QUICK NFL THOUGHTS–WEEK 10

Here are some random and very delayed, random thoughts about Week 10 in the NFL…

  • Anyone who believes Teddy Bridgewater should replace Case Keenum as Minnesota’s starting quarterback needs to report to their local drug testing facility immediately.
  • Father Time has issued an Amber Alert for Tom Brady.  He shouldn’t expect to find him anytime soon.
  • The four NFC Division leaders, Philadelphia, Minnesota, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams, failed to make the playoffs last year.  If the standings remain the same at the end of the season, it will mark the first time that the four division champions failed to make the playoffs in the previous season.
  • Before the excoriating of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones begins because of his attempts to stall and stop the contract extension negotiations of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, consider what Goodell is demanding.  He is asking, among other things, a $50 million annual salary, the lifetime use of a private plane and lifetime health insurance for him and his family.  Considering that Mark Parker, CEO of Nike, a company that earned the twice the revenue as the NFL did last year, receives a $14 million annual salary, it’s not so unreasonable for Jones, who was able to purchase the Cowboys and make it the most valuable professional sports franchise because he is an astute businessman, to put the brakes on what appears to be a very one-sided and inequitable business deal.
  • Once NFL Network host Rich Eisen tweeted on Sunday, “The Browns just tried to QB sneak on goal line with no timeouts left.  Of course it was stopped.  No points, No time.  No clue,”, Cleveland should have fired head coach Hue Jackson on the spot.
  • You have to wonder what Fox broadcasters Chris Myers and Darryl Johnson did to management for the both of them to have inglorious assignment of calling the titanic struggle between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers.
  • New Orleans is a legitimate Super Bowl contender because they’re not asking quarterback Drew Brees to do everything for them.  Thanks to Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, the Saints have discovered a running game, rushing for 110.9 yards per game and 4.7 yards per attempt through their first nine games.  Last Sunday, on the road against Buffalo, New Orleans rushed 48 times for 298 yards and six touchdowns, including 24 straight plays in which they ran the ball.  With their emphasis on the running game, no longer do the Saints need to play in an offensive shoot-out with Brees throwing all over the field to have a chance at winning.  More importantly, their ball control philosophy keeps their defense, the team’s Achilles Heel since their Super Bowl victory in 2010 off the field for longer periods of time.
  • It’s been well documented that Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton has struggled this season due to a weak offensive line.  But before placing all the blame on the offensive line for the team’s sub-par passing attack this season, Dalton himself is responsible for some of the problems as well.  This is not the same quarterback who led the Bengals to the post-season in each of his first five years in the league.  In those five seasons, Dalton completed all types of passes, short, medium and long, to all places on the field.  This year, however, is vastly different.  Dalton has been extremely inconsistent, rarely completing a pass greater than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage and mainly only between the numbers.  Dalton’s ability to accurately throw outside the numbers is practically non-existent as evidenced by his two misfires to A.J. Green deep down the right sidelines in the last two games.  Those were passes Dalton routinely completed in his previous six seasons.  It is true that the inability of the offensive line to provide decent pass protection has made life difficult for Dalton in 2017.  But it is just as obvious that Dalton’s inefficient and ineffective play is compounding the problem.
  • Vontaze Burfict’s ejection last Sunday proved four things about him and the Bengals current and future state:
    • Game officials are signaling out Burfict and are giving him absolutely no benefit of the doubt when it comes to a borderline or marginal infraction on the field.  There’s no question Burfict’s reputation precedes him.
    • It’s painfully obvious that Burfict only cares about himself who ignores the impact his actions have on the rest of the team.  After being ejected, he was only concerned with complaining to someone he knew in the stands and taunting the Tennessee fans as he was leaving the field.  Burfict’s selfishness is readily apparent and detrimental to the team’s chances at success.
    •  Burfict’s actions are emblematic of what the Bengals have become under head coach Marvin Lewis, who condones and defends the behavior of Burfict and is responsible for setting the tone for the rest of the team:  A group of undisciplined, ill-prepared, and selfish players who do not, under any circumstances, resemble a team.
    • It’s time for the good of the franchise for the Bengals to cut ties with both Burfict and Lewis no later than the end of the season.

LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 6

Here’s a quick trip of the good and the bad for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the rest of the NHL for the week ending November 12…

GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)

Lightning 5, SHARKS 1

GOALS:  Dotchin (1), Kucherov (15), Koekkoek (3), Namestnikov 2 (7)

SAVES:  Vasilevskiy (32), 12-1-1

Lightning 5, KINGS 2

GOALS:  Kucherov (16), Killorn (2), Hedman (2), Stamkos (8), Namestnikov (8)

SAVES:  Budaj (22), 1-1-1

Lightning 2, DUCKS 1

GOALS:  Namestnikov (9), Brown (1)

SAVES:  Vasilevskiy (28), 13-1-1

SEASON:  14-2-2, 30 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division

THE GOOD

  • When the Lightning embarked on a three-game California road trip this past week, the hope was they could return home with three points.  On the other hand, coming back to Tampa with four points would have exceeded all expectations.  But to finish the road trip with six points and a 3-0-0 record, as the Lightning did after their 2-1 victory over Anaheim on Sunday, not only is the road trip an unqualified success but it establishes Tampa Bay as the best team in the Eastern Conference.  The Lightning played their best stretch of two-way hockey of the year against perennial Cup contenders San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim, averaging four goals scored and 1.3 goals allowed per game during their three game trip.  The California swing made it abundantly clear that the Lightning’s toughest opponent this season will be themselves.
  • The spotlight on the Lightning’s explosive offense this season has focused on Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov and rightfully so.  But the third member of their line, Vlad Namestnikov, deserves some recognition for his exceptional play this year as well.  Namestnikov has scored nine goals and added 10 assists for a total of 19 points through the Lightning’s first 18 games.  Those stats include four power play goals, seven power play points, one game-winning goal and a +8 rating.  Namestnikov has been overshadowed by Stamkos and Kucherov so far this season but there’s no question that his play is one of the many reasons why the Lightning have the league’s best record.
  • Tampa Bay’s penalty kill continues to excel, going a perfect 6-6 for the week.  It is the second consecutive week that the Lightning have been perfect on the penalty kill as they have not allowed a power play goal in their opponent’s last 15 opportunities.

THE BAD

  • Week Six verse, same as the first.  A little bit louder and a little bit worse.  The Lightning once again lost the battle in the face-off circle last week, losing 105 of 187 (56.1%) face-offs in their three games in California.
  • In the past two weeks which has encompassed six games, the Lightning have averaged over 12 giveaways per game.  Last week, they had 43 giveaways in three games, including 25 against San Jose.  To make matters worse, Tampa Bay isn’t doing the same to their opponents, only averaging a little over eight takeaways per game, including only four against Los Angeles and five against Anaheim last week.  As the season wears on, it is one area of their game that the Lightning need to clean up.
  • As the 2017-18 season reaches the quarter pole, it seems the decade long dominance of the Chicago Blackhawks may be approaching its end.  The Blackhawks entered this year fresh off being swept 4-0 by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs last year, even though they had the Western Conference’s best regular season record.  Through their first 19 games this year, it seems Chicago can’t shake the effects of last season’s playoff whitewash.  They are 9-8-2 and are currently out of the playoffs.   Their performance is even more puzzling when you consider they have suffered no major injuries to any of their star players such as Jonathan Towes, Patrick Kane or Duncan Keith.  Granted, it is a small sample size but as the season closes in on the Thanksgiving holiday, the Blackhawks need to ramp up their game if they hope to have a chance at winning their fourth Stanley Cup since 2010.

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

  1. Vladislav Namestnikov–4 goals, 1 assist, 5 points
  2. Nikita Kucherov–2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points
  3. Andrei Vasilevskiy–2-0-0, 1.00 GAA, 60 saves, .968 save percentage

