Friday, September 30, 2011

NFL Week 4 Picks

So last week I didn't do so hot, following a 12-4 week with a 9-7 week. That's what you get for thinking inside the box. This week I smell 16-0.

Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowbpys - This is going to be the most exciting game of the weekend, and I think it will be the coming out party for the Lions.

I'm taking the Lions on the road.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Houston Texans - Coming off of a road win in Indianapolis that should have been easier than it was, I fully expect the Steelers to lose to the Texans who are coming of a "so close yet so far" type loss to the Saints.

I'm taking the Texans at home.

Carolina Panthers @ Chicago Bears - The Panthers haven't played a defense like Chicago's yet, and the Bears really need the win.

I'm taking the Bears at home.

Minnesota Vikings @ Kansas City Chiefs - One of these teams has some hope, the other has none. I expect an explosive day from the Vikings.

I'm taking the Vikings on the road.

Buffalo Bills @ Cincinnati Bengals - For at least one more week the Bills winning ways will continue.

I'm taking the Bills on the road.

Tennessee Titans @ Cleveland Browns - A battle of surprise 2-1 teams, this game is also intriguing in it's Hasselbeck vs Holmgren storyline. If the Browns want to win they'll need a big performance from Holmgren's latest QB project. That's a lot to ask.

I'm taking the Titans on the road.

Washington Redskins @ St. Louis Rams - I'm a believer in the Redskins right now and I'm weary on the Rams due to all of their injuries. This is a game that could define the fortunes of either teams 2011.

I'm taking the Redskisn on the road.

San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles - Whether or not Michael Vick plays, this is a game that the Eagles absolutely have to and should win.

I'm taking the Eagles at home.

New Orleans Saints @ Jacksonville Jaguars - The Jaguars aren't very good right now and the Saints are one of the best teams in the league. This game should only go one way.

I'm taking the Saints on the road.

Atlanta Falcons @ Seattle Seahawks - The Falcons schedule finally softens up and they'll take advantage of it. I don't see the Falcons in the playoffs but they won't be worse than 7-9.

I'm taking the Falcons on the road.

New York Giants @ Arizona Cardinals - This is a big game for both teams. Eli Manning has some good memories in Arizona, much better than those of Kevin Kolb, thus far.

I'm taking the Giants on the road.

New England Patriots @ Oakland Raiders - The Patriots don't lose back to back games very often under Bill Belichick, and the Raiders aren't really the sort of team you expect to beat quality opponents in back to back weeks.

I'm taking the Patriots on the road.

Denver Broncos @ Green Bay Packers - Orton needs a big game but he'll have to wait until next vs San Diego. The Packers need a blow out for the sake of esteem.

I'm taking the Packers at home.

Miami Dolphins @ San Diego Chargers - The Chargers needed this game at home to be this week, given the likeliness of losing Gates for the week.

I'm taking the Chargers at home.

New York Jets @ Baltimore Ravens - This is a huge game for both teams but simply put the Jets need it more. A loss and their season could spiral downward.

I'm taking the Jets on the road.

Indianapolis Colts @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Poor Peyton Manning, this is a game that he would have loved to play in. Remember the Monday Night Miracle of 2003? That was his first big critic silencing comeback. I don't see Curtis Painter doing that this week.

I'm taking the Bucs at home.

Jared Allen's Homunculus and The General Manager's Paradox

**Written by Sebastian Pardo**

His name was CARL PETERSON. You can write that in caps,” said Jared Allen when explaining to 1500ESPN radio why he was traded to the Vikings, who take on his former team the Kansas City Chiefs in this weekend battle of 0-3 teams.

With that statement Allen shakes loose a reminder one of the great paradoxes faced with General Managers in sports.

Allen, an unheralded 4th round draft pick of the Chiefs in 2004, out of obscure Div 1-AA Idaho State, proved to be a revelatory pick. Quickly demonstrating his fierce motor, determination and physicality that would become a trademark of one of the most productive defensive ends in football since.

However, Allen also showed a propensity for immature frat boy behavior. Upon joining the Chiefs he, oh so cleverly, chose the number 69, in part so he could get away with the phrase “Wine’Em, Dine’Em 69’Em” being the official tag line of his short-lived Kansas City restaurant. More worrisome even, was Allen’s two DUI’s, the first in May 2006, and the second in September of the same year, bringing his lifetime total to 3 (For which he would receive a 4 game suspension to start the 2007 season). Coupled with Allen’s Ted Nudgent like bow hunting adventures, along with his brash, head strong, sound-bite-friendly braggadocio lead many to worry in Kansas City’s upper management.

So when Carl Peterson, who Allen says lied to him about a new contract, shipped him to Minnesota after the 2007, a season in which he was an All Pro (remember despite missing 4 games while serving his suspension.) Allen was incensed. Despite a career year, and being a player entering his prime, he was told he wouldn’t be needed in Kansas City anymore.

Upon arriving in Minnesota he was rewarded with the richest contract for a defensive player in NFL history, and unlike the previous season where he was playing with the carrot dangling of a rich new contract, he had his contract. But he also had something new, something he wouldn’t have had should he have stayed in Kansas City. He had the pain of rejection, the pain of being sent packing.

Since the trade Jared Allen has had continued success, reaching double digit sacks in each of the last 4 seasons, making another All-Pro Team in 2009, and a Pro Bowl in 2010. Further more, by all accounts Allen, while still the paragon of manly manliness, has a newfound maturity, and an altruistic side.

Since the trade Allen has become an advocate for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, raising funds through his “Sack Diabetes” program. In 2009, he was one of 4 players who went overseas in the NFL-USO program, and upon his return founded his own charity: Jared Allen’s Homes 4 Wounded Warriors.

There seems to be a shift in Allen the person, and unlike many NFL players who change teams in search of big money, he’s figured out a way of reaching continued success on the field.

And this raises a paradox.

If Carl Peterson commits to Jared Allen and makes him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history, there is an excellent chance that he never gets the player, and subsequently the person that Allen has become. Instead it’s entirely possible that the large payday serves as a kind of reward for Allen’s reckless behavior, both crippling any potential growth from him as a person, and likely watching as it erodes his ability on the field.

For Allen, the rejection by the Chiefs, seemingly caused him to evaluate his life, and re-prioritize. Maybe as a Chief he never goes on the USO tour, where he says “It has been one of the best experiences of my life - something I’ll never forget.” And he is never forced to put into perspective the service, and real sacrifice his Grandfather and younger brother who both served in the Marine Corp. gave for something higher than Wining, Dining and 69ing.

And for General Manager Carl Peterson, he is faced with a loose-loose scenario, whereby he can no longer have the player that Allen will become, but yet will be tormented by the success Allen will go on to have. To the home crowd Allen is evidence of Peterson’s incompetence, weather it’s letting a good player get away, or overpaying for a troubled player who is a bust.

However the paradox really only exists for General Managers, the torment of that executive decision relies entirely on a judgement call about the deep primordial homunculus living inside the spirit of the player. Does this player have the grit, to turn himself around or do we risk letting the player learn somewhere else, if at all. For a GM, that decision is difficult, and can change sport history. However, one can see why it seems safer to err on the side of letting someone else take the risk.

The paradox is hardly a paradox for the player, rather it is the same fundamental proposition we all face on a daily basis. One that is often, and easily put into the phrase: “life is 10% what happens, and 90% how you respond.”

Don’t expect any “Thank Yous” from Allen, to be headed toward Carl Peterson. By the tone and tenor of his interview with 1500ESPN, Allen certainly doesn’t seem ready to point the finger at himself. But perhaps that’s due to Peterson’s lack of faith in Allen’s ability to turn it around off the field, and maintain a high level of performance on it. And to be fair Allen’s transformation is not all that surprising, and perhaps is a testament to his natural maturation into adulthood, more than a major reformation. But then again, Jared Allen does still wear number 69.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ultimate 32 Man Roster

So I took on the task of creating a team of 31 players and 1 coach filling every major roster spot with one player from every team. The following are the results.


Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
- Belichick has more Super Bowl rings than any active head coach and he's also one of the ten greated head coaches in the history of the league.


QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
- You can make a case for Drew Brees as the best quarterback in the league not only right now, but over the past five years.

RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings - Peterson is without a doubt the best running back in the league right now and probably has been since he came into the league in 2007.

FB Ovie Mughelli, Atlanta Falcons - Mughelli doesn't get a lot of attention but he's one of the best full backs in the league and Matt Ryan and Michael Turner know it.

WR1 Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
- Larry Fitzgerald is the best wide receiver in the NFL so you have to take him here. He may actually be the best receiver since Jerry Rice.

WR2 Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles - Maclin has emerged as the Eagles go to guy inside and is becoming one of the leagues best #2 receivers.

WR3 Brandon Gibson, St. Louis Rams
- You may not know the name now but Brandon Gibson has a chance to get his name out there with all the injuries in St. Louis.

TE Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
- Witten has been an elite tight end for a while now and the University of Tennessee prodigy shows no signs of slowing down.

LT Jake Long, Miami Dolphins - Long is the best tackle in the NFL and the Dolphins made the right decision drafting him over Matt Ryan.

LG Ryan Lilja, Kansas City Chiefs
- Lilja is getting older but he can still play left guard pretty well.

C Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Pouncey was Pro Bowler last year as a rookie. He has a chance to become great.

RG Chris Snee, New York Giants
- Chris Snee has been one of the most underrated players in the NFL over ther past 6 years and that's saying something for one of the only guards in the league who may actually be close to a household name.

RT Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens
- Though he's probably more famous for being the main character in a Sandra Bullock movie, Oher is actually one of the leagues best right tackles.


LDE Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts - Over the past half decade Robert Mathis has emerged as not only a perennial Pro Bowler, but also as the best left side pass rusher in the league.

LDT Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions - Suh is the scariest defensive player in the NFL and is only getting better.

NT B.J. Raji, Green Bay Packers - At 337 pounds, Raji is the perfect size for a nose tackle.

RDE Adrian Clayborn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - One of only two rookies to make the team, Clayborn is a solid pass rusher who should develop into a solid player in Tampa's cover 2 scheme.

OLB Von Miller, Denver Broncos
- Miller may well be on his way to defensive rookie of the year, and one day he may become a defensive player of the year. He's the real deal.

OLB Jon Beason, Carolina Panthers
- He may be hurt, but when healthy he's an elite outside linebacker.

ILB Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers
- He's the best linebacker in the league, not much
else to say besides that.

MLB David Hawthorne, Seattle Seahawks - At middle linebacker Hawthorne makes all the necessary plays to be above the league average at that position.

LCB Darrelle Revis, New York Jets - At this point in time Revis is the best defensive player in the NFL. He had to make this team.

RCB Jonathan Joseph, Houston Texans - Joseph was a great pick up by the Texans this offseason and he's one of the two or three best right side cornerbacks in the NFL.

SS Chris Hope, Tennessee Titans - It was hard to find a place for a Titan on this roster but Chris Hope is a solid strong safety. He's not as good as he was six years ago, but he's still adequate.

FS LaRon Landry, Washington Redskins
- Landry is a playmaking free safety who can
take over a game from that position.


K Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders - Janikowski is the best kicker in the NFL. Not much else to say besides that.

P Mike Scifres, San Diego Chargers - Scifres is one of the most underrated players in the NFL and he's the rare punter who can actually win games with his toe.

LS Garrison Sanborn, Buffalo Bills - Sanburn makes the team because someone had to be the long snapper, but he's no bum either. The former Florida State player has been with the Bills since 2009.

H Kevin Huber, Cincinnati Bengals
- He has zero botched snaps.

KR Joshua Cribbs, Cleveland Browns - Since 2007 Cribbs has rivaled Devin Hester as the best return man in the league.

PR Devin Hester, Chicago Bears
- He's getting older but the University of Miami product is still the best kick returner in the NFL and may one day actually be a Hall of Famer.

ST Montell Owens, Jacksonville Jaguars - Owens is a part time full back who was a Pro Bowler last year as a special teamer. He holds the franchise record for career special teams tackles.

So what do you think? Do I do a good job? Do you think I did awful? What does your team look like? Feel free to post yours.

A Look at the Potential Hall of Fame Class of 2012

The Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2011 was lead by Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, and Deion Sanders and included Richard Dent, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, and Ed Sabol. Though it was a star-studded Hall of Fame class, several Hall of Fame "locks" were excluded, making this years Hall of Fame race all the more interesting.

This year the only newly eligible Hall of Fame locks are coaches Bill Parcells and Bill Cowher, and guard Will Shields. Cowher won't get in this year because it is widely anticipated that he'll be on the sidelines next year. Bill Parcells may have wait one more year, though I think he'll get in this year.

Will Shields deserves to get in first ballot having never missed a game in 14 seasons and being selected to 12 Pro Bowls.

So of the newly eligible candidates that gives us Bill Parcells and Will Shields. Now onto the logjam that is the other three or so players that will be inducted.

Here's a look at some of the future Hall of Famer's who are eligible and have still yet to hear their name called: Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis, Andre Reed, Willie Roaf, Cortez Kennedy, and Dermontti Dawson. If I had to guess what this years Hall of Fame class is going to look like I would say Bill Parcells, Will Shields, Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis, and Dermontti Dawson. It's hard to choose one of those three receivers, though if I had to I'd pick Reed. Shields and Dawson were dominant at their position and while it's hard to get into the Hall of Fame as an offensive lineman, those two deserve it.

Next year Michael Strahan, Larry Allen, and Warren Sapp will secure three spots in the Hall but that could be the year that Reed and Carter sneak in.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 3 Power Rankings

Only two elite teams this week and deservedly so. The rest of the league is a mess, but it's starting to sort out.

The Elite

01. Green Bay Packers - Aaron Rodgers is quietly having an MVP season while the Green Bay Packers are quietly off to the best start in the NFL. They have the Lions breathing down their neck but something tells me that this team is going to be at number one all year. They just have that feel.

02. New Orleans Saints - The Saints are a team that look like they're improving with each week. Their offensive fire power is scary and this past weeks win against Houston is the sort of win that will only make you stronger as the season progresses.

The Very Good

03. Detroit Lions
- I've said it since the preseason; The Lions can win the Super Bowl. If somehow the Lions win their division they'll probably have a first round bye, which would mean the Lions entire road to the Super Bowl would be indoors. This team has a solid defense, a potent offense, an emerging quarterback, and one of the best defensive players in the league. They'll be tested these next three weeks @ Dallas, vs Chicago, and vs San Francisco, but this team is for real and they're scary.

04. Buffalo Bills
- Justice given to the last remaining unbeaten in the AFC. This week will tell us whether or not the Bills have turned that corner. If they beat the Bengals then they're ready to be taken seriously, and if they lose then they're a 7-9 team that will probably take a step back next year. That's just the way things go in Buffalo. They can score on anybody.

05. New England Patriots - The Pats lost a tough one to Buffalo in a game where they simply got outplayed. Tom Brady has never been a high volume interception quarterback so it goes without saying that if Brady throws four interceptions in a given game, chances are the Pats are going to lose. I don't think Brady will have another game that bad this year.

06. San Diego Chargers - The Chargers squeaked by the Chiefs this week and you're starting to get that feeling that this what the 2011 Chargers are all about; fighting off injuries, playing close games, and winning the ones where they minimize mistakes. It should be noted that Antonio Gates, the second most important player on the Chargers, has not been healthy.

07. Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens are 2-1 and looking to solidify themselves as contenders this week as they face the Jets. It's a huge regular season game for John Harbaugh and a win could erase some of the stigma that he can't win the big regular season game.

08. New York Jets
- Will Rex Ryan stop being an idiot and stop deferring the ball every time he wins a coin toss? Did he not stand on the sidelines for the 2010 AFC title game, week one SNF, and this past week? Three of the teams last four games have started with the opponent getting a touchdown on an opening drive after Ryan deferred. Also, some of the blame has to go on Sanchez who struggled on third down (and fourth) all game long.

09. Houston Texans
- The Texans hung in there with the Saints in New Orleans and now they get the chance to play a beatable Pittsburgh team in Houston. This is the game that will define where the 2011 Houston Texans' season goes. A win and the Texans may be a 13-3 first round bye team. A loss and the Texans could end up 10-6 and one and done to a team like Pittsburgh in the first round.

