First an apology for not updating this blog in the last month. Life happens. As some of you already know my wife and I are expected another baby that's due in April. So much going on in the Christian household these days that I actually lost my way a bit. But the ship is tightening. I'm getting back into a better routine. Whether it's the podcasts or just writing. Things are normalizing in time for the holidays so it's time to bring back 'The Burning 7". This week will be a bit more NFL centric since we are approaching the end of the regular season and the storylines are becoming more and more compelling.
1. The Green Bay Packers are becoming dangerous again.
I admittedly wrote them off when they were 4-6. Their problems were bigger than some midseason adjustment that required some possible subtle housecleaning. Instead they have surged to four straight wins and now control their own destiny to winning the NFC North (thanks to the New York Giants of course).
Here's what should scare every playoff contender in the NFC. This in-season turnaround is eerily similar to what the Packers pulled off in 2010 en route to a Super Bowl title. Given the fact that there isn't a true dominant team in the conference the Packers are more than able to add their name to the hat of possible title contenders. They have Aaron Rodgers. That's more than enough.
2. I am slowly starting to trust the New York Giants.
This is hard for me to actually confess considering I am a die hard fan. Therefore I do tend to grade my team with a little more harsh and honesty. It's something not many people who both loves a team but works in the media can necessarily pull off. But here is what I am actually sold on. Their defense. Of course you will get the comparisons of 2007 but here is the difference my minds eye can see between '07 and the present day Big Blue Wrecking Crew. The 2016 model is solid across the board -- especially in the secondary. The 2007 secondary was nowhere as talented and consistent. Guys like Corey Webster you could not trust. Gibril Wilson was hit or miss. Aaron Ross was decent and young at the time.
What scares me about this team in 2016 is the one thing everyone assumed could be relied on. The Giants offense. Very inconsistent. Eli Manning has had a strange season -- leaning heavily on uber talented but bonafide headcase in Odell Beckham Jr. Their running game is next to last in the entire NFL.
That said -- if there was a time for team to start really peaking on all cylinders, now would be perfect as any.
3. The Dallas Cowboys are really good but they shouldn't scare anyone in the postseason.
Now before Cowboys fans start sending hate mail my way, let me make this clear to you all. The Dallas Cowboys are a very, VERY good football team. You have my respect. Jason Garrett should absolutely be getting coach of the year recognition for not only how he's handled the quarterback controversy between Dak Prescott and Tony Romo but also being able to do his job despite a very handsy owner in Jerry Jones. But last night's game showed you the ceiling the Dallas Cowboys might have actually reached. Let me explain.
Dak Prescott had the best game of his career thus far. 32-36, 280 yards. Ezekiel Elliot ran for career best 159 yards on 23 carries. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers turned the ball over 4 times. And yet it was Bucs who had the ball late in position to possibly win the game.
Again not a knock on Dallas. But come playoff time the margin of error WILL shrink. There are teams in the NFC much better than Tampa that present a formidable challenge. Can the Dallas Cowboys hold serve then? That question will eventually be answered in the weeks to come.
4. Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase should be getting some serious consideration for coach of the year.
Remember that one time the Miami Dolphins were 1-4 and facing uncertainty up and down their roster.
Seems so long ago.
Now -- it's the Fins who are not only 9-5 but are also in the drivers seat to grab one of the two Wildcard spots in the AFC playoffs. Adam Gase deserves most -- if not all of the credit. I spoke about this countless times on my podcast as early as August that Miami hired the right guy for the job. Even at 1-4, I defended the hire and was one of the few who had the balls to say publicly that owner Stephen Ross and the rest of the inept Dolphins front office needed to stay the course and be patient with Gase.
Couldn't have predicted an in-season turn around. Now I don't think Gase will even get serious consideration for Coach Of The Year unless Miami runs the table. But in this moment as I type these words, Adam Gase should be in the discussion.
