When most sportswriters chronicle a franchise’s turning point its usually attributed to the hiring of a coach or a number one draft pick QB who goes on to a Hall of Fame career. One where the culture of an organization completely shifts as the team has a pivotal player & focal point to build around. Enter Hardy Nickerson.
Most try to equate the turnaround with the drafting of Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks when the direction was set in motion several years before these two Hall of Famers were drafted in ’95.
Let’s take you back to the early 1990’s Tampa was a desolate outpost no one wanted to play for. It was a rudderless franchise that had just finished 1992 having set an NFL record with their 10th straight double digit loss season.
The culture was so demoralized just 8 years before 1st round draft pick Bo Jackson refused…
Last year we saw a transcendent performance at the quarterback position in Lamar Jackson. His 1,206 rushing yards was an NFL record while teaming with fellow 1,000 yard rusher in Mark Ingram. He threw for 36TDs as the Ravens did have defenses in a quandary over where the ball was. The read option was a weapon of epic proportions with Jackson’s ball handling & dazzling athleticism.
However the Titans exposed Jackson’s weakness completing passes outside of his tight ends and outside the hashmarks in the playoffs. They also played disciplined gap control defense and made sure not to commit forcing Jackson into indecision handing off and in his pass options. He has to improve on his outside touch.
2019 AFC North Predictions
Baltimore Ravens 13-3*
Pittsburgh Steelers 10-6**
Cleveland Browns 8-8
Cincinnati Bengals 4-12
In the Steel City Big Ben stabilizes an offense that sputtered with Mason Rudolph and “Duck” Hodges. Yet the defense drug the team to an 8-8 season as they emerged as a top ten defense (5th) and were solid against the pass (3rd) while leading the NFL with 54 sacks and 2nd in interceptions with 20.
TJ Watt and Bud Dupree combined for 26 sacks were the modern version of Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd. Their disruptive pocket presence along with FS Minkah Fitzpatrick makes this the NFL’s best in defense. They will benefit with continuity and an emerging Devin Bush at inside linebacker.
Roethlisberger will get the Steelers back to the playoffs however the team will come up short of Baltimore without a true running back. James Conner is a ball carrier that can get the yards a play is designed for but nothing more. JuJu Smith Shuster is still trying to show he is a #1 receiver and has a chance with Ben back at the helm. Ben can will this team to 3 more wins with a pedestrian set of skill players with this defense. Good enough for a wildcard.
Its put up or shut up time in Cleveland for Baker Mayfield as the team brought in Case Keenum who is a stop gap veteran much in the way Tennessee picked up Tannehill last season. There is simply too much talent for this team to be 22nd in offense.
Nick Chubb lead the NFL in rushing up until the final week of his sophomore season. He finished with 1,494 yards and 8 TDs and is the complete package. With former rushing champion Kareem Hunt backing him up they have insurance. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham are a solid set of receivers but they don’t seem to complement each other. They seem to be the same receiver however a good coordinator should able to get the ball to them. Can Mayfield improve with his 3rd offensive coordinator?
The division is Baltimore’s for the taking and with the drafting of Ohio St’s JK Dobbins he has a stronger skillset than an aging Mark Ingram. The Ravens should repeat last year’s performance with a 1-2 punch. They’ve added DE Calais Campbell to fortify their defense also. The question is can the Ravens make it to Super Bowl LV.
No coach in the 2019 season has earned the tip of the cap for their coaching performance more than Mike Tomlin. One interesting aspect was the respect earned once the season was underway with his former malcontent Antonio Brown. Believe it or not Brown deserves some of the credit.
Once AB’s antics tore at the fabric of the Oakland Raiders during the preseason, The Chancellor’s first thoughts were “What antics did Tomlin quell in the Steelers locker room over the last 5 years?”
We heard some of the rumblings and antics as his tenure was coming to an end there but nothing like his month long Oakland stay. Nor his few weeks in New England. Social media outbursts and squabbles with the collective front offices in less than 2 months. By October Brown was out of football.
