TOJ Guest Post – Belichick The Chess Master

A guest post on TOJ, looking at how Bill Belichick turns the game of football into a glorified chess match better than any coach in the NFL

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Kevin Kelly from GET Broken Record. If you are interested in contributing a guest post, send an email request with your idea to JoeC@TurnOnTheJets.com

Bill Belichick plays chess with human beings. And he’s better at this particular version of the game than any man alive.

Normal chess is man against man, mind against mind, strategy and tactical maneuvers engineered to attack while simultaneously defending.

Football is a complicated version of chess. Complicated for three reasons:

1. Only a few people realize it’s happening. Everyone else, the players included, are caught up in the excitement of the moment. 100,000 screaming fans, millions more watching at home, touchdown dances, cheerleaders, fireworks, explosions, the whole nine yards. But high atop the field watching quietly in the booth, a few select men sit quietly, studying, analyzing. They don’t see the sweat dripping off the faces of the athletes competing; they see pieces moving on a board. They watch. They look for patterns, holes, strengths and weaknesses not only in their own pieces, but also in the movements of the opponent.

2. There are multiple games being played simultaneously, and both games are using the same set of pieces. For example, the Offensive Coordinator and Defensive Coordinator both watch the game from the booth, and they play against a corresponding set of coordinators. If New York’s O.Coordinator bests New England’s defense, it means nothing if New York’s Defense gets trumped by the O.Coordinator for the Patriots. And it happens on the fly. All of this information, dozens of statistics and conditions and tangible pieces of evidence that suggest the what, where and how to succeed is then passed from the booth down to the coach.

3. This is where Belichick’s genius comes into play. He is a master at thin-slicing. He’s given an incredible amount of information and in the blink of an eye can deduce what needs to happen, to which he consistently adds resolve. Setting specific pieces into motion at certain times to evoke a reaction that butterfly effects a result two possessions or quarters or games later. It really is an incredible thing.

Rex Ryan screamed last Sunday. He screamed last Monday. On Tuesday, he probably yelled again for good measure. He talks trash. It has come to define him. But this Sunday he faces the Gridiron’s Bobby Fischer in a must-win situation. When Fischer beat the Russian Champion Boris Spassky in 1972 in a best of 7 series, Fischer didn’t show up for the first game. He intentionally took the loss. And it baffled the Russian. Without words, without doing anything at all, he planted a seed that chipped away at the best player in the world. Fischer took the series a few days later and became the first American Champion…ever.

Silence has a way of baffling the loud and outspoken. It’s a move they don’t understand, only drawing them further and further in, until it’s far too late.

If the Jets are to win on Sunday, their leaders need to shy away from the immediacy of the scream, away from the excitement of the moment and the roar of the crowd, and focus instead on the pieces on the board as Belichick has done for the last 20 years. It’s the NFL. Both sides have muscle, strength, and conditioning, top tier talent. All of that means nothing if you lose your mental, as reason walks out when emotion walks in. This is where New York needs to improve. And this is exactly what New England will look to exploit. Football is chess with living pieces. And in the immortal words of Bobby Fischer: Chess is war over the board. The object is to crush the opponent’s mind.

TOJ NFL Power Rankings – Week 5

A quarter of the way through the NFL season, it is time for our first 2011 Power Rankings. Explain my stupidity to me on Twitter or Facebook

Also check out an early week 5 preview

The Elite

1. Green Bay Packers (4-0) – The champs are hitting on all cylinders right now.

2. New Orleans Saints (3-1) – They almost knocked off the Packers in week one. Darren Sproles was a complete steal for them in free agency.

3. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – Laid an egg in Tennessee but look like they are ready to roll to a AFC North title.

4. New England Patriots (3-1) – They throw the football better than anybody in the league but what else can they do?

On The Rise

5. Detroit Lions (4-0) – Calvin Johnson is the best player in the NFL right now.

6. Tennessee Titans (3-1) – I trust them more than the Houston Texans to take the AFC South title.

7. Houston Texans (3-1) – Will this finally be the year they get over the hump?

8. San Diego Chargers (3-1) – An unimpressive 3-1…but considering their early season struggles in the past they will take it.