10. New York Giants - It seems like every year the Giants find themselves in the top ten this time of year, I'll wait until December before I start proclaiming this team to be for real. Eli Manning only has two interceptions through three games and all jokes aside, that's how this team is going to win. If they minimize mistakes they'll be a playoff team.

11. Dallas Cowboys - Tony Romo has silenced some of his doubter the past two weeks and has rebounded nicely. This is a team that could easily be 3-0 right now as they prepare to face the intimidating 3-0 Lions. A word of advice for the Cowboys; prevent Mr. Suh from ending Mr. Romo's 2011.

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- The Bucs did what they had to do on Sunday and beat the Falcons. There isn't much to say about this team besides that they're never going to be an easy win, but they probably aren't good enough to take over the NFC South just yet.

13. Oakland Raiders
- The Raiders had a huge win this week beating the Jets, but the schedule just gets tougher this week with New England. A win here and the Raiders become legit contenders.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers
- The Steelers could barely squeak by the Colts this week, and this is truly a team that we have no clue how to define. We'll know a lot more after this week in Houston.

15. Washington Redskins - The Redskins lost a tough one this week and we may look back on Monday night later in the season and ask "what could have been?" For now the Redskins are 2-1 and still control their own destiny. A win this week at St. Louis would get them feeling good heading into their bye week.

Hanging In There

16. San Francisco 49ers - Jim Harbaugh has his team at 2-1 right now as they head to Philadelphia to play a battered Eagles team. I think the 49ers can and should win their division, but you never know. Alex Smith has been adequate but can still get better.

17. Tennessee Titans
- After week one a Jake Locker countdown began. These past two weeks Matt Hasselbeck has done everything possible to hit the snooze button a few times. A win this week, and visions of a division championship may run free in Volunteer State.

18. Chicago Bears
- The Bears are 1-2 by way of the most difficult three week schedule in the NFL. This week things should get a little easier as the Bears defense gets a shot at rookie QB Cam Newton. A win here and the Bears can get right back in it, though a repeat as division champions is likely out of reach.

19. Philadelphia Eagles - Michael Vick continues to prove how valuable he is, but this is a team that is endanger of falling apart. A win this week home against San Francisco could get the season moving in the right direction, but if Vick is out for three to four weeks as initially reported than it will be up to "Mr. Dream Team" Vince Young to right the ship in Philly.

20. Atlanta Falcons - I know it's early in the season, and I know people refuse to believe it because ESPN told them otherwise, but the Falcons are probably not that good. They're a 9-7 team at best, maybe 8-8. This is deserving of it's own article but I honestly don't believe that Matt Ryan will ever be "elite" either.

21. Cleveland Browns - They may be the worst 2-1 team in the league, but at least they're 2-1. Colt McCoy has looked like an improving quarterback in the first three weeks of this season as he's lead the Browns on game winning drives two straight weeks. This is a team that wished it could have week one against the Bengals back, but a win this week at Tennessee would make up for that. If they get it then they may have a chance this year.

22. Arizona Cardinals
- Because they play in such a putrid division the Cardinals still have a shot to go to the playoffs, but jeez, they're really not that good. They need to make a statement this week against the Giants if they want to be considered the contenders a lot of people were claiming they were in the preseason. Kevin Kolb looks to be adequate and that's a positive.

23. Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton got the "first-win-monkey" off of his back this week despite having the most underwhelming performance of his young pro career. The schedule heats up and he probably won't get another one for a couple of weeks, but this is a team that the entire league are taking seriously, which means Cam Newton has done what Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, Blaine Gabbert, and Andy Dalton have not.

24. Seattle Seahawks
- The Seahawks got an impressive win against the Cardinals this week that put Pete Carroll's squad right back in the thick of things in the worst division in sports. Still, this is a team that isn't very good, with a quarterback situation that just screams for Landry Jones or Matt Barkley.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars - The Jaguars have already committed the rest of this season to Blaine Gabbert and if Sunday was any indication it's going to be a rough 2011 for this franchise. You feel bad for Maurice Jones Drew who is starting to learn what it's like to be Steven Jackson and be a good back with his playoff years behind him. It could be worse, you could be Frank Gore.

26. St. Louis Rams - I know they've been plagued with injuries but you have to really try to play in the NFC West and simultaneously be legit contenders in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. Somehow the Rams are pulling that off this year. They would never draft Andrew Luck, but this isn't the season they were supposed to be having. The schedule (vs Wash, bye, @GB, @Dal, vs NO) doesn't get any easier and this team could easily be 0-7 before they start division play the first week of November.

The Dead

27. Indianapolis Colts
- The Colts showed a lot of heart this week, and again proved Peyton Manning's value. With Manning the Colts put that game away in the first quarter, without Manning things on offense look disgusting. Time fore the Colts to seriously consider bringing in a QB. Just out of respect for Freeney, Mathis, Wayne, Saturday, and Addai who are playing their hearts out.

28. Denver Broncos
- Is it Tebow time yet? If Orton's performance on Sunday doesn't get us closer then nothing will. Until that time does arrive this team is unwatchable. Maybe John Elway, a Stanford guy, wants Andrew Luck to be his heir.

29. Cincinatti Bengals - Week one is starting to look more like a fluke. Not much else to say about this team besides that they're bad and their fans know it. The only question to ask is if Marvin Lewis is still their coach in 2012?

30. Minnesota Vikings
- Three games, three losses, three blown leads in the second half. The Schedule softens up and they could be 4-4 entering their bye, but that's a best case scenario. This is a team that is not going to the playoffs this year.

31. Miami Dolphins - How do Dolphin fans feel when they see the Bills pass them by? Their next three weeks consist of @San Diego, bye, @ New York Jets. Ouch. This is a team that needs Andrew Luck and may actually get him.

32. Kansas City Chiefs - To the Chiefs credit they did play hard against a better San Diego Charger team. Their next two games are against winless Minnesota and at winless Kansas City. If they lose those two than this team may not win a game in 2011.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

NCAA Week 4 Picks

San Diego St @ 22 Michigan - This is a no brainer trap game for a Michigan team that has won some pretty emotional games. Some people think the Brady Hoke leaving San Diego St to take over at Michigan is an advantage for Michigan since he knows the players so well, but college football is an emotional sport, and this game at the Big House is going to be San Diego St's Rose Bowl, and the most important football game most of these kids ever play in. Michigan should win because their roster is better, but it'll be close.

I'm taking Michigan at home.

14 Arkansas @ 3 Alabama - Arkansas are good, but Alabama are national championship contenders... and they're playing at home. I like Arkansas this year to be good but not good enough to beat the Crimson Tide at home.

I'm taking Alabama at home.

2 LSU @ 16 W Virginia - LSU were my preason prediction to win it all this year and they're starting to look pretty good. This week W. Virginia found out that the SEC wants nothing to do with them, so that could fuel the WVU players, but do the student athletes really care about that stuff? I suppose they may as a matter of pride, but not enough to fuel a victory over a team as good as LSU.

I'm taking LSU on the road.

7 Oklahoma St @ 8 Texas A&M - The Aggies are incredibly lucky that this year happens to be a home game against the Cowboys. A&M is historically one of the toughest places to play, and I expect their defense to benefit a great deal from the crowd noise.

I'm taking Texas A&M at home.

11 Florida St @ 21 Clemson - Clemson are coming off of an emotional win while the Seminoles are coming off of a painful loss. Florida St. are simply the better team in this game. Clemson always lose games like this.

I'm taking Florida State on the road.

NFL Week 3 Picks

So lat week I went 12-4 with my picks, missing on the Vikings over the Bucs, Raiders over the Bills, Ravens over the Titans, and Eagles over the Falcons. Still, I'll take 12-4 for a week 2. Anyway, here are my week 3 picks.

San Francisco 49ers @ Cincinnati Bengals - This is a game that could go either way but the 49ers have the better roster. If San Francisco want any chance of winning their division this is a game they will have to win.

I'm taking the 49ers on the road.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Carolina Panthers - A battle of the two 1995 expansion teams that almost got to the Super Bowl in 1996. Neither franchise has a chance at going to the Super Bowl in 2011, and this is one of the hardest games to pick this week. The Panthers have fought hard in two straight weeks and in what will be a battle between rookie QB's Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton, I'm going to have to side with the Heisman/BCS national championship quarterback here.

