Buffalo Needs Stability

Buffalo Needs Stability

Buffalo needs stability to end their longtime playoff drought. 1999. What is the significance of 1999? It was the last year the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs. 17 NFL seasons have passed without the Bills having a chance at the Lombardi Trophy. The Bills were one of the greatest teams in the 90’s. From 1990 to 1999 the Bills made the playoffs eight out of 10 seasons.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(Photo: nfl.com)

They also appeared in four straight Super Bowls and even though they didn’t win any, it is a phenomenal accomplishment. Since the new century started, there hasn’t been much to cheer for. The franchise went from glory and one of the most successful, to a team who could be in the same category as the Jaguars, Browns or Lions.

Since their last playoff appearance in 1999, the Bills have had eight head coaches in 17 seasons. On average that is a new head coach every 2.1 years. Stability is on of the biggest keys to success. The proof is in the pudding. Look at the most successful franchise in the NFL.

New England has had Bill Belichick for 16 seasons. Green Bay has had Mike McCarthy 11 seasons. Pittsburgh has had three coaches in the last 50 years. All three of these examples are teams with a shot every year to win the Super Bowl. All three of these franchise have also won a Super Bowl in this time. This proves that stability and longevity mean success. The Bills are giving up too easily on their coaching hires.

Coaching Roulette

Wade Phillips was the head coach the last time the Bills made the playoffs. He lasted three seasons but made the playoffs in his first two years with the team. Phillips was fired after a subpar 8-8 season in 2000. Rumors say he was fired for failing to dismiss his special team’s coordinator.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(Photo: buffalobills,com)

Then came the Gregg Williams era and that lasted only three seasons. Williams went 17-31 in his time as the head coach. Three years is considered enough time to turn a franchise around, but this is where the Bills became impatient because at this point they have gone four straight seasons without a playoff appearance. Gregg Williams eventually went on to win a Super Bowl as the defensive coordinator for the Saints. There was controversy about his coaching and was suspended from the NFL for his role in bounty gate.

The Bills brought in Mike Mularkey for the 2004 season. Mularkey would only last two seasons going 9-7 in his first season and 5-11 in his second season. Yes, he had a less successful second season, but two years is not enough time to evaluate a coach’s ability to improve a franchise. Mularkey is now the head coach of the Tennessee Titans where he went 2-7 as the interim coach but followed it up with a 9-7 season this past year. The future in Tennessee looks bright with Mularkey at the helm and had the Bills rode it out they might have become a playoff team by now.

So after a two-year experiment with Mularkey, the Bills hired Dick Jauron. Jauron was the coach they were the most patient with but still could have tried him out a little longer. Dick Jauron finished three consecutive seasons with a 7-9 record. In his fourth season, he started 3-6 and was fired midseason. Interim coach Perry Fewell went 3-4 but was not hired to replace Jauron.

Chan Gailey was hired as the Bills coach in 2010 and he also got a three-year trial period. He went 16-32 in those three years. Now after allowing two coaches to have three years to prove they could do the job the Bills went back to a two-year window. At this point, it had been 13 seasons without a playoff appearance.

Buffalo Needs Stability

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In 2013 the Bills took a chance on Doug Marrone who went 6-10 in his first season. He followed that 6-10 season with a nine-win season. He had shown signs of improvement from year one to year two and there was a chance that he would lead the Bills to the playoffs in his third year. Marrone unexpectedly opted out of his contract and left Buffalo.

This time the Bills were searching for a new head coach after one left them before they cut him loose. That coach was none other than Rex Ryan. Rex didn’t even get to coach the end of his second season and was fired after compiling a 15-16 record with the team. Impatient management means failure and the struggling Bills franchise will need to give their new head coach, Sean McDermott, at least four years to build the team. They need a coach who can create stability within the franchise. If they cut him loose early Buffalo will continue to miss the playoffs and the drought will continue to grow.

A Franchise Quarterback

Buffalo Needs Stability

(http://www.buffalobillsalumni.com/Jim_Kelly_Buffalo_Bills_s/73.htm)

The success of a franchise is directly connected to having a franchise quarterback. The Bills haven’t had a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly. Buffalo have started 16 different quarterbacks since Kelly was the man. They have had no luck finding a quarterback to lead the team and now that they have, they aren’t fully committed to him.

Some will argue that Doug Flutie could have been a franchise quarterback but the truth is that Flutie was a bit of a journeyman. He played for five teams in 11 NFL seasons. He had some talent and was the last Bills quarterback to lead them to the playoffs, but there is a reason he didn’t stay with teams longer.

As mentioned above, the Bills have had 16 different starting quarterbacks before they stumbled upon Tyrod Taylor. Taylor spent his first four seasons in the NFL as a backup to Super Bowl Champion quarterback Joe Flacco. He learned the ropes from the sideline. It allowed him to develop and grow before throwing him to the wolves like most young quarterbacks in today’s day and age.

Taylor finally got his opportunity to start when he won the job in 2015. In his first season as an NFL starter, Tyrod Taylor played 14 games and went 7-6. Taylor completed 63.7 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,035 yards, 20 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. He also added 568 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

In his second season, he started 15 games and went 7-8. In two seasons as a starter he has thrown for 6,257 yards, 37 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions. He ran for 1,148 yards and 10 touchdowns. These are great numbers but the best thing is that he has gone 14-14. He is still growing and just about to enter his prime.

Buffalo Needs Stability

(http://onsmash.com/sports/sammy-watkins-44-yard-touchdown-bomb-from-tyrod-taylor/)

These numbers and wins are much better than the other quarterbacks the Bills have had recently. He has won 50 percent of his games while quarterbacks E.J. Manuel (6-11 won 36%), Thad Lewis (2-4 won 33%), Ryan Fitzpatrick (20-33 won 38%), Trent Edwards (14-18 won 44%), and J.P. Losman (10-23 won 30%) have all done much worse.

The Buffalo Bills have a franchise quarterback sitting in their lap and they need to stick with him. 17 seasons is a long time to not make the playoffs. The way to end that is to stick with McDermott for longer than three years to allow him enough time to build the program. They also need to stick by Tyrod Taylor. Finding a franchise quarterback is difficult and giving up on Tyrod Taylor will spell doom for Buffalo. If they move on from Taylor, McDermott will be fired after two years and the Bills will continue down the path they have been stuck on the past 17 seasons. It isn’t difficult Buffalo, let Tyrod Taylor lead you to the promised land.

 

 

Franchise Analysis – New Orleans Saints

For almost half the teams in the NFL, they are approaching 2017 with one question: do we have a championship caliber quarterback? Thankfully, the New Orleans Saints don’t have to answer that question. But how does a team with Drew Brees and Sean Payton go three years without making the playoffs?

As both are nearing the end of their tenure in New Orleans, what needs to happen in 2017 to have Saints fans celebrating next February?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

There’s not much to say. When Sean Payton calls the plays and Drew Brees is the field general, this offense will always be prolific. This offense finished second in points and first in yards in 2016. Brees and company finished first in passing yards and second in passing attempts. This team also took an important step for its rushing attack this season.

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees and Sean Payton are a historically great duo, but will it translate into a playoff birth in 2017? (Courtesy of: Sporting News)

Since 2013, the Saints have made a concerted effort to run the ball on first down. Since 2013, while they only attempted 87 rushes on first down, they have run the ball on first down at least 98 times. Sean Payton is trying to put this offense in the best position possible and is not falling in love with throwing the football.

