Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rob's Fearless (And Usually Wrong) 2015 NFL Predictions!

Why not?

1) Philadelphia Eagles (9-7): I don't see any team in this division capable of going 12-4. Can Sam Bradford actually start sixteen games? I don't see that, either. I also don't see Chip Kelly keeping the attention of this team over that stretch, either. But they're the best team in a mediocre division.

2) Dallas Cowboys (8-8): If they can't run the football (thanks for taking Darren McFadden!!), we're back to 400 yard passing days for Romo, with a key interception along the way to kill comebacks or allow another team to steal a win.

3) New York Giants (6-10): Eli Manning's shelf life will be shorter than his brother. The Manning dynasty's best days are behind them. Teams should be able to score at will on the G-Men this year.

4) Washington Redskins (3-13): With the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft......

1) Green Bay Packers (12-4): This division has the potential to be the best in the league. Note the word potential. Aaron Rodgers makes receivers better. One player won't replace Jordy Nelson's numbers, he'll spread the love. Pack fans have nothing to worry about. NOTE: MUST beat Seattle next Sunday for home-field advantage in January.

2) Detroit Lions (9-7): On the cusp playoff team here. They desperately need a legitimate second wideout to free up Johnson to only double teams (!) and, of course, they need someone to replace Suh up the defensive middle. I think they'll be okay.

3) Minnesota Vikings (9-7): Also on the cusp. It's all about Bridgewater and who steps up to be his go-to weapon. If Peterson even has a decent season, the Vikes will be in it. But they have to go to Green Bay week 17 while Detroit gets....

4) Chicago Bears (5-11): John Fox won't be able to keep this dysfunctional bunch moving in the wrong direction. Will probably go 1-5 within the division, maybe 2-4 if they can beat Minnesota and Detroit at home.

1) Atlanta Falcons (11-5): I can't see Ryan, Jones, White, etc. missing the playoffs again. I can see Dan Quinn immediately bringing improvement to the defense, first by confidence, second by using schemes to take advantage of the talent they do have. But I won't be surprised if they win a lot of 34-31 games, something Quinn's not used to.

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): My surprise team of the NFC. Not a playoff team, but Winston gets them a couple of wins, and a healthy Doug Martin can be very dangerous.

3) New Orleans Saints (7-9): Where is the defense? The loss of Jimmy Graham isn't the issue.

4) Carolina Panthers (5-11): It will be a struggle this year for Cam Newton and the Panthers. Their defense takes a step back, and losing Kelvin Benjamin was 10 times worse for them than Green Bay losing Jordy Nelson.

1) Seattle Seahawks (12-4): Even without Kam Chancellor, the Seahawks find good players for that defense, which certainly proved me wrong in 2014. Russell Wilson doesn't strike me as a player who goes complacent now that he has the big contract, and if Fred Jackson stays healthy....he and Beast Mode are very good friends from their Buffalo days. Could easily be the best running combo in the league.

2) San Francisco 49ers (9-7): Everyone is writing off the 49ers. I think Jim Tomsula uses this a la Harbaugh (but not as ingratiating) and takes the "underdog" team to a better than expected season. Obviously, multiple players must step up defensively, but Torrey Smith is a good pickup and I'm hoping Tomsula allows Kaepernick to be himself. Run the read-option. Let him run. It got you to the Super Bowl three years ago, remember?

3) St. Louis Rams (6-10): Is this the last year for Jeff Fisher?  Is this the last year in St. Louis, period? This season could end up like "Cleveland 1995" if ownership isn't careful. Foles must stay healthy, and there's no one in the backfield healthy enough to scare me if I'm a DC.

4) Arizona Cardinals (4-12): Collapse. Carson Palmer becomes Carson Palmer again, Larry Fitzgerald is another year older. Changes on the defensive side don't help.

NFC EAST: Philadelphia
NFC NORTH: Green Bay
NFC SOUTH: Atlanta
NFC WEST: Seattle
WILD CARDS: Detroit, San Francisco

BYES: Green Bay, Seattle

Atlanta over San Francisco
Detroit over Philadelphia

Green Bay over Detroit

Seattle over Atlanta

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Green Bay over Seattle (payback....)

