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Tag:Eli Manning
Posted on: March 13, 2013 1:39 pm
 

Friendship Fleeting in NFL Flux

Losing your best friend has always been tough, whether you’re eight or ninety-eight.

They write songs about it and plenty of ’em: See; “Popcrush.com.” I’m not embarrassed to say I knew not one of PC’s top-ten “best friend” songs until the last one on the list (#1): The Jackson 5, “I’ll Be There” (’71). Funny thing is, that’s ‘bout time I lost a best friend.

I must’ve been around seven or eight.  Typical age for your first shocker?

I think it was summer and I’m walking home. I get to my 'girlfriend' Carolyn’s house (first girl I’d kissed) and she’s on her porch with another neighborhood friend, Erik. She calls me over and drops the bomb: “Steve,” she says, “Erik’s gonna’ be my boyfriend now.”

Erik was a major doofus who’d earlier stolen my baseball cards so I wasn’t too surprised he was involved, but Carolyn’s betrayal, that threw me for a loss. Backstabbers & gossips are the culprits when buddies suddenly go bust but you’ve still gotta’ earn your friends. Maybe Erik put a knife in my back or maybe I’d just been neglectful and Carolyn wanted to rattle my cage, hoping I’d protest. But I never the saw point.

The point here being, losing a friend can be a big hurt.

In the NFL it’s never as personal as my tiny tale but the consequences can be weighty.

No friendship in football carries more weight than the symbiosis between a quarterback and his favorite receiver. And the big guys in the trenches who protect their field general? They’re good friends too, but that ain’t this.

I can’t recall a time in recent memory when this many highly productive QB / top-target relationships were coming asunder or subject of serious separation speculation.

The short list:

Wes Welker (Patriots and Tom Brady): 9 yrs. (‘04); Sure-handed, high-volume possession receiver of an exceptional quarterback, recovered nicely from recent a knee bang but beginning to grow fangs (age) and expects / deserves small king’s ransom.

Victor Cruz (NY Giants and Eli Manning): 3 yrs. (‘10); Young, speedy, confident deep threat for terrific QB whose early results impress but saw average (12.7 / 18.7) & yards (1092 / 1536) drop-off considerably in ‘12. Exchange-rate (1-RD) makes Victor costly.

Greg Jennings (Packers and Aaron Rodgers): 7 yrs. (‘06); Another trophy-receiver for star QB who was building HOF resume when injury hit in ‘11 (MCL / groin). Questions remain on recovery after long rehab which temper marketability.

Percy Harvin (now Seahawks, formerly Vikings (Chris Ponder)): 4 yrs. (‘09);

Mike Wallace (now Dolphins, formerly Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger)): 4 yrs. (‘09);

Anquan Boldin (now 49ers, formerly Ravens (Joe Flacco)): 10 yrs. (‘03).

Goodbyes began in earnest Monday when talented but troubled Harvin and salary-cap cut Boldin were both sent Northwest. Vikes appear the better for their trade: 1) calmer locker-room with hot Harvin history; 2) more money available to cover (cut vet Winfield, signed OL Loadholt); 3) got better compensation and 4) Ponder was coping without Percy Electric who missed half of ‘12 (9G / 62 REC / 677 YD) while Flacco relied heavily on AB (380 YD / 4 TD) in Ravens ‘13 post-season run. But Baltimore has an established QB and their 2nd Lombardi.

From player perspective I’m happier if I’m Percy. Everyone wants to win but everyone wants to play, too. If I haul in passes for a living (or run for that matter) I’m not happy sacrificing touches & stats for a ball-hog, run-QB like Col. Kaepernick or RG3. Russ Wilson rabbits too but appears, at this stage anyway, to have a better appreciation for developing the necessary pocket presence and should distribute accordingly.

From team perspectives, much hinges on Harvin’s play-time, compromised in Minnesota due to migraines and other maladies. Stress is a major factor in headaches and pricey Percy has heaped a lotta’ pressure on himself in forcing the trade. One key will be Pete Carroll’s ability to manage emotions, something he’s been quite adept at doing in the past.