The Saints routinely finish as one of the most efficient third down offenses and have gotten better when they run the ball more on first down. Since 2013, the Saints third down conversion rate is above 48 percent.

What the Saints are doing is incredibly effective and should be continued, especially as Drew Brees continues to age. However, this unit is not without flaws.

You’ll find play makers all over this offense except at one position: tight end. No matter who was playing, the production was still poor. Using Pro Football Focus player ratings, every Saints tight end was more effective as a pass blocker than they were a receiver.

While these ratings don’t tell the whole truth, it’s clear that Coby Fleener struggled this season. To be fair, it was his first season in Payton’s offense. This position could absolutely use in upgrade via the 2017 NFL Draft if Fleener continues to be incompetent.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

You could answer my initial question with one word, defense. Perennially weak defense is why this team continues to miss the playoffs and 2016 was no different.

New Orleans Saints

Delvin Breaux will look to bounce back in 2017 after missing 8 games this year. (Courtesy of: Alchetron)

The Saints defense finished 31st in points and 27th in yards. Specifically, this unit was horrible against the pass. What’s really troubling was the fact that this defense gave up the most passing yards on the 19th most attempts. This means that offenses, even if they were marginal, were incredibly efficient against this defense through the air.

What makes a team operate more efficiently? In the passing game, it happens when quarterbacks have more time than usual to make decisions and throw. The Saints lacked a consistent pass rush all season as they finished 27th in the NFL with 30 sacks. Cameron Jordan is a great player, but he alone is not enough.

They could also look to upgrade the linebacker position given how much they blitz. However, if you’re blitzing more than 40 percent of the time and still can’t apply pressure, a scheme change may be necessary. While either option could be effective, the best decision is likely a combination of the two.

Of course, there is also the option to upgrade players in the secondary. I don’t think this is as pressing as establishing a pass rush. Delvin Breaux, apart from having a great last name, is a talented player who struggled. He missed half the season, so it’s reasonable to think missing that many snaps would impact his performance. Breaux, along with Sterling Moore and potentially a talented free agent or rookie, could take this defense out of incompetency.

Divisional Analysis

I still maintain that this is the best division in football in terms of quarterback play. To combat these great quarterbacks, you have to keep them off the field and apply pressure. Offensively, the Saints are phenomenal. Aside from adding depth at a few positions and upgrading others, they don’t have pressing needs.

On defense, the Saints will have plenty of opportunities to accumulate talent. Secondary players like Marshon Lattimore, Adoree Jackson and Malik Hooker could absolutely improve this pass defense. There are also great free agents like A.J. Bouye and Trumaine Johnson available at the corner position that the Saints could target.

On the other hand, they could go a different route and address their weak pass rush. Derek Barnett seems like the right decision at the number eleven slot if he’s available. There are other defensive options like Reuben Foster, Solomon Thomas and Taco Charlton, but they may not be right in their scheme or warrant selection at the Saints position.

I know I claimed the offense doesn’t need to be a focus of the offseason, but, there’s always the idea of finding an eventual successor to Brees. I’m not saying spend a first-round pick on Deshaun Watson or Mitch Trubisky, if they are even available. I am saying that the sooner the Saints plan for the future, the smoother the transition will be.

Postseason Prospects

While there are seemingly endless amounts of stats to comb through, some are more important than others. Here is where the Saints stack up in the following offensive and defensive categories.

New Orleans Saints

As we’ve outlined, the Saints offense is incredibly productive. It’s almost unprecedented to have an offense finish in the top six in every category and not make the playoffs. If the defense is able to improve in 2017, it is likely that their yards per attempt will decrease because they won’t be playing in as many shootouts.

New Orleans Saints

Conversely, the Saints defense needs to improve in every category. Thankfully, they don’t need to be top five or even top ten in every category to make the postseason. They just have to stop being totally inept. If the Saints are able to apply more pressure to opposing quarterbacks in 2017, look for improvements in sacks, third down percentage and turnovers.

2017 Prediction

While they have major defensive flaws, the Saints are prime to break their playoff drought. In 2016, the Saints lost four games by three points or less and another game by five points. If they won two of those five games against the right teams, they could have made the playoffs. I believe the Saints will find a way to win those close games in 2017 and make the playoffs as a Wild Card team at 10-6.

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DII players with a shot at the NFL

DII Players With A Shot at the NFL

It’s that time of year again in the NFL. Teams are in full scout mode looking for the best players in the country. The NFL combine will begin later this month on February 28. Most people focus on the top prospects from the big schools. There is a lot of talk on who will go number one overall. All the hype comes from rounds one through three but those players are not guaranteed to be good, some don’t even last three seasons.

The numbers prove that it isn’t just about who gets drafted, but who you can find that goes undrafted. At the start of last season, Adam Schefter tweeted that there were more undrafted players (481) than first and second rounders (480) on an NFL roster. This is very telling and the teams that can find players who will make an impact after the draft ends are the teams who find the real gems of the game.

Division I football gets all the love but in the lower divisions, there are still a lot of talented players, many of which could make an NFL roster. Here are seven players from DII that could make an NFL roster and also have a chance to become stars in the NFL.

Antonio Pipkin QB: 6’3″ 225 LBS: Tiffin University

Put on the film of Antonio Pipkin and you see pure athleticism. Pipkin is clearly a duel threat quarterback with a strong arm. He has breakaway speed and if he gets into the open field there is no catching him. One of his most underrated skills is his ability to accurately place touch on the ball. He threw his receivers open in many situations and in the NFL that is a trait all the greats have. The windows are extremely tight in the NFL and under a few years of development Pipkin could eventually be a starter. Pipkin finished his senior season with 2,534 yards passing and 25 touchdowns. He also added 757 yards on the ground with seven touchdowns.

A perfect fit for Pipkin would be a situation like Pittsburgh. Two to three years behind a veteran who will soon retire before he steps onto the field to lead a franchise. Teams would be wise to take a shot at Pipkin whether it is late in the draft or as an undrafted free agent.

Jordan Morgan OG: 6’4″ 320 LBS: Kutztown University

DII players with a shot at the NFL

(https://www.kutztown.edu/choose-ku-choose-the-world/jordan-morgan.htm)

Jordan Morgan may have NFL scouts drooling when they look at his measurables. 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds in a great size for a guard in the NFL. There is a lot of good film on Jordan Morgan. Morgan is a great run blocker who bulldozes defenders with ease often. He knows how to use his size to punish defenders. An area that he needs to work on is pass blocking. The NFL has much bigger and faster defensive lineman than he has blocked and he isn’t great at pass blocking. Morgan could be a good undrafted lineman if a team can develop his pass blocking ability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connor Harris MLB: 6-Foot-0 243 LBS: Lindenwood University

Connor Harris will be the biggest surprise in the 2017 class. Harris is going to be a starting middle linebacker in the NFL without question. The film on this guy is just insane. Harris has a high football I.Q. and there is nothing he can’t do on the field. He is great at play recognition and when he makes a read he’s flat out gone.