I'm taking the Panthers at home.

Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings - The Lions are 2-0 and one of the hottest teams in the league, a win this week would cement their status as contenders. The Vikings on the other hand are 0-2 and a loss this week would pretty much end their season and give Coach Frazier no reason to stick with McNabb. The Vikings have played two close games, both of which included the Vikings blowing leads late in the game. I think the desperate Vikings will take this one.

I'm taking the Vikings at home.

Denver Broncos @ Tennessee Titans - After a disappointing week one, the Titans really came out and shut up their critics last week. This week Tennessee is home against a Broncos team coming off of a big win. This is another hard game to pick, but in games like this I often like the home team.

I'm taking the Titans at home.

Miami Dolphins @ Cleveland Browns - The Browns got embarrassed week one by losing to the Bengals, while the Dolphins had perhaps the two toughest games to start the season in the league versus the Patriots and Texans. The Dolphins are notoriously better on the road than they are at home.

I'm taking the Dolphins on the road.

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles - We still don't know for certain if Michael Vick will play, but let's assume he does. I think this game will be closer than a lot of people think, and I believe that the Giants will come out to play for this one, but they simply have too many injuries. Until the Giants get healthy I can't expect them to go into Philadelphia and win.

I'm taking the Eagles at home.

Houston Texans @ New Orleans Saints - This is definitely the early game of the week. If the Texans want to make a statement and put themselves in contention for a championship, this is the game to win. Meanwhile for the Saints, this is just another tough home game that the Saints are going to need to win if they want to get that first round bye. I can see this game being close, I can also see it being a blow out. Either way I see the Saints winning.

I'm taking the Saints at home.

New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills - For years the Patriots have had the luxury of being surrounded by a division of incompetent opponents. The past three years the Jets have come on, the Dolphins continue to flounder, but it seems as though the Bills are finally starting to turn the corner from UFL team to NFL team. It'll be good for the league if the Bills are relevant again, but they're not relevant enough to beat the Patriots, not yet.

I'm taking the Patriots on the road.

Baltimore Ravens @ St. Louis Rams - A match up of Super Bowl XXXIV and XXXV winners that a lot of people would have loved to see in 2001. The 99 Rams vs the 00 Ravens would be one of those all time classic games. I'd take the Rams, though. As for the 2011 Ravens vs the 2011 Rams, neither team is as good as their decade-ago-selves, but the 2011 Ravens should probably end the 2011 Rams season on Sunday. Maybe not totally end it since the Rams play in the NFC west, but an 0-3 start will be hard to comeback from, even in that division.

I'm taking the Ravens on the road.

New York Jets @ Oakland Raiders - The Heidi Bowl. The Raiders suffered heartbreak last week, and this could be a trap game for the Jets who now have to travel across the country to Oakland. This game will be a tougher win for the Jets than the Jaguars game, and I wholeheartedly believe that the Jets can lose this one. I just don't have the guts to call it.

I'm taking the Jets on the road.

Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers - Nothing cleans off the stain of a tough loss versus a conference rival better than a home game against the worst team in the league. If the Chargers lose this one then they're in trouble.

I'm taking the Chargers at home.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears - The Packers have squeaked by two weeks in a row. This week the Packers head to Chicago to take on their arch-nemesis lead by Jay Cutler. This is a game that can go either way, but I'm smelling upset. The Bears are home coming off of a tough loss. The Packers offense is great, but they don't put up points on defenses like the Bears the way they put up points on the Saints. The Bears need this game. If Cutler can limit his mistakes to one, and the rest of the team can make zero, the Bears will win.

I'm taking the Bears at home.

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks - This is a big game in the NFC West picture, and I think it's curtains for the Seahawks. Pete Carroll's defending division champions just don't have the identity or leadership that they had last year in Matt Hasselbeck. The Cardinals have a superior offense, and the defenses aren't that far apart.

I'm taking the Cardinals on the road.

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers - One of these two teams are going to take a big step forward in proclaiming that they're for real. The Falcons have had a tough start to the season, but they probably would be 0-2 right now if it wasn't for a Michael Vick concussion. The Bucs are coming off of an emotional comeback last week. I like the team riding the bigger emotional high, especially at home.

I'm taking the Buccaneers at home.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Indianapolis Colts - Like the Chargers vs the Chiefs, if the Steelers lose this one than they have bigger problems than we anticipated. I think the national spotlight could help the Colts keep it interesting for a half.

I'm taking the Steelers on the road.

Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys - The surprise 2-0 Redskins head to Dallas to take on a beat up team that could easily be 2-0 as well. It's the sort of game that if the Redskins win than they instantly become contenders in the NFC. Unfortunately for the 'skins I can't see that happening this week.

I'm taking the Cowboys at home.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why the Colts Should Hope for Luck: How the Colts are Lucky to Have a Bright Future.

***Written by guest columnist Sebastian Pardo***

Sports when at their most beautiful, illustrate complex and profound life lessons, that can often much more cleanly, and clearly express the complicated bitter-sweet nature of life. While this might be an over-simplification, the 2011 season for the Indianapolis Colts could be a lesson in patience, and illustrate the often cop-out philosophy of “things happen for a reason”.

The Manning-less Colts are finally facing the question they’ve been too scared to consider. What happens when Peyton’s gone?

The result is a team, spoiled by Manning, that has been neglected, and left to rot. For years Manning through shear obsessive perseverance has spackled in the void of both leadership, and perhaps talent to keep the Colts relevant in the regular season, and more importantly to the Owner/CEO Jim Irsay, as a brand.

The Colts this year are living “A Christmas Carol” like season. This year they are getting a glimpse of the Ghost of Colts’ Future, and like Scrooge come 2012, they can shudder and shake off the frightening spectre, and apply the lessons learned to save their franchise.

And that’s exactly why they should select Stanford Quarterback Andrew Luck.

Manning, will be age 36 at the start of next season, coming off two neck surgeries, that left him without power to his throwing arm. However, the argument shouldn’t surround the presumption that Manning will not recover, because in fact I believe the more persuasive argument, is not what Manning will or will not be able to do if he returns, but rather what drafting Luck would mean for the Colts, the city of Indianapolis, and the future of the organization.

The Colts have an opportunity to do something that would keep them relevant for another 15-20 years. When Manning came to the Colts in 1998 he ushered in a decade of success, taking a team with virtually no sustained success since the Johnny Unitas era, and transformed them to a NFL record breaking team, with 7 straight seasons with 12 or more wins, all while winning a Super Bowl and starring in Oreo commercials. Manning MADE people Colts fans. People who didn’t live in Indiana or the Midwest, he made them a national, and perhaps international brand. This from a team previously known for it’s managerial incompetence, and it’s bitter exit from Baltimore.

Manning is consistently in the debate as the best quarterback not only active, or alive, but perhaps ever. But, for all that, there is something that Andrew Luck can do that Peyton Manning can’t, and that’s provide upside. At 36 Manning is close to the end of his career, and whether Luck will be better than Manning is relatively irrelevant, simply by virtue of Manning’s age, and Luck’s potential. Of the two there is only one quarterback who could possibly be winning a Super Bowl in 2019.

In fact of the two, I believe there isn’t a quarterback who could win a Super Bowl before 2014. If Manning comes back, the team around him simply doesn’t have enough to win. Other teams have continued to build on success, and Manning and the Colts already had an aversion to winning big games, something that won’t be remedied with an even more feeble coach, weaker supporting cast and a stronger Super Bowl field.

The Colts have an opportunity to do something few teams do, by drafting Luck. They can bid Manning a fond farewell, and unbox a brand new proto-Manning in consecutive seasons. Where as most teams suffer the void of a quarterback of Manning’s caliber for decades, (read: Miami Dolphins) the Colts would immediately reload for another run at relevancy. Just for that chance at another decade of winning, of keeping the Colt’s brand in commercials, making more Colt’s fans, they should draft Luck.

