NFL Week 5 Game Predictions

Proposed patch in memory of Al Davis by the Remember The AFL Group in honor of Al Davis' passing.

We are steamrolling into week 5 with a slate of pivotal games today. Now we told you to circle the week 5 Monday Night matchup between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears back in May, so loyal readers shouldn’t be surprised. So we had a bumpy first quarter to this football season predicting games. Week 1 we were 8-8, followed by 12-4, 12-4, and 11-5. So right now for the season Taylor Blitz Times is sitting with a nice 43-21 record. Unlike other groups, we don’t take the 5 easy games to pick and try to look good, call them all and see what you can come up with.

So without further adieu lets get into the games”:

Tennessee Titans @ Pittsburgh Steelers: With the 22nd ranked rushing defense having allowed 2, 100 yard rushers, this is a good time for the Titans to keep playing mistake free football an pulling off an upset. James Harrison is out with an orbital bone break. That’s not a good thing. Roethlisberger will keep the Steelers in it. If you look at the Steelers rushing totals, they’re not as good as years past. Titans

Cincinnati Bengals @ Jacksonville Jaguars:  The Bengals have been protecting Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski with the run and Cedric Benson has rewarded them as the 6th best rusher in football. The flip side of that equation is they now field the #1 defense in all of football. The Jaguars come in with the #2 rusher in Maurice Jones-Drew and the same formula of protecting a rookie quarterback in Blaine Gabbert. They do field a more middle of the road defense and for that reason we’re going Bengals.

Seattle Seahawks @ New York Giants: The Seattle group is foundering under Tavarres Jackson just as we thought and are a junior league NFL team for the forseeable future. If the Giants can’t get up for this team and blow them away in less than 3 quarters, it will say a lot to how far the Giants have slipped since Super Bowl XLII. Giants

Arizona Cardinals @ Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson talk to your offensive line. Here comes the 24th best defense in all of football. What most folks don’ t know is Beanie Wells is averging 5.4 yards per carry and has 5TDs so far. We think the Vikings front seven can slow him down. Vikings

Philadelphia Eagles @ Buffalo Bills: Could two teams arrive at this game so different from one another?? We asked at the beginning of the year if the Eagles were the second coming of the ’94 49ers or ’95 Dolphins?? Early returns are showing have them less than the Dolphins with a 1-3 record. The team isn’t playing with much confidence. The “Land of the Misfit Toys” Buffalo Bills are believing in themselves more and more. Even with last week’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals they led for much of the game before losing 23-20. It was a game they should have been on lookout for a letdown yet still played well….at home in Rich/Ralph Wilson Stadium??? They keep it going today BILLS!

Steve Smith has resurfaced as one of the best receivers in the NFL and is second in receiving yards.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers: This is going to be a fun game to watch….what is surprising is the Panthers aren’t really running the ball as much as you’d expect. Coming into this game, the Saints rank 2nd and the Panthers 3rd in offense and come in 14th and 15th respectively. Cam Newton is on pace for setting rookie passing records and the reawakening of Steve Smith is frightening. The Saints don’t have an answer for Smith…seriously that defense?? Panthers

Kansas City Chief @ Indianapolis Colts: “The I Cant Believe Its Not Butter Bowl” We have the Chiefs winning this one. The Colts played well for the Monday Night  audience to keep from being embarrassed on national television. Chiefs are better as a team. Chiefs

Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans: In memory of Al Davis, this team will play some hard rugged football. The Texans are out to show they belong with the AFC Heavyweights and Arian Foster will run for more yards than Darren McFadden today. Texans

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ San Francisco 49ers: The NFL is paying for the 10-6 Bucs of last year not making the playoffs. They are playing physical football with a chip on their shoulder. LaGarette Blount is running like a new model of Eddie George where your heart better be in it if you want to tackle him. Josh Freeman and company go in and burst the Niners bubble today. Bucs!

New York Jets @ New England Patriots: After giving up 34 in consecutive games, this is a bad place for the Jets who stole that first game with the Cowboys. At this point you can’t pick against Brady who has thrown for 1,553 yards, 13TDs and 5 interceptions. Wes Welker leads the NFL in receptions and receiving yards and with that much attention on him the Patriots have to find other receivers. Last January they didn’t. However with the Jets unable to run, they just give Tom Brady too many chances. Patriots

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons: Have to take Aaron Rodgers and the Packers

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos: Chargers roll to 4-1 start

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions: Lions kill the Bears Monday Night

NFL Picks Week 3:

The NFL has had a turbulent first two weeks. Teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, who were supposed to be an elite team, have slid off the map where the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions look like they want to end their decade long playoff drought. Are they for real?? Is Michael Vick going to play Monday Night? The NFL will answer those questions on the field of play which makes this game great. So lets take a look at a few of these matchups. The Buffalo Bills are 2-0 and have a showdown with the Patriots to see if they’re for real?? Perfect! You wouldn’t want it any other way.