1) New England Patriots (11-5): They won't be as dominant as they were down the stretch last year, but they're certainly in the Super Bowl conversation. Until we see a definitive slip in Tom Brady, don't bet against him. How much do they miss Vince Wilfork?

2) Buffalo Bills (10-6): I think this is the year they return to the postseason. Tyrod Taylor manages the game, and if McCoy and Spiller stay healthy, they could run the ball down your throat, then let their defense do the rest. Time of possession is huge. Now, if the oft-injured aforementioned go out, flip the record. Or worse.

3) Miami Dolphins (7-9): They start well, and, as usual, nosedive after the leaves fall. Brief MVP talk for Tannehill in late September, followed by "bench him!" by early December. And that's it for Philbin....

4) New York Jets (4-12): I really like Todd Bowles. But this is just a mess. In fact, if the Redskins didn't exist, the Jets would be "team dysfunctional". I'm sorry, Jets fans.

1) Baltimore Ravens (10-6): A good final year for Steve Smith, another good season for Forsett, as he may be about to turn 30, but he has plenty of wear left on his tires. Add the always tough defense, and the Ravens survive the wars of the AFC North the best.

2) Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7): Big Ben isn't as big as last year, but he'll have a good season. It's all about the defense at Heinz Field this season. They rise and fall on their fortunes, or lack thereof.

3) Cincinnati Bengals (7-9): This is it for Marvin Lewis. Four playoff "one and dones" followed by missing the playoffs this year, and there's simply no justification to keep him after all these years, and chances. They need to sign AJ Green to eliminate distractions. And, as much as I like the guy, there will be calls to replace Andy Dalton before the year is out. Good news? Jeremy Hill will be a beast and become an elite NFL running back.

4) Cleveland Browns (6-10): Quick, name five important players! I said important, so that eliminates Manziel.  :)

1) Indianapolis Colts (13-3): Winner by default, sweep the division, best record in the NFL. They get Brady, Brees, and Peyton Manning all at home, only tough December game is at Pittsburgh.

2) Houston Texans (8-8): Bryan Hoyer will do reasonably well. Would've done better with Arian Foster starting Week 1. JJ Watt equals at least two wins on his own. They'll sweep Jacksonville and Tennessee.

3) Tennessee Titans (4-12): Rough first season for Marcus Mariota. Very few weapons. Gonna be a tough season.

4) Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13): They tie Washington for the worst record in the league, and still can't get the #1 pick in the draft. More coaching changes coming in 2016. Here's hoping Josh Wells gets healthy soon!! I do like TJ Yeldon at running back. They need him desperately, as Julius Thomas could be the biggest free agent bust of the year.

1) Kansas City Chiefs (10-6): Jamaal Charles wins the rushing title, Alex Smith continues to be somewhat underrated, and actually throws a TD pass to a wide receiver. I really like their defense. They need to win 20-17 games. They'll lose games that are 31-27.

2) San Diego Chargers (9-7): Circle October 12th. A win over Pittsburgh that night could clinch the #6 seed in the playoffs. Rivers is fine, Woodhead is fine, Melvin Gordon could compete for Rookie of The Year. But again, they'll be a team that needs to score 30 a game because their defense may allow 25 per game....

3) Denver Broncos (6-10): It finally happens. The quick decline of Peyton Manning is in 2015. Hate to see it, because history will judge him harshly for going 1-2 in Super Bowls while his rival, Tom Brady, went 4-2. No running game to speak of, and he can't chuck the ball 50 times a game anymore.

4) Oakland Raiders (5-11): Improvement for my favorite team, but if you can't win a few games in your division, it makes it hard to go 8-8. Carr was better than I thought, I was wrong about Mack, and I love Amari Cooper. But teams will double team him and dare Carr to go elsewhere, and we don't have a good second option.

