December Football & Hunting, It’s Great!

December is a month to experience great football and outstanding hunting.

Football in December is incredible.  NFL teams are battling to make the playoffs.  The college bowl season is just getting started.  And some of the best hunting is taking place.

I can’t remember when there where so many teams still alive to make the playoffs.  The only team that has won it’s division, is the Philadelphia Eagles.  All of the other divisions are still up for grabs.  Most the NFL games remaining mean something.  Even games involving teams who are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs can affect the playoffs, they can play the role of spoilers.  The game this week between the Steelers and the Patriots is basically for the number one seed in the AFC.  The game between the Chiefs and Chargers is for the division lead.

College bowl games are getting started this weekend.  There are 41 bowl games, I know it’s a lot, but I think this year may have some of the best match ups ever.  No question the two semifinal games between Clemson and Alabama and Oklahoma vs Georgia will be awesome, but the games between USC and Ohio State, Stanford and TCU, Washington and Penn State plus Miami vs Wisconsin will be just as competitive.   I am looking forward to watching them.

Besides exciting football, some of the hunting opportunities will be at their peak.  Much of the waterfowl that has been hanging up in the Dakotas and Canada have started showing up in the lower mid west.  In our area, we have noticed an increase in ducks for the past several days.  Just today I noticed an increase in the flights of geese, both Canada and snows.  The rest of December should be great for waterfowl, if it doesn’t freeze up to quickly.

Late season for deer should be really good as well.  Archer’s have a chance to get in on some secondary rut activity.  For me it is an opportunity to take a few youth hunters out.  It’s just a great time to be in the woods.

Some of the reports I am getting from western Kansas regarding the pheasants and quail are very good.  The colder weather is bunching up the pheasants and offers a much better hunting experience.  Nothing is worse than hunting western Kansas when temperatures are still in the 70’s and the crops haven’t been harvested.

December is a month for more than just Christmas!

The Outdoor Quarterback

Great NFL Match Ups in Week 14

Week 14 in the NFL is must watch TV! Don’t miss it.

There are some great games this week in the NFL.  One particular game is the Chiefs vs Raiders.  Both teams are 6 and 6 with division implications written all over it.  The loser of this game maybe out of the playoffs for this year.  I know the Chiefs have won 6 out of the last 7 meetings, but the Chiefs have been in a downward spiral for past six weeks.  The Raiders won the first meeting on a late fourth quarter touchdown in Oakland.  This is one of the best rivalries in all of the NFL, I am sure that loss doesn’t sit well with the Chiefs.  But for the Chiefs to win, they must tackle on defense and play less conservatively on offense, much like they did against the Jets and the New England Patriots.

Another game that I will be watching is the Saints vs Falcons.  As a former quarterback, this game offers two of the best in the league.  A for sure Hall of Fame’r, Drew Brees and a potential Hall of Fame’r Matt Ryan.  Love to watch these guys play.  Neither one of them are afraid to toss the rock in tight spots.  Both the Saints and Falcons can run the ball well, which will present challenges to each teams defenses.  My two favorite players in this match up are, Julio Jones (Falcons) and Alvin Kamara  (Saints).  Jones may be the best receiver in the NFL and Alvin could be offensive rookie of the year.  Each of these players can do it all at their positions.  Should be exciting to watch.

One other game that I will turn on this weekend is the Rams vs Eagles.  The two quarterback were drafted 1 and 2 two years ago.  Both Jared Goff and Carson Wentz are exceeding everyone’s expectations.  The Rams and Eagles are leading their respective divisions.  Each of these quarterbacks are having, statistically, great years.  More importantly they are winning games.  Must see TV for the football junkies.

A great weekend for meaningful games.  Don’t miss them!

The Outdoor Quarterback

The Selection Committee Got It Right

Get ready for the best semifinals in the playoff era!

I know there has been a lot of conversation regarding the College Selection Committee and their recent picks of the top four teams playing for the national championship.  But this time I believe they got it right.  I know that Ohio State and USC might disagree, but if you were to ask a knowledgeable college football fan, leaving their bias out of it, who are the four best teams this year, it would be difficult not to choose Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama.  Take away their conference affiliation, wouldn’t these be the four teams you would select?   They would be my choices.

I know that many fans don’t think it is right that one conference should be allowed more than one team in the playoffs.  But that is not what this is about.  It is about identifying the four best teams and finding out, on the field, who is the best team in the country.

My prediction is these four teams will provide the most exciting and entertaining semifinal games ever played during the playoff era.  That is how closely they are matched.  No matter who wins the semifinals, the national championship game should be outstanding.

