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Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category

Five Friday Favorites — December 5

Posted by RichieZ23 on December 5, 2010


While it technically might not be Friday, let’s get this week’s Friday Favorites going…

1.)  Dallas at Indianapolis — What was once supposed to be a Super Bowl preview is now a battle between teams trying to make the playoffs and fighting to be .500.  Indy is sitting at 6-5, and with a loss would put itself behind the Jaguars in the AFC South and with potential to miss the playoffs altogether.  Dallas’ season has been over for weeks.  However the honeymoon era with Jason Garrett at the helm is still underway.  If not for a late-game fumble by Roy Williams Dallas would be 3-0 with Garrett as head coach.  Even with Jon Kitna as quarterback, look for the Cowboys to continue to play to their potential.  Peyton Manning has struggled against 3-4 teams in the past to distinguish various blitzers.  Dallas might give up some points, but look for them to come out victorious 34-31.

Jon Kitna has played well in the Garrett Era (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

 

2.)  New York at New England — This is going to be some great football to watch on Monday night  The polar opposite head coaches, the established quarterback vs. the up-and-comer.  Both teams are 9-2 heading into the game, and the winner has an expected 80-percent chance to win the AFC East.  Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, but I like Rex Ryan and the Jets in this game 24-14.  The Jets have the attitude and confidence to go into Foxboro and snap Tom Brady’s NFL record 25-game home winning streak.

3.)  Pittsburgh at Baltimore — The Sunday Night Football battle on NBC will be a primetime game worth watching.  The Steelers and Ravens are a dead-even 8-8 in their past 16 games against each other.  Some people like to watch shootouts between teams like the Colts and Saints.  Eff that.  Give me teams like the Steelers and Ravens going at each other every single time.  Players like Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, LeMarr Woodley, and Troy Polamalu make defense fun to watch.  That being said, both teams can put points up on the board.  Ben Roethlisburger and Joe Flacco can sling the rock.  Flacco and Lewis out-duel Big Ben and Polamalu and win 21-17.

4.)  Atlanta at Tampa Bay — This game might be the biggest surprise of the season.  Atlanta is sitting at 9-2 with Tampa Bay right behind at 7-4.  If you would have told me Atlanta would be going into this game tied with the best record in the league, and that Tampa would be contending for a wildcard, I would have said you’re crazy.  But that is the reality.  Head coach Raheem Morris has done a great job in Tampa Bay, and second-year quarterback Josh Freeman is a prime example of a quarterback who wins football games.  He continues to make plays and get things done.  However, Atlanta is the better team, and while it will be a tough battle, Atlanta squeaks by with a 28-27 win.

5.)  Oakland at San Diego — The Chargers look to make it 19 straight in December games.  I liked the Raiders to win the division this year at first, but Philip Rivers has proved to be the best quarterback in the league, and made me look stupid in the process.  The Raiders still are a competitive team, but my Oakland pick was more or less an insult to Rivers and the Chargers than it was any due praise for the Raiders.  The Raiders might make the game competitive, but Rivers and San Diego will continue to roll.  I’m going to say 35-14.  Go Chargers, go.

Posted in NFL | Leave a Comment »

Philip Rivers and San Diego Chargers Own Month of December

Posted by RichieZ23 on December 2, 2010


In a previous blog entry, I noted how San Diego Chargers quarterback has been the best quarterback in the 2010 season.

Well, if you’re a Chargers fan, there’s more good news coming.  According to Michael Signora of NFL Football Info, the San Diego Chargers have won an NFL record 18 straight games in the month of December.  The mark is also shared with the 1970-74 Dolphins, who also won 18 games, those in the month of November.

So what does that mean?  With the Chargers already having the best quarterback in the league, now combined with the fact that the Chargers absolutely own the month of December, we will most likely see a supercharged Chargers team come out in the following weeks.

