Ghost Rat

Football fan and longtime follower of the New England Patriots. Happily married father, professional, and author.

Feb 022014

superbowl-xlviii-opening-line-has-denver-broncos-as-1-5-point-favorites-against-the-seattle-seahawksWell Fat Jesus wrapped up the weekly picks contest last week, going 2-0 to open up a three game lead with just the Super Bowl remaining. So congrats to Fat Jesus! Of course, the Ghost Rat was the one contributor who predicted Denver and Seattle in the Super Bowl in our pre-season picks, so now we will see if I can accurately predict the winner of that contest as well.

At the beginning of the year I said it would be Denver over Seattle, with a good offense beating a good defense, and I still hold that this will be true today. Manning has too many weapons for Seattle to stop them down consistently, though Manning and the Broncos may struggle to sustain the long drives that they enjoyed against the Patriots. Manning will need some big plays downfield to earn his second Super Bowl ring. Seattle has an outstanding chance of winning this game on the backs of their defense, but it is easier for me to imagine Denver shutting down Russell Wilson than it if for me to see Seattle shut down Manning. Of course, in recent years the MVP Award has been a consolation prize in place of Super Bowl championships, so those believing in omens will find that little factor in Seattle’s favor.

Across our contributors, we give the Broncos a 7-3 edge. Here are our predictions and scores, along with the season rankings.

WriterDEN v SEAScore
Brodrick KincaidDEN27-20
Country PreacherSEA24-20
DJ CrashSEA23-20
Fat JesusDEN27-21
Flip StriclandDEN24-20
Ghost RatDEN31-21
Rat's WidowDEN31-17
Reyno IslandDEN34-31
Guest QuarterSEA
Fat Jesus17788X
Ghost Rat174913
DJ Crash174913
Flip Stricland170957
Brodrick Kincaid169968
Country Preacher168979
Like Gandhi, But Taller16110416
Reyno Island16010517
Rat's Widow15511022
Guest Quarter (coin flip)13013547
updated 2/1/14
Jan 172014

Brady - ManningIt looks like it’s going to be a Denver-Seattle Super Bowl, or at least says the consensus pick of our resident experts this week.

The Denver versus New England match-up offers another chapter in the Brady v. Manning saga, and even with a Brady loss this weekend, the Patriots’ quarterback has dominated the head to head match-up between the future Hall of Famers.

There are a couple of things going for the Patriots. The Denver defense is beat up, missing both Chris Harris and Von Miller. Additionally, Tom Brady has won every contest in which he has faced a Jack Del Rio led defense. The emergence of LaGarrette Blount gives the Patriots a lethal offensive weapon, and potentially opens up the play action passing attack to the likes of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen, and the cast of rookie receivers.

But there is far more in Denver’s favor. First, no team has suffered greater season-ending injuries this season, and nearly a quarter of the Patriots’ salary is currently on injured reserve. That includes the entire interior defensive front seven in Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Vince Wilfork, and Tommy Kelly. The Patriots’ have done more with undrafted rookie free agents than any other team in the league, but there is only so much that a team can do to fill the void. In all likelihood, Manning and the Broncos running attack will combine to rack up huge numbers on the day and end the Patriots’ run, a season which has exceeded all reasonable expectations.

This game has the feel of the 2006 AFC Championship, when the Patriots got a big first half lead on Manning and the Colts, but ultimately were doomed by a banged up and tired defense as Manning brought the Colts back en route to the Super Bowl win over the Chicago Bears. I expect this game to go much the same way, with the Patriots being competitive in the first half, but falling behind as the third quarter wears on. My predicted score is Colts 34 Patriots 24.

Pay no attention to the fact that I am picking the Patriots this week in our picks contest; that is simply a desperate calculation to try and catch up with Fat Jesus in our standings.

On the NFC side, the Seahawks have a great home field advantage, and have easily handled the 49ers in the last two encounters in Seattle. Colin Kaepernick is struggling in the pocket, and the Seattle defense is likely to make it a long day for the third year quarterback. Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson can be counted on to provide enough offense to dismiss San Francisco once again. Look for a 30-17 contest in favor of the Seahawks.

