The Satire Chronicles Vol. 5: A Christmas Miracle

By Aaron Weiss

 According to several sources, a potential Christmas film based on the story of the Cleveland Browns week 16 victory over the San Diego Chargers, their first of the 2016 season, was scrapped after produces, actors, directors, audiences, critics, Clevelanders, Santa Claus, Football God, and Hue Jackson all declared it to be “too unrealistic.”

 The story was originally going to follow starting QB Robert Griffin III, in what would be a redemption story after his deflating exit from Washington, but after the Browns lost Griffin early in the year and went on to use 6 different QBs, re-shoots were put in place to make coach Hue Jackson the star, which was a turnoff to test audiences, who felt Jackson had the charisma of drywall.

 Furthermore, audiences questioned how an 0-14 team could realistically win a game where the opponent produced 100+ more yards of offense, recorded nine sacks, and somehow managed to miss two field goals, one of which was blocked.

 “It just didn’t make sense,” one audience member noted.

 While all hope for this film is basically lost, one producer remains hopeful.

 “I think this story has lots of potential,” Kevin Costner commented. “It’s incredibly emotional, and could fit right in with the story-line of the hugely successful film ‘Draft Day’.”

 Coster further went on to add, “I think this could be the start of a Cleveland Browns film franchise, an in depth look into this multifaceted team with it’s complex GM, Sonny Weaver. It needs a title, and I’m juggling between ‘Draft Day 2: The Draftening’, or ‘The Miracle on Draft Day’. I’ll let you know when we’ve settled on a title, and producers, a director, and an entire film crew!”

 While this project may never come to fruition, many critics have high hopes for a new sequel to the Nightmare Before Christmas, current in pre-production, titled ‘The Nightmare Before Playoffs: Attack of the Fibula.”

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: New York Giants, Week 16

By Aaron Weiss

The New York Giants could not survive the short week on the road, losing to the Eagles 24-19. Let’s break down the game, examine the playoff implications, and look ahead to the last week of the regular season!

The Good:

Paul Perkins – In a depressing showing across the board, Perkins continues to shine, showing us flashes of his ability for when he inevitably replaces Rashad Jennings (who had a respectable day in his own right). He carried 15 times for 68 yards, averaging 4.5 yards a carry, and he also added a 9 yard reception on 2 targets. While this offense drowned in the amount of passing attempts (63 attempts were a career high for Eli Manning), it was not due to an ineffective rushing attack, but rather a dramatic increase in the time of possession (the Giants’ held the ball for 34+ minutes, a season high).

Victor Cruz – Vic had caught 5 passes in the previous 6 games, essentially becoming a decoy for OBJ and Sterling Shepard, and falling on the depth chart behind rookie Roger Lewis. However, this week, on the site of his 2014 season ending injury that kept him off the field until this season, he caught a whopping 8 catches on 13 targets for 84 yards. On a day where Jim Schwartz’s defense continually played Cover 2 defense to avoid a gamebreakinig play by Odell Beckham, Cruz jumped into the spotlight, continually making excellent plays on first and third down, including a sweet 29 yard catch. In what will probably be his last year as a Giant, this was the highlight of a bittersweet year.

Robbie Gould – On a day where the Giants could not get into the end zone, scoring a TD only once in a whopping 5 red zone trips, Gould, who was a mid-season replacement for the suspended domestic abuser Josh Brown, nailed all 4 of his field goals, plus the one extra point, keeping the Giants in the game until the very end.

Trevin Wade – Star CB Janoris Jenkins was held out on the short week with a back injury, which thrusted Wade into the starting lineup. He had been ranging from mediocre to awful in his other showings this year (and in general). However, in a game where he was definitely a target for the Eagles’ offense, he stepped up big time, recording 3 tackles and a pass defended, plus a 85.9 PFF grade and two incredible plays, one a fantastic open field tackle on a third down screen where the Giants were beat, and one a deflection on a deep pass from Carson Wentz. While it may not have paid dividends with a W, this secondary did well in JJ’s absence.

The Bad:

Pass Protection – While Eli threw an incredible number of passes, and he wasn’t sacked despite that, he was still pressured on way too many attempts. According to PFF he was pressured 19 times and hit 10 times, which, combined with his sloppy play, led to a very jumpy Eli.

Will Tye – Tye finished with a tolerable 5 receptions for 23 yards on 8 targets, although the 2.9 average yards per target is clearly awful. However, the Giants’ last offensive play was a pseudo-hail mary to Tye, and he didn’t even attempt to try to contend to grab the ball, allowing Terrence Brooks to make the interception. He doesn’t qualify for the ugly section as he isn’t exactly a wide receiver, he isn’t designed to make deep catches, and I imagine that his decision to not contend had some logic behind it. I suspect as someone who doesn’t do that sort of route running, he thought that if he stopped to contend the catch (and did so successfully) the clock would run out before the Giants would score, and therefore he naively thought it’d be better to catch it while falling backwards. Still, Tye admitted he needed to do better in those situations and I imagine he’ll work on it going forward.

The Ugly:

Eli Manning – In his defense, he did throw for the 3rd most yards this season (for him), he did complete a tolerable 60% of his passes, and he attempted a career high 63 passes. However, he threw 1 touchdown to 3 picks, 2 of which were entirely on Eli (the Tye pick wasn’t as much), and he continually threw bad passes. He wasn’t throwing spirals and his receivers continually had to contort their bodies to make catches, at the expense of yards after the catch. The numbers look better than he performed on the field, and the lack of protection didn’t help, but if Eli was a little more collected and a little more savvy the Giants win this game, even if they still started in a 14-0 hole.

Reffing – There were a few bad calls and non calls throughout the game. Most significantly, a bad roughing the passer penalty on Eli Apple, which the Eagles piggybacked off of to score a 40 yard TD on the next play, and no pass interference was called on a 4th and 6 that would’ve resulted in a 1st down.

John Jerry – 3 of the Giants’ 5 penalties were on the offensive line (the other two were roughing the passer), and two of the 3 o-line penalties were on Justin Pugh (holding) and Brett Jones (false start). However, the most egregious penalty of the night belonged to John Jerry. As the Giants were driving down the field with 2 minutes left in the game, down 5, the Giants ended up being stuck at 4th and 1 due to a well called challenge by the Eagles. The Giants had already notched 3 first downs on the drive and looked really good, and it was clear on 4th down that the Giants were going to run the ball and attempt a hard count beforehand. And yet the only one fooled by the hard count was Jerry, who jumped, causing a false start. This killed all the Giants’ momentum, pushed them back to 4th and 6, and led to a turnover on downs on an incomplete pass to Sterling Shepard (that should’ve been called for defensive pass interference). In most cases that would’ve killed all of the Giants’ chances, and in this case they still received an opportunity afterwards, but given that required the Giants to go 85 yards in 90 seconds with only one timeout, Jerry’s penalty basically ended the game. These sorts of miscues will doom the Giants in the playoffs, and they’ll need to get their acts together if they wish to succeed.

