Sunday, September 13, 2015

Revenge of the Birds

Way back in the infancy of the house of dread, which would now be 7 years ago, one of the first things I posted - appropriately under the title of "Totally Clueless" - was the first NFL forecast of my shiny new crystal ball (CB, for short). That first year, predicting the 2008 season, CB earned an overall grade of 'D' for its picks, a mark that still ranks as its lowest ever. Instead of the CB-approved Cowboys' victory over the Jaguars in the Super Bowl (neither team even made the playoffs), it was the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Arizona Cardinals in that exciting finish at Tampa. I mention this now because when I consulted CB 9 days ago for its forecast of the 2015 season, the first thing that came up in big capital letters was "DEJA VU." No, not the clueless part; CB means the part about the Cardinals facing the Steelers in the Super Bowl. Only this time it will be the Cardinals who will prevail, avenging their loss from 7 years ago, with the smiling face of WR Larry Fitzgerald (photo above) on the podium when the Vince Lombardi Trophy is presented after the first Super Bowl played at the 49ers' new Levi's Stadium next February.

CB, not so shiny anymore but tried and sometimes true, says don't waste your money betting on a Patriots' repeat or on any of the supposed NFC superpowers in Seattle, Green Bay, Dallas, and Philadelphia - because it's going to be the Cardinals earning the top seed in the NFC and winning their two home games; and the Steelers rising from the #4 seed to take the AFC crown. After tallying the W's and L's from CB's predictions of all 256 regular season games, only the Steelers and Packers are picked to be repeat winners of their respective divisions. And as for the two teams that played that thriller in last season's Super Bowl, if CB is correct, both the Patriots and the Seahawks will miss the playoffs entirely (mercy CB, what have you been smoking?, lol), with the Patriots being dealt an especially cruel fate in their final game of the season.

Last season CB, with all of its picks done before the season started, pick the winner correctly in 158 of the 256 games - a big improvement over the 149 winners picked in 2013 and in fact its best performance ever - and should have picked the correct winner of the Super Bowl (which still remains a sore point with CB, a topic I'll address in my next post). So you may laugh at CB now; but CB does get the last laugh every now and then. Anyway I'll shut up now and let you see this year's forecast. As always, the exact words displayed by CB are in italics.


     1. MIA 11-5
     2. BUF 11-5
     3. NE 10-6
     4. NYJ 5-11

TIEBREAKER: Dolphins clinch 1st place due to better record than Bills in division games (MIA 4-2, BUF 3-3)

CB: With division title on line in Week 17 Patriots lead Dolphins 24-7 at halftime when it is announced that judge has ruled in favor of NFL in their appeal of Tom Brady's appeal in Deflategate incident, reinstating his 4-game suspension. Commissioner Goodell orders suspension to be effective immediately and demands Brady be removed from game. Dolphins rally to win 28-27 on Jay Ajayi's 1st TD of season with 33 seconds remaining in game, clinching division title for Dolphins and knocking Pats out of playoffs.

CB is predicting that for the 2nd straight year Jets RB Chris Ivory will lead all AFC East players with dreads in TD, improving from 7 TD last year to 8 this season; CB is also predicting that aided by CB Stephon Gilmore's 6 INT - the most among all NFL players with dreads - the Bills, despite two losses to the Patriots, will finally end their 15-year playoff drought.


     1. PIT 10-6
     2. BAL 9-7
     3. CIN 7-9
     4. CLEV 6-10

CB: Browns' upset of Steelers in Week 17 gives Ravens chance to take title; but at Cincinnati with Ravens driving for winning TD, Reggie Nelson strips the ball after a catch by Marlon Brown at the 5-yard line with 20 seconds to play. Bengals recover fumble and hang on for 20-16 victory, allowing Steelers to back in to division crown.
CB says that WR Markus Wheaton will double his TD scored from 2 last year to 4 this season, helping Steelers take the crown for the team with the most TD by players with dreads with a total of 20.


