Tag: Football

Note to Niners: DO. NOT. DO. THIS. TO. ALEX

ESPN reports that the San Francisco 49ers are one of three teams in the finals of what they call the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes. Appropriate name for this fiasco. Manning is too big a risk. Period.

But  beyond that there is a sort of gestalt at work here. The Niners have been messing with Alex Smith's head from the day they drafted him out of college. They started him too soon, gave him too much offense to learn, swapped offensive coordinators on him every stinking season, and generally treated him as if he were just another player. Despite all that horrible mistreatment, Alex hung in. When the Niners hired Jim Harbaugh as their head coach, he went to Smith and asked him if he wanted to be the starter at SF or be traded. The two hit it off. Result: a stunningly good season for the Niners.

Now with the proper additional elements — notably a new wide-out whose name is NOT Randy Moss — the Niners could ride Smith to a Super Bowl win. They should be dancing in the aisles. So what do they do?

They entertain, wine, dine and test Peyton Manning, whose severe neck injury kept him out of last season and who was released by the Colts where he was a cult hero. Shouldn't that alone tell us something?

Guys, guys, guys. By even considering signing Manning you've given Smith another shot to the helmet of self-confidence. Now it may not even matter if you sign Manning or not because Alex may be so shell-shocked that he won't be able to perform even if you don't sign him. What are you thinking? Manning is the QB of the past. Smith is the QB of the present and near future. And you have a solid backup for him in Colin Kaepernick. 

It would be insane, dishonest, insensitive and uncaring for the Niners to essentially dump Smith now for the shiny old object rolling in from the Midwest. Let it go. Give Smith some love. If not, you may not just lose a great QB and a strong human being, you may also start bleeding fan support as well.

I'm just sayin'.

Hey, Niners. Forget Manning. Sign Alex. You Morons.

Publicly, the San Francisco 49ers insist that: (a) they really, really, REALLY want to re-sign QB Alex Smith; and (b) they have zero interest in the recently released super QB from the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning.

So why is it taking so long to do a deal with Smith? The team's offer is reportedly for 3 years and little or no guaranteed money while Smith and his agent Tom Condon (who, coincidentally?, represents Manning, too) have said they want 5 years and about $20 million guaranteed.

After the way the Niners have shafted Smith over the years and after the great breakout season he just had, you'd think they'd feel somewhat obligated to offer him a decent deal. I know, that's not how things work in the No Fun League, but still… But the fact is, Smith deserves to be rewarded now for the accomplishments of the past, particularly last season. The Niners would be morons to sign Manning, assuming they could get him in the high-stakes bidding war that's already unfolding. Manning's physical condition is dubious, and his remaining years as a top-flight QB are definitely three or fewer. Smith, OTOH, is still young (27) and among the top 5-7 QBs in the NFL despite the Niners' mismanagement of his career.
Let's get this thing done, guys. Focus, focus, focus.

Niners Lock Down Ahmad Brooks. Good for Them!

I was delighted to read that the San Francisco 49ers had locked in linebacker Ahmad Brooks to a six-year contract extension. This guy has blossomed over the past three seasons into a solid mainstay of an increasingly powerful defensive unit. 

For a guy who started his NFL career as a supplemental draftee by the Bengals, who released him two years later after virtually no playing time, Brooks has really come into his own. He'd be hard to replace. Now the Niners don't have to worry about that.
Good move.

Niners Have One of Five Best Future QBs, But It’s Not Alex?

Interesting post on the Bleacher Report today by SF Bay Area correspondent Grant Cohn. In picking the top five prospects to be a top-rank NFL quarterback in five years, Cohn gives the No. 5 spot to Niners' backup Colin Kaepernick.

Gotta admit I didn't see that one coming.

Cohn has some interesting arguments in favor of Kaepernick despite the guy's abysmal showing in the past pre-season. But what it seems to come down to for him is that Kapernick will be way better than he seems to look almost entirely because of the influence of Coach Jim Harbaugh.

Could be. Harbaugh certainly did wonders for Alex Smith this year (though going way conservative in game plans had something to do what that as well). But I'm pretty skeptical. Also, I'm doubtful that if Kaepernick is half as good as Cohn says he is, he'll still be a Niner in five years. I don't see Alex retiring or being let go in that time frame unless he explodes or gets hurt badly and I don't expect a guy with the skills Cohn sees in Colin will stick around as a backup that long.

Niners – Saints Tomorrow: My Prognosis

Here, FWIW, is my take on tomorrow's playoff game between my San Francisco 49ers and the smokin' hot New Orleans Saints.

The present line has the Saints favored by an astonishingly small 3.5 point margin. The over-under is also low at 47.5.

I'm predicting the Niners will lose, but by between 6 and 10 points, making the game closer than expected.

If — big If — the Niners are ahead by 10+ at the half, they could pull out a win. Otherwise, I don't see how the Niners stop the potent Saints' offense and Drew Brees in a second half they've dominated all year.

Niners to Face Saints in First…and Last?…Playoff Game of 2012

I watched the New Orleans Saints second-half dismantling of my old favorite Detroit Lions Saturday evening with no mixed emotions at all. I really wanted the Lions to win that one. Not only because I used to cover the Lions. Not only because I think their fans deserve better. But also because, selfishly, I figured my Niners had a better chance of beating the winner of the other NFC Wild Card playoff game than the Saints.

But what I saw in the game leads me to believe it's going to be all but impossible for the Niners to beat the Saints. As good as the SF defense is, I don't think it can bottle up Drew Brees. The guy is a machine. He's having an awesome year. I don't see any way the Niners can slow him down, let alone stop him. In what I suspect will be a run-and-gun  offensive battle, I expect some league records to fall (they've been doing that a lot already in this remarkable post-season) and for the Saints to come out on top by 10 or more points.