9. Washington Redskins (3-1) – Not as flashy of a team as their division counterparts but they could steal the NFC East.

10. New York Giants (3-1) – Rolling up wins in the first half of the season as they usually do.

11. Tampa Bay Bucs (3-1) – The young pups look like a legitimate playoff contender for the second year in a row.

12. Buffalo Bills (3-1) – Didn’t need that loss to Cincinnati with the schedule about to get more difficult.

13. Oakland Raiders (2-2) – Should be battling it out with San Diego for the division title out West.

14. San Francisco (3-1) – Solidly average is enough to roll in the NFC West.

Disappointments

15. New York Jets (2-2) – .500 never felt more like winless.

16. Atlanta Falcons (2-2) – They don’t look on New Orleans level this season.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) – Offensive lines are important (see Jets for this fact as well).

18. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – Tony Romo is completely bipolar.

19. Chicago Bears (2-2) – Quickly losing ground on both Detroit and Green Bay.

20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) – Dream Team quickly turning into nightmare.

Happily Mediocre

21. Carolina Panthers (1-3) – They will put up a fight every week with Cam Newton under center.

22. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) – They already have more wins than I expected.

23. Cleveland Browns (2-2) – The Browns are at least beating the really crappy teams now.

Pretty Damn Bad

24. Seattle Seahawks (1-3) – You are always alive in the NFC West.

25. Arizona Cardinals (1-3) – See above.

26. Denver Broncos (1-3) – We want Tebow. We want Tebow.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – Going to be a rough rookie year for Blaine Gabbert.

28. Indianpolis Colts (0-4) – How many more times do we have to watch them in primetime?

Really Damn Bad

29. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – Advanced from a ACC caliber team to maybe a low end SEC caliber team as of late.

30. Minnesota Vikings (0-4) – It hasn’t been a fun couple of years for Donovan McNabb.

31. St. Louis Rams (0-4) – How much longer will ‘Spags hold on to his job?

32. Miami Dolphins (0-4) – I really enjoy putting them here.

NFL Week 4 Smart Bets

A ridiculous weekend that involved a lot of drinking restricted me from doing what I love to do this time last week – give gambling advice. Although as with anything, there are mixed results. Two weeks ago, I went 4-for-4 on my NFL picks. I would have made it a perfect cross-sport 5-for-5 had Victor Ortiz not gone completely mad and headbutted Floyd Mayweather, causing Mayweather to rightly sucker punch him into oblivion. I’m convinced that fight absolutely would have ended in rounds 9 through 11, like I said it would. Either way, a pretty solid weekend two weekends ago.

And then, inexplicably this past Tuesday, I said to myself – what’s a more sure bet in this world than Manchester United and Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League against clubs from Switzerland and Amsterdam, AT HOME? At halftime, up 2-0 in both games I was joyous, and then seeing Man-U choke the game away only to do what only the Red Devils could do, score in the 90th minute to tie, was infuriating. Anyway, I’m back on it this weekend with what I think are locks for Week 4 in the NFL.  And away we go…

Giants -1  at Cardinals

As a die-hard Jet fan I can’t believe I’m saying this, but will everyone get off the Giants’ back? This is a team with a solid quarterback (not spectacular, not awful by any stretch), a great defensive line and a very good coach. I’m not saying that the Giants are going anywhere serious this season. They’re in a very tough division that appears as though it is going to beat itself up over the course of the regular season.  But I think to say they are a bad team is really shortsighted. In related news, the Cardinals are a bad team, and the Giants will win this one.

Falcons -4.5 at Seahwaks

This line jumped out to me as being a little low simply because of how bad the Seahawks are. They may have a great home-field advantage, but that’s not enough to keep them close enough in this one when they host a hungry and ticked off Falcons team. The Falcons’ offense has a field day as they win by more than a touchdown.

Cowboys  -1.5 AND Over 46 vs. Lions

The Lions are a fantastic story, and a very good football team, but they’re not going to go undefeated. Tony Romo has shown some great courage in battling through some tough injuries, and usually plays well at home. In a shootout, the Cowboys give the Lions their first loss of 2011.

Bonus Non-Football Bet of the Week – Yankees in 5

Can the Yankees win one of the games Justin Verlander starts? If they can, they should win the series. I actually think the Yankees will get decent starting pitching from Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia. The Tigers aren’t the most dangerous offensive team. And mark it down: Jose Valverde’s saves streak is coming to an end in this series. It will be a really good series with some dramatic games, but I think the Bombers advance past the Tigers in five games.

As usual, don’t hate me if you lose all your money this weekend.