     1. IND 12-4
     2. HOU 10-6
     3. JAC 5-11
     4. TEN 2-14

CB: Colts wrap up division title with 2 weeks to spare as T.Y. Hilton scorches Texans' secondary for 213 yards and 3 TD in Week 15 victory, keeping Texans winless in Indy.

CB likes WRs T.Y. Hilton of Colts and DeAndre Hopkins of Texans to finish in a tie for the most TD catches by any player with dreads with 11 TD each.



     1. KC 11-5
     2. DEN 10-6
     3. SD 7-9
     4. OAK 4-12

CB: Raiders appear to have clinched Week 17 upset of Chiefs in KC after tackling Jamaal Charles short of first down on 4th and 10 in closing seconds until Charles is speared by Mario Edwards after play is over, setting off a brawl. Personal foul penalty on Edwards gives Chiefs first down and moves ball into FG range, and KC wins 19-17 on FG with :00 on clock to clinch 1st round playoff bye.
Not surprisingly, CB expects Chargers RB Melvin Gordon to take AFC rookie of the year honors after rushing for 1,128 yards and 8 TD; but it won't be enough to lift Chargers into playoffs.

AFC TIEBREAKERS: Chiefs clinch #2 seed due to better strength of victory than Dolphins (KC 88-88, MIA 84-92). In 3-way tie for #6 seed, Patriots eliminated due to head-to-head losses to Broncos (Week 12) and Texans (Week 14). Texans then clinch tiebreaker over Broncos due to better record in conference games (HOU 8-4, DEN 7-5)


     1. PHIL 12-4
     2. DAL 11-5
     3. NYG 7-9
     4. WASH 2-14

CB: Eagles blow 28-13 lead in 4th quarter vs. Giants in Week 17 but kick FG with 17 seconds left to tie game at 31; on ensuing kickoff return Dwayne Harris fumbles ball as he is yanked down by his dreads by LB Bryan Braman, and Denzel Rice scoops up ball and takes it 35 yards to the house to give Eagles victory and division crown.
Yo, CB, didn't Braman grab Harris' dreads in a game last year?
CB: Deja vu.
CB is going out on a limb, predicting that NFC East players with dreads will combine for at least 10 TD this year, including 3 by Cowboys rookie WR Lucky Whitehead


     1. GB 12-4
     2. DET 12-4
     3. MIN 8-8
     4. CHI 3-13

TIEBREAKER: Packers clinch 1st place due to better record than Lions in division games (GB 5-1, DET 4-2)

CB: After Packers take lead vs. Vikings on TD with 27 seconds remaining in Week 17, Cordarrelle Patterson takes ensuing kickoff return 84 yards to the house; but after holding penalty nullifies successful 2-point conversion, Vikings try to kick extra point but miss, allowing Packers to escape with 27-26 victory to take division title.
CB believes that after scoring only 2 TD last season, Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson will bounce back (a bit) in 2015, scoring a total of 6 TD.


     1. ATL 9-7
     2. NO 8-8
     3. CAR 6-10
     4. TB 3-13

CB: With Falcons trailing Saints 34-31 in overtime at Atlanta in Week 17, Roddy White makes catch on 4th and 14, breaks tackle at midfield, and scores his 1st TD of season on 67-yard play to give Falcons victory and division crown.
CB is going out on a limb again, picking Falcons CB Desmond Trufant to lead all NFC players with dreads with 5 INT and picking Falcons DBs to do better than their 2014 total of 10 INT by players with dreads.


     1. ARIZ 12-4
     2. SEA 9-7
     3. SF 6-9-1
     4. STL 5-10-1

CB: Cardinals blow 17-6 4th quarter lead at home in Week 17, allowing Seahawks to tie game at 17, and in final minute Carson Palmer is intercepted by Richard Sherman. But on the INT return Sherman is clobbered by Jonathan Cooper and fumbles ball, and Andre Ellington scoops it up and scampers 38 yards to the house for winning TD, allowing Cards to clinch top seed in NFC.
Yo, CB, SEA 9-7??
CB: Injuries and poor O-line doom defending NFC champs.
CB forecasts that the bizarre TD by RB Andre Ellington in Week 17 will be his 12th TD of the season, which will edge Packers RB Eddie Lacy for most TD by any NFC player with dreads.