 

His pass coverage skills are highly developed as well. Harris is the all-time tackle leader in NCAA history at any level amassing an astonishing 633 tackles. He also had eight and a half sacks, six interceptions and one defensive touchdown in his career. The team that takes a chance on Harris will get a steal and a linebacker who could be a future pro bowler.

 

Jordan Herdman lB: 6-Foot-0 235 LBS: Simon Fraser University

DII players with a shot at the NFL

(http://theprovince.com/sports/university/simon-fraser-clan-quartet-plays-it-near-perfect-grade-points-in-sports-and-study-hardly-average)

Jordan Herman is an interesting player. He played a lot of middle linebacker at Simon Frazer University but was sent to attack the quarterback quite often. It allowed him the opportunity to develop pass rushing skills. If Herdman gets a shot in the NFL it will be as a 3-4 outside linebacker or as a defensive end. One thing that may hurt his chances of playing defensive end is his size. He isn’t tall and doesn’t have enough weight to be an every-down defensive end. Ultimately, he must become a 3-4 linebacker but if a team with that scheme takes a chance then the sky is the limit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garry Brown WR: 6-Foot-1 200 LBS: California (PA)

DII players with a shot at the NFL

(http://monvalleyindependent.com/2016/09/keir-throws-6-tds-win/)

If you need a punt or kick returner, call Garry Brown. If you need a receiver to embarrass defensive backs, call Garry Brown. Does your team need a playmaker, you guessed it, call Garry Brown. It is somewhat remarkable that Brown wasn’t playing division I football. He has speed and explosion that belongs in the NFL. Brown is best at catching the ball at its highest point. When the ball is in the air, even at just 6-foot-1, he makes sure it ends up as a catch. Brown will most likely go undrafted but can make an NFL roster as a returner if nothing else.

 

 

 

Billy Brown WR: 6-Foot-4 240 LBS: Shepard

DII players with a Shot at the NFL

(http://www.timesdaily.com/sports/una_sports/lions-one-win-from-title-game/article_d93af849-af6e-5361-a09d-30728620fb9e.html)

Watching Billy Brown was like watching the Super Bowl commercial of Cam Newton playing pee wee football. Brown is just bigger than everyone on the field. Countless times Brown made a catch and was bulldozing over the players that were just too small to tackle him. Brown could be a dangerous red-zone threat in the NFL. At 6-foot-4, not many defensive backs would be able to jump with Brown. Brown will go undrafted but could have the same impact Victor Cruz had with the Giants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam Shaheen TE: 6-Foot-7 277 LBS: Ashland College

Adam Shaheen is a huge guy and is not lacking in confidence. Shaheen may be the craziest player on this list because he is the only player listed who is a junior. Not many players outside division I are willing to declare early but Shaheen believes he is ready. His confidence shows on the tape. Almost everytime he catches the ball he is jawing with defenders.

He plays the game with fire and knows he is better than the defenders he dominates. His latest season at Ashland College he caught 70 passes for 803 yards and a DII record, 10 touchdowns. Shaheen will need a crash course in run blocking but can be a dangerous pass catcher if given a chance.

 

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Franchise Analysis – Carolina Panthers

It’s safe to say the Panthers Super Bowl hangover was real, as 2016 was not kind to this franchise. Coming off their appearance in Super Bowl 50, expectations were higher than ever. How did a team with the defending NFL MVP go from first to worst in their own division?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

With any team, a quarterback will get all of the credit, and all of the blame as well. It looked like Cam Newton finally realizd his potential and established himself as one of the next great quarterbacks. It was evident this season that something wasn’t right with the 2015 NFL MVP.

Overall, this offense finished 15th in points and 19th in yards. That’s a drastic drop off from finishing first and 11th in those respective categories in 2015. Was Cam Newton really to blame for this sharp decline in production? The answer: not entirely.

The 2015 Panthers ran the ball 526 times, which was more than any other team. Next season they only attempted 453 runs, good for seventh in that category. Many factors contributed to this decline. First, Jonathan Stewart missed three games. The Panthers averaged less than 100 yards rushing and three turnovers per game during that stretch.

Panthers Super Bowl hangover

Will Cam Newton try to reincorporate running the ball as part of his game for the 2017 season? (Courtesy of; ABC News Radio)

Second, Cam Newton failed to run the ball effectively. At times, he even seemed unwilling to run. Compared to his MVP season, he rushed the ball 42 fewer times and scored five fewer rushing touchdowns. This could be the result of the punishment he continually took this season. It’s smart for Newton to run less, but he’s always been more effective as a threat to run.

In the last two seasons, the Panthers are 14-5 when Newton has at least seven rushing attempts and are 6-2 when Newton runs at least 10 times. Double-digit rushing attempts is probably too much, even for Newton. He has to find a medium between running too much, and not at all. Since his completion percentage has never been above 60 in consecutive seasons, running the ball must be a part of his game.

Third and finally, the Panthers offensive line did not produce to the same level as they did in 2015. Michael Oher, Mike Remmers and Dan France couldn’t stay healthy enough or play well enough to maintain the run game.

Entering 2017, this offense needs to focus on rebuilding their running attack in order to shake off the Panthers Super Bowl hangover.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

If the 2016 Panther’s offense took a step back, then the defense fell off a cliff. This defense finished 26th in points and 21st in yards after being top 10 in those categories a year ago. Specifically, this team could not stop anyone through the air.

In 2016, opponents on average had three less passing attempts against the Panthers per game, but had more success. They gave up 34 more passing yards per game on average. That may not seem like much, but 34 yards equates to three more first downs per game. That impacts field position and scoring.

It’s evident that this unit missed Josh Norman. He’s not the sole reason for this decline. However, when this defense is still top 10 against the run and is decidedly worse against the pass, his absence played a role in contributing to the Panthers Super Bowl hangover.

Apart from inconsistent play from young but talented players, the Panthers’ defensive scheme needs tuning. This defense would routinely ask linebackers and defensive linemen to play an active role in coverage. Using less athletic defenders to cover tight ends and slot receivers should be used sparingly, not featured. If this defense can adjust their scheme to minimize the impact linebackers and defensive linemen have in coverage, they will undoubtedly improve.

Panthers Super Bowl hangover

Luke Kuechly’s return in 2017 will no doubt have a positive impact on this lackluster Panthers defense. (Courtesy of; Deadspin)

The Panthers also suffered from one of the most heartbreaking injuries of the season. It was painful to see Luke Kuechly miss the last six games as a result of a concussion. Kuechly is always one of the best linebackers against the run and is incredibly versatile in coverage. The Panthers will no doubt improve with a healthy Luke Keuchly back in the lineup.

What’s incredibly frustrating about this defense is that they finished second in sacks and 10th in third down defense and teams could still pass against them. This team needs more consistent play from all of their players. It’s clear they are capable of top defensive play, but they must become more consistent if they wish to return to the Super Bowl.

 

Divisional Analysis

Unfortunately, the Panthers reside in the NFC South. This division is the best in terms of quarterback play from top to bottom. What other division has a first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, two MVP’s, and a rising star all at the quarterback position? Thus, the Panthers have to build their team to combat such players.

The Panthers are already capable of rushing the passer. They must upgrade their secondary to get more consistency against the pass. There are a plethora of good defensive backs in the 2017 NFL Draft. With the eighth overall pick, the Panthers will be able to address this need, should they make it a priority.

