Saturday, October 31, 2009

Giants vs Eagles Preview: "The Other Game Going on in Philly"

When the Giants head to Philadelphia for Sunday's showdown, they'll obviously be the "B" New York team in Philadelphia that night. As everyone one knows, this years World Series between the Yankees and Phillies is generating a lot of attention and for good reason; It's the team with the most World Series appearances in the decade taking on the decades last chances for a back-to-back champion. It'll be hard not to consider the winner of this World Series the MLB team of the decade, just as it'll be hard not to consider Sunday afternoon's winner the front runner to win the NFC East.

Small beans compared to "Team of the Decade," but let's break this game down anyway.

For Giants and Eagles fans, this is the game of the year so far. Forget about the Saints or Cowboys, this is the one that matters.

Eli Manning has a 4-0 career record as a starter in Philadelphia, which bodes well for the Giants. In general since the 2007 playoff run, Eli and the Giants have played impressively on the road. The last time we saw Eli vs the Eagles was in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, where the Eagles secondary sent Eli back to 2006. Right now, Eli's offense is pretty explosive, with a slew of receivers that have proven they can make plays. Another positive for the Giants is that it looks like Mario Manning will indeed start this week; he'll need to hold onto the ball if the Giants want to win.

Before you start checking off the Giants to win, let's not forget that McNabb hasn't been sacked by the Giants since that 2007 run. If the Giants want to beat the Eagles, whose pass offense is much better now than it was in 2007, they're going to have to get to McNabb and force pressure on the Eagles passing game.

The absence of Brian Westbrook for the Eagles hurts, but there's a good chance that LeSean McCoy is a better option right now anyway. Westbrook has been so-so all season so far, and it was just last week that McCoy's fellow 2009 rookies Shonn Greene and Beanie Wells had their coming out parties. It's fair to predict that this will be McCoy's week.

The Giants run game needs to get itself back in gear. I hate to say the team is missing Derrick Ward, but they're definitely missing having that third option at running back; something the team had grown used to having. Though there's still a chance the Giants fish around and land that third back, it seems as though they're sticking to the "Thunder & Lightning" (Jacobs & Bradshaw, not Dayne and Barber) combination that helped them win Super Bowl XLII. The difference is that in 2009 not only are defenses prepared for it, Bradshaw and Jacobs have both racked up a lot of miles (not to mention Bradshaw has racked up some decent prison time).

As we previously mentioned, the defensive keys for both teams rely on getting to the quarterback. For the Eagles it's getting Eli to force the ball over through interceptions. The Eagles secondary is really good, and traditionally they have Eli's number; they'll need to dial it up if they plan on taking control of the NFC East this week,

For the Giants it's simple as well. In their memorable Super Bowl run, the Giants established themselves as the leagues premiere pass rush. Since then, the Giants have done nothing to diminish that reputation... outside of their three games against the Eagles that is. If the Giants want to win this one they're going to have to get to McNabb. It's not a suggestion, it's a demand.

Overall this game should be great, with all the drama, emotion, and intensity of the "other" sporting event going on in Philly on All Saints Day.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Favre Bowl II: Why I Can't Help But Care

I'm sure there's a part of every real football fan that doesn't want to care about this Sunday's Favre Bowl II: Vikings @ Packers. It's similar to why we don't want to look at the tabloids when we go to the supermarket, or how we don't want to look at the Lindsey Lohan news on MSNBC; yet for some reason we always find ourselves paying attention to this stuff. Some call it the gossip factor, others call it the shock factor; Whatever it is, it makes us watch.

Which is why it's fitting that Favre Bowl II: Vikings @ Packers, will air on Fox; only the network that brought us Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire, Joe Millionaire, and Temptation Island.

It's almost guaranteed that Fox's coverage of the event is going to be disgusting; loaded with as many shots of Mike McCarthy, Deanna Favre, and Ted Thompson that they can fit into a three and a half hour broadcast. Chances are throughout the game they'll show highlights of some of Favre's best moments at Lambeau: the day he filled in for Majkowski in 1992, Antonio Freeman's catch on Monday Night Football vs the 2000 Vikings, the improbable run after his father passed away. We can all recite another five to ten moments off the top of our heads, and believe me, Fox will show us many of them.

But if we can put all of the garbage aside, and look at the big picture, this game is impossible to ignore. Historically, this is a game that people will talk about for a long time is Favre and the Packers never meet again. Every time an important player leaves his team and plays them again we'll see highlights of this game. Future generations who are just starting to learn about Favre the way generations today are just beginning to learn about Elway, will ask about that game the way kids today ask why Elway's last game being against a Dan Reeves coached Falcons team is considered ironic. It's a chance to see the greatest player in a franchises history play that very franchise when he still has enough in the tank to make an impact.

Let's try and forget the last year and look at things historically. Imagine Peyton as a Titan vs the Colts in Indianapolis. Imagine Elway as a Chief against the Broncos in Denver. Imagine Brady as a Jets vs the Patriots in Massachusetts. Imagine Terry Bradshaw as a Raider against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

Imagine if Michael Jordan came back in 2000 as a Knick. Imagine Derek Jeter in a Red Sox uniform. What if Tim Duncan signed with the Mavericks?

Historically, that is exactly what this game is. And we didn't get to see/will probably never see any of those aforementioned scenarios; but we DO get this one.

So let's try to enjoy it. And if we get Favre Bowl III: Return to Minnesota, Favre Bowl IV: Return to NY, and Favre Bowl V: Do We Really Care Anymore next year, then okay, this game won't be as big of a deal.

But for now it is. And there are also a lot of playoff implications in this one.

So enjoy it. It's history. I believe that the next generation is going to talk about Football History the way previous generations have talked about Baseball History. Brett Favre, whether you believe the stories or not, is more than just a football player, he's a piece of American history from 1992-2009, and it's our duty as fans of this great sport to take note of moments like this in order to preserve this sports history.

So enjoy. And try not to throw up too much at the unnecessary crowd, Deanna Favre, Packer Management, and Packer sidelines shots.

Tom Brady Shouldn't Have Won AFC Player of the Month for October

The NFL recently announced it's player of the month awards for October 2009.

On the NFC side the offensive award went to Packers QB: Aaron Rodgers; on the defensive side the award went to Saints safety Darren Sharper; and on Special Teams the award went to Johnny Knox on Chicago.

Knox had a 28.9 Ret Avg and a TD. I don't mind giving him the award. Sharper had two "pick-six's" this month, so I have little issue with him receiving the award. Although Rodgers had a "so-so" (to be kind) effort against the Vikings on October 5th, and a bye the following week, still Rodgers completed almost 75% of his throws and put up a 123.9 passer rating; so I have no issue with him getting the award as well.

In the AFC the offensive award went to Tom Brady, the defensive award to James Harrison, and the special teams award to Eddie Royal. All three players had great months and I'm sure an honest case could be made for Brady.

Afterall, Brady did put up an astonishing 12 TDs, 1,161 yards, and a 121.7 passer rating; but let's go inside the numbers game by game.

October 4 vs Baltimore 21/32 for 258 yards and 1 TD. Typical Tom Brady numbers (2002-2006), but nothing astonishing. He did what he had to to get his team the much needed win.

October 11 @ Denver 19/33 for 215 yards and 2 TD. Again, typical Tom Brady numbers, but nothing eye popping. More importantly the Patriots and Brady fell to the Broncos, temporarily setting back the teams hopes of getting a first round bye in the playoffs.

October 18 vs Tennessee 29/34 for 380 yards and 6 TD. This was against an awful Titans team, but the numbers were still astounding. Brady should have, and did, win the AFC player of the week award for this game.

October 25 vs Tampa Bay in London 23/32 for 308 yards 3 TD's and 2 INT's. Average numbers, a lot of yards, but nothing fantastic. His team won the game, but two interceptions against a hopeless Tampa Bay team seems like a lot.

As you can see, the numbers from the Tennessee game really pad Brady's stats from an otherwise pedestrian month. His numbers (and team performance) were no better than Matt Schaub's to be honest, and Kyle Orton arguably had a more impressive month, guiding his team to wins vs Dallas, New England, and San Diego.

What this also shows us is how QB biased the media is. Were Cedric Benson's 120 yards against Baltimore and 189 against Chicago not enough to warrant the medias attention? Or is he just not on the cover of GQ?

Why not give it to Peyton Manning for the second month? Compared to Brady he had just as many 300 yard games, a +110 QB rating, just as many wins in one fewer game. Manning also didn't lose a game in October like Brady did. I can understand why the media wouldn't give the award to Peyton for this month, considering he's the number one contender for yet another (his fourth) MVP trophy.

