Saturday, September 10, 2016

Repeat After Me


There were moments of brilliance - specifically 2009, when it correctly predicted the New Orleans Saints, a team that had won only 2 playoff games in its entire franchise history to that point, would win their first Super Bowl; and again in 2012, when it correctly picked both the winner and loser of the Super Bowl (Ravens, 49ers). But those moments have been too few and far between. For the most part the annual forecasts by my crystal ball (CB) have been just a bit off the mark to say the least. Yes, I know, predicting the NFL isn't exactly easy. But that's why I have been so lenient with CB over the years, hoping it would get its act together more consistently. But after grading out at D+ for 2015 and averaging a C- for 8 years worth of forecasts (with no grade higher than the B- it earned in 2009), CB has come to the end of the line. I mean, if you had a 1.67 GPA after 8 years of college, would you be satisfied? Well, I ain't either; so it's out with the old .....

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Broncos Busters

Three years ago when my crystal ball (CB) predicted the Denver Broncos would win Super Bowl 48, I mentioned that their QB, Peyton Manning, wasn't about to retire having won fewer Super Bowl rings than his younger brother, N.Y. Giants QB Eli Manning. Having now evened the score with Eli (two years later than expected) at 2 rings apiece following the Broncos' 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers 7 months ago in Super Bowl 50, Peyton can retire in peace. And he can send a great big thank you note to the Broncos' defense, because it was only because of them that he was able to go out on top. I mean (and I know this sounds blasphemous, considering how great a career Peyton has had) it was almost as if the Broncos won the championship in spite of him. I say almost because the Broncos' offense wasn't totally inept; more often than not they got done what needed to get done - barely. But for the most part that offense - led by Manning in 12 of their 19 games - almost messed it up for one of the best defenses in NFL history.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

2015 College FB and NFL House Calls

They had the player that won the Heisman Trophy, and they took home the trophy after winning the 4-team playoff that supposedly determines the national champion; so I guess it's only right that the Alabama Crimson Tide would also take the 2015 crown for the team with the most touchdowns scored by players with dreads.

I have to apologize again for doing so very little on the 2015 College Football season. I never did get around to doing my all-America teams, but I feel obligated to at least do the house calls. After all, the main reason for this blog being named House of Dread is to recognize and celebrate the touchdowns by players with dreads. Thanks mostly to the 28 TD scored by College Football's best player (with or without dreads) (the last of the 28 in photo above, a 1-yard dive that upped Alabama's lead over Clemson to 45-33 with 1:07 remaining in the championship game) - Heisman winner Derrick Henry - Alabama, for the 2nd time in the 5 years I've done a feature on house calls, was the Division 1 team that had more TD scored by players with dreads than any other.

2015 was an up and down kind of season for TD by players with dreads - up, as in the NFL; and down, as in College Football. The 190 regular season touchdowns by the NFL's players with dreads were an increase of 11 over the previous season and just 3 short of the record high 193 scored in 2013. As for the colleges (I keep track of only Division 1), Alabama's nation-leading total of 29 marks the first time a team has taken the crown with less than 30 TD.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

DG160 - Part 1

If you watched the first two nights of the 2016 NFL Draft and ended up disappointed because there were so few players with dreads selected, don't blame me. In my draft preview I warned you not to waste your time on the first two nights, as I forecast there would be only 7 players with dreads picked in the first 3 rounds. As it turned out, 7 - as small a number as it was - was still too optimistic. By the end of the 3rd round on Mar. 29 only 5 players with dreads had heard their names called - three in round 1, two in round 2, and none in round 3. It was a far cry from the draft one year earlier, when a record high 20 were picked in the first 3 rounds, including 9 alone in round 1.

Things picked up on Day 3 of the draft - as expected - with the end result being that a total of 26 players with dreads were drafted. Actually at first I thought that 24 were selected. But after being informed that Michigan State DE Shilique Calhoun (a 3rd round pick) no longer had dreads (he cut them off sometime between MSU's pro day on Mar. 16 and the start of the Raiders' rookie minicamp on May 5), I discovered a couple of wide receivers that I didn't know had just gotten their dreads started had been drafted - Demarcus Robinson, from Florida, in round 4 and Demarcus Ayers, from Houston, in round 7; and I discovered that another player with beginner dreads had been drafted - OT Brandon Shell, from South Carolina.