TOJ Week 4 NFL Picks

Last Week: 8-8

Season Record: 27-20

Week 4 Picks

  • Dallas (-2) vs. Detroit
  • New Orleans (-8) vs. Jacksonville
  • Philadelphia (-9) vs. San Francisco
  • Washington (-2.5) vs. St. Louis
  • Tennessee (PK) vs. Cleveland
  • Cincinnati (+4) vs. Buffalo
  • Minnesota (-3) vs. Kansas City
  • Carolina (+6) vs. Chicago
  • Pittsburgh (+3.5) vs. Houston
  • Seattle (+6) vs. Atlanta
  • New York Giants (-3) vs. Arizona
  • San Diego (-7) vs. Miami
  • Denver (+13) vs. Green Bay
  • New England (-6) vs. Oakland
  • New York Jets (+3.5) vs. Baltimore
  • Tampa Bay (-10) vs. Indianapolis

Jets vs. Ravens: 12 Pack Of Predictions

The 12 pack took a beating last week as the New York Jets lost their first game of the regular season. Yet, just like the team we cover, we don’t die easy. Here are 12 predictions for Sunday night football –

1. The Baltimore Ravens are going to pick on Antonio Cromartie early and often. Wouldn’t you? He will pick up a couple of penalties and allow a big play or two, but will also come up with a big play which he couldn’t do last week. I don’t expect to see him at all on kick return.

2. Speaking of kick return, Joe McKnight will have a big night as the deep man and will have a bigger role back there moving forward even when Cromartie is 100 percent healthy.

3. I am setting the over/under at 55 yards for Shonn Greene, and I am taking the under.

4. Mark Sanchez is going to have the pass rush in his face all game and take a few sacks. However, he will also create a few big plays outside of the pocket when the play breaks down and also burn the Ravens in a few situations where they leave Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress one on one. He will throw for over 275 yards.

5. Ray Rice will have at least a combined 125 yards rushing and receiving and get in the end-zone once.

6. Joe Flacco will turn the football over at least once, however he will also beat the Jets down the for a touchdown pass of 40 yards or longer. The Jets will only sack him once.

7. Santonio Holmes is going to have his biggest game of the season, in both yardage and receptions. He will also score his second touchdown of the season.

8. Darrelle Revis will keep Anquan Boldin under 40 total yards receiving if he is matched up on him throughout the night.

9. Kenrick Ellis and Aaron Maybin will both be active. Nick Mangold will be a gametime decision and won’t end up playing, as the Jets smartly work to get him near 100 percent for New England next week.

10. Nick Folk will miss a field goal, he is due for one.

11. Derrick Mason will score his first touchdown of the season.

12. Am I being naive for picking the Jets to eek out a tight victory, 21-20? Maybe so. We’ll see. This won’t be a pretty game but the Jets will find a way to gut one out late.

NFL Week 3 Review: Not Buying Early Hype

1. Three games into the NFL season and the tickets are being punched for a Detroit Lions/Buffalo Bills Super Bowl match-up. Don’t get me wrong, Detroit is a talented team and their comeback over the Minnesota Vikings was a gutsy win to hang their hat on. Buffalo’s win over New England was even more impressive considering the way New England has handled them as of late and how they dug themselves out of a three possession hole for the second week in a row.

Yet, I have to laugh at the comments received about the New York Jets now being the third best team in the AFC East and when I hear talk of the Lions currently being a top five team in the NFL. The Bills have been down by 18 points in two straight weeks, there are plenty of flaws in their feel good story. They have found ways to win two tight games late, an admirable and important quality. Let’s see them handle being a favorite for a few weeks now. Let’s see them go on the road and take out some contenders. Let’s see them win a game when they aren’t capable of laying a 34 spot on the board. I am not buying it yet, not after 3 games.

The Lions have a beautiful thing on offense with Matthew Stafford throwing to Calvin Johnson. The comeback against Minnesota was a hell of a win, but if you haven’t noticed it, everybody is doing that this year. Again, let’s see them play as a favorite now and let’s see them stay ahead of Chicago in the standings into the second half of the year and how they handle the Packers and Saints down the stretch of their schedule. Are they a playoff contender? Sure, everybody is at this point. Are they one of the best teams in the league? I haven’t seen that yet, not after tight wins over Tampa Bay and Minnesota and beating the ACC caliber Kansas City Chiefs.