AFC EAST: New England
AFC NORTH: Baltimore
AFC SOUTH: Indianapolis
AFC WEST: Kansas City
WILD CARDS: Buffalo, San Diego

BYES: Indianapolis, New England

San Diego over Baltimore
Kansas City over Buffalo

San Diego over Indianapolis
New England over Kansas City

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: New England over San Diego

SUPER BOWL 50: Green Bay 30, New England 24: Ha-Ha Clinton Dix deflects the game-winning touchdown in the final minute in a classic case of role reversal, and Aaron Rodgers holds Lombardi for the second time. Appropriate that the winner of Super Bowl I will take #50.

Enjoy the season! You now know, since I said this, it likely won't happen.  :) :)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Dusty Rhodes...

I'm sitting here decompressing from a brutally hot day of state tournament action, complete with an electrical storm with torrential rain, reminded of the sad news of Thursday as "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, aka Virgil Runnels, had passed away at age 69.

Knowing a bit about the professional wrestling lifestyle, and trying to help my son avoid as many of its pitfalls as possible, I can only imagine how many nights closed one bar while Ric Flair and the Four Horseman closed another because, God forbid they be seen "in public...if you will..." together, breaking kayfabe. Rhodes and Flair were killing each other earlier at the Coliseum, they cannot "wine and dine" at the Marriott afterwards.

Boy, was the business different back then. But for many of us in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, for a long time, Dusty Rhodes was a larger-than-life figure we saw mostly in Pro Wrestling Illustrated at Standard Drug Stores. He was mostly in Florida, then in Georgia on Georgia Championship Wrestling on TBS. That's where his legend really grew, then finally coming to the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1984, where he reset the bar for babyface promos.

Before him, you had some great babyfaces in the ring: Ricky Steamboat, Johnny Weaver, Wahoo McDaniel (who I also felt made a terrible heel when cast that way. He always seemed constipated to me), but no Dusty Rhodes.

In under two years, we knew about being the son of a plumber, about hard times, about wining and dining with kings and queens and also eating pork and beans.

Which brings me to my earliest memory of wrestling. 5pm Saturdays on WTVR-TV6. Saturday night was hot dog and baked beans night and we ate watching Rip Hawk, Swede Hanson, the Anderson Brothers and more.

But I digress. While in my top five talkers in wrestling history, Rhodes isn't number one. But he accomplished something no other wrestler, in my opinion, has ever done, and that is be the superstar babyface without a great physique, but compensating by connecting to the fans on the mic and in the ring like few have, or will ever do.

Rest in Peace Dusty. And thank you!

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Surreal Saturday.....

It's early Sunday morning as I get a chance to type this, trying to decompress from a myriad of emotions. This will be done in a stream of conscious matter, just allowing me to get out everything I continue to process.

--Prince George County, where I pastored for nine years, is devastated to learn of the death of a Royals senior who died en route to her graduation at the football field. I cannot imagine the heartbreak her family is enduring right now, and how in the world I could ever serve a family in that deep, deep level of sorrow.

--A 44-year old woman in Hanover that many of my friends knew is senselessly murdered. My heart breaks for her family, and my friends.

--My brother lost his mother-in-law today, as she suffered a massive stroke Friday and never regained consciousness. My heart breaks for my sister-in-law, as I know how it feels to lose your Mama, for my niece and grand-niece. My brother preaches on in the morning, and I agree with his decision. I preached 12 hours after my Mom passed. Had to. Totally therapeutic.

--I'm just sorry we cannot come and support our North Carolina family. Margaret's funeral will be on Rachel's graduation day. There's nothing that can be done about it. It is all in God's timing and He understands, and we trust in His handiwork. We will miss them, but we know how proud they are of Rachel, that is for sure.

--I was honored to officiate a beautiful wedding late this afternoon in Innsbrook as Lee Coe and Rebecca Windle became husband and wife. The weather held out well, the ring bearer and two flower girls, ALL of whom were TWO, played their parts perfectly! I tripped up a couple of times (yes, ministers get nervous, too!), and their sand ceremony was the best I've seen. What a work of art, and great representation of two becoming one. I asked the Lord to hold off the rain until after 7pm. As I left around 7:15, the rain began.

