Coinage!

The race for the "Big Apple" should yield plenty of twists and turns. Buckle in!

The race for the “Big Apple” should yield plenty of twists and turns. Buckle in!

ARIZONA CARDINALS: (5-11) 2013 O/U: 5.5 Will a brutal division offset a new head coach, new philosophy and new QB? Close call. I watched Carson Palmer up close with the Raiders, and the former #1 pick can still spin it. Larry Fitzgerald, enjoy your respite from your recent tortured past. Good enough to win more than 5.5 games? Yes. Good enough to matter from late November on? No. Verdict: OVER.

ATLANTA FALCONS: (13-3) 2013 O/U: 10 Previous playoff failures aside, Matt Ryan is entering a stretch in his career that will produce gaudy stats and plenty of wins. Enjoy the ride, Atlanta. This team is loaded, and SHOULD have been in New Orleans playing Baltimore last February for the Lombardi Trophy. Verdict: OVER.

BALTIMORE RAVENS: (10-6) 2013 O/U: 8.5 Speaking of Baltimore, congrats to a great organization and terrific fan base on an amazing run towards glory. Now, hold on to that feeling when things go awry this season, because they will. Too many injuries and other defections to overcome. Verdict: UNDER

BUFFALO BILLS: (6-10) 2013 O/U: 6.5 The Bills last winning season came in 2004. The perpetual rebuild continues: new HC, new QB’s, etc. I’m rolling Missouri-style when it comes to this team: SHOW ME. They’re intriguing, but until they actually crack thru, I’m not buying anything Bills related. Verdict: UNDER, but close and by all accounts, they’re slowly emerging from the abyss. SHOW ME. 

CAROLINA PANTHERS: (7-9) 2013 O/U: 7 I’m a Cam Newton fan, period. Verdict: Over, 8-8.

CHICAGO BEARS: (10-6) 2013 O/U 8.5 Jay Cutler, meet Marc Trestman. You’re going to like this guy, trust me. Verdict: OVER

CINCINNATI BENGALS: (10-6) 2013 O/U 8.5 On paper, Cincy has as much balance as anyone in the league. Vertical weapons at TE should make life easier for Andy Dalton and A.J. Green to connect on some quick strikes. Tough early schedule gives me pause, but this team is still ascending, and they were pretty good last season. Verdict: OVER.

CLEVELAND BROWNS:  (5-11) 2013 O/U 6 See, Buffalo Bills. Verdict: UNDER, but improving.

DALLAS COWBOYS:  (8-8) 2013 O/U: 8.5 New contract, new play-caller…same old Tony Romo? Tough division, and given RG III’s injury and questions for Big Blue on defense, I’m expecting a revival in Big D. Verdict: OVER, but tread lightly.

DENVER BRONCOS: (13-3) 2013 O/U: 11.5 Peyton Manning + Wes Welker + Oakland + San Diego = wins. Verdict: OVER.

DETROIT LIONS: (4-12) 2013 O/U 8 Better balance for Matthew Stafford with Reggie Bush on the scene, allowing more methodical drives, which in theory, should keep the defense off the field more than last season. Last year was a disaster, but clearly, this team has the talent to win double figures. Verdict: OVER, barely. 9-7, 10-6 feels right for this squad. 

Leader of the Pack.

Leader of the Pack.

GREEN BAY PACKERS: (11-5) 2013 O/U: 10.5 Are they getting better or are they beginning to level out? Tough call. This is one I’d probably stay away from given the conflict between my brain and my eyes. The last time I watched this team play, they couldn’t tackle a QB. Granted a very, very fast QB, but a QB nonetheless. They were shredded at the ‘Stick, yet my brain says Aaron Rodgers will once again dominate the regular season. Verdict: Over, with sincere hesitation. Translation: stay away.

