Dear Giants: We Won’t Forget This.

There are moments that make and break a franchise. This is one of them.

The New York Giants, led by Ben McAdoo (HC) and Jerry Reese (GM), have decided to bench Eli Manning before next week’s game. Eli Manning is the active leader in consecutive starts at QB with 210, second all time only to Brett Favre at 297. He has started every game with the Giants since being drafted first overall in 2004. That will end next week. Eli also ranks 7th all time in passing yards with 50,625 and 7th all time in touchdown passes with 334. Oh, and he also won two Super Bowls for the Giants and was MVP of both. He’s one of eight Quarterbacks in NFL history that have won two Super Bowls. And he’s being benched for Geno Smith, a former New York Jet who once missed almost an entire season with a fractured jaw after being punched in the face during practice.

It’s true that the NFL is a business and a brutal one at that, and getting rid of star players at the end of their careers is often ugly. But there’s absolutely zero reason this had to happen the way it did.

When Peyton Manning left the Colts, he had missed a year due to injury, the team was in abysmal shape, the greatest QB since Peyton himself was going to be available to be drafted, the team was going through a massive organizational overhaul, and Peyton’s football future was in serious doubt due to his injury. When Favre left the Packers, it was because he had initially announced retirement and the team had wanted to move on with Aaron Rodgers, a guy they’d been grooming to start for 3 years. They only said no to Favre after he flip-flopped and decided he in fact wasn’t ready for retirement. When Romo left the Cowboys, he too had serious injury questions, and the Cowboys had struck gold with Dak Prescott, their fourth round pick who had ended up being a superstar and leading the Cowboys to the playoffs while Romo was injured.

All these situations were sad and harsh, but there were extenuating circumstances and reasoning behind them that made them maybe not justified, but understandable. What the hell do the Giants have to hang their hat on for this decision? No, Eli hasn’t been playing great. Yes, he’s 36 years old. But the Giants barely have a team out there as there have been so many injuries. There are very few Quarterbacks that would succeed in this situation. And who are you benching him for? Geno Smith? He’s been in this league since 2013. He has a track record. We know who he is, and it’s not good. Yes, he’s talented, but he’s been a backup QB for the majority of his career, and that’s not going to change, certainly not with this team. Then you have the third round rookie Davis Webb, who quite frankly, I don’t know much about, but I have trouble believing he’s the answer. It’s not like we need to see who this guy is. We’re 2-9, we’re going to have a top pick in the draft in what will be a very deep QB class. If we’re going to move on from Eli, odds are it will be for a guy we draft, not for Davis Webb.

And who are these coaches benching Eli? Ben McAdoo has been a head coach in the NFL for two years. That’s it!! This year he’s been nothing short of awful, both on the field and off it. We went to the playoffs last year despite an uncreative and non-productive offense (his supposed specialty) because we had a good defense and won a lot of close games. This year he sat idly by and made no adjustments as our team continued to descend further into oblivion, and he eventually lost his team as we had to suspend both our corners for conduct issues. He calls plays like a robot, his offense sucks and is easy to plan for, he can’t manage a team, and he shows all the emptiness and arrogance of Bill Belichick at a press conference–except he doesn’t have the track record or football acumen to back it up, and his players don’t respect him. And it’s not like he had a great resume before becoming a head coach either. Then there’s Jerry Reese, our shitshow General Manager who probably should have been gone years ago. He had that one good offseason when his head was on the chopping block where he got Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, and Rodgers-Cromartie. But definitely Jenkins and possibly DRC will be gone soon. Reese hit on Beckham (even though he’s a nutcase), hit on JPP, and had some good drafts wayyy back when, but outside of that he continually ignores positions of need, drafts flawed and questionable players, and refuses to make any big time moves. And like McAdoo, he too is an arrogant prick who refuses to take any responsibility.

