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 .....

..... and in with a brand new shiny crystal ball (!) to predict the 2016 NFL season. CB2, which I'm shortening to just 'C2' was imported, all the way from Zambia; so I first had to check if it knew where it was. Instantly, in crystal clear HD, popped up: and the home of the brave. Play ball! ..... Outstanding. So then I asked what it thought would happen in the NFL this season; and much to my horror, out came some of the same zany, wild and crazy, unbelievable, and often clueless stuff that CB was famous for. Out with the old and in with more of the old? Oh, hell no.

Well, although it already seems destined to repeat the failings of its predecessor, I have to at least give C2 one chance. Its first official proclamation turns out to be a repeat of CB's forecast from 2015 - that the Arizona Cardinals will meet the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. But there is a slight twist: C2 likes the Steelers over the Cardinals (CB had it the other way around last year) in Super Bowl 51 at Houston. C2 says that LB Bud Dupree will be activated from the IR list late in the season and will be on the field on Feb. 5, where he might again get the chance to tackle WR Larry Fitzgerald, as he did last season (photo above) in Week 6.  

I stood ready to overrule C2 on some of its picks, but I didn't have to. I see it already has a grasp of the way things work in the NFL - such as the fact that no team has ever played in a Super Bowl on its home field (that means you, Texans), and that there have to be at least 4 teams in the playoffs that didn't make it the year before (how 'bout them Giants, Buccaneers, Raiders, and Jaguars!), and that at least one of last year's final four will miss the playoffs this season (sorry, Broncos).

Four days ago C2 picked the winner of all 256 regular season games, trying to beat CB's 154-102 record from last year (which was 4 games worse than its 2014 picks). After adding up all the W's and L's, here's how C2 sees things turning out in 2016. As always, the exact words of C2 will be in italics.


     1. NE 11-5
     2. NYJ 9-7
     3. BUF 7-9
     4. MIA 7-9

TIEBREAKER: Bills clinch 3rd place due to head-to-head sweep over Dolphins (Weeks 7 and 16)

C2: With Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall seconds away from making the playoffs for the first time, Sammy Watkins breaks their and all Jets fans' hearts with spectacular, highlight-reel 29-yard TD catch with 14 seconds to play in Week 17, giving Bills 27-24 upset win and knocking Jets out of playoffs. 

Although Bills WR Sammy Watkins hardly played at all during the preseason while recovering from surgery on his foot, C2 believes he will repeat as the AFC East player with dreads with the most TD scored, improving from 8 in 2015 and hitting double figures for the first time with 11 TD in 2016.


     1. PIT 11-5
     2. CIN 10-6
     3. BAL 7-9
     4. CLEV 3-13

C2: Trailing by 3 and already in FG range at Cincy in Week 17, Ravens go for the TD, but Joe Flacco pass intended for Steve Smith on 1st and 10 is intercepted by Dre Kirkpatrick in the end zone with 27 seconds remaining, clinching Bengals' 6th straight playoff appearance.

C2 is predicting that despite WR Sammie Coates contributing 4 TD catches (the first 4 TD of his career), the Steelers will not retain the crown as the NFL leader in TD scored by players with dreads.


     1. JAC 10-6
     2. HOU 8-8
     3. IND 6-10
     4. TEN 5-11

C2: On first play after Jaguars score last-minute TD to take 23-20 lead in Week 16, Marcus Mariota scrambles for 75-yard TD run to put Titans in front; but then Denard Robinson takes ensuing kickoff return 107 yards to the house with :16 on the clock, giving Jags the 30-27 win and their first division title in 17 years.

C2 sees the AFC South, with Texans rookie WR Will Fuller contributing 7 TD catches, taking 1st place as the division with the most TD scored by players with dreads.


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

TIEBREAKER: In 3-way tie for 1st place, Broncos finish 3rd due to worse record in division games than Raiders and Chiefs (OAK 4-2, KC 4-2, DEN 3-3). Raiders clinch 1st place due to head-to-head sweep over Chiefs (Weeks 6 and 14).

