C’mon man, Patriots ain’t no underdogs

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Cut the underdog talk Tom Brady. Please, Patriots, spare us the rap. Nobody buys it.

It’s bad enough you have the best quarterback and coach of all time, and that you’ve been to the Super Bowl nine times since 2002.

“I’m too old,“ Brady told CNN moments after the Patriots knocked off Kansas City in the AFC title game. “We’ve got no skill players. We’ve got no defense. We’ve got nothing.”

Nothing but five Super Bowl rings already.

Does New England understand how Las Vegas odds work? Here’s a simple lesson. That +3 in your column means the Patriots are favored to beat the Rams by three points.

The Rams – with the young coach and quarterback and the inexperienced squad – are clearly the underdogs in Super Bowl LIII.

8-0…or 0-8

Amazingly, the Patriots could just as easily be 8-0 as 0-8  in Super Bowls in the Brady-Belichick era. The Patriots won their first three Super Bowls on field goals, and later added an end-zone interception to beat Seattle and a record-setting 31-point comeback to stun Atlanta in overtime.

On the other side, the Pats came close to beating the Giants twice and the Eagles last year before falling short at the end.

QB Hell

Who’s the best quarterback never to play in a Super Bowl?

Two Charger greats top the list – Hall of Famer Dan Fouts and Philip Rivers, who lost to the Patriots in the divisional round of this year’s playoffs.

Hall of Famer Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham and Archie Manning are also on the list nobody wants to be on.

The best never to win a Super Bowl? That honor goes to Miami’s Dan Marino, whose Dolphins lost to San Francisco in 1985, his second season….and never made it back.

Fellow Hall of Famers Fran Tarkenton and Jim Kelly made the big game multiple times, yet never came out on top.

RICK’S PICK: I’m an NFC guy who would love to see the Rams win. But my head tells me New England, 31-20.


Making a Hall of Fame case for Eli Manning

Here are 10 reasons why Elisha Nelson Manning IV is a Hall of Fame quarterback. eli

ALL-TIME PASSING LEADERS

1. Eli ranks eighth all time in touchdown passes with 334.

2. He stands seventh all-time with 50,625 passing yards

3. Eli is sixth all-time in pass completions with 4319.

CHAMPIONSHIP PEDIGREE

4. Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP.  He joins a short list of Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Tom Brady, all of whom won multiple MVP.  Manning led the Giants to two Super Bowl wins over the New England Patriots, including a stunning upset of Brady and the unbeaten Pats in 2007. .

DURABILITY

5. Eli started 210 straight games, second in NFL history and two behind his brother Peyton. Only Brett Favre with 297 made more consecutive starts than Eli. Since Eli started his first game in 2004, every other NFL team has started at least three QBs. The Cleveland Browns have started 24 in the same time span.

Manning’s streak, of course, was snapped last week when coach Ben McAdoo made the highly questionable decision to start journeyman Geno Smith. It cost McAdoo his job.

GIANT AMONG MEN

6. A four-time Pro Bowler, Manning holds virtually every Giants passing record, including TD passes, passing yards and completions as documented above.

THE CLUTCH GENE

7. Eli has engineered 30 fourth quarter comebacks, tied for seventh all-time with Drew Brees, Favre, Ben Roethlisberger and Fran Tarkenton.

8. He’s tied for third all-time with four fourth quarter playoff comebacks with Roethlisberger, Bradshaw, John Elway and Russell Wilson.

9. Manning holds the NFL single season record for most TD passes in the fourth quarter with 15.

INTANGIBLES

10. Leadership, durability, character, class. Elis has it all. Earlier this year Manning was named co-winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, one of the league’s most prestigious honors. The coveted award honors NFL players for excellence on and off the field.


Getting wired up for Super Bowl 50

1. AFC: Broncos 20, Patriots 18: Denver won this game with defense. The Broncos’ relentless pressure on Tom Brady was remindful of Super Bowl 42, when the Giants stormed past the unbeaten Pats. Linebacker Von Miller played like a man possessed, and would have been the game’s MVP if the NFL awarded conference championship honors. The missed extra point by Stephen Gostkowski haunted New England all game. Gostkowski had made 523 PATs in a row since having one blocked in his rookie year, 2006.

2. NFC: Panthers 49, Cardinals 15: Cam Newton’s roll continued with a tour de force that squashed the Cardinals. Passing, running, theatrics, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn stole the show. Carolina set a new record for most points scored in the NFC Championship game, bettering the 41 scored the Giants in 2001 and the Redskins in 1992. BTW, I wouldn’t trust Carson Palmer to fold my laundry, much less play championship-caliber football.