What about the Chicago Bears who get to face their hated rival in the Green Bay Packers?? Last time they faced each other, the Packers danced off their field with the George S. Halas trophy. Do you think Bears fans forgot?? Soldier Field may get a little rowdy today when the Packers run onto the field today.

Man, how far will the Colts slide without Peyton Manning?? This is an easy answer…see the ’99 San Francisco 49ers when they lost Steve Young. They were 3-1 with him and went 1-11 without him. Peyton won’t come back and play meaningless football so if they lose a few more he’ll be shelved for the season and placed on IR. With that cap relief they can go sign a few players to help them win but if you’re a Colts fan, the era of football excellence is over.

So lets get into these games….

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Carolina Panthers: Seriously has there been a fervor over a rookie quarterback like this in modern NFL history?? Not that we can remember. Even in 1983 when Dan Marino came in and led the Dolphins to the playoffs, it was the late David Woodley who started the first 6 games. Here we are looking to see if Cam can go 3 for 3 to start his career with 400 yard passing games?? Goodness. Carolina gets their first win in front of a packed house.

Miami Dolphins @ Cleveland Browns: “Thank God” proclaim the defensive backfield of the Miami Dolphins who have been passed to death in these first two games. They are the reason the Dolphins are dead last in total defense in the NFL. Now we find out if the front seven can tackle or rather how long they will want to tackle taking on Peyton Hillis. The Browns are developing Colt McCoy slowly and want to pound the ground game at them. Like the Browns in this one, especially after last week’s win in Indy. The Dolphins won’t want to tackle —-> (that guy) in the 4th quarter.

Denver Broncos @ Tennessee Titans: The Titans woke up a few people with last week’s win, yet we should have known Mike Munchak would put it on the boys after a lackluster performance against the lowly Jags. This week the “start Tebow” chant is wrested from the ears of beleaguered Bronco Coach John Fox. This could be music to his ears. He needs to lose this game and then insert Tebow in the next week or so. The Titans are better with Hasselbeck than advertised. He’s completing nearly 70% of his passes and pretty soon they will start taking advantage of things with Chris Johnson on teams. Taking the Titans at home.

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles: For some reason, we just can’t put our finger on what is wrong with the New York Giants, they are just schizophrenic. In reality they were just a more complete team than the Rams they beat last week without Stephen Jackson. The Giants want to be a diverse team and put the ball in Eli Manning’s hands but throwing at Asante Samuel and Namedi today would be the wrong recipe. The Giants will run it but won’t be patient enough They want revenge against the Eagles for knocking them out of last year’s playoffs but the Eagles are a more complete team. Even with a gimpy Vick….Eagles

San Francisco 49ers @Cincinnati Bengals: Alright a rematch of Super Bowl XXIII with Joe Monta….huh?? Alright we almost got carried away. The 49ers lost a spirited game to the Cowboys and are facing a mirror image in the Bengals in terms of trying to find out who they are. Each are 1-1 and have a new team personality. Niners under Coach Harbaugh and Bengals with Carson Palmer and Ocho gone. Still unsure if Andy Dalton is playing or not for Cincy, yet just not sold on Alex Smith on the road. Not at all. The Bengals are running the ball better and are home..that reason alone. Cedric Benson is running hard with over 180 yards in the first two games. Bengals

 

Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings: Vikings have been feeding the ball to Peterson but will Donovan McNabb start completing some passes to back the Lions front seven from becoming a front eight. With the way the Lions have played on both sides of the ball. Right now the Lions are feeling it and trying to see how good they can be. That much motivation with bonafide talent and the Lions keep rolling

New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills: This is the game of the week. Are the Bills for real? Can anyone score to keep up with Tom Brady?? Well if you have been reading we gave you a prelude when we told you that both Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brady have each thrown for 7TDs and only 1 interception. The NFL’s leading rushing team is Buffalo and the 31st defense in the NFL belongs to the Patriots. The Bills Fred Jackson is the NFL’s leading rusher after two weeks. Is Belichick a genius?? Yes but he doesn’t have Rodney Harrison or Tedi Bruschi in there to stop the run. In a heated game we have Buffalo

Houston Texans @ New Orleans Saints: The Texans have been a good developing team and are going to the playoffs this year but they will struggle in this one on the road. Call it growing pains but Drew Brees and the Saints offense wins this one.

