A New Record?

Look at the current title winners of the four major sports leagues and I think you might have a record for the four longest-suffering fanbases celebrating those titles. Last night the Chiefs won their first title in 50 years. Last fall the Nationals/Expos won their first title in their 50 years of existence. Last June the Raptors (24 years) and Blues (52 years) also won their first titles. Add it all up and you have 176 years of misery coming to an end. Could that be a record? 2016-17 came close thanks to the Cubs (108 years) and Eagles (57 years) but didn’t make it thanks to Golden State repeating and Pittsburgh winning another cup after seven years of waiting. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another year that came close.

Looking at current droughts, we could shatter the 176 years with a quartet of Arizona Cardinals (72 years) Cleveland Indians (71 years) Sacramento Kings (68 years) and Toronto Maple Leafs (52 years) but that might bring on the zombie apocalypse.

Heck of an Ending

If the Super Bowl had played out like it looked it would with about twelve minutes to play, I think we would have relegated it to the dustbin of ho-hum Super Bowls. There wasn’t much that great that happened in the first three-plus quarters and while the 49rs would have certainly deserved their title, I think we all would have felt a bit letdown that these two clubs gave us such a mediocre game.

Instead we got a great ending as the Chiefs made then plays they had to and turned a 20-10 deficit into a 31-20 win. They have the youngest player to ever win both the regular season MVP and the Super Bowl MVP, and when you consider the deficits they overcame this postseason, this looks like a team setting up for a sustained run of excellence.

But as soon as I type that, I recall that KC went to three of the first four Super Bowls and then waited 50 years to return. Let’s see how the offseason shakes out before we make another prediction.

Super Sunday

This is a really interesting game. You have two teams where the narratives are not exactly in line with the facts. The 49rs, are perceived as a defensive juggernaut, but Kansas City actually gave up fewer points. And while KC is considered the dominant offense, San Fran actually scored more points than they did. Put it all together and the 49rs are a 1 or 1.5-point underdog heading into the game.

Before the New Year, I picked a KC Super Bowl win over the 49rs, so I’m not deviating from that now. It’s been 50 years in the making, but they are champs again in KC.

Eli Retires

Eli Manning will officially retire Friday at a press conference.

I’m not surprised as he has won two titles and earned the most money to date of any NFL player.  The only question that remains is if he makes the Hall of Fame, and unless he found a team that could win a Super Bowl next year, and wanted him to start, I don’t think he could improve on the case his career has already made, and he probably would have hurt it.  Joe Namath is in the Hall of Fame and I think Eli should be too.  He’s one of five players to win multiple Super Bowl MVP’s- Tom Brady, obviously not yet eligible, is the only one besides Eli not in the Hall of Fame.

I’m not sure, Giants fans ever really got Eli.  He did his job, week after week, and did it well.  He made over 200-straight career starts, which looks even better when you consider the fact that Daniel Jones couldn’t make even ten-straight. When the pressure was on, he delivered.  He is the best QB this franchise ever produced, and outside of LT, probably it’s greatest player.

Yes, he wasn’t as good as his brother, but how many QBs were?  (I would say Peyton is in a class with Brady, Montana, Unitas, and Marino) For 16 seasons the Giants had an answer for the toughest job in sports and Eli handled it with class and humility.  The Giants and New York will really miss him.

 

Conference Time

A few weeks ago, I picked a KC-49rs Super Bowl, so the only question is how much I think each of them will win by this weekend. KC-7 over Tennessee is an easy pick for me. I’m less confident in laying 7-1/2 with the 49rs, but they did destroy Green Bay already this season, so I’m going with it. Give me the two favorites and let’s get to Super Sunday.

Take 2

i went 0-4 ATS last week, dropping a tough game in OT, never giving the Titans a chance, losing another tough one in OT, and then seeing the Eagles lose their QB in the first quarter. Them’s the breaks as they say. Hoping to do better this week, I’m picking one upset and three favorites.

Vikings +7 over SAN FRAN- The Vikings showed me something last week and this is the first ever playoff game Jimmy G and most of his teammates. I think the 49rs likely win, but I don’t think by much.

RAVENS-9.5 over Titans- The Titans will run, run, and run again, but I don’t think they have an answer for Lamar Jackson.

CHIEFS-9.5 over Texans- I think the Chefs are going all the way.

PACKERS-4 over Seattle- This spread seems way to low for a playoff game at Lambeau after two weeks off.

A Good Start

Joe Judge was very impressive in his introductory press conference. He checked all the boxes you would want and I thought some of his answers were very good. I especially liked his comments about how you have to understand that all players learn differently and it is your job as a coach to figure that out. You could see why Judge is on the cusp of a PhD in Education.