C2: Brandon McManus kicks NFL-record 65-yard FG on last play of game to lift Broncos to thrilling, 24-23, come-from-behind victory over Raiders in Week 17, apparently clinching division crown. But 10 minutes later Broncos and their fans watch in horror on stadium video board as Chiefs score 2 touchdowns in final 17 seconds at San Diego, including 54-yard hail mary reception by Chris Conley on last play of game, giving Chiefs 26-24 win that knocks Broncos out of playoffs.

C2 says that not only will WR Chris Conley's 5th TD catch of the season put the Chiefs in the playoffs, it will also lift Chiefs to NFL crown for the most TD scored by players with dreads, edging Texans 21-20.

Steelers clinch #1 seed due to head-to-head victory over Patriots (Week 7)
Jaguars clinch #3 seed due to head-to-head victory over Raiders (Week 7)
Bengals clinch #5 seed due to better record in conference games than Chiefs (CIN 8-4, KC 7-5)


     1. NYG 9-7
     2. DAL 9-7
     3. WASH 8-8
     4. PHIL 5-11

TIEBREAKER: Giants clinch 1st place due to better record in division games than Cowboys (NYG 3-3, DAL 2-4)

C2: Eli Manning throws 5 interceptions in snowstorm as Giants fall at Washington 23-10 in Week 17; but in the snow at Philly, one play after Lucky Whitehead's 90-yard punt return to the house for would-be game-winning TD in overtime is nullified by illegal block penalty, Leodis McKelvin tackles Tony Romo in end zone for his 1st career sack, giving Eagles 15-13 win that knocks Cowboys out of playoffs and allows Giants to back in to division title. 

C2 is confident than CB Janoris Jenkins, in his first season with the Giants, not only will make the playoffs for the first time, he also will lead all NFL players with dreads with a career high 6 INT.


     1. GB 11-5
     2. CHI 9-7
     3. MIN 7-9
     4. DET 7-9

TIEBREAKER: Vikings clinch 3rd place due to better record in division games than Lions (MIN 3-3, DET 2-4)

Now just a minute, C2. MIN 7-9?? The Vikings think they're going to the Super Bowl this year.
C2: 7-9, 2-14, 7-8-1, 7-9, 7-9
C2: Regular season records of the teams Sam Bradford has been quarterback for in the 5 seasons he has played. Sam Bradford: Mr. 7-9.
Oh, great. A wise guy.

C2: With Bears trailing at Minnesota 20-16 in final minute in Week 17, Kevin White tries to extend the ball over the goal line for would-be 13-yard TD, but Trae Waynes strips him of ball inches short of goal line, and ball rolls into the end zone then out of bounds for touchback, knocking Bears out of playoffs and allowing Buccaneers to back in to playoffs. 

C2 is certain that Lions Pro Bowl DE Ziggy Ansah will once again lead all NFL players with dreads in sacks, improving from 14.5 in 2015 to a career high 16 this season.


     1. CAR 11-5
     2. TB 10-6
     3. NO 5-11
     4. ATL 5-11

TIEBREAKER: Saints clinch 3rd place due to head-to-head sweep over Falcons (Weeks 3 and 17)

C2: Same as in FSU vs. UF in 2013, Kelvin Benjamin beats Vernon Hargreaves for his 3rd TD catch of the day, a 44-yard reception with 28 seconds to play, to give Panthers dramatic 34-31 road win over Bucs in Week 17 to clinch division crown.

C2 thinks that the 3 TD by WR Kelvin Benjamin in Week 17 will move him past Falcons RB (and former FSU teammate) Devonta Freeman for the lead in TD scored by NFC South players with dreads as well as give him the lead among all NFL players with dreads in TD receptions with 13.


     1. ARIZ 12-4
     2. SEA 11-5
     3. SF 3-13
     4. LA 3-13

TIEBREAKER: 49ers clinch 3rd place due to better strength of victory than Rams (SF 17-31, LA 15-33)

C2: With Seahawks leading Cardinals by 3 in crucial Week 16 showdown at Seattle, Earl Thomas is in perfect position to intercept Carson Palmer pass into end zone; but Richard Sherman, trying for his 3rd INT of the game, collides with Thomas, the ball pops up into the air and is caught by Larry Fitzgerald for game-winning TD with 25 seconds remaining, moving Cardinals into 1st place.

After all these years, the Rams are finally back in the Colesium. But according to C2's forecast, other than the 15 TD scored by RB Todd Gurley - the most by any NFL player with dreads - Rams fans will have little else to cheer for this season.