These are the two men that benched the guy who’s been the face of our franchise for over a decade. For arguably no reason. It’s sickening, disrespectful, and classless. Eli is worth so much more to the NFL in the respect that he commands than those two combined will ever be. And what about our owner, John Mara? The Giants have long been considered one of the cornerstone franchises and ownerships in the NFL, with Mara being one of the good guys, but that may be coming to an end. I started to question Mara with his handling of the Josh Brown domestic abuse case last year, but on the field most have given him the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure there are those who will want to separate Mara from McAdoo and Reese, but I have trouble believing McAdoo and Reese would make this kind of move without Mara’s okay. Make no mistake, this move reflects in an awful way on the entire organization. And it’s not something inconsequential: It’s the end of the road for the most important player in franchise history. That’s why it’s so despicable.

Honestly it’s all sickening. There are ups and downs for every franchise, good times and bad, and star players falling from grace. But this isn’t just an “oops” that can be brushed by the wayside in due time. This will go down in history. This is the best Quarterback in franchise history, a guy who’s been nothing but a class act, that you benched for no reason for a garbage backup from a nobody coach in the middle of the god damn season. And look, I know Eli’s 36. If you had to move on at the end of the season, I wouldn’t be thrilled, but I’d get it. But benching him now?? As if it’s somehow his fault this sorry ass team can’t even pull themselves together enough to actually put in any effort on Sunday? Heck it was Eli Manning’s pre-game speech that supposedly hyped up the Giants enough to get their second win of the season vs the Chiefs just a few weeks ago. Say what you want about Eli. Has he been a perfect Quarterback? No, far from it. Is he overrated? Is he hall of fame worthy? We can have all those discussions later. But he’s been a consummate pro his whole career (and continues to be, even as he’s being slapped in the face), and he’s done as much for this franchise as anybody. He does not deserve this, and the Giants should be ashamed of themselves. He deserves to at least finish off the season as a Giant. And let me be clear: It’s not just that they’re benching him. It’s that they’re choosing to end his career, and this is how they do it. By throwing him to the curb, by kicking him on the way out the door, and for no apparent reason.

I’ve been a Giants fan since I started following Football. It hasn’t been that long, granted, but I’ve been with them for the highs and the lows. I put my heart into every game. I felt the joy when they hoisted that Lombardi over the Patriots, and I felt the anger when Desean Jackson ran that punt back and ended our season. I was born and bred in New York and I assumed I always would bleed blue.

But this? I’m not going to make any definitive statements, but I’m not sure this is forgivable. If this truly is the end for Eli in New York (which many are saying it is), and this is how the Giants chose to go about it? By benching him in the middle of a lost season for Geno Smith? I honestly might not be able to root for them anymore.

The Giants may be thinking about the future, but I know I speak for all of Big Blue Nation when I say this: Us fans won’t be forgetting this anytime soon.

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Where do the Giants go from here?

The Giants have been an absolute trainwreck this season. Words cannot explain what a disappointment it has been. It’s almost tough to fathom. They are probably the worst team in the NFL this point. For what’s supposed to be one of the marquee franchises in the NFL, it’s both embarrassing and inexplicable.

Earlier in the year, I was planning on writing about how the Giants absolutely needed to fire Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese at the end of the season. However, at this point, that seems like a given. An even more pressing question is, can the Giants survive the rest of the season? Because right now they look like they simply don’t belong in the NFL.

As Scott Kascmar of Football Outsiders pointed out on Twitter today, the type of regression the Giants are experiencing after a playoff season is truly unprecedented. It’s been a complete, utter, and total collapse.

But it’s not just that they’re losing. It’s the product that they’ve put on the field (as well as the things that have happened off of it). It’s been total dysfunction. The folks at BigBlueView, SB Nation’s NYG blog, touched on this after the loss. It’s not that the Giants are playing hard but losing. It’s not that their players aren’t that good. It’s that they look entirely disinterested in playing football. They have been undisciplined and unfocused both on the field and off of it.