HOUSTON TEXANS: (12-4) 2013 O/U: 10.5 Plenty of horses, but last season’s swoon should be reason for slight concern as the Texans dropped 3/4 to close out the regular season. Are you truly a Matt Schaub believer? I’m not. Verdict: UNDER, but close. 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: (11-5) 2013 O/U: 8.5 Seamless transition for Andrew Luck, who never stopped winning after leaving beautiful Palo Alto. However, there were more than a few charitable bounces that Indy cashed in. What happens if they bounce the other way this season? Are they good enough to close the gap. If it’s my money, I’m leaning towards no. Verdict: UNDER.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: (2-14) 2013 O/U: 5 Would you risk a penny on any team with real, legitimate QB concerns? Of course not. Verdict: UNDER, as the Blaine Gabbert “era” officially ends.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: (2-14) 2013 O/U: 7.5 Plenty of talent for Andy Reid, and Alex Smith should stabilize the circus that emerged under center last season. How bad was Matt Cassel? Wow. As long as they don’t ask Smith to shoulder too much, the Chiefs should be much improved. I watched Smith mature with my own eyes in the Bay Area, and while I recognize some obvious physical limitations, he’s smart and tough. Exactly what this franchise needs right now. Verdict: OVER, Wild-Card threat in AFC.

MIAMI DOLPHINS: (7-9) 2013 O/U 8 Very, very tough call. All summer I’ve positioned Miami as a Wild-Card threat in the AFC, but O-line issues might be too big to overcome. One thing working for Miami (aside from a fair amount of talent) is the dearth of talent in their own division. They should bag enough wins to push the number past 8. I’m sticking with my instincts here. Verdict: OVER

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: (10-6) 2013 O/U: 7.5 I could be wrong, but the 2012 Vikes felt and looked like a team that somehow stumbled upon 10 wins. While that might be unfair and a 2.5 drop in wins represents a radical twist, I think they are “capable” enough to do just that. Verdict: UNDER, not sold at all. 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: (12-4) 2013 O/U: 11 I’ll just save everyone the trouble: it’s over. The league has changed quite a bit since ’05, the last time the Pats hoisted the big one. Respect Brady immensely, and they should once again win the division, but the erosion is obvious. Why is everyone so afraid to say it? Prediction: UNDER, 10-6.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: (7-9) 2013 O/U: 9 They won 7 games without Sean Payton, which means they’ll win at least 2 more with Sean Payton. Love the fact that it’s an even 9. I like this play quite a bit. Prediction: OVER.

NEW YORK GIANTS: (9-7) 2013 O/U: 9 I like the fact that the 9 stands alone here as .5 would probably force me to go the other way. Terrific coaching, team pride and QB play should push the number north of 9. If not, a push looks more likely than a loss here. This team always bounces back under Coughlin. Right? Verdict: OVER. I think.

NEW YORK JETS: (6-10) 2013 O/U: 6.5 I like the Jets defense quite a bit and if Chris Ivory stays healthy, along with Bilal Powell they should be able to run the ball with enough efficiency to surprise a few teams. The sooner Mark Sanchez disappears, the better. Is Geno Smith the real deal? Regardless, an overall dearth of talent at the skill positions makes this offense pedestrian, at best. Verdict: OVER, BARELY (or complete implosion)

OAKLAND RAIDERS: (4-12) 2013 O/U: 5.5 GM Reggie McKenzie is gutting the roster, and understandably so. Things are real bad in Oakland. By deleting bloated contracts and underachieving, lazy veterans the cupboards will slowly fill with hungry, viable NFL talent. The question is, will Dennis Allen be around to enjoy the fruits of his GM’s purge? My gut says no. This team is terrible.  Al Davis was lost for a decade, and it shows. Verdict: UNDER

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: (4-12) 2013 O/U: 7.5 By early October, Chip Kelly will be reaching into his own pocket, hoping to book Bowling Green for a layup win. Tough camp for Philly as injuries and Riley Cooper’s stupidity have dominated the NovaCare Complex. Who’s playing QB, by the way? Verdict: UNDER

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: (8-8) 2013 O/U: 9 I want to respect the logo, they’ve earned it. The Raven’s stumble could open the door for a revival in Pittsburgh, and at the very least, inspires enough to lay a little wood on the Steel Dawgs. Verdict: OVER, barely.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: (7-9) 2013 O/U: 7.5 What the heck happened to Phillip Rivers’ career? He should rebound, but not enough to invest any real coin in the Bolts. Tough call. Verdict: UNDER

Less posing minus Crabtree?