Then what about Rashard Mendenhall? He lead the NFL in yards per carry for the month with a stifling 5.4 ypc. Mendenhall also picked up 4 TDs on the ground, and produced over 400 yards for the month as part of the Steelers undefeated October.

I'm not saying the Orton, Schaub, Manning, Mendenhall, or Benson necessarily deserved the award over Brady, I'm just looking at it and wondering why?

As I said early, Tom Brady absolutely deserved the Week 6 Player of the Week award, but when you really dissect the numbers, Brady likely should have been a distant #3 for Player of the Month; in the very least behind Benson.

Week 8 Picks

I was a wimpy 8-5 last week, but I guess that tends to be the average. I think this week I'll get myself a little above average.

Denver Broncos @ Baltimore Ravens
- This is a huge game for both teams. The Broncos still need to prove that they belong in the AFC title hunt while the Ravens needs to step on the breaks before an AFC title becomes out of question. The Ravens lost their last three games by a combined 11 points, while the Broncos have had consecutive victory's against Dallas, New England, and San Diego. Both teams are coming off a bye now, and you have to like the more confident team.

I'm taking the Broncos on the Road.

San Francisco 49ers @ Indianapolis Colts - This is why you don't judge a season after two weeks. Heading into week 3 the 49ers were headed for a Super Bowl while the Colts glory days were gone. Oh-how-things-have-changed. If the 49ers want to win this game, Frank Gore is going to have to have a huge game, 05 #1 Pick Alex Smith is going to have to out duel 98 #1 Pick Peyton Manning, and the 49ers offensive line is going to have to shut down the Colts pass rush. I don't see any of those happening.

I'm taking the Colts at Home.

Houston Texans @ Buffalo Bills - Believe it or not this is an elimination game in a lot of ways. If the Bills win, both teams will be at .500, but with losses to the Jets and Jaguars, the Texans season will probably be done. If the Bills lose they'd fall to 3-5, and in a muddled AFC it's unlikely the Bills would make the necessary run to play in January. This game is far more crucial for the Texans; this is a team that truly believes they are a playoff team, and a 5-3 record heading into Indianapolis will probably be what this team needs to start contending for real.

I'm taking the Texans on the Road.

Cleveland Browns @ Chicago Bears - The Bears are floating around the middle of the NFC pack, and despite what I believed a few weeks ago, it's where they belong. Unless this team can ring off their next 3, they have no hope of making the playoffs. This is a matchup of an 8-8 team hosting a 3-12 team.

I'm taking the Bears at Home.

Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys -
This is the type of game that Seattle needs to rejuvenate the Seahawks season. A road win @ Dallas will probably be the confidence boost this team needs to ring off about seven more wins in the regular season and get back in the playoffs. At the same time, for the Cowboys to get to 5-2 would be monumental for the franchise and would enhance their goal of not only winning the AFC, but getting a first round bye as well.

I'm taking the Cowboys at Home.

St. Louis Rams @ Detroit Lions -
It's unfortunate that some people have to watch this game. Historically this game will have some importance; it's the franchise that hosts the only 0-16 record "defending" it's crown against the team with the best chance to go 0-16. The question here is how do they defend their crown? By defeating the Rams, or losing to them? If Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson play, which I think they will. the Lions will win.

I'm taking the Lions at Home.

Miami Dolphins @ NY Jets - Jason Taylor can never catch a break. Poor guy leaves Miami in 2008 to go to Washington and the Dolphins have their best season since 2000. Then he came back to Miami because he thought they were winners and what happens? The Dolphins are 2-4. At least he's not a Redskin though. That'd be ugly. A win this week in New York and the Dolphins may get back on track to becoming winners. Last time Henne played Sanchez, Sanchez looked like a rookie. Last week Henne looked D-3 when it's mattered, and Sanchez used the Raiders to get some confidence back. This game is going to come down to which QB can make that one play to put his team over-the-top.

I'm taking the Jets at Home.

NY Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles - In a week that features a lot of big games for the media to drool over, this is probably the most important int terms of the playoff picture. The Giants lost back to back games against playoff caliber teams, the Eagles went 1-1 vs the leagues basement. The loser of this game will probably be watching the playoffs. The Eagles may be without Brian Westbrook, which would mean LeSean McCoy will be getting the bulk of the carries against a Giants defense that just let Beanie Wells get his "Welcome to the NFL" gift. Another important matchup is DeSean Jackson against the Giants defense. It'll also be tough for Eli to pick apart this Eagles secondary, so Brandon Jacobs will need to pick up the slack.

I'm taking the Eagles at Home.

Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers -
The last time these two teams played the Raiders almost shoved a dagger through the Chargers hearts; but that was at home, in week one. Although this Chargers team is far from elite right now, they'll still keep this game under control for four quarters. This could be the wake the Chargers atrocious running game wakes up. More importantly if the Chargers have any playoff hopes they'll have to win this game; their next three are @ NY, vs Philly, @ Denver. They'll need a win here to come out of that stretch .500.

I'm taking the Chargers at Home.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans - This is a trap game for the Jaguars who have under-the-radar playoff aspirations. The Jaguars are at .500 right now and have Tennessee and Kansas City in back to back weeks. If they come out of that stretch above .500 then the playoffs are in sight. Unfortunately I don't see that happening. Both the Jaguars and the Titans are coming off of bye weeks, but Tennessee have made the switch to Vince Young and that may very well be the rejuvenation this team needs to get in the win column.

I'm taking the Titans at Home.

Carolina Panthers @ Arizona Cardinals
- Although the Panthers are pretty much done for 2009, they're a veteran team and it's unlikely they'll just lay down for the Cardinals, the team who may have began this era of futility for Carolina. This is a game that the Cardinals need to win, and despite the Panthers best efforts, it'll be hard to stop this Cardinals offense.

I'm taking the Cardinals at Home.

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers - With all the talk of Favre Bowl II, how will the two QB's fare this week. I'm pretty confident that Brett Favre will be fine; and I think Aaron Rodgers would be fine too if his offensive line held up. There's talk that both of Green Bay's OT's may miss this week, probably putting both Rodgers, and the Packers chances to win on their backs. Adrian Peterson also needs to finally step up in a big game.

I'm taking the Vikings on the Road.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Welcome Back, Vince Young

Titans head coach Jeff Fisher has finally done what fans, the media, ownership, and LenDale White have been calling for since an 0-3 start; he's benched veteran QB Kerry Collins in favor of Vince Young.

If it doesn't seem like it was too long ago that Vince Young was the toast of the NFL; winning the Rookie of the Year award, getting his face on video game covers, and bringing the Titans back to the playoffs, it's likely because it wasn't that long ago. It was only the 2007 AFC Playoffs where Young's collapse as a starting QB began.

Without getting into the history of Vince Young's mental decline, let me say that I think this is the right move for the franchise. In an 0-6 season that last featured a decimation by the New England Patriots, there's no logic to keeping Collins in. So far this season Collins has a QB rating of 62, and he's thrown three more interceptions than he has touchdowns. Some people have said Collins isn't the problem, but he's obviously not the solution; so move on.

In his career, Vince Young has an 18-11 record as a starter. Note that all of those games were in his rookie and sophomore seasons. For someone his age, that's actually really impressive. I'll be the first to admit that that record is probably thanks a lot more to the Titans defense than it is to Young's arm, but Young brings a certain swagger to the QB position that opposing defenses have to prepare for that Collins doesn't.

Fisher has stated that if Young doesn't work out he won't hesitate to put Kerry Collins back in. The team has also signed former USC QB, and odd-man-out in Minnesota John David Booty. To sum it up, the Titans probably have a QB situation that would make only the Oakland Raiders envious... and not by much.

Luckily for Young, his first start will come against a Jacksonville Jaguars team that lost 41-0 to a very, very average Seattle Seahawks team a few weeks ago. It's actually pretty ironic because the last game Young started was week 1 of the 2008 season, the game that lead to Young's mental breakdown.

Young needs to perform well in this game if he wants to prevent the Titans from moving forward without him. No matter what the team is likely to bring in a QB in the offseason, the degree of how threatening that QB will be to Young's future remains to be seen.

One thing is for sure though, you have to respect Vince Young's desire to get back on the field. The first step in QB being successful in the NFL is mentally believing in oneself. At this point Young has that.

Now he has to prove he has the talent.

Picks For This Weekend's Top College Match Up's

This is a slow week for college football so instead of doing a number games, I'm only breaking down two college games this week... SMU @ Tulsa and West Virginia @ South Florida. The winners of these two game will take massive steps towards earning a bid at a National Championship.

Very funny, I know.

Actually I'll be breaking down USC @ Oregon and and Texas @ Oklahoma State; two games where the winners will actually take massive steps towards the BCS.