 

Injuries – DT Damon Harrison was the only Giant who was hurt in the game, with a knee injury, but he later returned. The Eagles lost Ryan Mathews for the season with a neck injury, as well as Allen Barbre and Jaylen Watkins for the game.

NFC East Standings – With this loss the Cowboys clinched the division and the 1 seed in the NFC. The Giants fell to 10-5 and the Eagles climbed to 6-9. Dallas, 12-2, faces Detroit on Monday Night Football, and Washington dominated the Bears to go to 8-6-1.

While the Giants can no longer win the division, they did clinch a the 5th seed in the NFC this week with Tampa Bay losing to New Orleans. It’s their first playoff berth since 2011, the last time the Giants won the Super Bowl. This means the Giants will face the 4 seed in the wildcard round.

As for the other seeds, Atlanta will clinch the 2 seed with a win next week, Detroit would clinch if Atlanta loses and they win out (against Dallas this week and Green Bay the next), and Seattle clinches if Atlanta loses, they win, and Detroit doesn’t win out.

The 3 and 4 seeds will be split by the two odd teams out for the 2 seed, plus Green Bay if Detroit doesn’t get the 2 seed. This means the Giants will open the playoffs against one of Green Bay, Detroit, Atlanta, or Seattle, whichever gets that 4th seed. If you’re a Giants fan you have to pray that Detroit is the one to nab the 4 seed.

The only other potential contender in the NFC is Washington, who could clinch the 6th seed if they beat the Giants and either Detroit or Green Bay loses out. Considering my pick for the Washington game below, I don’t like Washington’s odds.

NFC East Seed predictions:

  1. Dallas (already secured 1st seed and division)
  2. Atlanta (clinched divison)
  3. Seattle (clinched division)
  4. Green Bay
  5. New York (clinched 5th seed)
  6. Detroit

Next Week – The Giants’ play their last game of the regular season against Washington, in Washington. In week 3 the Giants recorded their only home loss on the season against Washington, 29-27, in a game that the Giants should’ve won, but let slip away. Additionally, it was the beginning of an early season down spiral for Odell Beckham, as Josh Norman got into his head (although Odell beat Norman in the matchup statistically and on the field). While it is possible for the Giants to blow it on the road in what is a meaningless game, the G-Men seem to play best when they are in a “prove it” mode, and after losing two of their last four, there is still doubt around the league about the legitimacy of the Giants as a playoff team, and I imagine the Giants will go out with that “prove it” attitude. While it’ll be close, as all Giant games are, I think the Giants end the regular season with a W.

Prediction – Giants wins 24-18

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: New York Giants, Week 13

By Aaron Weiss

The New York Giants win streak came to an end, falling to the Steelers in an ugly 24-14 loss. Let’s break down what went wrong, and look forward to next week’s marquee matchup!

The Good:

Eli Apple/Rookies – The defense as a whole did a fairly admirable job up until the game was truly out of reach, barring one noticeable exception (more on that later). However, the rookie Eli Apple deserves special recognition, notching a season high 2 passes defended, his first fumble recovery, and his first career interception, on a stunning play against Steelers WR Eli Rogers. It was his best performance on the year, leaps and bounds ahead of what we’ve previously seen, and it highlights his potential to match and exceed his 1st round draft position.

Additionally, fellow rookies Paul Perkins and Sterling Shepard made their presence known (and to a lesser extent Andrew Adams, Jerell Adams, Romeo Okwara & Roger Lewis) throughout. Perkins was far better than Rashad Jennings running the ball (although Perkins has no receiving presence yet, whereas Jennings ranked 2nd on the team with 6 catches), averaging 5.4 yards a carry, including an 18 yard rush where Perkins juked the soul out of Stephon Tuitt. Likewise, Shepard still needs work, as he only caught 4 of his 8 targets, but he converted a touchdown and was Manning’s 1st option throughout the first half when Odell was being effectively suppressed by the Steelers’ defense. Shepard also had a nice 21 yard catch negated by a holding penalty on John Jerry.

Antonio Brown – Antonio recorded 6 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown, marking one of his weaker performances this year. It was his 2nd worst performance by yards per catch, 4th worst in total catches, and 3rd worst in yards. Janoris Jenkins and the Giants’ secondary did a good job suppressing him. The only mistake was Brown’s 22 yard touchdown catch, a play on which Leon Hall broke his assignment of doubling Brown, and then Janoris got turned around just enough allow Brown to make an incredible catch in the back of the end zone. All in all, despite that touchdown, it was an admirable effort by the Giants to force Ben Roethlisberger to look elsewhere.

Discipline – The Steelers’ offense only entered the Red Zone once, and they only came away with a field goal. Despite almost 400 yards of Steelers offense, the Giants’ defense did a great job forcing Roethlisberger to go full gunslinger, an ability he is unfortunately quite skilled at. Additionally, the Giants only recorded 4 penalties, which juxtaposed with the Steelers 12 penalties deserves recognition. Unfortunately 2 of those penalties were due to the same man (more on him later).

The Bad:

Eli Manning – Eli played one of the worst games of his season, notching his 2nd worst passer rating, his worst QBR, and his worst average yards on the year. He also tied his season worst with two interceptions, one of which was a 4th down prayer that, considering the low percentage option, is mainly forgivable, and another where Eli made a terrible throw, missing an opportunity to throw a touchdown to Larry Donnell by failing to notice Lawrence Timmons and throwing a very short ball. Three plays after the Timmons pick the Steelers scored a touchdown, turning what should’ve been a 7-5 Giants lead into an 11-0 deficit, a difference the Giants’ couldn’t overcome. Eli was panicky and fidgety, missing several open players, and throwing some atrocious passes, such as a brutal short miss to Will Tye on 3rd and 3, forcing the Giants’ to punt. He’s Eli, and he’ll rebound, especially against a weak Dallas defense next week, but this performance was all too familiar to Giants’ fans.

The Red Zone – In a game the Giants lost by 10 points, the G-Men only converted TD’s twice on four red zone opportunities. As previously mentioned, Eli Manning threw a pick in one circumstance, and in the other the G-Men failed to convert on 4th and 1 on the 3 yard line, as Will Tye failed to reel in a short pass over the middle in tight coverage. In a game like this, the victor is decided by a few key plays, and this week the Giants’ couldn’t produce.

The Ugly:

Ladarius Green – Green recorded catches of 9, 10, 20 and 37 yards, all on third down and all moving the chains. The 20 yarder was a touchdown, where Landon Collins bit on a fake bubble screen, allowing Green to fly right by him and score untouched. Green also had a 33 yard catch. He was a game breaker, destroying the Giants’ efforts against Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. The Giants’ have always been weakest at linebacker, and for the most part it showed, as more often than not Green lined up against Keenan Robinson or Jonathan Casillas. The Giants’ have been burned by TE’s all year (Zach Miller, Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz, Kyle Rudolph, Jason Witten, etc.), and considering New York hasn’t fixed this problem throughout the year, look for Dallas to exploit this weakness with Giants killer Jason Witten next week.

