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The MMQB: Issue 1
By PeterKing_ZL
Special to rzl-football.com

The MMQB:: Issue 1
by Peter King
WHO'S NEXT?
A lot has been made in league circles over who will win Super Bowl XVIII in Miami this season. The RZL's league office has taken the marketing pitch of "Join History". The phrase itself has a few intrinsic assumptions, the most glaring being that the eventual winner will not already have a Super Bowl Trophy and be in the "history" club the league likes to regularly recycle on the front page. So sure, while a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could win SBXVIII, threepeating to total 5 members jackets so to speak, that's just no fun. The other teams who already have the members jackets include the Colts, Bears, Lions, Dolphins, Titans, Steelers, Chargers, Raiders, Browns, Rams, Cowboys, and Panthers. Of those teams, a few could realistically win SBXVIII and still "Join History", simply by the virtue the league has been here 18 damn seasons and GM turnover is natural. Of those listed teams, only Nic St. Marie (Tennessee), Keith Van Wagner (Carolina, but now in Dallas), and Jeff Downey (St. Louis - twice) remain in RZL. So while the Tampa/St. Louis rivalry is historic and interesting, we'll operate on the premise that those teams will NOT win again this year. We'll also rule out Dallas and Tennessee for tagline sakes, but both of those GMs are more than capable of hoisting another. So who does that leave? Let's briefly take a look at the contenders...

The Favorites
Baltimore Ravens (3-0)
Philadelphia Eagles (3-0)
The Ravens had a shot at joining the club in 2014, when a 4th Quarter rally in SBIX fell just short as they lost 19-24 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That game sparked the start of the Buccaneer Dynasty, and it's crazy how different the fates of these two teams could have been if Chevis Jackson doesn't pick a ball off and go 63-yards for the touchdown. Perhaps the temperamental Tampa GM rips the team down instead of builds it back up, and THEY are the team still chasing a Super Bowl nearly a decade later. The Ravens have been painfully close the last two years as well, losing by a touchdown in the last two Conference Championships. Ironically enough, both of the teams that beat Baltimore went on to lose the Super Bowl to Tampa Bay, with Baltimore seemingly missing TWO improbable chances to right history. This Ravens roster looks very strong and they have been off to an impressive start - knocking off the Steelers, Raiders, and Patriots on National TV in successive weeks. The Eagles have started the season by dismantling the Cardinals, Patriots, and Buccaneers in impressive fashion. This team is built as a matchup nightmare with 6'5" Eddie Burns, 6'6" Randolph Nash, 6'3" Todd Moreno, and 6'6" Jordan Reed. The team snuck QB Joe Bro onto the roster this offseason (who has a Super Bowl ring of his own, btw), and he's been near perfect. The defense looks potent, and the offensive line looks like they'll hold up. Couple all that with brilliant play-calling by veteran GM Neal Wintermute, and it's easy to see how this team could snatch Home Field Advantage in the NFC. Very few teams in the NFC are built to go into Philly and stop this passing attack.

The Feel Good Stories
New York Jets (3-0)
Buffalo Bills (3-0)
New Orleans Saints (2-1)
Matt Spencer, Joe Gaspar, and Kevin Mullendore are easily the three most decorated RZL personas that have not won an RZL Super Bowl. When you consider how long these three have been around, and just how much time they've poured into their teams over the years, it is crazy to think they have zero Super Bowls between them. There is not a GM in the league who would not love to see one of these three hoist the trophy, and as we near the end of the 1st Quarter, the trio have a combined record of (8-1), so it seems like they'll at least be in the conversation. Of the three- the Jets have the best QB, the Bills have the most experienced QB, and the Saints have the best playoff pedigree. It's an interesting trio to watch, as by the time the playoffs start one of these three should have a clear advantage over the other two. Only one team will survive in the AFC East, the other regulated to a Wild Card if they make it, and the Saints play in perhaps the toughest division in RZL history. The NFC Super Bowl representative has been from the NFC South 7 of the last 9 seasons, while the AFC Super Bowl representative has been from the AFC East twice EVER. Even still, I've got to lean towards the Jets or Bills, who boast the #1 and #2 defenses in RZL. The one connection I've been able to make in 18 years of watching RZL football is that the team that gets the most sacks in the league wins the Super Bowl more times than any other isolated metric. The Bills, Jets, and Saints have combined for 25 sacks in nine games.