Panthers clinch #2 seed due to better record in conference games than Packers (CAR 9-3, GB 8-4)


  • KC over JAC
  • OAK over CIN
  • GB over TB
  • SEA over NYG
  • PIT over KC
  • NE over OAK
  • GB over CAR
  • ARIZ over SEA
  • PIT over NE
  • ARIZ over GB
  • Steelers 31 Cardinals 19 (MVP: Markus Wheaton)



As usual, a handful of players who had dreads the previous season don't have them anymore. Here's the list of those players (that I know of) for this season.
  • Vontaze Burfict (CIN) (photo below)
  • Shilique Calhoun (OAK, rookie)
  • Jonathan Cooper (NE)
  • Tyson Jackson (ATL)
  • Breshad Perriman (BAL)
  • Mike Pouncey (MIA)

One other player that played last season but currently is a free agent who also has lost his dreads is former Texans LB Justin Tuggle.


An unprecedented number of players (for one offseason) have started growing dreads since last season ended - too many for me to keep track of. There's no way of knowing if all of these guys are serious about growing their dreads for years or if they've started growing them only because short dreads have become a popular style now but aren't really planning on letting them get very long. Either way I have welcomed all of them to the house, even if it just turns out to be only for a little while. Of the 7 players still in the league that I had in this category last year, 6 still have their dreads growing; so hopefully that same percentage at least remains the same this season. No doubt there are others (and it might be several others) that I don't know about yet, but these are the ones I do know about who are debuting their dreads this season.
  • Davante Adams (GB) (with Raiders QB and former college teammate Derek Carr in photo from after their preseason game on Aug. 18) 
  • Robby Anderson (NYJ, rookie)
  • Antwon Blake (TEN)
  • Armonty Bryant (CLEV)
  • D.J. Fluker (SD)

  • Josh Gordon (CLEV)

  • Marqueston Huff (JAC)
  • Tony Jefferson (ARIZ)
  • Gerald McCoy (TB)

  • Josh Norman (WASH)
  • Michael Pierce (BAL, rookie)
  • Olsen Pierre (ARIZ)
  • Demarcus Robinson (KC, rookie)
  • Robenson Therezie (ATL)
  • T.J. Ward (DEN)

I was all set to also include Jets WR Brandon Marshall on this list too; but then he showed up for this week's edition of Inside the NFL with his beginner dreads untwisted back to normal; so I might not be able to welcome him to the house this season. We'll see.
I might also welcome Kwon Alexander (TB) and Darius Slay (DET), but their hair doesn't look enough like dreads yet.
Some other players with new dreads who currently are not on active rosters but might get signed at some point in the regular season include Josh Evans (recently released by Jaguars), Marcus Roberson (on Bills practice squad), Freddie Martino (on Buccaneers practice squad), Amarlo Herrera (recently released by Titans), Zack Sanchez (on Panthers practice squad), Chris Martin (recently released by Bills), and Nikita Whitlock (on Giants IR list).

Belatedly I have welcomed Tim Jernigan (BAL), Jonathan Meeks (BUF), and Linval Joseph (MIN) to the house. They started growing dreads during the 2015 season, but I didn't discover that in time to include them in my dreads focus reports.
I'm also welcoming Colts LB Edwin Jackson (photo on left), who I've been keeping an eye on for a few years now. I wasn't really sure if his hair was in locks or just curls; but it looks like he's got them in dreads now. I'm also welcoming Redskins DT Ziggy Hood. He's been in the league 7 years already but always had his hair in braids; but now it looks like he has converted them to dreads. 



