Welcome to your new fantasy column! I’m Hank Mardukas and recently I’ve been lucky to join the great team at Blitzed NFL. Look, I know that it’s a little late for fantasy advice for the season but there are some people out there who play through Week 17. Yes, those people are batshit crazy but hey, they still need advice. For the sake of this week, I’m just going to write an article called “5 to Thrive.” But starting next season, it’ll be “5 to Thrive, 5 to Dive.” In this weekly write-up, I’ll try to predict which players will outperform their weekly FantasyPros rank (Thrives) and those who will underperform (Dives). This isn’t a start-sit piece. It’s simply telling you who have a chance to do what this week.
Five to Thrive
Tom Brady, QB New England Patriots
(FantasyPros Week 17 Rank: 13)
HAHAHA just kidding, fuck that guy.
Sam Darnold, QB New York Jets
(FantasyPros Week 17 Rank: 17)
This ginger-headed rookie from USC appears to have finally found his stride at the end of his rookie year and could continue his fiery run in Week 17 against a New England defense that’s given up 254 yards/game through the air on the season. Thanks to a newfound chemistry with top WR Robby Anderson, Darnold has thrown for 594 yards and 5 TDs the last two weeks. The Pats could look to neutralize Anderson with shutdown corner Stephon Gilmore, but Darnold has proven that he can find other targets in the passing game as well. For those of you crazy bastards playing in Week 17 and need a streaming QB, the red-hot Darnold could and should be an option.
CJ Anderson, RB Los Angeles Rams
(FantasyPros Week 17 Rank: 17)
Who in the hell saw Anderson’s Week 16 performance coming? I’ll tell you one person who didn’t: me. I rode Todd Gurley to the title game all season and then added rookie John Kelly who had been with the Rams all season. I didn’t buy into the hype of McVay saying Anderson would play a “major role.” Welp, I was wrong and it cost me a title. But I’m not bitter. It appears that Gurley will again sit out this week which will leave the majority of the work to Eddie Lacy or I mean CJ Anderson. In his LA debut, Anderson ran for 167 yards and a TD against an Arizona front 7 that looks like it’s comprised of 5 dead bodies and 2 high school players. This week, CJA gets to take on the 49ers, who have surrendered the 6th most fantasy points to RBs the last 4 weeks. Ride this turd to fantasy glory.
Royce Freeman, RB Denver Broncos
(FantasyPros Week 17 Rank: 29)
All the hype surrounded this third round pick out of Oregon coming into the season (see Brad Evans), but Freeman has disappointed as he’s watched fellow rookie Philip Lindsay rip defenses apart with his quickness and tough running. Well, Lindsay will be out this week with injury which should leave the backfield to Royce Freeman and an opportunity to show why the Broncos drafted him as high as they did. And lucky for him, he’ll get to take on a Chargers defense that has given up the most fantasy points/game the last 4 weeks to RBs. This bruising back should see somewhere around 20 carries and you’ll take that guaranteed workload and run with in Week 17 where you could see some big-time fantasy starters sitting out. I expect Freeman to run free, man this week at home in the season finale to high-end RB2 performance.
Kenny Golladay, WR Detroit Lions
(FantasyPros Week 17 Rank: 14)
I love me some Kenny G and his smooth routes. I also love me some guaranteed targets in an offense that has no one else to throw to. The Lions legit have no one else to even think about passing. They’d be better off trotting out their list of WR busts from the mid 2000’s (hello, Charles Rogers) instead of going with what’s left at their depth chart at WR. The Packers defense was just ripped up by the before-mentioned Darnold and Anderson combo last week, and I could see the same this week with Stafford-Golladay. If the Lions can get some help around Babytron for next season and a new OC, Golladay has all the traits to be a star. If you’re in a dynasty league, be patient with this future stud.
Chris Hogan, WR New England Patriots
(FantasyPros Week 17 Rank: 47)
Now, I’m never a fan of advocating for one of Tom Brady’s weapons, but I also have to be realistic for a second. Hogan has stepped into the role that was vacated by Josh Gordon’s suspension and will be taking on a Jets defense that has given up a ton through the air on the season. New York has given up the 2nd most fantasy points on the season to WRs and has allowed over 250 passing yards/game. Brady has a ton of weapons so Hogan’s targets could be limited, but all it takes is one long catch to make this value play worth it, even if he plays for Patriots.
Hank Mardukas is a Steelers fan and has been a fantasy writer for years. You can follow him on Twitter at @Blitzed_Fantasy.
Welcome to Week 15 Blitzers. As always, kudos to the guys on this week’s show for another hilarious episode. I’m glad the Miami Miracle Margarita was a winning cocktail for the show (lets be real, the reason alone it was chosen made it a winner before it was even tasted) and fortunately it didn’t lead to any questionable outbursts this week. From a personal standpoint, I was relieved I wasn’t blamed for anything again… or was I? You’ll have to check it out for yourself here to find out. One way or another it’s all-star effort from our guys over at Blitzed NFL.