Terry Bradshaw in 1982 underwent offseason elbow surgery, missing the first 14 games of the season, after which he returned, and upon throwing a TD pass felt his elbow pop again, missing the remainder of the season. However, in the 1983 offseason, he was adamant he could continue playing and the Steelers, ever so reverent of their great hero, planned for his return. Only to pass on local hero Dan Marino in the first round, and see Bradshaw never play football again. While it’s obvious in retrospect that Bradshaw could only play for a handful of years even if he could’ve recovered from a second elbow surgery, the decision certainly seemed difficult at the time. Imagine what Dan Marino would have done for the Steelers from 1983-1992, where the Steelers had little success, and suffered it’s first loosing season since 1971.

For the Colts’ it is a much riskier proposition, the Steelers have a legacy, wide ranging and passionate fan base, coupled with stable well run ownership that goes back generations. The Colts are really only 12 years or so removed from being bottom feeders, further more they’ve only been in Indianapolis for 26 years, they just simply don’t have roots that go as deep, and could risk sinking back into mediocrity. They desperately need to do something to stay relevant post-Manning, their entire brand relies on it.

While it is a difficult thing to dump the franchise hero, and perhaps see him suit up for another team, it would be both the best football decision and business discussion the Colts could make. Perhaps trade players like Reggie Wayne and Dwight Freeney in order to start building parts around Luck, much like how Faulk was sacrificed to make way for Edgerin James.

As hard as all those decisions will be to make, and as much as I think they should do everything in their power to get Luck, which would set them up for another 20 years of being an elite franchise, something that would solidify them amongst the sporting elite, there is still one possibility.

Manning returns completely healthy.

If Manning returns, having faced his sporting mortality, he will certainly be more motivated than ever. In this scenario the Colts have a rejuvenated Manning, for another 3-4 years, coupled with a lesson learned, and a high draft pick to help build for one last all-in push that can transition to the Post-Manning era, all the while hoping he wraps up his career like Elway. Perhaps the lesson is so well learned, that they look at a team like Green Bay, and draft a quarterback in two to three years time to groom as his replacement, in hopes of a smooth transition.

But the Colts have already squeezed so much out of Manning, are they really desperate to get 3 more years of him at the cost of 15-20 years of potential excellence. Is Manning going to get better from here on out? Will he stay as healthy as he has for the last 11 years? Will facing retirement give him a new found drive, and allow him to rise above crippling post-season mistakes and win multiple Super Bowls? Even if he does, in 5 years he’s gone. And the Colts’ are back to facing the same question. What happens when Peyton’s gone?

What makes the decision difficult, is that Luck is touted as a once in a generation prospect, the “next” Peyton Manning, the “next” John Elway. Will the quarterback who is available in two to three years come with the same outstanding character, physical talents and star power/marketing opportunities? There could be, sure, one never knows. But the likelihood is slim. Even slimmer if Manning is successful, and yields a low first round draft pick. Luck isn’t just any number one pick, this isn’t a player having a good combine, he’s a star. To me the odds of Luck being a bust are lower, than the chances of Manning returning to win a Super Bowl. And to me that’s the final arithmetic, now it’s a matter that the Colts must grapple with, can they do the emotionless cost benefit analysis that drives players to drop the borderline cliche, passive-aggressive “it’s a business” when pressed at news conferences. Or will they be looking back in 10 years wondering, what if?

For the Colts, “things-happen-for-a-reason”. And perhaps Manning’s ultimate gift to Indianapolis could be that his body gave out on him the exact year Andrew Luck became available, and not a year when a team has to talk themselves into a Quarterback being worthy of a number one pick. For Manning if he never plays again he goes out on top, without the slow Farvian fade-out, and the Colts take Luck, he pans out and together go on to become part of the international sporting elite. Or like Favre, Manning continues play, but the Colts, having seen their grim future, decide to take a once in a generation star college Quarterback for the second time in 13 years. Freeing Manning to play for a team looking for the final piece of the Super Bowl puzzle where he can then ride off into the sunset, as a hero, hall-of-famer, and possibly erase the doubts about him by winning a Super Bowl outside of Indianapolis.

Ultimately, this could be the best thing that happens to both the Colts and Manning.

So for the Colts it’s a lesson in life that often we as individuals can be too impatient to learn. Sometimes, we have to do the hard thing, sometimes we have to take a step back, and do what’s best, even if it hurts, even if it’s emotional. In our lives it’s hard to see things as clearly in ourselves as we see it in other people. And likewise, even if the Colts can recognize the Steelers mistake in 1983, it doesn’t mean they are immune to making the same mistake themselves. Sometimes in life one has to go backwards, and suffer in the short term in order to set up a brighter future. Hopefully the Colts can recognize this.

Monday, September 19, 2011

NFL Week 2 Power Rankings

The season is up and running and things are starting to sort themselves out. There is a clog in the middle of the league, but I think the top five is sorted out... For now.

The Elite

01. Green Bay Packers
- Another week, another close one for the defending champs, but the important thing is that they're getting the wins. Their road to the franchises first division title since 2007 is doable, but a first round bye is this teams goal. I think they'll get there.

02. New Orleans Saints - The Saints proved this week why you can't read too deep into a week one road loss. New Orleans came back this week and dominated a Bears team that people were starting to get high on. This is a team that will be in contention for a first round bye, and now they have confidence that they can go into Lambeau and win. Drew Brees isn't afraid of the cold, he went to Purdue.

03. New England Patriots - A big win over the Chargers mixed with a loss by the Ravens puts this team in cruise control for a first round bye. This is a team that has tremendous holes, but their holes are similar to those of the Saints and Packers. The worst case scenario for this team is losing the division to the Jets, who quietly look like the second best team in the AFC.

04. New York Jets - Rarely does a sloppy performance turn out to be so dominant. The Jaguars are not as bad as they looked, but the Jets defense is as good as it looked. This is a team that looks focused. They need to win the division if they want to go to the Super Bowl, I can't say that enough.

05. Philadelphia Eagles - The Eagles would have beaten the Falcons had Michael Vick not gotten knocked out of the game. This is a fast team, probably the fastest in the league, and they are as good as advertised. Last night Michael Vick proved that his value is not overrated and he is one of the most important players in the league to his team. If he's there in January the Eagles will have as good of a shot as anybody.

06. Houston Texans - The Texans have done a good job winning the games they need to win to get to the playoffs and potentially earn a first round bye this year. Their schedule plays out where they can lose all four games that they'll likely be underdogs in, and still go on to have a home game in the divisional round. The defense is much better with Wade Philips.

07. San Diego Chargers - It was a loss that hurts, but a loss that the Chargers can learn a lot from come January. San Diego outplayed the Patriots for four quarters but made stupid mistakes that cost them the game. The Chargers couldn't find a way to stop the Patriots tight ends, which will be a theme of the 2011 season. This is a veteran defense with some new additions that will get better as the season goes on. Despite the loss, this team is elite, they can beat anybody.

The Very Good

08. Baltimore Ravens - For some reason under John Harbaugh this team has never been able to build off of emotional wins. I'm not saying that it's Harbaughs fault and it's definitely not Joe Flacco's fault, but it's something that needs to be noted when it comes to this Ravens team. The loss to the Titans hurt this teams pursuit of homefield in the AFC and forced the AFC North race to go back to square one with all four teams sitting at 1-1. It's early in the season but I still expect the Ravens to pull away with this division at some point.

09. Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers rebounded from their awful loss to the Ravens with a nice win over the Seahawks. This was a win that the Steelers needed, and next week only gets easier when they host the Colts. Health will be the thing to watch with this team as the season moves on. Roethlisberger has looked shaky, but he has always been the sort of player who gets better as fall ages.

10. Washington Redskins - Rex Grossman continues to win and has resorted back to looking like good old Rex Grossman of 2006. Rex makes some nice plays, some really bad plays, but when the game is over his team gets the "W." I don't know how long this team can sustain, but for now they're 2-0 in a division where every win counts. The Monday night game at Dallas could decide where this team heads the rest of the season.

11. Chicago Bears - The Bears lost big to an opponent that is better than they are. That being said, the Bears can make a run in the NFC if they can find a way to recpature the division title. Jay Cutler has the least amount of weapons to work with of any top tier NFC teams quarterback, but he's also blessed with the best defense of the bunch. A win at home against Green Bay could send shock-waves around the NFC.