New York Jets @ Oakland Raiders: This game is going to be close. Can Jason Campbell complete passes against the blitz. We know the Jets will focus on stopping Darren McFadden, the NFL’s second leading rusher. Will Campbell step up and complete passes in the face of the blitz like last week in Buffalo or revert to throwing off his back foot in previous years??  Tentative pick in the Jets

Have to speed through the rest of the games…so we’re going to fire this up

Baltimore Ravens @ St Louis Rams: Will the real Ravens stand up? We think they will but they’re secondary is going to be tested severly. Tentative pick in the Ravens

Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers: Now the Chargers play up and down to their competition but they can’t play that down. LOL Have to take the Chargers. Phillip Rivers and this team need this game as a growing experience and put the wood to a down division rival.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears: Alright this will be an interesting visit to Soldier Field. The Bears will be sick to their stomach and have lived with that loss. This is going to be a blood bath but we see the Packers winning a close game. Aaron Rodgers throw the ball away because Peppers will be coming!

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks: Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald will star in this one. Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Bucs: This is a reprise of the hardest hittting game of last year. It was a thing of beauty. It was 1960s hitting football with personal fouls, fights, moxie. The Falcons are on a short week and this is where the Bucs are going to gauge if they have stepped up into the elite after last week’s win in Minnesota. Going Bucs in this one…

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Indianapolis Colts: Its actually sad to watch this proud franchise founder without Peyton Manning at the helm. We have been critical of Manning getting a pass by the sporting press but never forget we’re fans of football and want to see him on the field. The Steelers just because there isn’t a contingency plan for a team to lose a Hall of Fame quarterback…there just isn’t. Steelers

Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo is still recovering from a punctured lung and broken rib. Yikes!! The Redskins are coming in with 7 sacks in two games. They will hit Romo and knock him out of this one. They don’t have a strong enough running attack to keep the Redskins off the field. Redskins

Those are our picks and we’re sticking to them…no matter how crazy they are. See ya’ next week folks!!

2011 San Diego Chargers Preview

The San Diego Chargers took their fans on a weird football odyssey last year. In 2010, NFL had some strange twists but do you realize that the Chargers finished #1 in offense AND defense yet finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs?? The last two times we at Taylor Blitz Times can remember that happening was in 1977 when the 12-2 Dallas Cowboys won it all, and the ’87 San Francisco 49ers who were 13-2 and should have won it.  When a team plays up and down to the level of their competition its suffering from a lack of leadership. Direct reflection of Norv Turner who should have been let go for having that much talent & not make the playoffs. Its evident that they played to the level of their competition and weren’t motivated to do away with the lesser teams.

How do you improve on having the best offense and defense in the NFL? How does a team with the second rated passer in Phillip Rivers sit at home in January? The Chargers were the 2nd highest scoring team and gave up the 10th fewest points in the NFL. These numbers and rankings just aren’t adding up.  There has to be a change in the culture of this football team for its psyche is a little off, yet where would you tinker as to not upset the production of the team? Norv Turner is definitely on the hot seat this year and throughout his head coaching career his leadership qualities have always been in question.  He’s shed some of that over the last few years with a trip to the ’07 AFC Championship Game but the team has had enigmatic season endings ever since. So those allegations are resurfacing.

Phillip Rivers handing off to rookie Ryan Matthews

Quarterback: Its sometimes strange in how media covers certain players or why fans don’t readily accept them. Phillip Rivers is on the flip side of the great trade for Eli Manning and is best known for his verbal skirmishes with Jay Cutler when he was a Denver Bronco. From time to time you see him in the face of a defender if he feels he was hit late and gets into it with opponents verbally. To us thats moxie, hutzpah, the type of fire from within that Dallas Cowboy fans would like to see from Tony Romo.  So why is it that Rivers public persona takes a hit for this side of his personality??