Ereck Flowers – Although Jerry Reese’s draft record has improved in recent memory, Flowers is redlining, and looking like another one of Resse’s busts. He gave up two of the Giants’ four penalties, one of which, a holding in the end zone, resulted in a safety. He was beaten time and time again against the Steelers, making Eli incredibly panicky, and disrupting too many plays. He was responsible for 8 of the 12 pressures the Giants’ o-line gave up, and he was Pro Football Focus’ third worst player on the week. Flowers’ now has 11 penalties on the season, tied for the most among NFL o-lineman, and his 7 holding penalties is most in the NFL. He’s PFF’s 62nd ranked tackle out of 77. This year has been a roller coaster for Flowers, but this week was an all time low. If he can’t turn it around then former starter Will Beatty, who was a top 5 tackle in his prime, is waiting in the wings.

 

Injuries – The Giants’ lost three players in the game. DE Jason Pierre-Paul missed the 2nd half with a groin injury, DB Coty Sensabaugh also missed the 2nd half with a chest injury, and DT Johnathan Hankins was removed from the game with a thigh injury. While none appeared to be overly troublesome, especially for starters JPP and Hankins, the status of these players for next week is unknown.

NFC East Standings – Dallas won their 11th straight, squeaking by the Vikings, but Washington lost to Arizona and Philly to Cincinnati. This means Dallas is 11-1, and owners of a playoff berth, the Giants are 2nd at 8-4, Washington is 3rd at 6-5-1, and Philly is last at 5-7. At this point the only chance the Giants’ have of winning the NFC East is if they beat Dallas next week and Dallas loses at least 3 of their last 4 games, an unlikely scenario. On the wildcard front, the Giants retain the 5th seed, staying a game ahead of 6th seed Tampa and a game and a half over Washington.

Next Week – The Giants’ play the game of the season (or at least their season), facing off against Dallas in New York on Sunday night. The Giants won their last matchup 20-19, but Dallas has evolved, winning out since. This is a must-win if the Giants’ want to win the NFC East, and an emotional must win to avoid a 0-2 streak and losing their wildcard safety net going into the final stretch. While my head says Dallas is more complete, and they are, the fact remains that Dallas has no pass rush, and the Giants’ defense, especially the run defense, is one of, if not the best Dallas has faced this year. If the Giants’ can emulate their defensive performance Week One, or Minnesota’s defensive performance last week, the Giants can win. This insane optimism, combined with the fact that the Giants are 5-1 at MetLife this year, means I’m going to give them the season changing victory, but don’t be surprised if Dallas secures their 12th straight win.

Prediction – Giants wins 14-10

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: New York Giants, Week 12

By Aaron Weiss

The New York Giants finally broke the 7 point curse, beating the Cleveland Browns 27-13. Let’s break down the game and look towards Week 12!

The Good:

Jason Pierre-Paul – While I could laud the defense as a whole, as they probably deserve, there is no doubt that JPP deserves special distinction for his play on Sunday. He recorded 7 tackles, a game high 3 sacks (the team had 7), 4 tackles for loss, 4 QB hits, and a beautiful fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. The touchdown was set up by DT Johnathan Hankins knocking the ball away from Cleveland QB Josh McCown. JPP was a force on the line, causing a 3rd down sack to start the 4th quarter & the game ending strip sack, among other things. This game was his best of the year, a tour de force, and he’s now had 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in the last two games, after only recording 1.5 sacks and a fumble over the 9 preceding games. With his play matching his talent, in a contract year, he should be paid handsomely by the Giants or another suitor.

Odell Beckham Jr. – He did only connect on 6 of his 11 targets, but he also notched 96 yards and two touchdowns, including a key 32 yard TD on a shallow crossing route to give the Giants a 14-3 lead just before half (although the Browns scored a FG with time expiring). He also had a beautiful 59 yard touchdown on a punt return that was nullified by offensive holding. It’s a little distressing that 73 of Odell’s 96 yards came on two plays, but nonetheless, he was impressive in his two touchdown showing.

Brad Wing – The Giants punted on a whopping 9 of their 13 drives (12 if we exclude the victory formations to end the game), and 5 of those punts ended up within the 20 yard line. Three of them ended up inside or at the 5 yard line, excepting the muffed punt by Bobby Rainey, the Browns never received the ball past their own 37, and that 37 yard starting point was after a whopping 56 yard punt. For all the troubles the Giants had continuing offensive drives, it was Wing who ensured the Browns had to spend extended time with the ferocious Giants D.

The Bad:

Terrelle Pryor – Terrelle Pryor has been a top 10 receiver this year, and yet Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins decided it wise to call out Pryor before the game. Jenkins said he didn’t see Pryor as a challenge, as he was “another receiver” and “just big”. Landon said that Pryor “only has some height over [Jenkins].” Pyror seemed to take this rather well, scorching the Giants for 6 catches on 12 targets for 131 yards, including a 54 yard catch. Granted Pryor’s best work came either in zone coverage or against rookie CB Eli Apple, but nonetheless Jenkins attacks before and after the game fell flat after Pryor’s performance. If you’re going to roast a guy, keep it tactful.

Sterling Shepard – After collecting a touchdown in each of the past three games, and putting up either 50 yards or 5 catches in each, Sterling went ahead and roasted the Browns defense for 0 yards. On 0 catches. On 0 targets. While he did drop 22 yards on an end around rush that was the Giants’ longest run of the game, Shepard was nonexistent in the passing attack (and that 22 yarder was his only touch of the game). While this almost qualifies as ugly, not just bad, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that this is an odd aberration. He had 6 targets in each of the nine games prior to this one, so look for him to rebound against the Steelers.

The Ugly:

Penalties – After weeks of impeccable self-control, the Giants looked like the Raiders, dropping 9 penalties for 100 yards. This included a holding penalty on Ereck Flowers and a false start on Bobby Hart on back to back plays to ruin a drive that started at the 50 yard line, a 35 yard pass interference penalty on Eli Apple (covering Terrelle Pryor), defensive holding on Trevin Wade that turned what would’ve been 4th and 8 (and a 56 yard FG) into 1st and 10 and an eventual FG as time expired in the 2nd quarter, and holding on Mark Herzlich that nullified a 59 yard punt return touchdown from Odell Beckham. More than perhaps anything else, the Giants’ lack of discipline kept this game feeling much closer than the score indicated, and with an unspectacular offense or special teams, there is no way the Giants’ contend with the top teams in the league if they are this careless.

Bobby Rainey – Bobby Rainey sucked. He did have two kickoffs of 25 and 26 yards, which is respectable. But on three punt returns in the 1st half, he had his first return of 10 yards nullified by an invalid fair catch signal on his part, he managed a meh 7 yards on his second return, and he muffed a punt on his third, which, due to impeccable defense, only led to a field goal. He was removed from punt return duty in the 2nd half, with Odell Beckham taking his place. It was an atrocious showing, and probably not indicative of his skills as a returner in general. But it would not be surprising if the Giants take the injury risk and have Odell replace Rainey permanently.

