Posts tagged Carolina Panthers
Monday Morning Glory: A-A-Ron having his worst season... and I love it!

After every Chicago Bears touchdown at Nisei Lounge, a friendly, comforting little dive bar tucked into Clark and Sheffield in Chicago’s bro-ey Wrigleyville neighborhood, the patrons - many of which donning the orange and blue - happily sing “Bear Down, Chicago Bears”, the proud fight song of the hometown team. Once the song gets to its second verse, however, the song changes from “Bear Down, Chicago Bears” to “Fuck Tom Brady, Fuck Tom”.

Now I don’t participate in the remix because it goes against my hidden-but-not-so-hidden-anymore man crush of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. But I’m impatiently waiting for Dec. 16th to arrive when the 8-3 NFC North-leading Bears host the arch-rival Green Bay Packers, so I can finally join in on the second verse with some lyrics of my own…

“FUCK AARON RODGERS! FUCK A-A-RON!”

Since breaking Chicago’s hearts in Week One with his improbable comeback in Lambeau, Rodgers and the Packers have gone 3-6-1, leaving them with only a 3 percent chance of making the playoffs. They’re tied for the easiest schedule remaining in football, with their hardest contest being the Bears match-up in three weeks, but while Rodgers thinks “with a little help” his team can win out and make the playoffs, the Packers look dead in the water in 2018, and Bears fans are enjoying every second that Packers fans are in pain.

The scapegoat has been head coach Mike McCarthy, who will likely be fired at season’s end despite a .621 winning percentage, a Super Bowl win and multiple trips to the NFC Championship Game. For years, McCarthy has been accused of running a stagnant offense, and that’s partially true, but McCarthy’s offense doesn’t mask Rodgers’ inconsistencies this year.

From SI:

Yes, Rodgers’s unique style, which few QBs have enough talent to call upon, has led to some of his most spectacular plays. But in the aggregate, it also creates the illusion of dysfunction around him. To television viewers, Rodgers runs around because his O-line breaks down. Or because, presumably, receivers aren’t getting open. And they’re not getting open because the scheme isn’t helping them. Sometimes this is the case. But just as often, the glitches aren’t coming from everyone around the quarterback, but from the quarterback himself.

Has McCarthy’s coaching decisions been baffling? Sure. Here the Packers line up in a jumbo set on 4th and inches and run the ball right into a waiting 10-man box, costing the Packers an opportunity to drive down the field and take the lead, and giving the Vikings the ball back with good field positioning.

But it’s not just McCarthy, or the depleted talent in Green Bay. Much of the Packers struggles fall on their future Hall-of-Fame quarterback.

Rodgers completed 17 of 28 passes for 198 yards and one touchdown in last night’s 24-17 loss to the Vikings. He hasn’t looked well all season; despite already eclipsing 3200 yards passing, 20 touchdowns and throwing just one interception all year, Rodgers has been wildly inconsistent throwing the football On back-to-back plays late in the game with Green Bay needing 10 points to tie, Rodgers badly missed Equanimeous St. Brown on a throw into the turf, and then overthrew a wide-open Davante Adams in the endzone.

Aaron Rodgers doesn’t normally miss those throws. Those key plays we’ve grown accustomed to Rodgers making, aren’t being made. You can’t blame it on injury; he’s looked relatively healthy since Week Two. It may be the offense, the lack of talent surrounding him, father time, or all three… but you can’t sugarcoat it: Aaron Rodgers is having the worst season of his career, and his poor play will cost a lot of people their jobs after the season.

QUICK HITS

After two-and-a-half years of Hue Jackson (on top of three decades of ineptitude) and an 0-16 season, the Cleveland Browns deserve good things to happen to them. They took a step towards turning the corner Sunday with a 35-20 win on the road over in-state rival Cincinnati. The AJ Green-less Bengals looked like they have every game in which AJ Green has been inactive: terrible. I didn’t think they could look worse, and then Andy Dalton went out with a thumb injury, and the Bengals inserted Jeff Driskel (yes, THAT Jeff Driskel) in at quarterback. All the good things kept happening for Cleveland, and not only did they take advantage of it, they shoved it right back into their former coach's face.

After the ass-whupping, Browns QB Baker Mayfield got up to the podium and let his feelings be known about his old ball coach.

Good for Baker. He dealt with the stupidity of Hue starting Tyrod Taylor over him the first few games before he pulled the franchise out of the darkness in one half. The Browns now have back-to-back wins for the first time since 2014. Slowly, Cleveland football is returning to respectability.