--Off I went to Deep Run as Clover Hill and Douglas Freeman was in a rain delay. I arrived for what would be the final five innings of a ten-inning game that, actually, had already been decided. Clover Hill would score a run in the sixth, Freeman would answer, then we stayed tied until the tenth when Clover Hill scratched one across, then ended things to win 2-1 and clinch a 5A State Tournament berth.

--Only it wouldn't happen. Douglas Freeman filed a protest mid-game about their opponents using a pitcher one inning too long per VHSL rules. I get home, do some dishes, reload Twitter and it has exploded with questions about the protest. I work and work to confirm it independently. I talk w/a local TV station. Finally, we went with a confirmation just after midnight.

--I have a great interview with two elated Clover Hill players, including the one who scored the winning run. The video now stays on my phone. I am so, so disappointed for the Cavaliers, who have to be devastated that in, maybe an hour's time, they went from jubilation to the news that their season was over. Reporting that news is a part of my craft I do not enjoy.

--I also don't like goodbyes. So as news came that both Hanover and Glen Allen softball lost their Region Semifinal games in Tidewater today, I thought of great seniors whose careers are now over. Specifically, I think of Eryn King, Hanover second baseman, who never failed to yell, "HI ROB!" when she would see me approach the diamond on game day as she practiced or warmed up. Hanover softball won't be the same without her. Our loss is VCU's gain.

--Oh, and today was the 30th anniversary of my high school graduation. Standing in Monroe Park across from what was then "The Mosque" in 1985, I can remember a moment standing there, asking myself where would I be, what would I be doing in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years....

--The answer to the "30 years" question is now laid out before you. Some days pack so much in, it may take a day or two to simply process it. And I'd better do it quickly.

Because Tuesday's coming. And I gotta be on my "A" game when my baby walks across the stage at Siegel and gets that diploma.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Thank You Dave.....

I've only attended two television tapings in my nearly 48 years. 

On June 16, 1983, me, my Dad and my brother-in-law Dave got in line in "beautiful downtown Burbank" and witnessed the maestro. It was "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson". His guest that night was Robin Williams. You cannot imagine. The comedy during the commercial breaks was unbelievable.

There it was, the stage, Doc, Ed, the orchestra, Johnny's famous desk. I saw the magic work before my very eyes. At just shy of my 16th birthday, it was nothing short of a phenomenon.

Late night television had a profound effect on me, my attempt at wit, my philosophy on humor (I'm a huge proponent. Jim Valvano was so right: laugh every day. A good laugh, too.) The summer before my trip to California, my weeknight viewing consisted of Benny Hill at 11pm, Johnny Carson at 11:30, then David Letterman at 12:30. 

Ah, David Letterman. 

Now, I can honestly count myself as among the few to loyally watch his ill-fated morning talk show in the summer of 1980. Our Richmond affiliate never aired it, opting for the "Good Morning Movie". So I'd have to run outside, twist the ground-based antenna to the north so I could pick up, with snowy success, WRC-TV Channel 4 in Washington, who did air the program.

Edwin Newman had news updates during the show. Let that sink in for a moment. Want to see one? CLICK HERE.

Alas, it didn't last long, but NBC realized what didn't work at 10am would do pretty well at 12:30am. And here came Dave.

I forget the pundit who said this recently, but as Carson was the quintessential talk show host, Letterman was the "anti-host". He literally turned a genre that had been dominated since its inception for decades by Allen, Paar, Carson, Griffin, Douglas, tore it apart, and rebuilt it from a different set of eyes. And, for me, watching comedy from this prism was mesmerizing.

Example: Out of nowhere, cue an idyllic scene that reminds you of "The Sound of Music", then start that song, but when you get to "Muuu---sssiicccc!", cut to a shot of a stick of butter and have long-time announcer Bill Wendell growl, "Buuuuttttteeeerrrrrrrrrr!". 

Simple. Brilliant. Capable of inducing doubled-over laughter. I was 14 when Late Night premiered. Watching Letterman during my high school years was gold.