12. Detroit Lions - No defensive player since Lawrence Taylor has had as big of an immediate impact on their team as Ndamukong Suh has as he has single handedly changed the culture and the attitude of the Detroit Lions. Matthew Stafford has more talent than Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford and the rest of his contemporaries, and having a weapon like Calvin Johnson helps. I got ripped by friends and peers when I said in the offseason that the Lions can win the Super Bowl. I'm not saying that was a true statement, but so far they don't look like the same old Lions.

13. Atlanta Falcons - Atlanta have another test this week as they trave to Tampa Bay to play a team that is coming off of a nice comeback win. If the Falcons are to win the NFC South for the second year in a row then they're going to need to win this game. The offense showed flashes of brilliance against the Eagles defense on Sunday night, and you can't use Michael Vick not being on the field as an excuse for that.

Hanging In There

14. Buffalo Bills - If the Bills played in any other division in the AFC I would think that they have a shot, but considering they play in a division with the two best teams in their conference every win simply keeps the team afloat for one more week. This weeks game against the Patriots is a real test; If the Bills win then they'll join the ranks of the elite, if they lose then they'll live to die sometime in the month of October.

15. Dallas Cowboys - It was almost doomsday for the Cowboys on Sunday, and if Jim Harbaugh doesn't decline a penalty on a 55 yard kick chances are we're talking about the 49ers here and Dallas are toast. This is the sort of team who when they find their identity will be amidst the best teams in the NFL, it's just a matter of whether that happens sooner or later that will determine whether or not this team is a Super Bowl contender. They'll need a healthy Dez Bryant if they want to beat the Redskins on Monday night.

16. New York Giants - A sloppy win is still a win, but the Giants have a lot of problems. Eli Manning makes the sort of mistakes that could hold any team in the league back, and at some point we need to dismiss 2007 as being far enough in the past that we can't count it today. After all, Mark Rypien, who from 1991 to 1993 looked better than Eli Manning ever looked, wasn't given the benefit of the doubt a few years later when he was backing up Tony Banks. Nonetheless, if Eli can find a way to top the Eagles this week, the Giants will soar up the rankings.

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The Bucs almost saw disaster strike this past week against the Vikings but rebounded incredibly well and pulled off a great win. They now hold their divisional fate in their hands this week as they prepare to face the Atlanta Falcons at home. It's a winnable game for Morris' young team, and we'll find out a lot about where this team is right now on Sunday.

18. San Francisco 49ers - The 49ers came so close to thier most impressive start to a season since the Mariucci, Garcia, Owens, and Hearst years. First year coach Jim Harbaugh learned the hard way that NFL teams such as the Cowboys aren't the same as UCLA, Cal, or Arizona State, and a ten point cushion in the fourth quarter isn't something you should feel comfortable sitting on. Harbaugh won't make that mistake again and I feel like he's done a good job changing the attitude of the 49ers franchise. This is a team that expects to win for the first time in years.

19. Arizona Cardinals - The NFC South is the sort of division that boasts mediocrity as a fashion, and the Cardinals define that more than any other team. They have one amazing, hall of fame player, who is probably the best wide receiver in the league, and the second most dominant receiver of all time. Other than that, the team is mostly comprised of average to below average players at every single position, yet somehow this team will be alive well into November. They have the opportunity to make the division race a little easier if they can go into Seattle and get a win on Sunday.
20. Oakland Raiders - What a tough road loss to a the Bills that was for the Raiders on Sunday. Despite the loss there is still plenty of hope for the Raiders, but this is not a team that can make a dent in the playoffs. As good of a win as it was for the Bills, this loss proves that the Raiders aren't ready to take that next step into the NFL's competitive elite.

21. Jacksonville Jaguars - An ugly loss dropped this team into dissray. Blaine Gabbert will eventually be under center, thus making this a rebuilding year. That was the plan when they cut David Garrard, right? Jack Del Rio is a savvy coach who has been finding ways to keep his job for years.

22. Tennessee Titans - An incredible win over the Tennessee Titans. If Tennessee can keep this up they may have a shot to win the division. Matt Hasselbeck found success targeting his new best friend Kenny Britt, and with a run game lead by Chris Johnson this team can have a shot. I don't thing they're in the Texans class talent wise, but this is a roster trying to win now.
23. Cincinnati Bengals - A loss to the Broncos on Sunday but the undertone was they fought back. This team won't be very good this year, but the players are playing hard for coach Marvin Lewis and that's a good sign. More than one current Patriot and another current couch potato can say.

24. Cleveland Browns - A win over the Colts is nice but the real story of the game was Colt McCoy. A week after he spent much of the day on his back, McCoy bounced back and showed signs of why Browns fans truly believe in him. Though his upside in merely Matt Hasslebeck with swagger, Colt McCoy could be the franchise quarterback that Cleveland have been looking for since 1999.

25. Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton looks like the real deal. With each passing game that resembles this past weeks games, 2012 looks more and more like a year that Saints, Falcons, and Bucs fans might want to forget. This team could be scary good next year. They're already pretty dangerous.

26. Denver Broncos - Though they beat the Bengals, this may have been a moral loss considering how close it was. The Broncos came into the season with an expecation to win now. You don't go with Kyle Orton over a first round quarterback if you're building for the future. This season should get ugly, the question is will it get ugly next week at Tennessee, the following week at Green Bay, or the week after that at San Diego. Either way Tim Tebow should be starting by October 23 at Miami, a game in which the Dolphins will honor Tim Tebow and the 2008 Florida Gators beforehand.

27. St. Louis Rams - This team looked average against the Eagles and pretty bad against the Giants. Given, those are are two pretty tough games, but things should only get tougher as the Ravens come to town this week. Their division is bad, but an 0-3 start would likely mean this team isn't headed for the playoffs. Not if Arizona beats Seattle and San Francisco beats the Bengals.

28. Minnesota Vikings - Everyone is piling on Donovan McNabb as the Redskins seemingly continue the streak of addition by subtraction of McNabb. I don't think McNabb is the problem in Minnesota, but I do think Leslie Frazier is an overrated head coach. For a few offseasons he was the big name, but maybe there's a reason he never got a job. Teams have started 0-2 and gone on to the playoffs in the past.
29. Seattle Seahawks - The only thing that keeps this team alive is that they plan in such a mediocre division. Pete Carroll has a vision, and part of that vision was to tear apart a roster plagued with mediocrity. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt for the next two years considering Seattle were nowhere close to a championship when he took over.

The Dead

30. Miami Dolphins - This a talented team with no direction. Admittedly, I didn't get to watch the game this week because I was so preoccupied with the Chargers, Cowboys, and Broncos, but from what I did see, Chad Henne continues to be the on the field problem. He may develop into a solid player one day, but this is a franchise that wants to win now.
31. Indianapolis Colts - With every passing week Peyton Manning's legacy as the most valuable player in NFL history solidifies. That's saying a lot considering he's not on the field. The Colts looked better this week, but if they're not going to beat the Browns at home, who will they beat? Maybe the Chiefs, a division game or two, and there's a slim chance they beat the Bengals and maybe the Panthers.
32. Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs have scored 10 points in two weeks while opponents have up up 89. Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry are out for a while. This is a franchise that needs an identity in the form of a franchise quarterback; I think they'll get one in the 2012 draft.

Favre to the Colts Actually Makes Sense

If it wasn't about the money, if it was simply about trying to get one more ring, Brett Favre would be wearing a horseshoe on his helmet right now. It's not Favre's fault, it's mostly Bill Polian's fault, but the Colts could have avoided an awful 0-2 start, and could have created the craziest media storm in NFL history, by opting with an old Brett Favre over an old Kerry Collins.

Is it too late? The Colts don't have a young quarterback worth trying out right now. Curtis Painter has shown everyone from Jim Irsay to Rex Ryan that he's not an NFL starting quarterback, and Kerry Collins has been nothing short of awful in his first two starts as the Colts QB. The Colts roster right now has a lot of veterans and young players who can win now, but an 0-3 start will be tough to come back from, even in the AFC South.