Tuesday saw prize pick-up Mike “60 Minutes” Wallace (That’s not Chris Berman IP, is it?) part company with Big Ben and land in Miami where QB Ryan Tannehill played admirably in his rookie campaign on a 7-9 team that some report (CBS (PBP) 2-11) will consider going ‘pistol / no-read-run option.’ I’m sure Ryan is thrilled at the prospect of putting his head & knees at higher-risk. Ugh. As for Mike, at least the money’s great, right?

With free agency in full-swing and draft day on the horizon, NFL wheelers & dealers are moving fast & furious in keeping, cutting loose & casting far for new talent. There will be some painful farewells, joyous exits and hopeful, high anticipation for the new arrivals.

And for those QBs suffering from separation anxiety, remember this kindergarten lesson that never grows old: lose a friend, make another, try to keep 'em happy (and always watch your back).

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Posted on: November 29, 2012 1:08 am
 

NFL '12 Cherry Picks Wk-13

They Made Me a Criminal

“Illegal.” It’s a word that was popping up with odd frequency this past weekend in major media descriptions of Detroit Lions’ coach Jim Schwartz and his now infamous challenge-flag faux pas on Thanksgiving Day. I’m no legal expert but am not aware of the existence of any State of Michigan or federal criminal, regulatory or like provision that such an on-field miscue would violate.

No harm, no foul? Sure, why not. But c’mon production people, get on the ball and give these guys a break.

But there is something that happened in Detroit, a misdeed I hope lawmakers address soon and pass legislation making its occurrence punishable by fine, community service and required viewings of the ‘97 version of the movie “Titanic:” the ‘prevent defense.’

Lions didn’t lose on turkey day because Schwartz’ impulsive flag toss, nor did they lose because place-kicker J. Hanson boinked a late 47-yarder off the cross-bar. They lost because they permitted the Houston Texans to run-off 15 plays and drive 97 yards for the game-tying TD by employing what seemed to be that time-honored concession to fear & doubt, the dreaded PD.

“I do not choose to run”

Those words stunned a nation in 1927 when America’s popular laissez faire President Calvin Coolidge announced he’d not seek a 2nd full-term as Chief Executive. Cal didn’t exactly brim over with personality, nor was he what you might call an economic visionary (the Depression), but his famous statement is surprisingly apropos when the subject of discussion is Redskins’ rookie QB sensation Robert Griffin.

Bob’s put together a couple of gems his last two games against woeful division rivals Philly & Dallas, tossing four TDs in both walkover wins. In a conference (and League) where top teams are in short supply in 2012, the Skins are still players for the post-season at 5-6.

With today’s flash-QB, run-attempts are a key stat. In Dallas Bob kept it down to six. If he stays around that number week in, week out, win or lose, he’ll make it in this League because it means he can take the hits while learning to read defense and find receivers. Mike Vick never got the message, or if he did, couldn’t make the adjustment.

Run-QB is the biggest thing to hit football since the 300-yard passer made RBs just so much icing on the cake. They’re reminiscent of a by-gone era when the single-wing tail-back was expected to do pretty much everything (pass, run, block) but load-up the bus.

Run-Johnny-run is all the rage on college campus where Coach knows the next Cam or Timbo is his ticket to glory. Just make sure you have a back-up plan when he goes pro (Chizik). But for now anyway, the sit-tite, stand-tall pocket passer rules the NFL roost and he has the hardware & blindside bruises to prove it.

So when you feel your mobility turning into flight, best heed Cal’s words Bob and take your lumps. It’s called the long-view, something Mr. Coolidge ($) couldn’t see.

Cherry Picks Week 13

New Orleans Saints (5-6) @ Atlanta Falcons (10-1) (11-29 / NFLN 8:20)

A must win for Falcons? Already a lock for PS, a win here goes a long way exercising demons of doubt from recent playoff flame-outs and earlier loss to their regional nemesis (11-11). On other side, still a flicker of hope for Saints as Vikes & Hawks fade fast while RG3’s got Skins believing. Kaep Krusader & the Niners gave NO a dose of reality and banged-up A-birds will hammer home the point but with “more feeling.” Atlanta wins.