The Dark Horses
Kansas City Chiefs (2-1)
Minnesota Vikings (2-1)
The Chiefs clearly went "all in" this offseason, trading away draft picks galore to build a team that will compete this year. Despite starting off against all three AFC West foes, the team is (2-1) and ironically hasn't even played THAT good yet. If Stafford stays healthy, this is a team that should win the AFC West easily and compete for a 1st Round BYE. They have a defense more than talented enough to win two playoff games to get them into the big dance. The Vikings similarly have gone all-division to start, but two of their games were against the defending North Champion Bears. To say a split with Chicago is favorable would be an understatement, and the team will head into Tampa this week with a chance to make a LOUD statement before getting their first crack at the Detroit Lions. This team could easily be (4-1) before they meet these very Chiefs WK7 in what should be a fantastic potential Super Bowl preview before they both get ready for their BYEs. I think whichever team comes out of that matchup with a better record could easily be this year’s dark horse team to make it to the Super Bowl and contend to JOIN HISTORY.

FACTOID OF THE WEEK THAT MAY ONLY INTEREST ME
I caught a lot of crap from my followers for the two following tweets I made this offseason in regards to the St. Louis Rams and GM Jeff Downey...


My followers pointed out that it was particularly harsh analysis of a team/GM with two Super Bowl wins that was coming off of hosting an NFC Championship. That I will acknowledge, however, let's keep in perspective that many great teams in madden history have won in spite of a GM, rather than because of the GM. While I don't necessarily think that is the case exactly with St. Louis, there is no doubt that little coaching was happening when the team won those Super Bowls, and the reckless style of play is the sole reason Joe Flacco has been diminished to an RZL leper who is on the injury report more frequently than Packers GM James Paronne is at an all-you-can-eat buffet. After the Rams failed to even negotiate with those tenured vets, they also failed to bring any of them back. They were then late to the RZL draft and ended up settling for a mediocre Free Safety from UL Monroe that most teams had a 3rd Round Grade on. Despite all that, the team would have a chance to make a statement to open 2023 by traveling to Tampa to play the defending Super Bowl Champions (and team that humiliated the Rams in their own building in the NFC Championship), and the Rams rolled over. It was the same unimaginative play calling that led to Joe Flacco (guess what) getting injured and sitting out the game. For what it's worth, they'd also lose the next two to division foes, falling to (0-3) on the year. With the Steelers and Eagles the next two weeks, look for the Rams to be talking #1 Draft Pick before the Week 8 BYE. Chatter in this draft was they were targeting a QB in the 1st prior to missing, so maybe they'll be able to take one next year to ruin with years of the Rams playbook 16+ weeks a season.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

There is quite a lot to digest in this tweet, so let's dive right in. Obviously the (4-0) preseason didn't translate into maintained success, as the Dolphins are (1-2) and traveling to Buffalo to play the (3-0) Bills next week. QB Eric Stubbs, who the team gave up a 2nd Round Pick and a young potential Franchise QB for has a meager 80 QB Rating, which isn't much higher than what Bishop gave them last year. It doesn't appear that Bishop is going to find any takers on the trade market, but perhaps an injury could change that. Doubt he's worth more than a 3rd at this juncture. Peterson on the other hand is fantastic for another year or two, and I'm surprised a team hasn't offered something for him already. He's owed $8.05M, which is surely the snag in trade talks - but if "best offer" means he could be had for a 5th or 6th Round Pick, someone will jump on that sooner or later.
This one made me smile. DRC has little to offer at this juncture, and probably doesn't see the field at all unless the team experiences massive amounts of injuries, but DRC should retire a Buccaneer. Tampa has a lot of youth in that secondary who could stand to learn a thing or two from the savvy vet who once took a three year, $48M, FULLY guaranteed contract to jet Tampa for three years of purgatory in Houston. The Bucs added two Super Bowl rings in that span, but DRC could probably buy a few on eBay to go with two he already won in 2014/2015.