The return of Vincent Jackson will help the Chargers catch their annual December hot-streak. 18 straight wins and counting. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Rivers also has top-targets Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson at his disposal, that he did not have earlier in the season.  Jackson hasn’t played all year due to a holdout and a suspension, and Gates missed time as well with nagging injuries.

The Chargers have two games coming up in the surprising AFC West.  They host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, and the Kansas City Chiefs will visit San Diego the following week.  If history tells us anything, it’s that the Chargers play their best in December.  It isn’t looking too good right now for the Chiefs and Raiders, two teams who sit at 7-4 and 5-6 respectively.  The AFC West is essentially a two-team race between Kansas City and San Diego, although my preseason favorite Oakland Raiders have an outside shot as well.

While the Raiders and Chiefs may have a shot, it doesn’t appear to be a very good one.

Posted in NFL | 1 Comment »

Philip River is NFL’s Best Quarterback in 2010

Posted by RichieZ23 on November 30, 2010


I was not a believer in Phillip Rivers as an elite NFL quarterback before this year.  His throwing motion might be the ugliest I’ve seen since Joe Montain-ya.  He runs his mouth like he is Tom Brady when Rivers hasn’t even appeared in a Super Bowl, let alone win it.  The one time he visited the AFC title game, he lost to Brady and the Pats by throwing for just 211 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions.  I just didn’t think he was as good as he thought he was.I picked the San Diego Chargers to miss the playoffs, and the Oakland Raiders to win the awful AFC West.  Yeah, I’m not so sure about that now…

So far this season, Rivers has not only proved to myself and others that he is an elite NFL quarterback, he has proved that he is the best quarterback in the NFL in the 2010 season.  Rivers has passed for 3,362 yards and 23 touchdowns, both of which would lead the league if not for Kyle Orton’s 3,370 yards.

Philip Rivers has been the best quarterback in the NFL in 2010. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

But what makes it even more impressive, is that Rivers has done all this without his number one option Vincent Jackson.  He has also had his other targets Antonio Gates, Malcolm Floyd, and Legedu Naanee for extended time.  Patrick Crayton, who was acquired from Dallas via trade, will be out for awhile with a dislocated wrist.

And yet he’s still second in the league in yards, and tied for first in touchdowns?  Are you kidding me?  While he did get Antonio Gates back in the Chargers win over the Colts on Sunday night, what he has done this year with limited receivers is outstanding.  It will only get better as he has standout holdout receiver Vincent Jackson coming back from suspension.

For me, it’s a two-way race for the remainder of the season between Rivers and Mike Vick for MVP.

The Chargers don’t have the defense or running game that they used to have, but if they’re going to go anywhere this season, it’s going to be completely on the arm of Rivers.

As good as Rivers has been in 2010, he could get a chance to get back to the AFC Championship game, and earn the right to talk some real trash.

Posted in NFL, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Can’t Fix Stupid — Late Cowboys Fumble Foils Dallas

Posted by RichieZ23 on November 26, 2010


It doesn’t matter if it is Wade Phillips, Jason Garrett, or Vince Lombardi coaching the Dallas Cowboys.

You can’t fix stupid, and that is exactly what has been plaguing the Dallas Cowboys for the 2010 season.  Simple tasks such as snapping the ball, punting the ball, and protecting the ball with two arms while trying to ice the game seemed to go over the heads of Dallas players.  Let me be clear when I say this is NOT an example of poor coaching.  I fully trust and believe in Jason Garrett as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys now and into the future.

While you have to give Dallas credit for battling back from an 17-0 deficit and nearly defeating the defending Super Bowl Champions without their starting quarterback, the fact is they lost the game due to stupid mistakes — the same type of mistakes that got Wade Phillips fired.

Again, the game is NOT a reflection of Jason Garrett.  The level of play from his team been up since taking over as head coach, and the mistakes have went down.  At some point you have to lay blame at the feet of the players.