Respect for Tomlin started to accrue then, even on the heels of public sentiment among many in Steeler nation who have called for his head. Even Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw chimed in late in 2016 on FS1’s Speak for Yourself:
ICYMI Last week Terry Bradshaw said Mike Tomlin is not a great coach. Did the Steelers' victory over the Ravens change his mind? pic.twitter.com/SagA5sS9qj
Keep in mind this comes before his 1-4 start this year after losing potential Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season. Ben was to be the stabilizing on field leader to aid a rebuilding team from a tumultuous 2018 season. All World RB LeVeon Bell sat out and the aforementioned Brown’s leaving the team. The Steelers were even 0-2 when Ben was lost…. so Tomlin led a team missing these three skilled players who had a combined 16 Pro Bowls between them without a dedicated succession in place.
While the Stillers sit at 8-5 and may not catch the AFC North leading Ravens, his team is 7-2 after a 1-3 start since their last loss to Baltimore. Tomlin has kept his team hitting hard and having belief they can win any game. He’s won all 8 games with Devlin “Duck” Hodges (3-0) and Mason Rudolph (5-3) as starting quarterbacks making their first starts.
The Steelers have lost another 3 games to injury to stand in receiver Ju Ju Shuster and 5 more for fill in running back James Conner. Yet they have plugged in low round draft picks at RB, QB, and WR and haven’t skipped a beat. He has had to take some risks like today’s fake punt in Arizona but he has turned back the clock here in the NFL’s 100th season to a tried and true approach… lean on your defense.
For all the talk of the Packers pass rush of “The Jones Bros” in Green Bay, TJ Watt (12.5 sacks) and Bud Dupree (9.5) have been more of a hurricane with 9 forced fumbles compared to the Packers duo with only 2. They only have 2 more sacks combined 23 to 21 yet influenced their team’s outcome more over the last 2 months.
One of the benefactors is midseason acquisition Minkah Fitzpatrick whose 5 interceptions and stellar play has solidified the back end of the defense. He has had an All Pro season and the voting should reflect it at the end of the year.
Ironically in a Facebook Steelers group when this team was 1-4 I joked how the Steelers saw this in 1976 when they had a defensive performance for the ages. Well Tomlin has taken his team back in time and has his team winning with brute force while infusing belief into a series of rookies on offense. This team will finish with an 11-5 record and no one will want any of this team as wildcard weekend approaches.
Next to Tom Flores taking the Oakland Raiders to the Super Bowl XV championship, Tomlin’s performance is one of the greatest single season coaching jobs in NFL history. To find a season remotely close to this you have to return to the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles when they lost Randall Cunningham in week 1 and fought to a 10-6 record. That season saw history’s last #1 defense against the run, #1 against the pass, and #1 overall… the trifecta while winning games with their 2nd, 3rd, & 4th string QBs.
Much like Tomlin has…
Will Pittsburgh win in a championship this year?? Time will tell but The Chancellor of Football has Mike Tomlin as Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year for 2019. In this historian’s eyes, Tomlin’s performance along with his Super Bowl XLIII season anoint him into the pantheon of great coaches no matter what Uncle Terry says.
America is suffering from Joe Buck and Troy Aikman announcing fatigue. Do they really have to ruin both Thursday Night and games on Sunday with these two?
Nothing is better than the break fans get when Joe Buck is off to announce the World Series and takes his non football sensibilities with him. He takes his hero worship with him and we get a week break from how great he thinks Tom Brady or Drew Brees are. Yet he talks down to and refers to the rank and file player with a disdain that grates people the wrong way.
It does with The Chancellor of Football and I know it does with a series of former players.
Joe Buck is the worst play by play announcer in NFL history and made it there due to nepotism. His father was legendary St Louis Cardinals announcer Jack Buck. Yet you can hear his elitist privlege ooze out of him as he drones on during a game. You can tell he’s never been in the fray playing sports or being in the heat of a battle to see both sides. He’s ultra conservative and shapes every narrative that way and it leads Aikman’s commentary down that path.
It has become so negative and off putting that Seattle Seahawk fans petitioned to have them removed from broadcasting their games. This was followed by Green Bay fans that became so popular Aikman addressed it in the Dallas Morning News.CBS Sports even ran a story covering it as Packer fans sought 15,000 signatures and wound up with a whopping 29,597. That is actual signatures of fans who believe Buck and Aikman were biased against their team.
