WEEK 9 CRYSTAL BALL - WEEKEND
Taking a look at some important NFL news
My friends, THE GURU believes several recent National Football League news items are worth discussing. Let’s start with these three:
Former head coach and administrator John McVay dies at age 91.
An important figure in the game’s history, McVay coached the New York Giants (1976-78) before teaming with Bill Walsh (1980-99) in San Francisco to lead one of the sport’s top professional dynasties. And he also passed the love of the game along to his grandson, a young fella - and Super Bowl champion - named Sean McVay.
John McVay’s New York tenure is generally not viewed positively as the Giants were 14-23 on his watch and he was at the helm on November 19, 1978, for the “Miracle at the Meadowlands,” aka “The Fumble” to Giants’ fans. He lost his job a few weeks later and it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to him as he soon landed in the City by the Bay as Walsh’s right-hand man.
As one of the 49er organization’s unsung heroes, McVay played a major role in each of the franchises five Super Bowl championships. For his efforts, he was honored as the NFL Executive of the Year after the 1989 season.
In every story you read, McVay is described as hardworking, humble and even-keeled, all attributes embodied in those great Niners teams. Here’s what his accomplished grandson had to say this week:
"When I finished up playing in college to get right into the NFL, nobody does that, but because of John McVay, I got a chance to do that,” Sean said. "You want to continue to honor the legacy that he left, work as hard as you possibly can, treat people the right way, lead in the tough moments and stay humble in the good moments, just like he did always."
Hear, hear. Well done, Mr. McVay. Rest in peace, sir.
The Bears and Jaguars acquire promising receivers to aid in the development of their young quarterbacks.
Chicago was the league’s most active team leading up to the November 1 trade deadline, completing three deals including transactions that sent the NFL’s top tackler (Roquan Smith) and the Bears single-season sack leader (Robert Quinn) to the Ravens and Eagles, respectively. Those two trades netted Chicago a veteran linebacker (AJ Klein) and three 2023 draft choices - picks in the second, fourth and fifth round.
Trading their top defender and leading pass rusher certainly invites scrutiny but the more intriguing deal to me was the acquisition of Pittsburgh wideout Chase Claypool in exchange for a 2023 second-rounder that could be a top-40 pick if the Bears don’t win a few games in the season’s second half.
Chicago’s actions are a long-term play, telling me that the franchise a) wants to surround QB Justin Fields with more playmakers and b) didn’t believe it was near contending, even when the 25-year-old Smith was patrolling the middle of the field.
The compensation for Claypool is significant but so is the British Columbia native’s talent and potential. He improved statistically each year at Notre Dame and, in his two full-time seasons with the Steelers, caught 121 passes for 1,733 yards and 11 touchdowns, despite the team’s struggles at quarterback. Plus, his 6’4”, 238-pound frame gives Fields a big target capable of making plays in the red zone.
By the way, I had the chance to see Fields in person during Chicago’s October 14 home loss to the Commanders and, though the Bears only scored seven points, I was impressed with the youngster. He scrambled for 88 yards, showed an improved presence in the pocket and, oh yeah, completed this textbook toss to receiver Dante Pettis for a 40-yard third-quarter touchdown that gave the Bears the lead.
Fields looked excellent in the ensuing win over the Patriots and strikes me as a QB who is making steady progress. And now he has a big target in Claypool, an acquisition likely to give Chicago’s leading receiver, Darnell Mooney, some much-needed breathing room. Mooney averages 45 receiving yards a game, more than double that of the team’s second-leading pass catcher, Equanimeous St. Brown.
Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, the team took the long view in acquiring Atlanta receiver Calvin Ridley for two to-be-determined draft choices. The transaction is complicated since Ridley is currently suspended through at least mid-February by the league for betting on NFL games.
Casting aside the hypocrisy of the NFL, which encourages sports gambling through its various partnerships, this could be a huge win for the Jaguars as they get a bona fide star if the 2018 first-round pick from Alabama is reinstated.
Ridley caught 17 touchdown passes over his first two seasons before taking a giant leap in 2020 with 90 catches, nine TDs and 1,374 yards, tied for fifth in the league. Bottom line: if he keeps his nose clean, his new quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, is going to be a very happy young man.
Houston’s Jon Weeks plays in his 200th consecutive NFL game.
Your first reaction may be “Who is Jon Weeks?” and that’s understandable as he is Houston’s longsnapper, playing an obscure role on what some might call an obscure team. He signed with the club as a free agent in 2010 and has been performing duties for field goals, extra points and punts ever since, crossing the 200-game threshold in the Texans’ Week 8 loss to Tennessee.
The virtual anonymity of Weeks and other snappers is interesting as these are players who consistently have a direct impact on two all-important facets of the game: points and field position. They are also often undersized compared to the hulks who line up against them. Weeks, for example, is 5’10” and 242 pounds, roughly the same dimensions as RIGHT WING MATT, if we’re to be generous and give my KC buddy two or three extra inches of height.
Weeks reflected on the accomplishment leading up to the Titans game.
“It’s funny, you look back at it and it’s like your time in college, it’s flown by. It’s been a fun ride and I’ve enjoyed every second of it,” he said. “I’m incredibly blessed to do what I’m doing right now. I love doing it and I love playing with the guys in the locker room. I’ve really enjoyed my time and I hope to continue going for as long as possible.”
The odds are long that I’ll continue my hot streak with game picks but, at 73-50 (.593), I’m going to ride the wave as long as I can.
Let’s take a look at this week. but, first, here is the complete schedule, including TV listings and broadcaster pairings, standings and team statistics. This week there are six teams on the bye: Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, the New York Giants, Pittsburgh and San Fran.
Here are the picks:
In the early window, I’ll take Green Bay over host Dee-troit, Minnesota and Kirk Cousins in Washington, the Falcons against the visiting Chargers and Cincinnati, at home, against Carolina. I also like the Pats hosting the Colts, the Bills in New York vs. the Jets, Miami over Chicago at Soldier Field, and the Jaguars, in Jax, against Vegas.
In the 4 pm-ish slot, let’s go with Seattle in Arizona and the Rams in Tampa. The Chiefs top Tennessee at Arrowhead this evening and, on Monday night, the Ravens get a much-needed road win in NOLA.
That’s it for this week, folks. Have a great one and God bless!