But if you bring in Brett Favre now, thing could start to get better. Unless Peyton Manning has a miraculous recovery the Colts are going to lose to the Steelers on Sunday and fall to 0-3, but after that the Colts schedule softens up. @ Tampa Bay, vs Kansas City, @ Cincinnati, @ New Orleans, @ Tennessee, vs Atlanta, vs Jacksonville, takes the Colts into their bye week. With Kerry Collins you're looking at best a 2-5 record in those games, taking the colts to 2-8 and eliminated from the playoffs before Thanksgiving. With Favre, 5-2, 4-3 is more likely, putting the Colts at .500 or close to it around Thanksgiving, and right in the middle of an AFC playoff race that should be wide open at the bottom.

Colts fans seem up to it, and they paid 750 million to build Lucas Oil Stadium and have filled it every game it's been open. Indiana sports fans have too much high school and college basketball, as well as a lot of college football to worry about, so much so that rooting for a losing team in a down year isn't something they're interested in doing. No teams fans are interested in the sort of futility that the Collins/Caldwell Colts have presented.

A lot of people have said Favre would be bad for the Colts and pointed out reasons like PR issues. What PR issues? Last I checked the Colts were one of the most well respected franchises in the NFL, and considered to be the single most Christian franchise in professional sports. If by "PR issues" people mean the hiring of Jim Tressel, then I guess the Raiders, Seahawks, Dolphins, Panthers, and every other franchise has some serious "PR issues" to deal with right now.

The other things I heard were money, better QB options, and locker room issues. As for money, the Colts gave Kerry Collins $4 million this year and still remained $8 million under. Favre can't expect 2010 salary numbers, so I'm pretty sure the Colts could have, and still can afford him. As for better QB options; Carson Palmer would require the trading of a second round pick, and David Garrard is still not better than an old Brett Favre. Finally, is Brett Favre really a bad locker room guy? I know Thomas Jones complained about him, but other than that I never really heard anything bad about him. I know that guys like Jared Allen loved him, and the Packers players always respected him.

Favre is the only hope in Indianapolis right now. It's the only hope for the 2011 Colts, the only hope for Jim Caldwell's job, and a move that could help Bill Polian restore some of the general managing respect that he has rapidly lost since the Colts Super Bowl XLI victory.

That is unless the Colts don't want to win this year, which may very well be a possibility. Drafting at the bottom of a decades worth of drafts have left the Colts with a thin roster of talent, and perhaps Polian understands that the only way the Colts win again in this Manning window is with a team made up of the talented veterans he already has, and top flight young talent. Similar to the Shanahan, Elway, Davis Broncos of the late 1990's.

No Reason For Jacksonville Not to Make the Move to Gabbert

On Sunday the Jaguars got destroyed by the Jets in part because of Luke McCown's four interceptions. I say "in part" because any football fan could tell you that the Jets are just much better than the Jaguars. The more interesting thing about the game was that Jack Del Rio didn't hesitate to throw rookie first round quarterback Blaine Gabbert into the fire once McCown threw his fourth interception. Now it's in Del Rio, Gabbert, and the Jaguars' best interest to keep Gabbert on the field for the duration of the season.

Normally I am a proponent of letting a quarterback sit for at least the first half of his rookie season. This formula of watching for a while helped quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Chad Pennington, Carson Palmer, and even Eli Manning get adjusted to the speed of the NFL, the players they're surrounded with, and the rulebook (didn't work too well for McNabb though, maybe he should've waited). But then Ben Roethlisberger went 13-0 as a 22 year old, and since then the patience for quarterback development has waned to the point where Tim Tebow not starting week one in his second year means he is officially a bust in some pundits eyes. Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, and even Vince Young have validated the Roethlisbergerian (Rahth-Liss-Burr-Gare-E-an) technique of quarterback upbringing.

Right now, Gabbert's fellow rookies Andy Dalton and Cam Newton are doing just fine starting on teams far worse off than Gabbert's Jaguars are, and starting a rookie no longer means abandoning playoff hopes, yet another result of Roethlisberger's iconic 2004 season. If the Jaguars don't want 2011 to be a wasted year they'll let Blaine Gabbert take every snap from here until their season is officially over. This will not only let Gabbert experience the growing pains that have helped quarterbacks like Josh Freeman and Colt McCoy get more comfortable in their second seasons than they were as rookies, but it will also give the Jaguars their best chance of winning the AFC South in 2011.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

NFL Week 2 Picks

So Like a dimwit I forgot to make my picks last week. This week, despite a brutally busy schedule, I refuse to forget, so here are my picks.

Arizona Cardinals @ Washington Redskins - Two teams that expect to be better this year and one team will start their season 2-0. This game is going to come down to who wins the battle of quarterbacks. With LeRon Landry coming back the Redskins defense should be even better this week than they were last week. It's going to be up to Rex Grossman to build off of Cam Newton's dominant passing performance last week against the Cardinals seemingly atrocious pass defense.

I'm taking the Redskins at home.

Cleveland Browns @ Indianapolis Colts - Two teams that began the preseason with a lot of hope for 2011 enter a week 2 elimination game. The Colts looked awful last week and despite coming home I can't see them beating the Browns.

I'm taking the Browns on the road.

Oakland Raiders @ Buffalo Bills - Who would have thought that this would be a game we would actually show some interest in? I really don't know what either of these teams are about yet, but I think the Raiders have the better roster.

I'm taking the Raiders on the road.

Chicago Bears @ New Orleans Saints - This is probably the most intriguing early game. The Bears had an impressive win over a Falcons team that I expect to take a step back, meanwhile the Saints lost by a yard to the defending Super Bowl champions. The Saints need this win if they want to think about a first round bye.

I'm taking the Saints at home.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Jets - Last week the Jaguars ran the ball and controlled the clock to beat Tennessee. The Jaguars can do that and perhaps get Sanchez off of his game, but I still don't think the Jaguars have enough firepower to keep the Jets off the field long enough to make a difference for four quarters.

I'm taking the Jets at home.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Detroit Lions - The Chiefs are probably the worst team in the NFL, while the Lions are a potential playoff team. This should be a beating, if it's not then it's the same old Lions.

I'm taking the Lions at home.

Tampa Bay Buccaneer @ Minnesota Vikings - These were two teams that could have made a statement in week one but instead had painful losses. The loser of this team will need to take a long look in the mirror and that scenario would be far more painful for the veteran Vikings than it would be for the young Bucs. Adrian Peterson is due for a big day after being held without a score last week.

I'm taking the Vikings at home.

Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans - The Matt Hasslebeck era in Tennessee could be short lived as the Ravens, coming off a dominant win over the Steelers, come to town. The only way the Titans win this one is if they control the ball and get a lot of big plays and turnovers. I just don't see that sort of perfect storm brewing.

I'm taking the Ravens on the road.

Seattle Seahawks @ Pittsburgh Steelers - Simply put this is the sort of game an NFC West team doesn't need to win, but it's the sort of game an AFC North team needs to win. The Seahawks don't stand a chance in Pittsburgh, and if they win then the Steelers season is over.

I'm taking the Steelers at home.

Dallas Cowboys @ San Francisco 49ers - Whenever I see this match-up it brings me back to my youth when I first fell in love with football as a first grader. The 49ers are coming off of a big win last week but the Cowboys are going to be hunting for their first win of the season, a win that they'll desperately need. If the 49ers can win this one then both teams 2011 fortunes will fork. The Cowboys can't afford for that to happen.

I'm taking the Cowboys on the road.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Denver Broncos - The Broncos should win this game and if they don't they have bigger problems than quarterback billboards.

I'm taking the Broncos at home.

Houston Texans @ Miami Dolphins - A statement game that the Texans can't afford to lose. The Dolphins are a team in transition with a lame duck coach; a win this week could change that, but it would require shutting down a potent offense on a short week.

I'm taking the Texans on the road.

San Diego Chargers @ New England Patriots - A game that deserves it's own article. A first round bye is potentially on the line in this game and the Patriots simply don't lose home regular season games under Bill Belichick. If Norv's team comes in ready to go the Chargers can win this game. A loss would hurt New England more than it would hurt San Diego.

I'm taking the Patriots at home.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons - The Vick Bowl II, the first real Vick Bowl. The Falcons are a team that are going to take a step back this year while the Eagles are a playoff team. This is the sort of loss that could put by prediction about the Falcons into motion.