Speaking of All Stars, the Pro Bowl rosters were just released yesterday and while I personally don’t care about the game anymore, I do care about the players on my team getting recognition for their accomplishments on the field of play. The NFL really needs to figure out a way to make the game more relevant so that casual fans will want to tune in again. At the end of the long, stressful, punishing season, the players are there for the recognition and the camaraderie with fellow stars, not so much for the competition in the game itself. Even still, us fans get all bent out of shape if our favorite players get snubbed after a great year. Case in point, my Buffalo Bills were blanked on the roster even with the #2 ranked total defense in the league. So, this week I decided to give you the 2018 Barkeep’s All Snubbed Team, and the reasons why I feel they deserved their trip to Orlando this coming January.
Blitzed Barkeep's ALL SNUBBED Team
Christian McCaffrey (RB- CAR)
Blitzed Stats: 179 att 979 yds 5.0 avg 7TDs; 94 rec 768 yds 6 TDS
Three names: Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Saquon Barkley. That’s why McCaffrey is not on the roster for Orlando in January. McCaffrey is the rare three-down back who makes Carolina’s offense versatile and defensive coordinator’s heads spin. The play action fake in Carolina’s offense opens up the field but very often leads right back to McCaffrey as evidenced by his 94 catches with another two games to play. While a 1,000/1,000 rushing and receiving year is probably out of the question this season, it’s not hard to fathom that he will reach that feat at one point or another in his career very soon. McCaffrey is deserving of a Pro Bowl nod this season, and he is only going to get better with time.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR- PIT)
Blitzed Stats: 95 rec 1,274 yds 6 TDs
Juju has had himself one hell of a year- so much so that he has out-produced his teammate Antonio Brown. That in itself is a big deal due to the fact that Brown is very often considered as one of the best, if not THE best, wide receivers in the entire NFL. Smith-Schuster leads the Steelers in targets (more than Brown), and receiving yards (also more than Brown) while at the same time preventing opposing defenses from double teaming “the best receiver in the league”. Out of the two wideouts that have helped the Steelers to the #1 passing offense in the NFL, its is Brown, not Smith-Schuster that is heading to Orlando. Its not to say that Brown doesn’t deserve that honor. I’m saying that Juju does. At least we named a drink for him! (Check out Blitzed NFL podcast Episode 20 if you missed it)
Andrew Luck (QB- IND)
Blitzed Stats: 375 out of 557 (67.3%) 3,951 yds, 34 TDs 13 INTs; 98.4 QBR
He missed the entire 2017 NFL season with a shoulder injury. He thought at some point he may never play football again. He came back in 2018 and no one knew what to expect. He started off a bit rusty but then he caught fire. He had a stretch of nine straight games where he had at least 3 TD passes. He also has six 300 yard passing games including one 400 yard game and another 399 yard game- both against the 10-4, division-leading Houston Texans. His most important stat of the season? His team started 1-5 and are now back in the playoff hunt at 7-6. This snub was simply mind-boggling when you look at everything he’s overcome along with the stats he has put up. One can argue that he can’t replace Patrick Mahomes or Philip Rivers with the years they are having. He can, however, replace Tom Brady and deservedly so. Team Blitzed would gladly make that switch any day of the week.
Mike Evans (WR-TB)
Blitzed Stats: 74 rec 1,328 yds 5 TDs
He’s not flashy. You don’t hear about him mouthing off. He’s rotated between two quarterbacks multiple times this year and not due to injuries. But yet he continues to go out every week and produce. He is one of only three players in NFL history to begin their NFL careers with five straight 1,000 yard seasons (Randy Moss and AJ Green are the others) and could surpass 1,500 yards this season. He is the steady hand in Tampa Bay when other, important positions are not so steady. Considering what he has had to transition through this year behind center, this snub is not to be overlooked. He more than deserves to be in Orlando with his peers as the one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.
Blitzed Honorable Mentions:
Alvin Kamara (NO), Darius Leonard (IND), Robert Woods (LAR), Chris Jones (KC), Tre White (BUF), Leighton Vander Esch (DAL)
In a year full of players excelling and not being recognized for their accomplishments, we are steadily rolling towards the playoffs with teams full of players that were recognized and headed to Orlando. In fact, my game of the week this week has a combined eight (8) pro bowlers that were selected yesterday including five first timers. This week’s game of the week should be a good one and features the Kansas Chiefs (11-3) heading to CenturyLink Field to take on the Seattle Seahawks (8-6). Seattle plays tough at home with that 12th man advantage so what better than to partake in some 12th Man Cocktails?
12th Man Cocktail
1.5oz Citrus Vodka
½ oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
Float Blue Curacao
Blitzed Barkeep Build: Add ingredients except Curacao to a shaker with ice, shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass over rocks. Flip a bar spoon over and place at the top of the pour in the glass. Slowly pour the Blue Curacao to float on top of the cocktail to separate the two colors. Garnish with aa lime wedge or wheel.