When they talk of the NFL’s best quarterbacks his name rarely comes up. Take a look at what he did last year; 357 of 541 for 4,710 yards and 30TDs with 13 int. Yikes folks those are Dan Fouts numbers!! He was the 2nd highest rated quarterback, led the NFL in passing yards and his touchdown total ranked 5th.  Do you realize he also led the NFL with 65 pass plays last year that gained over 20 yards??  He was named to his 3rd Pro Bowl, this time as a starter so maybe perceptions are starting to change. Entering his 8th season Rivers is in his prime and playing some great football.  He’s averaged nearly 31 touchdowns over the last three seasons and seems to be getting better with age.

The natural tendency is to gauge his success with that of his 2004 draft counterparts Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Now each of them have Super Bowl rings, so that has become the measuring stick for him to be graded by.  As a quarterback he has performed better than the both of his counterparts but without the hardware, he has to get his ring before he’s going to get his due.  May not be fair but perception is reality. He earned his courage badge forever when he limped one legged through the playoffs to the AFC Championship with a torn knee ligament in 2007.  It might be high time for Rivers to take on more of a leadership role yet what he has to have his team avoid falling behind and having to try and rally the Chargers in every game. He is a Super Bowl quality quarterback who might be just one year away from winning his.

Matthews in a 2010 pre season game against Chicago

Offensive Backfield: It took a year for everything to roll over but the Chargers learned that there is life after Ladainian Tomlinson.  After a year in which the Chargers found out the hard way that Darren Sproles was only a 3rd down back, they drafted Ryan Matthews from Fresno State. Last year he teamed with 243lb. butterball ex fullback Mike Tolbert, to form a formidable rushing attack. Tolbert led the team with 735 yards rushing with 11 TDs, while Matthews ran for 678 yards and 7 TDs despite missing 4 games. This year look for Matthews to go over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.  He runs with power yet has more wiggle than Tolbert and can turn vicious shots into glancing blows.  We expect him to take on the featured role and have Tolbert’s carries diminish in 2011.  Now do we expect Matthews to duplicate the 1400 yards and 18 touchdowns that he and Tolbert combined for?? He’s going to come close. We expect a 1,200 yard 13 TD season this year.

Out of the backfield on 3rd down is where Darren Sproles was best utilized. Last year he gathered in 59 receptions for 520 yards and 2TDs.  Matthews and Tolbert combined for 47 receptions and another 361 yards out of the backfield.  By the time we put in FB Jacob Hester, this team can run out of any formation with either power or speed and should try some Power-I formations to cut down on penalties and  take control of the line of scrimmage early in ball games. They have 3rd down speed to get after linebackers and cause the mismatches that Sproles can turn into first downs. This team is set at running back and Tolbert can take over when Matthews needs a rest or is injured.  Both are young with Matthews in his 2nd year and Tolbert entering his 4th.  They also drafted Jordan Todman out of UConn for insurance.  At running back this team is playoff caliber as a committee. They have the breakout year from Matthews that we’re expecting and they could be Super Bowl quality.

Receivers: When you stop to think that between Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates, there were a combined 17 games missed in 2010. Despite that the Chargers still finished with over 4,700 yards through the air?? Yikes! Even though he missed 6 games, Gates still made the Pro Bowl after a 50 catch season & scoring 10 TDs.  Once again his yards per reception average ranked up there with those of an outside receiver at 15.6.  However at 30, has he hit the wall when it comes to completing a full 16 game season? He has been durable in the past in not missing games but he has been on the injury report a bunch with turf toe and ankle sprains over the last 3 years. After 8 seasons as the main “go to guy”, the last 7 with Pro Bowl distinction, has the pounding started to take its toll on Gates?? Keep an eye on this.

Receiving by committee was what the Chargers went through without their best wideout in Vincent Jackson. Emerging from the pack was Malcolm Floyd, who snagged 37 catches for 717 yards and 6 TDs. With Jackson healthy, maybe the Chargers don’t need that other big time receiver as many pundits think they do.  However they took a flyer on hometown product Vincent Brown, a 5-11, 187 lbs. with a 3rd round pick. He is shiftier than the taller, more stiff receivers in Nanee and Floyd who are straight line route runners.  If Brown comes in and contributes this could reduce playing time for former Cowboy Patrick Crayton.  In 2011 Crayton was 4th on the team with 28 catches for 514 yards yet only produced 1 TD. The Chargers need just a little more explosion out of the slot position and Brown could be that guy.