Coming into the season and at the beginning of the season I had complaints about McAdoo specifically as a football coach: how he approached offense, where the team lacked improvement, etc. But now the problems go beyond that: It seems that the job of Head Coach is just simply too big for McAdoo, and he doesn’t know how to handle it. While no one can really say unless they’re in the locker room, it seems pretty evident that McAdoo has lost the team. I think we’ve now had both corners be suspended off the field? I can’t even keep track anymore.

Conor Orr of the MMQB wrote about what the Giants will do next after yesterday’s loss, and it’s a bit of a scary thought. Yes, the 49ers were better than their 0-8 record indicated prior to this game. Yes, (some) zero win teams tend to be hungrier than usual. Still though, the Giants made CJ Beathard look like Aaron Rodgers. Imagine what will happen when we actually play good teams. Here is the remaining Giants schedule for the rest of the year: Chiefs, @Redskins, @Raiders, Cowboys, Eagles, @Cardinals, @Redskins. For some reason, the Redskins game will be on NBC Primetime during Thanksgiving, so the whole nation will get to see what an embarrassment the New York Giants have become.

The Giants really aren’t a team right now. They’re a bunch of individuals that are dragging themselves to work and barely going through the motions. It’s alarming to see a team that has already quit with almost half the season left and a really tough schedule. If the Giants fire McAdoo midseason (unlikely knowing them), who will takeover? And for whoever does takeover, how will they find a way to right the ship and manage a team that is already so splintered? Both the BBV article and MMQB article allude to this dilemma. Yes, the Giants could promote someone like defensive coordinator Spagnolo to interim Head Coach, but he’s already got his own issues on defense. Then there’s someone like Mike Sullivan, the offensive coordinator, former QB coach. Is a fairly low level coach like that apt to handle this mess? So say we stay with McAdoo. Judging from his press conferences and the results on field, here’s a guy that is totally in over his head, and has no clue how to fix the team and regain their trust. So whatever we do, it seems we’re doomed.

At the end of the day, this is just an embarrassment. The Giants are supposed to be one of the cornerstone, more respected franchises in the NFL. Because of that, they seem to sort of be getting a free pass on things like this. But we cannot deny how poorly this reflects on the organization. On the one hand there’s the results on the field: 1-7 and one of, if not the, worst team in the league, after a playoff year. Then there’s the disfunction: The players quitting, players getting suspended, players leaking rumors to ESPN, etc etc. Those things simply aren’t supposed to happen to the Giants. They’re supposed to be a disciplined, tightly run, no nonsense, respectable organization. And yet, here we are.

Let’s for a second imagine that the Jets or the Browns were going through this type of disfunction. It’d be all over the headlines. You wouldn’t hear enough about it. I remember when the Jets were imploding late in the Rex Ryan era with Tebow and Sanchez. It wasn’t pretty. And their organization deserved every bit of what they got.

But here you have the New York Giants, arguably the worst and most dysfunctional team and organization in the NFL right now. Yes losing happens. No, you can’t win the Superbowl every year. But the Giants should not be getting a free pass for this. It reflects horribly on the organization. This is Big Blue. This is New York, some say the greatest city in the world. These are the New York Football Giants, established August 1, 1925, 92 years ago. It’s supposed to be better than this.

At this point, let’s just batten down the hatches and hope we get through the rest of the season and finish games, and then find a way to fix this horrendous and utter mess. Until then, the Giants organization has some serious explaining to do.

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NFL Check In: Trades, QBs, and More

We’re around the midpoint of the NFL season, and it hasn’t been too exciting a season. Maybe it’s because I’m a Giants fan and the Giants have been an absolute trainwreck this year. Maybe it’s because after all these years of following and watching, I’m finally getting sick of it. Maybe it’s because the NFL as a whole has just been in decline, which I think there are plenty of reasons for. But that’s another conversation. (And no, players kneeling during the anthem isn’t one of them. Seriously, if that bothers you, you need to get over yourself.) Nonetheless, there have been some things going on around the league that I think are worth going over. Let’s start with some surprising trades we’ve witnessed over the past week, starting with the Pats trading away their backup QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a 2018 second round pick.