THIS WEEK’S GAMES

Thursday–vs. Dallas

Saturday–vs. New York Islanders

QUICK COLLEGE FOOTBALL THOUGHTS–WEEK 11

Here are some random thoughts about Week 11 in college football…

  • Tennessee fans can give up any hope that they’ll replace Butch Jones with Jon Gruden as their new  head football coach.  There’s no way Gruden is leaving the cozy confines of the ESPN broadcast booth for the pressure cooker of the SEC.  Besides, the environment in Knoxville is so toxic right now the Volunteers will struggle to convince a Power 5 coach to come to Tennessee much less a high profile candidate like Gruden.
  • Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield will probably win this year’s Heisman Trophy but as Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) aptly tweeted this past weekend, “Baker Mayfield was put on this earth to sucker the Cleveland Browns.”
  • Alabama will more than likely become the number one team in this week’s college football playoff rankings but their 31-24 comeback win against Mississippi State Saturday night exposed how much their recent injuries  on defense have hurt their chances of winning a national championship.
  • Miami, Florida is a legitimate national championship contender and they can thank their defense for the opportunity.  The Hurricanes became the first team on Saturday since 2011 to force four or more turnovers in four straight games.
  • Auburn looked the part of the best team in the country in their 40-17 throttling of number one ranked Georgia on Saturday.  Their offense amassed 488 total yards against the conference’s best defense while allowing only 86 yards on Georgia’s 10 drives that did not result in a touchdown.
  • The biggest obstacle Wisconsin faces in making the college football playoff is not themselves or their strength of schedule but instead the conference they play in.  The 2017 Big 10 is full of under-achieving, inconsistent, and just plain bad teams.  It makes the Badgers undefeated record seem less impressive than a one or even two loss team from the ACC, SEC or Big 12.
  • With each passing week, it appears more and more likely that the 2017 college football playoffs  will include a two-loss or two teams from the same conference or even both.
  • It looks like it is time for Illinois to pull the plug on the Lovie Smith head coaching experiment after just two seasons.  The Illini are just 5-17 overall and 2-14 in the Big 10 under Smith and falling rapidly in the wrong direction.
  • When Luke Fickell was hired from Ohio State to become the head coach at Cincinnati, he promised to bring discipline to the Bearcats in 2017.  So far, it seems Fickell’s discipline got lost between Columbus and Cincinnati.  In their last two games, the Bearcats have been penalized a total of 23 times for 230 yards and for the year, Cincinnati averages 7.9 penalties for 79.2 yards per game.  Until Fickell cleans up his team’s penchant for penalties, the Bearcats will continue to find themselves mired in mediocrity.
  • Make no mistake, Florida State is paying Louisiana-Monroe $1 million to reschedule their game from September so they can earn the opportunity to become bowl eligible.  However, the Seminoles large payout isn’t a desperate attempt for them to continue their 35-year bowl game streak alive but instead a chance for coach Jimbo Fisher to gain valuable post-season practice time for a talented, yet inexperienced team.  This is all about building towards 2018.
  • In an effort to keep up with the Joneses, the Big 12 decided to have a championship game this year like the other Power 5 conferences, even though they don’t have two divisions.  It was done to increase the conference’s chances of having a team in the college football playoffs.  This year, though, a championship game may damage the Big 12’s hope s of having a final four team.  In all likelihood, Oklahoma will finish the regular season with one conference loss, the only team in the Big 12 with such a record.  Without having a conference championship, the Sooners probably would have made the playoffs with just one loss.  Now, Oklahoma will have to play an extra game against a two-loss team.  A loss by the Sooners, a distinct possibility if they have to play Oklahoma State again, and they and the Big 12 will once again be shut out of the college football playoffs.