USC @ Oregon - After an opening night loss on smurf turf that turned LeGarrette Blount into a household name for all the wrong reason, Oregon's national title hopes seemed abysmal. Since that game Oregon have beaten two ranked opponents, and dominated a Washington team in Washington that previously upset the Trojans. A win this week and it's likely that Oregon will not only win the Pac-10 conference, but the Ducks will also get right into the middle of the national title picture.

On the other side of the ball there's the USC Trojans. The perennial Pac-10 favorites opened the season with a lot of questions about Freshman QB Matt Barkley, but quieted most of those questions in a week 2 18-15 win at Ohio State. In that game Barkley got hurt though, and the next week backup Quarterback Aaron Corp was unable to lead the Trojans to a win against the unranked Washington Huskie. Since then, the Trojans have impressed picking up wins against ranked Berkley and Notre Dame teams on the road.

If this game were in LA it'd be a lot easier to predict given that USC just don't lose at home; but it's not. The game is in Oregon where the Ducks are always tough to beat. At some point true Freshman Matt Barkley is going to learn what it's like to lose, and this game looks like a good time for that to happen... But it won't.

Although I personally believe this is the weakest USC team since Carson Palmer was junior in 2001, the 2009 Trojans are focused. Oregon coach Chip Kelly has done a great job getting his ship back on course but it's unlikely the Ducks will be able to stay afloat this week. Oregon's offense is far too spotty, and though the defense is aggressive, USC will find a way to pull this one off.

Final Score: USC 28 Oregon 16

and now for the other main event:

Texas @ Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State is an interesting team this year, they've had a few impressive wins (@ Georgia, Mizzou) and they're currently ranked #13.

Okay, I'm glad I got that out because now that that's over I can just say this; Texas are going to win this one by double digits and it'll barely be a game in the second half.

This is the same Oklahoma State team that let up 45 points at home to a Houston team that consistantly finish 40 spots behind the Cowboys in recruiting. Texas meanwhile are undefeated, have consistantly punished opponents, and two weaks ago squeaked by an Oklahoma team who a lot of people thought would beat the Longhorns.

This is also Heisman contender Colt McCoy's best chance to impress the world in Prime Time. Half the nation will be watching this game and the Longhorns don't have another game worth mentioning on their schedule (unless you count @ Texas A&M... I'll pass).

Texas are going to win this game, Texas are going to win big. Oklahoma State have never beaten the Longhorns when the Longhorns are ranked. Do me a favor and watch USC @ Oregon instead.

Final Score: Texas 38 Oklahoma State 17


The U will rebound vs Wake Forest
Cincinatti will beat Syracuse
The Gamecocks are gonna fall to The Vols
Notre Dame, Iowa, TCU, LSU, Flordia, and Boise State will all win this week as well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Carolina Panthers... Your Decade is Over

This season, whenever I believe a team is eliminated from the playoffs, thus making their season (and decade) over, I will write their obituary.

Today I present to you the Carolina Panthers of the 00's.

The Carolina Panthers decade of the 00's was one of success and improvement for the franchise, however the word "greatness" could not be used to define it. Throughout the last seven years of the decade the team possessed the talent across the board to win a championship, but never made the right move to push the team over the top. Instead the 00's for the Carolina Panthers will be known as the "Golden Age of What Could Have Been."

In 2000, the Panthers, lead by George Seifert, were coming of an 8-8 season and had moderate expectations that QB Steve Beuerlein could get the team to the playoffs. The Panthers got off to a slow 1-3 start and things began to look bad. Beuerlein had the passing game in full form with Muhsin Muhammad developing into a #1 WR, but the team was struggling desperately at the running back position. Veteran back Tim Biakabutuka had been in the league since 1996 but was never able to develop into the back that Carolina needed. In 2000 the Carolina Panthers entire team barely got over the 1,000 yard mark, with a team yards per attempt average of 3.3.

The Panthers would slightly rebound from their 1-3 start, but a 7-9 finish was all the team could pull off. The highlight of the season was that the team had the 12th ranked defense lead by veteran Reggie White, but major changes needed to be made on offense. Seifert and the Panthers said goodbye to Beuerlein, who would be turning 37 for the 2001 season, and drafted Chris Weinke, the 29 year old Heisman Trophy winning Rookie out of Florida State. The team also used it's first two draft picks to acquire Dan Morgan and Kris Jenkins, two players would go on to be big players for years to come. In the third round the team would draft undersized by amazingly fast wide receive Steve Smith out of Utah.

The team would enter 2001 with an offense with a lot of question marks, but an okay enough defense to compete. A week one win against a highly respected Minnesota Vikings team got skeptics to begin wondering whether or not Weinke could translate his college success to pro success and lead the Panthers to the playoffs.

The week 1 win would be all the Panthers could manage to pull off for 2001. To add insult to injury, a one win season wasn't even rewarded with the #1 overall draft pick, as the Houston Texans expanded the NFL to 32 teams in 2002 and were given the #1 overall pick as compensation. It was obvious that Weinke, who was sacked 26 times and had an 11:19 TD/INT ratio, was probably not going to develop into an NFL QB given he was about to turn 30, but the Panthers had so many issues that ownership needed to clear house. Seifert was fired and John Fox, a coordinator from the Giants was hired in his place.

Fox used the #2 overall pick in the draft to select Julius Peppers, a defensive end from North Carolina. The team also brought in veteran QB Rodney Peete, and running back Lamar Smith to help put the offense together. The team would start the season 3-0 before losing their next 8. Things looked incredibly bleak in Carolina and another top pick in the 2003 draft looked likely, a draft that had a lot of Quarterbacks looked at as first round talent.

A week 13 win @Cleveland would be what the Panthers needed to change their fortunes. In that game Steve Smith began to develop as a quality wide receiver, and the team would finish the season 3-1 to end 2002 with a respectable 7-9 record. The offense of the 2002 Panthers may have been awful, but Fox helped develop a defense that would finish the year #5 in the NFL.

For the 2003 season the Panthers would attempt to fix their running game by signing veteran running back Stephen Davis. The team also planned on giving second year running back DeShaun Foster more carries.

In week 1 of the regular season the Panthers trailed the Jaguars 17-0 early in the third quarter. At that point Rodney Peete had been sidelined, and unknown quarterback Jake Delhomme took over. Delhomme and the Panther then put a 21 point 4th quarter together to beat the Jaguars 24-23, this would set the pace for the rest of the Panthers season.

The Panthers would start their season 5-0, eventually going 8-2 heading into week 12. Losses to the Cowboys, Eagles and Falcons in consecutive weeks would set back the Panthers first round bye hopes, but the team would win their final three games to finish 11-5. For the first time since 1996 the Carolina Panthers were back in the playoffs.

The Panthers first playoff game of 2003 was a success as the Panthers easily took care of the Dallas Cowboys. The next week the team traveled to St. Louis to face a high octane Rams team. In overtime, Delhomme connected to Steve Smith for a 69 yard touchdown to send the Panthers to the conference championship game for the second time in the franchises history.

The NFC Championship game would feature the Panthers and the favored Philadelphia Eagles who were hosting the game for the second year in a row, and playing in it for the third. The Panthers and defensive back Ricky Manning stepped up big time. Manning picked Donovan McNabb off three times, as the Panthers won 14-3, earning the franchise it's first trip to the Super Bowl where they'd host the New England Patriots.

Super Bowl XXXVIII began as a defensive struggle with a 14-10 New England lead to begin the 4th quarter. Early in the 4th the Patriots went up 21-10 and things began to look bad for the Panthers. Two huge plays for the Panthers, a 33 yard touchdown rush for DeShaun Foster, and an 85 yard touchdown pass from Delhomme to Muhammad put the Panthers up 22-21. The Patriots would drive down the field and pick up a touchdown and two point conversation to make the game 29-22. The Panthers were unphased, Delhomme and the Panthers answered the Patriots with a touchdown. The score was 29-29 and overtime looked likely.

That was until John Kasay blew the kickoff, kicking the ball out of bounds, penalizing the Panthers, and giving the Patriots the ball in great field position. Tom Brady and the Patriots moved the ball into kicker Adam Vinatieri's field goal range, and Vinatieri's 41 yard field goal completed the 32-39 game. The Panthers would come so close to winning, but would come up short.

The Panthers entered 2004 with huge expectations but a 1-7 start had everyone wondering whether or not the 2003 Panthers were "one year wonders." The Panthers silenced their critics and went on a tear, entering their week 17 contest with the Saints 7-8 with a chance to make the playoffs. The Panthers would come up four points shy of victory, and the ended their season 7-9; the Super Bowl hangover crippling their chances of returning to the big game.