Less posing minus Crabtree?

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: (11-4-1) 2013 O/U: 11 They’ll miss Crabtree and Dashon Goldson, but Jim Harbaugh is a brilliant head coach, and he has a great locker room. This team loves football, and has strong interior play on both sides of the ball. Love Kaepernick, but Boldin’s odometer is running high and the division is getting better. They desperately need a young WR to emerge. Verdict: UNDER, but a playoff lock and viable threat for the title. 10-6 sounds right.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: (11-5) 2013 O/U: 10.5 Last time Seattle played the 49ers, they beat them to a bloody pulp. It’s the kind of loss that empowers one franchise and possibly raises question for another. Another playoff lock, I think they edge out SF for the division by a game. Verdict: OVER, legit.

ST. LOUIS RAMS: (7-8-1) 2013 O/U: 7.5 Ignore the sub-500 mark from 2012 for a moment, as it doesn’t tell the entire story. This team improved as the year progressed, and oh yeah, by the way, also had the best divisional record: 4-1-1. Sam Bradford remains the key, but Fisher will have this team ready to roll after laying the foundation last season. Ascending. Verdict: OVER.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: (7-9) 2013 O/U: 7.5 Interesting offseason for Tampa, as Greg Schiano and ownership drew a line in the sand for Josh Freeman: it’s time. I like Freeman, always have, and think he responds nicely. Improved field position courtesy of a revamped secondary will help. I’m buying the Bucs. Verdict: OVER, and playoffs.

TENNESSEE TITANS: (6-10)  2013 O/U: 6.5 Aggressive play by Tennessee in FA tilts the needle in the right direction, and given the small bump in wins, I’m inclined to roll the dice and push the number to 7, possibly 8. They’re not as bad as most people position them to be. Verdict: OVER, barely.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS: (10-6) 2013: 8.5 RG III is great for football, and like everyone else, I’m rooting for a quick and full recovery for the second year star from Baylor. That knee, however, has been problematic for quite some time. When it comes to green, I’m rolling with my head over emotion and sentiment and I’m simply not convinced he’ll hold up for the  duration of the season. Plenty of holes on the roster. Verdict: UNDER

*Team record from 2012 in ( ), followed by updated Vegas Over/Under projected win totals in ’13.

***If you take this too seriously, you’re insane.

AFC Preview

The race is on!

 

EAST

1. New England Patriots: (11-5) Tom Brady and his small army of game-changing tight ends and core of receivers will once again light up the scoreboard, and while I like their defensive draft picks, the aura is slowly eroding in Foxboro. The Pats are good, and remain the class of a strange division, but I don’t like this team as much as others do. They’ll win double digit games, but big picture, are very vulnerable. This very well could be their last “great” season for a while.

2. Buffalo Bills: (10-6) It’s been a while since the pride of Western New York has had a legitimate chance at stealing the spotlight from their downstate neighbors, and that’s about to end. The Bills will run the heck out of it, and have enough perimeter weapons to cash in when opponents stuff the box. Mario Williams was a massive addition, one that propels the Bills into the playoffs.

3. New York Jets: (6-10) Strap in, this will get ugly. Tebow will keep it interesting, but offensively, the Jets have zero vertical weapons coupled with a below average running attack. While the defense will be good, this team lacks the necessary poise, leadership and maturity to navigate what promises to be a bumpy season for Gang Green. Does Rex lose complete control?