Like Andre Gurode seemingly STILL not knowing the snap count.  Even Troy Aikman said he has never seen a center in the National Football League have the mental lapses Gurode has playing center.  How many times have we seen a poor or mis-timed snap from Gurode?  This time he didn’t have Romo to bail him out.

Or Pro Bowl punter Mat McBriar who bobbled a clean snap and botched a punt on 4th down from the New Orleans 35 yard line.  Rather than attempt a 53 yard field goal, Garrett decided to punt the ball and pin New Orleans deep.  Poor execution foiled this strategy.

Or Terrence Newman sitting on Robert Meachem and watching him blow right by him for a 55-yard gain on 3rd down with under two minutes remaining.

Roy Williams' fumble with Dallas leading by four points was a large contributor to Dallas losing on Thanksgiving.

Or best yet, Roy Williams for not securing the ball with two hands after catching a 3rd and 6 pass at midfield and racing down the field, splitting two defenders to  his left and right.  With Dallas up by four points, rather than securing the ball and going down, Williams got greedy and tried to score a touchdown.  The Saints cornerback Malcom Jenkins stripped the ball out of Williams left hand, and New Orleans recovered on the Dallas 10 yard line with just over three minutes remaining, down by four.

A little over a minute and five plays later, and the Saints re-took the lead, 30-27.

The change of culture is underway in Dallas.  Garrett has done more in three weeks than Phillips did in eight in Dallas in 2010.  But the amount of stupid plays and penalties in Dallas is on the players, not the coaches.

However, the sliver lining in this, is Garrett is a coach who will hold his players accountable.  As long as the mistakes do not continue, things will be fine.  After all, it’s not like a 3-7 Dallas was going to do anything this year anyway.  If the same players keep making the same mistakes, they will not be in Dallas anymore.

While stupid plays were ultimately Dallas’ undoing, progress is being made, as long as the same stupid mistakes are not made again.

There is a change of culture underway in Dallas, but no matter how much is changed, you can’t fix stupid.  The Cowboys just have to hope the players take things upon themselves and find ways to do simple football tasks such as snapping a ball, covering a receiver, or protecting the ball with two hands.

 

 

Posted in NFL | 3 Comments »

Is Lions Rookie Suh a Dirty Player?

Posted by RichieZ23 on November 25, 2010


Talk about your 180 degree turn.

First Lions rookie Ndamukong Suh is criticized for being a dirty player for viciously slamming Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme to the ground in his first game.  He stated after the game that he was not a dirty player.  Well it sure looked dirty.  And in a way I kind of liked it.  Suh showed from day one the mentality he brings to the field, that is of an absolute monster…you better bring your lunch pale if you’re going to line up across from him.  Off the field, every report is that he’s as nice as can be.

But now, he is claiming he isn’t a dirty player by…apologizing for pulling Cowboys running back Marion Barber’s hair.  Yeah, seriously.  Pulling hair isn’t dirty, just not what you’d expect from the physically imposing beast that is Suh.

Marion Barber might want to tuck away the 'locks

It’s Barber’s own fault he hasn’t visited his barber lately.  He is an offensive player, and having hair that long is just asking for trouble.  At least Troy Polamalu is a defensive player…he can’t get yanked down by his own locks.  Well, normally.  But Larry Johnson made sure to give it a try.  But Marion Barber?  Marion, come on.  You’re running back.  You had to know you were going to get it yanked, just not from a defensive tackle like Suh.  You’d think that would be something that Deangelo Hall would pull, or some other corner who makes business decisions hates to tackle.

So is Suh a dirty player for grabbing hair?  Not at all.  Maybe just taken down a notch on the man-scale for being a defensive tackle and using hair tactics.

Posted in NFL | 1 Comment »

Sucks to be You — 2-7 Lions Have Out-Scored Opponents 215-202

Posted by RichieZ23 on November 18, 2010


This is a situation of a glass being half-full, or half-empty.  The Lions are coming off a 2-14 season in 2009, and for the second season in a row lost former first round pick Matt Stafford for the season with a shoulder injury.

