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FALCONS-SEAHAWKS PLAYOFF SHOWDOWN

Yes, I had it wrong with the Falcons this season. But as a Falcons fan, it’s exciting to be in the playoff mix, baby! Can’t wait to load my two sons up and head down to the Georgia Dome for this Seahawks showdown!

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) scrambles with the ball against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson scrambles with the ball against the Atlanta Falcons in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

A lot is being made of both Matt Ryan’s excellent regular season & his playoff struggles AND Russell Wilson’s playoff success, combined with his struggles this season on the road (other than that magnificent performance in Boston, where he picked the Patriots apart). There are some other important aspects to this game…like the all-important LOS battle.

The run game is going to be important for both sides. The Seahawks defense is outstanding at 1- getting after the opponents run game and 2- pressuring the quarterback. Obviously, we witnessed some of this on that trip to Seattle earlier this season. Matt got knocked around some early. Coach Shanahan would be smart to get DeVonta Freeman a lot of early touches. Set the tone, with some balance. The way Bennett & Avril rush the QB, some balance would be huge for the Falcons offense, because it would help protect Matt Ryan. Otherwise, Bennett & Avril are bringing heat on the pass rush.

Seattle’s running attack and O-Line has been a disappointment this season. Good thing that “beast” Marshawn Lynch has moved on! Rawls has had some moments for the Seahawks, especially last weekend against the Lions. Bevel and Russell Wilson would love to get him going early. Watch to see how often they are running at Vic Beasley.

I would love to see the Falcons D-Line win this battle. It’s a battle they should win. Most of the teams that are winning in the playoffs are winning this particular battle. Not saying our D-Line is outstanding, but the Seahawks O-Line is a weakness, so we’ve got to take advantage of this match-up.

If Russell Wilson is well-protected, then the ball is heading to Jimmy Graham a lot. That’s a mismatch tilted towards Seattle.

Can the Falcons will the LOS Battle? This needs to be a “Yes!”

– Buck Belue
Co-Host of “Buck and Kincade”
680 The Fan 

GLORIOUS REMATCH IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL NATIONAL TITLE GAME

Can’t wait to see the rematch: Alabama-Clemson. This is going to be awesome! I’m excited about being in Tampa, with The Fan’s Buck & Kincade Show crew, to see it go down. If it’s bama-clemsonanything like last season’s showdown, we’ll all be entertained.

Adding to the hype is Nick Saban’s decision to fire Lane Kiffin and run him out of Tuscaloosa, the week of the big game. This is unheard of and it impacts the game big-time. Imagine being Clemson’s DC Brent Venables…he had the Kiffin play-calling tendencies already compiled and now he’s got nothing. The unknown with Sarkisian now calling plays helps Alabama.

Venables Clemson defense was impressive shutting out Ohio State. The Tigers D-Line is capable of winning their match-up (maybe not against Cam Robinson). The focus will be making Jalen Hurts beat them from the pocket, throwing the football. Hurts has been exposed recently, as far as the passing game goes.

The premier match-up is Deshaun Watson taking on this dominating Alabama defense. No one needs to tell the Crimson Tide team that Watson is the best player in college football. That show he put on against Bama last year was spectacular. Expect more of the same this time around. Deshaun has mastered the QB position at this level. He does everything well. His running ability could be the difference. Extending plays, scrambling and converting big 3rd downs with his legs could be the difference. His playmaker list is long. There are a lot of players to get the ball to. This is a huge challenge for Tigers O-Line, obviously. Can’t wait to focus on this LOS match-up, especially early in the game.

Get ready, football fans. This is the primo match-up of the year! 

Remember to follow our 680 The Fan/Buck & Kincade Show coverage from Tampa!

DESHAUN WATSON DESERVED THE HEISMAN TROPHY!

Deshaun Watson got robbed! The Clemson quarterback was the best player in college football. I believe Deshaun should have won the Heisman Trophy, instead of Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. My vote: 1- Deshaun Watson, 2- Lamar Jackson & 3- Jabrill Peppers.