I believe their bias doesnt stop there as Buck often shapes the nation’s narrative and can villify a player in the court of purlic opinion before millions.
Case and point this last Thursday Night when the brawl broke out between the Browns and Steelers with :05 left in the game. He reacted with utter disgust at Miles Garrett when he swung Mason Rudolph’s helmet striking him in the head. He completely villified Garrett while completely omitting Rudolph’s involvement starting the fight, trying to yank off Garrett’s helmet off first, and kicking Garrett in the unmentionables.
Not once did Buck even try to describe what happened from Garrett’s point as to why or how he overreacted. He turned Rudolph into some innocent man who was assaulted when clearly he was the aggressor even after his helmet had been taken off.
From that moment on the rest of the NFL Network commentary followed Buck’s suggestion of Garrett being thrown out the rest of the year. Finally from within the studio Willie McGinnest and James Jones restored sense there were two sides to this incident. Scott Hansen was adding to the narrative of Buck’s overreaction when he noticed how upset his studio mate Jones was and offered him the chance to express what he was feeling:
Those biases seemed to come out and crystalize down racial lines when it came from Buck’s point of view. Inside the studio this commentary touched off the firestorm that has become of this incident. Now it’s being talked about on every sports outlet as suspensions have come down now and ironically Garrett is suspended indefinitely while Rudolph is only subjected to an undisclosed fine. You can’t tell me Buck’s reaction and commentary didn’t help shape this from the very outset.
Listen to the round robin commentary from the Fox Sports commentary of Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson, Howie Long, Curt Menifee, and Michael Strahan who admits he hit a former teammate Scott Gragg with a helmet himself:
Amazing how once former players and not a preppy announcer talked about what they experienced and saw, all of their commentary was more understanding and empathetic to all parties involved. Or as Michael Strahan concluded his comment “…but if you haven’t been in that situation you don’t understand.” And that is what I’m saying about Joe Buck and his commentary in a nutshell which painted with a broad brush to the viewing audience that made Rudolph seem like an innocent victim and not a culpable antagonist.
Glad Jimmy Johnson addressed this…
To remove myself from Buck’s prejudices and biases during playoff games I’ll switch to Spanish audio. It would be great if Fox offered some of the Thursday Night games to other sets of announcers. How about a 2nd set of announcers for us to switch to that is more pro player in their commentary??
This isn’t new as Buck’s commentary was referenced against the great play by play commentary by the late Charlie Jones in a playoff retrospective on a 1989 playoff between Buffalo and Cleveland. This was one penned nearly 8 years ago. It’s time to quit the love affair with the preppy commentator following in his father’s footsteps. It’s like a cruel practical joke as we have to hear commentary from someone most of us would last choose to talk football with. He ruins games for several teams and has shaped opinion negatively on many players over the years.
Thank goodness for NFL redzone and CBS football coverage….
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:
Well we’re off and another NFL season is under way where we have to place predictions and previews into what Taylor Blitz Times crystal ball offers. For the most part the 2017 season has shaped up based upon watching players grow into their roles and there are a few draft picks that will make an impact.
As the season concluded last February, the world was treated to the 1st overtime in Super Bowl history. However it placed salve over an open wound as the Raiders had to enter the playoffs without Derek Carr, and the Titans losing their last 3 without Marcus Mariota. It gave a feeling of inevitability to the Steelers and Patriots meeting for the right to go to Super Bowl LI.
2017 AFC Predictions:
AFC East Champs: New England Patriots 12-4**
AFC West Champs: Oakland Raiders 12-4
AFC North Champs: Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5
AFC South Champs: Houston Texans 9-7
Widcards: Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens
AFC Champions: The Oakland Raiders
One of the biggest acquisitions this year was the signing of Marshawn Lynch to ignite the offense and bring toughness to the team. His punishing running style and spirit will merge with reigning TBT Offensive Player of the Year David Carr to carry the Raiders through the west and beyond. Last year the Raiders were 6-1 on the road with David Carr with 4th quarter comebacks in 4 of those games. Had Carr been healthy for the playoffs they could have won in New England.
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