The Lions are 2-7, which sounds like a poor record.  But perhaps this is just the year for 2-7 teams like the newly rejuvenated Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions are out to prove the old Bill Parcells saying wrong.  Maybe you aren’t what what your record says you are.

Even at 2-7, the Lions have out-scored their opponents in 2010. Yeah, they’ve out-scored their opponents 215-202, and they’re 2-7?  Yeah, sucks doesn’t it?  But what else do you expect?  The Lions are the only NFL franchise that has been in existence for every one of the 44 Super Bowls and has never attended the big game.  So we’ve got a 2-7 team that has out-scored its opponents, including wins of 38 and 12 points.  However, they’ve dropped the close ones, including two losses by two points, two losses by three points, one loss by five points, and another loss by eight points.

Lions rookie Ndamukong Suh laughs at Santana Moss while returning a Rex Grossman fumble for a touchdown.

The good news for Detroit fans is that this franchise is legitimately on its way up.  Everywhere you look on the team, a legitimate playmaker is there.  When Matthew Stafford is healthy, he has the ability to be a very, very good quarterback.  Calvin Johnson might be the most physically gifted wide receiver.  Tight end Brandon Pettiegrew has the potential to cause serious matchup problems, and running back Jahvid Best has the breakaway speed to be one of the most electrifying backs in the league.

On the defense side, free safety Louis Delmas has proven to be a playmaker after being selected in the 2nd round of the 2009 NFL draft.  He returned an interception 101 yards his rookie season for a touchdown.  Also on defense is rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. I don’t think I need to say anything else.  The motor and intensity that Suh plays with is contagious and spreads throughout the entire defensive unit.

So while the team might be 2-7 so far this year and the glass looks half-empty this year, the glass really is half-full going forward.

The next step is a matchup against the 2-7 Dallas Cowboys in a battle of 2-7 teams that could easily be 5-4.

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Cowboy Flavored Kool-Aid — Is Cowboys’ Head Coach Garrett Really the Answer?

Posted by RichieZ23 on November 17, 2010


Ahh, nothing like a nice, tall glass of Kool-Aid to quench the thirst.  You see after starting 1-7 and firing marshmallow head coach Wade Phillips, the Dallas Cowboys were looking for a refreshment.

They have found one in intern head coach Jason Garrett — and the media is drinking the Cowboy Kool-Aid once again after just one game.

Head coach Jason Garrett celebrates with Jon Kitna during the Cowboys win over the Giants in Garrett's first game as a head coach.

Head Coach in Waiting

For the few who do not know the story, a quick refresher.  Garrett comes from a family of coaches, and his father Jim was a scout for the Cowboys.  Garrett played backup quarterback in the league for 12 seasons.  Always a student of the game, Garrett often watched from the sidelines, essentially training for a gig in coaching.  He got in in 2005, when the Miami Dolphins hired him as the quarterbacks coach in Garrett’s first year not playing in the NFL.

He was hired by Dallas as offensive coordinator in 2007, and replaced Phillips midway through the 2010 season.

The Cowboys are the NFL’s laughing stock for the second time in three years.  (2008 was another “Super Bowl or bust season, in which Dallas missed the playoffs altogether)  Sitting at 1-7 and going into week ten, Dallas had the second-worst record in the league behind only Buffalo.  The knock on Dallas was simple — they were an undisciplined team with little attention to detail, who made mistakes and could not play a complete 60-minute ball game.  Many questions arose in Dallas, but talent was rarely one of them.

Sure the offensive line is a bit slow and old, but so is Pittsburgh’s.  You don’t see the Steelers sitting in the basement.  The middle linebackers and safeties for Dallas are a bit below average in their coverage abilities.  So are the Chiefs who are sitting at a very respectable 5-4.  Point is, many teams around the league have done more with less talent than Dallas did in 2010 under the helm of Phillips.