Chris Elliot screaming out of the studio. Asking the person at the laundry mat to overfill all the washers with detergent. Oh, and, back to the "The David Letterman Show" for a second, the wedding reception whose last scene was people using fire extinguishers to stop tons of petals that were released but caught fire due to some snafu, all as the credits rolled and the hired band played on.

David Letterman is the very definition of "surreal".

Which is why Dave didn't get "The Tonight Show", though he most certainly deserved it. NBC wanted safe. Traditional. Leno could give you a "Carson-like" performance. NBC wasn't ready for Dave, even after having him for over a decade. He also wasn't a "company guy" (right, GE? Like, you couldn't accept a lousy welcoming gift??).

So, for many people for whom Letterman was their cup of tea, there will always be the shots. Leno beat him, Letterman isn't funny, and, in later years, Letterman is old and bitter.

I'll agree with the latter. I've gone through long periods without a Dave fix. His final years at NBC were part of that "bitter" stage, but could you blame him? It was going to affect his comedy, that should have been a given.

I left Dave, very disappointed, again several years back when his political joking just became downright rude. He should have stuck with his mentor's stand on that issue. Johnny Carson dished it out evenly for decades. Letterman couldn't hide his far-left beliefs. 

I figure if Dave and I ever met for lunch, we couldn't talk 20 seconds about politics, but we would likely spend 20 hours on life, comedy, and observing the human condition.

But there are things about me my own wife doesn't care for, yet, she's still beside me tonight as I write this, patiently waiting for me to scratch her back.  :)

So, despite his flaws, and we all have them, I've chosen to look at all the comedy brilliance he's provided me for 35 years these past few weeks, and I've squeezed every moment out of his final broadcasts.

Man. What I'll remember from Late Night and The Late Show.....

---Jane Pauley on helium
---The rotating screen show
---Larry "Bud" Melman (especially his opening of the first CBS show, busting through the center of the "Eye" to proclaim, "This is CBS!")
---The suit of Alka-Seltzer
---The fastest grocery bagger
---Jay Thomas' Holiday Football Challenge
---Sue Hum
---Racing through the Rockefeller Plaza hallways
---The "water sprayer" along 53rd Street
---Rupert Jee (I ate at his deli. DELICIOUS!)
---Top 10 things that sound cool when sung by an opera singer
---Top 10 things that sound cool when sung by Barry White
---And pretty much every Top 10
---Wahoo, Nebraska
---The two original members of the "World's Most Dangerous Band": Paul Shaffer and Will Lee
---Every word Paul ever uttered to add the punch to the monologue that Ed McMahon did for Johnny
---TV's and Watermelons thrown off the roof
---Viewer Mail
---The revival of "Stump The Band"
---Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler
---Any trip to a drive-through
---"And DOWN the stretch they come!!"
---The Late Night Monkey Cam
---The 9/11 Monologue
---Having his doctors and nurses on his first show after heart bypass surgery
---Jamming the Jamba Juice across the street with superheroes
---Biff Henderson (especially reporting from any sporting event)
---Pies with Dave's Mom
---The Olympics with Dave's Mom
---Frankly, anything with Dave's Mom

and, of course, "Will It Float??" (based on the British game, "Is it Buoyant?")

There's so much more. Dave tapped a side of comedy not seen in 1980 on television, just as my generation was coming of age. The combination and timing couldn't have been more perfect.

I do hope he finally finds some peace in his "retirement", whatever that may consist of. I suspect he'll spend, and cherish, lots of time with his son Harry. He will find much more life value there than in any spat with a woman with just one name (Cher, Oprah, Madonna)...

And I'm just glad I got to experience that other television taping, when, on August 25, 2008, my wife and I entered the Ed Sullivan Theater for the Late Show. I had to be the most animated fan in the crowd that day. 

So I don't need to be at another TV taping. Carson, then Letterman. What in the world could be better than that?

I leave you with my all-time favorite Top Ten list, from his first week on CBS. Again, simple, but brilliant, and Dave being Dave, willing to share in the comedy, as the master of the countdown, Casey Kasem, pays a call.