Here are our collective picks for the weekend:

WriterNE @ DENSF @ SEA
Brodrick KincaidDENSEA
Country PreacherDENSF
Flip StriclandDENSEA
Ghost RatNESEA
Rat's WidowNESEA
Reyno IslandDENSEA
Guest QuarterNESF

Here are the standings with only three games to go:

Fat Jesus17788X
Ghost Rat174913
DJ Crash174913
Flip Stricland170957
Brodrick Kincaid169968
Country Preacher168979
Like Gandhi, But Taller16110416
Reyno Island16010517
Rat's Widow15511022
Guest Quarter (coin flip)13013547
updated 2/1/14
Jan 112014

Brady v LuckAnother week, and another leader in our Gridiron Rats weekly picks contest. Fat Jesus has pulled in to the lead by a game, and this Rat finds himself having a pick against his own team to try and make up the difference. I am hoping that the Patriots can pound the ball against the Colts, and the Patriots’ running attack should be able to tear up a questionable Colts’ defense. But it is the Patriots’ defense that has me worried, as now a fourth defensive starter has gone on the shelf for the season. While linebacker Brandon Spikes has been dealing with an injury for some time, it was aggravated in the Week Seventeen win over the Bills. But it took Spikes to be late to practice for Bill Belichick to place Spikes on IR, sending a loud message to the locker room, but shutting down the teams best run defender. It seems like the end of the road for Spikes in New England, and I for one will not miss this loudmouth when he signs on somewhere else next season, but his absence this week against the Colts could be troubling. The game is likely to be a high-scoring affair, and it’s entirely possible that the last team to possess the ball will win the game. However, I can’t help but envision a situation where the Patriots are down by four and need to drive the field in the last minute, but are unable to find the end zone. And, with a loss, perhaps Bill Belichick’s finest year as a head coach, will end with another January disappointment. I’d really rather be wrong about this pick, but I have a sneaky feeling the Colts will pull this one out.

For the divisional round, all of us chose the Seahawks in our only unanimous pick. We figure the Saints are not a better team than the one that got blown out in Seattle five weeks ago, having lost two defensive starters in that span.  Bu, even if all else is equal, we figure the Seahawks’ secondary will just interfere with the Saints’ receivers in order to shut down Drew Brees. The Seahawks should win by two scores. Most of us like the 49ers to beat the Panthers, though this contest is truly up for grabs. The 49ers are playing well right now, but Ron Rivera has done a terrific job to earn Carolina the home field advantage. Look for a battle to the end. Finally, we favor the Broncos to take apart the Chargers, despite a recent Chargers win in Denver. San Diego has been on fire over the last month, but the Broncos just have too many weapons to be shut down two meetings in a row.

Here are our picks for the week:

Brodrick KincaidSEANESFSD
Country PreacherSEANESFDEN

Our current standings:

Fat Jesus17788X
Ghost Rat174913
DJ Crash174913
Flip Stricland170957
Brodrick Kincaid169968
Country Preacher168979
Like Gandhi, But Taller16110416
Reyno Island16010517
Rat's Widow15511022
Guest Quarter (coin flip)13013547
updated 2/1/14


Jan 062014

Kiko Alonso2013 saw some outstanding performances among defensive rookies, and we have nominated eight for the award won by Luke Kuechly last season. This year’s nominees include (in alphabetical order):

Kiko Alonso, BUF (6-10, 159 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 INT)
Jarvis Jones, PIT (8-8, 40 tackles, 1 sack)
Star Lotulelei, CAR (12-4, 42 tackles, 3 sacks)
Tyrann Mathieu, ARI (10-6, 68 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT)
Alec Ogletree, STL (7-9, 117 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 TD)
Sheldon Richardson, NYJ (8-8, 76 tackles, 3.5 sacks)
Logan Ryan, NE (12-4, 35 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 INT, 1 TD)
Desmond Trufant, ATL (4-12, 70 tackles, 2 INT)