Seattle has always been a tough place to play. The mystique of the 12th man advantage seems to give the Seahawks a little more edge when they’re at home. This year they’re a respectable 4-2 in Seattle with their two losses coming only to the two teams based out of Los Angeles- the Rams and Chargers. They have been hot of late, winning 4 out of their last 5 before losing a head scratcher to San Francisco in overtime. The Chiefs, on the other hand have three losses all year by a combined 7 points. Two of those losses (New England and also the Los Angeles Rams) were on the road. Like Seattle, they are coming off a very tough loss to the Chargers who went for the win with a gutsy two-point conversion last Thursday night.
So, as always let’s play out the game Barkeep style. The game gets underway with two teams known for the exact opposite things- offense and defense. Seattle gets first crack and immediately runs down the field for a touchdown. Forgetting that its 2018, the fans begin to throw packets of skittles on the field thinking Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch was back in town. Arguments begin to fly about who the running back was this year as some weren’t sure which of the five being used actually scored that last touchdown. (Kansas City scores on a 40 yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill) Microsoft Surface Pros are pulled out to Google their answer. Or Bing it. Another fight breaks out as to which search engine is better. (Kansas City Scores again on a 50 yard pass to Travis Kelce) Someone in the stands had the audacity to open Internet Explorer. (Touchdown KC to Chris Conley) Silence falls over the crowd as that fan is quickly escorted out of the stadium and banned for life (Kansas City scores another touchdown on a no look pass to Damien Williams). Seattle fans have no idea that through all of this the score quickly jumped to 28-7 in the blink of an eye. Somewhere off in the corner, a shadowy, dreadlocked character in a black trench-coat happily opens a bag a skittles and walks away down the tunnel. In the end, Seattle gave it their all gets shellacked 63-7. To console everyone, free Starbucks are handed out as fans leave the stadium. Of course, no one’s name is spelled correctly on the side of the cup this time either.
Ah, to have some fun with these games. In reality, I do think this will be a high scoring affair once again involving the Chiefs but I don’t think it will be a blow out. Seattle’s Legion of Boom is not as terrifying as it once was, but their defense will keep them in this game. I simply do not think Seattle stacks up with the offensive power that Kansas City has. Eventually, Kansas City will put Seattle away, keeping the top seed in the AFC for another week.
FINAL SCORE: Kansas City 42 Seattle 36
Well Blitzers, that’s all from your Blitzed Barkeep for now. Remember to drink responsibly, take Brady’s name in vain and always give your keys to a friend if you’ve had too much. Tune in to the Blitzed NFL podcast this Tuesday to hear the guys review this week’s drink of the week and recap all of the action during Week 16.
The Blitzed Barkeep is a #TeamBlitzed All Pro from Bills Mafia. You can follow Blitzed Barkeep on Twitter here.
This past week our host Stats Guy, was ripped a new one by the guys on the show for his inability to predict anything. I mean he couldn’t predict a December cold snap in Alaska. This inspired me. Over the last 30 NFL seasons what teams performed above and beyond what the oddsmakers thought they’d do?
I give you the six longest shots to win a Super Bowl since 1977.
1980 Oakland Raiders
Preseason Super Bowl odds 35:1
This squad entered the season without anyone giving them much thought as a Super Bowl contender. The Raiders brought in Dan Pastorini from the Houston Oilers (I miss that helmet) to quarterback. Pastorini may have had trouble with the time change as the Raiders went 2-2 in their first four games and were trailing the Chiefs in game five when Pastorini suffered a season-ending leg injury. The Raiders turned to journeyman quarterback, Jim Plunkett. Plunkett’s season debut was inauspicious as he put up a Nathan Peterman-worthy five INTs after replacing Pastorini and the 31-17 loss dropped the Raiders to 2-3. Raider Nation was preparing to store those spiked shoulder pads until next season.
A funny thing happened while they were figuring out how you bubble wrap spikes. Plunkett found a groove. The Raiders won their next six games and seven of eight. Two road wins to close out the regular season put them at 11-5 and into the wild card. They’d beat the Oilers at home in the wild card round and then upset the original Cleveland Browns on the road, 14-12 , to advance to the conference final in San Diego. Plunkett led a 21-point first quarter outburst with TD passes to Raymond Chester and Kenny King sandwiched around a rare five yard TD run of his own. A second quarter Mark van Eeghen run pushed the lead to 28-7. The Raiders staved off 17 unanswered points by the Chargers and won 34-27 putting them into the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles. With a 7-0 lead, Plunkett under duress found Kenny King out of the backfield on a short pass. King made the grab and scampered the rest of the way for an 80-yard touchdown. The Eagles never recovered and the Raiders took home the Lombardi, 27-10.
1982 Washington Redskins
Preseason Super Bowl odds 35:1
This wasn’t a stellar time for the NFL. Thanks to a 57-day midseason players’ strike the season was reduced from 16 games to nine. The Redskins had gotten off to a good start as Joe Theismann led them to a 2-0 start before the strike. They didn’t seem to lose a beat as they came back and won their first two after the strike before taking a loss to the Cowboys. After scraping out wins at St. Louis against the Cardinals and at home against the Giants, things really took off for the ‘Skins as they cruised to victory in their final two regular season games, carrying an 8-1 record into the playoffs. Thanks to the strike, a special playoff format was instituted. The best eight records from each conference were chosen to participate in a “Super Bowl Tournament.”