3. On to Super Bowl 50: Now get ready for two weeks of hype. We do know that this is the fourth straight year that the No. 1 seeds from both the AFC and NFC have advanced to the Super Bowl. And Cam Newton joins Joe Namath and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks to win a college football championship and play in the Super Bowl.

4. Back to the beginning: Super Bowl 1: The Lost Tape was a fabulous watch on the NFL Network. Both CBS and NBC carried the game between the Packers and the Chiefs, This was the only Super Bowl that was carried on two networks, yet the tapes were lost and the game was reassembled from existing video. Although tickets were priced between $6-12, plenty of good seats were still available in the Los Angeles Coliseum that day. Although players today are much bigger and faster, it would be tough for any team to beat coach Vince Lombardi’s club.

5. Good reads: Been test-driving David Baldacci lately. His fast-paced mysteries match the style of other best-selling novelists like Ken Follett, John Grisham and Nelson DeMille.


Tom Brady always wins…except vs. the Giants

Tom Brady always wins – except against the Giants. That adage will be put to the test on Sunday when the unbeaten (8-0) Patriots visit Met Life Stadium to face the 5-4 Giants.

“We’ve always had a hard time beating these guys one way or another,” Brady said. “So hopefully we can get over our struggles and finally go out and play well and beat them”

Super Tom Brady, the quarterback who squeezed the air out of the NFL in Deflategate and won, has lost his last three meetings against the Giants, all decided by four points or less. In 2008, the Patriots came into Super Bowl 42 unbeaten (18-0) and huge favorites, only to bow to the Giants 17-14. That Super Bowl, one of the most famous in history, featured David Tyree’s helmet catch and Plaxico Burress’ game-winning TD catch with 35 seconds left – both on passes by Eli Manning.

Years later, Brady told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, “I remember after the game I was trying to think, ‘Man, am I dreaming?’ Let me wake up and then start the day over. I just didn’t think we could lose.”

Four years later, the Giants again beat the Pats, this time 21-17 in Super Bowl 46. Manning led the Giants to another last-minute, go-ahead touchdown drive that featured an amazing pass and catch by Mario Manningham.

The Giants also beat New England 24-20 in a 2011 regular season game at Foxboro, a game the Giants won on a Manning touchdown pass to Jake Ballard with 15 seconds remaining.

Brady has a pair of wins against the Giants in his career. The Patriots edged the Giants 38-35 in the final game of the 2007 campaign to finish the regular season unbeaten. And in 2003, Brady led the Pats to a 17-6 win over the Giants and QB Kerry Collins when Eli was still at Ole Miss.

Overall, Brady is 2-3 against the Giants, averaging 226 yards, 1.4 touchdowns and 0.6 interceptions per game. Rather pedestrian numbers for one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.


Covering it all, from Joe Willie to Deflategate

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Joe Namath and the SportsLifer going over the game plan prior to Super Bowl XXV in Tampa. Here’s 10 observations while wading through the interminable hype and waiting for the kickoff.

1. Giant break: The Patriots are just happy they’re not facing the Giants. Admit it, New England fans.

2. Who let the air out? Here’s my theory on Deflategate. The Patriots have been doing this for years, they finally got caught. Somebody, probably from the Colts, tipped off the league and they measured the balls. The ball boy will take a fall, but if a high-level individual like Belichick or Brady can’t be fingered, the team will pay a price. To paraphrase a recent Yogi Berra tweet, if you’re gonna cheat, you better not get caught.

3. Crusader investigator: Ted Wells, who is leading the Deflategate investigation, attended the College of the Holy Cross and graduated a year ahead of me. We’re hearing his name an awful lot these days.

4. If the Seahawks win, they will be first two to repeat since the Patriots in 2004-05. It’s happened eight times. The Steelers have done it twice (1975-76 and 1979-80), and the Packers (1967-68) in the first two Super Bowls, Dolphins (1973-74), 49ers (1989-90), Cowboys (1993-94) and the Broncos (1998-99). There has never been a Super Bowl three-peat.

5. If the Patriots win, they will join the Packers and Giants with four Super Bowl rings. Only the Steelers with six and the Cowboys and 49ers with five have more. This is New England’s eighth appearance in the Super Bowl, matching the Steelers and Cowboys.

6. What happened to the old highlights? Not big on the avalanche of pre-game hype. Years ago. someone aired those classic half-hour highlights of each Super Bowl, game by game. May have been ESPN Classic, but can’t find anything out there now. If anyone knows, let me know.