This award generated a wide variety of opinions among our contributors, as three different players accumulated first place votes, and one player who received a second place vote and three third place votes didn’t make the final cut (Logan Ryan), nor did another player who received a first place vote (Star Lotulelei). When all the votes are tallied, here are the top three vote winners:

Third Place: Alec Ogletree, linebacker, St. Louis Rams

Ogletree led a resurgent Rams’ defense with 117 tackles while forcing six fumbles. Ogletree also returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown, had a sack and a half and ten pass breakups. The first round sellection from the University of Georgia, coupled with defensive end Robert Quinn, give Jeff Fisher a solid defensive nucleus entering the 2014 season.

Second Place: Sheldon Richardson, defensive tackle, New York Jets (2 1st place votes)

One of our two selections from the AFC East, Richardson single-handedly made new GM John Idzik look pretty bright this season, as the budding star dominated the line of scrimmage and was a force against opposition running games. Despite being a rookie and joining a very talented defensive front, Richardson proved to be arguably the best defensive player on the Jets’ roster. Richardson closed the season with 76 tackles and three and a half sacks.

First Place: Kiko Alonso, linebacker, Buffalo Bills (4 1st place votes)

Jets’ fans may disagree, but we agree with Mel Kiper on this one. Alonso was the best defensive rookie in the NFL in 2013, nearly on par with Kuechly’s performance in 2012. Alonso recorded 159 tackles in 2013, while helping the Bills improve to the tenth ranked offense (in defensive yards allowed). The secondary proved to be the bane of Buffalo’s defensive unit, but Alonso quickly established himself as a dominant and disruptive presence, picking off four passes while breaking up another nine, and tallying two sacks, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. Alonso finished third in the league in tackles, behind only Vontaze Burfict and Paul Posluszny.

Jan 062014

Rat's Awards ImageBeginning later today, the Gridiron Rats second annual post-season awards will start being unveiled. You will recall last year that we correctly predicted each of the NFL’s post-season awards winners, a feat unmatched on any website that we are familiar with. This season, we actually hope not to perform so well, because it was never our intent to predict who others were going to honor. Sticking with our purpose to be strictly a fan site, we are sticking only with with award nominees that our own contributors have nominated, which of course leaves room for some oversights and for some homerism along the way.  Of course, since I get to make nominations as well, I do try to make sure that our slate of nominees is broad and reflective of the many outstanding performances from the 2013 season.

Our schedule for post-season awards is as follows:

January 6 – Defensive Rookie of the Year
January 7 – Offensive Rookie of the Year
January 8 – Comeback Player of the Year
January 9 – Coach of the Year
January 10 – Defensive Player of the Year
January 11 – Offensive Player of the Year
January 12 – Most Valuable Player
January 13 – Rat’s Dropping Award
January 14 – Pied Piper Award

The last two awards are our new creations this season; the Rat’s Dropping Award recognizes an active NFL player as being the worst role model in the National Football league, while the Pied Piper Award recognizes the active player who serves as the best role model in the NFL.

Check back later today to see our first award.

Jan 012014

Cincinnati BengalsAfter 256 games of the 2013 NFL regular season, the real football season is finally upon us! We have four wildcard playoff contests this weekend, and the NFL is likely to get four competitive contests, exactly what they are hoping for. Among our contributors, we have no unanimous picks this weekend, and a great deal of disagreement over the Saturday games in particular. Our experts are split between the Colts and the Chiefs in the early contest on Saturday, and have only a slight preference for the Eagles to take out the Saints in the late game. We have more agreement on Sunday, where an overwhelming majority of our contributors expect the Bengals to beat the Chargers and the 49ers to take out the host Packers in Green Bay.