The Panthers hot finish to 2004 translated over to 2005. The team tore through their schedule and managed to go 11-5 yet again. This time, 11-5 was only enough to get the team the 5 seed in the NFC but it didn't matter. The Panthers would go into Giants stadium and blank the Giants 23-0 in the snow. The next week, the Panthers would capitalize on the inexperience of the Bears en route to a 29-21 road win for the Panthers.

For the second time in three years the Carolina Panthers were in the NFC championship game. This time the Panthers failed as the home Seattle Seahawks proved too much to the Panthers. The Panthers fell to the Seahawks that day, but would enter 2006 with a lot of hype to go back to the playoffs, and potentially the Super Bowl.

2006 got off to a typical start for the Panthers, the team flirted around the playoff standings for most of the season, going 6-5 before heading to Philadelphia. In the Philadelphia game, Delhomme would get injured bringing weinke back to the fold. Under Weinke the team would lose three in a row bringing the season record to 6-8. Weinke would lead the Panthers to a week 16 win, and Delhomme would return in week 17 to lead the Carolina Panthers to an 8-8 record.

The 2007 season was a mess for the Panthers. In week 3 Jake Delhomme went down. The team was 2-1, and began to rely on QB David Carr. Carr would quickly get hurt though, and the team called on veteran QB Vinny Testaverde to lead the team. Testaverde would go 2-4 as the starter, until being replaced by Matt Moore. Despite the Panthers QB woes, the team would still manage a 7-9 record. DeShaun Foster and 2nd year running back DeAngelo Williams looked impressive and combined for close to 1,600 yards on the season.

With a healthy Delhomme, the 2008 season had high expectations. The Panthers would impress all season, eventually going 12-4 and earning themselves a first round bye. A close week 16 loss in New York cost the team home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but the Panthers still felt confident entering the 2008 postseason.

Unlike the teams two other postseasons the Panthers took place this decade, the Panthers would be "one and done" this year. The Cardinals Offense would destroy the Panthers defense, and Jake Delhomme through for five interceptions. The poor showing had many wondering how much longer the Panthers would invest themselves in Delhomme.

The Panthers answered that question in the summer, singing Delhomme through 2014 for 42 million, 20 guaranteed, a number that many believed was too much.

In 2009 Delhomme finally proved his doubters right. The season has thus far been a disaster. The team has been given the schedule to get itself together, but the offense is too anemic to succeed this season. It's very likely that the core of the Super Bowl team, Delhomme, Smith, Muhammad, Peppers, and Fox won't be on the team in 2010. Peppers in in a contract year, and Smith is unhappy. Muhammad is old and Delhomme's talents have dissolved a great deal. Honestly, many feel that this team had a good run together, but it's time to begin the rebuilding in Carolina.

Under Coach John Fox the Carolina Panthers were always a competitive team. The team had more real opportunities to win the Super Bowl this decade than most NFC teams. Although I don't think it's Fox's fault that the team never won a championship, as the head coach he does need to get the blame; at least for complacency. With the coaching job market that is out there for 2010, it's likely that the Panthers will let Fox go. Chances are he'll land somewhere else.

And the Carolina Panthers of the 00's will likely strike up good nostalgic memories in a few years; Memories that include a lot of fun playoff games, but no rings to show.

MVP of the Decade:
Julius Peppers

Notable Players: Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, Stephen Davis,Jake Delhomme, Rod Smart, Thomas Davis, on Beason, Julius Peppers, DeAngelo Williams, Todd Sauerbrun, Chris Weinke, Ricky Manning, DeShaun Foster, Mike Rucker, Kris Jenkins, Mike Wahle, John Kasay, Chris Gamble

Throwback Jersey That Will Be Cool in 15 Years: Super Bowl XXXVIII Steve Smith

Top 10 Defensive Players of the 1990's

When people recall the decade of the 1990's, it usually brings back memories of great offense. Indeed, the 1990's were probably the greatest offensive times we'll ever see talent-wise, with future or current Hall of Fame players such as John Elway, Brett Favre, Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Barry Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Jim Kelly, Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis, Joe Montana, Cris Carter, Michael Irvin, Thurman Thomas, Marcus Allen, Steve Young, Andre Reed, Warren Moon, Shannon Sharpe, and even Peyton Manning putting up significant numbers in the decade.

But one thing many people have forgotten was that the 1990's was also a time of great defensive players, and for that reason today I am counting down the top 10 defensive players of the 1990's.

And now, here are your Top 10 Defensive Players of the 1990's.

10. Kevin Greene - Greene entered the 90's as a Pro Bowl Left Outside Linebacker with the Los Angeles Rams. In 1993 Greene left LA and headed to Pittsburgh where he helped put the Steelers defense over the top. In 1994, Green lead the NFL in sacks, and in 1995 Greene helped lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl. Greene then left Pittsburgh and headed to Carolina where he again lead the league in sacks in 1996. Double digit sack seasons wold follow the next three years, and at 37, Greene would retire after the 1999 season, with four Pro Bowls and two first team All Pro bids in the 90's.

09. Warren Sapp - Warren Sapp is one of the best defensive players of all time, and that status was born in the mid 90's when Sapp entered the league. From 1997 to 1999 Sapp was the leader on a Tampa Bay defense that helped vitalize an awful franchise. In 1999 Sapp was named the NFL's defensive Player of the year, recording 12.5 sacks in 15 games.

08. Derrick Thomas -
Derrick Thomas made the Pro Bowl every season from 1990 to 1997, playing by Right and Left side Outside Linebacker. In both 1990 and 1991 Thomas was selected as a first team All Pro, and in 1990 Thomas picked up an astounding 20 sacks in 15 games. Though a car accident took his life after the 1999 season, Derrick Thomas is not just a Hall of Famer, but also the face of the Chiefs franchise in the 1990's.

07. Cortez Kennedy -
Few defensive lineman have had more dominant decades than Kennedy had in the 90's. A Pro Bowler in 8 of 10 season in the decade, Kennedy was also a three time All Pro, and 1992 Defensive Player of the Year. On top of that Kennedy spent his entire career with the Seahawks, whose losing ways in the 90's may be the reason that Kennedy has yet to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Kennedy finished the decade with 56 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and close to 500 tackles, in 135 starts.

06. Rod Woodson - Woodson defined the cornerback position in the 90's with the Pittsburgh Steelers. From 1990 to 1994, Woodson would make five Pro Bowls and 4 All Pro teams. In 1993, Woodson would win the Defensive Player of the Year award. He'd go on to start a Super Bowl and play in another Pro Bowl with the Steelers before leaving the team in 1997. In 1999 the Ravens converted Woodson to Free Safety where he again made the Pro Bowl and lead the league in interceptions. In the 1990's, Woodson would pick up 10 defensive touchdowns.

05. Junior Seau - In the 1990's the San Diego Chargers were Junior Seau's team. The former USC Trojan hit the ground running in his professional career which began in 1990, and made the Pro Bowl every year from 1991 to 1999. In 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, and 1998 Seau was a First Team All Pro, and in 1994 he helped the San Diego Chargers get to their first Super Bowl in franchise history. Though he was never a sacks machine, Seau had six 100+ tackle season.

04. John Randle - It is likely that no DT in NFL history will ever have the run that John Randle had from 1993 to 1998. In each of those six season Randle was selected to both the Pro Bowl and 1st Team All Pro teams. Randle also had double digit sacks in each of those seasons, including a league leading 15.5 in 1997. In 1998 the Vikings converted Randle to DE, where he continued to pick up double digit sacks in both 1998 and 1999. Randle finished the decade with over 100 sacks, a tremendous accomplishment.

03. Deion Sanders -
Perhaps the most notorious defensive player of the 90's, if not NFL history, Sanders won two Super Bowls in back to back years with different teams, went to eight Pro Bowls, and was acquired six First Team All Pro selections. In 1994 with the 49ers, Sanders returned four interceptions for touchdown en route to an NFL defensive player of the year award. What made Sanders so dangerous was how fast he was; to this day no athlete in the league has shown the grace with speed that Sanders had in his prime. Sanders athleticism may be unmatched in NFL history, and his 1,331 career yards on interception returns are second in NFL history.

02. Reggie White - Let me set something straight; besides Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White is probably the best defensive player in NFL history. At the very worst White is the 3rd best. The reason that White, a nine time Pro Bowler and four time All Pro in the 90's is not considered the best defensive player of the 90's is because White's two best seasons were probably in 1987 and 1988 where he picked up 39 sacks in two seasons. Also, though White was still a dominant player in the 1990's, he was no longer the best defensive end in the league. That being said, White still won the defensive player of the year award in 1998, and helped the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI in 1996. White ended his career as the All-Time sacks leader, and if you count his USFL sacks, he'd still be #1. White briefly retired in 1999, but came back in 2000 with the Carolina Panthers citing that "God told him to." Had White played the 1999 season, it's likely I'd consider him the best defensive player of the decade.