4. Miami Dolphins: (3-13) It’s never fun hitting the reset button, as  Miami is clearly doing, but in this case, it’s absolutely imperative. Slowly but surely, Joe Philbin will rebuild this organization the most effective way: from the inside out. It will eventually pay dividends…by about 2015.

NORTH

1. Baltimore Ravens: (12-4) The best team did not represent the AFC in last year’s Super Bowl, thanks to a 22 yard shank-job by Billy Cundiff. The Ravens are too well-coached , too balanced, and too hungry to let that happen again. Top to bottom, this is the class of the conference, even without Suggs for the first 6 games.

2. Cincinnati Bengals: (10-6) This young, ascending group will jump over the aging Steelers and they will do so by early November, for good. To hell with history, I like the QB, the defense, and at the end of the day, I like this team. They’ll be playing in January for the second consecutive season.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers: (9-7) The swoon has set in. If you examine last season’s finish, the warning signs were evident: smoked in San Francisco 20-3, with a pair of cosmetic wins against doormats St. Louis and Cleveland, before drowning in Denver in the Wild Card game. Look past the great history, and accept the Steelers for what they are: aging and vulnerable.

4. Cleveland Browns: (4-12) Let’s face it, the Browns are good for one thing, and one thing only: betting the under. They are  boring, and for the most part, remain stuck in mud. Hopefully Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden represent a new day in the ‘pound, but I won’t believe it until I see it.

SOUTH

1. Houston Texans: (10-6) Tough blow last season, losing Matt Schaub and other key parts throughout the year. It’s easy to assume that the injuries alone derailed a possible Super Bowl appearance, but I’m not so sure. I like this team, actually I like them quite a bit, but I don’t love them. With guaranteed wins against rebuilding Indy and Jacksonville, the Texans will win a fair amount of games, but to me, they remain a bit overrated. Tread carefully.

2. Tennessee Titans: (9-7) Yes, they are handing the keys to a young QB, which usually means trouble. However, this team is extremely well coached, and their RB is ready to dominate from snap # 1 after last season’s slow start. If the Texans aren’t careful, this could be one of the big surprises in the conference. I like the direction of this franchise quite a bit.

3. Indianapolis Colts: (6-10) Andrew Luck will prove within the first month of the season why he is one of the most polished, enticing talents to ever hit the league. The kid has it all, and for that reason alone, the Colts will surprise a few times this season.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: (6-10) I actually like most of their offensive weapons, except their QB. I’m simply not a Blaine Gabbert fan. If he matures and spreads the wealth to TE Mercedes Lewis and rookie WR Justin Blackmon responsibly, I can be converted. Maurice Jones-Drew is an absolute superstar, although lengthy holdouts usually equate to nagging injuries. That alone worries me.

WEST

1. Kansas City Chiefs: (11-5) Last season, KC was absolutely rocked with season-ending ACL injuries to three key players, setting an irreversible tone. They still competed, even with Matt Cassel missing 9 games and an overflowing trainer’s room. This year, they are healthy, added a few pieces, and will enjoy a relatively benign schedule.

2. Denver Broncos: (9-7) I’m not buying all of the Manning hype, not yet. His numbers against the Niners this summer were very deceiving. Pretty on paper, suspect when watching live. His ball floated a few few times, and until he regains his fastball, his margin of error is not nearly as wide as most think. He’ll have a good season, but can he really be the Messiah? I have my doubts.

3. Oakland Raiders: (7-9) Ironically, the Raiders will fail to reach .500 this season, yet, they’ll be a superior team to the mess Hue Jackson handed off to Dennis Allen. It starts with discipline and erasing pre-snap penalties, and I believe they will take a big step in the right direction. Yet, in this division, subpar CB play is dangerous, and they’ll struggle to find that balance all year. However, if Darren McFadden finally plays all 16 games…

4. San Diego Chargers: (6-10) I know, Antonio Gates is in great shape, poised for a monster season, right up until his foot begins barking again, and it will. Vincent Jackson is gone, Ryan Matthews injured his clavicle early this summer, and Norv Turner is still the coach. I love their uniforms, and that’s about it.