The Redskins would crush the Lions in the round of 16 and then took care of the Vikings in the second round. The NFC title game would be played against the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas would keep it close and trailed 24-17 in the fourth quarter when Darryl Grant intercepted a tipped Gary Hogeboom (yes THE Gary Hogeboom) screen pass and taking it 10 yards for a TD that put the ‘Skins up 31-17 with 6:55 left in the game. It would be the final score and the Redskins were headed to Pasadena to play the Miami Dolphins. A 76-yard TD pass from David Woodley to Jimmy Cefalo put the ‘Skins in an early hole. After tying the game at 10 in the second quarter, Fulton Walker returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards and the Fish (Fish. Dolphins are mammals. Come on, people!) carried a 17-10 lead to the locker room. A short Mark Moseley FG, one of the last of the straight on, built like a fire hydrant kickers, cut the Miami lead to four. In the 4th quarter, John Riggins, on his way to 166 yards and a Super Bowl MVP award, took a handoff and went 43 yards on 4th and 1 to put the ‘Skins ahead for good with ten minutes to play. A Joe Theismann pass to Charlie Brown, who obviously is better at catching footballs than kicking them, ended the scoring and the ‘Skins had a 27-17 win and a Super Bowl ring. You know I like this Super Bowl tournament thing. Maybe we can have this back. They could have a committee decide who belongs….um forget I even mentioned this.
2017 Philadelphia Eagles
Preseason Super Bowl odds 40:1)
The Eagles were coming off of back-to-back losing seasons. With Doug Pederson in his second season as head coach, 2017 saw a quarterback from North Dakota State named Carson Wentz take the helm. The Prince Harry lookalike was a major find for the Eagles in the 2016 draft after they dumped Sam Bradford on the Vikings (Seriously, the dude is more fragile than a leg lamp. Why, Vikings? Why?). Once things got going, they couldn’t be slowed down even with a thick layer of Cheese Wiz. Wentz commanded the Eagles to wins in 11 of their first 13 games. However during win number 11 against the Rams, Wentz tore his ACL and his season was done. Enter Nick Foles. Foles had been with the Eagles from 2012 through 2014 winning 15 of his 24 starts. The fans were skeptical like someone had offered them actual cheese for their Pat’s or Geno’s (personally I like Tony Luke’s but that’s for another time). They needed not worry as Foles finished out the regular season winning his first two starts, the only loss coming in a meaningless season finale against the Cowboys. But surely Foles would crumble in the playoffs like a Philly pretzel left out in the sun for three days.
Thanks to a crazy deflected pass at the end of the first half of the Eagles playoff game against the Falcons that led to a Jake Elliott 53-yard field goal (didn’t think I’d remember that, did you), the Eagles were up five instead of two late in the 4th quarter. The Falcons had a 4th and goal on the two when Matt Ryan scrambled and threw a very catchable pass towards Julio Jones that went through his fingers for an incompletion. Had the deflection not taken place that’s a field goal attempt and since Blair Walsh wasn’t kicking for the Falcons, history probably doesn’t get made three weeks later when the Eagles, after trouncing the Vikings in the NFC title game, pulled off a Philly Special and finally won a Super Bowl with a 41-33 win over the Patriots. This would mark the one and only time MZE has ever rooted for the Eagles to win anything.
1981 San Francisco 49ers
Preseason Super Bowl odds 50:1
The 49ers had never really been thought of much in the team’s history. In 1979 they drafted a quarterback out of Notre Dame named Joe Montana. His first two seasons were spent getting assimilated to the league. He made just eight starts with the Niners winning just two of them. He finally got his chance to take over in 1981 and take over he did. He started off slow as the team was just 1-2 through three games. Before you could say, “San Francisco treat,” he would turn things around and the Niners took 12 of their next 13 games heading into the playoffs. They’d take the Giants down 38-24 in the divisional round. The NFC Championship would be the game that launched the legend that is Joe Montana (unlike a more recent QB who needed an obscure rule that may be part of a conspiracy theory to launch his but more on that later).
With 58 seconds left in the game on 3rd and three from the six, Montana rolled right under pressure from the Cowboys defense. He threw to the back corner of the end zone. At first glance it looked like a throw away to get one last shot. However from out of nowhere came Dwight Clark, reaching up as high as he could, to make the grab that tied the game. This was before the extra point became interesting so the Ray Wersching kick was a foregone conclusion and the Niners headed to the Super Bowl to face the Bengals with a 28-27 win. While the final score was 26-21 the outcome was never truly in doubt. To date, no former Notre Dame QB has done anything near what Joe Montana did in the NFL. Just sayin’.
2001 New England Patriots
Preseason Super Bowl odds 60:1
The New England Patriots were not always the juggernaut you see today. They actually began the 21st century with a 5-11 season. Things didn’t start off well for 2001 either as they suffered losses to the Bengals and Jets to begin 0-2. In that Jets game starter, Drew Bledsoe, suffered a sheared blood vessel, which nearly killed him. Drew would survive but his job was gone as Lord Volde...I mean Tom Brady stepped in and took over. The Patriots went 11-3 behind Brady, including two wins in overtime, earning them a playoff berth. The divisional round saw them facing the Raiders on a snowy night in Foxborough.