I also think this is a great opportunity for USC and Ohio State to prove they too were worthy of consideration for one of the top four spots.  My advice to them would be, don’t lay an egg in this game.  Obviously USC’s loss to ND and Ohio States loss to Iowa were major factors in not be selected as one of the final four teams.  Prove them wrong.

New Years Bowl games are now back to where they should be, can’t wait.

The Outdoor Quarterback

Don’t Leave Your Stand or Blind to Early

Late in the rut, big bucks are still moving, so don’t leave your stand or blind too soon.

This deer season I have seen and heard about hunters staying in their stands or blinds only until about 10:30 A.M. then getting down thinking the morning hunt was done.  Not so fast my hunting friends.  With the full moon we are experiencing, I have seen rutting bucks either chasing does or checking scrapes at times well after 10:30 A.M.

When you have changes in the weather and fast moving fronts, warm or cold, you are going to see a lot more animal movement.  My suggestion is, if you must get down or out, do it quickly and don’t take long, then get right back in the stand or blind.  Lately we have been seeing some big buck activity around noon.  Even with the unseasonable weather and changing

temperatures, we have seen some of our bigger bucks out and about at times when most hunters are eating lunch or taking naps.  These bucks were on their feet tending a doe, scent trailing or just roaming.  Don’t make the mistake of getting out of your blind or stand too soon.

The longer you sit the better your odds are of taking a good deer, especially this time of the year.  So bring an extra pad!

It has been several years ago, but I was hunting in central Kansas with several buddies who all stopped around 10 AM.  I looked at the solar table which said straight up noon was the major movement time.  I grabbed my bow and got back in the stand and at 12:20 stuck a 150 inch nine point.  Lucky, maybe, but I knew I couldn’t shoot anything laying on the couch and with the rut being in full swing, I liked my odds.

Bring your lunch, extra water and a pee bottle.  You never know what might walk by!

The Outdoor Quarterback

A Catastrophic Fall From First Place

The collapse of the Kansas City Chiefs is now at historic proportion!

The Kansas City Chiefs have managed to do something that has only been done by three teams in the Super Bowl Era.  That is start the season 5 – 0 and lose 6 of the next 7 games.  That isn’t a statistic you want to be known for.  It is a catastrophic fall that has only happened two others times.  Collapse would be the most appropriate adjective.

In this case, it is easy to spread the blame.  There is no question several of the key players are under performing.  In this last game against the NY Jets, the Chiefs premier outside linebacker and pass rusher, Justin Houston, did not register a tackle, hurry or sack.  Key players like Justin have to step up in games like this.  Then the Chiefs have a player, Marcus Peters who, in my opinion, has become a detriment to the team, especially on the field.  He doesn’t tackle, he is giving up big plays and has had several untimely penalties do to his immaturity.  Something needs to be done with him!

The offense, in several of the previous 6 losses, must shoulder some of the blame.  But when your offense scores 30 and 31 points you should win games in the NFL.  This hasn’t been the case for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs have shown signs of undisciplined play on the field, both on offense and defense.  Dropped passes, offensive penalties and confusion.  The defense, has at times, been out of position at the snap of the ball.  How can you make your reads if you are not in position when the play starts?  Poor tackling is the most consistent thing being done on the defense.  These are not effort issues they are discipline issues.  Something good teams don’t have.

So who is responsible for the current situation?  It’s my opinion it is both the players and the coaches.  Andy Reed turned over the play calling to the quarterback coach, Matt Nagy, and they put up 31 points and over 500 yards of offense, that was a step in the right direction.  But Andy needs to get control of the confusion and undisciplined play on the field.

Just as important to a teams overall success, from an offensive perspective, special teams strategy and the defensive approach are the plays being called.  Whoever has that responsibility for the Chiefs defense, is not doing a very good job.  They can’t stop the run effectively.  It seems that every quarterback the Chiefs play against can escape when they need to on critical 3rd downs for first downs.  To me it appears the Chiefs defensive coaches are putting the players in bad positions and have no chance to be successful.

I would go back and look at what the defense did well in the first 5 games and compare it to the the last 6 losses.

One last thing, another trick play may have cost the Chiefs the game against the Jets!  Get rid of them!

The Outdoor Quarterback

Contenders and Pretenders!

It takes more than just good play to make you a contender in the NFL, you have to make the right decisions!

