• Blitz Picks 2015: Week Seventeen


    By the time these games are played on Sunday, we will be a couple days into the new year. While sadness will loom over January 4 (Black Monday), the next three months will have 31 NFL teams discussing how great the next season can be. Of course, things got going early with Philadelphia's release of Chip Kelly.

    IT COMES IN THREES

    1) Rank the following losses in order of least important to most important: Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Carolina, New England, Seattle and Cincinnati.

    BW: Not one to build suspense, I'll call it Green Bay, Seattle, Carolina, New England, Cincinnati, then Pittsburgh. The NFC playoffs have pretty much been set for a few weeks, down to the byes, making each of those losses seem to be less meaningful.

    1) Green Bay hasn't played well enough to earn a bye, let alone win their division over the past couple of months. They still have a home game to win the division, and if they lose they'd avoid Seattle and instead travel to Washington. Their loss was least significant, though really, the domination of Arizona only confirms that either way, Green Bay won't be making a Super Bowl run this year.

    2) Seattle knew they had little chance at the division, so I can't get too worked up over their loss either. At this point, is a trip to Washington really less scary for them than a trip to either Minnesota or Green Bay? They're clearly the best of those four teams right now.

    3) Carolina suffered the most significant loss in the NFC, but for now, that's mainly because of historical purposes, though cracking the door for Arizona to steal home field wasn't good either. They're still just as good of a team today as they were prior to that loss, and as long as they beat Tampa, will secure home field throughout which keeps them as the favorites.

    The AFC losses were all potentially more damaging, though New England was mostly bailed out on Monday night when Denver beat Cincinnati.

    4) The Pats have now lost to both the Broncos and Jets, and it's the Jets in particular that should enter a one-game showdown in Foxborough with a lot of confidence.

    5) The Bengals blew a big opportunity to secure their first bye since 1988. The extra week would have been huge if Andy Dalton has any chance at returning. Now, they're stuck playing an extra game, probably with A.J. McCarron at QB, and likely against the Jets or Steelers.

    6) All the Steelers had to do was beat two familiar teams with 7 combined wins to earn a playoff spot. Instead, they laid an egg at the worst possible time and need a win plus help from Buffalo next week. They've made their own bed.

    RG: I hate to say it, but I think I pretty much agree with the whole list. I think I can put the Carolina loss ahead of the New England loss, though.

    What happened to the Steelers was the most unforgivable thing that I can remember in a while. The entire season may come down to two three point losses to their main rival. The second loss last Sunday was terribad. They had to know that even a depleted Ravens team could get themselves up for one last game. It's the type of game that big name college team hate to have at the end of the season. From Okie State shaking things up a few years ago to many other similar games, a "worse" team always seems to play well against a rival.

    I also read that Mike Tomlin has lost 13 games to teams below .500 in the last four seasons. I get that the stat is skewed due to context, but it is hard to come up with a context where that type of thing is okay considering the the status of the team. When do the little whispers start about Tomlin? I know that Pittsburgh is a place where the whispers may never be heard, but I think the question is worth asking.

    BW: That is a stat that I had been trumpeting for the last two seasons prior to this one. In The Water Cooler, I mentioned specifically their 9 losses during that stretch to Tennessee (twice), Oakland (twice), Cleveland (twice), 5-win Minnesota, 4-win New York Jets, and 2-win Tampa Bay. It's a problem I thought was finally corrected. Tomlin himself said “we’re capable of beating anyone, but we’re also capable of losing to anyone.” Perhaps we can separate this year from the last three. The first Baltimore loss was with Vick under center, and only came because of an idiot kicker who refused to let the team know he was hurt leading into that game. But things have opened back up so that the trend can't be ignored. Eventually, that problem has to fall directly into the lap of the head coach. I'm not calling for his job by any means, but at some point the same old same old needs to stop.


    2) With a win next week, Minnesota can host a playoff game. Are you rooting for a true Snow Bowl in the first round as much as I am?

    BW: There is nothing at all not awesome about a snow bowl. With Green Bay or Minnesota guaranteed to host a game next weekend, the likelihood is decent that we could end up with a snow globe game, and that alone should be enough for the NFL to stick the NFC North champ vs. Seattle into a prime-time slot.

    The snow looks great on TV at all times, but it looks best when involving the Packers, Vikings, or Bears. With the Vikings moving into their new digs next year, affixed with a permanent roof, this is our last shot at a true Minnesota playoff game. The highlights of the old classics at Metropolitan Stadium are spectacular. There's something about that purple mixed with a backdrop of snow. The Vikings need to win on Sunday, bring back the old uniforms, and come to an agreement with NBC that the first quarter should be shown in black and white.