Locked and loaded…

In case you missed it Monday on 1050 ESPN Radio, here are excerpts and audio from Darrelle Revis’ first one-on-one interview after agreeing to terms with the New York Jets.  The topics ranged from whether he was truly prepared to sit out the entire season, why he kept quiet throughout the negotiations, missing out on filming the show Hard Knocks, whether he’ll be able to play the entire game on Monday night, if he paid attention throughout the holdout to how fans felt about it, whether he wound up backing away from his demands more than the Jets did theirs and what it was like to hear Rex Ryan say the team could win without him.

On whether he was really prepared to sit out the whole year:

“Yeah, I think I was very prepared to do it, but I knew that it was going to be a tough task to do because I’m a football player and I love to play this game. Being away from it was probably what hurt me most.”

On keeping quiet throughout the negotiations:

“I just think that I was in a situation that I just needed to be careful of what I say. My feelings were boiling and I didn’t want to say nothing inappropriate or the wrong way that could cost me anything or even, I’m still represented by the New York Jets. I’ve still got to represent them and I’m still under contract, so I can’t go off the bad end and start disrespecting the organization and disrespecting myself in the process.”

On missing out on Hard Knocks:

“It was very tough. I watched Hard Knocks on and off. I couldn’t watch it all the time because my feelings would get the best of me. One thing I tried to do was just stay away from Twitter, stay away from reading the newspapers, stay away from the internet, just get all the media stuff off to where I can just focus on working out.”

On whether he’ll be able to play the entire opener:

“I wouldn’t know that answer until I actually play on Monday night. … I know I’m in shape, but football shape is different. I haven’t did camp, I haven’t had contact … I haven’t had the pads on. So in these next couple days, I really need to get in shape with the pads, football shape.”

On whether he paid attention to those who chose sides in the situation:

“I mean it’s kinda tough. You don’t want the fans to get on your bad side, but I just think the fans probably just didn’t understand the business side of it. The reporters, they can report anything, but if you really understand how the business side goes and the negotiations go, they would have a better understanding and know that what I was doing, I was doing for a reason. Not to be greedy or to bring all this limelight or distractions to myself.”

On whether his side compromised more in the negotiations than the Jets:

“You know what, I think both sides, I think I’d say the effort was equal, because there was a lot of stuff going on, a lot of negativity. You know, this person said that, they just said this, the Jets said that. And then I think we just had that last meeting with me and Rex and Woody Johnson and I just think we moved forward. I felt that at that point that we were going to get a deal done because everyone was on the same page.”

Audio link: http://espn.go.com/espnradio/player?rd=1#/podcenter/?callsign=ESPNRADIO&autoplay=1&id=5540655

This town is green…for now

 

Granted, in the history department, it’s no contest, not even close.  

It’s The Globtrotters vs. The Generals, Dartmouth vs. JUCO’s in the library and Rocky vs. Lang–Part I. 

In essence, it’s a complete and utter mismatch. 

One organization, the Giants, has a secure lineage with the league, proactive and  instrumental in sharing funds and preventing the NFL from basically becoming MLB. Feel free to thank the Giants and the Steelers for competitive balance, and it’s a beautiful thing. Their trophy case is pretty full as well, all the way from Parcells to Coughlin, from Simms to Eli, from Taylor to Strahan. 

New York Giant fans have earned their platform, their stage, and to their credit, they have gracefully protected it and shielded it from their co-tenant, the New York Jets. 

For decades. 