But this is also the third time we have seen this in four years. McAdoo, Schumer, and now Judge. Judge sounds good, but he has a long road ahead of him. He needs to assemble a staff, help hit a home run with the #4 pick, and figure out how to get the best out of the rest of the players. Maybe he does it, maybe he doesn’t. Let’s see a couple of seasons of actual football before we evaluate him.

They Have to Nail This

I was going through the list of NYC-area head coaches in my mind today trying to figure out which of the nine has the longest tenure. The Giants fired their coach last week, and the Devils and Knicks did the same in December. The Mets just hired Beltran and the Jets only hired Adam Gase last year. I knew the Rangers and Islanders had hired coaches close to the same time in 2018, so that left the Yankees and Nets in the running. Aaron Boone amazingly is second in tenure after two seasons to Kenny Atkinson, who could be in trouble with a 16-18 record. I can’t remember another period in NY sports where the coaching turnover was so in sync.

That brings me to the Giants who had just moved on from Tom Coughlin when Atkinson got the job in Brooklyn. Over the last four seasons we have seen two coaches come and go and now we are about to see the fourth coach in six seasons get the job. That’s a damning indictment for a team that claims to be about stability. And it ramps up the pressure for this next hire.

Consider the state of the team, not ready to contend, but under a ticking clock. Rookie contracts are the great bargains of the NFL and the Giants have their most important skill players still on theirs. They need to take a big step forward next year, and become a legitimate contender in 2021 before Saquon, Jones, Lawrence, Baker, and others reach the end of their rookie deals. That means the next coach has to have a system that will maximize those talents and the GM has to be smart with the draft and the $70-million or so of cap space he has to work with.

It’s a tall order. There are only nine head coaches in the league with five or more seasons in their current job. Turnover is the norm and guys like Belichick (2000), Peyton (2006), Tomlin (2007), and Carrol (2010) are the exception. But the Giants can’t keep doing this. They went from twelve seasons of Coughlin to utter chaos. Choose your next coach wisely, Mr. Mara.

Playoffs Time

I love the NFL Playoffs. A simple 11-game tournament gives us a Super Bowl champion. Here’s a good playoff trivia question, name the seven teams that have not appeared in a conference championship game this century? (Hint- you’ve got more than 1 multiple-winning Super Bowl teams on the list). I’ll answer at the end of this column.

There are some great matchups this weekend, and I suspect we will see at least one upset, but here are my picks against the spread.

Bills +2.5 over Texans The Bills played great defense on their way to a 10-6 season. The Texans didn’t, actually allowing more points than they scored- the only playoff team to do so. I think that’s the difference in a close game and I want the points.

Patriots-5 over Titans Do you think Bill Belichick has been beating the fact that they choked last week into them all week?  Do you think it will happen again?  I sure don’t and I expect an angry New England to take that out on Tennessee.

Saints-7.5 over Vikings I don’t like that 1/2 point, but the Saints will be extremely motivated after they got robbed in the NFC Championship game last year and found out that a 13-3 record only got them a 3 seed.

Philadelphia+1.5 over Seattle Yeah I know, the Seahawks had a much better season, but they have lost all their RBs in the past few weeks and had to turn to Marshawn Lynch last week for 12 carries. Home underdogs are a pretty good bet in the NFL and I’m going to ride the Eagles here.

And the answer to the trivia question is in alphabetical order- Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, and Washington. (Note- Seattle is listed as last appearing in the AFC championship game in 1983, but they relocated to the NFC in 2002 and have appeared in 3 since the move)

Here’s to 2020!

Another year, another set of predictions to make (and miss). Here’s how I see the year unfolding.

January- LSU outlasts Clemson to win the college championship

Kansas City and San Francisco advance to the Super Bowl

Derek Jeter is not unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame but he gets in along with Curt Schilling

Tom Brady and Eli Manning retire

February- The Chiefs win the Super Bowl

The Astros lose their top-five draft picks and are fined $10-million for their

March- Auburn, Duke, UVA, and Gonzaga are #1 seeds

April- Auburn cuts down the nets after outlasting Gonzaga

The Knicks and Rangers both miss the playoffs

Tiger Woods misses the cut at the Masters

May- Milwaukee and LA win their conference championships in basketball, while the Stanley Cuo is a rematch between Boston and St. Louis

June- Milwaukee outlasts the Lakers and the Bruins get revenge on St. Louis

July- The Yankees reach the break with a 12-game lead and eight players on the All-Star team

August- Due to a massive heatwave, the Olympics in Tokyo are severely disrupted

September- The Giants beat the Cowboys in the season opener, but end the month under .500

The Yankees, Twins, A’s, Phillies, Cardinals, and Padres win their divisions

October- The Yankees win the World Series over Philadelphia

November- The two best teams in the NFL are Buffalo and San Francisco.  The Patriots are below .500

December- Alabama, Clemson, Texas, and Utah make the CFP

A blogger in Brooklyn vows to do better next year

Happy New Year!