Robinson, of course, was not the first former Gator with short dreads to be picked in this draft. The very first player with dreads selected - with the 11th pick in the 1st round - was former Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves, who started growing his dreads around this time a year ago. A Tampa product, Hargreaves (top photo in collage at upper right) no doubt will be playing in front of a lot of family and friends at all of his home games after being picked by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

DG160 - Part 2

It's not even close. It's the NFC in a landslide. At the start of training camp 44 members of the Class of 2016 rookies with dreads were with NFC teams, while only 28 were with AFC teams. But the AFC does have one thing they can hang their hat on, that being they have the team that picked the most players with dreads in this year's draft. The Baltimore Ravens selected players with dreads with 4 of their 11 picks - one more than the three taken by NFC leader Arizona. In Part 2 of DG160 we'll take a look at those four along with all the other rookies with dreads on AFC teams as well as those on teams in the NFC North.

Of the Ravens' four draft picks with dreads, fans attending training camp unfortunately will only be able to see the dreads of two of them. That's because .....

1. ..... The other two, a couple of guys who played for colleges in Michigan, have dreads too short to be seen with their helmets on - former Michigan Wolverines DT Willie Henry and DE Matthew Judon, who played for Division 2 school Grand Valley State - seen together here during the 2nd day of the Ravens' rookie minicamp on May 7.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

NFL '15 Dread News - Week 22

Two years earlier they fielded one of the finest offenses the league has ever seen. But when all that got them was that train wreck of a defeat in Super Bowl 48, the Denver Broncos went back to the drawing board - and got it right this time, putting together what proved to be one of the best defenses in NFL history. With 2 weeks to prepare for the game, that defense went out and made mincemeat of the Carolina Panthers' offense, leading the Broncos to a victory in Super Bowl 50 that clinched the franchise's 3rd ever NFL championship and their first in 17 years. LB Von Miller (photo on right) and his friends in the white jerseys were the ones doing most of the dabbing while dealing the Panthers only their 2nd defeat of the season. After going 17-1 in their first 18 games, the Panthers emphatically found out they weren't the baddest bully on the NFL block. They'll begin next season still in search of their first title after dropping to 0-2 all time in their Super Bowl appearances.

The greatness of the Broncos' defense cannot be disputed. I mean, just look at the numbers: 194 total yards (3.5 per play), 11 first downs, 1 for 14 on 3rd down conversions, sacked 5 times, 7 punts, 2 turnovers, 27:13 time of possession.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

NFL '15 Dread News - Week 21

In the few number of NFL reports I've done over the past couple of years I have made a big deal of the fact that the team losing the Super Bowl one year does not play in the Super Bowl the next year. There's no written rule that forbids a team from going back the next year, but for whatever reason none have made it back - for 22 straight years now (including the one mentioned in the Week 22 report that I haven't even done yet). Half the length of that streak is one that affects the Super Bowl winner - a streak you're probably already familiar with. When the Patriots fell to the Broncos in the AFC championship game in Week 20, they became the 11th straight league champion to fail to successfully defend their title the following season. During the course of this season's playoffs (I don't remember exactly when) a couple of other fascinating tidbits came to my attention that are kind of mind boggling too. You might want to keep them in mind while filling out your NFL brackets for the 2016 season.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Irish dreads are smiling

If Irish eyes can smile, why can't Irish dreads too? Of course, the Irish I'm referring to aren't the same Irish mentioned in that famous song about smiling eyes written over 100 years ago - those being the real Irish, as in from Ireland. Obviously I'm talking about the football Irish. You know - Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish. There have been hundreds of NFL players over the years who played their college ball for Notre Dame; but only a handful of them have had dreads. In 2015 there were 4 such players on NFL rosters - Jaguars S Sergio Brown, Broncos S David Bruton, 49ers DT Ian Williams, and Cardinals practice squad RB Robert Hughes. But if the best case scenario comes to pass in this weekend's NFL Draft, that number will more than double by next season.

