoffs in 9 years and had never appeared in a Super Bowl. It was an attempt to punish Dean that backfired badly.

Well right before the 5th week of the NFL season in 1981 the trade was consummated and Dean was a 49er. Without any chance to prepare Dallas OT Pat Donavan was across from a defensive terrorist. Dean wound up with 3 sacks and several hurries, one of which a Ronnie Lott interception in a 45-14 win. Not bad for a team that had lost 4 straight to Dallas including a 59-14 loss just 2 seasons before. An also ran whose last chance in a championship game had been thwarted by their bully had now turned the tables.

The field tilted because of a pass rusher added late their opponents weren’t prepared for. It worked for those ’81 49ers who went on to Super Bowl XVI and Charles Haley and the ’92 Cowboys who went on to Super Bowl XXVII. Now am I saying the Bears are off to win the Super Bowl?? Time will tell and I have seen this happen beyond these two examples.

All of a sudden the 2016 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year & NFL Defensive Player of the Year lands in an NFC North without a Pro Bowl Tackle and you don’t think it will be an issue??

Well since the 2010 NFC Championship Game when the Packers won 23-10 in Soldier Field, Chicago is 2-12 against “The Pack” and QB Jay Cutler was laughed out of the division. All of that humiliation has to fuel this journey into Soldier Field. They’re going to have to play a conservative game and it’s imperative they steal a few possessions in this game.

Not only do they have to find a way to get 1st round draft pick Roquan Smith on the field, they have to play their wildcard in Khalil Mack.

Mack after sacking Brady last year.

In this game its best to keep Mack from thinking and send him nearly every play after Aaron Rodgers. To ensure the Packers can’t slide the line to him, run combo blitzes from the strong side into the face of Rodgers.

One adjustment is to slide TE Jimmy Graham to chip Mack. If Graham was a good blocker he would still be in Seattle. Rodgers needs him downfield where he creates mismatches. If they keep him in it slows Green Bay’s passing game.

However in “Nickle” and “Dime” situations I would intermittently flip flop him as a pass rushing end and run those same combo blitzes. Why?? If you have watched Raider games he has rushed from both the strong and weak side.

In one of his greatest games, Mack’s Raiders gave the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers the loss that knocked them out of the playoffs. All plays from the strong side where the 2nd best Tackle is normally platooned. First a 6 yard interception for a TD to put the Raiders up 24-7. Then later when clinging to a 35-32 lead had this sack and forced fumble from the strong side to close the game out:

At some point the Bears have to get tired of being sick and tired. Its time to go attack with your new weapon. You have tilted the field and have a great pass rusher to possibly turn this game.

Many Packer fans will claim “Well Rodgers practices against Clay Matthews and this game is in Lambeau.” Yet you forget the 2015 Denver Broncos won Super Bowl L and in week 14 hosted the Oakland Raiders and guess what happened? Mack starred in a 15-12 loss when he garnered 5 sacks and kept Oakland close. A bravura performance that set him up for the accolades he received in 2016. First…with Taylor Blitz Times….then the national media who were late to the party.

Is Mack a Hall of Famer like Charles Haley and Fred Dean to whom he has been compared in this article? He is well on his way….and remember when it comes to 3-4 OLBs…. the original in Robert Brazile and Kevin Greene with the most sacks, The Chancellor has advocated and saw their inclusion into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when few thought they would.

Hall of Famer Fred Dean w/ The Chancellor in 2018.

No one gets to lay a greater claim. No one…so don’t even attempt it. However I did run into one Hall of Fame pass rusher last month in Canton.

Chicago… your mission …should you choose to accept it:

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