 

Injuries – Odell Beckham hurt his thumb in the first quarter, but he appears to be unaffected in any long term way. CB Eli Apple left the game in the 4th quarter after cramping, but he should be fine. S Nat Berhe suffered a concussion in the second quarter, and his status for next week is unclear. Considering he missed four games earlier in the year with a concussion, there’s a chance he fails to see the field for the rest of the regular season. LB Mark Herzlich also suffered a concussion, and his status for next week is unknown. Finally, DE Owa Odighizuwa injured his left knee and left the game in the 2nd quarter, only to later return, and KR/WR Dwayne Harris was off of special teams duty due to a variety of injuries, but he did record his first catch and touchdown on the season. Whether or not he returns to special teams duty next week is unclear.

In the long term, RB Shane Vereen is supposedly targeting a return from his torn triceps on December 11, against the Cowboys, but Coach McAdoo only commented “We’ll wait and see,” so it’s unclear if he’ll make a return this year at all. The O-line remains banged up, as Adam Gettis became the fourth player to start at LG against the Browns. McAdoo says he doesn’t know if starter Justin Pugh (knee) or backups Brett Jones (calf) or Marshall Newhouse (knee) will be able to practice this week. Going forward look to this O-line to remain a rotating, somewhat porous unit starring whoever is healthy.

NFC East Standings – Dallas won their 10th straight game against Washington on Thanksgiving, establishing a 10 game streak for the first time in franchise history. The Eagles play tonight against the Packers. Ergo the Giants remain in 2nd place in the division at 8-3. The Giants currently have a solid lock on the 5th seed in the NFC, with a game and a half lead on Washington, who has the 6th seed, and 2 games ahead of the next contenders (Tampa Bay, Minnesota, potentially Philadelphia). With a quarter of the season left, the Giants’ playoff fate is entirely in their hands.

Next Week – The Giants travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers, who get a long week after cruising past an Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts. The Steelers are 6-5 and are tied for 1st in their division, alongside the Baltimore Ravens. While the Steelers have won back to back games, they were against the Browns and, as previously mentioned, a Luck-less Colts, and they lost the four games prior to the Dolphins, Patriots, Ravens, and Cowboys. Their only particularly good win was a week 4 thrashing of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers’ offense is explosive, ranking 7th in pass yards, but their defense is mediocre, and I expect the Giants’ 3rd ranked defense (based on total yards) to lead the Giants to yet another victory.

Prediction – Giants wins 21-17

 

New York Jets Report: Quarterback Edition

By Alexander Lawrence

As a Jets fan you are more than likely not too happy with their record of 3-7 this season. In what has been a disappointing season we saw the Jets begin to evaluate what they have at the quarterback position. Here are some of the top New York Jets stories involving the QB situation for the remainder of this season and going forward.

The Savior…Bryce Petty?
Like most Jets fan, myself included, we were all hoping for a sign that this season isn’t a complete waste to watch. When it was announced last Sunday morning that Ryan Fitzpatrick would not start, the Jets put the team in the untested hands of former Baylor QB Bryce Petty. I was excited to see what Petty had to offer in his first career NFL start. Boy was it a start to remember. The former Baylor QB threw his first NFL touchdown pass on a huge 99 yard drive. To say that drive got Jet fans excited would be an understatement. Memorable huh? But he did also have the interception that ended the game and led the Rams past the Jets, 9-6. It is important to note Petty had a stat line that was pedestrian (19/32 for 163 yards with a TD & INT) but I do believe that Petty is worth a look at to see if he can develop into a good quarterback. Don’t be surprised to see Petty under center more this season if not the rest of the season. If he plays well enough he may very well be the signal caller next season.

Fitzmagic on his way out the door?
Ryan Fitzpatrick is on a one-year deal and his performance and age aren’t going to force Jets GM Mike Maccagnan into resigning Fitz this time around. Over the offseason you saw all of Jets nation begging for Fitz to come back after his excellent season. That feels so long ago. Fitzpatrick doesn’t seem to be an option for the Jets past 2016, in fact he may never play another down for the Jets. With the bye week this week, it does give him time to heal for the Week 12 contest against the Patriots. I do firmly believe the organization and fan base are ready to move on and see what Petty and Hackenberg have. I think Fitz will be a fine backup for another team not named the New York Jets.

Tony Romo to the Big Apple?
Jerry Jones has named Tony Romo the backup QB to rookie Dak Prescott. Cue Tony Romo as the next QB to start for Gang Green. A lot of fans and experts are expecting Romo to be cut or traded this offseason. Romo is more than likely done in Dallas as a starting QB and will look to find a new home. No one can deny the success Romo has had in his career despite injury. He’d be a huge upgrade for the Jets and most importantly their receiving corps would love him too if he stays healthy. The Jets would be wise to send over an offer or two for Romo as the fan base is desperate for a new QB. If the Jets do go this route expect Romo to start and thrive immediately based off the talent on offense.

Hack-A-Smith
Christian Hackenberg and Geno Smith don’t seem to be in the mix of potential starters next year if you ask me. Hackenberg has done nothing to this point. Literally. He’s been a non-factor and we knew from the beginning it’d be a redshirt year for him to fix his mechanics. He may be the future, but not for 2017. Geno Smith is not going to be a Jet next year. His season ended on a torn ACL in his only start of the season and didn’t make it out of one half! There is no way that Geno Smith is in the plans for the Jets going forward.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: New York Giants, Week 11

By Aaron Weiss

The New York Giants escaped a trap game against the Chicago Bears, clawing their way to a 22-16 victory. Let’s break down the game and look towards Week 12!

The Good:

Ben McAdoo – This was Coach McAdoo’s best game to date, making several key decisions to get the Giants the win. Larry Donnell was again a healthy scratch, moving him out of the rotation in favor of Will Tye and Jerrell Adams. Also, Leon Hall was a healthy scratch, allowing a fully healthy secondary of DRC, Eli Apple, and Janoris Jenkins to hold down the CB positions. Furthermore, out of the gate, McAdoo was incredibly aggressive, going for two fourth down conversions and nailing both. It looked like something I would do in Madden. His play calling was impeccable, his sense of when to kick a field goal or punt or go for it, and his adjustments in the 2nd half turned around the game on defense. He was fantastic, and flashed his amazing potential as a head coach.

Eli Manning – Eli both avoided being sacked, and he didn’t throw a pick. He notched a respectable 227 yards and two touchdowns while completing 58% of his passes. He did a quality job of picking apart a defense that loaded up on stopping Odell Beckham, dishing to 8 different receivers. He was consistent and played safely and securely. He should flourish next week against the Browns.

Rashad Jennings – Last week we praised the run game for breaking 100 yards, but this week they did the same, and were incredibly more impactful, all due to Rashad Jennings. Jennings rushed 21 times for 85 yards, averaging 4 yards a rush. He also notched a touchdown, plus 5 catches on 6 targets for another 44 yards. The Giants ran an incredible amount of plays from the shotgun, giving Eli the option to run draw plays or pass, and it was Rashad’s ability early to both establish the run and his ability to be a check down option that opened up the defense for Eli and the passing offense. After back to back quality showings perhaps the run game is coming into its’ own.