Trailing by three with 2:05 left, Brady and the Pats took over. They were driving when Charles Woodson came off the corner. He hit Brady dislodging the ball from his grasp. Raiders linebacker, Greg Biekert, fell on it and the Raiders looked like they’d hang on to win. However after review, it was determined that Brady’s arm was going forward when the ball came out, although it sure looked like he was pulling the ball into his chest. The fumble was overturned and the Patriots kept the ball. Adam Vinatieiri would hit a game-tying field goal and the game headed to overtime. This was before the current overtime rules went into effect. The Pats took the ball down the field and Vinatieri hit the game-winning field goal putting the Patriots into the AFC title game. A close win over the Steelers, who just can’t seem to beat New England, set up a matchup with the Rams. Despite blowing a 17-3 lead in the 4th quarter, The Patriots would win their first ring under Brady on a 48-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal. For Pats fans the dynasty began with a tuck rule. For the rest of us, it’s known as the Motherfu…never mind.
1999 St. Louis Rams
Preseason Super Bowl odds 150:1
The nine seasons prior to 1999 were awful for the Rams franchise. They had a combined record of 45-99 and had four different head coaches in that span. Dick Vermeil was in his third season. Vermeil went out and signed Trent Green to a four-year, $17.5 million contract based on his 1998 season with the Washington Redskins. Vermeil also plucked Marshall Faulk away from the Colts and drafted Torry Holt with the sixth pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. Things were looking up until the team’s third preseason game. Chargers’ safety, Rodney Harrison, came on a safety blitz and blew up the ligaments in Green’s knee, ending his season and probably causing Vermeil to shed a few tears. Rams’ fans began contemplating swan dives from the St. Louis arch. Enter, “The Stockboy.” Kurt Warner had spent time in NFL Europe and the Arena League and worked stocking shelves at an Iowa grocery store for extra cash. Now he was the Rams’ starting quarterback. The Rams won their first six games, averaging over 36 points per game and, “The Greatest Show on Turf,” was born. They’d lose two in a row before rattling off seven straight wins. A loss on the final day of the regular season left them with a 13-3 record and a divisional round date with the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota led 17-14 at the half before the Rams ran off 28 straight points. The Vikings, led by Jeff George (yep, he actually suited up for the Vikings), scored 20 points in the final five minutes to make it look close but the Rams advanced to the NFC title game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It would be an unusual game for these Rams as they trailed 6-5 after a Martin Gramatica field goal early in the fourth quarter. It took a pass from Warner to Ricky Proehl with just under five minutes left to put the Rams ahead to stay. They’d meet the Tennessee Titans in Atlanta for the Super Bowl. The Rams would score the first 16 points of the game while the Titans would score the next 16. With just under two minutes to play, Warner found Isaac Bruce streaking down the right sidelines. A great adjustment by Bruce and 73 yards later the Rams had a 23-16 lead. The Titans would drive down to the Rams 10-yard line. On the final play, Steve McNair found Kevin Dyson on a slant route. Mike Jones would make a game-saving tackle one-yard shy of the goal line (although looking at replays it looked more like three yards) and the Rams had their ring. If you’d bet $1,000 on the Rams that August, you’d have taken home a cool $150Gs. Think of the beer you could buy!
Those are the six biggest preseason underdogs to win the Super Bowl so Stats Guy, don’t feel too bad. At least you have your health, right?
Please check out the blogs of my colleagues, Blitzed Barkeep and Blitzed Scout. They do great work.
Until next time, separate your beer cans from your beer bottles, go ahead and wear those jerseys, and feel free to hate on the tuck rule.
Mike Zimmer's Ears is a Minnesota Vikings fan from Pennsylvania and is a #TeamBlitzed All Pro. You can follow him on Twitter.
Welcome to Week 14 Blitzers. This week’s podcast was highly entertaining as it usually is. I don’t know if the bye week from the podcast gave them extra energy or what, but I was happy to hear how much the guys liked the Bootleg Black and Gold Whiskey Cocktail, or the “JuJu” Cocktail as the guys renamed it. Honestly, there was way too much to even put into words here from Simple Jack, Tropic Thunder, the AFC East Conspiracy Theory & Tanking for Tom as well as Michael Bolton… to even review. You will just have to listen yourself here as I felt it was one of the best shows of the year thus far.
As we come up on the end of the season and the playoff picture was beginning to sort itself out, I got to thinking about how some of the trade deadline deals were working out for the teams that were involved. As I looked further into the trades I asked myself if there were there clear winners? If so, who were they? This week I take a look at four of the biggest names that were moved and how they’ve done so far in their new homes.
NEW ACQUISITIONS: WHO WON?
(DET to PHI for a 3rd RD pick)
Stats Before the Trade: 44 rec, 517 yds, 3 TDs (8 games)
Stats Since the Trade: 19 rec, 189 yds, 1 TD (5 games)
Blitzed Decision: Detroit.