    RG: Yes. Man, I loved that Detroit Philly game where McCoy took off for a billion yards and was juking people in the snow. You don't think Adrian Peterson could give us a similar set highlights? You don't think that we can resurrect some NFL Films music that shows him on the way to giving the old school Vikings a division title?

    When healthy, the defense is turning into a modern version of Purple People Eaters. This is one instance where I would not mind if we had the Vikings host the Packers for two weeks in a row just so the chance of bad weather is greater. Normally, the only thing that bothers me about the schedule set-up is the possibility for Week 17 and Wild Card replays and home-and-homes. In this case, all complaints are null and void.

    I want a winter storm so loud and big that the whole stadium sounds like Gordon Lightfoot singing. I also sign off on the all-whites for Minnesota.

    3) What should be next for Chip Kelly?

    BW: I'll break a grammar rule or two and start by saying that I'm still not convinced that Chip Kelly can't be a good coach in the NFL. However, Kelly still clearly has a lot to learn, and has to be willing to make the proper adjustments. I don't think that you can succeed in the NFL by simply implementing a system that's predicated entirely on quantity of plays and not spend any time focusing or showing even a small amount of concern for the strengths and tendencies of the team you're playing against. That is the exact opposite approach of Bill Belichick, and it seems like he's had a pretty decent amount of sustained success over the past decade and a half.

    If a college position were to open up, it wouldn't take long for Kelly to find lasting success. His coaching and recruiting style lends perfectly to the college game, and while having Phil Knight at Oregon certainly helped to add juice to the position, there's no reason he wouldn't find success at a major program (there's that double-negative again).

    That doesn't appear to be what Kelly would like to do. He's made it clear that he'd like to find another job in the NFL. While it would probably be best for his long-term prospects to work as a coordinator for a year or two, I don't think anyone expects that he'd go that route. He could also benefit from a year as an analyst, but I also highly doubt that would happen. The most likely scenario has him landing as the Head Coach in Tennessee, and honestly, that's probably a good fit for both. His connection to Mariota is obvious, and a reunion would be great for both. Kelly could generate an enthusiasm in Tennessee that a guy like Whisenhunt lacked, and if he does land there, his first order of business should be to keep Dick LeBeau on board for at least a year. And I hope he's serious about only wanting to be a coach and allowing others to worry about the personnel. Mostly, he needs to learn that while running an uptempo offense is a good start, there needs to be some additional creativity, and and some focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent to give that system a real chance to work.

    RG: Well, the first thing that is obvious is that the transition back to college this year wouldn't be easy anyway. Many teams have filled positions or may be too far along in the process to reconsider their options. In Kelly's case, the money would also be a slight issue.

    However, that is probably all moot based on Kelly's comments. I also liked how Kelly clarified that he didn't want (or is willing to give up) any part of the personnel aspect of the job. It was pretty clear that he bit off a bit more than he could chew and learned some hard lessons. Of course, Philly may feel those lessons for another year or two, but it is hard to find a singular good move over the last year or so. I think the Evan Mathis issue was probably the most egregious.

    I also agree that Kelly will get another chance. There is too much good in the things he does. The high tempo and scheme is good. The jumps in style and technology when it came to work outs and player usage seemed like it was the proper track. Enough has been copied by others in the league to know that some of his methods were good. It's the NFL; imitation is highest compliment. It was mostly successful with very average to very bad quarterback play. The biggest mistake he made was the apparent thought that larger than life play-makers were not needed. I think he is a smart guy who is always willing to learn. I am willing to believe that the make-up of his next team is much different.

    Anyway, I only see two scenarios. He takes the obvious Titans connection, though I could see why he would be the type of guy to not do that. The other one is taking a year off and getting a new job next year.

    FANTASY MINUTE

    BW: Congrats to everyone who took home a fantasy championship this year. And if you have your championship coming up this week, good luck, but also make sure you work on fixing that issue and moving the championship to week 16 next year. Week 17 tends to be so random. In the FP Dynasty League, I was fortunate enough to take down a game Tubbs team to finish off the championship.

    I just wanted to chime in this week with a suggestion for a playoff league, in case you're interested in continuing your season. Once the playoffs are set, gather 8-12 people and try to set aside roughly an hour prior to Wild Card kickoff. You can use your regular league scoring settings, and draft a roster using the following criteria...

    1 QB (make it a team QB in case of injury)
    2 RB
    3 WR
    1 TE
    2 FLEX (RB/WR/TE)
    1 K (can also be a team position if you prefer)
    1 DST

    You draft 11 and all 11 start. No bench, no FA. Once a team loses, those players keep their total points, but are done and can't be replaced. The team with the most total points at the end of the playoffs wins.

    Fantrax.com allows you to set the league up for free (I don't believe ESPN or Yahoo offer this format). This will be the 4th year my home league has done it, and it's simple and great. Forces you to pair player strategy with your prognostication ability. Give it a shot, and if there's enough interest, perhaps we can get an FP Playoff league up and rolling using the dynasty league scoring settings.