Would I love to be wrong about this! But honestly I just don't see a chance for an SF victory Saturday afternoon at Candlestick. The only real hope would be for the Niners to force two or three early turnovers, score off of them and knock the Saints back on their heels early enough in the game that they have trouble coming back. That could happen, of course; the Niners lead the NFL in takeaway ratio. But I'm not feeling it.

Niners Continue Looking Good, But Thursday Could Be a Real Turkey

The Niners overcame a sluggish and sloppy first half today to blow out the Arizona Cardinals 23-7 as they raised their NFL second-best record to 9-1 and rack up their eighth straight victory.

The win wasn't as easy as the score made it sound. Defense forced five turnovers before the third quarter was a wrap but special teams were uncharacteristically shaky and the offense seemed to have a hard  time finding its way until the D gave it great field position on two straight possessions after the half.

I wasn't surprised the game was harder than many expected. The Cardinals had won two straight under a really unseasoned backup QB and they were not blown out by anyone prior to today's 16-point loss.

Now the Niners have three days of rest (one day of which will hardly be a resting day as they travel east once again) before taking on the Baltimore Ravens. At 7-3, the Ravens are tied with the Steelers atop the AFC North and are 5-0 on their home turf. This game could easily provide the second blemish on the Niners' 2011 record. But this is the last of only two real contests SF faces for the rest of the season. (The other date is Week 14 when they host the Steelers.) All of their remaining games are against their own NFC West conference, and there's not a viable threat in the bunch. 

So the Niners will go at least 13-3, more likely 14-2 and quite possibly 15-1. 

Thanksgiving Day should be a barn-burner. Hope there's no turkeys in the barn.

NFL is 60%+ Predictable. Good, Bad or Indifferent?

I was perusing USA Today's weekly NFL picks this morning for the first time in a while. Back in the day when sports was a more central passion, I read not only these guys but ESPN's experts and several others as well. Every week, I'd predict all of the NFL games. Over the years, I had about a 63% success rate. Which it turns out is about the same as the vaunted experts.

Today I noticed that of USA Today's eight experts, they all agree on the outcome of nine of this weekend's 14 games. In two others, there is only one dissenting vote from the majority. The only games on which they have any larger disagreement are:

  • Rams (4) at Cardinals (4)
  • Ravens (3) at Steelers (5)
  • Bills (3) at Jets (5)
The accuracy rating of the eight-member panel ranges from a low of .638 to a high of .681. That's a five-game-correct delta for almost the first half of the season. 

What I want to know is how many times this season all eight of them picked a wrong outcome. In years past, I'd have spent a couple of hours researching that. Now I just wonder about it.

Wonder what that means.

Niners Overcome Adversity to Notch Win #5

The San Francisco 49ers took a major stride toward a return to respectability today as they overcame 15 stupid penalties, an early turnover, a hot team, a road trip and a loud, hostile stadium to beat the previously undefeated Detroit Lions 25-19.

Aside from the penalties — too many of which came on offense — the Niners played one of their better games of the season, even if not statistically. The Lions' stout defense gave them fits, but they managed to solve the fluid D enough times to pull out a come-from-behind victory. And they did it, as I predicted, by more than five points. (Hey, six is more than five!)

Quite an enjoyable if overly long regulation-time game. So both teams are now 5-1, leaving the Bears the only undefeated team in the NFL. 

Niners vs. Lions: A Feast for an Old Fan

Tomorrow morning Pacific Time, the San Francisco 49ers (4-1) and the unbeaten Detroit Lions (5-0) square off in Detroit. At this moment, at least, I intend to be in church when the game starts and to come home and watch it from my DVR after it has ended. No guarantees. The Church of the NFL may yet beckon me with temptation beyond my endurance.

I grew up a Lions fan. As a young sportswriter, I covered the Lions. I was on the sports staff of the Pontiac (now Oakland) Press the year the long-time iconic Sports Editor, Bruno Kearns, worked tirelessly to get the city of Pontiac to build the stadium that lured the Lions out of Detroit and into suburbia. From the time I left Detroit until I landed in the Bay Area in the late 70's, I was a die-hard Lions fan. And that meant supporting them through some horrible, horrible years.

But I have always believed that when you relocate, you need to adopt the local teams, so I became a 49ers loyalist and I have remained one ever since.

So for me this game is going to be wonderful no matter how it turns out. I expect a really great game, but I think the Niners might win this one by more points than most folks think.

The last time the Lions were 5-0 was in 1956. They faced the Niners for their sixth game and defeated the gang from SF. I was 11 at the time but I remember the game from the newspaper accounts.

But the Niners have won the last five meetings between these two teams, having outscored Detroit almost 2-to-1 (115 to 62).

I think the Lions depend far too heavily on the long game and the 49ers are far too good deep on D to give up many long plays for the Lions to stand a real chance in this one. There are a number of key stats I watch that all favor my Niners, most important of which are the Niners much higher-rated defense (they're 2nd through 4th in the stats categories while the Lions are in the bottom third on all three) and their better takeaway ratio (+10 to +7) even though Detroit is good enough to be tied for second in the league.
But the real reason I think the Niners are likely to win Sunday is that long winning streaks are really tough to sustain in the NFL. The Lions are a good team, a much-improved team and I think they'll give SF fits a good part of the day, trying the defense particularly. But when it's all over, I expect the Niners to win by 5+.