I'm taking the Eagles on the road.

St. Louis Rams @ New York Giants - Two teams that need to forget about week one. A win here would help either team get their season going, but both teams are incredibly beat up. The Giants losses hurt more than the Rams losses, but the Giants roster is still probably a little better than the Rams roster. Home field should help the Giants.

I'm taking the Giants at home.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You Can Win With Tony Romo (But Probably Not in Dallas)

On Sunday night Tony Romo had another fourth quarter meltdown that cost the Cowboys the game, thus giving the news media reason to criticize his play all week, most of which has been unjust.

Does Romo wish he didn't fumble the ball? Sure, but Romo made the right decision. In opting for the safest play call, Romo caused a turnover, but it was a turnover that could have happened to any quarterback in the league. Of course not fumbling would have put the game away, but the fumble itself isn't what cost the Cowboys the game.

Was it probably a bad idea targeting an injured Dez Bryant and picking on the best defensive player in the league? I'd say so, but if the coach is going to put the player on the field you need to utilize him. Some say that Bryant missed the route, but it was still a risk a more cautious quarterback might not have taken. Though Romo had some success against Revis over the course of the game, there is only so much you could do to Revis before you pay for it. Throughout his career, Revis has been the sort of player who gets better as the game goes on, and if you're going to get to him it's going to happen in the first half.

This week summed up Tony Romo's stint with the Cowboys: offensive success, a lot of great plays, but a few costly mistakes. There was no Wade Phillips to blame on Sunday, no T.O, and no grumpy Bill Parcells. This was Romo's loss, with Romo's coach, and it looks like it may very well be time for Tony Romo and Dallas to go their separate ways.

The problem with this is that Dallas are built to win now so they don't have time to wait for a Landry Jones or Matt Barkley. In order to part ways with Romo they would need a better option to go with to win in 2012, and franchise quarterbacks don't come on to the market every year, and when they do it's for a reason. The exception would be Joe Montana to the Chiefs or Brett Favre to the Jets, but it doesn't look like we have any situations like that... Yet.

But let's say we did. Where would Tony Romo go, and who would want him? In a quarterback free agent class led by Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, Chad Henne, Vince Young, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Charlie Whitehurst, it would seem as though Romo would be the blue chip on the market and the first domino to fall. I anticipate Fitzpatrick staying in Buffalo, but those other quarterbacks leaving should open up jobs in Denver, Miami, and Seattle, three potential destinations for Romo.

Miami, like Dallas, are built to win now. Next year they'll probably have a new head coach that is brought in to help sell tickets. The coach's name could be Gruden, it could be Fischer, it could even be Billick. Whoever it may be it'll be a coach who throughout their career has opted toward veteran quarterbacks. Enter Romo the Dolphin, which would likely be the best case scenario for Romo's career and mental health. In the AFC East no one will expect the Dolphins to do much. If he could beat New England and the Jets once each he'd initially be a hero. If he could get the team to the playoffs he'd be a savior. In a city that has embraced LeBron, Tony Romo would no longer have the weight of the world on his shoulders in Miami, and I could see it being a wonderful fit.

Then there's Denver, with head coach John Fox who has a rule against QB's under the age of 28: he hates them. Denver is a mess for any quarterback to step into, but it's really not that bad. The Denver defense should be competitive by this time next year, and the wide receivers and running backs are adequate. Romo in Denver would instantly put Denver back in the race that Kyle Orton has held them out of, but he'd be thrown into a poor situation with the expectations and popularity that Tebow (who would now presumably be gone) thrown onto his shoulders. This situation is not ideal but it could work.

Then there's Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. Going to the NFC West would be great for Romo, but it might be hard for Jerry Jones to send him there. If this happened though, Romo would instantly have a chance to rebuild his career and his self esteem by picking apart the Cardinals and 49ers. Carroll seems to be looking for a quarterback with some athleticism, and Romo has enough, plus several other intangibles that would instantly turn the Seahawks into divisional favorites. The weapons are poor in Seattle, but who ever thought that Miles Austin would become what Romo has helped him become?

Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert prevent Romo from heading to Minnesota or Jacksonville, and there is an outside chance he could end up a 49er, but again I don't think Jerry Jones wants Romo in the NFC. That leaves Cleveland as the final potential destination for Romo, but they seem like the sort of franchise who would think rookie before they went veteran.

Wherever Tony Romo ends up next year, in this scenario everyone benefits. The Cowboys would have the Montana or Favre type (hint, hint) and Romo would be somewhere in the AFC with less pressure and a decent shot to take his team to the playoffs.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Now Is Not The Time For Tebow To Start

Let's get one thing straight: I think that there is hope for Tim Tebow in the NFL. Tebow possesses the talent to win with a team in a way that few quarterbacks in the NFL can win; By exciting his teammates and getting other players around the league excited to play with Tim Tebow. You can honestly only say that about a few players around the league namely Michael Vick, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees (I exclude Peyton and Rivers because their teams don't tend to bring in outside offensive weapons though I'm sure people like Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Smith would love to see them lining up under center).

A team built around Tim Tebow can win. It can't win tomorrow, but over time a team built around Tim Tebow can win a Super Bowl. It would require bringing in players excited about Tebow's athleticism, who are willing to get used to a lefty quarterback. It would require an offensive line built to protect a quarterback like Tebow, and it would require a strong vertical passing game. These are the sort of things that made Carolina a good fit for Cam Newton and Philadelphia a good fit for Michael Vick. The franchises, the coaches, and the players are all willing to make the adjustments to facilitate towards an athletic quarterback. Everyone in the locker room understands that the quarterback may get creative on any given play, and the coaches design their plays around such creativity.

John Fox, the head coach in Denver has no creativity. He likes his offenses the old way. Run the ball up the middle and throw high percentage passes. Throughout his career he's gone to battle with quarterbacks like Jake Delhomme, Vinny Testaverde, and Matt Moore. If this were an SAT question, which quarterback would follow that lineage, Orton or Tebow?

If you answered Orton, you would be correct.

Orton is as "safe" of a quarterback as there is in the league. Like Delhomme, Testaverde, and Moore, there is little upside to Orton. Orton will be an adequate quarterback who if the parts around him are effective will win football games. Like Delhomme, Testaverde, and Moore, Orton can indeed lose a football game for his team. Throughout his career Orton has been an awful red zone quarterback, and that sort of play has translated into what he has done in Denver. Orton is a career 79 quarterback rating and a losing record in Denver. But he's a John Fox type quarterback.

John Fox is trying to build a team that will win via defense and adequate offense. He wants to minimize risks on offense and win games 24-17. Fox wants to have big plays on offense in the passing game and he wants everything to go according to plan. That's why he didn't go after Tebow in 2010, and that's why he doesn't want Tebow in 2011. John Fox and Tim Tebow are simply a bad fit.

But eventually Tebow will have to start in Denver. The Broncos aren't going anywhere and whether it be week 3 or week 13, eventually Tebow will unseat Orton and that's where interesting thins will happen. Specifically, Broncos President John Elway sits in the stickiest seat in the cafeteria here.

If Tebow takes over for Orton and is horrible, there will be nothing lost. Tebow will be traded or cut and the Broncos can move on with their lives. If Tebow succeeds, than Elway and Fox will be forced into a marriage that neither party wants. Of course both party's want to win, but neither wants to restructure their "blueprint" around Tebow.

The best case scenario for the Broncos is that Tebow comes in, shows signs of success, but the Broncos still manage a top 10 pick in a draft with a few great quarterback prospects. Under this design, Broncos management can sell their fan base on the promise and poise of Landry Jones, Matt Barkley, or maybe even Ryan Tannehill and still trade Tebow to a team like Seattle, Miami, Oakland (though an in division trade could spell disaster), or Minnesota for a second round pick. All four of those teams are franchises willing to "take risks" and all four of those coaches aren't afraid of QBs with a tendency to ad lib.

In order for Tim Tebow to succeed in the NFL he needs to be given the right opportunity. Had Michael Vick been thrown into the Herman Edwards Jets he would have failed miserably. Tebow needs an environment where an athletic lefty Quarterback will be given the opportunity to make his own plays while surrounded by players who want to play with him. It will eventually happen in the NFL, just not Denver.