Normally this wouldn’t be that unusual for the Pats. They’ve dealt good backups as well as good starters before without so much as a bat of an eye. It’s only surprising now because Tom Brady is near the end of his career (even if his play on the field doesn’t indicate it), and there were many indications throughout the offseason that Garoppolo would be the guy to succeed Brady. After filling in very admirably for Brady to start the season last year, it would have been a very Patriots-like thing to do to trade him. There were whispers about the Browns, and the Patriots would have likely been able to get decent value for him. The general understanding was that the Pats chose to stick with Garoppolo because they truly did believe that Brady was close to the end and that he could be the guy to succeed Brady. The Pats clearly thought very highly of him, as confirmed by how Belichick reacted to losing him this week. Judging based off that explanation that Belichick gave, which was unusually revealing for him, it seemed like the Pats wanted to keep Garoppolo, but with Brady playing at such a high level, they couldn’t afford to sign a backup to a long term contract, even if they did like him. Which makes sense on their part. It’s just puzzling at first because if that was the logic all along, then you would have figured they would have traded him during the offseason. But I think it was also a question mark as to whether Brady would play as well as he is. As Belichick said, they tried to keep Jimmy as long as they could but just couldn’t make it work, likely because of what they would have had to pay him.

As for the niners, it’s a bit puzzling on their part as well. They’re winless to start the season, but there have been signs of progress. 5 of their 8 losses have been by 3 points or less. At the end of the day, the logic behind giving Shanahan and John Lynch long term contracts seemed to be that this was going to be a long term rebuilding project that was going to take time. No one was really expecting results this year. It’s why Shanahan came into the season with Hoyer as the starter. The understanding was that he just needed someone to hold the ship down and run the offense and then next year, the niners would likely draft a QB. Hoyer hasn’t been that good, which is why he was benched for CJ Beathard, the niners 3rd round pick from this year’s draft. But with Hoyer’s release, it’s clear that Garoppolo will now be the starter.

What I’m wondering is, why now, and what does this mean for the niners long term? Certainly if Garoppolo stinks up the joint this year they have no obligation to keep him. Obviously as a coach your number 1 goal is to win games, but still, if this was going to be a rebuilding year without a QB, why bring in Garoppolo midseason? Are they just seeing if he has the potential to be a franchise guy, and if not they’ll cut and run (like the Bears did with Glennon)? Do they want him to be their starter long term? At this point you’re 0-8, so you’re already on the fast track for the number 1 pick in the draft. It just doesn’t make sense to me to change the course. If Garoppolo plays well enough, they could fall off that path. We already haven’t seen enough of Beathard to know who he is. He’s probably not the guy, but why not let him finish up the season just to see and then draft a guy next year?

And what if Garoppolo isn’t the guy long term? I guess it’s not a huge risk move, but I’m not entirely sold on Garoppolo yet. Obviously he’s played well with New England. And yes, he seems better than backups they’ve had in the past that haven’t gone on to do well. He’s more talented than Cassel and Hoyer, and he’s more disciplined than Mallett, who was never a great fit for the Pats. Still, you have to mention those guys. Cassel especially, but also Hoyer, both played well for New England, and they couldn’t keep it up elsewhere. In fact, the sample size overall for backup QBs that went on to be starters elsewhere because of good play in good systems with limited action isn’t great. Outside of Cassel and Hoyer in New England you have Kevin Kolb from Philly, Matt Flynn from Green Bay, and most recently Brock Osweiler from Denver. Now obviously the Pats thought highly of Garoppolo so that’s worth something, but it’s no given that he’s a starter in this league. The sample size is way too small. He’s had a game and a half of regular season action as a starter. So for the niners, it’s not a very high risk move, but I just don’t see the logic behind it. Why not see what Beathard has, ride out the rest of the season, and draft Darnold No 1 overall next year? Then again, as Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com suggested this morning, maybe the niners just don’t like the incoming college QB crop.