With players like Marlon Humphrey, Quincy Wilson, Marshon Lattimore, and Adoree’ Jackson available, the Panthers will have plenty of good options. Because there are so many good defensive backs, they could look to trade back and still be able to select one of these top prospects.

They could also use this pick to address their diminished rushing attack. The Panthers could make a splash and select Leonard Fournette. Infusing a talent like Fournette in this offense could allow the Panthers to return to their 2015 dominance.

The Panthers could also use this opportunity to address their left tackle position. If Cam Robinson is not on the board when the Panthers pick, I don’t see them selecting a tackle. There isn’t a player, besides Robinson, worthy of a top 10 selection at this point.

The point is, the Panthers were dominant when their offense was effective running the football. They were able to keep the opposing teams’ quarterback off the field, and thus limit their impact on the game.

Postseason Prospects

Clearly, the Panthers have certain strengths that give them the potential to be a playoff team. Here are the Panthers’ ranks in the following offensive and defensive metrics that can indicate postseason success.

Panthers Super Bowl hangover

It’s nearly impossible for an NFL team to be great in every facet of the game. Often, teams are very good at a few things, and are at least competent at the rest. For Carolina’s offense, they weren’t particularly good at any one part of the game. Yes, they finished top 10 in time of possession. Outside of that metric, they were mediocre in all other categories.

This doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t improve next season. However, the Panthers need to re-establish their identity as a run first team. If they are successful, they will have increased time of possession, third down conversion rate, and allow less sacks.

Panthers Super Bowl hangover

While the drop off for the defense was significant, they still show flashes of greatness. Finishing in the top 10 in three of these categories is great. However, they failed to even be average in terms of points and yards allowed. If they could have just been top 20 in both of these statistics, this team would have had a chance to make the playoffs.

Hopefully the Panthers will continue to build upon the defensive success that made them conference champions in 2015.

2017 Predictions

I see improvement in the Panthers future. They will be returning key players who missed time from injury, as well as acquiring new talent through the draft and free agency.

The only question is, will the coaching staff and quarterback be willing to regain their run first mentality? I think the answer is yes. However, with ascending teams like Tampa Bay and Atlanta, the Panthers Super Bowl hangover will remain. I like Carolina to improve to 9-7, but miss the playoffs.

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Green Bay Packers and Pittsburg Steelers: What Went Wrong?

Packers and Steelers: What Went Wrong?

Today is Super Bowl Sunday and there has been plenty of talk about the Falcons and the Patriots. They have fought hard to get to this magnificent day. The game will be entertaining and a champion will be crowned. Since there has been so much talk about the Super Bowl, it is permitting to look at the two teams who came up just a game short and ask, what went wrong?

 

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the Packers organization. Because of that, he causes the most problems for the Packers. Rodgers is both a blessing and a curse. Before diving into the player personnel for the Packers, let’s look at the front office.

Packers and Steelers: What Went Wrong?

(MARK HOFFMAN)

Ted Thompson has been the general manager for the Packers since 2005 and has done an outstanding job. His philosophy of building through the draft, rather than through free agency, has created a team capable of contending every year. Thompson has provided plenty of consistency and longevity, both of which are required to be considered one of the best franchises.

Thanks to Thompson, head coach Mike McCarthy has also been able to maintain longevity. Thompson hired McCarthy in 2006 and has remained comfortable in his position as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. In his 11 seasons as the Packers head coach, he has gone 114-61-1 with nine playoff appearances.

McCarthy’s career playoff record is 10-8. He has led the Packers to four NFC Championship games and won Super Bowl XLV. There are few coaches who have had the amount of success McCarthy has had with the Packers.

When one looks at the Packers’ roster, the problems can be found. Pro Football Focus ranked the Packers offensive line as the fifth best in the NFL. They have few holes along the line and don’t need to improve there.

They have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but the Packers need playmakers. In the backfield, the Packers had to settle for moving former wide receiver Ty Montgomery to running back. The Packers must find a running back in the draft or in free agency if they want to take another step.

Aside from Jordy Nelson, the Packers are inconsistent in their receiving corp. A solid and consistent number two receiver could take this offense to new heights. On offense, the answer to improving the team is to add more playmakers.

Packers and Steelers: What Went Wrong?

(http://deadspin.com/tag/nfl-playoffs)

Defensively is where the biggest problems lie. As a unit, the Packers ranked near the bottom of all major defensive categories. They were 21st in points allowed (24.2 ppg) and 22nd in yards given up (363.9 ypg). The Packers could use players at every level on their defense, but their secondary needs the most work. If the Packers can improve their secondary, they will become a much better defense.

To simplify, the Packers need to develop a running game to take pressure off of Aaron Rodgers. Defensively, they need to beef up every level of their defense. If the Packers can fix those issues, they could be heading to a Super Bowl berth as soon as next season.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

The list of problems the Steelers face is much smaller than the Packers’. They have done a great job in the front office with the draft and head coach Mike Tomlin has also been outstanding.

Packers and Steelers: What Went Wrong?

(http://nesn.com/2013/11/steelers-coach-mike-tomlin-nearly-collides-with-ravens-jacoby-jones-during-73-yard-kickoff-return-gif/)

Mike Tomlin has been the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers for 10 seasons. In those 10 seasons, Tomlin has a 103-57 record. Tomlin has made the playoffs seven times in those 10 seasons.

He also has a playoff record of 8-6, made it to the AFC Conference Championship three times, and won Super Bowl XLIII. Just as McCarthy has been one of the best coaches in the NFL, so has Tomlin. Coaching is not an issue that needs to be addressed.

Offensively the Steelers are absolutely loaded. Their offensive line was ranked third by pro football focus. There were no weaknesses on the line. With guards David DeCastro and Ramon Foster, the Steelers will continue to have one of the best offensive lines in the game.

Continuing on offense, Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in the NFL. He is not just a great runner, he is a great receiver as well. In the past, the league has seen similar running backs like Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson. That is the path Bell is on and will be an all-time great barring injury.

The Steelers receiving corp is extremely versatile and full of playmakers. Antonio Brown is virtually unguardable and has put up gaudy numbers throughout his career. There is no indication that will stop anytime soon.

Along with Antonio Brown, Sammie Coats, and Eli Rogers provide big play ability. Rogers showed flashes of greatness this season and if he develops further he could become a dangerous weapon. Don’t forget that Martavis Bryant, who is one of the best number two options in the NFL, should be coming back. If he can stay out of trouble off the field, the Steelers will have one of the best sets of receivers in the NFL.

That leaves one position to talk about on offense: the quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger is contemplating retirement. Few believe he will actually retire and why would he? Big Ben threw for 3,819 yards while completing 64.4 percent of his passes. He added 29 touchdowns and threw just 13 interceptions. He is still playing at a high level and the Steelers shouldn’t be majorly concerned at the quarterback position.

One thing the Steelers must do this offseason, and moving forward into next season, is find the replacement for Big Ben. If he is thinking about retirement now, he will be thinking about it next season as well and the franchise must be prepared for that.

Big Ben also has had plenty of injuries in his career. If he goes down, Landry Jones is not the answer. Age is also an issue for Big Ben and his play may start to diminish. For all these reasons, the Steelers need to use a third or fourth-round pick on a future franchise quarterback.