Right now in the NFL there are contenders and pretenders.  The contenders are teams that consistently play smart and aggressively.  The Patriots, the Saints, the Eagles and the Vikings are teams that come to mind.  You can always count on these teams on making the fewest mistakes, play smart and capitalizing on opportunities.  They don’t play with smoke and mirrors and don’t need trickery to win games.  Their play calling, both on offense and defense, is well designed and timely.  They seem to make the right calls at the most opportunistic times.  The contenders in the NFL today have balanced attacks on offense and aggressive style defenses.  Smart teams and smart coaches understand the meaning of, “take what they give you”, from an offensive perspective and,  “take away what they do best”, from a defensive perspective.  There is one other thing that separates the contenders from the pretenders, when the contenders smell blood in the water they take on the mind set of a feeding shark, they continue to attack!  That is the kind of mental make up a contender has.

Now for the pretenders, the Cowboys, Seahawks, Bills, Lions and the Chiefs!  First, injuries happen and when you loose a key player or two it can have a significant effect on a games outcome.  Second, those teams who are contenders also have injuries and manage find the next man up and keep things moving along.  Contenders also seem to find ways to win, even with new players.  You very seldom see drastic changes in their offensive or defensive production.  Teams who are pretenders just don’t do a good job with personnel changes.  Or sometimes it is just bad decisions on the coaches part.  This past week the Bills made a change at quarterback.  The Bills were sitting in the 6th wild card position and are contending for a playoff spot.  If this change at quarterback was an experiment in a science lab, it would have blown up the entire department.  That is how bad of a decision it was.  Five interceptions in the first half by the newly inserted quarterback.  Those five interceptions led to more than half the points scored by the Chargers and may have taken the Bills out of the playoff picture.  What were you thinking?  Not only was this a bad decision, but a really dumb decision!  Now the Chiefs, who are at the top of the pretender list, started the season 5 and 0, lose to a Giants team that was 1-8 and the 31st ranked defense in the league.  The Chiefs only scored 9 points and no touchdowns.  How does that happen?  By bad playing calling and poor execution on offense and really bad tackling on defense!  The Chiefs right now lead the AFC West, not because they are playing well but because the rest of the division is playing badly.   In the game against the Giants, the Chiefs used more trick plays than I have ever seen in an NFL game!  Two of the Chiefs three turnovers were on trick plays.  Those two turnovers led to Giants scores and a Chiefs loss.  Not what contenders do.  Andy,  you are better than that!

If you want to become a contender, do it the right way and get rid of bad play calling and poor personnel decisions.

The Outdoor Quarterback

Quarterback Roulette!

Pick a quarterback any quarterback! It’s time to play quarterback roulette.

You know that teams are in trouble when they switch quarterbacks every other week, or trade for one in the middle of the season.  In the case of the Browns, they totally screwed up a potential trade for the Bengals backup A.J. McCarron.  How does that happen in today’s world of technology?

I somewhat understand the Broncos making a change at quarterback, but I was at the Chiefs game against the Broncos and most of the offensive miscues were not all Trevor Siemians doing.  He had several passes dropped, one for a easy touchdown.  He did have a couple of unadvised throws, one particularly.  Quarterback training 101 and an absolute no no is, don’t throw back across the middle of the field late!  Very bad things usually happen, and it did.  Now the Brock Osweiler experiment begins.

Next, the 49ers have traded for the Patriots backup quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, which I think is a great move.  The only problem is he won’t have the supporting cast that he did in New England.  Even if they would have traded for Tom Brady they still would have a difficult time being competitive.  You need a good offensive line, an effective running game and an above average receiving core.  If they don’t improve in all of those areas, Jimmy may wish he was still the backup with the Patriots.

Let me get this correct, the Patriots trade Garoppolo and then sign Brian Hoyer, the quarterback that Garoppolo replaced at the 49ers. Interesting!  I am not sure I have seen this much activity around potential starting quarterbacks, this late in the season, ever.  I understand injuries will cause general mangers to find replacements. That’s not the case in these quarterback changes.

The current carousel of quarterback is difficult for everyone: the players, the teams, the coaching staffs and most of all the fans.  I have been in this position as a player myself.  Everyone thinks the backup quarterback is the answer. Not true.  A supporting cast of good players is a must.  It really helps if you add a few great players to the lineup as well.

Good luck to all of them!

The Outdoor Quarterback

How Important Are NFL Kickers and Punters?

NFL punters and kickers now play a more strategic role than at any time in league history.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the comment ” kickers aren’t athletes!”  Not true my friends.  I had the privilege of playing with, and holding for, up until this year, the only kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jan Stenerud.  Jan went to college on a skiing scholarship.  Ryan Succop from the Tennessee Titans played on his college golf team.  I know several punters who played other positions and other sports.  Hall of Fame punter, Ray Guy, was a defensive back at Southern Miss.