The other two big trades were even more headscratching. Let’s start in Carolina where the Panthers traded away Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin had a great rookie season and has been inconsistent since, although Cam Newton and the passing game have also been inconsistent and erratic and it’s always hard to separate receiver performance from the guy throwing to him. Benjamin was meant to be a big receiver with a big catch radius, a guy who can give Cam Newton margin for error. It’s the same profile as Devin Funchess, their other WR, which is why some on NFL Network last night suggested that the Panthers felt they could get rid of him. Funchess certainly has come on recent, but I don’t know about that theory either. Because the Panthers knew what they were getting in both Benjamin and Funchess. They purposely picked both those receivers with that profile because they knew it fit Cam Newton’s playing style. The Panthers GM recently said that this move was about making the offense faster. It’s a bit of a headscratcher, but at the end of the day, it’s likely that they felt good about Curtis Samuel (their 2nd round pick from this year) and Christian McCaffrey, and thought that they had other holes they needed to fill that they could with the draft resources they got from this trade. Maybe they also didn’t want to pay Benjamin once his contract was up. At the end of the day, a lot of these moves are about value relative to cost.

And then there’s Jay Ajayi from the Bears to the Eagles, another headscratcher. The Dolphins offense had been one of the worst in the league and their passing game with Jay Cutler is pretty much nonexistent. Ajayi can be somewhat of a week to week proposition, but there’s no doubt that he’s talented and one of the tougher grinders in this league. Their offensive line hadn’t been playing well, but without Ajayi they have basically nothing to hang their hat on on offense. Maybe Gase wants to go full on rebuild? Doesn’t seem like him. Maybe there were just off the field issues or philosophical differences. I’ve heard some whispers about that. Ajayi is somewhat inconsistent, but for an offense that’s been that bad and has had absolutely no passing game, it doesn’t entirely make sense.

In other news, the Broncos just benched Trevor Siemian for Brock Osweiler. It’s likely not a move they wanted to make, but Siemian just hasn’t been cutting it in recent weeks. It’s unfortunate, as I’ve liked Siemian. He has a decent foundation and wasn’t the main issue last year. I always thought with a good surrounding cast he can play well. He started the year off well but the Broncos are currently in a 3 game losing skid, and the Broncos likely felt that with a defense as good as theirs, they couldn’t have their Quarterback holding them back. It’s true that Siemian simply hasn’t been playing well enough. At his best he’s an Andy Dalton type player, a ball distributor who won’t wow you and won’t carry your offense by himself but can run your offense if you give him a team. But he’s made some very poor decisions in the past few weeks. I’ve also noticed that the ball isn’t coming out of his hands with quite as much zip as I’m used to seeing from him.

It’s unfortunate, because he really is their best option. Brock Osweiler did flash at times when Kubiak was head coach, but he was one of the worst Quarterbacks in the league last year, and he’s not going to do much for you. His flaws are tough to work around. It’s alarming that Paxton Lynch hasn’t been given an opportunity. They wanted him to win the job in the preseason and drafted him high enough to tell you that they thought he could be their guy in the future. That he couldn’t even beat out Siemian, a 7th rounder, and that they aren’t turning to him now, shows that they know something we don’t, and he hasn’t progressed the way they may have hoped.

Still… I’m extremely skeptical that Osweiler will provide them with anything. Maybe we’ll see Lynch in the future. Who knows. This should have been Siemian’s job to run with and I don’t see the switch helping them, but unfortunately he hasn’t been good enough, and when that happens in this league, you’re going to lose your job.