Defensively is where the Steelers could use the most help. In the game against the Patriots, the Steelers weakness showed upfront. They did a good job in the regular season getting sacks, but in the postseason they didn’t have that guy who could get a sack. Tom Brady sat in the pocket and picked apart the young secondary. If the Steelers want to take that next step, they need a dominant pass rusher.

Packers and Steelers: What Went Wrong?

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Pittsburgh’s linebacking corp is extremely solid. Ryan Shazier can flat out fly all across the field. Bud Dupree is also a stud. He has a lot of speed to make plays all over the field, similar to Shazier.

The secondary is probably Pittsburgh’s weakest area on the entire team. The secondary had a total of six interceptions. Part of the problem is they are young and inexperienced. Signing a free agent corner or drafting one is the biggest priority for the Steelers’ offseason. If they get a pass rusher and beef up the secondary, the Steelers will make the Super Bowl next season.

 

 

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Franchise Analysis – Kansas City Chiefs

Since 2014, the Kansas City Chiefs have consistently gotten better. After recording nine wins in 2014, 11 wins in 2015, and 12 wins in 2016, what more could a fan base ask for? The answer is simple, win in the playoffs. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1993 and haven’t won the conference championship since 1969. So the question remains, what must happen to snap the Chiefs championship drought?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

This offense, like those in previous seasons, was predicated on not making mistakes. Kansas City finished in the top 10 in terms of giveaways by only committing 17 on the season. Given they had 15 giveaways in 2015 and 17 in 2014, it’s clear that their number one priority is taking care of the football.

Just because a team doesn’t accumulate turnovers doesn’t mean they are a great offense. The Chiefs finished 13th in points and 20th in yards, according to Pro Football Reference. I often talk about how an offense can skew a defenses ranking in points allowed; however, the Chiefs benefited from the opposite. Their defense was able to put them in great field position by creating a league high 33 turnovers.

Chiefs Championship Drought

Alex Smith became the first quarterback in NFL history to lose a playoff game when scoring two or more touchdowns than their opponent. (Courtesy of; Kansas City Star)

With any NFL offense, the focus is on the signal caller. One stat most people don’t know about Smith is that since 2011, only Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have won more games. However, despite what most people think, winning isn’t everything. At this point how Alex Smith performs in the regular season is irrelevant to Chiefs’ fans, as long as he plays well enough to get them to the postseason.

Since 2013, his adjusted yards per attempt in his postseason campaigns has declined from 10 yards, to 4.3 yards. This was never more apparent than against the Steelers. Smith failed to connect with Tyreke Hill on two occasions, one of which was a guaranteed touchdown.

At this point in his career, it would be unfair to ask Alex Smith to start attacking downfield. His style of play is one that you either take or leave, and in all fairness, is one the Chiefs should leave by 2018 at the latest. You won’t lose a Super Bowl with a quarterback who doesn’t take chances, but you can’t end the Chiefs’ championship drought with one either.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

2016 was great for this defense. With four Pro-Bowlers, two of which earned All-Pro honors, this defense was electrifying. While they may have had lapses against the oppositions running attack, there was one constant that remained. Turnovers. As stated earlier, the Chiefs were first in creating turnovers, with 33. This defense was also tied for the most interceptions caused with 18 and were first in fumbles with 15.

There’s no doubt that this team’s strength lies in the secondary. With All-Pro safety, Eric Berry, and corner, Marcus Peters, teams struggled to find favorable match ups in the passing game. Berry was the single best pass defender in terms of covering tight ends and no one has more interceptions than Peters since he entered the league.

Sadly, this team did struggle when trying to stop the run. The Chiefs finished the season as the 26th ranked run defense, something they have to improve on for next year. In a 3-4 defense, the nose tackle is the most important player in terms of defending the run. The nose tackle has to occupy double teams and not give up ground.

Chiefs Championship Drought

Dontari Poe has unique pass rushing skills as a 3-4 nose tackle, but will Chiefs wind up making him one of the most overpaid free agents of 2017? (Courtesy of; Arrowhead Addict)

Who plays nose tackle for the Chiefs? None other than, Dontari Poe. Yes, Poe has a lot of notoriety for what he does in goal line formations. However, Pro Football Focus rated Poe as the 90th best interior defender against the run. On the other hand, Poe has an uncanny ability to rush the passer from the nose tackle position, making him a unique player at that position.

It’s not entirely Poe’s fault. Other players who were liabilities against the run included defensive end Rakeem Nunez-Roches and linebacker Terrence Smith, who filled in the for the injured Derrick Johnson. This triangle of ineptitude made one side of the defense especially susceptible to the run.

If this defense plans to be the one to end the Chiefs championship drought in 2017, they must become at least an average rush defense.

Divisional Analysis

Clearly, Kansas City has everything they need to win the AFC West. However, this team is far from perfect. The Chiefs have a large decision looming this offseason, as both Eric Berry and Dontari Poe become free agents. I think the choice is simple. Let Poe walk and resign Berry.

In this situation, the Chiefs have to address their run defense by finding a new nose tackle. Brandon Williams and Kawann Short, while he played in a 4-3 scheme in Carolina, could be suitable replacements. On the other hand, it’s likely they’ll want to address such a pivotal position in the 2017 NFL Draft.

As of January 24th, our own Joe DiTullio has the Chiefs selecting Corey Davis, the wide receiver from Western Michigan. I’m not so sure. Davis would be a good fit on an offense that wants to attack down the field, but we’ve clearly outlined that isn’t what Alex Smith does.

Instead, they would likely replace Dontari Poe with Caleb Brantley, a top nose tackle prospect from Florida. They could however wait to fill this need by selecting Carlos Watkins from Clemson, or Elijah Qualls from Washington in the later rounds.

Offensively, the Chiefs don’t have a glaring need. They could bolster their receiving core, or, they could look to upgrade their running game. Jamaal Charles’ health will be questioned for the rest of his career and Spencer Ware proved he can handle a starters workload. However, Christian McCaffery would be a great addition for Alex Smith and this conservative passing attack.

Postseason Prospects

The Chiefs not only won the AFC West, but were also able to claim a first round bye. So clearly, they must be doing something right. Here are the following relevant offensive and defensive statistics that serve as good predictors for postseason success.

Chiefs Championship Drought

A good barometer for postseason teams is to have two or more categories inside the top 15 and usually one or two inside the top ten. For the Chiefs, they are top 15 in both points scored and sacks allowed. However, they are largely mediocre in the other metrics. Remember, mediocre isn’t terrible, but it isn’t good enough to win multiple playoff games.

Of these statistics, the two most telling is 3rd down conversion rate. Why? Because it gives you an idea about how effective this team is on first and second down. Teams with a high 3rd down conversion rate are successful early on first and second down, making their third down attempts less difficult.

 

Chiefs Championship Drought

The Chiefs defense suffers from an all or nothing problem. They finished top ten in points allowed and number one in turnovers. But, they were bottom third in the other defensive metrics. When Justin Houston is able to play a full season, their sack numbers will no doubt improve.

We outlined the Chiefs’ struggles against the run earlier and those struggles led to a poor production on third down. The Chiefs have to improve against the run in 2017 in order to record more sacks and get offenses off the field.