The 2nd Half – The Giants shutout the Bears in the 2nd half, turning the momentum of the game with back to back touchdowns to start the half. Granted, as per usual, the Giants had difficulty closing out the game. 5 of the Bears 7 drives in the 2nd half were three and outs, with one missed FG and one interception to seal the game. All four of the Giants’ sacks came in the 2nd half. The defense was night and day between the two halves, and it was the beautiful shutdown D in the 2nd that won the Giants the game.

The Bad:

The 1st Half – While the Giants did score 9 points in the first half, they got beat in all three facets of the game. Zach Miller dominated the Giants up until he hurt himself. Jay Cutler was impressive. Olivier Vernon had a bad roughing the passer penalty, and the Giants had 12 men on the field on the goal line for the Bears’ second touchdown. The defense had immense difficulty stopping the Bears’ offense, and it wasn’t until the 2nd half that the Giants really turned it around.

Odell Beckham Jr. – Bad is a strong term to apply here, especially considering how he was double covered all day, which in turn led to Eli getting open looks elsewhere, but 5 for 46 on 7 targets was out of the norm. More importantly he made two key mental errors, losing the opportunity to gain a 1st down on a 3rd & 4 early in the 4th quarter by attempting to make a bigger play, and coughing up the ball on the next drive later in the quarter. Fortunately for him, the Bears failed to capitalize on his lack of situational awareness, and the fumble he coughed up flew harmlessly out of bounds. Nonetheless, look for him to rebound against the Browns.

The Ugly:

Robbie Gould – The NFL suffered more missed XPs this week than they did the entirety of last year, and Gould contributed to this, missing two of his three XPs. It was a particularly windy day, and there was clearly a kicking bug this week around the league, including on the other side of the ball, with Connor Barth missing one FG and one XP. But the two missed XPs meant that had Chicago scored a touchdown on their final drive they would’ve had the opportunity to hit the XP for the victory, instead of being forced to go for two just to tie. It was ugly, and Gould should be put on notice going forward.

Injuries – This week the injury report definitely falls under the ugly category. Rookie Roger Lewis was lost early in the game with a concussion. Marshall Newhouse, the right tackle who was stepping in at left guard with both Justin Pugh and Brett Jones out, was temporarily replaced by Adam Gettis after Newhouse sprained his knee. Finally, for the Giants, WR/KR Dwayne Harris hurt his wrist, but he too returned to the game. The returns of Harris and Newhouse are comforting and implicate their statuses for next week; Lewis is a different story, and we’ll have to see if he clears concussion protocol.

However, the ugly part is all on the Bears side. The Bears lost star TE Zach Miller, who was giving the Giants fits early on, to a leg injury, and OL ex-Pro Bowler Josh Sitton to a similar injury. Most disturbingly, rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd, who has put together a DROY résumé, hurt his neck, and had to be carted away from the field on a stretcher. He is apparently stable, able to move his extremities, and Coach Fox says his status is encouraging, but still, it was an ugly highlight to an ugly game as it pertains to injuries. We wish Floyd and everyone else a speedy recovery.

 

NFC East Standings – Dallas squeezed by the Ravens, Philly lost to Seattle, and Washington plays tonight. Dallas is first in the division and the league with their 9th straight win (9-1). The Giants remain in 2nd place, improving to 7-3. The Giants are a game and a game and a half ahead of the next best wildcard contender in the NFC, so things are looking up.

Next Week – The Giants travel to Cleveland to play the Browns, who have yet to win a game. The Browns lost to the Steelers 24-9 this week. Their starting QB Cody Kessler left the game with a concussion, and it remains to be seen if he’ll be healthy for Week 12. Obviously any winless team is a major trap game, but after a great job against the Bears, and considering the lack of weapons for the Browns on offense and defense, I can’t see the Giants screwing this up. That being said, the Giants have yet to win a game by more than seven points, so I wouldn’t predict a blowout.

Prediction – Giants wins 21-10

Who Really Belongs in the NFL MVP Race?

By Aaron Weiss

With Week 10 wrapped up, thoughts are beginning to swirl over who belongs in the NFL MVP race. While there are a number of viable candidates, I want to rank my top five candidates with 7 weeks to go!

  1. Doug Free, RT, Dallas Cowboys – Really this award could go to almost any of the Cowboy offensive lineman, but I’m going to give this spot to Free due to the Cowboys run power to the right side, and number of 10+ yard plays to the right side, compared to the center and left. The Cowboys are tied for third in average yards per rush, tied for first in rush touchdowns, tied for fourth in sacks, and fifth in QB hits. This line has been impeccable for years, and considering how their efforts are impacting a pair of rookies on that squad (more on them later), someone from that line deserves the nod. That being said, there have only been three instances where the MVP wasn’t awarded to a QB or a RB (1971 – DT Alan Page, 1982 – PK Mark Moseley, 1986 – LB Lawrence Taylor), and I have neither the hope nor the sabermetrics to make the argument that a lineman should really win the reward. Other analysts will though.
  1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots – You can make the argument that since his return from his 4 game Deflategate suspension Brady has been the best player in football. While for obvious reasons his total yards is lower than almost every other QB, he has the highest average yards per attempt among qualified players, second most yards per game, tied 14th for touchdowns, he has only one interception, the least amongst qualified QBs, and the highest Passer Rating and QBR. That being said, the Pats went 3-1 without Brady and are now 4-1 with him, so it is not like he has dramatically altered the success of the Patriots, and considering that it’s hard to be the most valuable player on a team when you’ve only played 56% of your team’s games, I don’t like Brady’s odds. He does have the best chance of jumping up the ranks, since by season’s end he’ll have played 75% of his team’s games, validating his right to the award more than now.
  1. Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Dallas Cowboys – Only two players have won the NFL MVP award in their rookie year, Jim Brown and Earl Campbell, but Zeke is making his case to be the third rookie to earn the prize. He leads the league with 1,005 yards in 9 games, and has a very legitimate case to break Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards. His 5.1 yards per rush is tied for 3rd best amongst qualifying RB’s, with Eddie Lacy and LeSean McCoy also having 5.1 yards per rush (although Lacy and McCoy combined only have six more attempts than Zeke on his own), and behind Jordan Howard’s 5.3 yards per rush and Jay Ayaji’s 5.7 yards per rush. Howard has 84 less attempts than Elliot, and Ayaji has 71 less attempts. Only Melvin Gordon, with 217 tries, has more attempts than Elliot, who as 198 attempts. He’s the only back averaging over 100 yards a game, and his 9 touchdowns on the ground is tied for 2nd with David Johnson and Gordon. Only LeGarrette Blount has more, with 12 touchdowns. An additional 250 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown has been the icing on the cake of an amazing start to his career (not to mention only one fumble).