FILE - In a Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 file photo, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) looks to pass during the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football gam against Virginia Tech, in Orlando, Fla. Watson acknowledges things have not been as free and easy at returning to the Heisman Trophy stage as it was getting there a year ago, when he finished third in the balloting. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (4). (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)

Why Watson, you ask? Didn’t Lamar have the best stats? Wasn’t Jackson’s highlight reel more electrifying? Come on, man. Doesn’t it go deeper than that?

Deshaun had a target on his back entering the season, as college football’s top player. And he delivered a monster season! His completion percentage was 10% higher than Jackson’s (67 to 57) and he threw more TD passes (37-30). One stat that jumped out to me was sacks: Deshaun was sacked 11 times and Lamar had 38 sacks. That is a huge difference and many of those sacks are on the QB. Watson had total control of the game, including setting protections and avoiding the negative plays.

Watson also got his team back to the playoffs, will graduate this month (a year early) and has represented both Clemson & college football with class and respect. In fact, the Heisman Mission Statement mentions “the pursuit of excellence with integrity…epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance and hard work.” It’s about more than just stats.

I certainly have nothing against Lamar Jackson, thus my 2nd place vote. But as I see it, Deshaun Watson deserved the award more than Jackson. Deshaun’s season featured everything the Heisman Trophy is about.

Yes, Watson threw a few more interceptions this season, but that should not have turned voters off like it did!

– Buck Belue
Co-Host “Buck and Kincade” – 680 The Fan

@buckbelue8 on Twitter 

Buck Belue’s 2016 All-SEC Team

After being frustrated years ago with the media’s selection of the All-SEC team, I started revealing my team on 680 The Fan. So, here we go.

DEFENSE

DE Derek Barnett (Tennessee), DE Myles Garrett

DT Jonathan Allen (Alabama), DT Montravious Adams (Auburn)

LB Rueben Foster (Alabama), LB Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt)

CB Jalen Tabor (Florida), CB Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), CB Quincy Wilson (Florida)

SAFETY Jamal Adams (LSU), Mike Edwards (Kentucky)

SEC Defensive Player of the Year: DE Derek Barnett

FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2015, file photo, Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett rushes during double overtime of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma in Knoxville, Tenn. The matchup Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, between No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 9 Tennessee potentially features two of the naton's top pass rushers in the Aggies' Myles Garrett and Barnett, assuming Garrett is healthy enough to play after sitting out last week's victory over South Carolina. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)
Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

 

OFFENSE

OT Cam Robinson (Alabama), OT Dan Skipper (Arkansas)

OG Braden Smith (Auburn), OG Martez Ivey (Florida)

OC Jon Toth (Kentucky)

TE Evan Engram (Ole Miss)

WR J’Mon Moore (Missouri), WR Christian Kirk (A&M)

RB Rawleigh Williams (Arkansas), RB Ralph Webb (Vanderbilt)

SEC OFFENSIVE Player of the Year: QB Jalen Hurts

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts sets back to pass the ball during the first half of the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)




SPECIAL TEAMS

Place-Kicker: Daniel Carlson (Auburn)

Punter: JK Scott (Alabama)

Kick Returner: Isaiah McKenzie (Georgia)

Georgia wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (16) runs against Auburn an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 13-7. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Georgia wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

SEC Coach of the Year: Nick Saban

Alabama head coach Nick Saban walks the field before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Alabama head coach Nick Saban (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Jackets Put Away ‘Dogs in 4th Quarter

kirby-smart-ap-photojohn-bazemore
Kirby Smart and The Dawgs (AP Photo – John Bazemore)

The Bulldogs had the Jackets by the throat, but could not put them away. Give credit to Paul Johnson’s team for continuing the fight and not giving in. They refused to lose this one.

For Georgia, maybe all those young pups learned an important lesson the hard way: When you have a rival down, you’ve got to deliver a knockout blow.

The Bulldogs led 27-14 and got the ball at midfield, with 11:30 left in the 4th quarter. So, time to put the opponent away, right? No. Suddenly, Jim Chaney’s offense could not execute. The ‘Dogs ran four “negative plays” in a row, before punting.