2017 Prediction

The Kansas City Chiefs are in a great position to end their championship drought in 2017. Unless Andy Reid is able to transform Alex Smith in the offseason, this team has reached their ceiling. The Chiefs will take a step back next year and will miss the playoffs after finishing 9-7.

 

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Hagan’s Haus Super Bowl LI Prediction

Two weeks have passed since the conference championship games. The biggest surprise wasn’t that Atlanta won, but how they won. Atlanta blew out Green Bay 44-21 in the final game ever at the Georgia Dome. Few could have predicted this annihilation, but I’ll do my best to give a good Super Bowl LI prediction.

Super Bowl LI Prediction

(Photo: NFL Spin Zone)

On the other side of the NFL, the Patriots did the same to the Steelers. The game wasn’t close and Tom Brady punched a ticket to his seventh Super Bowl with a 36-17 win.

For the most part, the playoffs this season have been extremely dull. There haven’t been many close games leaving fans on the edge of their seat.

The playoffs are supposed to provide epic battles and last-second wins. The Super Bowl is the last chance to live up to the hype of the playoffs. It has been a great season in terms of predicting how the games will turn out.

Just as the NFL is hoping the Super Bowl ends the season on the right note, predicting the game needs to end this year’s picks on the right note. For the final time this season, here is Hagan’s Haus predictions.

Championship Sunday: 1-1

Regular Season:148-103-2

Playoffs: 6-4

Overall: 154-107-2

Super Bowl LI Prediction

Super Bowl LI Prediction

(Photo: Smiley N. Pool, Staff)

Hoston plays host to the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons this Sunday for Super Bowl LI. This is one of the most intriguing Super Bowls in recent memory for a couple of reasons.

First, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Patriots are a 55.6 percent favorite in this game. Many of the polls on twitter have been close to 50/50 as well.

The betting world also has the Patriots as three-point favorites. In summary, this game is 50/50 and everyone seems to be split on who is going to win.

Secondly, this match-up pits the number one scoring offense (Atlanta with 33.8 ppg) versus the number one scoring defense (New England with 15.6 ppg).

Super Bowl LI Prediction

(Photo: Daily Mall)

Atlanta has actually been scoring more in the playoffs averaging 40 points per game. New England is still first in the playoffs giving up 16.5 points per game. In the past five occasions in which the number one offense has gone up against the number one defense, four times the number one defense has won the game.

Another reason Super Bowl LI is intriguing is that Tom Brady is going for his fifth Super Bowl ring, which would be the most in NFL history by a quarterback.

Many people believe Tom Brady is already the greatest player of all time but a win here would cement it in most minds. There will be many people rooting for or against this achievement providing plenty of entertainment.

Lastly, many people are looking forward to seeing what happens if the Patriots win and Roger Goodell is forced to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady after suspending him for four games for deflate-gate.

Goodell is one of the most hated commissioners among the fans in all of sports and there will be a lot of fans who would love to see Goodell forced to give Brady the trophy.

With all that said, it is time to predict a winner and why they’ll win.

Super Bowl LI Prediction

(Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all-time and his Super Bowl experience gives the Patriots a huge advantage. He won’t make the mistakes Atlanta will need to win this game.

Also, do not be surprised if the Patriots come out and pound the rock on Atlanta. The Falcons are a middle of the road run defense and LeGarrette Blount could be the x-factor.

The saying will forever hold true that defense wins championships. Atlanta has a high powered offense, but its defense is not a championship defense yet.

The Patriots have proven to have the best defense this season. They bend, but do not break. Matt Ryan is going to struggle in this game and be forced into two or three turnovers. New England will capitalize and win the Super Bowl yet again.

 

New England 27 Atlanta 17

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Franchise Analysis – Oakland Raiders

Depending on the media outlets you follow, the Oakland Raiders’ success in 2016 may or may not have surprised you. Every year, a few teams are able to take the next step and get into the postseason. Today, let’s look into one team who was able to push into the playoffs in 2016, with some Oakland Raiders analysis.

But why was 2016 the year for the Raiders? Well, it was the accumulation of prudent free agent signings, smart and fortuitous drafting and patience. So, what do the Raiders need to do in 2017 to catapult themselves to the top of the AFC West?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

The Oakland Raiders quickly burst onto the scene as one of the most exciting NFL offenses. Led by Derek Carr, they finished as the seventh-ranked offense in terms of points and sixth in terms of yards. Other than improved play by Carr, what other factors allowed this offense to blossom in 2016?

A common theme in most of my analysis is the focus on every team’s offensive line. This was the second-most impacted factor in this season’s offensive success. They were one of the best line units in all of football.

Oakland Raiders analysis

Derek Carr had a breakout year in 2016 by entering the NFL MVP conversation and will look to improve on his success in 2017 (Courtesy of; sportsnaut.com).

Why? Because this franchise spends the second most cap space on their offensive line in the NFL. This unit accounts for over 23% of their cap space at $37.5 million. Acquiring Kelechi Osemele and Rodney Hudson in free agency and drafting Gabe Jackson were critical to this team’s breakout performance in 2016.

For some perspective, this unit allowed the least amount of sacks in the NFL with 18. That is absolutely incredible. Some defensive players will amass more sacks by themselves than the Raiders allowed as a unit. So, if the offensive line doesn’t need improvement, what does Oakland need to do to take the next step in 2017?

While this offense was entertaining to watch and scored a lot of points, they didn’t do it by attacking down the field. Carr often targeted Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree with short and intermediate throws of 15-25 yards.

For example, Carr completed 50 passes of 20 yards or more in 2016, but only eight passes of 40 or more yards, according to NFL.com. Surprisingly, Carr had a lower yards per attempt mark than Alex Smith and Andy Dalton with just 7.03. While they had great offensive success, the Raiders offense can ascend to another level in 2017.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

It was evident to even the most fair weather of Raiders’ fans, if those even exist, that this defense struggled to play consistently at an just an average level. As a whole, this defense finished 20th in points and 26th in yards. Based on this team’s personality, it will be hard for this defense to ascend into the top-10 category.

Because their offense can score so effectively, they will have to get better against teams in “comeback mode”. Meaning, by mid-third quarter, the opposition will have to throw their way back into the game.

Oakland Raiders analysis

Ever since the Raiders drafted Khalil Mack with the number two overall pick, he’s proved his worth, but he can’t play all 11 defensive positions (Courtesy of; Endzonescore.com).

Given this situation, the Raiders can better in of two ways. They can pair Khalil Mack with another pass rusher to pressure the quarterback. Or, they could invest in their secondary, giving the players they already have more time to accumulate sacks.

The Raiders would be best served to target defensive linemen, given that they finished dead last in the NFL with only 25 sacks.

Ideally, they should look to upgrade Denico Autry for their base defense. Autry wasn’t able to excel in stopping the run or applying pressure.

It was unfortunate what happened to Mario Edwards Jr. and how he was unable to build upon the productivity of his rookie season. If he returns healthy, maybe Edwards Jr. could a suitable replacement for Autry.

If you disagree and think the Raiders should look to strengthen their secondary, I have no issue with that either.

They could look to upgrade D.J. Hayden as the slot corner. Hayden’s injury history and inability to improve over his first four seasons needs to be addressed.

With all the talent at corner in free agency and the draft, the Oakland Raiders have plenty of options available to them.