NFC TIEBREAKERS: In 3-way tie for #1 seed, Cardinals clinch #1 seed due to head-to-head victories over Eagles (Week 15) and Packers (Week 16). Packers clinch #2 seed due to better record than Eagles in conference games (GB 10-2, PHIL 9-3)


  • MIA over HOU
  • PIT over BUF
  • DAL over PHIL
  • ATL over DET
  • PIT over IND
  • MIA over KC
  • ARIZ over DAL
  • GB over ATL
  • PIT over MIA
  • ARIZ over GB
  • Cardinals 27 Steelers 23 (MVP: Larry Fitzgerald, game-winning TD catch with 35 seconds remaining in game)
CB: Larry Fitzgerald gets MVP award he nearly got in Super Bowl 43



These players had dreads when the 2014 season ended but have cut them off since then.
  • Tavaris Barnes (NO, rookie)
  • Isaiah Burse (PIT practice squad)
  • Davon Coleman (DAL)
  • Louis Delmas (MIA, IR)
  • Keenan Lambert (OAK, rookie)
  • Sio Moore (IND)
  • Steven Nelson (KC, rookie)
  • Rakeem Nunez-Roches (KC, rookie)
  • Ropati Pitoitua (TEN)
  • Patrick Robinson (SD)
  • Lardarius Webb (BAL)
  • Tourek Williams (SD)

Counting his 4 years at Western Michigan and 6 seasons in the NFL, Louis Delmas (right photo) had his dreads for at least 10 years before cutting them off. Maybe he shouldn't have, as he was injured during a training camp practice and will miss all of the 2015 season. And Ravens fans, unfortunately, will be able to see Lardarius Webb's name on the back of his jersey this season:

Also, sadly, three players that had very long dreads cut them off during the 2014 season: Josh Gordy (now with N.Y. Giants), Winston Guy (now with IND), and Davin Joseph (free agent). Also, two players who were cut during training camp now no longer have dreads, Khaseem Greene and Trey Millard.


I call 'em as I see 'em ..... With the rapidly increasing number of players who begin their dreads by just growing their hair and letting it turn into dreads by itself, it's hard to pinpoint an exact moment when you can start calling them dreads. For those players I don't welcome them to the house unless I can see individual locks forming and extending out from the rest of the hair. Maybe you have a different threshold than I do, so maybe you would include more players in this category than I have.

These players did not have dreads when last season ended but have started growing them since then.
  • Melvin Ingram (SD) (with teammate Melvin Gordon in photo)

  • (*) Desean Jackson (WASH)

  • Cameron Jordan (NO)

  • Demarcus Lawrence (DAL)

  • Mike Pouncey (MIA)
  • Josh Robinson (IND, rookie)

  • Cedric Thornton (PHIL)
  • James Vaughters (GB practice squad, rookie)
  • Sean Weatherspoon  (ARIZ)
(*) - I see that Desean Jackson has his hair in beginner dreads again, and he's actually kept them all the way through training camp. But we have seen this before, when he lets then grow for a little while then suddenly cuts them off. I'm welcoming Desean to the house for now; but for real his room is right next to the door, so he doesn't have far to go if I have to kick him out.

Terren Jones, Mike McFarland, and Najee Goode also have begun growing dreads. They're all free agents currently but likely will end up on some team's roster before the season is over. And I'm also going to keep a close eye on Rams LB Daren Bates, who is growing his hair and could become dreads at any moment.