Vincent Jackson’s return is important to the Chargers maintaining mismatches in the passing game. At 6’5, 241 lbs. Jackson is a huge receiver who can muscle most corners. Add to that a 6’5, Floyd and a 6’3 Legedu Naanee and you have a receiving corp that causes serious physical mismatches in speed against linebackers in the nickle or smaller DBs to cover them. Along with Gates this is a near Super Bowl caliber group.

Offensive Line: An individual source of issues can be seen with this offensive line. Although they were number one in total offense, some deficiencies show up here.  However we have to remember San Diego is a passing team or at least they’re perceived to be since they were always scrambling from behind last year. The Chargers were 15th in NFL rushing with 1,810 yards and their 18 TDs ranked 4th.  In 2010, the offensive line did have 12 missed starts mainly at LT and RG due to injury yet the offensive line at RT was manned all season by Jeromey Clary. They drafted Steve Schilling , a guard from Michigan to compete for the RG spot. However when this team ran the football to the strong side, they only produced 22 rushing first downs and on 3rd and shorts/goal line were only successful 45 times. These numbers ranked 30th and 24th respectively. That has to get better so this team can run out the clock and win more games.

Consider the fact that the Chargers dropped back 578 times last year, they weren’t that bad when it came to protection. Rivers was sacked 38 time last year and hit another 68 times. Some of this can be attributed to Rivers penchant for holding on to the ball a little too long. San Diego’s protection ranked 21st in sacks allowed yet only 13th in hits on the quarterback so the protection breakdowns are infrequent. Once they get the right side of the line fortified this group can make it up to average

Defensive Line: Where everyone has been talking about the defenses in Pittsburgh and Green Bay yet this was the number one defense in all of football. This line was the impetus for the Chargers being 4th in the NFL against the run, allowing opponents  only 3.7 yards per carry.  Add to that the very first pick was on DT/DE Corey Liuget from Illinois, whom “Bolts From The Blue” believes will replace Jacques Cesaire at LDE.http://www.boltsfromtheblue.com/2011/4/30/2145940/2011-nfl-draft-san-diego-chargers-selections That may have been true before the lockout but if Liuget starts slow he’ll at least provide some serious depth. Aside from a lack of consistency in his pass rushing (1.5 sacks) we would have a hard time replacing him unless he was clearly outplayed in the pre season.

RE Luis Castillo and NT Antonio Garay hold ground against the run as well as Keisel and Hampton in Pittsburgh. Garay also pitched in with 5.5 sacks which is hard to do facing double and triple teams on the point. On paper this is another above average unit the Chargers field. If they can produce a few more sacks lookout.

Charger linebackers getting fired up!!

Linebacker: Shaun Phillips again went to the Pro Bowl after a solid season. His 55 total tackles was low but his impact was felt elsewhere with his 11 sacks, 7 passes defensed and 1 interception. Almost 20 times forcing a turnover or a punt is tremendous from one defender. The surprise campaign was turned in by inside ‘backer Kevin Burnett formerly of Dallas. He may have been robbed of a Pro Bowl season after a 95 tackle, 6 sack, 2 interception performance. Both Burnett and Phillips returned an interception for a touchdown in 2010. Each are primed to duplicate those performances the first issue is to retain Burnett’s services since he’s a free agent.

As for Stephen Cooper at the other inside linebacker spot, he will be challenged by Jonas Mouton out of Michigan who was selected in the second round.  What is surprising is that there was actually someone on the Michigan football team that could tackle last year?? We didn’t see it but we didn’t watch every game either. Our apologies this was an insurance move that was necessary but we see it playing out that Cooper will start early and then be replaced if Mouton can pick up the defensive sets and calls.  Last year Cooper accounted for 44 tackles in 12 games with 1 sack and an interception. Since he will turn 32 this year his production doesn’t merit what his tenure says he should be paid under the current collective bargaining agreement.

This team is still reeling from the loss of Shawne Merriman. He was their spiritual leader as much as a vocal one and his replacement Antwan Applewhite is serviceable but not the playmaker Merriman was. Alright we’re a little harsh but he did record 46 tackles and 3 sacks in the 13 games he replaced Merriman. At times he could be fooled but you have to attribute that to a lack of experience and he should be less stiff in his play this year. At 26 years of age Applewhite should be in his prime, the question is will they call for him to make the plays they used to ask of Merriman?  Linebacker on this team is slightly above average with a chance to be really good if Mouton shows up ready to play and Applewhite improves with his play recognition.