Minnesota Vikings (6-5) @ Green Bay Packers (7-4) (12-2 / Fox 1:00)

There is history (Bears / GB), and there is rivalry. The later, that’s this, the Midwest’s biggest grudge match. Makes Yanks / Red Sox feud seem kinda’ quaint. And it would have been a barn-burner this year ‘cept Vikes lost their way. MIN didn’t just get beat in their two mettle games (TB / CHI), they barely showed up, Mr. Frazier. And if GB can’t protect Rodgers (37S), they won’t beat Titans WK16, but Pack beats purple pretenders.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) @ Denver Broncos (8-3) (Fox 4:05)

Difference between a win & loss can be miniscule (v ATL) but TB takes comfort knowing they’re headed in the right direction (5-2). It’s telling, about the NFL, when you stuff the run (TB 1/ 82) and still rank 30th overall (D). WTW: Both O-lines stout (16S) but Denver brings it big (37S / TB-18S) and Josh will be tested. Martin runs big but can get stuffed (SD / ATL / DEN 8R), while Peyton likes the opportunity (TB 32P). Denver prevails.

New York Giants (7-4) @ Washington Redskins (5-6) (12-3 / ESPN 8:30)

In talking of GB’s woes this week, Hoge & Jaworski (ESPN) hit on this: QBs need time to work their “progression.” No matter the skill-set (Rodgers), if rushed, mistakes follow. Giants D (30S) plans same press on RG3. But as the young lad has no progression as yet, Rob’s make-it-up-on-the-go approach just might thwart the blitz. Better still, Skins have a real run game in Mr. Morris (4.7 / 982). Eli & Company are back in rhythm, having found that self-confidence that seems to energize late-season runs. Giants win at FedEx.

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Posted on: October 25, 2012 1:22 am
 

NFL '12 Cherry Picks Wk-8

A Thing of Beauty

One is a seasoned pro who collects hardware in the Lombardi line, forgoing the glitzy MVP variety. He is a standard by which others are measured and to which young players should aspire; the other is a rookie and budding star, athletic & energized, he still operates by the collegian concept that football is a one-man show and has the bruises to show it.

On Sunday both men took part in what may be the best short-sequence so far this NFL 2012 season, offensively speaking. The golden-age of the defensive-back, this is not.

With under two minutes in the game, Redskins’ rookie QB Rob Griffin lofted a perfect 30-yard rainbow to receiver Santana Moss who did his best imitation of a Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder-catch and hauled it in for what looked to be the game-winning TD vs NYG.

Never one to back down from a challenge (it's in the genes), on the Giants’ next series, the reigning Super Bowl champion QB Eli Manning responded quicker than you can say Jack Robinson by connecting with speedy Victor Cruz on a 20 yard strike turned nicely into a 77 yard TD scamper in what Vic described post-game as a play they both “practice.” Practice makes perfect and this was pretty near perfection.

Both hook-ups were a thing of beauty, Eli & Vic’s a bit more voluptuous than the Skins‘ version which was quite fetching, just the same. Kudos.

Greased Pig-skin

A football is a football is a football, right? Not when it’s the official NFL ball it ain’t. Next time you turn on the game, take a gander at the pigskin in play. That shiny spheroid, made by Wilson, a subsidiary of Amer-Sports (Finland), in Ada, Ohio, is slicker than a greased pig. But if you’re looking for a justification for the sissy-fication of football by way of “sticky-gloves,” there you have it. Cha-ching!

Health(ier) Choice

Enjoy watching the game but suffer through a plethora of TV commercials & announcers that bore you silly? Here’s a solution. When it gets unbearable, flip-over to the League‘s “NFL Game Center” (NFLN / 1:00-4 EST). The colorful, game-board display shows every on-going contest with up-to-the-minute scores, audible announcing and is chock-full of the numbers you crave. If you‘re a scoreboard watcher, this is the place to be.