    THE PICKS

    Sunday, Jan. 3
    Saints at Falcons, 1 p.m.- I am fairly certain that the more likely person to leave New Orleans is Sean Payton. It just seems as if the team does need a new start. Also, if Payton does go, I do not think Brees is going to follow him. Brees is the one who is tied to the city more even if most like to discuss these two men as a pair. I think Brees would be willing to let Payton go in order to finish his career in the city that he loves and is loved. Deep down, I also think that Payton doesn't want to spend the rest of his time with an aging quarterback. Julio Jones is just 28 yards away from being the sixth wide receiver to join the 1750 Club. PICK: (ATL 4-3)

    Jets at Bills, 1 p.m.- I am fairly certain that Rex Ryan would give up some high priority life things in order to stop the Jets from making the playoffs. Ryan has always proven to be a good defensive mind, so this season has been the most difficult to understand of his career. It's become even more maddening when Ryan is given a high performance from a rookie like Ronald Darby. That's the type of thing that normally would put a Rex Ryan defense over the top. Let's hope he figures it out. If not, there is no way he coaches the team in 2017. PICK: (BUF 4-3)

    Lions at Bears, 1 p.m.- I am fairly certain that the best thing the Bears did all season for themselves was not hiring Adam Gase. It was handling Alshon Jeffrey in such a way that they might have just kept his cost down enough to keep him and add another offensive weapon when Marty Bennett and Matt Forte leave in the off-season. All the injuries and the subsequent IR move this week may have just saved a million or two, but sometimes that is all it takes. I am also pretty sure that the Lions will continue their recent dominance over the Bears and that Adam Gase will not leave Chicago in the off-season. I do think he coaches a team in 2017 if he gets similar production from Jay Cutler in 2016. PICK: (DET 5-2)

    Ravens at Bengals, 1 p.m.- BW: You knew John Harbaugh was too proud of a coach to allow his team to fold. As expected, they played hard in upsetting the Steelers last week, and will take just as much pride in playing hard this week against the playoff-bound Bengals. Cincinnati needs a win and help from San Diego in order to earn a bye and avoid their Wild Card Round House of Horrors. PICK: (CIN 5-2)

    Steelers at Browns, 1 p.m.- BW: After spending most of the season as the team no one wants to see a healthy version of in the playoffs, the Steelers need a win and help from the Bills to even make it. Even a 'B' performance against Baltimore last week would have led to a 10 point win. Instead, a D- performance (I'm being kind) has put them in this spot. My New Year's wish for the Browns is that Manziel will toe the company line enough for them to find a coach in the offseason that will give him a real chance and pair him with a coordinator that can accentuate his strengths. PICK: (PIT 7-0)

    Redskins at Cowboys, 1 p.m.- I am fairly certain that it is going to be pretty funny and awkward if RGIII beats Kirk Cousins next year while he plays for the Eagles. I kind of liked that scenario for Philly no matter if Kelly was fired or not. They can find a guy to match to his talents. The best thing RGIII did all year was mostly shut up when shown the bench. That's enough for someone to take a chance on him. Yes, I doubt the Skins trade him to Philly, but a team does have to go with the best offer, no matter where from. After all, looking at the Philly defense, they probably need more than just a quarterback. Also, I am fairly certain that the Cowboys will take a chance on Johnny Manziel if he doesn't make it through the off-season in Cleveland. Why? I think Tony Romo has been injured enough in the same area that he may only have 25 or less starts left in his career. The area is also one of the few remaining vulnerable areas on a quarterback. PICK: (WAS 5-2)

    Jaguars at Texans, 1 p.m.- BW: In two games with the Texans (one start) Brandon Weeden has a 107.7 QB rating. Small sample for sure, but further proof that Bill O'Brien is the QB Whisperer. The Jags can't stop anyone defensively, but have a very bright future on offense. With 35 TDs, Blake Bortles is only one passing TD behind Tom Brady for the league lead. Can BOB coax a shootout win from Weeden? That's what it will probably take if the Texans want to take care of business on their own, and not rely on any of the other 8 scenarios that would also lock up a playoff berth.