7. Broadway Joe: Pete Hamill once wrote: “Joe Namath legitimized his team and his league, the old AFL, and more than any other player, he transformed the Super Bowl into a national event instead of a post-season payday.” Now that sounds about right.

8. Silent treatment: Does anybody really care what Marshawn Lynch has to say? He’s getting my silent treatment. And there’s no fine.

9. Attitude: Roger Goodell once more shows his arrogant side responding to a question from CNN reporter Rachel Nichols.

10. Rick’s pick: Going with my pool numbers, picking Seattle 21-19 in a low-scoring. New England scores late, but is denied on a two-point conversion.


DeflateGate stains Patriots’ historic quest

Let’s be honest, Tom Brady could have beaten the Colts throwing ping pong balls.

But that’s not the point. This is a story about a supremely talented New England Patriots team that somehow felt the need to cheat – again. A Patriots team coached by Bill Belichick that felt the need to skirt NFL rules and deflate 11 of 12 footballs prior to a 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game.

Belichick and Brady are both in denial, but somebody on the Patriots took the air out of those balls. So much for fair play and the integrity of the game. And the NFL seems intent on sweeping this fiasco under the rug, at least until after the Super Bowl.

Reminds one of Watergate, when President Richard Nixon tried to cover up a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. prior to the 1972 election. Tricky Dick was a lock for re-election, running against George McGovern, yet felt compelled to try and beat the system,

Did the Patriots cheat? Well they’ve been known to do this before. In 2007, the Pats were disciplined by the NFL for videotaping signals by New York Jets’ defensive coaches. The league fined Belichick $500,000, the maximum allowed and biggest fine ever imposed on a coach in NFL history. The Pats were fined $250,000 and were also stripped of their first-round pick in the 2008 draft.

In another cheating scandal, never proven, the Patriots were accused of videotaping a St. Louis Rams walkthrough prior to their meeting in Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans.

DeflateGate throws a huge dark cloud over the Patriots Super Bowl quest. Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only quarterback-coach tandem to win four Super Bowls. Now  Brady and Belichick are a win away from equaling that feat.

But the Patriots’ legacy now appears tainted by an audacious, stupid and paranoid stunt. This is a team that has a history of doing this stuff. Somebody’s lying. Maybe the ball boy will take the fall.


Read this blog before Super Bowl XLVI

It won’t get you a ticket to Super Bowl XLVI, but you’ll amaze your friends and relatives with these football factoids. And may you roll winners in all your pools.

Quarter Century Club: Some 25 years ago last week, the Giants won their first Super Bowl. Over the past quarter century, four teams — the Giants, Patriots, 49ers and Cowboys — have won three Super Bowls apiece. Four others — the Redskins, Packers, Broncos and Steelers — have won two apiece. No team has won more than three. The Pats have played in six Super Bowls in the past 25 years and the Giants five. So the winner of this year’s Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots will be considered the best NFL team of the past quarter century.

Been There, Done That: For just the fourth time in history, the Super Bowl matches coaches who have won previous Super Bowls.  Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick join Bill Walsh (49ers) and Don Shula (Dolphins), 1985, and Chuck Noll (Steelers) and Tom Landy (Cowboys), who matched wits in 1976 and 1979.

Parcell Roots: Coughlin and Belichick were both assistants to Bill Parcells when the Giants won Super Bowl XXV in 1991. Coughlin was the receivers coach, and Belichick as defensive coordinator designed the scheme that beat the heavily-favored Bills.

Roger Terry, It’s Eli and Tom: For only the third time in history, quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls — Tom Brady (3) and Eli Manning (1) — are facing off again. Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw and Dallas’ Roger Staubach met in 1976 and again in 1979.  The Steelers won both encounters.

Been There, Done That, Redux: Giants-Patriots is just the sixth rematch in Super Bowl history. Steelers-Cowboys three times, 49ers-Bengals twice. Dolphins-Redskins twice and Cowboys-Bills twice are the others.

Lucky Seven: If the Giants win Sunday, they will be the first seven-loss champion in NFL history.

Coaching Icons: Bill Belichick will be coaching in his fifth Super Bowl, same as Tom Landry and one behind the all-time leader, Don Shula.

Starting QBs: Tom Brady will join the Broncos John Elway as the only quarterbacks history to start five Super Bowls

If I Were A Betting Man: How long with the National Anthem last (over/under 1:36)? How many times will they show Peyton Manning on TV (over/under 5 1./2 times)?; How many viewers will watch the game (over/under 115 million?. And my favorite — where will the coin toss land __ heads $110 vs tails $110. Point spread 3; over/under 55)

Only the Lonely: Four current teams — Lions, Browns, Jaguars and Texans — have never reached the Super Bowl. The Lions and Browns did win NFL championships four times apiece.

Longest Drought: The Jets last appeared in Super Bowl III in 1969 and the Chiefs the following year.

Glass Half Full: The Giants trailed at halftime of all four Super Bowls in which they played, yet managed to win three of them.

Giants-Pats at Harvard: Not counting Super Bowl XLII, the Giants and Patriots have met nine times in the regular season, with the Pats holding a 5-4 edge. In their first meeting in 1970, the Giants beat the Boston Patriots 16-0 at Harvard Stadium. Pete Gogolak kicked three field goals that day, and Fran Tarkenton threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Clifton McNeil. Joe Kapp was the Patriots quarterback.

Three-peat: The Patriots have been to the Super Bowl five times in the past 10 years; the previous four games were all decided by three points.

Streaking: The Pats have won 10 game in a row. The Giants are riding a five-game win streak.

Almost, But Not Quite: The Giants and Patriots came close to meeting in several other Super Bowls. A year after the Pats lost to the Bears in 1986, the Giants won their first Super Bowl, beating the Broncos. And the Patriots beat the Rams to win their first Super Bowl in 2002 — a year after the Giants lost to the Ravens.


Football: Is It Real, Or Is It Fantasy?

QB in pain: A sight feared by fantasy football owners and NFL fans alike.

With the possible exception of dwindling 401ks, expanding waistlines and gray hair, there’s nothing fantasy football owners fear more than injuries to key players. Especially in the pre-season.

Just last week, the Dutchess Dawgs took Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with the fifth overall pick in the Nightcap Fantasy League draft.

The very next night, Brady was clobbered by Albert Haynesworth late in the first half of New England’s pre-season game against Washington. Brady left the game with what is initially diagnosed as a bruised shoulder

Right now, the Patriots are saying the injury isn’t serious. But the Patriots are known for not being exactly forthright about injuries.

So the Dawgs, gleeful that Brady was kept out of action against the Giants in the exhibition finale for both teams, must wonder if Tom Terrific, coming off serious knee injury after missing virtually the entire 2008 season, was a wise selection.

Wait, there’s more. The Dawgs selected Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings with the 25th overall pick. Jennings got banged after making a reception last week against Arizona and suffered a concussion.

Concussions are not exactly good news for your leading wide receiver.

So far, the Dawgs second pick, St. Louis running back Steven Jackson, has managed to stay healthy. But Jackson has only carried the ball 10 times in three pre-season games.

What happens when he starts seeing serious action? Only time will tell.


Is It Real, Or Is It Fantasy?

Sometimes, fantasy football can overshadow reality.

Last year, my fantasy team, the Dutchess Dawgs, advanced to the league championship game, led by New England quarterback Tom Brady. That day, the Patriots played the Jets in a cold monsoon at Foxboro. Due to the windy conditions, the Patriots were forced to taper down their offense and turn to the ground game almost exclusively. The result was a workmanlike 20-10 win to extended New England’s record to 14-0.

Of course it meant sense to jettison the passing game, considering the weather conditions. Yet I couldn’t help screaming at Bill Belichick to open up and let Brady air it out.

That December drenching cost the Dawgs a fantasy championship.

Well, the Dawgs are back at it this year, with a completely new lineup, outside of tight end Tony Gonzalez. Gone are Brady, Braylon Edwards, Plaxico Burress, and the Vikings and Chargers defense/special teams. And Frank “What is he good for” Gore.

The new Puppies feature the likes of Drew Brees at quarterback, Clinton Portis and Ronnie Brown at running back, Wes Welker and Calvin Johnson at the wideouts, and the Giants defense/special teams.

In the NFL opener, the Giants defense registered just one sack and no turnovers despite a dominant performance. That’s not much in the world of fantasy football, just one point.

But in reality, the defending Super Bowl champions beat Washington, 16-7.

And in reality, the Dutchess Dawgs face Tom Brady on Sunday.

Or is that fantasy?


What Are The Odds?

What are the odds? The Giants have played in four Super Bowls, all since 1987. In those games, they have faced two Hall of Fame quarterbacks — John Elway and Jim Kelly — a certain Hall of Famer to-be in Tom Brady, and rag-armed vagabond Trent Farris Dilfer.

Yes that same Trent Dilfer who has played for five teams and thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. The same Trent Dilfer who was recently released by a terrible 49ers team, perhaps signalling the end of a nondescript, 14-year NFL career.

The Giants won three of those four Super Bowls. The one they lost — a 34-7 beating in 2001 — Dilfer was the quarterback for the Ravens. Go figure.

Like I said, what are the odds?