01. Bruce Smith -
An eight time Pro Bowler and six time All Pro in the 90's, Smith was crucial in helping the Bills go to four straight Super Bowls from 1990 to 1993. In both 1990 and 1996 Smith was named Defensive Player of the Year, the only player two win the award twice in the 90's. Though he never lead the league in sacks, he came in the top ten five times, as well as starting 20 playoff games. I've selected Bruce Smith as the best defensive player because of his consistency. He never lead the league in sacks but he was up there every season. For a defensive end Smith was also a tackles machine, picking up 608 tackles in the decade, including two 100+ tackle seasons. Although his 5 game 1991 season should even out with Whites missed 1999 season, Smith still started Super Bowl XXVI that season; one of four he would start in the 90's.

Boise State or TCU: Does Either Have a Shot at the BCS?

For the past several years small conference teams have made a push for the BCS. There were the 2006 Boise Broncos, the 2007 Hawaii Warriors, and the 2008 Utah Utes, all of which made it to a big time bowl with both the 06 Broncos and 08 Utes making a case that they could've contended in the National Championship game.

2009 has been no different. The season began with Boise defeating Oregon and staking their claim as the best minor in the country. Two days later BYU upset Oklahoma. The next week Conference USA team the University of Houston Cougars defeated Oklahoma State, shuttling that program into the mix as well. As of week two of the season Boise, BYU, Utah, Houston, and TCU were all making an impressive case as this years "BCS Buster."

But there's a reason why it's so hard to make the BCS National Championship Game, and that's what makes College Football so exciting.

The gauntlet began week 3 as Utah went down 24-31 at Oregon crippling the teams national title hopes; they're currently ranked #19. The same week BYU got clobbered at home 28-54 against Florida State. Week 4 Houston lost it's only game thus far at the University of Texas El Paso 41-58, the team is currently ranked #15.

That leaves Boise State and TCU as the only two contenders remaining. At the moment TCU rank 6 in the BCS while Boise rank #7. It's likely that two of the teams ahead of them will lose games from here on out, shuttling the two teams to a probably #4 and #5 respectably.

If Oregon defeat USC this week, that would do wonders for Boise State's national title hopes. In week 1 Boise defeated Oregon 19-8. With a weak schedule after that game, there is likely no hope that the Brocnos play in the championship game with an Oregon win this week. Even with an Oregon win, it's likely Boise's incredibly soft schedule will prevent them from playing the SEC winner this January.

TCU on the other hand have a highly ranked defense, and have one more game against a ranked opponent, Nov 14 vs Utah. If the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs can win that one impressively, the way the dominated BYU 38-7 on the road, TCU would have made a great case for earning a shot at the national title; especially with wins Clemson and BYU on their resume.

Personally I feel as though if a non major conference winner is going to make a run at the BCS championship game this is going to be the year. If USC, Iowa, and Texas lose a game at some point from here on out, there's an incredible chance the the Horned frogs will play the SEC winner in the national championship game this year.

I also feel as though TCU are the better team than Boise, but who knows? I know that it's a different year and different teams, but my logic stems from the results of this past seasons 2008 Poinsettia Bowl, which TCU squeaked by 17-16. The game went on to be the most underrated football game of 2008. Bar-none.

So if you like Cinderella stories and you want TCU or Boise to get their chance, stay tuned to this blog because I'll keep you up to date with what needs to happen for these teams to get a shot.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cleveland Browns... Your Decade is Over

This season, whenever I believe a team is eliminated from the playoffs, thus making their season (and decade) over, I will write their obituary.

Today I present to you the Cleveland Browns of the 00's.

Cleveland Brown fans began the new millennium with a lot more optimism than they had five years prior. The franchises three year absence from the league was resolved in 1999 when the team became the 31st franchise in the National Football League. They also drafted Tim Couch to be their quarterback of the future, and had a head coach in Chris Palmer that they believed in, and in the 2000 NFL draft with the first overall selection the team chose DE Courtney Brown out of Penn State, a move meant to shore up the teams 29th ranked defense.

The 2000 season began with some hope as the Browns started their season 2-1, including wins against their rivals; the Steelers and the Bengals. Unfortunately the Browns would win only one more game the rest of the season, a week 11 contest against the New England Patriots. To add a greater dagger to Browns fans hearts; the Baltimore Ravens, also known as the team formerly known as the Cleveland Browns, won Super Bowl XXXV with arguably the greatest defense of all time.

Though the media expected nothing from the franchise, the Browns showed little improvement from 1999 to 2000, and head coach Chris Palmer was fired when the team heard that University of Miami head coach Butch Davis would be interested in leading the Browns.

Davis and the Browns entered the 2001 draft with their eyes on building the defense; for the second year in a row the team drafted defensive line help early; selecting Defensive End Gerrard Warren from Florida over TCU Running Back LaDanian Tomlinson and DE's Andre Carter and Richard Seymour. Dispite the poor draft pick, Davis and the Browns showed tremendous improvement in the 2001 season; catapulting the team to a 7-9 record and a respectable 15th ranked defense.

The Browns kicked off 2002 with some hype and a game against the Kansas City Chiefs. With 10 seconds left in the game and a 2 point lead, Browns LB Dwayne Rudd sacked KC QB Trent Green for a seemingly game winning tackle. After the sack, Rudd got up and flung his helmet off. The helmet toss was seen as premature by the officials who penalized Rudd and the Browns. The Chiefs were given the opportunity to kick a field goal and beat the Browns by one point.

Despite the 0-1 record, it was believe that if the Browns could get Tim Couch to develop as a Quarterback for the 2002 season, the team would do damage in the regular season, and potentially make the post season. As a starter that season, Couch would go 8-6, but his play was generally below average. Never the less, the Browns would go 9-7 and earn themselves a place in the AFC playoffs where they'd travel to Pittsburgh to play their nemesis Pittsburgh Steelers. Overall, Butch Davis was looking to be the next great head coach in the NFL, and the Browns looked to join the ranks of the Patriots, Colts, and Steelers as the teams to watch in the AFC for the 00's.

Couch would be hurt for the Wild Card weekend game in Pittsburgh, but backup QB Kelly Holcomb was up to the task. It would take a massive 22 point 4th quarter from the Tommy Maddox lead Pittsburgh Steelers to eliminate the Browns. The final score was 36-33, but the Cleveland Browns entered 2003 with lots of optimism and new found playoff experience.

Although expectations were high, the Browns would wobble through 2003, never actually catching rhythm. The season began with a QB controversy between Holcomb and Couch which Holcomb would eventually win; Even with that the offense continued to regress. It looked more likely as if the Tim Couch experiment was going to be a failure. The 2003 Browns would go 5-11, and Butch Davis suddenly ended up on the coaching hot seat for 2004. In the first round of the 2004 draft Davis would select TE Kellen Winslow Jr, a player which Davis recruited at the University of Miami. Though extremely talented, Winslow was notorious for having a major attitude.

For the start of the 2004 season, Davis brought in former San Francisco QB Jeff Garcia to lead the team. This did little to get anything going for the Browns. Also hurting Davis was the fact that Winslow got injured in week 2 and was placed on IR. Following a loss to the New York Jets in November, Davis was forced to resign.

For the 2005 season the Browns hired Romeo Crennel, an accomplished defensive mind from the Parcells-Bellichick coaching lineage. This move would go on to define the teams decade. Crennel would address the teams QB situation by drafting QB Charlie Frye in the third round of the draft, as well as signing veteran Super Bowl winning QB Trent Dilfer. This did little to help the Browns offense which finished last in the NFL. The 2005 Browns were little better, if not worse than the the 2004 Browns.

Things looked bleak for the 2006 Browns, and under Charlie Frye and Crennel the team fell flat on it's face. A 4-12 record for the franchise would come fully loaded with another low draft pick. Crennel needed to get it right this time or his head coaching career would likely be over.

The 2007 draft was a mark of glory for Crennel and the Browns. The team would use its #3 overall pick to select Joe Thomas, a Tackle out of Wisconsin who would go on to make the Pro Bowl immediately in his career. The team also traded back into the first round to acquire highly touted QB Brady Quinn out of Notre Dame. The Browns also traded Charlie Frye to the Seahawks where he is currently their third string QB.