Change of Culture

Garrett has initiated a change of attitude and culture in Dallas.  Attention to detail and the approach to practice has been altered so far under Garrett.  With talent not being a burden, (Dallas arguably has three top-five players at their position in Demarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and Jason Witten.   Garrett must both motivate prepare a mistake-ridden club that has little to play for in 2010.  Oh yeah, besides their jobs.  Players on Dallas knew that Phillips would be fired before they would, and their performance on the field did little to say they wanted anything but Phillips out of Dallas.

Garrett brings with him a sense of uncertainty.  Uncertainty in that, if you do not perform, changes will be made.  A phrase that former head coach Bill Parcells used quite frequently was “churning” the roster.  It basically meant if you’re not doing your job, you will be replaced.  Wade Phillips brought with him a “family” mentality, which sounds great, but the NFL is a business, not a family affair.

The playoffs are out of the question for Dallas.  They had their share at the beginning of the season, along with 32 other teams.  Instead of doing what needed to be done, they proceeded to start 1-7 before Garrett finally brought a prepared team to the New Meadowlands and defeated the New York Giants 33-20.

Even without Tony Romo for the remainder of the season, under Jason Garrett the Dallas Cowboys have an opportunity to continue to improve and build off of their second win of the season.  With attention to detail and a stricter attitude enforced, look for Dallas to end 2010 on quite a high note.  Focus and enthusiasm are the two main elements that will best improve this Dallas squad, and Jason Garrett is the man for the job.

Another reason?  Football is a young man’s game.  In following with Bill Simmons Speed Limit Corollary if head coaches over the age of 55 typically do not have the success that younger coaches do.  Why?  Because they’re old, and being the head coach in the NFL is a very time-consuming and high-stress job.  Phillips was 63.  Garrett is 44.

While the Cowboys still have to face teams such as the Colts, Saints, and the Eagles twice, they will at least remain competitive in the remainder of their games.  Garrett finally has the team focused and buying into a system of structure and discipline.

So go ahead and drink the Cowboy flavored Kool-Aid for the remainder of the year.  Just know that the remainder of this season is just the pre-game.  The real party and after party will be the 2011 season when Garrett has an entire off-season and training camp to implement his ways.

But for now Garrett has Dallas fans reaching for another glass of Kool-Aid, which is a needed refreshment in the disaster that is the 2010 season.

Posted in NFL | Leave a Comment »

Let ‘Er Fly — The NFL as a passing league

Posted by RichieZ23 on September 28, 2010


Monday night showcased the 180th contest between the Bears and Packers, the most ever between two teams.  Classic, tough, smash-mouth football.  The black and blue division. Run the ball and pound your opponent…

Wait a minute?  What’s that?  You mean quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler passed for a combined 537 yards?  That the leading rushers for each team was fullback John Kuhn with 31 yards, and quarterback Jay Cutler with 37 yards?

Yeah.  This ain’t your father’s NFL anymore that saw players like Bob Griese pass for 2,252 yards and 22 touchdowns and make the Pro-Bowl.  It’s a passing league, and running the ball has taken a backseat.

Besides winning the turnover margin, passing the ball efficiently and having a high yards-per-attempt has the highest correlation to winning ballgames in the NFL. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

According to Michael Signora of NFL information, through the first three weeks of the season, there have been 5 quarterbacks to throw for 400+ yards in a game, which is the highest in NFL history.

With rules being put in place to increase scoring, passing is becoming the standard to win in the NFL.  Gone are the days when running the ball and stopping the run are keys to success.  This is not meant to downplay the running game, but according to Advanced NFL stats, the highest correlation to winning in the NFL is passing the ball efficiently, and stopping the pass.  Passing efficiency is best measured by the yards-per-attempt, or YPA.

The next time you hear the old adage of you can’t win without stopping the run, that is simply not the case in today’s NFL anymore.  The highest correlation to winning in the NFL is passing the ball efficiently and having a high YPA, and stopping the pass.