Despite a "down" offseason for the Jets, things appear to be going ok for them so far this season. They are (3-0), have the #5 offense, and #2 defense. If they travel into Buffalo this week and beat the heated rival Bills - they will match their best start ever (2011+2015).

TEN THINGS I THINK I THINK
1. I think this Colts GM Ian Coyle is pretty freaking good at his job. The Colts have been a joke for as long as anyone around here can remember, but he has the team (2-1) with someone named Jose Giradeau leading the league in passing yards (995). If they beat the Titans this week, home matchups with the Texans and Bengals could push this team to (5-1). They haven't won more than 6 games since 2015. That's not a typo.
2. I think Garth Pearce knows hack codes to make a chump RB look like a champ. If the astronomical success he had with HB Mark Ingram in GZL was not enough, some guy named Lino Baggett (who has played for three teams in five years) leads the league in rushing yards (446) and already has more rushing TDs (7) than he had all of last season.
3. I think that Vinny Small guy in Tampa doesn't play very small. After three weeks his average yards per catch is 44.25 yards. Sure, he only has 8 catches, but 4 of them were touchdowns and he's already played with three different QBs this season.
4. I think the Panthers are really, really going to miss WR Brad Ekwerekwu, who is out 8 weeks with a Torn Pectoral.
5. I think Texans GM and RZL legend Ricky Lung had a plan when he tried to trade out of last year's draft completely for future picks. At (0-3), I am guessing Mr. Lung was planning a more long-term rebuild, and the #1 overall pick might be in play.
6. I think it's got to be painful to be a Falcons fan. How do they continue showing up every year knowing they play in a division with the Panthers, Saints, and Buccaneers?
7. I think the Steelers are in good hands with GM Tim Nissen. The team is (2-1), but the only loss came @Baltimore. The team will get a shot at home to split on prime time, and I think they'll do it. Speaking of prime time, I'm as big a Steelers fan as anyone, but did the team need to get SIX primetime games? They will host Monday Night Football or Sunday Night Football four times in six weeks between WK9 and WK14.
8. I think MLB Jarvis Jones should have been the Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, and he's playing angry enough to prove it this season.
9. I think the recent 1st Round analysis by Cowboys GM Keith Van Wagner was insightful, but I disagree with the analysis on the Packers Top 2 picks. WR Wayne White is a 6'5" animal that will be 96SPD and 93ACC. The new wave of dominant wideouts in RZL are huge targets with wheels (see: Burns, Jagger), and while White will take some work, he had more upside to DOMINATE his position than anyone in this class. His analysis of CB David Murphy might be a little more fair, and while I think Murphy has the most potential in the CB class, there is no doubt CBs are tougher to develop quickly than WRs are. One inexperienced CB could cost a team 3-4 games a year, so it could be a painful slow build for Murphy, and you could argue they could have sacrificed a little potential to take a safer pick like CB Steve Johnson. That said, Murphy is only 21 years old, so if the Packers hit him every year he'll be 6'2", 97SPD, and 98ACC... and they don't make many CBs like that. They were brave picks by Paronne, but good picks. A+ and A-, respectively.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I think we all need to take a few minutes this weekend to remember what Memorial's Day is really about. Thank you so much to everyone past, present and future who fought to keep this country free.
b. I think customer service is dead in this country. I know you hate your fast food job, but I've been supporting your raise for years. The more you give me a bad attitude at the window and mess up my order, the more likely I am to swing back the other direction. If you want to make more than $7/hour, earn it.
c. I think we're destined for a Heat-Spurs rematch in the NBA Championship, and that bores me to pieces.
d. I think CNN needs another plane to crash so they have something to talk about.
e. I think everyone should go see the new Godzilla movie. It wasn't monumental or anything, but it was a pretty fun way to spend two hours.
f. I think Hannibal is the best show NBC has had since Friday Night Lights. Great season 2 finale, and it will be interesting to see where they go from here. If you used to like Dexter before it sucked, catch up now!

THE ADIEU HAIKU
Canton-bound Marvin,
4th round sensation,
starvin' for a ring.
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