The 2007 Browns put together the teams best single season of the decade. Unknown QB Derek Anderson took over the QB duties from Frye and performed brilliantly, putting up over 3,700 yards en route to a 10-5 record as a starter. Anderson's arm would be accompanied by Winslow, and wide receiver Braylon Edwards in Honolulu that February; Joe Thomas and KR Josh Cribbs would also join their fellow teammates in the Pro Bowl. A 10-6 record would be enough to give the Browns their best single season since 1994, but it wasn't enough to get the team to the playoffs.

Entering the 2008 season the Browns were finally back on a platform with the Colts and Patriots. People were comparing the Browns offensive weaponry to that of the Bellichick and Dungy lead teams. Unfortunately for the Browns, the Cinderella story of Derek Anderson came to a screeching end, and Brady Quinn got hurt. The Browns would fall to 4-12, and Romeo Crennel would be fired and replaced by Eric Mangini, another member of the Parcells-Bellichick coaching lineage.

The 2009 season began with a lot of new faces in Cleveland. Kellen Winslow was off to Tampa, and it was time for Brady Quinn to begin the season as Cleveland's starter, however, that would last only a few short weeks. By week 3 Derek Anderson was back under center and by week 7's end the 2009 Brown's season was over.

Entering 2010 the team looks to keep Mangini and the rebuilding process going. The team traded Braylon Edwards to the Jets, Mangini's former team, which before the season Mangini acquired QB Brett Ratliff from. It's unknown whether or not the team will go to Ratliff in 2009, but it's expected he'll be given an opportunity in 2010 to earn the job; it's almost a given that Quinn and Anderson will both be gone by the start of the 2010 season.

To sum up the Browns decade, the only way to be optimistic is to ask the question "is it better to have an awful NFL franchise than no franchise at all?" Most in Cleveland would respond "yes," because after all, we've seen franchises come back from worse.

Though the Browns never caught up to the Colts, Patriots, or rival Steelers; and the team never came close to winning a Super Bowl like their alter-ego Ravens did, the Browns decade was still in many ways a success. Although the team didn't reestablish itself as a winner, the teams fan base reestablished itself as one of the most respected in the league, and playing in Cleveland is still something no team wants to do in the winter. If the Browns and Mangini can get the right core of players in Cleveland, and establish the team as a power running team with a solid defense, this team could eventually join the ranks of the elite. That probably won't be in 2010 though.

MVP of the Decade: Joe Thomas

Notable Players:
Tim Couch, Josh Cribbs, Jamir Miller, Phil Dawson, Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow, Andra Davis, Braylon Edwards, William Green, Joe Thomas, Gerard Warren, Ryan Pontbriand, D'Qwell Jackson, Dennis Northcutt, Courtney Brown, Dwayne Rudd, Kevin Johnson

Throwback Jersey That Will Be Cool in 15 Years:
2006 Kellen Winslow

Editors Note: It has been brought to my attention that Quarterback Charlie Frye is currently on the Oakland Raiders behind Bruce Gradkowski on the depth chart. Thank you Hal for bringing this to my attention and I want to let all readers know that I completely appreciate it when you inform me of any errors in the blog. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 26, 2009

NFL Week 8 Power Rankings

Right now there are three undefeated teams left in the NFL, the Colts, Saints, and Broncos.

Ever since the 1998 Broncos started their season 13-0 people have been waiting for that one team to come along and go 19-0. Every year such a big deal is made about the perfect start. The media loves, apparently the fans love, the players pretend not to love it, but we all know they do.

So we were given the 2005 Colts who put the idea on our tongues. Like the Broncos they went 13-0 before losing. In 2006 the Colts again got off to a hot start at 9-0 before losing.

In 2007 we had the first team to go 16-0 in the New England Patriots, who would go 18-0 before infamously losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. And last year we had the 10-0 Tennessee Titans who resembled the 2005 Colts in their playoff stature as opposed to the 1998 Broncos or 2006 Colts.

But what we've learned is that in today's expanded league of 30+ teams, it's a lot easier to flirt with perfection than it was in a 28 team league. It's likely due to the wide dispersing of talent, and disparity between good and great quarterback play.

Who will be the last undefeated team left in the league? Who knows, but for their sake let's hope they're more like the 2006 Colts and 1998 Broncos than the 2007 Patriots.

Here are the Power Rankings for Week 8...

The Elite

01. New Orleans Saints - I have officially bought whatever the Saints are selling. I doubted them the past weeks. I picked New York, I picked Miami, I'll probably even pick Atlanta this week but once again I'll be wrong. This is a 14-2 team, at worst a 13-3 team, and the road to the Super Bowl will go through the Superdome this January. If they're there, you can bet your whistle I'll be betting against them still, probably losing money.

02. Indianapolis Colts -
I feel as though this team gets penalized in our minds because we're so immune to this sort of start by now. Are they the 05 13-0 lose in their first playoff game Colts or the 06 Super Bowl Champion Colts? Truth be told they're the 09 Colts and they look like the best Colts team of the decade, and that's awful news for everyone else.

03. Denver Broncos - The bye week helped this 6-0 team fade from the spotlight and that "X" on their backs fade a little. A win this week in Baltimore and it'll be bigger than ever heading into a showdown with Pittsburgh.

04. Pittsburgh Steelers -
This team is dangerous. All AFC teams should beware; If this team gets a first round bye they'll probably be playing in Miami. There are maybe two teams in the entire NFL who can consistently beat this team.

05. Minnesota Vikings -
They lost to the Steelers and this is where the questions will begin. There is no rebound game against awful teams, there is no time to get healthy. This team needs to head into Green Bay and win this week or they're in danger of collapsing. We see it every year, hot teams with a balance of youth and veterans who get hot early and cool down down the stretch. Last year they were called the Jets and they had a Quarterback with the last name Favre. Beware.

06. New England Patriots - In beating two winless teams the Patriots did exactly what they needed to do to quiet their critics and get the "Super Bowl bandwagon" revved up and ready to speed away. They've got a bye now, but after that it gets tough. This will be an 11-5 team, 12-4 potentially. They'll probably have to win three including two on the road to get to Miami.

07. Arizona Cardinals - Did anyone else write this team off after week 3? This team doesn't need to worry about whether or not they'll be in the playoffs, instead they need to learn from the 06 Seahawks mistakes and just try to stay healthy. This division will be won with 8 wins, 9 max. Focus on getting those and just being healty in January. With that recipe this team can get back to the NFC title game, and potentially the Super Bowl.

The Very Good

08. Green Bay Packers - Aaron Rodgers can go to six Super Bowls in his career and he'll never have a bigger "must win" than this week against the Brett Favre lead Minnesota Vikings in Green Bay. A win will also put this team back in the divisional title hunt. Rodgers needs this win to answer a lot of questions. Truth be told this team has a lot of questions to answer in general.

09. New York Giants - Two losses to probable division winners means this team is probable to not get a first round bye in 2009. A loss this week in Philadelphia means that it's probable this team won't win their division. This Sunday one New York team is going to win in Philly, I just don't know which.

10. Philadelphia Eagles -
They had a nice bounce back win against the Redskins, but you still have to have your doubts about this team. They have the luxury of hosting a self-doubting Giants team this week. A win there and Donovan and Andy can start thinking about what they'll have to do to get past the NFC Championship game, again. Is 2009 DeSean Jackson better than 2004 Terrell Owens? He'll have to be to get this team there.

11. Dallas Cowboys -
The next three games are Sea, @Phi, @ GB, if they come out of those three 6-3 they'll be in the playoffs, anything less and they're clearing house in 2010. These next three weeks will define their season.

12. Atlanta Falcons - Remember the Michael Vick days? Back when this team had an awesome running game. What happened to that? Michael "The Burner" Turner should change his name to Michael "Burnt Out" Turner. I don't think this team will beat one playoff team in 2009, that includes January; because they'll be there at 10-6.

13. Cincinnati Bengals -
There are still a lot of doubters out there but this team is 5-2 heading into their bye week. They've got four more probable wins on their schedule (@ Oak, Cle, Det, KC). The truth is this team can very well be playing in January, maybe at home.

Hanging In There

14. Baltimore Ravens -
This team is coming off of a bye and into a brutal schedule. At 3-3 they're a team everyone still has on their radar; but are Denver, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh really scared? They should be considering the Ravens have lost their three games by a combined 11 points.

15. New York Jets - What every struggling team needs is a week against the Raiders. Mark Sanchez has continued to regress. Ryan has to stick with Sanchez though, there's bigger things than winning the six seed and losing to the Patriots in the first round (see: New York Giants 2004 season.)

16. Houston Texans - This team can potentially be the most dangerous team in the league. They'll likely be 5-3 heading into a showdown with Indianapolis in two weeks. They were a trendy preseason playoff pick, and the trend isn't out of style yet.