ONE MAN’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS

THE FINAL FOUR

1.Alabama

2.Miami

3.Clemson

4.Oklahoma

FIRST FOUR OUT

5.Auburn

6.Wisconsin

7.Georgia

8.Ohio State

NEXT FOUR OUT

9.Central Florida

10.Notre Dame

11.USC

12.Oklahoma State

ONE MAN”S CURRENT HEISMAN TROPHY BALLOT

1st Place–Baker Mayfield, quarterback, Oklahoma

2nd Place–Bryce Love, running back, Stanford

3rd Place–Saquon Barkley, running back, Penn State

4th Place–Khalil Tate, quarterback, Arizona

5th Place–Jonathan Taylor, running back, Wisconsin

QUICK NFL THOUGHTS–WEEK 9

Here are some random thoughts about Week 9 in the NFL…

  • The next Lambeau Leap might be a Packers fan jumping off from the top of the stadium as Green Bay’s season continues to spiral into irrelevance with Aaron Rodgers on the sideline.
  • Before the season started, most experts believed that one team from New York would contend for a playoff spot while the other would stink.  Those experts were right but none of them thought after nine weeks the Jets would be 4-5 and the Giants 1-7.
  • It’s time for the NFL to issue an Amber Alert for Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford.
  • If you were asked before the season started what one NFL team would bungle a trade because they forgot to file the necessary paperwork before the deadline, then everyone would have answered the Cleveland Browns.
  • The current state of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their head coach, Dirk Koetter, was perfectly encapsulated after Tampa wide receiver Mike Evans blindsided New Orleans defensive back Marshon Lattimore, sparking a mini-brawl between the two teams in front of the Bucs sideline.  While chaos reigned in front of him, Koetter appeared to have no clue, looking like a man who either was staring into the abyss or would have paid money he didn’t have to get him the hell out of there.
  • The Arizona Cardinals are the worst 4-4 team in modern NFL history.  Their four wins are against the Colts in overtime, Tampa Bay and twice against San Francisco.
  • Cincinnati’s 23-7 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday should for all intents and purposes put an end to the Marvin Lewis era.  The 2017 Bengals are undisciplined, poorly coached, ill-prepared prior and during the game, passionless and careless.  This team is currently rudderless, floating adrift admits the NFL sea.  It’s time for a new captain before the Bengals sink any further.
  • When the venerable CBS news anchor, Walter Cronkite, reported in 1968, that the United States could not win the war in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson lamented, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost MIddle America.”  A month later, Johnson announced he would not run for re-election.  Fast forward to 2017 and another respected broadcaster, Vin Scully.  He announced recently to a crowd at a symposium that, “I’ll never watch another NFL game” in response to the many players who have kneeled during the national anthem.  If the NFL is smart, they would heed the warning issued by Johnson nearly 50 years earlier.  Because unless the NFL changes their images and they way they conduct their business, if they’ve lost Vin Scully, then they’ve lost Middle America.
  • Everybody, it seems, has their opinion on why the ratings for the NFL are precipitately down in the first nine weeks of 2017.  Rarely, though, does anyone mention the main culprit for why fewer people are watching the NFL on Thursday, Sunday or Monday–the quality of the product stinks.

LIGHTNING ROUND–WEEK 5

Here is the good and the bad from last week for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the rest of the NHL..

GAME SUMMARIES (Home Team in CAPS)

Lightning 8, PANTHERS 5

Goals:  Point (6), Kucherov (13), Stamkos 2 (6), Palat (4), Gourde (2), Namestnikov  (5), Stralman (2)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (18), 10-1-0

Rangers 2, LIGHTNING 1 (OT)

Goals:  Gourde (3)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (33), 10-1-1

LIGHTNING 5, Blue Jackets 4 (SO)

Goals:  Point (7), Kucherov (14), Stamkos (7), Gourde (4)

Saves:  Vasilevskiy (30), 11-1-1

SEASON:  11-2-2, 24 points, 1st place in the Atlantic Division

THE GOOD

  • The Lightning’s three games last week proved that Victor Hedman is one of the premier defensemen in the NHL, and barring an injury, a perennial contender for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman.  In addition to his five assists last week, Hedman, the second overall selection by the Lightning in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, averaged 26:33 of ice time per game, solidifying his status as coach Jon Cooper’s most dependable two-way player.  Hedman’s performance over the last three games underscored the fact that he is an elite, all-around defenseman who possesses high-level shutdown skills and great passing abilities while playing a large amount of minutes every night.
  • One of the more surprising early season highlights for the Lightning has been the play of forward Yanni Gourde.  Coming into the year Gourde has scored six goals and earned three assists in 22 career NHL games.  Through 15 games this season, Gourde already has four goals and five assists and has teamed with Braydon Point and Ondrej Palat to form the second highest scoring line on the team.  Gourde is filling the void quite nicely left by Jonathan Drouin’s departure during the off-season thanks to his hard-nosed play and his good hockey sense.
  • The Lightning special teams shined again last week with the penalty kill stepping up to make a significant contribution to the team’s 2-0-1 record for the week.  The power play scored three times on 10 chances, increasing their season percentage to 28.8%, tied for the second best power play in the NHL.  The penalty kill, led by the stellar play of Alex Killorn and Ryan Callahan, went a perfect nine for nine last week, improving their penalty kill percentage for the season to a league 11th best.