In the (very) old days of the NFL players often would play their entire careers with one team. But now dozens of players switch teams after every season. Here's the list of players with dreads who will be suiting up in a different team's uniform than they wore last year. (Each player's previous team will be listed first, followed by their new team, which will be underlined.)
  • Daren Bates (STL, OAK)
  • Travis Benjamin (CLEV, SD)
  • Ron Brooks (BUF, PHIL)

  • David Bruton (DEN, WASH)
  • Lavar Edwards (CHI and BUF, CAR)
  • MarQueis Gray (BUF, MIA)
  • Damon Harrison (NYJ, NYG)
  • Chris Ivory (NYJ, JAC)

  • Janoris Jenkins (STL, NYG)
  • Mike Jenkins (TB, ARIZ)
  • David Johnson (SD, PIT)
  • Emmanuel Lamur (CIN, MIN)
  • Dwight Lowery (IND, SD)

  • Ricardo Mathews (SD, PIT)
  • Leodis McKelvin (BUF, PHIL)
  • Steve McLendon (PIT, NYJ)
  • Reggie Nelson (CIN, OAK)
  • Andre Roberts (WASH, DET)

  • Darryl Roberts (NE, NYJ)
  • Kelvin Sheppard (MIA, NYG)
  • Sean Spence (PIT, TEN)
  • Dax Swanson (4 teams, DAL)
  • Darryl Tapp (DET, NO)
  • Cedric Thornton (PHIL, DAL)
  • Greg Toler (IND, WASH)

  • Danny Trevathan (DEN, CHI)
  • Courtney Upshaw (BAL, ATL)
  • Sean Weatherspoon (ARIZ, ATL)
A huge number of veteran players with dreads were released last week (and a couple in the weeks before that) as rosters were trimmed to the regular season limit of 53 players. I can't imagine that all of their careers are over. They may be unemployed at the moment, but surely some of them will be signed and be on the field at some point this season. (Players are listed with the teams they played for last season.)

Joique Bell (DET)
E.J. Biggers (PHIL)
Omar Bolden (DEN)
Marlon Brown (BAL)
Sergio Brown (JAC)
Brian Dixon (NO)
Najee Goode (PHIL)
Michael Griffin (TEN)
Montori Hughes (NYG)
Nic Jacobs (JAC)
Jamari Lattimore (NYJ)
Keshawn Martin (NE)
Dexter McCluster (TEN)
Demetrius McCray (JAC)
Damontre Moore (MIA)
Rico Richardson (TEN)
Khiry Robinson (NO)
Jacquizz Rodgers (CHI)
B.W. Webb (TEN)


These players with dreads unfortunately have suffered injuries during the preseason serious enough to be put on the season-ending IR list even before the season begins.
  • Neiron Ball (OAK)
  • Josh Bynes (DET)
  • Donavon Clark (SD, rookie)
  • Kaelin Clay (BAL)
  • Bud Dupree (PIT)
  • Mario Edwards (OAK)
  • Mike Jenkins (ARIZ)
  • Keith Marshall (WASH, rookie)
  • Rajion Neal (CLEV) 
  • Tyrus Thompson (NO)
With the Cardinals in search of a starting cornerback, free agent signee Mike Jenkins (photo above) was so eager to win the job that he was playing despite breaking his hand very early in training camp. But after tearing the ACL in his knee during the preseason Week 3 game at Houston, his season unfortunately has come to an end.
We'll never know if 7th round draft choice Donavon Clark (photo below) would have been good enough to make the Chargers' roster. He too tore his ACL (in preseason Week 2) and will spend his rookie season on IR.

Each team is allowed to take one player off of IR and put them back on the active roster (after they've been on IR for at least 8 weeks). The Steelers are planning to do that with Bud Dupree; hopefully he'll recover quickly so that he can be in uniform when the Steelers get that confetti shower at the end of Super Bowl 51.


I am thrilled for the following rookie players with dreads, who have made their teams' opening day rosters despite not being picked in the 2016 NFL Draft. Live long and prosper in the league, fellas.
  • Matthias Farley (claimed on waivers by IND after released by ARIZ) 
  • Robert Kelley (WASH)
  • Cre'Von LeBlanc (claimed by CHI after released by NE)
  • Lamar Louis (ARIZ)
  • Curt Maggitt (IND)
  • Michael Pierce (BAL)
  • Jarrod Wilson (JAC)

It was a no-brainer that CB James Bradberry (#24) would make the Panthers' roster - he was their 2nd round draft choice. But DT Michael Pierce, his former teammate at Samford (#78 in photo on left, from after their Week 1 preseason game), went undrafted; so it's a very pleasant surprise to see him still on the Ravens' roster heading into Week 1. Apparently Matt Jones will not be the only RB with sick dreads to carry the ball for the Redskins this season. Undrafted out of Tulane, Robert Kelley was so impressive during the preseason that they couldn't let him go. I have to apologize to Robert. I didn't mention him at all in my draft preview simply because I thought he had no chance at all of playing in the NFL. I'm sorry, Robert, and thanks for making me look like an idiot. In jersey #22 during the preseason, he'll be wearing #32 when the Redskins lose their season opener to the Steelers on Monday night.  