I will admit they aren’t the greatest tacklers on the team. I have seen many punters and kickers fail in their attempt to tackle a punt or kick off returner.  They always make the highlights on ESPN when that happens!  A bit embarrassing for the kickers and punters, but they are used to it and just roll with the punches.  But when one of them actually hits someone, the guys on the special teams go ballistic!

Punters are a lot like soccer players in that when they get hit you would have thought someone had cut their leg off with a dull knife.  But, shortly after the penalty is called, they get up and run off the field like nothing happened and you wonder, what acting school did he attended?

All kidding aside, punters today have a unique talent for kicking the ball and having it land inside the ten yard line.  Punters have become a real offensive weapon.  The Chiefs punter, Dustin Colquitt, is year in and year out the best in the NFL for punting the ball inside the 20 yard line.  By the way, he is and avid outdoorsman and golfer.

I have seen several games this year where the Punters were the best offensive weapon the team had and that the place kickers were the only reason the team won.  During the Monday night game just recently played between the Colts and Titans, Ryan Succop kicked 5 field goals in their win against Indy.  His 43 yard field goal set a new NFL record for consecutive kicks made inside of 50 yards, 47! 

Just ask the teams who have lost games because their kicker missed a last second field goal, or had a punter shank a punt and giving their opponents great field position.  What would they have given for a stud kicker or punter?  A lot!

The Outdoor Quarterback

 

Tight Ends Are Key To Today’s NFL Offenses

NFL teams are building their offenses around tight ends.

In the past you could count the number of really good tight ends on one hand.  Today every team has at least one outstanding tight end.  Today the Chiefs have three.  Many other teams have figured this out and are adding tight ends to their rosters every year.

Here are the names of just 10 tight ends who are having significant impact on each of their teams offenses; Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen, he is injured and his back-up Ed Dickson, is playing great, Tyler Eifert, Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolf, Eelanie Walker, Zach Ertz and Jack Doyle.  I haven’t even mentioned a first ballot Hall of Famer, Antonio Gates, who just broke Tony Gonzalez’s touchdown receptions by a TE.  The majority of these TE’s are big time receivers, not just blocking TE’s.  They can run and are huge targets.  In 2016 the Chief’s TE Travis Kelce led all receivers, both tight ends and wide receivers, with yards gained after the catch.

I remember back in the late 60’s and early 70’s the Chiefs had a TE who was 6’10”, Morris Stroud.  You talk about a target!  How would a 6′ strong safety defend him, they couldn’t.  Now days most of these TE’s are 6’5″ to 6’7″ tall and weighing from 245 to 265 lbs.  As a matter of fact several of the TE’s today are coming from college basketball programs, like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez.  One of the current TE’s for the chiefs, Demetrius Harris, played college basketball and not football.

Just to show you what type of premium NFL teams are putting on TE’s, the 19th player selected in the 2017 NFL draft, by Tampa Bay, was Alabama’s TE, O.J. Howard.

If you play fantasy football don’t leave any of these TE’s of off your starting lineup.  My starting TE is someone I haven’t even mentioned, Martellus Bennet, TE for the Green Bay Packers.

The Outdoor Quartback

October Bass Fishing, Don’t Miss The Opportunity

October is still a good time to catch trophy Bass!

At lot of bass anglers, including myself, have a tendency to put away their rod and reels and pick up their bows, shotguns or firearms for more traditional fall activities.  There is a feeding frenzy that bass go through in October before the waters get to cold.  This is an opportunity to get in on some incredible fishing.

For those of you who live in the south where your waters don’t change temperatures dramatically, like those of us in the Mid West, keep on fishing.  But for us Mid Westerners, this is it!  I have personally caught two of my biggest bass in mid October, both where in the 8 plus pound range.  I have never been much of a spinner bait fan, more of a plastic bait guy like worms, crawdads and lizards, crank baits and top water plugs.  But both of those two October fish were caught with a chartreuse and white two bladed willow leaf spinner bait.  Now I am a bit of a convert and never leave home without at least two of those baits in my tackle box.

I primarily fish out of a two man bass buggy type boat.  The main reason is that we fish a lot of farm ponds, two to 30 acre size ponds, instead of large lakes.  I really enjoy catching fish and well stocked and older farm ponds are an excellent place to catch a bunch of fish, and big ones.  The early fall is a perfect time to fish these smaller bodies of water because they normally turn colder much quicker than large bodies of water, like lakes or reservoirs, that are considerably deeper.

Take advantage of these final weeks of October while water temperatures are still good and the October Bass Feeding Frenzy is on.

The Outdoor Quarterback