The third week in February is always important for football fans. Later this week, the NFL Scouting Combine will kickoff as over 300 former college players will flock to Indianapolis for the most important job interviews of their lives. But football fans aren’t the only ones celebrating this week. Today, millions of Americans are at home relaxing and taking advantage of Presidents Day – the last federal holiday on the calendar until late May. When football and patriotism come together for this one winter week, what you get is a list of NFL Draft prospects with a presidential flavor. Continue reading
As part of my continued preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft, I’ve been posting a number of prospect profiles over at DraftBrowns.com. You can find the links to my first five prospect profiles right here. Here are the links to my latest profiles:
Last week I ventured down to Mobile, Alabama to watch some of the top college seniors practice in front of coaches and scout from all 32 NFL teams. The Senior Bowl is the most prestigious All Star Game of the draft season, and can be a great opportunity for prospects to put their names on the map with strong performances. Of course, it can also work the other way around if they turn in a couple of down practice sessions. Here’s a look at some of my observations from my time down there:
Last week I thought I had it all figured out. The Brady/Manning AFC Championship Game was a shoe-in and the Packers and Seahawks were destined to play a rematch of their Week Three replacement ref debacle. Of course the Denver defense had other ideas, like allowing a 70 touchdown pass from Joe Flacco with under a minute left in regulation. The end result was a Peyton Manning overtime interception and a Baltimore win. Later that evening, Colin Kaepernick posted video game stats in running circles around the Packers, and all of a sudden I was Oh for Two in the picks department. In Sunday’s early game, the Falcons – a team I haven’t truly believed in all year – jumped out to a 20 point lead, then spent much of the rest of the afternoon squandering it. It looked like Seattle may have pulled off the improbable comeback, but Pete Carroll reverse iced Matt Bryant, and gave the Falcons’ kicker a mulligan on the game winning field goal. Just like that, I was Oh for Three. Tom Brady and Company came through in the end, preserving a 1-3 Divisional Round for me. That brought me to 164-99-1 on the year. I need to win out to avoid a hundred loss season. Before the season I had the Patriots winning it all, so my AFC pick today shouldn’t come as a surprise. And if all goes well today, I’ll be picking the Pats again in two weeks…
San Francisco at Atlanta – 49ers (Don’t worry, be happy, Falcons fans. I’ve been screwing this up all year)
Baltimore at New England – Patriots
This past week I was in St. Petersburg, Florida covering practices for the East-West Shrine Game, an annual showcase for NFL Draft hopefuls. The Shrine Game typically produces around 40 or so draftees, and many other players go on to sign with NFL teams as undrafted free agents. Last year’s game helped propel Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins into the first round of the draft. To help everyone prepare for the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft, here are the links to my Shrine Game Preview and Practice Notes from last week:
This has set up rather nicely, hasn’t it. After last week’s Wild Card round (I went 2-2 on those picks and am now 163-96-1 on the year), the NFL is left with some great matchups this weekend. If they fall the right way, the talking heads will be left with enough obvious fodder to make our ears bleed.
Starting this afternoon in Denver, the Broncos are heavy favorites over the Ravens in what could be Ray Lewis’s last game. If the Ravens win, the Ray Lewis retirement tour continues another week. If they lose we might never get another opportunity to see his Elaine Benes-ish dance before a game ever again! But it’s so inspirational! I never understood how that cornball display could serve any purpose other than making people laugh, and maybe Ray has been performing it with his tongue in cheek for all these years. Highly doubtful for a football player, who while great at his job, has always seemed to take himself a little too seriously as a motivational speaker. But I digress.
The Ravens cannot win this game, just like the Texans cannot go into New England and beat the Patriots, and everybody knows why. Baltimore or Texas winning would ruin – RUIN – our chances of getting an entire week of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning for all of the “trip to the Super Bowl marbles” hype. Football fandom as we know it may cease to exist if that doesn’t happen. And – special bonus – we’ll get to continue to discuss how the Texans stumbled down the stretch and can’t get over the hump. This script writes itself.
The NFC side has it’s own set of story lines starting tonight when Green Bay visits San Francisco. The Packers lost at home to the Niners in the season opener and get their chance for payback. A Packers win will give them 11 wins in the last 13 ball games, and we can discuss how well they have played since starting the season 2-3. Right? No, that’s boring. We will instead be faced with week-long second-guessing of Jim Harbaugh’s decision to bench Alex Smith in favor of Colin Kaepernick. If the Niners lose this game, that’s the type of Monday Morning Quarterbacking that can last an entire offseason. ”Would the Niners have won if they started Alex Smith?” will be a topic on every ESPN shoutfest immediately and until the end of time. Or, at least until Tebow does something.
If the Packers win, then naturally Seattle has to win on the road Sunday in Atlanta. Not only can the “Matt Ryan can’t win big games” narrative continue, but we’d get to revisit one of the greatest overreactions of the regular season. What better NFC Championship could we dream up than the Seahawks and the Packers duking it out in a rematch of ReplacementRefBadCallGate – a game that was such a national travesty at the time that Steve Young was nearly brought to tears of frustration. That game caused worldwide rending of garments and gnashing of teeth as people DEMANDED that their hero Ed Hochuli ride in on his trusty steed and choke the evil replacement refs into submission. It has long been forgotten that replacement refs did not cause the apocalyptic results predicted by the great oracle, but Seattle and Green Bay can remind us all how tragedy was narrowly avoided as we watch the final play of their Week Three game on a continuous loop. If those teams face off next week I will set the over/under on times that play is show at 40 billion. And I will take the over.
So you see now how wonderfully this all could turn out? If the dominoes fall the right way it’s Manning vs. Brady on one side and Bad Call Steel Cage Rematch on the other. And all joking aside, those sound like they’d be pretty great games. On the other hand, we could be looking at Ravens vs. Texans and Falcons vs. Niners. Or something in between. Fans of those teams would be happy, but I’d have to imagine network TV and advertising execs collectively grimacing as they think of all the hype and cash that might have been.
Baltimore at Denver – Broncos
Green Bay at San Francisco – Packers
Seattle at Atlanta – Seahawks
Houston at New England – Patriots
For those of you who are interested, I wrote a lengthy “preview” of sorts on today’s Cincinnati at Houston Wild Card matchup for The Sports Headquarters. I mainly discussed how the Bengals have just ended a long depression by posting their second consecutive winning season for the first time in 30 years, and what needs to happen for them to end a 21 year skid without a single playoff win. You can find the entire article right here. Just want picks? I’ll do that here. I went 10-6 in the final week of the regular season and wrapped up the regular season with a 161-94-1. Four games this weekend as eight teams try to keep hope alive:
Cincinnati at Houston – Bengals
Minnesota at Green Bay – Packers
Indianapolis at Baltimore – Ravens
Seattle at Washington – Redskins