I want to start this week’s column by wishing all of you a Happy New Year.
I want to wish new Concord Head Football Coach Dave Walker, who was named to the position Monday, well. Walker has a great record as a high school coach, with 394 wins in 32 years, and eight state titles over the past 10 years at Martinsburg High School, plus a 56 game winning streak since 2015. He graduated from Pineville High School in 1983 and Glenville State in 1987
I saw on Facebook where people wanted a Concord graduate for the position, one with a successful record as a high school coach. As for myself, speaking as an alumnus, I’m willing to give him a chance. After all, Mike Kellar and Garin Justice didn’t have Concord degrees and both done well by the program.
A sad bit of news as NASCAR legend Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson, the former bootlegger turned stock car racer and team owner died Thursday at the age of 88. Johnson, who was the subject of a biography written by none other than Thomas Wolfe which was made into a movie starring Jeff Bridges and who was pardoned by President Reagan in 1986 for a 1956 moonshine running conviction, won the 1960 Daytona 500 as a driver and six titles as a car owner. with Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte among his drivers. His death marks the end of NASCAR’s very early history of drivers who perfected their skills as bootleggers.
As for the NFL, I’m going to go by division. Starting with the AFC East which was won again by New England. These aren’t the Patriots offensively of a year ago, as Rod Gronkowski retired and Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown failed due to off-field reasons This team is being dominated by defense, particularly by the backfield. They are still in agood position to win it all.
The Buffalo Bills are a wild-card team both in the standings and in offensive style, Josh Allen doesn’t look pretty playing quarterback, but has been effective as has the defense. The Jets are a mess and Miami is trying to win, but not very successful at it.
The AFC South is more competitive with three teams all having a shot at least .500 records. The Texans, behind an offense led by Pro Bowl quarterback DeShawn Watson, clinched the division Saturday, but can’t fare better than the third seed. The Titans benefited from Ryan Tannenhill’s play at quarterback and can still get the sixth seed if Pittsburgh falters. The Colts can still finish at .500, while the Jaguars are a mess thanks to deposed team president Tom Coughlin.
The AFC North has Baltimore, which has clinched their division , and, depending on how they do the rest of the season, could win the first seed in the playoffs. If Lamar Jackson can continue his MVP-level play in the playoffs, it will be a lot of fun watching them.
Pittsburgh is currently the sixth seed. I’d cast a vote for Mike Tomlin as NFL Coach of the Year although he’d get stiff competition from Baltimore’s John Harbaugh.Tomlin has had to adapt on the fly because of departures and injuries. The two Ohio teams, Cleveland and Cincinnati, are messes due to coaching and a front office which needs a general manager badly, respectively.
The AFC West has been won by Kansas City, who, but for an injury which cost Pat Mahomes II several games, would be vying for the top slot in the AFC. They’ve improved on defense enough to be a factor. The Raiders might reach ,500 this year which is an improvement. The Broncos messed up Drew Lock by being stubborn on his contract and he also got inured and thus couldn’t take over for Joe Flacco, when he got injured. San Diego’s bad year is hard to explain.
Five teams have won playoff spots in the NFC, the Saints, Packers, Vikings,49ers and Seahawks. The Saints are NFC South winners, while the other four have clinched berths and the winners of their divisional games will likely win their divisions. The Saints have benefited from a good defense and an offense that didn’t suffer from an injury to Drew Brees. The Packers are also good defensively and Aaron Rodgers could respond with big playoff games after an off-year. The Vikings also are good defensively and, after the abuse he took in Washington, I’m rooting for Kirk Cousins to do well. San Francisco leads the league in points scored and second in points allowed. Seattle has Russell Wilson, who is also a MVP candidate, and, if they get the home field advantage, could make a run at the Super Bowl.
The NFC East will have the final candidate for a playoff spot, because every division must have a representative . Dallas has problems in coaching and the front office, but a lot of offensive talent and a defense in the top half of the conference. Philadelphia has been reduced to third-stringers at running back and wide receiver. The winner of their Week 16 match-up has the advantage and will probably win the division.
Jeff Harvey is a freelance reporter for the Princeton Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org