The Jackets stepped up with a 94 yard TD drive, to make it 27-21, with 6:30 to play. Justin Thomas delivered some big throws and good decisions in crunch time. They got 3 big plays on the drive, before cashing in.

Now, it’s about survival. The game is suddenly hanging in the balance. Who wants it more? Who can make a play? Tech needed a stop. The Bulldogs needed a drive to put the game away.

Sony Michel got stuffed three times, before Jacob Eason’s critical interception. So, with the game up for grabs, the UGA offense ran 7 “negative plays” out of nine. That’s unacceptable.

Many fans are busy criticizing Jim Chaney for getting conservative with the lead and then, having Eason throw it on that 2nd down & 8. It must be noted that the Jackets defense was selling out on the run at this point. So, I didn’t have a problem with the pass call. Eason just made a bad throw to Godwin. The ball was thrown high & behind and open receiver. That’s on the QB.

Obviously, the Jackets marched down the field quickly and scored the go-ahead touchdown. Qua Searcy’s touchdown dive was amazing. Tech made the plays in crunch time. Georgia did not.

Eason needs to learn this off-season how to take a little off some of his throws and make it more catchable. He’s throwing too many balls with too much velocity. I’m a little surprised this is something he did not correct during the season.

Also, I’m wondering if the Jackets fan base is busy complimenting Paul Johnson, for his strong coaching job in Athens.

And yes, a lot of Georgia fans are disappointed in Kirby & the ‘Dogs. They just let a two score, 4th quarter lead slip against the Jackets. Ouch. That hurts. I mean, that STINGS!

-BuckBelue
Co-Host of “Buck and Kincade” on 680 The Fan
Tweet: @buckandkincade

Coach Smart’s Bulldogs Salvage the Season

Kirby needed a big victory and so did the fan base. Time was running out on this season. It was looking like the ‘Dogs were about to go winless against SEC competition at Sanford Stadium, if they couldn’t beat Auburn. And then, there would have been some explaining to do.

 

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart celebrates with safety Quincy Mauger (20) after defeating Auburn 13-7 in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart celebrates with safety Quincy Mauger (20) after defeating Auburn 13-7 (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

However, the Bulldogs delivered just in time. Got Kirby that first-season, signature win he can now sell on the recruiting trail. It also gets some of the Bulldog Nation off his back a little. In case you hadn’t noticed, there was some criticism of the hire, both at the coffee shop & on The Fan’s Buck & Kincade Show.

It turns out Auburn was sort of a “Paper Tiger.” They were vulnerable, with injuries impacting both running back and quarterback. Probably hit Athens thinking highly of themselves and a bit overconfident.

Give Georgia’s defense some credit. Mel Tucker’s group played the run tough. The young D-Line won a lot of individual battles on the line of scrimmage. Reggie Carter stepped in and played tough at inside linebacker. Maurice Smith made the play of the game, with that Pick-6 score. *Check out our website 680thefan.com to see a video blog regarding this play.

Jim Chaney’s game-plan was wide-ranging and a bit bold, but it only produced two field goals. At least he tried to throw the kitchen sink at them. Auburn’s D-Line won the battle on this side of the ball, obviously. That makes it tough on the play-caller.

There were not many holes to hit, but Nick Chubb enjoyed a bounce-back game. He ran tough and got some yards after contact. He appeared to be a man on a mission, coming off that 2-fumble game against Kentucky.

Jacob Eason played a solid game. He protected the football. Threw it away some and that was good to see. He made some nice throws into some tight windows too. Man, he’s got a big arm. Jacob has some confidence and chemistry with his 2 freshman sidekicks: both Nauta & Ridley are seeing the ball come their way now.

Kirby Smart needed a big win like this, before the season ended. He can sell this on the recruiting trail. The message: We need your talent at Georgia & we are capable of beating Top 10 teams moving forward.