These are the several players with dreads who have changed teams since the end of last season, with their former teams listed first and their current teams listed second and underlined.
  • Joe Barksdale (STL, SD)
  • David Bass (CHI, TEN)
  • E.J. Biggers (WASH, PHIL)
  • Sergio Brown (IND, JAC)
  • Travaris Cadet (NO, NE)
  • James Carpenter (SEA, NYJ)

  • Adrian Clayborn (TB, ATL)
  • Lavar Edwards (DAL, OAK)
  • Dannell Ellerbe (MIA, NO)
  • Dwayne Harris (DAL, NYG)

  • Davon House (GB, JAC)
  • Nate Irving (DEN, IND)
  • Ricky Jean Francois (IND, WASH)
  • Tim Jennings (CHI, TB)
  • Chris Johnson (NYJ, ARIZ)
  • Jamari Lattimore (GB, NYJ)
  • Kendrick Lewis (HOU, BAL)
  • Dwight Lowery (ATL, IND)

  • Danny McCray (CHI, DAL)
  • Brandon Meriweather (WASH, NYG)
  • Pernell McPhee (BAL, CHI)

  • Jared Odrick (MIA, JAC)
  • Jacquizz Rodgers (ATL, CHI)
  • Da'Norris Searcy (BUF, TEN)
  • Jabaal Sheard (CLEV, NE)
  • Pat Sims (OAK, CIN)
  • Buster Skrine (CLEV, NYJ)
  • D.J. Swearinger (HOU, TB)
  • J.T. Thomas (JAC, NYG)
  • Charles Tillman (CHI, CAR)
  • DeAngelo Williams (CAR, PIT)

  • Tramon Williams (GB, CLEV)
 The following players are currently looking for a job. Probably (or should I say, hopefully) they'll all find one with some team before the season is over:
  • Quentin Groves
  • Denarius Moore
  • Trent Richardson
  • Brandon Spikes
  • Reggie Walker
  • Philip Wheeler


Being placed on the injured reserve list is the worst thing that can happen to a player because it means not only is he injured, his injury is serious and will require several weeks or months to heal and rehab. Players on the IR list are out for the season, so these players we will not see until 2016.
  • Kelvin Benjamin (CAR)
  • Phil Loadholt (MIN)
  • Arthur Miley (CAR, rookie)
  • Senorise Perry (CHI)
  • Brandon Person (ARIZ, rookie)
  • Ronald Powell (NO)
  • Darryl Roberts (NE, rookie)
  • Tyrus Thompson (MIN, rookie)  

Seeing WR Kelvin Benjamin leave practice with a torn ACL on Aug. 19 was heartbreaking for me and probably most Panthers fans too. His absence will make it much more difficult for the Panthers' offense to score points.

Also, Bears rookie WR Kevin White (stress fracture in leg) was placed on the PUP list (out for 6 weeks) but it is likely he will go on the IR list after that and miss the whole season.


Conratulations to these rookies with dreads who were not drafted but have made their teams' opening day rosters:
  • E.J. Bibbs (CLEV)
  • Bradley Marquez (STL)

  • Terrence Magee (BAL)
  • Denzel Rice (PHIL)
  • Lucky Whitehead (DAL)
  • Xavier Williams (ARIZ)
Actually it's not too surprising that they made it, because all of them will tell you they should have been drafted.


There's only one player I'm including in this category this year ......
Steven Jackson doesn't want to retire. But after 11 seasons of being hit hard or being tackled by two or three players almost every time he carried the ball, his career likely has come to an end. Even though he scored 6 TD for the Falcons last season, he's just not as fast as he once was and not the special running back he was for so many seasons. In the photo on right Jackson heads to the sideline holding the ball he carried as he surpassed the 11,000-yard mark in career yards rushing (vs. the Lions on Oct. 26). After making the playoffs just once in his 9 seasons with the Rams, Steven came to what he thought was a playoff team in Atlanta. But the Falcons went 4-12 and 6-10 in the two seasons he was with them. The Falcons didn't re-sign him, and it's likely nobody else will either. If this really is the end, thank you so much, Steven, it's been a lot of enjoyment watching you play all these years.


Now you've seen this season's predictions; but I still haven't graded last year's picks. Actually I have already but just haven't posted it yet. I'll be doing that next, and probably coming very soon. 

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