2. Nobody takes more cheap shots at the New York Giants than yours truly. I have been surrounded by a group of annoying Giants fans my whole life…otherwise known as all of my best friends. Yet, that doesn’t mean I won’t credit them for an impressive win over the Philadelphia Eagles on the road. I am aware Mike Vick didn’t play the fourth quarter but with the amount of injuries the Giants are dealing with, I am not taking anything away from them. How about North Jersey’s own Victor Cruz by the way? What a game. I am not sure who deserves their new contract less at this point Nnamdi Asomugha or Antonio Cromartie.

I do have to take time to mention what a dirtbag Antrel Rolle is on the field though. I am looking forward to Plaxico Burress giving him one of these shots on December 24th.

3. Week 5 Games to look forward:

  • Pittsburgh at Houston – Very interested to see how these two AFC contenders come out in this game.
  • New England at Oakland – Hoping Oakland can do to New England what they did to the Jets last weekend.
  • NY Jets at Baltimore – Game of the week and I’m not even being biased.

Final Thoughts On Jets/Raiders

Jets Inactives – Kenrick Ellis, Rob Turner, Nick Mangold, Emmanuel Cook, Kevin O’Connell, Bilal Powell, Logan Payne

– I feel very strongly the Jets are going to put together a statement performance today. Too many people are overestimating the Raiders. They have beat nobody of significance in the past two years. Yes, they will be feisty in the their home opener and yes the Mangold injury will hurt but in the end the Jets are a substantially better team and that will shine through.

– Considering the Raiders defensive scheme and their starting corners, I’d be very surprised if Mark Sanchez doesn’t for right around 300 yards or more. Look for a big day from Plaxico Burress, who I think the Jets will finally get involved early.

– Look for Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley to be involved today on offense.

– Very interested to see how the Patriots/Bills game goes today. That place is going to be rocking.

TOJ Week 3 NFL Picks

Last Week: 10-6

Season Record: 19-12

Week 3 Picks (Lines courtesy of BetUS)

  • Cincinnati (-2.5) vs. San Francisco
  • Buffalo (+7) vs. New England
  • New Orleans (-4.5) vs. Houston
  • Philadelphia (-8.5) vs. Giants
  • Cleveland (-2) vs. Miami
  • Tennessee (-7) vs. Denver
  • Minnesota (+4.5) vs. Detroit
  • Carolina (-4) vs. Jacksonville
  • San Diego (-14) vs. Kansas City
  • Jets (-4) vs. Oakland
  • Baltimore (-6) vs. St. Louis
  • Atlanta (PK) vs. Tampa Bay
  • Seattle (+3.5) vs. Arizona
  • Green Bay (-4.5) vs. Chicago
  • Pittsburgh (-11.5) vs. Indianapolis
  • Washington (+3) vs. Dallas

Jets vs. Raiders: 12 Pack Of Predictions

A rainy Friday…a perfect time to take an extended lunch break with the 12 pack. Remember to check out today’s video picks and highlights.

1. Darren McFadden is going to run for less than 100 yards. The Jets run defense has been solid ever since Rex Ryan took over and regardless of how well McFadden has been playing, the Jets will keep him contained no matter how many touches the Raiders try to get him.

2. Santonio Holmes is going to have a big day, especially if Chris Johnson spends extended time covering him. As a matter of fact, there is no reason Plaxico Burress won’t have a big day either. Look for the Jets starting WRs to combine for 150 yards of receiving and at least one touchdown. Derrick Mason will also be more involved than he has been in previous weeks.

3. The Jets will have a tough time running the football up the middle, which will lead to more outside handoffs for Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson. I still don’t expect a big day from the running game but they will do enough to keep Oakland’s defense honest.

4. Mark Sanchez will have another turnover but will throw for over 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He will also rush for at least 20 yards.

5. The Jets defense will continue their early season turnover forcing spree and come up with at least one interception and one forced fumble.

6. Antonio Cromartie won’t get the opportunity to return any kicks this week as Sebastian Janikowski will be kicking them out of the end-zone.

7. Rookie third round pick Kenrick Ellis will be active for the first time this Sunday.

8. Jason Campbell won’t throw for more than 225 yards and will be sacked at least twice. Bart Scott will continue his early season tear with another sack. Kyle Wilson will grab his first NFL sack.

9. Dustin Keller will be kept out of the end-zone for the first time this season.

10. Oakland will get off to a strong start in their first home game of the year but the Jets will weather the early blows and go into halftime with the lead.

11. Jeremy Kerley will gain some type of offensive yards this Sunday.

12. A tight game into the fourth quarter will turn into a two possession Jets victory, 27-17. Eat another hot dog, Sanchez…3-0 and heading to Baltimore.