All of that being said, I don’t have much enthusiasm to give Elliot the nod for MVP. As stunning as his campaign has been, he’s been immensely helped by the tremendous offensive line in Dallas, as I mentioned earlier. And as I mentioned in an earlier article, the Cowboys have always had a good running game, and the Cowboys would still be pretty good if Alfred Morris was the premier back (although Elliot should break Darren McFadden’s 2015 rushing total in the next week or two, despite McFadden being a top five back last year). If Elliot breaks Dickerson’s record, then he’ll improve his odds, but to me he is not the reason the Cowboys own the best record in the league.

  1. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys – Dak Prescott is the reason the Cowboys are having their best year under Jason Garrett’s regime. Prescott’s only has 2,339 yards, ranking 17th in the league, and his 280 attempts ranks 24th in the league. He’s completed 66.8% of his passes, which ranks 10th in the league, if you remove everybody with less than 166 attempts (the number that Brady has thrown). Three of the QBs ahead of him have less attempts, Hoyer, Kessler, and Brady, and again, Prescott ranks 24th in attempts. He averages 8.4 yards per attempt, ranking third among qualified QBs, and he ranks 18th in yards per game, despite ranking 30th in attempts per game. His 14 passing touchdowns ranks 12th overall, and his two picks is tied for 2nd best, behind Brady and Kessler. Finally, he has a 106.2 passer rating, only behind Brady, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan, and his QBR of 82.5 is 2nd only to Tom Brady. He also has over 100 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.

Most significantly, Prescott is on pace to have the best rookie season for a quarterback in the history of the league. You compare him to the best rookie QBs of all time and he is absolutely dominating those backs, with a better completion percentage and far fewer picks, not to mention his other competitive numbers. While the Cowboy’s offensive line and running game should be acknowledged for helping Prescott have such a great start to his career, it doesn’t explain how the ‘Boys, who have had the best o-line and one of the best running backs each of the past few years, have twice as many wins this year, through nine games, as they had all of last year. That comes down to Prescott, who has been impeccable, despite being thrown into the fire without warning due to a Romo injury, and despite being without star wide receiver Dez Bryant for a third of the season.

Suffice to say, in my opinion, Dak Prescott has been the most impressive player in the NFL this year, and he is on pace to have the greatest year of all rookie QBs in the history of the game. But considering how complete the Cowboys are on offense, he still does not get my nod for MVP.

And that leaves…

  1. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons – Matty Ice ranks 1st in total yards, the only QB with over 3,000 yards, tied for 1st for touchdowns, 2nd in yards per attempt, behind Brady, 3rd in yards per game, 4th in completion percentage, 2nd in passer rating and 3rd in QBR despite ranking 19th in attempts per game. He’s only thrown five picks, and no one with less has close to the amount of touchdowns he has. Furthermore, the Falcons are 6-4 and in first place in their division, compared to 8-8 last year. This offense only has three remotely notable changes from years past, with Austin Hooper as the backup TE, Mohamed Sanu as the WR2, and, most significantly, Alex Mack at center. While Mack is one of, if not the best center in the game, Ryan projects to be sacked more this year than last year, and Sanu has not been a studly WR2. This offense has been all about Julio Jones, and the dual threat running backs in Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, who have combined for over 500 receiving yards.

My guess is that Ryan won’t win the MVP, as he isn’t as popular, nor is he on as significant a hot streak as Brady, Elliot, or Prescott. But only Prescott has been as significant to the fate of his team as Ryan has been, and Ryan’s numbers have been more impressive.

There are three other potential candidates that could sneak into the conversation, but right now aren’t in my top five:

  1. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks – Wilson hasn’t had a tremendous year, and the Seahawks started out a little rocky, but last year Wilson had a nearly historic second half to his season, and he’s been one of, if not the best QB in the league each of the past two weeks. Should he go on a tear like he did last year to finish the season, he should inject himself into the conversation.
  2. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints – 2nd in yards & completion percentage, T-1st in touchdowns, 3rd in passer rating and 4th in QBR. He’s been typically great, but a sub-.500 record, a 3rd place rank in their division, and a tremendous amount of attempts means that this is, if anything, a down year for Drew Brees, and down years don’t qualify for MVP awards. Still, if some of these other players slide over the rest of the season, Brees could be in consideration.
  3. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons – While his 5 touchdowns are low, Jones has been the best WR in football this year. He’s first in yards and average yards per catch (for WRs with over 25 receptions), and 2nd in yards per game. He and AJ Green are the only two receivers to average over 100 yards a game. Considering the other MVP contenders I don’t think Jones will enter the conversation, especially since his fate is directly tied to true contender Matt Ryan, but if Jones breaks Calvin Johnson’s single season receiving yards record, then you’d be hard pressed not to reward Jones for that achievement.

So those are the players contending for the MVP award at the end of Week 10. Leave a comment telling me who you think should win the award, or who belongs in the conversation!

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: New York Giants, Week 10

By Aaron Weiss

The shorthanded New York Giants eked out their fourth straight win on Monday Night Football, beating the Bengals 21-20! Let’s break down the game and look towards week 11!

To celebrate the Giants 4 game winning streak, we’re scratching the ugly section entirely! The Giants played well enough to make that section moot, and instead we’ll highlight even more good things from the game!

The Good:

The…Running Game? – 19 teams in the league average over 100 rushing yards a game. The Giants, last in the league in rushing are not one of them. Yet, for the first time since losing Shane Vereen for the season, the Giants ran for over 100 yards. They rushed for a season high 124 yards on 25 attempts (excluding two -1 yard kneels at the end of the game), averaging a sweet 5.2 yards per rush. Granted, 38 of those yards came on the last drive, as the game was basically over, and granted, 49 of those yards came on just two plays, and granted, Cincinnati has the 16th ranked run defense, but considering how putrid this run game has been, and considering the Giants were without star lineman Justin Pugh (plus his backup, Brett Jones, was out for the game after the first drive with a calf injury), we will reward this run game for a respectable showing.

The Defense – This unit somehow keeps getting better week by week. Janoris Jenkins and the secondary held AJ Green to one of his weaker games of the season (and by weak I mean 7 for 68 yards and a touchdown, but considering this is AJ Green that’s pretty great). The Giants collected 3 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, 7 passes defended and 6 QB hits. Andy Dalton was pressured all night, and never got the run support or pass protection to get comfortable (the run game only generated 78 yards). PFF estimates Dalton was pressured on a third of all dropbacks. Landon Collins collected yet another interception, and Olivier Vernon collected a whopping 10 tackles. Barring one blown coverage on Tyler Eifert due to some clever trickery on the Bengals’ part, this defense was incredible all night.

Eli Manning – Without Victor Cruz, Justin Pugh, and Pugh’s replacement Brett Jones, Eli barely missed a step, leading a mostly one dimensional offense to success. He completed 64% of his passes, and threw for three touchdowns. Despite several key drops from the likes of Sterling Shepherd and Will Tye, Eli and the Giants managed to convert 6 of 14 third downs, much better than their efforts in previous weeks. He did throw two picks, one which was an exceptional play by Dre Kirkpatrick, and the other a truly painful pass by Eli, but all in all it was another great showing by Manning, in part due to the man below.