Cherry Picks Wk-8

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) @ Minnesota Vikings (5-2) (10-25 / NFLN / 8:20 EST)

If he doesn’t soon turn it down a notch or two, Tampa Coach Gregg Schiano is in danger of becoming Les Steckel II, ex-marine who steered Vikes to 3-13 record in ‘84 (and OC of ‘00 Bucs top offense). Tough talk won’t cut it if nobody’s listening. Upside, Bucs battle in every loss, QB Freeman’s rebounding while getting time (9-S) and specialist Barth can go long if close (57). But RB Blount is a rarity, top WR Jackson is ankled and run-stuff D (3d / 76 / David / Foster) will be tested by peaking Peterson (4.8). Vikings balanced defense (11R / 11P) tips the scale North in this slugfest of former division rivals.

Atlanta Falcons (6-0) @ Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) (10-28 / Fox / 1:00)

Count me among those feeling Falcons slightly more lucky than good. Atypical lack-luster defense supports the view. But Ryan’s distribution is impressive (3-30+ WR), TD / INT ratio solid and Turner’s run-game compliments. Home Eagles have better rank (7-O / 12-D) and with Vick looking threadbare I like him coming off the bye. Eagles win.

Washington Redskins (3-4) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) (Fox / 1:00)

ATL, MIN, NYG and now PIT: baptism by fire. Though I’m no fan of Mike’s run-QB attack-plan, I give Rob credit for battling big boys with gusto. Hope DC isn’t looking ahead to CAR / bye. Griffin's COMP % (70) and TD ratio (7-3) are good, while W-L (3-4) not bad for 1st-year. But when the QB is a top RB (7.3 / 468 / 6), trouble awaits in downfield pops and time lost in pocket-classroom. Skins can tackle (Fletcher / Riley / Wms / Hall) but deflect few passes (32). Troy is missed (calf) but Pitt still defends (2) while RB Dwyer has earned a start (if it works, don't fix). Ben’s like Brett, under-appreciated, takes a licking & keeps on ticking, a flair for dramatic and a nose for the end-zone. Steelers win.

New York Giants (5-2) @ Dallas Cowboys (3-3) (Fox / 4:25)

Raiders / Chiefs rivalry is regal (CBS / 4:05) but this is big bout in Wk-8. Cowboys made nice opening statement Wk-1 vs NYG (24-17) but very garbled since (SEA / CHI). Boys slip-by gloomy Cats while Giants ‘pull fat outta the fire’ vs DC. Where is the greatness? That would be the NBA (Heat / Lakers). Dallas run-attack doesn’t scare but Romo can still matriculate with cool WR corps and Giants’ D won’t say boo (24). Jerry wants this one bad, Garrett knows it and the Dallas defense should do its part (4). Cowboys win.

New Orleans Saints (2-4) @ Denver Broncos (3-3) (NBC / 8:20)

Resurrection Bowl. Saints have a ways to go (D-30/30; O-run (31)) but got their bounce back. Brees is breezy and tide may’ve turned vs TB. Gotta' like Manning’s progress (ratio (14-4) & distribution) while reliable RB McGahee (4.3) could use a backfield bud. Denver D (11) should hamper Drew enough (10-P) while protected Peyton (10-S) lights-up the night. Broncos win.

San Francisco 49ers (5-2) @ Arizona Cardinals (4-3) (ESPN / 8:30)

Giants loss lingers for 49ers but Seattle win cauterizes the wound. Notable road victories (GB / Jets) and top-flight D (1) make San Fran a player but AZ win bolster’s case. Smith is sound and run-game serious (177) but mounting sacks (20) a concern. Cards quandary: quality wins (SEA / NE / PHI), troubling losses (BUF / STL) with biggest being Kolb who was fitting-in. QB Skelton needs size (6-6 / 244) as Arizona O-line is sieve (35-S) which doesn’t help the run-game (26). But John likes home crowd (6-0) and solid Cards’ D keeps it close (Daryl Washington: 62 / 6-S). May come down to kickers who’ve been shaky as of late but can be rangy: (AZ) Feely 61 / (SF) Ackers 63. 49ers are good.

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com