Divisional Analysis

The Oakland Raiders were in control of this division for the majority of 2016. Barring an injury to their best player, I believe they would have won the AFC West. The Raiders need to add players this offseason that will help them challenge the Kansas City Chiefs for AFC West supremacy.

I think we can sum up where the Raiders need to allocate the majority of their resources with one word- defense. As stated earlier, they could address their aerial deficiencies by improving their secondary, or pass rush.

If they used free agency to address their needs, the top players. Calais Campbell, Kawann Short, Trumaine Johnson and A.J. Bouye headline this years class. Of course, that’s assuming they aren’t resigned to their current teams.

If they wanted to address these needs with young talent by way of the NFL Draft, there are also a bevy of options. At the defensive line position, it is possible that Chris Wormley from Michigan will be available. Or, in true Raiders fashion, they could draft a physical freak like Tanoh Kpassagnon from Villanova in the third round or later.

If they wanted to address their secondary, they could potentially select Jalen Tabor from Florida or Sidney Jones from Washington. It’s also possible that these players will warrant trading up for, as there are teams ahead of the Raiders with similar needs. Overall, a solid defensively focused draft and prudent free agent signings could make this Oakland Raiders defense look drastically different in 2017.

PostSeason Prospects

This section is largely irrelevant for teams that have made the playoffs. But, it still serves as a good measuring stick for critical areas that need improvement. Below are, in my opinion, the most relevant offensive and defensive statistics that can determine post season success and where the Oakland Raiders stack up.

Oakland Raiders analysis

As you can see, the Raiders offense wasn’t perfect. For all the success Derek Carr had, I was genuinely surprised to see where he and the offense ranked in yards per attempt. Now, he did injure his finger and that limited the amount of downfield throws he could make.

Maybe next year, with a clean bill of health, this number will increase. This could be the result of an underrated rushing attack and the possession receivers Carr is targeting. Also, the Raiders need to become more efficient on third down against secondaries like Denver and Kansas City.

Oakland Raiders analysis

Even with a healthy Derek Carr and a divisional title, I don’t think the Oakland Raiders would have gotten past the Steelers. Why? Because of this defense. Sure, they probably would have capitalized on some errant throws by Ben Roethlisberger, but that isn’t enough.

Methodical, consistent defense is the goal once you reach the post season. Sadly, nothing about these defensive metrics say consistency. They must find a way to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks; and find a way to limit teams to field goals, not touchdowns. While the situation may look bleak, this defense can look completely different in 2017 after signing and drafting defensive players.

2017 Prediction

You may have noticed there’s one looming issue I haven’t addressed yet. The potential move to Las Vegas. Honestly, I have no idea how or if the move would effect this team. Given their veteran coach, general manager and rising quarterback, the impact will be minimized if they are approved to move.

If the organization makes prudent free agent and draft decisions that are focused on the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders will take the next step. I like the Raiders to finish 12-4 again, but this time, as champions of the AFC West.

 

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Player Skill Be Damned! RNG is a Critical Part of the Pokémon Formula

RNG Is All Around Us… But What Is It?

Pokémon Pokéball shakes using RNG to capture

Image courtesy of Game Freak

RNG, or Random Number Generator, is a term used to describe a background process for decision making. Much the same as luck, it is used in games such a Pokémon to determine things like critical hits and status effects. In other types of games, such as MMOs, RNG is used to determine what monsters drop from their loot pool. Think of it like the result from the flip of a coin, or roll of the dice.

RNG is a controversial topic when it comes to eSports, and in particular competitive Pokémon. One of the main critiques of competitive Pokémon is its reliance on RNG. There are many that feel that due to the fact that these elements are not affected by players skill, they have little to no place in competitive sports/eSports. However, others feel the inclusion of RNG tests a competitors risk management.

So which side is right? While reliance on player skill is an important factor in all competitive sports and eSports, so is unpredictability. It is when both skill and luck come together that a truly great competition is born.

 

Milotic Goes for the Scald on Celesteela, HE GETS THE BURN!

Pokémon Milotic uses Scald and RNG grants a burn

Image courtesy of Make A Gif

There is no doubt that RNG plays a large roll in all Pokémon matches. Critical hits and Status effect are the two biggest examples of RNG altering matches. It is also true that in some cases, no matter the skill of a trainer, RNG will lead to their defeat. This does not mean that each match is won by the flip of a coin though. The fact you see many of the same great trainers winning tournaments over and over again is proof that skill is the ultimate deciding factor in win-rate.

Sure, a Trainer can’t force a critical hit to kill that Celesteela, but they certainly can predict a Leech Seed and swap a Sap Sipper Goodra into it. This type of play only comes with lots of training and practice. Understanding the meta, observing your opponents play style, and getting into their head are huge parts of competitive Pokémon. The best players are reacting to what their opponent will do before they even do it. This is the level of play that separate the good from the great.

At the end of the day, even the best Trainers will inevitably lose matches that they have no business losing due to RNG. Normally though, this is not enough to prevent great Trainers from winning consecutively. Official matches are even structured in a way to prevent the influence of RNG. Rather than each match ending with a winner and loser, all matches are played in a best of three series. This not only helps to prevent RNG from determining winners and losers, but also allows Trainers to get a feel for each other as the series progresses.

 

Do You Feel Lucky? Well Do Ya Punk?

Let’s be honest, RNG or luck influences many of the sports and eSports that we know and love also. Actually if you step back and look at all of these activities, you will see they all fall on a continuum. On the left is pure luck, like playing the lottery, and on the right is pure skill. Chess would be the best example of purely skill based gameplay. Every other sport or eSport falls somewhere on this continuum.

Think about things like weather and coin flips. These are excellent examples of RNG at play in popular sports. Baseball has variable field sizes, Basketballl has game winning shots from half court; the list goes on and on. Then look at eSports. League has crit chance, DOTA has crit chance, accuracy penalties, and much more. Even CS:GO has shot variance, creating some situations where a long range shot is missed simply due to luck. Yet all of these games are leading the charge in the eSport market.

Going even further, even the Super Bowl’s outcome can be determined by luck. Think back to Super Bowl 46 when Wes Welker dropped an easily catchable ball that would have won the game and the Super Bowl for the Patriots. There is not even a best-of series for the Super Bowl, so if luck is the deciding factor, that is it. This has not stopped the popularity however, and very few games have come down to pure luck.

Patriots Tight End Wes Welker drops game winning pass in Super Bowl 46. Demonstrating lucks influence in traditional sports.

Image courtesy of NBC

At the end of the day, the best way to think about it is great competitors create their own luck. This is, in essence, the risk management of competition.

 

Luck vs Skill: The Ratings

Looking at ratings alone, luck is actually the more important factor for spectators. Consider the continuum, while very luck-based games such as Texas Hold’em have aired all over ESPN and cable television, you would be hard pressed to see a Chess Tournament in primetime. The fact is, unexpected results create drama, and drama is good for viewership. Some of the most memorable sporting moments have been upsets that were part skill and part luck, but amazing television.

This is why the focus on the influence of RNG on not just Pokémon, but eSports in general is misguided. Rather than making RNG the end all be all, it should be another element that adds to the fun. Great competitors will understand RNG, and even bend it to their advantage. This will lead to those “Oh My God” moments, and who doesn’t want more of those in their sport?