They’re that hot girl at the bar who convinces the gullible guy to pay for her drinks all night by flashing him a pretty smile and making him think he has a chance. Then at last call, she dials an Uber and goes home to her boyfriend without having to spending a dime the whole night. Tate is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Detroit acquired a 3rd round pick for a player they knew was going to skip town anyways. Problem is, he hasn’t exactly worked out for Philadelphia either. This past Sunday, he got on the field for 38% of the offensive snaps and totaled just one catch for 8 yards. I caught more grapes that fell off the shelf at the grocery store without looking than Tate has over the past two weeks. The difference is that I’m not being paid $6.2 million dollars to do so.
(OAK to DAL for a 1st RD pick)
Stats Before the Trade: 22 rec, 280 yds, 1 TD
Stats Since the Trade: 40 rec, 642 yds, 6 TDs
Blitzed Decision: Dallas.
The 27 year old Cooper has been quite the opposite for Dallas. This past week, he played 90 snaps and had 10 catches for 217 yards with three touchdowns. All of those stats were more in one game than Tate has combined in 5 games since joining the Eagles. Not only has Cooper returned to form as a bona fide #1 wide receiver for the Cowboys, he’s opened up the offense for Ezekiel Elliot, created space for Dak Prescott and kept the opposing defenses honest at the line of scrimmage. Additionally, extending the offense’s time on the field has helped their defense’s efficiency as well. The Cowboys are 5-1 since Cooper has joined Dallas with the lone loss coming in his first game to the Tennessee Titans, 28-14. They have since ripped off five straight wins and sit atop the NFC East with a record of 8-5. They certainly look primed to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015 and for only the second time since 2010.
(DEN to HOU for a 4th RD pick and swap of 7th RD picks
Stats Before the Trade: 36 rec, 402 yds, 3 TDs (8 games
Stats Since the Trade: 14 rec, 179 yds, 2 TDs (5 games)
Blitzed Decision: Texans.
This is probably the least flashy of the trades but possibly one of the most underrated. Back in October, the Texans had just lost Will Fuller to a torn ACL while they were just beginning their improbable nine game win streak (that just ended this past week to the also-streaking Indianapolis Colts). In comes Thomas from Denver to replace Fuller and he has quietly been effective. Not so much on the stat sheet, but on keeping the defenses occupied from double teaming that other guy opposite him- DeAndre Hopkins. Thomas’ addition alone keeps defenses honest and has allowed the Texans to continue to be effective to the tune of nine straight wins. The scariest part of all of this? Think of the receiving trio they will have when Fuller comes back healthy in ’19. I’m thinking scary good.
(OAK to CHI for ’19 and ’20 1st RD, ’20 3rd and ’19 6th RD)
Stats Before the Trade: n/a
Stats Since the Trade: 36 TCK, 10 sacks, 4 Pass Def, 6 FrcFum, 1 INT, 1 TD
Blitzed Decision: Chicago.
The Bears paid a king’s ransom for this man. But damn it, he was worth. He instantly made their defense better and will continue to do so for the next five years plus. This season I have seen Mack finesse, power and stroll his way through offensive linemen. I have seen him take one arm and throw them away like a sack of potatoes. I’ve seen him (or rather not seen him in this case) come from what seemingly is thin air in the blink of an eye to take down the quarterback. I am old enough to remember Reggie White and Bruce Smith play football. I was not however, old enough to appreciate the greatness they possessed on the football field. We are fortunate that we get to watch Mack play. How Oakland ever traded him is beyond me. There is not another defensive player coming out in the draft this year or next that will match the talent that Mack possesses.
Awkward Transition Alert
There is no easy way to transition into my game of the week from talking about how the traded players are doing in their new digs. So, I’m just going to dive right in. Based on all the history and the fact that once again this has playoff seeding implications, the game of the week this week of course has to be the New England Patriots (9-4) going into Heinz Field to take on the reeling 7-5-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh is coming off an embarrassing (there’s no other word to describe it is there Steelers fans?) and crushing defeat at the hands of the Raiders while the Patriots, well… they’re drinking a lot of this week’s Drink of the Week. I present to you, the Miami Miracle Margarita.
Miami Miracle Margarita
1.5oz Espolon Reposado Tequila
½ oz Blue Curacao
½ oz Florida Orange Juice
½ oz Pineapple Juice
½ oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
½ oz Jalapeño Agave syrup*
Blitzed Barkeep Build: All all ingredients to a shaker with ice, shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass over rocks. Garnish with an orange peel cut into the shape of a dolphin.
*Jalapeño Agave Syrup Build: combine 12 oz. agave, 12 oz. water and 2 to 3 sliced jalapeños in a saucepot. Bring to a boil over medium/high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and skim/discard jalapeños slices.
Cool to room temperature or chill before using.
