Ahead of the Curve
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Wilson Sportin' Goods

He won't ever reach the statistical stratosphere that passer-extraordinaires Peyton, Phil & Drew dew, but in a budding career marked by surprisingly mature-beyond-his-years QB play that has seen this Seattle signal-caller lead his team into the playoffs in each of his two seasons, Russell Wilson may just be this season's co-MVP.

The personal numbers are impressive: 3185 p.yd, 63%, 8.3 ypa, 25-9 ratio, 540 r.yd.

But it's the team tally (13-3), where even the losses were nail-bitters, that should beckon voter glims. And isn't that the truest measure of value, putting your team in position to win every game, by land, air or foot?

"Pinball Wizard(s)"

It's too bad either team has to lose a swinger like the one that took place Saturday at Lucas Oil, where the Colts out-lasted the snake-bitten Chiefs (or bug bitten, as in injury), 45-44. Two insights: 1) A. Luck's late-game poise is indicator he has "all the makings" of an elite QB, while 2) A. Smith again proves his critics to be amateur appraisers of talent.

But this game, with a now all-too-common swing-in-momentum (like BCS title (Aub 21-3 1H, w/ 21 FSU in 4Q), was more pinball than miraculous comeback, where both defenses in their respective horrid halves, appeared way short on quarters. Something's going on.

Kaep Krusader Kryptonite

How to stop Colin Kaepernick? Ravens know, or knew, in SB47: force him to think, to survey the terrain.

That's right, bottle the flash (7 / 98y v. GB), force Colin to hang "tough" in the pocket and read the defense (16-30 v. GB). Kaep's got the 'raff,' now he needs to work on the 'riff,' as in, R I F: "reading is fundamental (16 / 30a)."

Easier said than done, boxing in Colin, but the Packers are hardly the measuring-rod on that point. The green & yellow have a special knack for giving the athletic Kaepernick free-reign on the turfdom. That's what comes from clinging too tight to the coin, Ted & Co., the men who saw fit to pay-cut their top tackler last summer (AJ Hawk).

And if Sunday's action is any indication, it looks like Colin & Jimbo have changed little in their approach since their SB47 funk, where, had things not come un-plugged, CK's deer-in-the-headlights play would've likely led to the most lop-sided loss in SB annals.

Chippin' Away

Speaking on Friday, ESPN's man on all matters NFL, John Clayton, had words on what the League has in mind per future playoffs and likelihood of expansion (SC / 1-3). John says it's "not a matter of if, but when," as they're looking for ways to "increase revenue."

Now think on that for a second: looking for ways to "increase revenue."

NFL raked in $9.5 billion in revenue...BILLION, in 2011-12 (BI / Gaines / 10-9-12). They're grabbing with both hands and still no blood test in sight, thank you, DeMaurice Smith.

They're chipping away at it.  The greedmeisters are cutting into those bed-rock traits in competition & continuity that comprise the good of the game and separate the League from fraternity brothers NBA & NHL, members who diluted their pools-of-talent with over-expansion and extension of the post-season franchise to teams that can't cover (<.500).

And Jerry Jones is out on point ("The Fan" / 1-4), along with Nike, likely NFLPA and any other affiliate who profits off the game, too often indifferent to compromises on quality that result, all of them like spiders, wrapping the game in a cocoon of greed, like it were prey, keeping it alive to steadily drain out its dignity in profit at any & every opportunity.

The only "expansion" for our benefit would be an NFL franchise back in the mega-metropolis known as Los Angeles (& London?). That's in California, 'Rajah' Goodell.

Start the Countdown, Bristol

Start counting the months.  "Olbermann" the show can't be much longer for the TV dial.

ESPN's venture into the late-night, talk-show thing has missed the mark from the get-go, with the "mark" being the vitality & verve that had characterized Olbermann's former popular nightly gig at MSNBC, "Countdown with Keith Olbermann (2003-11)."

Producers may tweak it, maybe pull a "Kenny" on Keith and force him to suffer some set-changes ("Larry Sanders"), but within a year or so it should be history.

Keith does a fine job, and I'd have no problem bumping most of ESPN's day-time fare in the form of all those smarmy radio-TV amalgamations, to make room for KO.

But Olbermann's not an AM guy. He doesn't do the kiss-up, nor play the radio bad-boy bit.

Keith certainly knows his sports, and his witty asides when first appearing as an ESPN anchor in early 90s were a colorful addition to the Sportscenter broadcasts, ad-libs that have now become a trademark (over-kill?) of the Disney-owned sport media giant.

Politics is where Keith really shines.

Keep in mind, KO's employer is now run by the same young'uns who ditched their top show in "1st & 10" (in favor of the Stephen A. Smith Experience), the best post-Sunday analysis of NFL play in "Monday Quarterback," their superb historical tribute in "Sports Century," last Sunday night felt it prudent to bump back Chargers - Bengals highlights in favor of the all important Raptors - Heat game, and now will suffer viewers through a sabermetric silly, in-game, fluctuating, "win-probability" quotient. Ay caramba!

Given current state, and contract permitting, maybe you give your old buds at MSNBC a jingle, Keith. They're not exactly doing swimmingly themselves these days, sorry Rachel.

Divisional Cherry Picks: Home Cookin'

New Orleans Saints (12-5) @ Seattle Seahawks (13-3): 1-11 Fox 4:40 (GOTW)

Saints experience showed in Philly, but Hawks ain't greenhorns (28 int). Seattle wins.

Indianapolis Colts (12-5) @ New England Patriots (12-4): CBS 8:15

Could this game signal a 'changing of the guard?'  These Cardiac Colts are the bunch to do it, but not this year. Even w/out Gronk-itis, Patriots are rested, ready to feast & win.

San Francisco 49ers (13-4) @ Carolina Panthers (12-4): 1-12 Fox 1:10

Flash QB, w/ rock-D, kool kick & run, meets flash QB (terrific arm), w/ rock-D, kool kick & run. Panthers ain't the Packers. Cats can contain Colin with pressure (59S), corners (Tom & Kooch) and force the SF mercury man to sit-tite and, figuratively speaking, break-out the pipe & cherry tobacco, cardigan sweater, loyal Picardy Spaniel at his feet, high-watt lampage, i.e., settle into reading-mode. Carolina victorious.

San Diego Chargers (10-7) @ Denver Broncos (13-3): CBS 4:45

For SD, it's a long way from that wild Week 1 swinger vs HOU (L31-28). We know who the fat-cats favor and it ain't the Chargers. Tom vs Peyton is big doings, ratings wise, but Bolts thrive as "Cool Hand" anti-heroes. SD won at Denver W15, Broncos W10. Tide will turn on press, QB poise (INTs) & run-games.  "World shakin'" stops here. Denver wins.

Steven Keys

NFL Hunch Line

Photo Credit: R. Wilson / wc.cca / 11-4-12 / L. Maurer - Flickr

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