Odell Beckham Jr. – Odell collected ten catches for the first time since his rookie year. He passed 3,500 career yards, becoming the fastest player to reach that mark, beating Lance Alworth by a single game (this was Odell’s 36th game). He also scored his 31st career touchdown, breaking his tie with Antonio Brown for the most touchdowns over that span. It would appear that either the Josh Norman poison pill only lasts 3 to 4 weeks, or Odell has evolved and rounded the corner on his early season woes. It would appear he, the Giants’ and us Giant fans are having fun again.

The Ring of Honor – At halftime the Giants inducted former Head Coach Tom Coughlin, former defensive end Justin Tuck, and former GM Ernie Accorsi, much to everyone’s delight. Here’s a quick recap on the trio, in case anyone forgot:

Accorsi will forever be known for the 2004 Eli Manning Trade, and his sneaking out of a 2007 game where Eli threw four interceptions, but he also hired Coughlin and drafted Tuck. He also drafted Osi Umenyiora, Chris Snee, Brandon Jacobs, Mathias Kiwanuka, and many more, along with signing Antonio Pierce and Plaxico Burress. He brought in almost all of the key pieces for the 2007 championship team and a lot of the pieces of the 2011 squad.

Coughlin has only been removed from coaching one season, having just been replaced by Coach McAdoo, and he may one day get back into coaching. But he’ll be one of the great Giant coaches of all time, leading the team to their two most recent rings, leading the Giants to 5 playoff seasons in twelve total, and a 102-90 record. He’ll be most known for his development as a coach, adapting to his players and transforming from a coach hated by many (a la Michael Strahan and Tiki Barber) to a coach loved by all (a la Michael Strahan and Antrel Rolle). He’ll also be known as the predominant coach for Eli Manning, raising Eli from a rookie to an elite veteran.

Tuck was one of 17 players to be on both of the Giant’s Super Bowl teams. A growing star in 2007 and a premier veteran in 2011, Tuck was a 2-time All-Pro and a 2-time Pro Bowler. He played 127 games as a Giant, 90 as a starter, recording 318 solo tackles, 453 combined tackles, 60.5 sacks, 18 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries, 26 passes deflected, two interceptions, and a touchdown. Tuck was a mentor to several current Giant players, including protege Jason Pierre-Paul.

All in all these three hold varying levels of responsibility for the Giants’ 21st century success, and all three deserve this honor.

The Bad:

Alex Erickson – The Bengals opened up the second half on a way too easy 84 yard kickoff return that led to one of the Bengals’ two touchdowns. Erickson also had two returns of 23 yards apiece. Minus the one big return it wasn’t atrocious, but the special teams was a little porous, and the obvious weak point in an otherwise positive showing.

And that’s it! Considering the Giants outplayed the Bengals as it pertains to time of possession battle, total first downs, red zone efficiency, yards per rush, penalties, third down conversions and total yards, there isn’t much to criticize for a team that seems to be improving weekly.

 

Injury Report – The Giants lost backup G Brett Jones to a calf injury on the first drive, and WR-KR Dwayne Harris to a toe injury in the 2nd half. It’s unclear the severity of either injury, but losing Jones is most significant, as he was slated to substitute for the injured Justin Pugh, and the Giants are scraping the bottom of the barrel on the offensive line.

NFC East Standings – The entire NFC East won their games this week, meaning that the Giants remain in 2nd place at 6-3. Washington is in 3rd at 5-3-1, Philly is last at 5-4, and the Cowboys won their 8th straight and own the best record in the league, 8-1.

Next Week – The Giants have a short week, but get a favorable home game against the Chicago Bears. While the Bears have the 10th ranked defense, their offense is putrid, and they’re prepared to lose several key players for the immediate future. Alshon Jeffrey has been suspended 4 games for a PED violation, to a 4-game PED suspension.  Lineman Bobby Massie and Kyle Long are both injured, Long for the year, And star rookie running back Jordan Howard seems to have injured his Achilles, although the severity is unclear. Additionally, NT Eddie Goldman and DL Will Sutton also are plagued with ankle injuries. This has a not insignificant chance of being a trap game, but I don’t buy it. I think the Giants roll to victory

Prediction – Giants wins 24-10

The Tragic Tale of Agent Block: The Man Who’s Proving the Age of Big Men No More

By Aaron Weiss

The Miami Heat have changed a lot since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the team in 2010. LeBron left the team to go home, Chris Bosh has been besieged by blood clots, which Pat Riley has used to turn the team’s relationship with Bosh into that ugly marriage where you knew the couple would get a divorce if they could (and, come February 9, 2017, they will. More on this later). And Dwyane Wade, the prodigal son, left the Heat after 13 years due to feeling disrespected by the front office (while he has never been that blunt about it, when taxes play into it he gained next to no money from his Chicago contract versus what Miami offered him, so disrespect seems to be the key factor).

The player who had Riley’s attention while he was disrespecting Dwyane? Hassan Whiteside (and Kevin Durant to an extent, but that’s a story for another day).

Whiteside is a 27 year old, 7’, 265 pound center with surprising quickness and finesse for his size. After being drafted by Sacramento he eventually was dismissed to languish around D-league and international teams due to his questionable mental stability, a rather ironic state of affairs considering Sacramento drafted Hassan the same year they drafted Boogie Cousins.

So, in the middle of the 2014 season, when Miami signed him to a two year contract using the minimum exception, no one batted an eye. When he ended up averaging a double-double in 48 games played, eyes were batted. Furiously.

The beauty of Hassan’s breakout was that he cost less than $1 million a year, meaning that his cost didn’t remotely reflect his value, and the stage was set for a big year. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Goran Dragic, and Hassan Whiteside. However, Chris succumbed to blood clots for the 2nd year in a row, and the team failed to make it out of the 2nd round of the playoffs.

However, despite the disappointing result, Hassan ranked 8th in the league in double-doubles, 3rd in rebounds per game, 3rd in FG %, 1st in defensive rating, 5th in defensive win shares, and 1st in blocks and blocks per game, notching 92 more blocks that the 2nd best, DeAndre Jordan.

Suffice to say he made a name for himself (he also was named All-Defensive 2nd Team).

With the Heat signing Hassan to a 2-year deal, he had accrued 4 years of NBA experience, meaning that at the end of last season, with his contract expired, he was an unrestricted free agent, as opposed to a restricted free agent, and Pat Riley made sure to spend his time ensnaring Whiteside to sign a max contract through the 2019-2020 season. This would most notably lead to the departure of Wade, not to mention it in part led to Riley passing on resigning Luol Deng or Joe Johnson, two key players in the season prior, and with Chris Bosh failing a physical Riley has officially cut him out of the Heat’s future.

