If you read my post last week, you know that the AFC is a two-horse race and the NFC is a mess. All four first-round games agreed with the True Wins predictions. I didn’t trust the Seahawks on the road, but True Wins came through (11 for the Seahawks versus just 9.5 for the Skins). So, what are we left with? Two clear favorites in the AFC (Patriots and Broncos) and two toss ups in the NFC. True Wins alone takes 49ers over Packers (11.5 to 11) and Seahawks over Falcons (11 to 10.5). I’m going to stick with the home teams in both cases, but don’t expect blowouts in the NFC unless the turnover margin is really skewed.
As part of football month on the blog, here are a couple random questions and answers that I’ve accumulated.
Should the NFL eliminate kickoffs? Greg Schiano, the Buccaneers crazy coach, thinks the NFL should get rid of kickoffs to protect player safety. A Rutgers player was paralyzed running kick coverage while Schiano coached there, so he knows exactly how dangerous kickoffs can be. Never mind that this is the same coach who runs a “kneel down blitz” when the other team is trying to kill the clock, a tactic that might work once when the other team is not expecting it, but will probably never work again.
Eliminating kickoffs seems rash, and Schiano’s “onside 4th down” proposal to allow scoring teams a way to retain possession is odd. Instead, why not allow onside kicks only? The receiving team is guaranteed to start on the 25 at worst. If the ball goes past the 25, it may not be returned. This will cut out at least some of the full-speed collisions and still keep the onside kick option open. To keep the “touchback” option interesting, my buddy Tony suggests that the offense has to start on the 5 yard line if the ball goes through the uprights. That would be awesome! I would watch every kickoff.
Speaking of onside kicks, since the rule changes against bunching players, it seems like kicking teams have lost their creativity. What gives? At the end of a game, I’m so tired of watching kickers pound the ball into the ground, hoping for a big bounce, and the defense setting up a wall so that a guy can catch it unmolested. Why not try a rugby-style dropkick that can really pop the ball up high? This is a legal way to kickoff, and while it’s a little harder to do with a football than a rugby ball, NFL kickers should be able to figure it out. A couple teams have tried it — I’d like to see it more.
Who is the fairest rookie QB of them all? Well, Russell Wilson has the best team, but I also think he might be the best player of the three leading candidates (Kirk Cousins’s cameo ignored). Before the draft, I wrote that high draft picks, especially QBs, are drastically overvalued. But even forgetting what the Colts and Redskins gave up to get their guys (remember, the Colts gave up Peyton Manning and a basket of future draft picks available by trade), I’m not sure those two are that good.
The Colts are this year’s Broncos — an overrated team (7 True Wins) that sneaked through some close games. Andrew Luck threw 18 picks and fumbled 10 times. They need to build more pieces around him, but I’m not sold.
The Skins are slightly better, in large part because of RG3 and stellar work by Kirk Cousins in substitute duty, but how long will this version of RG3 last? He should have missed time for a concussion this year and did miss time for a knee injury. The knee injury may have cost the Skins a playoff game. To be consistently effective, he needs to pull a McNabb and reinvent himself as “RG4,” a QB that hangs in the pocket and sprints for the sidelines occasionally. Also, there’s some fools’ gold in RG3’s running. According to NFL.com, he fumbled 12 times this year but only lost two of them! Losing a few more fumbles would have surely pushed the Skins out of the playoffs.
Enjoy the games today!