5. Speaking of coaches, there will be alot of coaching turnover following the season.
So far we have two that have been given their walking papers. Jeff Fisher in Los Angeles and now Gus Bradley in Jacksonville.
Last week before the Rams announced the Fisher dismissal I had the over/under placed at five coaches. My assumption is there will be at least two to three other coaches who may be tossed away from their current pace of employment. Here are the coaches I believe will either be let go or may be under a microscope
Rex Ryan: In only two seasons he's already worn out his welcome. The bravado he once carried in New York for six seasons is already passe'. He's turned into a cariacrature. Here's the silly part though. He hasn't been that terrible either. But there is new ownership who aren't even committed to Rex and given that the fanbase are more than antsy to finally return to the playoff for the first time since 1999, Ryan just isn't what that city is looking for at this time.
Mike McCoy: The San Diego Chargers are probably the one team I feel awful for. They have been competitive in most of their games and in fact I am convinced they are actually one of the 12-14 best teams in the NFL right now despite their awful win-loss record.
A few weeks ago I did a short podcast confessing my sympathy I have for Philip Rivers. Now some of that sympathy should go to Mike McCoy. The problem is since they made the playoffs in 2013 the Chargers have regressed back to the celler of the AFC West. For many reasons yes but between a poor W/L record and the uncertainly of whether the Chargers will be leaving San Diego, if they decide to move to Los Angeles and start fresh, now would be the time.
OTHERS TO KEEP YOUR EYE ON
Todd Bowles: I am certain his job is safe for at least another season considering he took the Jets to 10-6 last year. The Jets front office however are not the most intelligent either so nothing is off the table.
Ron Rivera: Even though they played in the last Super Bowl, the relationship between Rivera and Cam Newton seems to be detoriating. Don't forget it was Rivera who benched Newton for a series a few weeks back for conduct detrimental to the team.
John Harbaugh: I do not think the Baltimore Ravens have the balls to fire Harbaugh this offseason regardless if they miss the playoffs. I do however think he would enter next season with a warm seat full of pressure.
Marvin Lewis: The Cincinnati Bengals are missing the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. That alone should give Lewis a mulligan. But there was some frustration from the fanbase even in the postseason berths that because Lewis had not won a single playoff game that maybe it was time to head in another direction. I dont see anything happening in Cincy but again worth watching anyway.
Bruce Arians: Not so much job performance as it with a health scare that he face a few weeks ago. Otherwise his job is more than safe.
Chuck Pagano: Indy is a strange team. If the Colts are actually to do the right thing -- which I believe should involve Andrew Luck speaking up to management to change course then they should clean house from the front office in Ryan Grigson right on down to even Coach Pagano.
6. The NBA's Eastern Conference continues to be a piling heap of dissapointment
For the past few seasons I always get sold into the idea that the East will get better. It will be more competitive. It may not challenge the Western Conference but it will serve as a more balanced conference than it has repsresented in recent years. Yet we are almost two months into the season and the travesty remains. Look at this shit.......
Cleveland and Toronto's start does not surprise me. But as you peruse through the rest of the "alleged contenders", it gets underwhelming. Boston was supposed to be great. The Knicks are whatever. The Pacers have dissapointed. The Bulls are whatever. Atlanta started great then......faded. I guess there's always next year, right?!?!
7. Does anyone actually care that John Legend will be headlining the NBA's 2017 Halftime Show because I don't.
Let's start here. John Legend is talented. Great singer. All that. I will not dispute that. But the guy does nothing for me. He bores me. Nothing against him -- again -- but I do tend to get agitated when I hear a song of his randomly. Whether it's in the car if my wife decides to throw on the radio (I don't listen to terrestierial radio for the record). To me personally he's a Luther Vandross knock off -- only I actually love Luther. Grew up with his music. Was a huge soundtrack of my life (Thanks mom).
So obviously I am not looking forward to yet another John Legend appearance at a event I hold so dear. The NBA All-Star weekend festivities. I'll grin and bear it but don't expect me to bask in the enjoyment.