Antoine Cason making a solid tackle

Secondary: How is this team going to play at the corner with the loss of Cromartie? Remember that question before last season? Quite well thank you. His replacement Antoine Cason had 67 tackles, 17 passes defensed and 4 interceptions along with a forced fumble in a solid all around performance. He outperformed his counterpart Quentin Jammer who had 45 tackles, 11 passes defensed with 2 interceptions.  Understand that this team was #1 against the pass and was the only NFL team to allow less than 3,000 yards passing for the season. These corners are beyond solid.

By the time we make it back to the safeties, Eric Weddle (FS) and Paul Oliver (SS) you have two guys are who are willing to tackle. Weddle was second on the team with 95 tackles.  On a team that produced 47 sacks and a lot of pressure you’d think that the safeties would have more interceptions than the 2 Weddle produced and 1 for Oliver. Yet being the last line of defense they will step up and hit you that much we do know. As a secondary this is a near Super Bowl caliber secondary based on the corners. This might be the best corner tandem in football, rivaling that of Revis and Cromartie in New York.

Overall: Something is missing from this football team and it starts at the top when it comes to motivation.  This team starts too many games slow and then come roaring back only to fall short. In losses last year to the Patriots, Raiders, Bengals, and Rams it was the same thing over and over. The Chargers either didn’t score in the first quarter or first half and then scored in a mad scramble at the end of the game. This team lacks urgency and reminds us of the situation in Tampa right before Gruden took over. We think Norv Turner has taken this team as far as he could take it and the next coach may put them in the Super Bowl.

There is just no way Turner can survive not making the playoffs again with this much talent on the roster. This team might want to take a page from the Buffalo Bills in 1989 to squash their slow starts.  Since they’re so proficient at the hurry up offense, start the game with it to put their opponents on their heels a bit. If this team can get a lead they’re super dangerous. In 8 of their 9 wins, this team scored over 30 points averaging 34 points per game.  This is a Super Bowl champion in waiting. 2012 may be their year the question is will Norv Turner still be there.  This is the best team in the AFC on paper but they will frustrate their fans again this year.

Kevin Greene Belongs In The Hall of Fame: War Damn Eagle (via Taylor Blitz Times)

Had to freshen this up with some video content

Kevin Greene Belongs In The Hall of Fame: War Damn Eagle There are players that come along and break the mold and there are those that totally destroy it.  Enter Kevin Greene, one of my personal favorite players and one of the reason I love football (all sports) in the first place.  He broke molds, stereotypes, changed perceptions as much as any player over the last 25 years.  What am I talking about? Do you realize that of all the outside linebackers, the player with the most sacks in a career is Kevi … Read More

via Taylor Blitz Times

What I Did With My NFL This Summer by Little Jeff Taylor

Dear Mrs. Goodell,

How did it come to this? Greed, pure and simple.  Now I’m not connected nor have a pipeline into the NFL offices, yet I will just look at it objectively from an 11 year old’s perspective. The owners have locked the players out which is completely different than the players going out on strike which happened in ’74, ’82, and ’87.  What, you don’t remember the strike that took place off season back in the 70s? Ahh…whatever. We can only speculate on what we think is going to happen.  The very first thing that comes to mind is the dishonesty in the owners not wanting to open their books when it came to fair negotiations. Players and owners are fighting over the final $1 billion out of the $9 billion that the league makes. The owners are claiming that they are losing money and its simply not true.  The act of super glueing the books closed in light of negotiations was testament of that.  Had they been losing money and their ledgers reflected this, would we be here??

Lets take a serious look at things: The NFL that Pete Rozelle and company structured had the leagues revenue sharing policies to where network money and the stadium gate be divided among the teams.  So if there was a game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings in Soldier Field in 1979, the gate was split 65/35 by the teams.  With the home team having the bigger slice of that pie and that went on for decades.  Then the teams discovered loopholes to screw each other and came up with luxury boxes with revenue they could keep to themselves.  Think back to that middle ring that went around Texas Stadium.  Now I know they weren’t the ones that initiated this move but it’s the easiest set of boxes for all of us to remember in the mind’s eye.   So add to that stadium naming rights and exclusive deals with Nike and Pepsi, initiated by Jerry Jones in 1995, and teams had other ways to raise non-shared revenues along with concessions.  So at last count for a home game a team keeps 65%  gate revenue, concessions, jersey sales, alcohol, and parking.  All this before the $10.678 million per game from television. *number from the 2009 season*

So for emphasis, and to show the lower case scenario, try this one on: I attended the Oakland Raiders v. Seattle Seahawks on Halloween last year.  The tickets were $96, parking was $33, and I lost count of the tequila shots in Raiderville yet I digress… This was in a 45 year old stadium with few luxury boxes.  So just to attend that game its $129 at least and thats before the $8 nachos along the mezzanine in the far endzone. Off the record the nachos were huge and had a ton of meat and cheese yet I can easily tell you that of the $280 I spent that day aside from the ticket, Oakland and not Seattle was keeping that money.  How much are things in JerryWorld in Dallas, Lucas Oil in Indianapolis, or the New Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey?? Tickets??  Losing money?? Really??