On the other end of the spectrum, how good has Deshaun Watson been in Houston? It’s really crazy to watch. I don’t think anyone saw this coming. Of course, he’s far from a finished product. O’Brien is helping him a lot, and defenses will figure out ways to stop him. But still, the aggressiveness and playmaking prowess is refreshing in this age of checkdowns. And he’s passed so many really really hard tests. He was inches from beating New England in New England, Seattle at Seattle, and Kansas City. And he’s started the seasons with 19 touchdowns (breaking Kurt Warner’s record of most for the first 7 games of a career) and 8.3 yards per attempt. He’s escaping, throwing down the field, and making Andrew Luck type tight window throws down the field. But he doesn’t have anywhere near the arm Andrew Luck has. Physically, he’s not that different from where scouts had him. He’s just making the plays. Kudos to him. After years of QB purgatory post Schaub era, it seems like the Texans have their guy. It will be interesting to see where things go moving forward.

Lastly, let’s wrap things up by looking at who the marquee teams are around the league right now. This year has been as we’re starting to see a shift in the guard of who’s good in the NFL. The Tom Brady wave of QBs will retire soon. Rodgers is hurt. The patriots defensive losses finally seem to have caught up to them. Brees is still great but on the tail end. The Chargers have been blowing leads and comebacks for 5+ years now. And the Steelers passing game hasn’t matriculated as we would have expected. Overall, it seems like a crappy year for the league. Cardinals, Panthers, Falcons, Giants, a lot of names that have been in it recently are not this year. But we’re also seeing some new teams rise up to take their place. The Eagles are looking very good with Carson Wentz. Obviously his development has been great but its the whole team that looks very complete right now. Then you have to love what the Chiefs are doing with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. And Alex Smith is playing differently than he ever has. It seems like the drafting of Pat Mahomes really lit a fire under him and he was sick of everyone saying he doesn’t throw down the field enough. They are the cream of the crop this year, and I would love to see them take out PIT and/or NE in the playoffs. And I don’t expect them to go too far with their QB and being in the same division in the Patriots, but the Bills have been quite the surprise under Sean McDermott this year. They are now 5-2 which is shocking, to be honest. Even the Jets, who looked about as close to committing to tank as any team could be, are 3-5 and fighting hard every week. I won’t say I’m excited for it, but this week’s Bills Jets matchup on Thursday night might even be worth watching a bit.

The league is always in flux and things have certainly been changing as of recent. But at midseason, the contenders and pretenders are starting to sort out, and it will be interesting to see where things go moving forward.

Will anyone ever challenge the Patriots?

Victories by Atlanta and New England today wrapped up one of the most noncompetitive postseasons we’ve seen in recent memory. Let’s only hope the ATL-NE Superbowl will be better. I think it definitely has the potential to be, but let’s save that discussion for another day. Right now I want to focus on the team everyone loves to hate, the New England Patriots.

Brady and Belichick will now head to their seventh (!!) Superbowl after clinching their what has to be a record fourteenth division title. I just want to ask a simple question: Why is it that nobody can ever beat, or even compete with, this team? It honestly feels like they can get to the Superbowl without even trying.

No, I’m not a fan of the New England Patriots. But I’m also not hating on them just for the pure sake of hating. As a fan, I want to see good football. Yes, I know the Patriots are good. They’re clearly one of the best coached teams and their players are some of the best at executing in the NFL. But still, it’s the NFL. Someone should be able to figure out how to beat them. They may be the Patriots, but they’re not impossible to beat. You just have to, obviously not make mistakes, but also, know how to play them.

But for the Patriots it’s not just that they win, but it’s that they win without barely any resistance. Lose Tom Brady for four games? It doesn’t matter. Lose your second stringer also? Doesn’t matter. Trade away your best defensive player? Doesn’t matter. I thought losing Gronkowski would be what would do them in as that’s what usually does, but it hasn’t stopped them yet.

In the divisional round, the Patriots played a sloppy game offensively… and still won by 18 points. And then we get to the Steelers today. It was a pretty sad showing; what was a 17-9 game at the half got out of hand pretty quickly and ended at 36-17, with the Steelers final score coming when the game was already out of reach. A couple years ago, when the Colts got crushed at New England, I chastised them for doing a generally terrible job defending the Pats offense, not just in that game, but throughout the decade. For the Steelers, it’s the same story. Teams just can’t get out of their own way vs New England.