6 of the 17 hopefuls on hand for Notre Dame's pro day on Mar. 31 have dreads; and of the six there are three who definitely will be drafted and another two with an outside chance of hearing their names called before the draft wraps up on Saturday.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

NFL '15 Dread News - Week 20

When the Denver Broncos wrapped up Week 2 of the playoffs with their 23-16 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, it meant not only that the team I predicted to win the AFC was eliminated, but also that we were left with the Broncos facing the New England Patriots for the conference championship. That, of course, is a very good thing if you're a fan of the Patriots and/or Broncos. But if you're like me? Well, you probably were asking yourself the same question I was asking myself: Is there any way they both can lose?

The Patriots had a 2-game lead over the Broncos for the #1 AFC playoff seed with 2 games to play but then inexplicably lost to both the Jets and Dolphins in Weeks 16 and 17. And that would come back to haunt them. You see, allowing the Broncos to get the top seed meant that in order for the Patriots to repeat as champions, they likely at some point were going to have to beat the Broncos in Denver. And, as any Patriots fan can tell you, Patriots' trips to Denver over the years have almost always resulted in defeat.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

NFL '15 Dread News - Week 19

And that makes 22 .....

When LB Thomas Davis went high to catch an onside kickoff by the Seattle Seahawks (photo on right) with 1:11 remaining in the game on Jan. 17 and still had possession of the ball when he hit the ground, effectively clinching the Carolina Panthers' 2nd round victory over the Seahawks, the streak of Super Bowl losers failing to return to the Super Bowl the following season grew one year longer. The Seahawks, heartbreak losers to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 49 at the end of the 2014 season, should have been eliminated a week earlier. But after they somehow defeated the Minnesota Vikings in round 1, there was no miracle finish this time, as the Panthers hung on for a 31-24 victory to make them the 22nd straight Super Bowl loser not to get back the next year.

Losers to the Seahawks at home the last three seasons in a row (by a total of just 13 points), the Panthers seemingly had gotten that monkey off their back with a 27-23 win at Seattle this season in Week 6; but that monkey would have been right back if they had let the Seahawks come and beat them on their home field again. They wasted no time making sure that didn't happen.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

NFL '15 Dread News - Week 18

Cold? What cold?

Leave it to Bud Grant, coach of the Minnesota Vikings during their glory years in the late 1960's and early '70's, to provide the most hilarious moment of the first weekend of the playoffs (Jan. 9-10). Famous for not allowing a heater on the home team's sideline during cold weather games at old Metropolitan Stadium back in his day, Grant, now 88 years old and an honorary captain for the Vikings' game against the Seattle Seahawks, walked onto the field for the coin toss wearing a short sleeve shirt (photo on right). Oh, did I mention the gametime temperature was -6 degrees? A couple of days before the game a co-worker had asked me if Grant was still alive. And after seeing him on the field, I thought to myself that he might not be alive much longer after pulling a stunt like that. While Grant no doubt wasn't at all bothered by the frigid conditions - it was the 3rd coldest game in NFL history - no doubt all of the players were, even with all the hand warmers and heated benches and cold gear available nowadays. The cold stopped the Seahawks' offense cold; but it didn't matter - they were playing the Vikings. 

Throughout their history the Vikings have made an art form of the gut-wrenching playoff defeat; and they added another beauty to their collection, missing a chip-shot, 27-yard FG attempt with 22 seconds remaining in the game to allow the Seahawks to escape Minneapolis with a 10-9 victory.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

NFL '15 Dread News - Week 17

Where to start? .....
Well, how about we start my first full-fledged NFL report in nearly 2 years in the AFC West .....
When the Kansas City Chiefs began the season 1-5 while the Denver Broncos were going 6-0, I figured my preseason prediction of the Chiefs finishing in 1st place was already down the toilet. But, as Lee Corso would say, not so fast! The Chiefs hit a softer spot of their schedule; the Broncos, who seemingly were playing close games every week, finally started losing some of them; and wouldn't you know, when the two teams kicked off their respective home games at the same time last Sunday, the Chiefs were only one more Broncos loss away from stealing the division crown. And for a brief few minutes it looked like that loss might actually happen, as the last place and 9-point underdog San Diego Chargers took a 20-17 lead in the 4th quarter. But the Broncos didn't panic, came back and tied the game, and then scored a TD with 4:44 to play to win it 27-20, clinching not only the AFC West title but also the top seed in the AFC for the playoffs.