THE BAD

  • Two weeks ago it was an issue.  Last week it was a problem.  Now that the Lightning have lost the majority of their face-offs for the fifth consecutive week, it is now bordering on becoming an epidemic.  Last week, Tampa Bay lost 103 of 198 face-offs (52.0%) and if this trend continues the Lightning’s good fortune on the power play, the penalty kill and in one-goal games will come to an unhappy end.
  • Another potential crisis on the horizon is the Lightning’s recent habit of blowing two goal leads.  Last week it happened twice when Tampa Bay blew a 3-1 lead to Florida on Monday and then a 4-2 third period lead to Columbus on Saturday.  Luckily, the Lightning won both games but Stanley Cup contenders can’t expect those results when they carelessly allow their opponents to come back from two goals down.  They need to either deliver a knock-out punch or at the very least keep their opponent at bay when they jump out to a multiple goal lead.
  • Last year after falling short in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against Anaheim, the Edmonton Oilers were the darlings of the NHL.  Many experts predicted the Oilers and their young core led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, would take the next step and represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Through 13 games in 2017, however, the Oilers are 4-8-1 with a -13 goal differential and in next to last place in the Pacific Division.  Unless they turn around their season soon, the only step the Oilers will take this season is a backwards one, right out of Stanley Cup contention.

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

  1. Yanni Gourde–3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points
  2. Victor Hedman–5 assists, 5 points
  3. Steven Stamkos–3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points, game-winning shoot-out goal

THIS WEEK’S GAMES

Wednesday–at San Jose

Thursday–at Los Angeles

Sunday–at Anaheim

QUICK COLLEGE FOOTBALL THOUGHTS–WEEK 10

Here are some random thoughts about Week 10 in college football…

  • The ugly beat goes on in Bloomington, Indiana.  The Hoosiers 45-17 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday marked the 37th straight game in which Indiana has lost to an AP Top 10 team.
  • The early reports out of Gainesville is that Central Florida head coach Scott Frost is the front-runner to become the next head coach at the University of Florida.
  • The mood inside the Florida State locker room has apparently reached a boiling point.  According to multiple reports, there is internal strife amongst the coaching staff with the majority of the heat being directed at defensive coordinator Charles Kelly.  Meanwhile, the Seminoles have offered Louisiana-Monroe $1 million to reschedule their game cancelled earlier this year due to Hurricane Irma so they can have a chance at six wins in 2017 and keep their streak alive of appearing in a bowl game every year since 1982.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.
  • Even though Oklahoma State scored 52 points in their loss to Oklahoma on Saturday, there is something either physically or mentally wrong with their quarterback Mason Rudolph.  An early season Heisman Trophy contender, Rudolph is not the same passer now that he was earlier in the season.
  • In the coming weeks, multiple FBS schools will begin their search for a new head football coach.  Many, if not all, of these schools administrators will contact Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy to gauge his interest in their position and most of them would happily have him as their new leader of their football program.  But before any athletic director falls head over heels in love with Gundy, they should ask themselves one critical question:  When was the last time Gundy won a big or meaningful game at Oklahoma State?
  • Slowly but surely, and without much fanfare, Will Muschamp is building South Carolina into a perennial SEC and national championship contender.
  • Last Sunday afternoon, it seemed improbable but after the dust had settled on Saturday, it now looks more likely than not that the college football playoffs will begin without a team from the Big 10 Conference.  If that scenario plays out, every school in the conference will suffer as each of them receive $400,000 when a member school makes the college football Final Four.
  • There’s no question that once the fourth quarter started, Ohio State shut it down against Iowa on Saturday.  Like it or not, that’s all on Urban Meyer and it looks and smells very similar to how his time at Florida ended.
  • Here’s a suggestion to any team who has to punt against Washington.  Don’t kick the ball anywhere near Husky kick returner Dante Pettis.  His nine punt return touchdowns is enough evidence for any opponent, from this point forward, to do anything but kick the ball in Pettis’ general direction.

ONE MAN’S HEISMAN BALLOT–NOVEMBER 5, 2017

1ST PLACE–Baker Mayfield, quarterback, Oklahoma

2ND PLACE–Saquon Barkley, running back, Penn State

3RD PLACE–Bryce Love, running back, Stanford

4TH PLACE–Micah Fitzpatrick, cornerback, Alabama

5TH PLACE–Josh Adams, running back, Notre Dame

ONE MAN’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF BALLOT–NOVEMBER 5, 2017

FINAL FOUR

1.Georgia

2.Alabama

3.Miami, Florida

4.Notre Dame

FIRST FOUR OUT

5.Clemson

6.Oklahoma

7.TCU

8.Wisconsin

NEXT FOUR OUT

9.Auburn

10.Central Florida

11.Washington

12.Ohio State

QUICK NFL THOUGHTS–WEEK 8

Here are some random thoughts about Week 8 in the NFL…

  • There was a time earlier this season when everyone was convinced that the Death Star known as the New England Patriots was on the verge of imploding because of an ineffective defense.  But as Mark Twain once said, “the report of my death was an exaggeration”, and now the same can be said about the Patriots.  In their last four games, the Patriots went 4-0 and have allowed an average of only 12.75 points per game.  No longer is there talk that New England’s reign over the AFC East is finished.  Instead, it’s whether or not they can win Super Bowl number six.
  • The NFL and the NFLPA will attempt to spin this news to their benefit but the message from the paying public about how they have recently conducted business is clear.  Kansas City’s win over Denver was the lowest-rated and least watched Week 8 Monday Night Football game ever.
  • The reason why the Buffalo Bills are in contention for the AFC East title and their first playoff appearance since 1999 is simple, despite having an inconsistent and unexplosive offense.  The Bills lead the NFL in turnover margin at +14 or by an average of +2 per game.
  • Every time they show Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano on the sidelines, the first thought that comes to mind is that he is what Willy Wonka would look and act like if he were an NFL head coach.
  • Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford can throw the football all over the field as much as he wants, like he did on Sunday night, but until Detroit fixes the problem that has plagued Stafford his entire career, the Lions will always be a fringe playoff contender.  In the 116 games Stafford has been team’s starting quarterback, the Lions have had a running back rush for 100 or more yards in a game only seven times.
  • You can blame Tampa Bay’s disappointing 2-5 record on the play of quarterback Jameis Winston all you want but the problems run deeper.  The offense, designed and orchestrated by head Dirk Koetter, is too basic and unimaginative for any quarterback to have success in the NFL.
  • If anyone doubts the importance of a strong offensive line, then they need to look no further than the Dallas Cowboys.  They are the reason why quarterback Dak Prescott has progressed so quickly in only his second season and why their running game won’t skip a beat when and if Ezekiel Elliott begins to serve his six-game suspension.
  • During the broadcast of the Dallas-Washington game on Sunday, the NFL aired a public service announcement promoting October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  On the first play following the announcement, Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball for a significant gain.  And the NFL wonders why they are accused of being tone-deaf.
  • When the first round of the year’s NFL Draft was completed, most experts agreed that the picks made by Tennessee, the Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati graded out to an A or B.  Each team selected a wide receiver in the first round in the first nine picks, choosing Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross respectively.  With the season now at the halfway point, Davis, Williams and Ross have combined for eight receptions and 88 yards, causing many of those experts to re-evaluate and change those grades to failing.
  • It was promising to see the Bengals defensive line step up and play a major role in the team’s 24-23 victory over Indianapolis on Sunday.  What was not so promising was the continued dismal play of the Bengals offensive line.  The Colts entered the game ranked 27th in the NFL in rushing defense and yet the Bengals rushed for only 58 yards on 21 attempts on Sunday.  Meanwhile, quarterback Andy Dalton continues to fear for his life every time he drops back to pass.  Dalton was sacked three times and was constantly under siege, even though, at times, the Colts only rushed two defenders.  Unless the offensive line improves in short order, the Bengals are going to need more than just a weekly Carlos Dunlap interception return touchdown to stay in contention for a playoff spot.
  • The NFL’s biggest issue with Miami’s Kiko Alonso’s shot to the head of Baltimore’s Joe Flacco wasn’t the hit itself.  Instead, they need to explain why, in a league constantly preaching player safety and claiming they will not tolerate any action by a player that jeopardizes or comprising another players well-being, Alonso wasn’t ejected from the game for the blatantly egregious hit or why he hasn’t been fined or suspended.  Meanwhile, the league has no problem quickly fining a player for wearing the wrong color socks or shoes or having an unapproved sponsor on a hand towel.  It’s just more proof to the argument that the NFL is inconsistent with their rule enforcement, hypocritical when it comes to player safety and biased when it comes to whom they chose to punish and with what severity.  Simply put, when it comes to player safety, the NFL is all talk and no substance.