Now its no secret to Blitzed Nation that I am not a fan of the New England Cheatriots. This drink is the perfect drink for this week because the Jalapeño Agave gives the drink a kick at the finish that sneaks up on you, very similar to the way the Patriots lost last Sunday. The only real problem I have with that loss, is the trend with the Patriots losing that way is it gives them fire for the following week. This is already a big enough game with playoff implications and we don’t need to give Tom Brady any more motivation to play harder for the rest of the year. Statistically speaking, these are two rather evenly matched teams. Both teams score 28 points per game while giving up 22.5 (NE) and 23.5 (PIT) points per game. Shockingly, Pittsburgh has more passing yards per game (328.6 to 288.5) while New England has more rushing yards per game (118.2 to 89).
So, let’s play out the game Barkeep style. After officials usher out the black trench coat wearing camera men with NFL taped over the Patriots logos, the game begins with several questionable calls going against Pittsburgh. Multiple times the officials can be seen going to the review booth and returning to the field with rather large bulges in their pockets, followed out by Patriots officials. Undoubtedly, the next flag goes the Patriot’s way. Its no doubt that the Steelers easily take a large deficit at the half, 35-0. The start of the second half begins with a new QB under center- Patriot killer Eli Manning. He also brought along David ‘Pine Tar’ Tyree for good luck. The Steelers thought about consulting Kyle Shanahan for advice but decided that since they were attempting to comeback instead of blow a lead, he wouldn’t know how to help them. A solid running game (take note Russell Wilson) and multiple touchdown passes to Jesse James actually DO stand as he maintains control (as he did last year as well) to bring the Steelers close.
The Steelers sack Brady and instead of implementing the tuck rule, the ball was deemed to have been out of his hand and fumbled giving the Steelers a last second chance. A surprise guest appearance by Adam Vinatieri on a one-day trade to the Steelers is all they need to seal the deal on a walk off field goal. Pittsburgh wins on a wild 38-35 victory sending Pittsburgh into a frenzy. Somewhere a shattered phone rings with Gisele’s face as the background and deflated balls come to a rolling stop due to a low PSI.
If only it were that easy. This game is too hard to predict. Pittsburgh is banged up and New England is coming off that devastating loss. I can go with my head or my heart here. My head says New England will bounce back and continue to do what they always do- win and piss everyone off by getting a bye in the playoffs like they’ve done for what seems like the last 50 years. My heart is rooting so hard for Steeler Nation this week so I‘m going to go that way with my prediction.
FINAL SCORE: Pittsburgh 30 New England 28
Well Blitzers, that’s all from your Blitzed Barkeep for now. Remember to drink responsibly, take Brady’s name in vain and always give your keys to a friend if you’ve had too much. Tune in to the Blitzed NFL podcast this Tuesday to hear the guys review this week’s drink of the week and recap all of the action during Week 15.
The Blitzed Barkeep is a #TeamBlitzed All Pro from Bills Mafia. You can follow Blitzed Barkeep on Twitter here.
This week the Blitzed Crew took some time to give us some of the best moments from the show. You can listen to that right here:
While listening, it inspired me to come up with some of my best moments from the NFL over the years. Here they are:
Best Screw Up on Thanksgiving Ever
No, it wasn't your Uncle Earl sharing his political views, it was the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. The Cowboys were hosting the Miami Dolphins in “God’s Spittoon.” There was a rare wintery mix of weather that day making for sloppy playing conditions. With time running out, the Dolphins trailed 14-13 but had a chance as Pete Stoyanovich set up for a 40-yard field goal attempt. Stoyanovich’s kick never stood a chance as it was blocked. Jerry Jones raised his hands in victory as the clock wound down. Oh, if only Leon Lett had done the same thing. For some inexplicable reason Lett decided to chase the bouncing ball. His large hands and a slick football paired about as well as a Kardashian girl and, well, anyone. The ball squirted free and into the end zone. After some discussion (there was no replay) the ball was given to the Dolphins on the Cowboys’ one yard line with three seconds to play. This time Stoyanovich nailed the short field goal and the Dolphins left Dallas with a 16-14 win.
Best Turnaround to a Season
The 1992 San Diego Chargers were glad to put September behind them. They went winless for the month, being outscored by a combined 95-29. Fans were already making plans to spend more time at the beach or the zoo on Sundays. On October 4th they finally broke into the win column with a 17-6 victory over Seattle. After their bye week, three more wins and a .500 record. All of a sudden the beach could wait and the monkeys could make faces at each other. In all, the Chargers would win 11 of their final 12 games win the AFC West and qualify for the playoffs. They’d knock off the Chiefs in the wild card round, 17-0, but the magic ended a week later when the Miami Dolphins trounced them, 31-0. No other team in NFL history has ever lost its first four games and won more than nine games.
Best Punt by a Quarterback
Randall Cunningham was an incredible athlete. He had a cannon for an arm and he could take off and pick up big chunks of yardage with his legs. What many don’t know is that Cunningham was also a pretty good punter. For his career Cunningham had 20 punts with a 44.7 yard average. On December 3, 1989, the Eagles were playing the New York Giants at the old Meadowlands. Early in the fourth quarter and backed up on their own two after a sack, the Eagles would punt. Cunningham asked Buddy Ryan to let him handle the punting in favor of Max Runager. Ryan made the bold decision to listen to his quarterback. With a 25-mile an hour wind at his back, Cunningham drilled the punt over Giants’ return man, Dave Meggett’s, head. The ball hit at the Giants 39-yard line and was finally picked up at the seven by Meggett who returned it to the 16. It was the turning point of the game as a few plays later, Mike Golic, known more for his radio career than his NFL career, recorded a strip sack of Phil Simms with the Eagles recovering on the seven. It took just three plays for Keith Byars to score what would be the game-winning touchdown. For the record, Cunningham also had an 80-yard punt in 1994 and a 65-yarder with the Vikings in 1997. Not too shabby for a measly quarterback.