Having a tequila and chat with former Raider fullback Marv Hubbard

Furthermore there is a difference between the players not wanting to play the 18 game season and stay with a 16 game season.  The bulk of the players that have passed on recently with attention on head trauma.  The league is completely full of shit when it wants to legislate blows to the head on the field, then increase the number of games at the same time.  You can’t call it a money thing because the league’s television contracts wouldn’t change.  Furthermore there needs to be something done to insure former players.  While at that game I had the chance to sit and talk with former Oakland Raider Marv Hubbard about the former players plight.  The majority of players that have physical issues and the inability to receive insurance due to pre-existing conditions.  At what point does the league assist those in need and protect the present day player. Its disgraceful.

As for the lockout its different than the strikes that happened in the 1980s, namely 1987.  The owners are not in the same situation as they were in 1987.  Of the 28 teams only the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts had new stadiums.  Aside from the Bills (’73), Saints (’75), and Lions (’75) the rest of the league had 20 year old stadiums with nothing to pay off or were in leases. Now we have fourteen teams with stadiums less than 10 years old with another 7 within 4 years of that.  There are a bunch of teams that have bond payments and financing to pay off these new palaces.  Why do you think JerryWorld has hosted more boxing matches than the MGM Grand??  Can you say payments??  If this lockout were to go into the season those financial obligations wouldn’t go away.  If you were to calculate the cost of missing the new season at $5.5 billion, add up the attorney fees and trust me the networks would motion for rebates or may even take the league to court for not having a product.  It would take the league over 5 years to break even for a missed season.  Thats why they will play.  These are businesses with ownership groups and not singular owners that will get nervous as the lack of revenue draws near.  This time the owners will be as nervous as the players where back in 1987 they could outlast the players easily.

So this summer I didn’t worry about things Mrs. Goodell because I knew that they’d come to an agreement. Right now its posturing and nothing more.

1964 AFL Champion Buffalo Bills

To the casual football fan, the legacy of the Buffalo Bills is that of a four time Super Bowl participant that lost them consecutively, or OJ Simpson and what later became of his life with a double murder trial.  Yet a further look into the legacy of MY beloved Buffalo Bills and you’ll find out about Robert Kalsu: The only professional football player to give his life serving his country in the Vietnam War.  You will also find that in the AFL, the Buffalo Bills came within a game of becoming a THREE-PEAT champion…and one of the most powerful champions in history.

Well when you think of the AFL you think of wide open offenses and high scoring football games.  It was the wild west up until this defensive mountain rose up to stop the onslaught of points.  It happened in Buffalo. Joe Collier developed a 4-3 defense that took advantage of cocking defensive end Tom Day #88 in the gap between the center and guard.  This was later made famous by Joe Greene and the Pittsburgh Steelers a decade later….yet I digress

A  solid front four that stopped the run with big Tom Sestak #70 that could get after the quarterback.  This team believed in roughing up the quarterback with safety blitzes the first to do so, George Saimes was the AFL pioneer with this tactic. Furthermore this was the first team to employ the bump and run tactics at cornerback, not the Oakland Raiders, in Charley Warner and Butch Byrd.

Byrd was arguably the best cornerback in Bills history and maybe the best in AFL history. He was 6-1 215 lbs, or 1 inch shorter and same weight as Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham a decade later. He punished receivers at the line of scrimmage yet could swoop in and pick off quarterbacks, leading the league with 7 interceptions.  Along with Mike Stratton, this defense sent 3 to the Pro Bowl and MLB Harry Jacobs should have gone.

On offense, the late Jack Kemp was quarterback yet the fuel to this team was Cookie Gilchrist.  Cookie ran for 948 yards and was the game closer when they needed to run the ball at the end of games.  He was the AFL version of Jim Brown with his power and speed.  Kemp had arrived a season before when he was placed on injured reserve by the San Diego Chargers.