Posted in NFL | 2 Comments »

Chris Johnson thrives on the big play — but just how good is he?

Posted by RichieZ23 on September 16, 2010


Nearly three years later, and some things never change.

I remember watching Eastern Carolina take on Boise State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl back in December of 2007.  Relatively unknown Chris Johnson was known amongst some around college football, but nothing near today’s status as the best back in football.

I watched him put up 223 yards on the ground, including a 68-yarder that he housed putting Boise up 10-7 in the first quarter.  Not only that, he also chipped in 32 yards receiving and 153 yards returning kicks, good for an NCAA bowl-record 408 all-purpose yards.

I was amazed.  Players such as Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, and others stole the headlines in college in 2007.  But this Chris Johnson guy?  Wow.  More explosive than any of them.  And forget a dime.  If there was any currency smaller than a dime, C.J. could cut on that.  Why had I never seen him before?

As I watched Johnson play, I started thinking to myself.  The Dallas Cowboys needed a running back after the 2007 season.  Julius Jones was listed as a starter, but his contract was set to run out at the end of the season, and Marion Barber was clearly the more effective back.  While running back wasn’t a position of need, perhaps Johnson could slide down to the Cowboys in round three?

Chris Johnson is the most explosive running back in the NFL, scoring a touchdown run of 50+ yards in 8 of 32 contests. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images North America)

Ha.  Not a chance.  If people hadn’t heard of Johnson during the season, they heard of him when he exploded out of the blocks and posted a 4.25 40-yard-dash time.  He was selected 24th overall in the 2008, two slots after Dallas selected running back Felix Jones.  The type of blazing speed Johnson possesses has made C.J. one of, if not the NFL’s best running backs.  Johnson set the NFL on fire in 2009 as he became only the sixth player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season with 2,006.

Johnson is the epitome of the big play.  Entering his third year, C.J. has 8 plays of 50+ yard touchdown runs, in just 32 games.  Let me say that one more time.  He has a touchdown run of 50 yards or longer in 25% of his career games.

Unreal.  The scary part is that it is not out of the realm of possibility for him to not only keep it up, he might even…improve?  No one is going to catch him from behind.  That’s just not going to happen.  Point blank.  However, most backs like C.J. get their big runs by getting to the corner.  Johnson has a unique ability for a back with his speed.  Several of his long runs — like his most current 76-yard TD in week one — are inside runs, not outside runs.  And what’s the shortest distance between two points?  A straight line.  Unlike other scat backs who look to run laterally and get to the corner, Johnson can run inside, and going north and south will net you far more yards than east and west.

C.J. doesn’t have the power that Adrian Peterson has, but his burst, top-end speed, and incredible feet make him the superior back.  There’s still a long season ahead, but Johnson just might be the first back in NFL history to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in two consecutive seasons.

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After a multi-month hiatus, I have returned

Posted by RichieZ23 on August 30, 2010


Alright, so those of you who may have been following this blog may have noticed my absence.  Yeah I took a slight vacation called summer.  Sorry, but you dealt with it just fine.

But it’s that time again, and football is in the air.  So I’d like to take this time to say this blog will now be focusing more on football, but more specifically the NFL.  I’m sure I will still have entries devoted to other sports, but for the most part this will be an NFL-focused blog coming up.

For those who didn’t know, my favorite NFL team is the Dallas Cowboys, and you might say I’m a die-hard fan.  When it comes to sports, nothing is better than Iowa Hawkeyes football and the Dallas Cowboys.  However, while some of my blog posts might be centered around Dallas, I like football as a whole enough to be interested in the league/sport as a whole.  There will be updates regarding news and thoughts involving other teams as well.

The NFL season kicks off in just ten days, and the college season just three days.

Football is in the air.  Can you feel it?

Posted in NFL | Leave a Comment »

 
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