Best Embattled Playoff Performance
On January 2, 1982, the San Diego Chargers were in Miami for a playoff game against the Dolphins that would send one of the teams into the AFC Championship game. The Chargers jumped out to a 24-0 first quarter lead and those New Year’s Day hangovers for Dolphins’ fans just got worse. Don Strock and his teammates took a shot of B-12 and fought on. Trailing 24-10 late in the first half, the Dolphins ran a ‘hook & lateral’ play that resulted in a Tony Nathan TD and a 24-17 halftime deficit. The teams would fight to a 38-38 tie after regulation. The star of this game was Kellen Winslow, Sr. He’d have 13 catches in the game for 166 yards and a touchdown. He would also block a Uwe Von Schamann (a truly great kicker’s name) field goal to preserve the tie long enough for Rolf Benirschke (another truly great kicker’s name) to hit a 35-yard field goal that sent the Chargers to the title game. Winslow’s performance would be considered great by any standard but there’s more to the story. Winslow suffered all of the following in this game: shoulder injury, swollen eye, pinched nerve, busted lip, cramps, and, due to the extreme humidity, dehydration. His teammates literally carried him back to the locker room after the game. The following week saw a drastic change in temperature as the Chargers headed to Cincinnati to play the Bengals. The air temperature was -9 degrees with a -37 degrees Fahrenheit wind chill. There would be no magic for the Chargers this time as they lost 27-7.
Greatest End to a Playoff Game Ever in the History of the NFL and this Is Not up for Debate
Minnesota Vikings fans have endured some of the most excruciating playoff losses in the history of the game. I won’t go into them here as my doctor will not prescribe any more nitro pills for me. On January 14, 2018, we experienced a joy never before experienced but with 25 seconds to play against the New Orleans Saints it looked like another crushing defeat. The Vikings jumped out to a 17-0 lead on the strength of TD runs from Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray sandwiched around a Kai Forbath field goal. Vikings fans knew enough not to get excited for much like a Nightmare on Elm Street movie, just when you thought it was safe you get slashed by razors. Michael Thomas would catch two TD passes to cut the lead to 17-14.
Then with just over three minutes to play, Alvin Kamara caught Drew Brees’ third TD pass of the game and the Saints went ahead 21-20. Vikings fans quickly grabbed the cyanide tablets that were always on hand. Case Keenum and company kept us from swallowing the pills as he led the Vikings to the Saints’ 35-yard line for a Kai Forbath 53-yard field goal attempt. Vikings kickers and the playoffs were usually a recipe for disaster but Forbath coolly drilled the kick putting the Vikings up 23-21. We held on to those pills because Drew Brees had the ball and time on the clock plus a field goal would be enough to win. Sure as you need long johns for a Minnesota winter, Brees took the Saints 50 yards in 64 seconds and Wil Lutz hit a 43-yard field goal with 25 seconds left. A nice Blitzed Barkeep cocktail would wash down those tablets perfectly. But there were still 25 seconds left. Channeling our inner Lloyd Christmas, we all felt there was still a chance. After a touchback and a Mike Remmers false start, the Vikings realistically needed to move 45 yards to get into field goal range. Case Keenum hit Stefon Diggs for 19 yards. Two incompletions later it was third and 10 with 14 seconds to play. Still time to get those 26 yards. Keenum dropped back and calmly fired to the right sideline where Diggs was waiting. It was a beautiful toss and easily long enough to set up Forbath if Diggs could get out of bounds. Saints cornerback, Marcus Williams, whiffed on the tackle the way Blair Walsh whiffed on a chip shot field goal against the Seattle Seahawks. How the hell could he miss that kick?! How?! Breathe, MZE. Breathe. Anyway, Diggs found nothing between him and the goal line as he turned and scampered the final 34 yards for a 29-24 walk-off Vikings playoff win.
Vikings fans flushed the cyanide down the commode. The tears streaming down our faces were finally not ones of sorrow but joy. We all booked rooms in Minneapolis where we would revel and frolic for surely we would be the first host team to play in the Super Bowl. God has a sense of humor. The following week the Philadelphia Eagles would score the final 38 points of the NFC title game, drubbing the Vikings 38-7 and putting us out of our misery.
Those are five of my favorite ‘Best Of’ moments. What are yours? Post below in the comments and check out the work of the Blitzed Barkeep and the Blitzed Scout.
Until next time, Blitzers, tap a keg, tip your bartenders, and trip Tom Brady if he crosses your path.
Mike Zimmer's Ears is a Minnesota Vikings fan from Pennsylvania and is a #TeamBlitzed All Pro. You can follow him on Twitter.