17. San Diego Chargers -
The win against the Chiefs was what they needed to get some confidence in San Diego. How things have changed in this city though; before the season fans and media alike gave this team a first round bye. Now they'll be lucky to be the six seed.

18. Miami Dolphins -
I like to call this team "the worst above average team in the league." In these next two weeks the Dolphins can be thinking about either the NFL draft or the NFL playoffs. What's the name of that wide receiver from Oklahoma State again? Dez.... Bryant?

19. Chicago Bears -
I like to call this team "the best brutally average team in the league." This team has the capability to beat teams like Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, New England, and the Giants; they also have the capability to lose this week to the Browns. Lovie Smith needs to leave this team.

20. San Francisco 49ers -
I never bought into this team, and now they're in danger of falling to 3-4 thanks to a trip to Indianapolis. They did the right thing this week in benching Shaun Hill in favor of Alex Smith. This team needs to find out what they have in Smith right now, unless it might be time to start researching which QB to draft this April.

21. Seattle Seahawks -
A loss this week at Dallas and they're done for 2009, a win and they'll likely be 4-4 heading into Arizona. This team is underachieving, aging, and sloppy.

The Dead

22. Jacksonville Jaguars - I've been tempted to move the Jaguars out of the dead. They were pronounced dead after they got trampled by the Seahawks 41-0, but they're 3-3 with Tennessee and Kansas City in back to back weeks. If they're 5-3 heading to the Meadowlands I'll bring this team back to life. Until then they're the best dead team in the league.

23. Buffalo Bills - Do I believe in bringing things back from the dead? In the case of the 2009 Buffalo Bills, no. They're 3-4 and they've looked good these past couple of weeks; if by looking good you mean beating mediocre opponents playing at their ultimate worst.

24. Carolina Panthers -
Officially done for 2009. Chances are John Fox, Steve Smith, and Jake Delhomme are all out of the league or somewhere else in 2010. Obviously I doubt Steve Smith will be out of the league; Delhomme should be the next past his prime QB to back up Romo.

25. Kansas City Chiefs -
This team is supposed to be in rebuilding mode, but things just look like a mess. They showed how far they are from competing this weekend against the Chargers.

26. Oakland Raiders -
The Raiders are awful. Things are so bad they benched JaMarcus Russell to start Bruce Gradkowski. Correction, things are so bad that Bruce Gradkowski is on their roster. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate MAC QB's, but this team should've done everything they could've to keep Jeff Garcia... or Kerry Collins, even. Man are things really so bad in Oakland that I'm saying they'd be better off with QB's who were already old in the '02 playoffs? They should see what Tommy Maddox and Kelly Holcomb are doing.

27. Washington Redskins - I'd love to put this team at #32 but they're not as bad as these other five teams. A true testament to how uneven the NFL is in 2009. Is parity over? Yes, welcome to 2003.

28. Detroit Lions - This week they have the opportunity to defend their crown as the only 0-16 team in NFL history when they host the Rams. Believe it or not, a win in that game can potentially hurt their Power Ranking.

29. Cleveland Browns -
It's a rebuilding process in Cleveland. Hasn't that been the case since the team was brought back in 1999, though? This fan base has to be the most beaten down in professional sports. At least they still have Drew Carey.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Their "home" game in England didn't go to well, but no one expected it to. They made the move to Josh Freeman, a move they should stick with for the rest of the season.

31. Tennessee Titans -
The bye week gave Jeff Fisher time to decide he wanted to feel like a winner. This likely means he'll be headed to Chicago or Jacksonville sometime in the next two years.

32. St. Louis Rams -
As predicted this team got beaten badly at home. The teams best shot at getting a win in 2009 comes this week against the Lions. Ironic?

Dear NFL: Meet the Yankees

There's no denying that the NFL is a ratings titanic for good reason. The networks have done a great job in compiling personalities and relevant retired stars to talk football, analyze football, and make us truly believe that every week is the Super Bowl.

In cities such as Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Nashville the NFL has built successful franchises in places where baseball either struggles or doesn't exist. There's no denying that the NFL captivates it's audiences to a degree that no other sport does; I mean, they captivate us to the point where we actually listen to what Rodney Harrison, Cris Carter, Terry Bradshaw, and Tim Hasslebeck have to say. That's like Milton Bradley, Gary Sheffield, Yogi Berra, and Adam Everett breaking down a baseball game for you.

There's no denying that in the 00's the NFL has succeeded both Basketball and Baseball as the most popular sport in America; and whether it's the national pastime or not, the ratings back it up.

But there's one thing in American sports that will probably never change; The New York Yankees are now, always have been, and likely always will be bigger, more popular, and more captivating than any other sports league, let alone team, in the USA. It's the reason that in 2000 and 2004 Yankees games competed with the Olympics in TV ratings.

Now, after a down decade of competing with the NFL, the Yankees have finally pulled off another impressive feat that no other team in any other sport could do. They dominated Sunday Night football in the ratings.

A Stanley Cup playoffs game 7 wouldn't get the same rating as a Monday Night Football game, let alone compete with NBC for the Sunday Night Football rating. A Lakers NBA Finals game generally generates anywhere between a 4 and a 5 Nielsen rating. By comparison, the low a Sunday Night Football game normally gets in a season is somewhere between an 8 and a 9.

Last night the Yankees were up against stiff competition in their hometown New York Giants who were hosting defending the NFC Champion Cardinals in New York. But somehow the Yankees pulled off a miraculous 11.4 rating for Fox, while the Giants and Cardinals did a 10.4.

Considering both games were good games, I'd have to say that the Yankees beat out simply because of public interest.

This isn't enough to say that Baseball is on par with Football, that'd be ridiculous. What it does say is that the interest for baseball is still there nationally. It's a long baseball season and not every game matters, but when the games do matter audiences will tune in. Especially when it involves the Yankees (by comparison in 2007 a Red Sox vs Indians game 6 only drew a modest 7. 5 national rating.).

Luckily, the NFL has nothing to worry about. The Yankees vs Phillies game 4 on Sunday Night will not compete with any NFL programming. Although I'm not sure if even the World Series could compete with Favre Bowl II.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Keep The NFL Out of Los Angeles

You've probably heard by now that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (yeah, he's still the Governor and Californians are still paying the price for something people thought would be cool and funny five years ago) has pushed forth the proposed $800,000,000 football stadium to be built in Los Angeles.

Before we talk football let me first say that it's pretty much a common fact that no stadium ever built with taxpayer money ever turned profit for it's taxpayers. It's simply there for entertainment, and creating a few jobs; mostly entertainment though. Although in this economy every job is important, (construction, stadium vendors, maintenance), using taxpayer money to create a football stadium when the state of California is financially collapsing seems like a bogus idea.

Next, the city of Los Angeles failed to support professional football before. It's well know that these fans will only hop on a train when it's already full, or never at all (which may explain the cities awful public transportation). The Rams and Raiders didn't leave LA because they had great attendance, they left because the teams hit hard times and they couldn't attract more than 35,000 on average.

The decline of football in LA had nothing to do with outdated facilities either. Currently the Jets and Giants share the same "old" stadium in New Jersey and both teams sell out every game, every season; in much worse weather, often with bad teams. This isn't east coast bias, these are just facts. California fans are not east coast fans, their passion for sports doesn't match their passion for leisure.

Los Angeles is also a melting pot of transplants. You walk around downtown on any given day and you'll see Steelers, Packers, Colts, and 49ers fans everywhere; not to mention a ton of Giants, Cowboys, Chargers, Rams, and Raiders fans. Unless one of those teams moves to LA, there just won't be a market for it. This would mean the Rams, Raiders, and Chargers are at the top of the list for moving to LA.

Vikings fans, you can now breath a sigh of relief.

I don't see Al Davis moving the team back to LA considering the divorce from the market was pretty messy. But a shiny new stadium in LA might be tempting, and the Raiders are still the most popular team in the region; Not to mention the Oakland Coliseum is way past it's prime and nothing new is set to be built. Still, I just don't see it. The Raiders just belong in Oakland.

The Rams would fit perfectly back in Los Angeles. St. Louis needs a new stadium and plans to get one done are sketchy. The team is up for sale as well, making it easier to make the move back to LA. However, if the Checketts group wins the bid for the team, NFL rules will likely keep the team in St. Louis.

The Chargers make the most sense. There's really no plan to build a new stadium, the team desperately needs a new stadium, and the franchise has already acquired territorial rights for Orange County. Moving the team up north would likely hurt the Charger fans in San Diego, but the team would remain San Diego's market team. I like the odds of this happening the most. San Diego has had financial problems lately, the city recently build the Padres a state of the art ball park, and historically, both the Chargers and Padres have drawn poor attendance numbers in down years.