I was pessimistic about this matchup for the Steelers from the start, not just the start of this game, but for most of the season as well–that is, if the Steelers were going to end up going to New England, I did not think they would succeed. That’s because the Steelers rarely ever play the Patriots well, and especially not at New England. This has been the case since about 2004, and regardless of what players are on the team, it rarely ever changes. You see Pittsburgh looking just as lousy, making the same mistakes, and not giving the kind of challenge to New England that they should for a team of their caliber.

Today we saw more of the same from Pittsburgh. More of the same ineffective tactics for defending the New England offense. Pittsburgh seemed largely overwhelmed with and unprepared for New England’s hurry up offense. They were often shuffling to line up and there were blown assignments and wide open receivers–not the first time that’s happened with these two. As usual, they played way too soft, gave receivers on the outside huge cushions, which allowed easy pitch and catches on quick outs and hitches, and allowed receivers to sit down in between zones (Edelman especially–we often saw sticks routes on 3rd and long) as well as run across the field on over routes through zones (no tackling by PIT) and run over the top of man. As usual, NE had little success running but had great success with play action and the spread game. Pittsburgh offensively wasn’t much better. Ben started off throwing the ball well, but they were overly stubborn with the run, showed no tempo late in the game, had a lot of drops, ran draws at the goal line, failed to get their playmakers involved, weren’t aggressive on 4th down, and had balls contested at the catch point in man-to-man coverage. The 4th and goal stop was a horrendous play call– a low percentage fade throw over the top from a tight formation that PIT had shown a couple times and NE had covered well.

Overall the main recurring problems for PIT against NE are the defense is way too passive with their zones and large cushions and often looks overwhelmed with NE’s spread tempo and ends up busting coverages. Some might say I’m being unfair because PIT was without Leveon Bell, but you can’t put the whole game on that, since these are issues for PIT that go back years before Bell was around, and more importantly, they’ve played well offensively without Bell plenty of times in the past. In fact, it almost seems like half their team gets suspended for drug use every year and they still find a way to put it together usually.

For Pittsburgh, I wonder if people are ever going to start questioning if coaching is a problem. I’m not saying it definitely is, but even though this is a good team, it just seems like a team that underwhelms to me so often. As I’ve mentioned, they always falter against NE. They also always have a few games a year where they play down to the competition (like their loss on the road to Miami this year). These few games either keep them out of the playoffs entirely or keep them out of homefield advantage. PIT isn’t going anywhere, but for a team with a hall of fame QB and an otherwise solid foundation, they should be making the playoffs every year and making deep playoff runs every few years, and that doesn’t seem to be happening.

For New England, it’s another trip to the Superbowl, and it’s just annoying to sit and watch teams make the same mistakes against them over and over again. They have such a good home field advantage (check out some of these stats at the middle of the page) that with HFA throughout the playoffs they’re basically a lock to at least the AFC Championship if not the Superbowl, and in that division they’re basically a lock for the playoffs. You look at the AFC at the beginning of the year and ask, who can challenge them? PIT is never up to the task. With KC, Andy Reid always seems to choke in the playoffs and struggle with some clock management issue. The Jets had some success against them in the Ryan era, and they play NE well about half the time (and get blown out the other half), but they’re not going to be anywhere near the playoffs for a while. Peyton Manning’s retired, so he’s not stopping anymore Brady runs like he did in 06, 13, and 15. The Ravens and Giants both play NE very well, but half of the time they’re not even making the playoffs. Andrew Luck could be the guy eventually, but his team’s not even good enough to get him to the playoffs, and his coaching staff certainly isn’t good enough to match up with Bill Belichick. Brady will probably be retired by the time his Colts are ready to challenge for the AFC Title. (Although once Brady does retire, he could have multiple rings in his sight. They have to get the team together first though.)

So off New England goes to Houston to play Atlanta for Superbowl LI. For the sake of all of us NFL fans, I ask you, Atlanta, please give us a game that’s worth watching, and don’t hand this thing over to NE.

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