Lamonica hands off to Cookie.

There was some technicality that kept him from returning to the San Diego Chargers and the Bills were off and running.  Gilchrist and Daryle Lamonica (yes Oakland “The Mad Bomber”) each ran for 6 TDs in the regular season while Elbert “Wheels” Dubenion was the deep threat catching passes for 1,139 yards and 10TDs. Jack Kemp led a steady ball control offense and was a Pro Bowl performer in 1964 with Gilchrist, Dubenion, and TE Ernie Warlick.  They went 12-2 in the regular season and the two games they lost were by a combined 9 points.  Going into the 1964 AFL Championship they would have to take on the defending Champion Chargers.  How strong were they??

Buffalo AFL Championship Trophies

If you take a look back to 1963, the Chargers nearly became the first team in pro football to have two 1,000 yard rushers in Paul Lowe (1,010 yds) and Keith Lincoln (826 yds).  They teamed with Hall of Fame WR Lance Alworth and ancient Tobin Rote, who was Jack Kemp’s backup, to roar to the AFL Title with a 51-10 pasting of the Boston Patriots. The widest margin of victory during the 10 years of the AFL for a championship game.  The following year the team transitioned into John Hadl as the starting QB and with a bullseye on their back returned to the ’64 championship game. Only this time they had to travel to Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium.

The Bills were the only team that could defense the Chargers of that era and did so to win the title 20-7.  In fact the most famous play in AFL history took place in this game when early on when Keith Lincoln was leveled by Linebacker Mike Stratton on a swing pass breaking several ribs.  The Chargers fighting spirit dissipated as they watched their star running back writhe in the mud in obvious pain.  A rubber match took place in ’65 out in San Diego and the Chargers didn’t come close to scoring in a 23-0 defeat. Buffalo was back to back AFL Champions.

Yet a look back at the 1964 Buffalo Bills and our fans would tell you “we could have beaten the Packers”.  However it was the Browns who won the NFL Title in 1964 with a great balanced team. Yes they had Jim Brown but “Lookie lookie, here comes Cookie!” We had the AFL’s version of Jim Brown in All Pro RB Cookie Gilchrist.

Lets take a look at the tale of the tape:

1964 Buffalo Bills: 400 pts for 242 against or a 158 point differential: All #1 AFL rankings

  • Jack Kemp 119 of 269 2,285 yds 13TDs 26 Ints (sucks teeth)
  • Cookie Gilchrist 230 car. 981 yds 6TDs
  • Defense held 3 teams to 10 pts or less, 50 sacks, 28 ints

1964 Cleveland Browns 415pts for 293 against or a 122 point differential: Which rank 2nd & 5th, over in the NFL

  • Frank Ryan 174 of 344 for 2,404 yds 25TDs 19 Ints
  • Jim Brown 280 car. 1,446 yards 7TDs
  • Defense held 2 teams to 10 pts or less, 28 sacks, 19 Ints

Yes I’m biased and the Bills would rope them into a defensive struggle like they did the high flying Chargers in the AFL Title game and win by a similar score.

Coach Lou Saban, Pete Gogolak, and Jack Kemp

Alas this team doesn’t get its due yet many firsts started with this team.  Another issue that took place a year before was the fact that the Oakland Raiders had run out of money and were on the verge of folding.  Knowing the league couldn’t operate with only 7 teams, it was Ralph Wilson that stepped in lending the Raiders $425,000 for a stake in the team.  Which is illegal but it had to be done to save the league.

Each team lives on in the present NFL for having done so. Another full circle situation with Lou Saban’s defense is defensive co-ordinator Joe Collier who built the AFL’s first superior 4-3 defense.  He would move on to become the Denver Broncos defensive co-ordinator in the post merger NFL and was the second team to make it to the Super Bowl playing the 3-4 defense in Super Bowl XII.  Take a wild guess as to who was his assistant at that time he taught the 3-4 defense to?? Bill Belichick who would take it with him and Bill Parcells to New York and the Giants and Lawrence Taylor with Harry Carson was born.

Another notable is longtime NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer was a linebacker on this team. Then you have Pete Gogolak who was the first soccer style kicker.  How important was he? It was the New York Giants signing him to a contract with the rival NFL that touched off the bidding war that forced the AFL / NFL merger.  Which goes to show that the legacy of the 1964 Buffalo Bills is a lasting one and they were one of the best teams in AFL history.

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