And good for them to stick it to Hue. It was obvious during the taping of Hard Knocks that Hue - after one win in two seasons - was not for long in Cleveland. He got canned and went back to Cincinnati, a team the Browns had to play twice this season, knowing all their tricks and personnel, and STILL got blown out. Now there’s rumor Hue could be the one to FINALLY replace Marvin Lewis at the Bengals head coach. I hope I’m apart of the majority that hopes he gets the job, so Baker and the Browns can beat up on Hue twice a season for the foreseable future.

Wilson, Luck ELITE

I would like to personally apologize to two QBs from the 2012 Draft; one I’ve been a big fan of for years, the other I’ve disrespected for way too long.

Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck… I’m sorry.

The both of you are elite quarterbacks.

The Seahawks have battled everything from dysfunction to injury and everything in between to stay in the NFC Wild Card race, with Sunday’s 30-27 win in Carolina being the biggest so far for the 6-6 Seahawks. Trailing 27-20 with under four minutes left in the game, Seattle needed to convert on 4th and 3, or they give the ball back to the Panthers up 7. Forever clutch, Wilson took over, first on this 35-yard bomb to David Moore…

…and then on this huge third down pass to Tyler Lockett that set up Sebastian Janikowski for the game-winning field goal.

Before the season, I was hesitant to put Russell Wilson in that elite QB category with Brady-Brees-Rodgers, but the way he’s willed Seattle this season magnifies his importance to the team and the league. Over Seattle’s NFC dominance, it was easy to forget Wilson’s ability to make special plays on every snap because of the presence of so many other special players - Lynch, Bennett, Wagner the Legion of Boom, etc. - but now that most of those players are gone, Wilson stands alone as the star in Seattle, and he’s shining brighter than ever this season.

Also, he does sweet shit like this…that even the most dedicated Future fan can’t hate on.

Now it’s time for Andrew Luck…

I’ve never found Luck to be a special quarterback. GOOD, for sure, but not special. After a year away, he’s making me eat my words… and quietly inserting himself into the League MVP conversation. Luck completed 30 passes for 343 yards and 3 touchdowns, becoming the first to throw for 3 or more TD’s in eight consecutive games since Tom Brady did so in 10 games back in 2007. It was Luck’s 20th comeback win, his tenth comeback of 10+ points. Oh yeah, and he caught a pass Sunday. Probably not ideal for a man coming back from shoulder surgery, but cool as hell.

The Colts have won five straight, and not only are they in Wild Card contention in the AFC, a loss tonight by the Texans would put them a game behind Houston in the division with one more game between the two teams in two weeks. The Colts are in good position to sneak up and surprise some teams in December.

Ball Don't Lie - "Shanghai Melo"

It's the final Ball Don't Lie before the Thanksgiving holiday! Pierce is back with Joe and Scott to talk the latest news in the Association and the NFL.

Topics:
Bears-Vikings preview
Golden State Warriors drama
Jimmy Butler to the Sixers
Is Melo's NBA career done?
The new look Duke Blue Devils
Aaron Donald's not for the ray tay
Panthers not a top tier NFC team
Steelers byke
The "Is the Pats dynasty over" narrative is back
What's wrong with the Eagles?
A Gruden is not to be trusted
Sound byte of the week
Cooper Kupp tears ACL
Dez tears Achilles
Loudpack Leveon missing the 2018 season
Week 11 predictions
Goofy Mog of the Week

Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair when it becomes available!
patreon.com/barberschairnet

Grab your official Barber's Chair merch as well!
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair

Follow Scott: @Scott_CEOofSUH
Follow Pierce: @HennyOmega
Follow Joe: @Flowsandolini

2018 NFC Playoff Outlook

Every season we tend to see around five new teams emerge during the season and make their way into the playoffs.  Most of them are surprises too. 

Last season the Rams and Eagles took two giant premature steps forward.  I didn't expect much from either team last year but now they both have the appearance of perennial contenders.  An injury to Aaron Rodgers allowed for three NFC South teams to book a playoff ticket. 

A lot can happen so let's take a look at a few certain contenders along with some of those potential surprises.   

Tier 1: Locked In

New Orleans Saints
Minnesota Vikings
Los Angeles Rams

The Saints were one Stefon Diggs touchdown away from having a real shot at winning the Super Bowl last year.  No more wonders of how Adrian Peterson is going mesh with the offense. Mark Ingram will be suspended for the first four games but they have no problem making Alvin Kamara the focal point of the offense until then. Michael Thomas, Cameron Meredith, and Ted Ginn Jr. are already a solid foundation but rookie Tre'Quan Smith adds even more raw speed.

Speaking of rookies, first round DE Marcus Davenport makes his way onto a stout defense led by sophomore CB Marshon Lattimore. 

The Vikings made all the way to the conference finals on the back of Case Keenum before getting embarrassed by the Eagles. They've been contenders for the past several seasons thanks to their elite defense so they have no concerns on that side of the ball. Their offense has gotten better every year and now it takes another step forward.

Replacing Keenum is Kirk Cousins, who's is a more willing runner and deep ball thrower. Dalvin Cook returns from an injury that derailed his rookie season after four games.  He possesses the best traits of both Jerick McKinnon and Latavis Murray and was actually on pace to lead the league in rushing at the time of his injury. 

Sean McVay was the blessing that Jared Goff and Todd Gurley needed. New life was injected into the Rams' passing game and the addition of Andrew Whitworth at left tackle gave Gurley some actual lanes to run through. Sammy Watkins was a great asset in the red zone but I think Brandin Cooks is an upgrade for the type of uptempo offense they run.

The defense lost Trumaine Johnson but added Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Sam Shields, and Ndamukong Suh so they should be all set. 

Tier 2: Not Far Behind

Philadelphia Eagles
Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers
Atlanta Falcons

The only reason I have the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles right here is because Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffrey are currently working their way back from injuries. If they're forced to missed time then that may cost them a couple of games. Regardless, their defense alone should win them games. I'm not concerned.

The Carolina Panthers have one of the most consistently disciplined defenses in the league regardless of who they plug in there. The offense tends to be a tad on the inconsistent side but everything is currently aligning. Greg Olsen and Curtis Samuel are back and healthy. Christian McCaffrey is expected to take a big leap this year as the projected three-down back.

On top of that, first-round rookie receiver DJ Moore was viewed by many as the most talented prospect in his position's draft class. If everything clicks, they could beat anybody.

Green Bay still had a chance to make the playoffs even with all of the time that Aaron Rodgers missed. Ted Thompson is no longer the GM so now they'll actually participate in free agency going forward.  Brian Gutekunst made that apparent with the signings of Muhammad Wilkerson and Jimmy Graham this offseason.  Graham has surely lost a step but he'll have no problem hauling in all those red zone targets that Jordy Nelson left behind.

From a fantasy perspective, their RB situation is messy. From a real-life perspective, they have three guys (Ty Montgomery, Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams) that can start and produce on any given week. We all know their offense is a threat but their defense is sneaky good and is loaded with talent at all three levels. 

The Falcons' offense looked watered down in 2017 as they transitioned from a Kyle Shanahan offense to a Steve Sarkisian-led side.  Despite the step down, they still made the playoffs in a difficult division.  If they can get a better grasp on Sarkisian's scheme then they have all the pieces to return to form.  

Tier 3: Don't Be Surprised

New York Giants
Chicago Bears
San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals

In 2016 we saw the emergence of a stingy Giants defense that paved a way to the playoffs.  We didn't see that same defense in 2017.  The offense couldn't help them at all.  The entire receiving corps was depleted with injuries and there was zero semblance of a run game.  Now that 2016 team gets Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley.  I'm sure they're excited about a healthy Odell Beckham too. 

The Bears had a top 10 defense last year which a lot of people don't realize.  It's pretty impressive considering their offense was at the bottom of the league in terms of total plays ran. Jordan Howard has managed to be successful in vanilla schemes but now the training wheels are off in Matt Nagy's new offense.

Just like the Giants, they didn't have anybody to throw the ball to last season. Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, and Anthony Miller hope to aid Mitchell Trubisky make a leap similar to Jared Goff with his revamped team.

If I wrote this a couple months ago then I might have had the 49ers a tier higher. The hype surrounding them has been immense so I've tried to temper my expectations recently. The once elite defense has been a place mat in recent years but the front seven is young and promising. Richard Sherman also provides a type of intelligence and star power the team hasn't seen since Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman were together. Jerick McKinnon isn't as good between the tackles as Carlos Hyde but has a better knack for catching the ball which is what Kyle Shanahan is looking for.

The Cardinals could hover around 8-8 or even 9-7 this season, but they face a similar problem to the other teams in their tier. If everything goes right for the previous teams then the conference may be too crowded to let everyone into the playoffs. The Cardinals are probably one more year out from returning to prominence.

Their defense always lands in the upper half of the league, David Johnson is back, and they have a Hall of Famer in Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver. The glaring problem is the quarterback situation. Sam Bradford is talented enough to lead a playoff team but can never stay healthy for a full season.  Even if he is healthy, they may be too eager to get Josh Rosen on the field. Rosen will probably have the QB position set in stone by next season but Larry Fitz may be gone by then.