Our full predictions for the weekend follow:

Brodrick KincaidINDPHICINSF
Country PreacherKCPHICINSF
Flip StriclandKCNOCINSF
Guest QuarterKCPHISDGB

For the season, the Ghost Rat rode a 14-2 Week Seventeen showing back into first place in our weekly picks contest, edging out Fat Jesus by a game, while DJ Crash slipped into third place, just two games back. We have some disagreements this weekend among the top three, so the standings are sure to change by the time we are back at it next week. Flip, Brodrick, and the Preacher are locked in a tight battle for fourth place, while Rat’s Widow notched her 150th correct pick for the season; not bad for someone who turned in all of her picks for the year before the first kickoff of Week One.

And, for those who are interested, our staff are staying very competitive with boys over at Pro Football Talk. Michael David Smith, who is kicking the hell out of Mike Florio this season, has 170 wins, which would be good for a one game lead in our league. Meanwhile Florio, who I might add is (justifiably) getting paid great money for his love of (and presumed knowledge of) football, has only 159 wins, which would place him seventh at Gridiron Rats. Better luck next season, Mike.

Here are the standings going into Wildcard Weekend:

Fat Jesus17788X
Ghost Rat174913
DJ Crash174913
Flip Stricland170957
Brodrick Kincaid169968
Country Preacher168979
Like Gandhi, But Taller16110416
Reyno Island16010517
Rat's Widow15511022
Guest Quarter (coin flip)13013547
updated 2/1/14
Dec 302013

Mike ShanahanIt’s that time of year… the day following the end of the regular season when NFL head coaches get shown the front door. We’ll keep a running commentary of any coaches fired over the course of the week leading up to the Wildcard Round.

Here are our coaching casualties to date:

Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans

OK, so the Texans got the jump of Black Monday a few weeks back by ousting Kubiak, which was a long time coming. Kubiak’s job was hanging on precarious threads a few times in the past, and even when the team was successful they managed to find ways to underachieve. But this year’s total collapse was the final straw in Houston. Bill O’Brien is the early front-runner, but the Texans will be looking at several candidates, including former Bears’ coach Lovie Smith.

Rob Chudzkinski, Cleveland Browns

I’m not sure I get this one. Sure, the Browns were 4-12 this season and can be accused of under-performing, but I’m not entirely sure that Chud was the problem. The team has been laden with personnel issues from the previous regime, and is still lacking consistent quarterback play. Given that the Browns fleeced the Colts for a first-round pick, I would have loved to see what Chud could have done with the addition of two first round picks and an improving defense next season. But the Cleveland brass seems to have needed a scapegoat, and Chud gets the honors.

Mike Shanahan, Washington Football Club

Like there was any doubt about this one. Sure, Daniel Snyder hates to part with money, but it was pretty obvious he would pay just about anything to be rid of Shanahan and his staff. Let me be honest, I think Shanahan is one of the most overrated coaches in NFL history, two Super Bowl wins not withstanding. His 55% winning percentage includes two Super Bowl wins, which he never would have gotten without John Elway, and he has had seven losing campaigns (along with three 8-8 seasons) in his twenty year career as a head coach. He finishes 24-40 after four years in Washington, along win one playoff appearance in last year’s loss to Seattle.

Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings

It’s hard to argue with this one after the Vikings fell off a good 2013 campaign, and the year was undermined by Frazier’s inability to settle on a quarterback that he could get consistent play from. The team went from 10-6 last year to 5-10-1 this season. Coupled with the Vikings’ refusal to extend his contract after last season’s success, Frazier looked like a prime candidate to lose his job as the Vikes plummeted in the standings. Early reports link Jack Del Rio and Adam Gase (both of the Broncos) as possible replacements.

Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay

Public discussion was back and forth on whether or not the Bucs had done enough at the end of the season to save Greg Schiano’s job. They didn’t. The Bucs cleared house on Monday, sending Schiano and his staff packing along with GM Mark Dominik. This may clear the way for Schiano and his sunny disposition to wind up at Penn State if an when Bill O’Brien leaves. The Bucs went 4-12 this season, and Schiano’s two-year tenure with the team netted an 11-21 record.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions

Speaking of sunny dispositions and overrated coaches, Jim Schwartz is out in Detroit, and for good reason. The demise of the Green Bay Packers earlier in the season left the Lions an inside track to a division crown and playoff spot. The team’s response? To close the season with a 1-5 record over the last six games to finish at 7-9. While Schwartz deserves some credit for dispelling the culture of losing from the Lions, he failed to instill discipline in his team on or off the field, and was sometimes a coaching catastrophe on the sidelines. Schwartz had only one winning season in his five years in Detroit (10-6 in 2011), finishing with a 29-51 mark.

Along with the casualties, the New York Jets have given a vote of confidence to Head Coach Rex Ryan, in that they are allowing him to return in 2014 after a very good run by the Jets this season. There is still no word on a contract extension, but either way it is fair to assume that Ryan will once again be coaching for his job in 2014.

We are still waiting word on the fates of Leslie Frazier (Minnesota), Mike Munchak (Tennessee), Jim Schwartz (Detroit), Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay), and Jason Garrett (Dallas). My money is on Garrett and Munchak keeping their jobs, and Frazier, Schiano and Schwartz losing theirs. (Update: Right on Frazier. Right on Schwartz. Right on Schiano.)

(Update: Right on Garrett as well. Jerruh has committed to another year of him as GM, Garrett as coach, and a recovering Romo at QB. What could possibly go wrong?? Here’s to another 8-8 season, at best.)

Dec 282013

On the MoneyAs we enter the final week of the regular season, DJ Crash maintains a slim one game lead over Fat Jesus and a two game lead over Ghost Rat. We maintain this competition through the post-season, so there are just 27 games left in our competition and in the 2013 season. Fat Jesus, Flip Stricland, and Gandhi all led the way at 11-5 last week, while Ghost Rat and Reyno Island each grabbed ten wins.

Rat’s Widow came in at 7-9 last week, giving her a 140-99 record for the reason so far. And while that leaves her in a battle with Reyno Island in a competition for the bottom of our standings, it’s time to reveal why her picks have been so impressive the season. The madness to her method? I gave her the full NFL schedule for the season in August and within two hours she handed me back her picks for the entire season. That’s right… her predictions for the season that we published several months ago included the winner of every game, and she’s been right at a 59% clip, a mere seven percentage points off of the lead. That’s not bad for someone who hasn’t made a single change to her picks as the year has worn on, and as those of us picking weekly have long ago abandoned Houston and Atlanta, the Widow has held tight. Next season she has promised to pick weekly like the rest of us, and I can only assume that means trouble for her competition.

Here are the standings through sixteen weeks:

Fat Jesus17788X
Ghost Rat174913
DJ Crash174913
Flip Stricland170957
Brodrick Kincaid169968
Country Preacher168979
Like Gandhi, But Taller16110416
Reyno Island16010517
Rat's Widow15511022
Guest Quarter (coin flip)13013547
updated 2/1/14

For the final week of the regular season, we have three unanimous picks: the Broncos, Saints, and Seahawks. Otherwise, there is a fair amount of disagreement among our contributors on the final full slate of games. By our accounting, the Dolphins will grab the final AFC playoff spot with a win over the Jets, coupled with a Ravens’ loss to Cincinnati. The Patriots should grab the #2 seed with a win over the Bills, though the Bills’ defense promises to give the Patriots’ makeshift offensive line some fits on Sunday. In the NFC, a Saints win will wrap up a wildcard spot, as Carolina looks to win the division. Finally, our money is on the  Bears and Eagles to win the “win and you’re in” games this weekend. Our picks for the week follow:

Dec 282013

Russell WilsonIt was a topsy-turvy week in the NFL last week, but the results didn’t affect our power rankings much. In fact, our top ten stayed constant, despite losses by Seattle, New Orleans, and Kansas City. Entering the final week of the season, there is still one playoff spot up for grabs in the AFC, with Miami, Baltimore, San Diego, and Pittsburgh all in the hunt. Over in the NFC, none of the playoff seeds are set, as Seattle, San Francisco, Carolina, and New Orleans are all fighting for division crowns, first round byes, and wildcards, as Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago and Green Bay face win or go home scenarios. Arizona is in the wings, hoping for a New Orleans stumble in order to grab the number six slot. Seattle maintains a slim lead over Denver in the power rankings, though both teams are showing some vulnerability as we prepare to enter the post-season.