Despite Joe Willie’s guarantee, the Jets timeline remains a snap shots of fumbles, failed draft picks, fake spikes, and empty (burning) seats. Yes, they’ve enjoyed intermittent success, and long ago managed to escape the unforgiving cellar of pro sports. However, unlike the Giants, that ascension rarely lasts, and the fall usually results in a demoralizing and resounding thump. 

And usually, the climb back towards relevance is sheer and utter hell. 

Jet fans know that, and Jet fans accept that. Basically, the Giants always matter, and the Jets rarely do. 

Want proof? Stare at the logo below, go ahead. Is there a trace of enjoyment, a modicum of success that enters your realm upon examining it? The answer is no. Study it long enough, and you’ll probably throw up. 

 

Sick yet? 

The excruciating part is accepting the fact that until they win a Super Bowl in my lifetime, I’ve signed up for a terminal amount of pain. 

The easy part is enjoying last season’s riveting finish coupled with the flashy start to camp and the 2010 season. 

The Jets are the hot commodity, one of the teams to beat, and currently, offer a blueprint for all teams to emulate: a demonstrative and gifted head coach, a rock-solid defense supported by myriad offensive weapons, anchored by an elite offensive line protecting a blossoming franchise QB. 

The Giants? Are they even the 3rd best team in their division? While they certainly have their QB in Eli, when you truly evaluate the two overriding issues in camp thus far, it’s not pleasant. The O-line is aging and on the cusp of a shakeup, and the defense is battling injuries everywhere. 

Still, the pessimist points to the inevitable fall, how the Jets will quickly abdicate the “throne” and become peasants once more, and face the wrath of NFL fans everywhere. 

“They talk too much.” 

“They’re still the Jets.” 

“It’s still a Giants town, always has been, always will be.” 

Funny, I don’t think it is, hardly. Not now, and not last year. 

Mid-80’s flashback: the Yankees, even with all of their championships and Hall of Fame plaques, were shoved aside by the Mets. The Mets ran this town the same way the Jets are hoping to strengthen their grip on the city–with arrogance, with personality, and with results. 

They pummeled you and they laughed at you, and if you resisted, fists flew. Ask Eric Davis. 

From Day 1, Rex Ryan planted the seeds of bravado, much like Davey Johnson did with Doc, Keith and Strawberry, and they followed his lead. They operated without rules, and without a net. Watch any Ryan press conference and you’ll quickly discover, he’s doing the same thing. 

It’s great if it works, embarrassing if it does not. Not an inch of middle ground. 

Defining relevance and buzz and marketability are pretty tough, and the results are often blurred. Still, some things cannot be ignored, and the HBO cameras and national TV appearances confirm the Jets current stranglehold on the market. 

Unlike the last stadium, the ownership papers for this one are up for grabs. Who wants 'em?

 

And there’s not a damn thing Giant fans can do about it, really, aside from A) hope the Jets fail miserably and B) pray the Giants successfully patched together the 3rd worse defense in football a year ago this offseason. 

The Jets are the hot ticket, and their jerseys are flying off the rack. By now, you have your Eli jersey, and your Tuck jersey and your Jacobs jersey. Actually, the rack at Modell’s is pretty stale when it comes to the blue jerseys, no? Which one are you racing out to buy? You’re not, because quite frankly, no one knows what the future holds, and long-term, there are few guarantees on this roster, including the head coach. 

Do you honestly believe that the stripe that punctuates this great city, at this moment, isn’t green, compared to the usual blue? 

Of course it is. 

It doesn’t mean the Jets have a better history, they never will, and that’s not the point. 

Forget the past, and absorb the moment, take note, because at this particular moment, you better believe that this city is dripping with green spray paint–despite the feeble and immature rejections of those wearing blue. 

Then again, I get it, and I always have: fans are fans, and sometimes passion gets in the way of the facts, and that’s OK. 

But deep down, Giant fans are perceptive enough to know, and curious enough to sneak a peek at the real story in town, and that story is the New York Jets. 

Like I said, this town is green. 

Game on.

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