    Titans at Colts, 1 p.m.- I am quite sure that both teams will have new coaches when they face again in 2016. I am not sure if the Colts will be the better team then, either. If Mariota and Luck were playing in this game, I'd be venturing whether or not the Titans has the advantage. The Colts protection had been awful enough that Matt Hasselbeck is begging not to play. I bet he doesn't even pay for a cell phone next year. This is the Most Likely to Finish 0-0 Game of the Week. PICK: (IND 5-2)

    Patriots at Dolphins, 1 p.m.- I am fairly certain that Tom Brady would be in the MVP discussion if the Cardinals and Panthers each had a loss or two more than they have. He job with a moribund group of rag-tags on offense might be the best of his career. Unfortunately, it's hard to put up the counting stats needed this day and age to warrant consideration over what Palmer and Newton have done. PICK: (NE 7-0)

    Eagles at Giants, 1 p.m.- I am sure that this is the first time in a while that a team won't win the week after their coach got fired. Yes, there probably has been a lot of celebrating from a number of individuals in the Philly locker room, but I just don't think the team is good enough on defense to stop anything, let alone a fired-up Odell Beckham. However, if Bad Eli pops up again and the pass rush is as good as it has been all year (the one strength of Philly), then it becomes possible. Also, I don't think Jason Pierre-Paul is in a Giants uniform next season. Someone will bring him in, but the hardest lesson from last summer will come this summer. PICK: (NYG 5-2)

    Buccaneers at Panthers, 4:25 p.m.- I think this season has been something to build on for the Bucs, but I also think they have such a long way to go to catch the Panthers that it may not matter. Plus, the Panthers get to try to run an offense with Funchess, Olsen and Benjamin in 2016. They also will have a little bit of money to play with as well. What will be interesting in Tampa Bay is how much money is put where or if the management of the team will decide that Lovie has scheme better. How long will it be until the questions come out about if Lovie is the right fit for a team that should be run by the offense. The Bucs will re-sign Doug Martin. PICK: (CAR 6-1)

    Raiders at Chiefs, 4:25 p.m.- Looking at the voting results, I am sure my pick below will have to contradict anything written here, but I am sure that the Raiders are on the right track no matter where they end up playing new year. However, I am fairly certain that the team going to Los Angeles currently plays in San Diego. While another team may join them some year, I think the Chargers will be the only team to leave immediately. The Rams may join them, but not without some legal wrangling over the next year or two. PICK: (KC 7-0)

    Chargers at Broncos, 4:25 p.m.- I am sure that I am done caring about whether or not athletes have used HGH in the past or present. I want better research and education instead of arguing. Why is Toradol okay when frequent use can be much worse for the body than HGH? Where do we draw the line on what is cheating when simple things like modern receiver's gloves are so high-tech? Why is it okay to broadcast private information without concrete evidence? Instead of asking hard questions, we seem to enjoy talking about the easy ones. That's fine, just don't rush to judgement on everything else. I don't care if Manning or his wife used HGH, I only care if they were able to make an informed decision when doing so. PICK: (DEN 5-2)

    Seahawks at Cardinals, 4:25 p.m.- I am fairly certain that I would have watched this much more closely had it mattered at all. What I am sure of is that the Seahawks line is bad enough that any match-up against a front four that can pressure without the aid of the blitz will lead to long days for the team. That doesn't leave too many good match-ups for them in the NFC playoffs. Wilson's mobility will always make things a little confusing when evaluating an offensive line, but the team has been vulnerable to almost any defensive configuration. I also think that the MVP race between Carson Palmer and Cam Newton will be a closer vote than one may think right now. It seems as if most have jumped on the Newton bandwagon, but don't discount just how much Palmer and Arians are liked around the league. PICK: (ARZ 5-2)

    Rams at 49ers, 4:25 p.m.- BW: Will St. Louis throw a parade for Jeff Fisher when he finally completes the elusive 8-8 season they've been striving to achieve since he arrived in 2012? PICK: (STL 6-1)

    Vikings at Packers, 8:30 p.m.- I know that we discussed all I want to discuss about this game in the questions above. We didn't get our usual snow for the holidays where I live, so can we at least get it on the television? PICK: (MIN 4-3)

    WRITER'S VETO: That Packers thing really didn't work last week. I guess that is what happens when you go with the 1/4 chance play. This week, I hate the "7-0" picks, but will remain stubborn in the final week. I'll say that the 10 game win streak for the Chiefs will be prevented by the Raiders even if I don't really believe in it. I just can's go with the Dolphins or a possibly Manziel-less Browns squad in a Steelers must-win.

    LW: 8-8
    TOTAL: 148-92 (61%)
    UNANIMOUS: 42-16 (72%)
    WRITER'S VETO: 3-8, 5 abstain

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Amy's Avatar
      I'd rather see the Jets again than see the Steelers. The Jets split with us, both times giving up 4th quarter leads.

      Sunday, we had no Danny or Julian, both starting Safeties were out, we lost our LT in the first, his backup in the 3rd, and Gronk turned a first half scoring drive into a Revis pick by not running the right route. And it went to OT.

      Yeah, give me a rematch in 3 or 4 weeks with Danny, Jules, Devon, and Chung back. With Dant'a Hightower rested up and back closer to 100 percent.

      Ben is either good or great. Fitzpatrick is either good or bad. I'll take the latter in a win or go home.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Let's. Go. Bills.