For Pokémon this means learning to blend the elements of range subtly into the playing experience. If something like burns or critical hits seems to be too powerful, tweak it until you get the right mix. However, you can never forget the three dimensional game that Pokémon is. Between subtle things like team building and dynamic actions (like masterful switches), Trainers have a multitude of methods to tip a match in their favor.

Pokémon VGC world championship 2015 Wolf Glick shows expert prediction during finals match

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Full Stop. Pure Skill Based Gameplay is Boring

RNG or luck makes for excitement, and observers like excitement. It keeps competitors on their toes and keeps games from getting stale. While taking all reliance on skill out of a game is a terrible idea, so too is removing all aspects of luck. Finding the perfect formula of gameplay, skill, and luck should be the ultimate objective of aspiring sports. While Pokémon by no means has the mix perfect, TPCI should not let the critics convince them RNG has no place in an eSport.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @aeroashwind

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Pro Bowl Olympics

Every year it is the same sad story when people start talking about the Pro Bowl. It’s boring, the players don’t even try, or it’s a meaningless game that wouldn’t be missed if scrapped. The problem though is there needs to be some kind of recognition for the best players in the NFL. All other sports hold all-star games and it doesn’t seem to be as big of an issue.

(Photo: Jake Roth, USA TODAY Sports)

Hockey isn’t as popular as the other major sports in America so there is not much of an emphasis on the all-star game and the problems it may create. Baseball has a home run derby during all-star weekend, plus the winner of the game earned home-field advantage in the World Series for their league through this season. It may be unfair to the team with the better record, but there was meaning within who wins the game. As far as the NBA is constructed, the all-star weekend has a skills competition, a three-point contest, and a dunk contest that get the fans excited about the all-star game. Football doesn’t have anything exciting like that. They have tried different kinds of mini-games or competitions that just does not get anybody super pumped up about meaningless football.

Many ideas have been constructed on how this game should be handled. Nothing has stuck or sparked interest and most people want to just do away with it. But what if it was turned into something similar to the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, in which NFL players got to display athletism on more than just the gridiron? Many ideas are outlandish but sometimes it takes an outlandish idea to strike gold.

 

 

A New Idea

Speaking of striking gold, why not turn the Pro Bowl into a weekend event and call it the Pro Bowl Olympics. There will be three events on Saturday that would display different skills that otherwise would not be displayed by players in the NFL. The regular game would still take place on Sunday. Players not trying or nobody caring about the game would no longer be an issue.

(NEW ORLEANS, LA – SEPTEMBER 30: Tight end Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints dunks the ball over the goal post after scoring a 27-yard touchdown in the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 30, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

There would be three mini-tournaments in three different sports. The events would be a softball, flag football, and basketball tournament on Saturday with four teams each in participation. The teams would be split up into AFC offense, AFC defense, NFC offense, and NFC defense. Special team pro bowlers would be allowed to choose offense or defense but must remain with their conference. Each player voted to the pro bowl would be allowed to opt out of one of the three events on Saturday.

The goal would be to develop a point system so that three players from the Saturday events, would earn Pro Bowl Olympic Medals. Gold, Silver, and Bronze would go to the best three players at the end of the day who had earned the most points. There would also be a team that could win as the best team. For example, the NFC defense collectively scored the most team points, then all players who were on the NFC defense would win the team gold medals.

 

 

Softball

Many football players were multiple sport athletes in high school and/or college. Some were great basketball players and others were great baseball players. It would be highly intriguing to see the best players in the NFL square off in a slow pitch softball game. For softball, it would be a five-inning game, single elimination tournament.

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

The first round would see the AFC offense vs. NFC Defense and the AFC defense vs. the NFC offense. It would be fun to see who could be pitchers and what other positions, players may play on the softball field. Wouldn’t you love to see Antonio Brown covering centerfield? How exciting would it be to see who the AFC defense would throw out there to pitch?

It would be fairly simple to set up the point system for softball. This list would explain how each individual player would score points towards their pro bowl olympic medal: a Single=1 point, a Double=2 points, a Triple=3 points, a Home Run=4 points, a Grand Slam=5 points, a stolen base=3 points, and striking out would result in losing a point. In the field, a pitcher striking a batter out= 3 points, players involved in a double play putout=1 point, winning pitcher=3 points, losing pitcher= a loss of 3 points. In softball there are not a lot of strike outs and in a game like this the fans would want offense, therefore, most of the scoring would come from batting.

As far as team points are concerned the team that won the tournament would get three team points and each team following in placement would receive a point less. For example, second place would get two points, and third place would get one point. The team who finishes last would end up with a goose egg.

Flag Football

Now alot of people would question, why would we want to see a flag fotoball game from football players? This game would be around to help fans see the athletism of the offensive and defensive line. The rules would state that the quarterback must be either an offensive or defensive lineman and each player could only play quarterback for a half. The halves would be only 10 minutes long. It would be seven on seven but there would be subbing allowed as well. It would be the same tournament format as softball for the match-ups.

(Photo: Getty)

Scoring towards medals as individuals would be as follows: Touchdowns= 6 points, Safeties=2 points, receptions= 1 point, completions= 1 point, interceptions throw= loss of 5 points, interceptions by defense= 5 points, deflections/pass breakups=1 point, and drops= loss of a point. Team scoring would be the same as it was in the softball event.

This would allow NFL players such as, center Rodney Hudson, or defensive tackle Fletcher cox, the opportunity to showcase passing or receiving skills that otherwise would go unnoticed.

 

Basketball

(http://www.sbnation.com)

The last event would be a basketball tournament. By now you get a sense of how this would play out. Five vs. Five with two 10 minute halves and once a player is subbed out they will no longer be allowed to reenter the contest. This allows multiple players to get in the game since both sides of the ball have quite a bit of players.

Scoring in this event would be easy as well. A player would receiving points for every single point they scored. For example, if linebacker Anthony Barr dropped 17 points in the basketball game, 17 points would go to his overall olympic score. A player also would receive 1 point per an assist, rebound, steal, or block. If A.J Green had 14 points, three assists, seven rebounds, two blocks, and a steal he would have 27 points towards a pro bowl medal.

 

 

Bite the medal

(http://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2016/9/25/13049130/josh-norman-odell-beckham-jr-giants-washington-nfl-ballet)

At the end of the three events the player with the most points total would be the Pro Bowl Olympics Gold Medalist. Second and third place would receive their silver and bronze, respectively. The team with the most points in standings would also be awarded Gold Medals.

There is no realistic chance of something like this happening and it is okay to admit that, but one can not read this and not be intrigued. It creates alot of strategy on how the players would approach which positions they play within the three events. The competitor in all of them would be brought to the surface as each and every single player would be chasing that gold. The Pro Bowl Olympics wouldn’t have to be limited to these three events. Golf, tennis, hockey and soccer could all be added or replace any one of these events and it would still bring about major excitement to Pro Bowl Weekend.

Yes, the idea might be far-fetched but can you sit there and really say that it wouldn’t be fun to see Alex Smith pitching to Landon Collins? Or to see Jadeveon Clownley playing quarterback? Or see Odell Beckham Jr. trying to dunk on Josh Norman in the basketball game? The Pro Bowl Olympics would turn Pro Bowl weekend into the most popular exhibition weekend in all of sports.

 

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