Three players with dreads (for sure) and two more (most likely) have come to the end of their careers. To play in the NFL past the age of 30 you have to be doing something right. But all good things eventually come to an end.

Seemingly destined for a mediocre career after being drafted by the Colts in the 2nd round in 2006, CB Tim Jennings came to the Bears in 2010 and his career skyrocketed all of a sudden. I don't know, maybe some of Charles Tillman rubbed off on him, but Jennings was a turnover magnet for a couple of seasons, even leading the league in interceptions one year (he had 9 in 2012) and playing in the Pro Bowl twice. He wasn't very good last year though, released by the Bears before the season and then by the Buccaneers during the season; so it will be a big surprise if he ever plays again.According to the stats on the Pro Football reference website, he had 20 INT and 59 PBU in his 10-year career.

Speaking of Charles Tillman, he too was shown the door by the Bears after the 2014 season and was with the Panthers when he played his 13th NFL season in 2015. It was a successful one, but unfortunately he tore his ACL in Week 17 and couldn't be in uniform for their playoff run to the Super Bowl. Tillman cut off his dreads after the 2007 season but then started growing them back right away. That's why they never got as long as they might have. Charles, of course, will always be remembered for his great ability to force fumbles, usually by just punching the ball out of the ball carrier's hands (Packers RB Eddie Lacy, left photo, was his victim in Week 8 last season). An incredible 44 times during his career Tillman, who weighs just under 200 pounds, caused a fumble. He also recorded 38 INT and 103 PBU. Now 35 years old, instead of trying to make it back from the knee injury, he has decided to retire. 

You can click on the link below for all of the accomplishments of Roddy White, a player who has given me a lot of enjoyable moments watching Falcons games over the last 11 years. (He's just keeping those records warm until Julio Jones plays enough games to surpass him). Unfortunately you can't stay productive forever, and White wasn't productive enough in 2015 for the money he was making. Of course, Roddy complained that it was the Falcons' offensive coordinator who was responsible for that drop in production; but after being let go in March, no other team has signed him, which probably means he has come to the end.

I wasn't a Jaguars fan until they drafted Rashean Mathis in the 2nd round in 2003. By the time I started doing this blog in 2008 his career had already started to decline, so I've been very pleased to still be able to see him play until now. Now known more for his really long dreads, Mathis actually was a really good player for a while. After intercepting 8 passes and being named All-Pro in 2006 it looked like he was on the path to the Hall of Fame. But ever since that injury he suffered that caused him to miss the Pro Bowl that season he hasn't been the same. He's had only 12 INT over the last 9 seasons. He finishes his career with 32 INT and 101 PBU. His 30 INT for the Jaguars are the franchise record - a record that figures to last for a while because no one else is anywhere near it (maybe Jalen Ramsey will one day challenge it). One of my most favorite athletes ever, Rashean could probably become a coach if he wanted to. But he's pretty good at golf too, and I think before going into coaching, he's going to see if he can improve enough at golf to do it for a living.

Unless you never have seen an NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony you already are familiar with those bronze busts of players that they make which are displayed while they are formally being inducted. (I laughed a few years ago when Deion Sanders tied a bandanna around his). I often wonder whose bust will be the first one that has dreads. Certainly Charles Tillman and Roddy White will get some Hall of Fame consideration. But I'm thinking the first might be Marshawn Lynch, who retired after rushing for 9,112 yards and scoring 83 TD in 127 games over 9 seasons, plus nearly 1,000 yards in 11 career playoff games (none of which, of course, was while he was with the Bills from 2007-2010). Lynch was the 12th overall pick in the 2007 draft, so it's no surprise he has been this good of a player. I don't know what happened that caused him to decide to stop doing interviews with the media. But it's too bad, because he's as entertaining a person off the field as he was a player on it. The company that makes Skittles will forever be grateful. It's not going to be right not seeing #24 carrying the ball for the Seahawks anymore.  

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