It looks like that message could deliver a large O-Line class, which is desperately needed. This will be Kirby’s first full-cycle class and for the Bulldogs to be successful moving forward, this class needs to be loaded with top talent. Stay tuned. Looks like help is on the way.

– Buck Belue
Co-Host, “Buck and Kincade”
680 The Fan
@buckbelue8

JACOB EASON HAS SOME COMPETITION COMING TO ATHENS

Jake Fromm
QB Jake Fromm – Committed to UGA

Jake Fromm has signed financial aid paperwork and is serious about enrolling early at UGA. He graduates from Houston County HS, in Warner Robins this December. Sounds like he’ll be in Athens come January.

Just watched one of his highlight reels and left impressed, again. He can play the position. That’s right, QB.

What jumps out at me watching video is how fundamentally sound his footwork is. He steps towards his target. He sets and resets impressively, in the pocket. He can spin it with velocity and mixes in touch throws when appropriate. Looks like the can run the zone read, out of the spread, so he’s not your typical pocket passer. He’s got a versatile skill set.

His competitive spirit shows up too. This guy loves the competition and wants to win. Bet he’s won over a lot of Georgia Bulldog fans already, by taking on this challenge…coming to compete for the job with Eason and not being scared off. I respect it. These days, it seems most of the top-rated QB’s are looking for an easier path. Not Fromm.

By the way, signing these papers allows Jake Fromm to start building a working relationship with the Georgia staff. They can have unlimited contact now. He can get to work on that Jim Chaney playbook.

Chaney benefits from this Fromm signing too. He’s been getting criticized. But today, the state’s top-rated HS QB told us he was committed to UGA AND Coach Chaney. That must have felt good for Chaney, but not so much for Jacob Eason.

Fromm is coming to take the spot from Eason. I believe the competition will make them both better…and may the best man win the job. This storyline will be interesting. Already looking forward to seeing it all unfold.

– Buck Belue: 680 The Fan
@buckbelue8

Falcons Not Flying So High

bump-signSuddenly, the Falcons season has hit a speed bump. All of that hard work done on the road has been diminished, with the loss to the Chargers at home. Just when this team started to gain some respect league wide, it comes up short in a game they were supposed to win.

Now, here comes the Packers and Aaron Rodgers.

Every single rep at practice this week, for the Falcons defense should be spent on defending the pass. Phillip Rivers just picked us apart, with the underneath, crossing routes. Rodgers will attack with that same plan. The Falcons seem to be playing a lot of Cover 3 Zone and the 3 rookie space-tacklers are being targeted and taken advantage of in pass coverage. Q mentioned after Sunday’s loss that they needed defend better in this area.

The Packers have issues running the ball, without big Eddie Lacy. They are the definition of “one-dimensional.” It’s all on Rodgers. Q’s 3rd Down Plan needs to be good, because Rodgers can make a lot of bad things happen to defenses (50% 3D conversion rate).

This Falcons Offense faces another defense that plays the run tough. Also, Tevin Coleman is out. Coach Shanahan might want to expand the workload for Devonta Freeman against the Packers. He can handle it. Go ahead and feature him. Get him 20+ touches. Run him. Throw it to him. Feed him the ball. Call his number.

The Packers secondary has been ravaged by injuries and that’s not a good thing, when you face Julio Jones & Matt Ryan. Best guess: They will play a lot of “Off Coverage,” so the new CB’s don’t get beat deep. Bet the quick passing game will be effective against these chumps. The Packers secondary has got to be a little scared entering this match-up, because they’ve already given up 21 pass plays over twenty yards. Matt Ryan has been seen drooling during film study this week.

Beat the Packers and the Falcons get back on track. That Chargers loss will be forgiven. But lose to Green Bay and the alarms will sound. Sure hope our Falcons show up ready to win and with a good plan.

– Buck Belue, 680 The Fan

Is Georgia’s Jacob Eason Improving?

jacob-eason-ap-photo
Jacob Eason (AP Photo)

I believe the Bulldogs OC Jim Chaney did the right thing Sunday, in Columbia. His plan for the Gamecocks defense was to challenge them with the run game. It turned out to be a good plan.

