Saturday, February 25, 2012

2012 NFL Draft 1st Round Order

Yesterday the necessary coin flips were completed, so the draft order is now official:

  1. Indianapolis
  2. St. Louis
  3. Minnesota
  4. Cleveland
  5. Tampa Bay
  6. Washington
  7. Jacksonville
  8. Miami
  9. Carolina
  10. Buffalo
  11. Kansas City
  12. Seattle
  13. Arizona
  14. Dallas
  15. Philadelphia
  16. New York Jets
  17. Cincinnati (from Oakland)
  18. San Diego
  19. Chicago
  20. Tennessee
  21. Cincinnati
  22. Cleveland (from Atlanta)
  23. Detroit
  24. Pittsburgh
  25. Denver
  26. Houston
  27. New England (from New Orleans)
  28. Green Bay
  29. Baltimore
  30. San Francisco
  31. New England
  32. New York Giants

Notes on the order:
  • Miami and Carolina were tied for the #8 spot (same record and same strength of schedule). Miami won the coin flip and with pick 8th in the first round.
  • Kansas City and Seattle were likewise tied for the #11 spot. Kansas City won this coin toss and will pick 11th in the first round.
  • Cincinnati has two picks in the first round because they own Oakland's pick (#17) as part of the 2011 Carson Palmer trade.
  • Cleveland has two picks in the first round because they own Atlanta's pick (#22) as part of a 2011 draft-day trade which netted the Falcons Julio Jones.
  • New England has two picks in the first round because they own New Orleans' pick (#27) as part of a 2011 draft-day trade which netted the Saints Mark Ingram.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Congratulations Cortez Kennedy!

Cortez Kennedy was elected to the pro football hall of fame yesterday. Football doesn't send players in with an association to a team like baseball does. If they did, Kennedy would be the 2nd Seahawk, after Steve Largent, and the first I got to see play in games on TV, not just highlights.

Congrats, Tez!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Super Bowl Pick

This is it, the end of the NFL season. The final game that will end the story of the 2011-2012 season and probably serve as the first thing people will remember about this season years down the road. More importantly, my postseason picks are right at .500 with this one game left. I pick it right, I get to salvage some of my pride from my (abridged) attempt at picking the games which started strong and faded swiftly in the last few weeks. I pick it wrong, and both my regular season and playoff picks will finish below .500.

Better connected people than I have spent almost 2 weeks picking apart these two teams and this game. And this year we have even more material than normal to comb through, as these two teams played each other back in week 9, with the Giants handing the Patriots their last loss (New England is 10-0 since then, including the playoffs).

Of all the matchups, statistics, and injuries that go into the outcome for Sunday’s game, here are the top 3 in my mind:

The injury: Rob Gronkowski’s high ankle sprain:
New England’s offense has been a well-oiled dynamic machine for years now (all the way back to 2007), and most of the credit for that goes to Tom Brady. However, this year Brady hasn’t been his heroic self as often as we’ve come to expect. Instead the main contributor to New England’s outstanding offense has been a tight end: Mr. I Am Party himself. Comparing this offense to the 2007 offense, Gronk has been part Randy Moss and part Wes Welker. He has both been the giant threat defenses have to allocate multiple resources to (Moss) but also a guy to rack up catches, serve as a security blanket to Brady (especially in the red zone), and generally confound the other team’s efforts to get the Patriot offense off the field. The good news? He’s going to play, I don’t see how there can be any doubt about that. The bad news: There’s no way he’s close to 100%, and if he’s severely limited, the Patriots offense will suffer considerably.

The matchup: New England’s OL versus New York’s DL:
The Giants lost 7 games to other NFC teams in the regular season. They were swept by the Redskins, lost at home to Seattle, and dropped 4 in a row during the second half of the season. However, they dealt with injuries to their vaunted DL throughout much of the season, and now everybody’s healthy. That’s what has allowed New York to rip their way through the playoffs. Yes, the offense has certainly done its part, but it’s the defensive line that makes the Giants run: they are talented, and they are deep. This is the same formula that allowed the Giants to upset the undefeated Patriots back in February, 2008. Some of the faces are even the same.

New England’s offensive line has done a good job keeping heat off of Brady, but they haven’t been tested like they will be against New York on Sunday. I expect the Patriots to call a good number of quick throws and outlet throws to combat the pass rush. The problem is, the best way to neutralize the Giants pass rush is to run the ball at them. They aren’t very good at defending the run. San Francisco ran the ball a lot and was able to take advantage of a couple of big plays to Vernon Davis when the Giants brought more players closer to the line. Why is this a problem? New England doesn’t want to get into a grind it out game any more than the Giants want them to do it. It plays to the Patriots’ weaknesses just like it plays to the Giants’.

The storyline: The Giants have played this game before…and won convincingly:
The Giants are playing a team they met in the regular season who has a poor running game, a sieve-like defense that contains damage by forcing turnovers and FG attempts, and one of the (and maybe the) top quarterback(s) in the game. Sound familiar? It should.

Green Bay and the Patriots were essentially carbon copies of each other this season: A team with a prolific offense and a defense that couldn’t stop anyone (especially through the air) but could contain the damage enough to allow the offense to win the game for the team. However, the Packers were better at it than the Patriots…and the playoff Giants destroyed them at home.

Honestly, the best thing New England can point at to refute the above paragraph is Rob Gronkowski. He’s a better talent than the Green Bay offense can lay claim to (outside of the quarterback position, of course), and can single-handedly change the course of the game given his size and skill package. Unfortunately, he’s hurt, and while he will play, he won’t be near 100% 2 weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain. Can he make a few big plays on Sunday? Sure. Can he effect what the defense is doing play after play for 4 quarters? I don’t see it.

So if the offense is going to run into the buzz saw that has been the Giants defense this postseason, can the New England defense do enough to win the game? Recent history suggests yes, as that is exactly what happened in the AFC Championship game against the Ravens, and the yonly gave up 7 points to the Broncos. There’s even precedent for a terrible regular season defense turning it on in the playoffs and carrying at least its fair share of the burden on the way to a Super Bowl win: the 2006-07 Indianapolis Colts. The problem with this line of thought is the opposing quarterbacks the New England defense has achieved this rebirth against: Tim Tebow and Joe Flacco. Tebow is a great story, but not a good quarterback. Flacco is mediocre. Eli Manning, this season, is a top-5 QB.

I believe the Giants will jump out to an early 10 point lead and the Patriots will spend most of the last 2-2.5 quarters chipping away at that lead. The Pats will mount a comeback, and will get it down to a one-score game in the 4th quarter, but ultimately the comeback will fall short. And so, the pick is...

New York Giants (+3) over New England
Final Score: Giants 27, Patriots 23
MVP: Eli Manning

And an early Happy birthday to my son, Miles, who turns 1 on Sunday!

Postseason: 5-5
Regular Season: 51-55-4 (.482)