All of that backstory has lead to the 2016-2017 Miami Heat, a team that (sans Bosh) averages 26 years old (which includes the 36 year old lifer Udonis Haslem) that features Whiteside as the next star in Miami, attempting to fill in the shoes of Dwyane Wade with 30 year old Goran Dragic and 20 year old Justise Winslow to support him (note that he will never be Dwyane, but alas that is the role he’s forced to fill).

And in the age of the Golden State Warriors, the age of incredible shooting and small ball teams, Miami’s transition to feature a big man would break the mold of current practice, as they would join the ranks of teams like Boogie Cousins’ Sacramento Kings, Anthony Davis’ New Orleans Pelicans, Karl-Anthony Towns’ Minnesota Timberwolves, and Andre Drummond’s Detroit Pistons.

Those teams and Miami are a combined 9-20 through 5-7 games each. Whiteside’s Miami is 2-3.

Yet despite the rough start, Hassan is the only player in the NBA to score below a double-double in the games he’s played, going 5 for 5 to date. He’s averaging 20 points (28th best) and 14 boards a game (1st overall), plus another 2.6 blocks (3rd overall). He’s currently 7th in defensive rating, 6th in defensive win shares, 7th in PER, and 6th in field goal %. He puts up these numbers despite only playing 31.6 minutes per game, ranking 64th in that category.

And yet Miami has lost to Charlotte, San Antonio, and Toronto (plus they scraped away a victory against the Kings in OT, which is sad enough).

While it is still incredibly early in the season, and the Heat haven’t been entirely healthy (one of last year’s highlight players, now 2nd year player Josh Richardson, just played his first game after coming off of injury, and is still being worked into the lineup), it’s beginning to feel as it Miami cannot truly content with the big man doubling as the main man (not that this is reflective of Hassan, but of all big men).

This isn’t entirely unsurprising. Beyond the fact that big man haven’t ruled the league in awhile, this team hasn’t really added any pieces over the offseason. They brought in Luke Babbitt, Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Willie Reed, Derrick Williams, and Dion Waiters. The Heat didn’t have any picks in this year’s draft. The most high profile move they made outside of Hassan was matching the ridiculous 4 year, $50 million offer sheet on RFA Tyler Johnson (side note: screw you Brooklyn). This lack of movement is primarily due to two things. The first was that after the Hassan signing Miami turned their attention to attempting to sign Kevin Durant, followed by painfully breaking up with Dwyane Wade, and the second factor was that with Chris Bosh still being paid max money Miami did not exactly have the resources to sign a major player.

This is where the Chris Bosh divorce critically comes into play. The last time Chris Bosh played a game was February 9, 2016. Miami, enabled by Bosh’s failed physical, will have Bosh stay inactive until February 9, 2017, when they will waive Bosh and apply to have his entirely salary removed from the cap due to a career-ending injury. Once the Heat apply for this waiver Bosh will be examined by an independent doctor, and if Bosh’s blood clots are deemed career-ending Bosh’s entire 5 year max contract will be taken off the books. In this scenario Bosh would still be paid his full $118 million contract, but the annual hit of ~$25 mil each of the following 2 years would not be reflected in the Heat’s cap, meaning that a magic ~$25 million each year would appear out of thin air for Miami. With that money, plus another ~$15 million coming off the books in Derrick Williams, Udonis Haslem, James Johnson and Luke Babbitt, and another ~15 mil coming from an increase in the 2017 cap, Miami should have enough money to bring on two max contract players in addition to Whiteside, without necessarily having to move Miami’s only other high price player, Goran Dragic. In a 2017 FA class that includes Blake Griffin (ETO), Serge Ibaka, Stephen Curry, Jeff Teague, Gordon Hayward (2017 player option), Kyle Lowry (2017 player option), Greg Monroe (2017 player option), Chris Paul (ETO), and others, this ability will prime Miami to create a Finals contender, something I’m sure the 71 year old Pat Riley is looking to create with haste.

However, in the event that Chris Bosh is not deemed to be suffering a career-ending injury by the league’s independent doctor, or if he was cleared to return to play for another team, then his contract would be returned to Miami’s cap, sitting as dead money. If Miami isn’t confident that the injury is career ending, they could instead take the 80% reimbursement on Bosh’s contract that the insurance covers once Bosh misses 41 games, and then they could further apply for a disable player exception, which if approved would grant Miami another $5.6 million. The amount of money Miami would gain from those actions would give them enough to sign one max player in addition to Hassan. But so long as Riley is confident that Bosh’s career is over he will roll the dice on getting Bosh’s contract off the books.

In the interim year, before another superstar is brought into Miami, we’ll get to see Hassan at his fully unleashed best. It is both unlikely that Miami is in a position to make a deep run in the playoffs, and also unlikely Miami makes any major moves to change that fate in any way, so this season will most likely play out as a stat grab for Hassan, which will be incredibly fun to watch. Still, barring a change in what we’ve seen (and again, it’s early), it seems as though Agent Block is just another indicator that big men can only take you so far in this league.

2016-17 Breakout NBA Players

By Jack Drapkin

Seth Curry – Everyone knows him as Stephen’s younger brother and rightfully so, but this may be the season where fans finally start calling him Seth. Parlaying a strong finish to last season where he averaged 14 points and four assists, on 47% shooting from deep in nine starts, into a two year six million dollar contract with the Mavs.  Seth finally has an opportunity to make his mark in this league under a great coach in Rick Carlisle. With the shaky Deron Williams in the starting position ahead of him and a guard rotation consisting of the aging JJ Barea and Devin Harris, there should be playing time opportunities for Curry especially at the backup 2 guard spot.

Kelly Oubre Jr. – It still remains a mystery as to why former Wizards head coach Randy Wittman didn’t play Oubre more. However after a rocky rookie reason Oubre is positioned to become an impact player for the Wizards this season. He is currently in a position battle with Otto Porter to determine who starts but regardless of who wins the other player still figured to see heavy minutes off the bench. Oubre’s athleticism and speed make him a great pair with John Wall in the transition game and if he can knock down his open shots he becomes an even more complete player. He is already a tenacious rebounder and should be a better defender than he is due to his athleticism. Oubre’s ability to play key fourth quarter minutes will come down to his ability to stop having defensive lapses but regardless he should still be an impact rotation player for the Wizards a season after spending much of his time glued to the bench.

Jabari Parker – Jabari finished last season on a tear averaging almost 19 ppg and six rpg to go along with two assists. Many people seem to have forgotten about him after the ACL injury he suffered 30 games into his rookie season. However all signs point to a healthy Parker being ready to make a mark in this league. Since the surgery, he has appeared to be in better shape than before the injury and even seems more athletic. Preseason numbers are always taken with a grain of salt, or two or three, but still he has put up 17 points and seven rebounds in only 28 minutes per contest. Now, by no means should an All Star appearance be expected from him this season, especially with the highly touted Giannis Antetokounmpo as his teammate. However don’t be surprised if he posts near 20 points a game as the Bucks challenge for an Eastern Conference playoff birth sans Khris Middleton for much of the season.