Still, moving any of these three franchises to Los Angeles would not end any of their franchises question marks outside of stadium issues. Attendance in Los Angeles will always be iffy. When the team in 11-5 it'll be bustling. When the team is 14-2 it'll be a mad house. When the team is 8-8 it'll be quiet. When the team is 5-11 it'll be empty. This is a guarantee. Whichever franchise moves to LA may get a shiny new stadium, but it won't find itself off of the "black out" lists anytime soon.

Also, there hasn't been a rapid desire from the people of LA for a professional team. This is a USC city right now. The fans of Los Angeles care a lot more about College football than they do for pro football and it's not because they don't have a pro team. USC has captured the sports fans of this region the same way the Lakers have. If a pro team comes to LA, they'll be second fiddle to a college powerhouse; much like in Jacksonville.

So before you make a bigger mess than you already have Governor, put this to rest. It's a mess in the making. Things have been just fine without a pro football team in LA. In fact, since football left LA, the league has exploded. I'm not saying they're relative statements, but it proves that the league is fine the way it is.

Picks For This Weekend's Top College Match Up's

This is a weekend that I've been looking forward to for a long time. There's not a lot of flashy BCS match ups, but there are a lot of great games this weekend.

We've got the best rivalry the WAC has seen this half of the decade. We have Tennessee vs Alabama. Every Irishman's cream dream in BC vs Notre Dame. And USC vs the team that ruined their 2008.

But let's start with the conference everyone knows I love to pump: The Mountain West.

#10 TCU @ #16 BYU - TCU are undefeated and BYU's only loss has been to a pretty good Florida State team. TCU are looking to be this years BCS spoilers; a win over BYU in Utah could likely help the Horned Frogs leapfrog over Boise St in the rankings. I can't see it happening though. BYU are going to win this one. Heading into the season they were looked at as the best team in conference, and I still believe they are right now.

TCU 24 BYU 39

Oregon State @ #4 USC - USC don't lose at home. It's one of the known facts of college football in the 00's. If this game were in Oregon State I'd sing a different tune. USC will win this one and begin their surge towards the National Championship Game.

Oregon State 18 USC 44

Tennessee @ #1 Alabama - So far Lane Kiffin has done a respectable job; I expect that to continue this week in Alabama. The Tide will win this one, but much like in the Florida game earlier in the season, Tennessee will put up a fight. Their defense is too good to get blown out.

Tennessee 13 Alabama 24

#6 Boise State @ Hawaii - When this rivalry heads to Hawaii you never know what will happen; Unfortunately, this year I think we all kind of know what will happen. Hawaii aren't that bad of a team, but Boise are much better right now.

Boise State 38 Hawaii 17

#7 Iowa @ Michigan State - It's going to happen this week; The Buckeyes are going to lose. Michigan State started the season poorly, but they've since turned it around. They have no hope at winning the Big Ten, but they'll give Ohio State and Michigan a big hand this week. I'm calling the upset.
Iowa 21 Michigan State 24

#3 Texas @ Missouri - Mizzou have hit a brutal schedule, and it gets worse this week when they host #3 Texas. I'm not buying into the hype that Texas aren't that good because they didn't blow Oklahoma out. Oklahoma are a very respectable program, especially when Sam Bradford plays. Though I love it when Mizzou compete, Texas are going to win this week.

Texas 33 Mizzou 17

Other picks I have this week:

Notre Dame over Boston College

#8 Miami over Clemson

#2 Florida over Mississippi State

#25 Oklahoma over #24 Kansas

#13 Penn State over Michigan

and UConn over West Virginia

Week 7 Picks

If there's one thing we know about pro football picks it's that no ones opinion matters. The games still need to be played.

Last week I went an awful 7-7.

That being said............. It's a new week and I'm loving the road teams.

Here are my picks for week 7, 2009.

Green Bay Packers @ Cleveland Browns - Eric Mangini and the Browns need a win to quiet the critics and let the tame fade into oblivion. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers need a win to get back to the front of the NFC playoff race. This game means a lot to Green Bay given that next week the Favre Bowl II will take place in Green Bay.

I'm taking Green Bay on the Road.

Indianapolis Colts @ St. Louis Rams - The Colts are coming off of a bye week and are getting healthy. Bob Sanders will be back this week, and that means that the Colts defense should shore up some of it's problems that the team didn't address during the trade deadline. The Rams are bad and things aren't going to get better this week.

I'm taking the Colts on the Road coming off of the bye.

San Francisco 49ers @ Houston Texans - The winner of this one will be in good shape for a midseason playoff push; The loser will have to regroup and make some changes. The 49ers gets Frank Gore back this week and that will help against a Texans defense that has looked suspect at times.

I'm taking the 49ers on the Road coming off of a bye.

San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs - If the Chargers want to make the playoffs they're going to have to win this one. The Chiefs had an impressive win last week against a bad team, while the Chargers had a depressing loss against a good team. I think the roles will be reversed this week.

I'm taking the Chargers on the Road.

Minnesota Vikings @ Pittsburgh Steelers - This has to be the game of the week. The media is talking up Brett Favre vs Ben Roethlisberger, two of the games living legends at QB; but everyone knows this game will come down to the Steelers defense against Adrian Peterson, and the Vikings defenses' ability to rush the passer. It's always tough to win in Pittsburgh but I've got a feeling about this one.

I'm taking the Vikings on the Road.

New England Patriots @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers - This game isn't really a home game for the Buc's, in fact it's in London where most of the people in attendance will probably be cheering for the Patriots considering they've more likely heard of Tom Brady than Cadillac Williams. The Patriots beat up on one winless team last week, they'll dominate another this week.

I'm taking the Patriots in London.

Buffalo Bills @ Carolina Panthers - The Bills and Panthers both looked pretty bad winning last week. The Bills know they have no shot at the playoffs this year; not with all the injuries they have on defense. Meanwhile, the Panthers know that they need to make the playoffs this year. If not, then John Fox, Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith, and Mushin Muhammad may no longer be playing in Carolina next year for one reason or another. In other words, this is a must win for the Panthers.

I'm taking the Panthers at Home.

New York Jets @ Oakland Raiders - The Jets are going to be without Jericho Cotchery in this one and that will hurt rookie QB Mark Sanchez when he goes against a very good Oakland Raiders secondary. The Jets defense should do enough to stop Raiders offense from scoring too many points.

I'm taking the Jets on the Road.

Chicago Bears @ Cincinnati Bengals - These were two teams that I was really high on heading into last week; and both let me down. There's a good chance on of these teams will leave Sunday with shattered playoff dreams. Cutler and Palmer are a lot alike; both have great arms, have put up Pro Bowl numbers, but have one little in their careers other than Fantasy Football Championships. In a game like this the QB who outshines the other will guide his team to a win. I'm going to go with the veteran.

I'm taking the Bengals at Home.

Atlanta Falcons @ Dallas Cowboys - The REAL game of the week. Sure Minnesota @ Pittsburgh has the two "better" teams, but this game will have the offense, a little defense, the stars, and the numbers. If Atlanta can beat Dallas on the road, they'll do their playoff hopes a huge favor, practically clinching a Wild Card at worst. If the Cowboys can win, they'll be right back in the middle of the hunt for January. I think that Matt Ryan at this point is already a much better QB than Tony Romo, but coming off a bye, at home, the Cowboys wont lose.

I'm taking the Cowboys at Home.

New Orleans Saints @ Miami Dolphins - I think there's a good chance the Dolphins actually win this one. The Saints are coming off of a huge home win, and are heading on the road to a team that can run the ball and force a couple of three and outs. Earlier in the season the Dolphins lost to the Colts, but have since learned from their mistakes. Chad Henne looks good, and a win here would put the Miami Dolphins at the forefront of the AFC wild card race. I'm taking the upset.

I'm taking the Dolphins at Home.

Arizona Cardinals @ New York Giants - Remember when Kurt Warner and Eli Manning where on that "newlywed game" commercial? That was funny. Last year these two teams met and the Giants beat up on the Cardinals. I think that we'll see more of that this week. The Giants lost a heart breaker to the Saints last week, they're not the kind of team to lose two in a row in games like that. Especially at night in the Meadowlands where Fitzgerald and the Cardinals offense will likely be slowed down.

I'm taking the Giants at Home.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Redskins - Exhibit A for why ESPN needs to realize that the NFC East rivalries are a little bit overrated. The only reason people really care is because the teams have been good the past few years. This year, one team is good the other is awful. I'm looking forward to barely paying attention to this game.

I'm taking the Eagles at Home.