Nick Chubb took charge on the first snap. Few plays later he was powering his way into the end zone! Sony Michel did his thing; accelerating into the 2nd level and dashing outside. Herrien flashed some talent too. It all added up to 336 yards rushing for these 3 backs.

Chaney used a lot of heavy packages (formations geared towards running the ball) to get the backs loose. The featured formation was 2 tight-ends and a fullback. The ‘Dogs started their two best blocking receivers: Chigbu & Stanley. The intent was to challenge the Gamecocks defense to play physical against the running game. They did not pass the test and I’d be willing to bet that had something to do with Coach Muschamp’s cut lip.

Yes, the Bulldogs O-Line had their best game. The blocks were clean and forceful. Most of the action was played 3 yards INTO the South Carolina side of the line of scrimmage. Pyke, Kublanow, Wynn and the boys knocked them off the ball. They also pulled and sealed some holes. It was impressive.

Basically, the ‘Dogs did not need the passing attack in this match-up. Obviously, Jacob Eason struggled early. So, there was no good reason to push the issue and let him throw it around. He was high on some balls. His footwork appeared to be off. And he needs to consider taking some velocity off the ball, on some throws to make it easier to catch! Don’t need to throw the fastball every time.

On one 3rd down passing situation, Chaney got him a 3-WR set, with both Sony & Chubb on the field in the slot. Eason got caught staring down the 1-WR side, working against 2 defensive backs, when he should have been going to the 2-WR side, where he had an open out route. He felt pressure and threw it away. This is an example of him suffering from some growing pains.

Is Eason improving? I would say, yes. The game reps have made him more comfortable with the speed of the game. It looks to me like he is working in the pocket more effectively. Initially, he was seeing some ghosts & flushing out too soon. But again, there was no good reason to push his limits in Columbia.

As he develops, there will continue to be some ups & downs. Be patient. The kid can sling it.

– Buck Belue 
Sound off on Twitter: @buckandkincade

Are the Falcons Heading Down a Dark Road?

the_dark_creepy_road_2If you can’t beat an average Bucs team at home, in the season opener, then who can you beat? It appears Falcons fans should be bracing themselves for another long season.

Some of the same issues from last season have come back to haunt Q’s team. Failure to score touchdowns in the red zone. A reluctance to allow Matt Ryan to operate in the No-Huddle. No pressure on the quarterback. Poor ‘space tackling.’ A disappearing act from Vic Beasley. It all adds up to this: it’s frustrating and disappointing.

At least fans and media members can’t blame this on Matt Ryan! Matt completed 69% of his passes and did not turn the ball over once.

Q’s defense doesn’t appear to have any ‘difference-makers’ in the Front 7. That’s why safeties led the team in tackles. Q is playing a lot of defensive linemen, but none of them impress. Put a Falcons uniform on Freeney and he looks ordinary, or just old. Beasley is lost at SLB and is undersized at DE. Looks like Q & T missed on this 1st round pick. All the missed tackles make me wonder if this ‘Rugby Style Tackling” technique is only good for rugby.

Offensively, it seems Shanahan & Q are determined to take carries away from their All-Pro RB Devonta Freeman. That’s got to be frustrating. And yes, that plan is flawed. How many other teams would do this? Not many. The O-Line situation is not good, because of the guard play. They continue to stunt the growth of rookie TE Austin Hooper, by limiting his playing time.

What did I see with Sanu? His big-play was the result of a busted coverage and his last target resulted in a huge drop. Sure liked the TD catch though.

More on Shanahan’s reluctance to get Matt Ryan operating in the No-Huddle: It seems Kyle’s theory on this is constructed on the theory it ‘waters down’ his outside zone blocking scheme. When they go No-Huddle, it limits the run calls and the shifts & motions he likes so much. Translation: We’ll do it my way, not Matt’s way.

Is this dysfunctional? Yes. Is it mediocre? Yes. Have I lost faith? Yes.