High impact NFL rookies of 2012

At the NFL’s midway point, there have been many surprises (both good and bad) in both conferences, none more so than the better-than-expected performances of the league’s 2012 rookie crop, especially at QB. A record five first-year signal callers were under center for Opening Day, an almost unheard-of number in this era of “polished” field generals.

The No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Luck with the Colts, hasn’t disappointed. As the Colts surround him with more and more weapons, there’s no reason to believe Indianapolis won’t be back in the mix for AFC elite status sooner, rather than later. In D.C., Robert Griffin III is the talk of the town, even in an election year. The mercurial Heisman Trophy winner has displayed unusual poise far sooner than anyone expected. As in Luck’s case, the ‘Skins need to stockpile as many talented skill players around him as possible.

Miami’s Ryan Tannehill has probably been the biggest surprise of the QB crop, reviving a stagnant offense that hasn’t shown this much consistency since Chad Pennington was under center. Seattle’s Russell Wilson is another QB to keep an eye on. The undersized Wisconsin via N.C. State product has had his issues with tall pass rushers, but his elusiveness and coolness under pressure have Seahawk fans giddy. The remaining rookie QB starter, Brandon Weeden in Cleveland, is surrounded by far less talent than his colleagues, but he’s steadily improving.

The 2012 RB group wasn’t highly-touted, but some pleasant surprises have emerged nonetheless. Cleveland’s Trent Richardson got off to a slow start due to a knee injury, but has quickly demonstrated why scouts were so high on him coming out of Alabama. Tampa’s Doug Martin’s versatility and energy has pushed former starter LaGarrette Blount to the bench, and he should become a star very soon. The biggest surprise at RB, by far, is Alfred Morris of the Redskins. The sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic has already racked up three 100+ yard games and is second behind fellow rookie Doug Martin (794 yards) with 793 yards.

Rookie WRs in 2012 include Kendall Wright of the Titans (RGIII’s favorite receiver at Baylor), who has latched onto 42 passes and 3 TDs. Andrew Luck has wasted little time in targeting his college teammate TE Coby Fleener, with the former Stanford batterymates combining for 21 receptions. With little else in the way of deep threats, Brandon Weeden has gone to Josh Gordon (another Baylor product) in Cleveland, and the 21-year old Gordon has been the best downfield rookie with 4 TDs and increased attention from opposing safeties.

Matt Kalil, the first O-Lineman selected, hasn’t disappointed in Minnesota. Whether it’s pass protection or blocking for Adrian Peterson, Kalil already appears to be cut from the same cloth as other legendary Viking linemen such as Ron Yary and Steve Hutchinson. The only other OT drafted in Round 1, Riley Reiff of Iowa, has already become a leader on Detroit’s frequently maligned (and aging) O-Line. As the Lions develop a running game, Reiff will become even more of a factor. Read more…

The perils of wagering with a small-time bookie

I read online that some lucky guy just hit a 23-team parlay and turned his $100 wager into 25 grand.  Must be nice.

I’ve got a few buddies that are just as hot lately when it comes to wagering.  One friend has reached near unprecedented swami status by winning our local bar pick ‘em pool (40+ participants) two out of the last three weeks.  Another friend had the stones to bet $800 on a three-teamer that hit this past weekend.

It is this final wager that I’d like to talk about.

My friend, let’s call him Skittles, likes to place a healthy wager on football every so often.  He’s got the bankroll to do so.  He’s not the most knowledgeable sports fan in the world but by no means is he a dummy.  As you can see by the parlay he just hit, he obviously knows what he’s doing.

But this was his first wager placed with a new, small-time bookie, meaning a) he didn’t make as much as he could have and b) he’s having a hard time getting paid.

First of all, for you beginners out there, let’s discuss what a parlay is.  A parlay is where you take two, or three, or four or however many games you feel like betting on and string them together into one single bet.  By doing so, you dramatically increase your payout but you must also hit every single one of those wagers, otherwise you lose your money.  For example, let’s say you bet the Giants, Jets, Dolphins and Patriots all to cover their respective point spreads.  If only three of those four teams cover, you lose your wager.  They all must hit.

The standard payouts for parlays are such.  Two-teamers pay 2.6 to 1.  Three-teamers pay 6 to 1.  Four-teamers pay 10 to 1.   Anything more than that and you’re really spreading yourself thin, although on the occasional trip to Vegas, it’s always fun to drop a few bucks on a monster parlay or round-robin, just to see what happens because when they hit, they hit big.

Let’s get back to Skittles.  His first mistake was misunderstanding the comeback on his wager, thinking he was going to get paid out more than he did.  When placing a wager, whether it’s at a sportsbook, card table or wherever, it’s always important to know what you’re risking as well as your potential reward.  Parlays are a smart way to wager, primarily because you’re not paying the juice on a single bet but it’s crucial to know what to expect back if your bet hits.  Skittles’ bookie only paid five-to-one on that three-team parlay, essentially shorting him the $800 he would have won had he placed that bet through a more legitimate source. Read more…

Shahid Khan calls Jaguars embarrassing

Shahid-KhanIn his first season as the owner of the Jaguars, Shahid Khan is embarrassed by what he has seen on the field.

That’s the word Khan used on Jaguars All Access on Action News 47, in an appearance in which he made clear that he knows the 1-7 team has to get a lot better.

“It’s embarrassing but there are better days ahead,” Khan said, via the Florida Times-Union. “I’m deeply grateful to the fans for supporting us. They’ve done their part. Now we have to do our part.”

Khan indicated that he’ll run this business the same way he ran the auto parts company that made him a billionaire.

“Whether it’s a football team or an auto parts company, you need three things: Right people in the right spots, processing and decision making that’s right and you need support from fans, sponsors or owners,” Khan said. “We have to finish the season. You can’t be rushing to judgment. I wish life was that simple, that you could hire and fire people and things would change. I am committed to building a sustainable, winning organization.”

Khan says he will not meddle in the football decisions and will not decide who the Jaguars sign in free agency or draft in April, but he will make some hard decisions about who the Jaguars need in place to make those decisions. Read more…

Fantasy Sports: Strategy versus Luck

Doug MartinDoug Martin… (Silence and crickets.) Well that’s pretty much all I can say on this Tuesday after a monumental fantasy performance. Every daily fantasy player (and season long player) wishes they had Doug Martin on their fantasy team.  Dougy Fresh had a whopping 51 fantasy points, this rivals my Michael Vick performance of 57 a couple years back. The daily fantasy dream is to get a guy that produces numbers like Martin every week. I did have a similar performance with my pick of James Harden, during a NBA match up last week. It is like Christmas morning every time I wake up to a high scoring performance. It is great when they happen, but searching these high scorers out can be the downfall of the daily fantasy player’s bankroll.

I am a big proponent of consistency. I like to take the guys that I am sure will score every week. Sometimes this is my downfall, because I never take risk. Sometime this is my path to success because everyone else has take guys that are a “shot in the dark.” Ultimately it boils down to scoring and in all leagues you want 20+ point guys for football and 30+ point guys for basketball. If you can’t consistently score these amounts then you are destined for a losing effort.

I had an extremely successful college football week, due to the consistency method and the fact that Tyler Bray had what seemed like a million yards passing. In the daily fantasy game it is the guys that manage their bankroll and play consistent choices that profit in the long run. Will there ever be professional daily fantasy players? Who knows, but what I do know is that the way to make money is to be consistent and apply the 30% bankroll method every night. Read more…

Doug Martin, the Muscle Hamster?

Doug MartinBuccaneers running back Doug Martin is having a great rookie season. Now he wishes he could get a great nickname.

Instead, Martin is saddled with “Muscle Hamster,” the ridiculous nickname that some of his offensive linemen at Boise State gave him. Martin said on NFL AM that the nickname was given to him affectionately by teammates who were impressed by how much he could lift, considering his small stature. But he said he wishes they had come up with something better.

“It has to be the worst nickname ever,” Martin said. “I can’t shake it. It started in college, started back in Boise, with our linemen. I have a lot of bigger friends, and they’d call me the Muscle Hamster because of how much I could lift in the weight room.”

The 5-foot-9, 215-pound Martin bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times at this year’s Scouting Combine, tied for the best mark among all the running backs. So Muscle Hamster may be fitting. Read more…

Jimmy Johnson can’t eat fried chicken, why do we care?

Terry Bradshaw

Terry BradshawWhile describing the ankle-breaking touchdown run by Dolphins running back Reggie Bush (which prompted us to point out on Twitter that even Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie lunged at air when Reggie cut left to right), Bradshaw said, “Look at this Jimmy, it was like you was chasing that bucket of chicken that the wind was blowing the other day.”  (Apparently, there’s a question as to whether Bradshaw said “you was chasing” or “he was chasing.”  My first thought was that Bradshaw said “you,” to Johnson.)

Appearing on Tuesday’s edition of The Dan Patrick Show, FOX’s Howie Long explained that it was an inside jab by Bradshaw at Jimmy Johnson.

“I was shocked that it was even an issue,” Long said, explaining that Johnson’s wife, Rhonda, doesn’t let Jimmy eat fried chicken at home.

“It wasn’t even poorly phrased,” Long added.  “It was specifically directed at Jimmy Johnson.  It could have been any player running the football or whatever on that particular play.”

Though Long dubbed the controversy “ridiculous,” Bradshaw has apologized for the remark.  And by apologizing almost as clumsily as he does the highlights on FOX, Bradshaw made the controversy necessarily something other than ridiculous.  Indeed, the apology gave credence to the belief that there was a possible racial component to the remark.

If not, why apologize? Read more…

Jerry Jones will not relinquish G.M. duties

Jerry JonesCowboys owner Jerry Jones wants to make this absolutely clear: He will remain the team’s general manager. Period.

After Jones told NBC’s Bob Costas that he would have fired a general manager who had his own record as general manager, some people thought Jones was acknowledging that perhaps he should step back and give up the G.M. authority. But Jones said on 105.3 The Fan today that the Cowboys are his team, and that means he’s picking the players.

“We are not structured that way,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “We didn’t structure it that way with my ownership. There’s no way that I would be involved here and not be the final decision-maker on something as important as players, and that is a key area. That’s never been anybody’s misunderstanding. It’s been a debated thing, but it’s just not going to happen. We’ve had success doing it this way and we’re going to have success in the future doing it this way. It eliminates some very serious issues when you look around the league, as to creating an additional layer that you’re continually having decisions, making changes, doing those kinds of things.”

Jones said that when Costas asked him if Jones the owner would have fired Jones the general manager, Jones was just answering a hypothetical. He was not in any way indicating that he’s considering giving up the general manager authority. Because he isn’t.

“It’s real clear. I was asked the question, ‘If you were an owner and you had a general manager, would you make a change?’ Under those circumstances I speculated that I would probably have made a change, but that’s not our situation,” Jones said. “To change, I’d have to change myself. People don’t do that. If you’ve got the commitment and you have the investment, and I’m talking about in time, effort, all of those kind of things, you change yourself. You don’t change out and have someone else go in there and do it. And that would be misleading to begin with because no one would believe you if you hired somebody at that spot and really believe that he’s not sitting there and ultimately at what I want to do. Somebody would say, ‘Why don’t you just mentally let them go do it.’ I’m not built that way.” Read more…

Jerry Jones locked out of locker room after Cowboys loss

Jerry Jones told Bob Costas over the weekend that Jones the owner would have fired Jones the G.M. by now.  After Sunday night’s loss to the Falcons, the Cowboys may have tried to fire both guys.

According to Matt Barrie of NBC 5 in Dallas, “Jerry Jones just pounded [the] locker room door because no one would let him in.  It’s the angriest I’ve seen him all year.”

Like him or not, the guy owns the team.  He has every right to be in the locker room after the game.  So we can understand why he’s mad.

Jones should be more upset about the team’s performance.  Since looking like a Super Bowl contender on the first night of the season, the Cowboys have won two and lost five. Read more…

Ravens say Richardson hardest back to tackle in the NFL

Trent Richardson

Getty Images

The Ravens are preparing to meet the Browns and running back Trent Richardson on Sunday for the second time, and they haven’t forgotten the first time.

Several players on the Ravens’ defense have said this week that when Richardson had 47 rushing yards and 57 receiving yards against them in Week Four, he left an impression that they’re still thinking about five weeks later.

I think he runs the ball harder than anybody in the league,” defensive end Pernell McPhee said. “Not saying he’s the best back in the league, but I’ll say he’s the hardest back in the NFL to tackle.”

Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody outweighs Richardson by more than 100 pounds, but Cody said he doesn’t think he — or anyone else — can take Richardson down one-on-one.

“He doesn’t go down with one person tackling him,” Cody said. “We’re going to need multiple guys around the ball every time he touches the ball.”  Read more…

Bills will be looking for a franchise QB in 2013 draft

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

When the Buffalo Bills signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a seven-year, $62.195 million contract right around this time last year, it seemed that they were making a commitment to Fitzpatrick as their franchise quarterback.

Things haven’t worked out that way. Fitzpatrick’s hot start to the 2011 season has given way to almost an entire season of mediocre play and the team has underperformed expectations over that span. General Manager Buddy Nix isn’t admitting that the extension for Fitzpatrick was a mistake, but he is talking about the team’s need to find a franchise quarterback in the near future.

“Listen, we have said from day one, that we want to draft a good young quarterback” Nix said, via Howard Simon of WGR550.com. “I don’t want to leave here without a franchise guy for the future in place. I have not said that before but I’m saying it now because its fact.”  Read more…

RG3: Compare me to Aaron Rodgers

Robert GriffinGiven the precocious play of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, which mirrors the precocious play of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton a year ago, the comparisons are natural this week since they play each other.

But setting aside the lazy and frankly insulting implication that they’re similar, based on one obvious factor (not Heisman Trophies), Griffin said he’s aiming a little higher.

“I’d rather be compared to an Aaron Rodgers or a guy like that,” Griffin said, via Rich Campbell of the Washington Times, “someone who has won Super Bowls.”

While it’s easy to perceive that as a slam on Newton, it’s more about Griffin’s own goals. He’s exceeded every expectation this season, but the struggles of Newton make him mindful that he needs to keep working.

Newton called the season “humbling,” and Griffin said he doesn’t want to have the same thing happen.

“You try to appreciate everything and try not to weigh too much on your personal success so that you don’t have to be humbled,” Griffin said. “I don’t want to ever need to be humbled because I always appreciate things and make sure I continue to forward and try to do better.” Read more…

Ryan Tannehill takes all the first-team reps

Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill

J. Meric/Getty

In another good sign that Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be ready to go Sunday at Indianapolis, he took all the first-team reps during the portion of practice open to the media,

According to Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post, Tannehill was still wearing a brace and compression sleeve on his left knee, and was “still clearly favoring his knee.”

But after splitting the first team reps with backup Matt Moore yesterday, having Tannehill do all the work is a sign of apparent progress.

Moore’s an excellent relief pitcher, who has stepped into several bad situations and made them better, and the Dolphins have to be glad they kept him for just such a situation. Read more…

Cruz, Giants have agreed to the framework, now do the deal

Victor CruzGiants wide receiver Victor Cruz seems to move as quickly in contract talks as he does when he gets behind a defense with the ball in his hands.

One day after saying that contract talks were moving in the right direction, Cruz said during an interview on WFAN that his camp and the Giants have agreed to the structure of a deal that will keep him with the team for years to come.

“From what I hear, they’ve just agreed on the structure right now,” Cruz said. “And that’s all I’m at liberty to say.”

With a salary of $540,000, Cruz is probably the biggest bargain in all of football. His desire to get a new deal done now has been spun as a desire not to hold out this offseason, which is probably less true than the risk that he blows out his knee this Sunday and finds that he doesn’t get the financial reward he’s earned for the Giants over the last two seasons. Read more…

Vick to remain the starter in Philly, for now

Michael Vick

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

If Eagles coach Andy Reid has decided to switch from Mike Vick to Nick Foles at quarterback, Reid hasn’t told anyone else yet.

As pointed out earlier today by Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Eagles released an updated depth chart on Tuesday.  It showed that Vick is still the starter.

Also, Jeff McLane of the Inquirer reported that neither Vick nor Foles have been informed of a change at the position.

Still, Hurricane Sandy has sheltered Reid from meeting with the media.  When he does, it’s likely that a clear, truthful answer will be provided.  Owner Jeffrey Lurie made it clear after the 2011 season that he expects Reid to be candid and forthcoming, explaining that a habit of saying things that may not have been the truth were aimed at protecting players.  Regardless of whether there was a benevolence to the B.S., Reid likely won’t be saying one thing and doing another.

The question becomes how candid he will be.  Will he admit that he considered a change?  Will he say that a change is still possible?  Will he address whether Vick could be benched at halftime, like Donovan McNabb was during a game against the Ravens in November 2008?

Giving Foles a crack at playing away from Lincoln Financial Field makes sense.  Then again, as Peter King pointed out during a visit to The Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday, using Foles under circumstances in the Superdome that likely would require use of a silent count may not be ideal. Read more…

Spurrier: Alabama would be favored over Jacksonville

Alabama Crimson TideCould Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide beat the Jacksonville Jaguars or Kansas City Chiefs?

According to South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier who appeared on The Dan Patrick Show they would at least be favorite.

Spurrier said “What do I know?” afterwards, but when asked if the Crimson Tide could beat the Jaguars he said he did believe Alabama would be favored.

Dan Patrick and company are taking his words straight to Vegas as they try to come up with a line for a “make-believe” game.

The question has been asked many times, but this time around, there are two college teams that warrant the discussion.

The stellar defense of Alabama and the explosive offense of Oregon.

The argument usually comes to an end when we step back and remember a college team is filled with players who are Freshmen through Seniors and some at only 18 years of age going up against the men of the NFL.

But the NFL is already taking from the uptempo Oregon offense including Bill Belichick and scouts watch Alabama each and every week to pick the brain of Saban?

Maybe it’s not the players, but the scheme both programs are using that make the teams dangerous?

*Update, Pregame.com’s R.J. Bell messaged into the Dan Patrick Show, the Chiefs or Jaguars would be favored by 24 points if they played Alabama.