Here are our Week Seventeen power rankings:

1. Seattle Seahawks (12-3) – The popular Super Bowl pick now vulnerable at home?
2. Denver Broncos (12-3) – Will need to outscore everyone with Miller out
3. San Francisco 49ers (11-4) – Save for Kaepernick, most complete team
4. New England Patriots (11-4) – Must have a bye week to contend
5. Carolina Panthers (11-4) – Riverboat Ron is making it work
6. New Orleans Saints (10-5) – Only as good as home field takes them
7. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) – Were they sandbagging the Colts?
8. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) – Steady play needed from Dalton to make a deep run
9. Arizona Cardinals (10-5) – Could be best team since 2008 Patriots not to make the playoffs
10. Indianapolis Colts (10-5) – Got fleeced on Richardson
11. Baltimore Ravens (8-7) – Finally they die!
12. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) – Hot at the right time
13. Chicago Bears (8-7) – Will the Packers make them pay fr not showing up last week?
14. Miami Dolphins (8-7) – Philbin gets mad props for holding this team together
15. Detroit Lions (7-8) – The cowardly lions need a new coach; this one never did find a brain
16. San Diego Chargers (8-7) – They need help, but headed in right direction
17. Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) – Playing Rodgers is an “all in” gambit
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-7) – Good Tony last week, but defense destined to doom team
19. St. Louis Rams (7-8) – To think they are the weakest team in the NFC West
20. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) – They need a miracle, but still a huge improvement from where they started the season
21. Tennessee Titans (6-9) – Big decision coming on Locker
22. New York Jets (7-8) – Despite his best coaching effort yet, it’s time to bid Rex adieu
23. New York Giants (6-9) – Lots of problems to fix in the off-season
24. Cleveland Browns (4-11) – It’s hard to change a culture of negativity, and the players don’t appear to be believers yet
25. Buffalo Bills (5-10) – What a waste of a good defense this season
26. Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1) – What a waste of a great running back
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) – Will Schiano fall on Black Monday?
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11) – Showing a lot of grit this season after a dreadful start
29. Oakland Raiders (4-11) – Step One, Rebuild. Step Three, Make Profit.
30. Atlanta Falcons (4-11) – When do the Braves start spring training?
31. Washington Football Club (3-12) – No way Shanny is coaching here next season
32. Houston Texans (2-13) – Is Bill O’Brien the answer, or is he auditioning for another job in Texas?

Dec 192013

On the MoneyWith just two regular season weeks and the playoffs remaining, DJ Crash is holding a three game lead over fat Jesus and Ghost Rat in the weekly picks contest here at GiR. Only DJ and the Quarter made it to ten wins last week, while seven of us tied at nine wins. Here are the standings through the first fifteen weeks of the season:

Fat Jesus17788X
Ghost Rat174913
DJ Crash174913
Flip Stricland170957
Brodrick Kincaid169968
Country Preacher168979
Like Gandhi, But Taller16110416
Reyno Island16010517
Rat's Widow15511022
Guest Quarter (coin flip)13013547
updated 2/1/14

For point of comparison, Michael David Smith is at 147-77 and Mike Florio is at 139-85 over at PFT, and these are guys who get paid for their opinions and analysis of the NFL. So several of our contributors are more than holding their own against the national experts.

Week Sixteen sees a few disagreements between DJ and the other leaders, promising to shake up the standings a bit as we enter the last full slate of games. This week we have unanimous picks on the Bengals (over the Vikings), the Rams (over the Bucs), and the Seahawks (over the Cardinals). Our full slate of picks is as follows: