Connect with us

NFL

NFL divisional round playoff game guide – score predictions, key matchups, stats to know, betting nuggets and more

Published

on

One round of the 2018 NFL playoffs is in the books. Now we’re previewing the divisional game slate with a rundown for each matchup from Dan Graziano, score predictions from our NFL Nation reporters and Football Power Index projections from ESPN Stats & Information.

Plus: Key matchups to watch from Matt Bowen, what to know from a sports betting perspective by Rob Nelson of ESPN Stats & Information, officiating nuggets from Kevin Seifert and more.

Jump to a matchup:
IND-KC | DAL-LAR
LAC-NE | PHI-NO


SATURDAY’S GAMES

Point spread: KC -5 | Matchup quality: 70.3 (of 100)

The Chiefs don’t want to talk about the 28-point lead they blew after halftime to Andrew Luck and the Colts in a playoff game five years ago in Indy. They don’t really want to talk about last year’s 18-point collapse in the second half at home to the Titans. Or the fact that they’re 0-6 in home playoff games since Joe Montana won one for them a quarter-century ago. They’re focused on a Colts team that has won 10 of their past 11 games and may be the hottest No. 6 seed in playoff history. Patrick Mahomes makes his first playoff start, but after a 50-touchdown, 5,000-yard passing season, it’s hard to believe anything fazes this young man. Yet the Colts ran for 200 yards against a tough Texans defense last Saturday and should be able to find plenty of room to run against a much more permissive Kansas City D. — Graziano

FPI win projection: KC, 74.9 percent. There should be plenty of offense in this game, as Mahomes (50) and Luck (39) combined for 89 passing scores this regular season, the most in any QB matchup in postseason history, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. While the Colts’ defense has been better as of late, ranking fifth in the NFL in efficiency during their 10-1 stretch, Kansas City has the edge, according to FPI (No. 1 offense in terms of efficiency at 85.1 and the league leader in Total QBR in Mahomes at 81.6).

Matchup to watch: Marlon Mack vs. the Chiefs’ front seven. The Kansas City defense ranked No. 27 versus the run during the regular season, giving up 132.1 yards per game. Look for the Colts to lean on their power run game with Mack. Block down and pull. The idea here is to control the line of scrimmage, eat clock and limit possessions for Mahomes. Let those big boys go to work up front. Bowen

Betting nuggets: The Colts are 6-0 both against the spread and straight up in their six games against teams with a winning record this season. Andy Reid, on the other hand, has lost outright in each of his past four games as a home favorite in the postseason, including twice with Kansas City. — Nelson

Officiating scouting report: Referee John Hussey averaged 14.6 flags per game during the regular season, fifth fewest in the NFL. That frequency will be tested by the Chiefs, who were the most penalized team in the league (163). Their defensive secondary was especially grabby, committing a league-high 24 fouls for defensive holding; the rest of the league averaged just 9.8. — Seifert

play

1:10

Darren Woodson says the Chiefs will “put big numbers up” at home, but Tedy Bruschi sees the Colts winning in their playoff game.

Mike Wells’ pick: The Colts have been the NFL’s stingiest defense since Week 7, giving up an average of 16.4 points per game over that span. But they also haven’t faced a team with the scoring ability of Kansas City. The Chiefs are first in the league in yards per game (425.6), yards per play (6.84) and points per game (35.3). But the opportunity to run the ball will be there for the Colts, as the Chiefs were 31st in the league (5.0 yards allowed per carry), which would keep Mahomes on the sideline. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Colts won, but the Chiefs get the slight edge because they’re playing at home. Chiefs 34, Colts 30

Adam Teicher’s pick: Few road teams have been able to run up the score against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, where the home team allowed 18 points per game this season (sixth best in the NFL). The Chiefs are second in sack rate (10.5 percent) and third in interception rate (4.1 percent). That’s enough defensive goodness to beat Luck and the Colts at home. Chiefs 31, Colts 27

In case you missed it: What’s behind Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s struggles in the playoffs?Colts’ incredible turnaround happened fast, but was no quick fix


Point spread: LAR -7.5 | Matchup quality: 61.8 (of 100)

Dallas is 8-1 at home this season and just 3-5 on the road, so the question is whether the Cowboys can get control of the game without the help of their own friendly confines. The Rams allowed a higher yard-per-rush average than any other team in the league this season, so it’s possible Ezekiel Elliott can get something going against L.A.’s aggressive, pursuing defensive front. But the Rams appear set to get their own star running back, Todd Gurley, back for this game and are coming off a bye week. They should have answers for Dallas’ young linebackers and fearsome defensive line led by DeMarcus Lawrence. The Rams were in the playoffs last season and felt they didn’t play their best in a first-round loss to Atlanta. What did Sean McVay’s crew learn from that experience? — Graziano

FPI win projection: LAR, 78.7 percent. The Rams finished the regular season ranked first in offensive efficiency in the NFC, according to FPI (78.1), but also should cause Dak Prescott and the Cowboys problems on the defensive side of the field. The Rams ranked second in the NFL in ESPN’s pass rush win rate (how often a pass-rusher is able to beat his block within 2.5 seconds), using data from NFL’s Next Gen Stats. This is thanks in large part to Aaron Donald, who led all players with a PRWR of 46 percent this season.

Matchup to watch: The Rams’ first-down play-action vs. the Cowboys’ defense. The Rams’ foundational pass concepts start with play-action off the outside zone run look. It allows L.A. to create voids in coverage schemes, with Jared Goff throwing on rhythm to Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. If the Cowboys lean on their core zone coverages, McVay can dial up early-down play-action to attack the middle of the field. — Bowen

Betting nuggets: The Cowboys have won each of their three games as an underdog of at least seven points outright this season. And Goff is 4-11-1 ATS in 16 career starts against teams with a winning record, including 0-3-1 ATS this season. — Nelson

Officiating scouting report: Referee John Parry threw the second-most flags for roughing the passer (11), a notable total in a game that includes the Rams’ aggressive defensive front. The Rams were called for six such penalties, second most in the league. — Seifert

Todd Archer’s pick: Matchups matter, especially in the playoffs. It was believed to be better for the Cowboys to avoid the Saints in the divisional round because the Saints are nearly flawless at home, but the Rams went 7-1 at the Coliseum and averaged 37 points per game. The stat that sticks out the most, however, is 5.1 yards per carry. Los Angeles allowed that during the regular season, and the Cowboys clearly want to build their game around Elliott. That’s the best way to keep a high-scoring team off the field. And that’s the best way for the Cowboys to advance to the NFC title game. Cowboys 23, Rams 20

Lindsey Thiry’s pick: The Rams’ run defense is certainly a concern facing the NFL’s leading rusher in Elliott. However, it can’t be overlooked that the Rams’ defense has made late-game stops throughout the season when it has needed to in crunch time. As for their own run game, teammates said Gurley appeared strong and fresh in his first practices back from a knee issue that had kept him sidelined since Week 16. Rams 32, Cowboys 28

play

1:10

Darren Woodson says the Cowboys will take away the Rams’ running game to win, but Tedy Bruschi sees L.A. getting off to a fast start.

In case you missed it: Showtime Rams? Not yet, but Rams are ready for the A-listersWant to learn about Rams culture: Learn your McVayismsGurley, Elliott headline Rams-Cowboys playoff matchupCowboys headed to L.A., aiming to raise bar on expectations


SUNDAY’S GAMES

Point spread: NE -4 | Matchup quality: 76.5 (of 100)

The Patriots at home in January coming off a bye feels like easy money. Philip Rivers is 0-7 in his career against Tom Brady, and the Patriots are tried-and-true playoff blue bloods. But these Chargers are 9-0 this season when they’ve had to travel outside of Los Angeles. Flying to Baltimore last week, back home Sunday night and back to New England this week might bother some teams, but it’s not likely to make much difference to Anthony Lynn’s road warriors. Will Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley have an ingenious new game plan to combat Brady and the New England run game, as he did last week against the Ravens? And what aspect of the Chargers’ diverse offense will Bill Belichick scheme to take away? It may be now or never for Rivers, who’s got his best team in years and a chance for a sweet late-career addition to his legacy. — Graziano

FPI win projection: NE, 65.0 percent. The Patriots are the smallest favorite in this round, according to FPI, but were also the only team to go undefeated at home this regular season. New England finished fourth in offensive efficiency (78.4) and second in defensive efficiency (80.5) at home, according to FPI. Rivers was second in the NFL in QBR in road games during the regular season (81.3) and posted a 78.3 at Baltimore in the wild-card round.

Matchup to watch: Belichick vs. Rivers. Let’s keep an eye on the coverage schemes and rotations Belichick draws up to limit Rivers’ ability to throw intermediate cuts off high-low concepts. In the Chargers’ playbook, Rivers can work two-level reads inside, which puts defenders in conflict — and that leads to open windows. New England’s linebackers and secondary must take away his ability to make high-percentage throws with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams on inside breaking routes. Bowen

Betting nuggets: The Chargers have won outright in each of their past five games as an underdog and are led by Rivers, who is 6-1 ATS with four outright wins in seven career postseason starts as an underdog. As for the total, eight of the Patriots’ past nine games have gone under. — Nelson

Officiating scouting report: Referee Ron Torbert’s regular-season crew threw the second-lowest total of flags (13.7 per game) this season. That increases the likely possibility of a low-flag game. The Patriots finished the season tied for seventh in the NFL with 113 penalties. The Chargers ranked No. 14 with 124. — Seifert

Eric D. Williams’ pick: The Bolts will have to play a near-perfect game on the road to earn a victory. However, with a veteran coaching staff and two edge rushers, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who can pressure Brady, the Chargers have a chance to pull off the upset. The key for the Chargers will be limiting mistakes and scoring touchdowns on offense. The Patriots allowed 4.9 rushing yards per play during the regular season, tied for third worst in the NFL, which bodes well for Melvin Gordon. New England also allowed 59 passing plays of 20-plus yards in 2018, so the Chargers’ receivers should create some explosive plays down the field. Chargers 24, Patriots 21

play

1:30

NFL Live’s Tedy Bruschi and Darren Woodson explain their picks for the AFC divisional matchup between the Chargers and Patriots.

Mike Reiss’ pick: The Patriots’ defense has been a different unit at home (where the team is 8-0) and that will ultimately be the difference-maker against a Chargers team that is dominant outside of Los Angeles County. The Patriots are well-rested and healthy coming off the playoff bye, and players felt like Wednesday’s full-pads practice was an important one for them to ramp things up for a physical game. Meanwhile, the Chargers are banged up in some key spots (running back, for one) and will be making another flight across the country after playing in Baltimore on Sunday. Patriots 27, Chargers 20

In case you missed it: MMA obsession is toughening up the Chargers’ receivers‘Money Badger’ Michael Badgley continues to make clutch kicks for Chargers


Point spread: NO -8 | Matchup quality: 60.4 (of 100)

To get to last year’s Super Bowl, the Eagles had to win two home playoff games. To get to this year’s big game, Nick Foles & Co. have to win three road playoff games. One down and two to go, with the help of a Soldier Field upright, but this week’s trip to the Superdome may be the toughest test yet. They’ll see a rested Saints team that finished top-five in the league in rushing and passing offense for the second year in a row. If the Saints’ offensive line can keep the Eagles’ defensive front from wrecking the game with the pass rush, Drew Brees should have plenty of time to pick apart Philadelphia’s decimated secondary. New Orleans would be wise to build a big lead, though. Based on the past two postseasons, the last thing you want to do is put the ball in Foles’ hands late in a close game. — Graziano

FPI win projection: NO, 80.9 percent. The Saints are the biggest favorite of the weekend, thanks largely to their offensive prowess at home this season. Brees posted a league-leading 89.7 Total QBR in home games this season, the second highest since ESPN began tracking QBR in 2006 (Aaron Rodgers, 90.5 in 2011), leading the Saints to the second-best offensive efficiency in home games, according to FPI (85.0). One ray of hope for Philadelphia is that the Saints had a 30.4 defensive efficiency at home, second worst in the league this season.

Matchup to watch: Brees vs. Avonte Maddox. Maddox is an aggressive corner with the transition speed to break downhill on the ball. He’s going to close in a hurry. But that also leads to opportunities to run double-moves at the young cornerback. If Maddox is sitting on the slant or the quick out — like we saw in the wild-card matchup against Chicago — look for Brees to target the rookie with a double-move over the top. — Bowen

Betting nuggets: The Eagles have won outright in each of Foles’ past six starts as an underdog, with four of those wins coming in the postseason. As for the total, the over is 9-0 in the Saints’ nine postseason games played in Superdome. — Nelson

Officiating scouting report: Referee Carl Cheffers’ crew gets two of the least-penalized teams in the NFL. The Saints had the second-fewest penalties (109), and the Eagles ranked No. 6 (112). Officials did nab the Saints for 20 defensive pass interference (DPI) calls, second most in the league, but Cheffers’ regular-season crew made the second-fewest such calls (nine), and overall had the lowest combined total of DPI, illegal contact and defensive holding (27). — Seifert

play

1:18

NFL Live’s Tedy Bruschi and Darren Woodson explain their picks for the NFC divisional matchup between the Eagles and Saints.

Tim McManus’ pick: The Eagles are playing their best ball of the year and are 4-0 since Foles came in for the injured Carson Wentz. The defense was gashed for 546 yards and 48 points by New Orleans in Week 11, but it has since stabilized, yielding 15 points total over the past two games. This will be a much closer game, but the home-field advantage the Superdome provides will come into play and tilt the game the Saints’ way. Saints 27, Eagles 24

Mike Triplett’s pick: Of course I don’t expect another 48-7 rout like their last meeting two months ago, but the Saints do have a lot going in their favor as the No. 1 seed. Most importantly, their banged-up offensive line has had time to rest, which should help their offense get back on track and help nullify Philly’s terrific front four. New Orleans’ receiving corps is also healthier with Ted Ginn Jr. coming back late in the season, and a refreshed Alvin Kamara should play a huge part in the passing game. Last but not least, the Saints are at home, where they have averaged 40 points per game in the past five games that Brees played. The Saints are 5-0 in the Superdome in the playoffs during the Sean Payton-Brees era. Saints 30, Eagles 20

In case you missed it: Eagles bring ‘different team’ into rematch with SaintsPayton, Saints rewarded for sticking together through lean years

Source link

NFL

New York Jets Super Bowl III rings turn 50

Published

on

They’ve been lost, found, stolen, dropped, sold, imprisoned, bequeathed and refrigerated. They’ve been to the bottom of the ocean and the bottom of a toilet bowl. They’ve been photographed, duplicated and damaged.

They’ve traveled the world, made grown men cry and united strangers. They’ve inspired.

The Super Bowl III championship rings, which just turned 50, have enjoyed a wonderful life on the fingers and in the jewelry boxes of the mighty men who earned them Jan. 12, 1969 — the New York Jets.

These historic rings were the reward for a 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts, one of the biggest upsets in sports history. They’re elegant, but understated by today’s standards — 14-karat gold with approximately 2 carats in diamonds. And they almost never happened.

Frugal coach Weeb Ewbank preferred watches over rings, but he was talked out of it by a players committee led by quarterback Joe Namath. Feelings were chafed, but the passage of time has turned tension into joy.

It weighs only 1.5 ounces, but it carries so much history. It’s the first Super Bowl ring to actually use the words “Super Bowl.” It has the score of the game and the score of the AFL Championship Game (27-23 over the Oakland Raiders). It has Ewbank’s mantra: “Poise and Execution.”

Each ring also includes the player’s name and number. Remember that, because it’ll come in handy on the amazing journey you’re about to take.


play

1:18

Former Jets center John Schmitt lost his Super Bowl III ring and he tells the remarkable story about how he got it back 40 years later.

John Schmitt: Miracle at Waikiki

After the 1971 season, John Schmitt took his wife on a vacation to Hawai’i, where he spent a few hours surfing with legendary Hawai’ian entertainer Don Ho. Life was good for Schmitt. He was 29, a self-made player who worked his way up from anonymous free agent to Super Bowl champion. He was Namath’s center, and damn proud of it.

But that day on the shores of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Schmitt sobbed in the sand.

As he dragged his board back to the surf shack, he noticed his Super Bowl ring was missing from his right hand. He searched the beach. Nothing. He rented a snorkel and fins, and swam in the choppy waters until his thick arms ached. Nothing. It was hopeless. He went from hang 10 to hangdog. The mighty Pacific had swallowed his prized possession.

“I want to tell you, I was in tears,” he said. “I was crying. I nearly drowned, trying to find it.”

Schmitt returned to his home in Long Island, New York, became a wealthy businessman after his playing career and replaced the ring with a duplicate. In the fall of 2011, he received a call from a Jets executive named Bob Parente, who began the conversation this way:

“Schmitty, are you sitting down?”

Through an implausible series of events, Schmitt’s ring was found in a small wooden box, which fell out of a shoe, which was tossed out of a closet, which housed the ring for 38 years.

Are you ready for this?

In 1973, a lifeguard named John Ernstberg found the ring while snorkeling in 25 feet of water at Waikiki; his eyes were attracted to a shiny object on the bottom of the sea. He didn’t know it was a famous ring, so he stashed it.

When the old lifeguard died in 2011, his great-niece went to his apartment to sort out his belongings. While rummaging through a closet, Cindy Saffery found the ring by happenstance. She threw out a bunch of shoes, one of which spit out the box. When she opened it, there it was — buried treasure.

Saffery took it to her aunt’s jewelry store in Honolulu, where they verified the authenticity of the diamonds. Still, they didn’t know what to make of its historical significance. They asked a friend from the local ESPN radio station to take a look. He saw “Schmitt” and “Jets,” and connected the dots.

There was a call to the NFL offices, followed by a call to the Jets, followed by the call to Schmitt, who was indeed sitting down.

“You talk about miracles,” he said, smiling. “If you ask any football people, that the Jets won the Super Bowl and got this ring, that’s one miracle. … We got it back, half a world away, 40 years later. That’s two miracles. Not many people get lucky enough to have two miracles.”

Wait, there’s more.

Schmitt met Cindy, her husband and two kids when they flew to New York on Oprah Winfrey’s dime. Winfrey’s company produced a reality TV show called “Lost and Found,” which jumped at the chance to tell the story of the former Super Bowl champ and the miracle ring.

“If you ask any football people, that the Jets won the Super Bowl and got this ring, that’s one miracle. … We got it back, half a world away, 40 years later. That’s two miracles. Not many people get lucky enough to have two miracles.”

John Schmitt

With cameras rolling, the family, which refused to accept his $3,000 reward offer, returned the ring to Schmitt. Once again, he was in tears, just like that day on the beach in 1971. They hit it off and enjoyed a whirlwind weekend in New York.

They traveled by limo to a Jets game — 50-yard line seats — and watched his old team rally from an 11-point deficit to beat the San Diego Chargers. Afterward, they went for dinner in New York City.

“Before they leave, Samuel, the father — he’s about 6-foot-6, deep voice — he says, ‘You know, John, in Hawai’i, we’re now family and families speak every week, so I expect to speak with you every week,'” Schmitt said.

And so they do. There’s a phone call every Thursday night, and they’ve been doing it for seven years.

“We’ve become a big family,” said Schmitt, who has vacationed at their home in Hawai’i.

Make it three miracles.


Joe Namath: Broadway Joe’s 34th fumble

Namath was the star of the team, the star of professional football and a star in any room. He was so popular after the Super Bowl that Elvis Presley invited him backstage after a show in Las Vegas. Namath loved the glitz, but he wasn’t into the bling — well, at least not jewelry.

Other than an ID bracelet in junior high school — a present from his mother — Namath didn’t wear flashy rings or necklaces during his playing days. (Fur coats, different story.) Even now, at age 75, he keeps it simple — a St. Jude medal around his neck.

Until it’s time to be Broadway Joe.

“Our ring tells a story. And I think our story is pretty incredible.”

Joe Namath

When he goes out to a function or a sporting event, he will reach into “my humble little vault” and pull out his senior football ring from Alabama, a gift from legendary coach Bear Bryant, or his Super Bowl ring, which might be the most photographed piece of jewelry this side of the crown jewels in England.

“I share it with people,” Namath said. “I let them see it. I take it off now and then and let a youngster, let a Jets fan wear it. Every time I take it off to give to a little guy or little girl, big guy or a big girl, I’m careful with it. Very, very careful with it, and I put it in their hand.”

The NFL record book says Namath fumbled 33 times in his career. He’s haunted by the 34th.

“I can remember the one time I dropped the ring and — man. Oh, my God, my stomach jumped,” he said. “It hit the ground and bounced. Oh, man. I picked it up to see if anything had come loose or was broken. And it survived. When I take it off and give it to somebody, I tell them to hold on to it because I dropped it once and, man, I don’t want to get it dropped again.

“Of all the times I’ve shared that ring with a Jets fan, I was the only one to fumble — the only one,” he said with a laugh. “The handoffs have all been good, except the one time I didn’t complete it properly.”

Namath still has his original ring, which he cherishes more than ever. He acknowledged how the Jets’ model has been dwarfed by the monstrous rings of recent vintage, but he’s cool with that.

“Our ring tells a story,” he said. “And I think our story is pretty incredible.”


Emerson Boozer: Frisky the cat

As a running back, Emerson Boozer was known for his catlike quickness. He was the master of the spin move, capable of embarrassing defenders.

About 10 years after winning the Super Bowl, he was on the receiving end of a stealthy move by a real feline.

One day at his Long Island home, Boozer noticed his ring was missing. He searched frantically for hours, room to room. It just disappeared, and it crushed him.

“He was upset because he always took special care and special precautions,” said Enez, his wife of 50 years.

A month later, Enez found the ring while cleaning behind the furnace in the laundry room. It didn’t take a lot of detective work to figure out how it got there. Their pet, Frisky, moved it from the bedroom.

A true cat burglar, that Frisky.

“He doesn’t wear it that often, but he treasures that ring,” Enez said of her husband, 75, who is battling health issues. “It’s a magnificent ring.”


Randy Rasmussen: Unplayable lie

“You haven’t heard my story?” Randy Rasmussen asked. “I’ve got the best one of all.”

It happened at a golf course in Norwalk, Connecticut, on an October day about 20 years ago. It started with a wardrobe dilemma.

When he got to the locker room, Rasmussen decided it was warm enough to wear shorts. He went to his car to get the golf shorts and, on the way back to the clubhouse, he discovered his ring was missing. His initial thought was that he didn’t take it to the course, so he and his golfing buddies searched the grounds only briefly.

“I wasn’t heartbroken right away because I said, ‘I’ll bet I left it at home,'” said the former offensive guard, who played more games (207) than any non-kicker in Jets history. “When I got home, I searched every chair, every corner, five times. Then you feel like an idiot because how can you lose something that valuable? But I did.”

The years passed: One … two … three. Nearly four years to the day of his infamous round, Rasmussen received a call from a stranger who had the ring.

It was a fellow golfer who had spotted a gleaming object in the dirt at the intersection of two sidewalks outside the clubhouse. It was caked in so much mud that it took two days of soaking in water before the inscription was legible. He saw Rasmussen’s name, and tracked him down.

“Think about this: The lawn mower had been going over and over it and over it,” Rasmussen said. “It could’ve chopped it up, but it came back in great condition. It’s incredible, to tell you the truth. Shocking.”

Rasmussen, figuring the ring was worth about $25,000 at the time, was blown away by the man’s kindness. He offered a cash reward, but the gentleman declined, preferring a husbands-and-wives dinner at a popular restaurant in nearby Greenwich. Rasmussen obliged, happily.

Now 73, Rasmussen is eternally grateful to have the ring in his possession. He called it a constant reminder of what they accomplished a half-century ago.

“I know we won,” he said, “because I’ve got the ring.”


Don Maynard: Chilled ice

Don Maynard was one of the best wide receivers of his generation — and maybe the most eccentric. Born in a dusty corner of Texas, he came to New York in the late 1950s (first as a member of the Giants) with long sideburns, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.

He was different, so it should come as no surprise he stores his Super Bowl ring in a most unusual place.

His refrigerator.

“If the house caught on fire or something, ain’t nothing in the refrigerator will get burned,” Maynard said in his thick Texas drawl, explaining his odd storage choice.

The way he figures it, it’s safe from home invaders, too.

“Nobody ever looks in the refrigerator unless somebody is hungry,” he said, not trying to be funny.

Open Maynard’s fridge, and you’ll find milk, eggs and glittering diamonds.

Maynard, 83, lives a simple life in El Paso, Texas. The Pro Football Hall of Famer always keeps work gloves in his hip pockets, looking to do chores around the house. He doesn’t wear his ring that often because he works with his hands outside, shoveling, hammering or raking. During his playing days, he worked as a plumber during the offseason.

Just because he doesn’t wear the ring doesn’t mean he doesn’t cherish it.

“It means everything,” his wife, Anna, said. “He’s very careful with it and very proud of it. Nobody gets that ring unless you take a finger with it.”


Buddy Ryan: Rex wins the draw

The late Buddy Ryan won two Super Bowl rings during his illustrious coaching career. The second came as the defensive coordinator of the celebrated 1985 Chicago Bears. The first came with the Jets, when he was a 37-year-old assistant in his first NFL gig.

This presented a problem when he sat down to make out his last will and testament. With two sons coaching football, Ryan decided to make them draw straws for first dibs. Rex won and, without hesitation, took the Jets. His twin brother, Rob, got the Bears.

“That’s the team our family will always identify with,” Rex said of the Jets, whom he coached from 2009 to 2014. “My father loved that team. The fans obviously identify him with the Bears more than they do with the Jets, but I think he knew the importance of that game. Weeb told him, ‘You have to make a difference here.’ And I guess he did.”

Buddy Ryan, a tough SOB who fought in the Korean War, died in 2016. A big part of his legacy now lives on Rex’s ring finger.

Ewbank, a Hall of Fame coach who died in 1998, bequeathed his Super Bowl ring to a grandson, Tom Spenceley, who hung around training camp as a teenager in the 1960s. Ewbank’s defensive coordinator was Walt Michaels, 89, who still has his ring sans the original diamonds. They were reset a long time ago in a gift to his wife, Betty.

“I guess he decided she’d wear the diamonds better than he would,” said Walt Michaels Jr., who owns a duplicate, as do his three siblings.


Mark Smolinski: Do the math

Mark Smolinski went out on top. After Super Bowl III, he retired from football and became a high school math teacher in his hometown of Petoskey, Michigan, a small lakeside town. He was a celebrity in the school, dazzling the students with his bling. It was too dazzling.

“I’d be at the blackboard and the kids were more interested in the ring than the class,” said Smolinski, 79, the Jets’ special-teams captain. “After a year, I just took the ring off. Whatever I was teaching, they were paying more attention to the ring. I didn’t need that. I needed more attention on mathematics.”

Smolinski still wears the ring on special occasions, but he retired it to a place where it won’t cause any distractions.

His sock drawer.


Earl Christy: Super sale

Earl Christy returned the opening kickoff in Super Bowl III, but never touched the ball again — ever. He was released the following summer, marking the end of his football career at age 26. It stung the team because Christy, with his infectious personality, was popular in the locker room.

In 2013, Christy sold his Super Bowl ring for $53,775, according to Heritage Auctions. Why? He said he’s not bitter. He loves that team and still attends the reunions. So why part with such a treasured piece of memorabilia?

“I had a history of losing it,” he said.

Christy’s young daughter once dropped it in the toilet and flushed. Luckily, it was too heavy to go down the drain. Another time, it came off his finger in the snow. Not wanting to chance it, he ordered a duplicate and placed the original in a safe box. Then he got to thinking: If it’s just sitting in a box, why not get money for it?

At least one other player sold his ring — former defensive end Verlon Biggs, who died of leukemia at the age of 51. His widow sold it to a New Orleans jewelry store, which sold it to Heritage Auctions in 2016 for an undisclosed amount.

Christy said he doesn’t regret his decision.

“I wouldn’t have sold it if I couldn’t make a duplicate,” he said. “I’m not a materialistic person. The ring is great, but it’s more about the fellowship, the memories and the joy of winning.”


Gerry Philbin: Super sale that wasn’t

Gerry Philbin wears it every day, which explains the worn lettering, so you can imagine his shock when he received a phone call nearly 20 years ago from a concerned friend wondering why he had sold his beloved ring.

What?!

A New York newspaper reported that Philbin, one of the Jets’ defensive stars, sold it for $12,000 via an auction house in Manhattan. Philbin, living in Florida, quickly figured out what had happened.

Years earlier, he took his ring to a Manhattan jeweler to have it resized. It was out of his sight for two or three days, during which time he suspects a copy was made and later sold after his jeweler friend had died.

Furious, Philbin contacted a New York attorney with the hope of suing the auction house, but the suit never materialized. To this day, it still bothers him. Sell his ring? Not a chance. He recalled a post-Super Bowl conversation with then-commissioner Pete Rozelle, who told Philbin he’d appreciate the intrinsic value of the ring long after his Super Bowl winnings were spent.

“It’s something that has no price tag,” said Philbin, who always shuns memorabilia dealers. “It’s priceless.”


Larry Grantham: Freedom’s ring

Larry Grantham enjoyed a storybook football career, from his legendary days at Ole Miss to defensive captain of the Jets, but his life away from the game was hard. He was an alcoholic who once spent a night in jail after being part of a five-car crash when he was drunk.

“My Super Bowl ring got me in the front door with clients,” he told Jerry Izenberg of NJ.com. “My drinking sent me staggering out the back door. I verbally abused my kids.”

Later in life, Grantham battled throat cancer and underwent hernia surgery, resulting in medical bills he couldn’t pay. Desperate, he put his Super Bowl ring up for sale with an online auction house in 2009.

“The ring meant everything to him, so I’m sure that was a tough decision that he struggled with,” said his son, Jamie Grantham. “The Super Bowl ring never left his hand. He wore it all the time. He was very proud of it and willing to share it.”

Struggles notwithstanding, Larry Grantham’s heart was filled with goodness, and that goodness resulted in the return of his ring.

Freedom House, a New Jersey drug-and-alcohol treatment center he had supported for more than a decade, found out about the online auction and immediately raised $18,000 in an effort to buy back the ring for Grantham. When the president of the auction house heard the backstory, he took down the ring from its website and overnighted it to Grantham. The $18,000 went toward his medical bills.

Grantham, who died in 2017 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was sober for the final 33 years of his life. He raised $1.3 million for Freedom House, holding an annual golf tournament that drew many of his former teammates. He often spoke to the patients, telling old football stories and letting them hold his Super Bowl ring. Eight years ago, the center dedicated a wing to Grantham.

These days, his ring resides in a safe-deposit box in Alabama, not far from his son’s house. Those who know Grantham never will forget his reaction when it was returned after its brief stay in online limbo. The old linebacker, known for his gritty toughness, broke down and cried.


Winston Hill: The blind side

Winston Hill’s ring was stolen out of his car on a drive from New York to Colorado in 1970. He and his wife had stopped for a night at a motel, and they left the ring and her Super Bowl pendant — given to the players’ wives — in a suitcase in the trunk.

Shrugging it off, he replaced the ring and used it for the rest of his life as a tool to teach the values he treasured — effort and commitment. The team chaplain during his playing days, Hill enjoyed speaking to large groups and sharing his ring. His daughters, Hovlyn Hill May and Heather Hill, joked that strangers wore it more than he did.

“He used his fame from the Super Bowl win to connect with people and inspire them,” Hovlyn said.

Best known as Namath’s blindside protector, Hill was one of the most revered players on the team. He was deeply spiritual, unselfish and soft-spoken … until game day, when he morphed into one of the most dominant left tackles of his generation.

Hill wasn’t into individual accolades and he certainly wasn’t a fan of jewelry, but he knew the ring could help others. When he spoke to kids, he urged them to find their “inner ring.” In 2014, he spoke at Valley High School in tiny Gilcrest, Colorado, where Hovlyn teaches. A homecoming crowd saw the ring and heard his message.

In November 2015, a few months before he died, Hill was honored by his alma mater, Weldon High in Gladewater, Texas. As a young boy, he couldn’t play football because there was no team for blacks in the segregated town. That same school now has a wall mural of Hill, Super Bowl hero.

That night, he addressed a packed stadium, then gave his ring to one of the players, who passed it to the next player. It went through the entire Weldon team.

“It was always fun to see those little fingers in that giant ring,” Heather said.

Fittingly, Heather Hill, an accomplished soprano, sang the national anthem Oct. 14 at MetLife Stadium, where the Jets celebrated the 50th anniversary of their only Super Bowl team. On the field, she was surrounded by her father’s former teammates.

She wore her father’s old jersey, No. 75, beneath a green and white Jets jacket. Around her neck was a gold chain. Hanging from the chain, between the 7 and 5 …

Look closely …

Closer …

His Super Bowl ring.

Source link

Continue Reading

NFL

49ers have plenty to gain coaching at Senior Bowl – San Francisco 49ers Blog

Published

on

Upon taking over as head coach and general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch made it clear that they intended to hold the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft only in that first year after succeeding Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke.

The hope, of course, was that the Niners would never again lose enough to find themselves in such lofty draft position. But here we are, just two years later, and the Niners again find themselves with the No. 2 overall pick. The bad news is that means the 49ers are coming off another dismal season, this time in the form of a 4-12 record.

The good news? San Francisco will get another crack at landing an elite player via the draft. What’s more, since Shanahan and Lynch are incumbents, they will have a bit of a head start on identifying that player. The Niners coach the South team in this week’s Senior Bowl.

For Shanahan, who has been on staffs that coached a Senior Bowl twice previously, that means an opportunity to dive deeper than the tape and get to know some of this year’s top prospects.

“It’s not about the athletes and stuff because you can see that on tape pretty well,” Shanahan said. “You can see that when we work them out. It’s about being around people. It’s hard in the interview process to fully get to know someone. It’s hard to get tricked when you’re with someone for seven straight days.”

Although most of the top prospects in this year’s draft are underclassmen, there figures to be plenty of talent at this year’s Senior Bowl. With that in mind, here’s a look at what the 49ers have to gain and what they’ll be watching closely this week in Mobile, Alabama:

Sorting through a strong class of edge rushers

The news that Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen dropped out was a disappointment for the Niners, especially since he would have been on the South roster and was the only player slated to be in Mobile who would be in consideration for the No. 2 overall pick. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be edge-rushing talent for the Niners to get to know this week.

Early projections for this class indicate that edge rusher is one of the strongest and deepest positions.

“I think it’s strong there,” Lynch said. “That’s clear. There’s good pass-rushers in this draft. I think that’s a strength of this draft. … Everyone is looking for those guys, so I think we’re excited.”

The question then becomes how the 49ers will sort through them. They’ll get an up-close look at two of the draft’s more intriguing outside rushers this week with Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat and Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson on the South roster. ESPN’s Todd McShay ranks Sweat as the No. 21 player in the 2019 draft class, with Ferguson checking in at No. 30. Sweat and Ferguson are just two of the eight players McShay ranks in his top 32.

Boston College’s Zach Allen, who appears on McShay’s list at No. 22, is on the North roster.

Between now and the draft, much will be made of this class of edge rushers. Opinions will vary. For the Niners, the chance to begin that process with a close look should only help in the evaluation.

More middle-round talent?

The Niners’ first two drafts under Shanahan brought mixed results at the top. Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster, first-round choices in 2017, have mostly been disappointing, though tackle Mike McGlinchey, the 2018 first-round choice, was quite good as a rookie.

While the jury remains out on those two draft classes as a whole, the Niners have had some success finding talent in the middle rounds. Tight end George Kittle looks like the steal of the 2017 draft after San Francisco scooped him up in the fifth round. Last year, the Niners found linebacker Fred Warner in the third round, and he immediately stepped in as a starter in the middle.

Warner played in last year’s Senior Bowl, while quarterback C.J. Beathard and receiver Trent Taylor took part in the 2017 edition. It’s reasonable to think that the additional exposure to prospects while serving as the coaching staff for the South could help uncover the 49ers’ next middle-round gem, especially considering that many of the top seniors might have to wait until Day 2 or 3 to come off the board.

Among the most interesting names on the South roster to watch: Buffalo receiver Anthony Johnson, South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel, Oklahoma guard Ben Powers, Alabama guard Ross Pierschbacher and Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram.

Keeping up with quarterbacks

No, the 49ers don’t need a quarterback, and they almost certainly won’t use a draft pick on one unless it comes very late and the value is too much to pass up. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have at least mild interest in what’s happening with the quarterbacks in Mobile.

Neither Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins nor Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray will be participating, but Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones both will be, and they are considered potential first-round picks. The better they perform, the more valuable the Niners’ No. 2 pick becomes. It’s unlikely that Lock or Jones will garner consideration from a team offering a boatload of picks to the Niners in exchange for the No. 2 selection, but if the 49ers find a partner to trade down with, it would only benefit them to have multiple quarterbacks go in front of whatever spot they end up picking.

As a bonus, the ability of Shanahan and his staff to get the most from their quarterbacks, even in a short period of time, could help boost the stock of the signal-callers on the South team (West Virginia’s Will Grier, Washington State’s Gardner Minshew, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson). Again, the more quarterbacks who go in front of the Niners’ picks, the better the Niners’ chances of getting a player they covet.

Source link

Continue Reading

NFL

Feeling they were ‘running out of time’, Patriots turned things around – New England Patriots Blog

Published

on

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots have shifted their attention to preparations for Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams, which highlights a dramatic U-turn from where the team was just a few weeks ago, in mid-December.

Quarterback Tom Brady and other players identified a 17-10 road loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which the team totaled 14 accepted penalties, as a key turning point for the Patriots. It was the second loss in a row, following a final-play meltdown in Miami the week before, to drop the team’s record to 9-5.

“It was like, ‘We’re running out of time,’” said safety Devin McCourty, one of the team’s captains.

Turning more to the running game and tightening up parts of their defense, they suddenly shifted into a higher gear.

  • Week 16: Patriots 24, Bills 12

  • Week 17: Patriots 38, Jets 3

  • Divisional round: Patriots 41, Chargers 28

  • AFC title game: Patriots 37, Chiefs 31 (OT)

“We’ve found a way to play our best the last four games,” Brady said. “Buffalo, Jets, had the bye, played great against the Chargers, played really well [against the Chiefs]. We’re going to need one more great game.”

One of the things that stood out to Brady was how the ground attack has come to life, which helps when playing in a place like Arrowhead Stadium. It was telling that on the first play of Sunday’s game, the Patriots went big with their personnel, with tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, and fullback James Develin. Running back Sony Michel rumbled ahead for an 11-yard gain and, in a sense, the tone was set.

“You play on the road, it’s going to be tough. What travels is running the ball. Playing tough. That’s good in any weather, any condition, any environment, any stadium,” Brady said. “That was a big part of our game.”

Players never gave up hope they would ultimately find their groove, even though it came later than they hoped.

“We would like for the whole December, and after Thanksgiving, to get going,” McCourty acknowledged. “I thought we had flashes as a team — whether it was Minnesota [on Dec. 2], Green Bay [Nov. 4], but then we go and not play our best football in Miami [Dec. 9], and then Pittsburgh [Dec. 16].”

That’s why the Dec. 23 home game against Buffalo was so important.

“Buffalo was like, ‘All right, guys, this is what it takes.’ Playing at home, winning a division championship, was like, ‘Guys, this is championship-level football. This is what we need to do,'” McCourty said. “And then essentially playing another playoff game the next weekend against the Jets, we rolled with that kind of mentality.”

They haven’t stopped rolling since, which has earned the respect of coach Bill Belichick.

“There’s a lot of mentally tough players in that locker room, a lot of physically tough players in that locker room, a lot of guys that just go out and compete and won’t quit, just battle you, no matter what the situation is, and let the chips fall where they may,” Belichick said. “I think that’s a good way to do it.”

That mental toughness was defined by the ability to execute under pressure.

“I think there are a number of small things that changed, but ultimately, the biggest thing that’s changed is how we’ve executed under pressure,” special-teams captain Matthew Slater said. “We suffered those two losses and I don’t think our mentality changed at all. We still had belief, we still had faith in our process, we still had faith in one another, but we understood that hey, at some point this has to carry over to the game, we have to be able to execute under pressure.

“So, I think we’ve done a better job of that the last four times we’ve taken the football field, understanding that we need to play with a sense of urgency and no more ‘My bads’ or ‘I’ll get it next time.’ We’ve got to start executing now.”

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending