Monthly Archives: September 2012

NFL Week Four: Hits and Misses

Miss: New York Jets Offense

Mark Sanchez, formerly known as “Sanchize”, was supposed to save the franchise. In his first two seasons, he was the “it” guy, and now he’s the fall guy. The Wildcat offense has been even worse than Sanchez, who is struggling to even complete 50% of his passes. Sanchez threw for just 103 yards with an INT and a fumble. Meanwhile, the run game has fallen far from its 2009/2010 dominance. With no end in sight for the Jets offensive struggles, Rex Ryan’s dream of a Super Bowl run has slowly become a nightmare only four games in. That nightmare is only just beginning, as the 2-2 Jets face the 4-0 Texans and the 2-2 Patriots within the next three weeks.

Image

Can the Falcons go undefeated?? Too soon? Too lofty? It’s hard to doubt Matty Ice the way he’s playing right now

Hit: Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan seems to redefine the word “WOW” every week. Down one with 1:09 remaining and no timeouts, the Falcons started at their own one. That wasn’t an issue for “Matty Ice”. From his own end zone, Ryan held firm in the pocket and launched a deep ball for Roddy White, who made the spectacular grab down the field. After a few more accurate throws by Ryan, Matt Bryant kicked the game winning field goal. Just like that, Ryan’s team is 4-0 and he has solidified his position as the game’s best QB right now. 

Miss: Buffalo Bills Defense 

That much-improved defense of the Bills has fallen far short of expectations. On Sunday the Patriots scored 52 points on the Bills, including 35 straight second half points. This Bills defense is the same defense that gave up 48 points to the Jets in week one. In the offseason, the Bills, a small market team, signed defensive end Mario Williams to a $100 million+ contract. That investment has looked like a bust so far, as Williams, a former No. 1 overall pick, has only 1.5 sacks so far.

Hit: Arizona Cardinals

It didn’t look pretty, but it looked like a win for the Arizona Cardinals. Against Miami, they were outgained 480-297 in total yards and trailed 13-0 at halftime. Late turnovers by QB Ryan Tannehill, who threw for 431 yards, one short of the rookie record, did the Dolphins in. Under pressure, Tannehill threw an INT on the Dolphins first possession in OT to set up a game-winning field goal. The Cardinals have now won 9 of their last 11, and are 4-0 on the season.

Leave a comment

Filed under NFL

The Lions Find Themselves in an Early-Season Hole

The last time I ever went to an NFL football game, Cincinnati Bengals orange and black dominated the crowd.

Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson still made for a team to be reckoned with in those days and the Bengals defeated an anemic Joey Harrington-led Lions squad 41-17.

What I forgot to mention was that this game was actually a Lions home game at Ford Field and that fans were wearing Bengals colors out of protest.

Hundreds of Lions fans who considered themselves fed up with the Ford family and general manager Matt Millen donned paper bags for the entirety of the Lions’ final home game of the season and led painful chants of, “FIRE MILLEN!”

How long did the demonstration last after the game’s conclusion?  I certainly don’t know, as my Dad and I decided to leave mid-way through the fourth quarter, feeling we had seen enough.

I was only 12 at the time, but “Fire Millen” still rings in my ears from time to time.

The most depressing part about this Lions memory—the 2005 season was just the tip of the iceberg named Lions Mediocrity.   After firing coach Steve Mariucci at the end of the 2005 season, the Lions went on to post a 12-52 record over the next four seasons, including an 0-16 2008 campaign that featured the quarterbacking prowess of Dan Orlovsky (don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of him either at the time).

Detroit had a football team that was the laughing stock of the NFL and hadn’t made the playoffs since 1999.  Even then, the franchise managed to take away the competitive spirit of the NFL’s greatest running back, Barry Sanders, with a constant carousel of quarterbacks and a losing attitude that forced him to retire early.

Considering this depressing history, 2011 was a breath of fresh air for Lions fans everywhere.  New quarterback Matthew Stafford went from a first-round bust with a bum shoulder to one of the best quarterbacks in the league.  Ndamukong Suh was one of the most feared players in the league and Calvin Johnson went from being called a good wide receiver to Megatron.

The Lions finished with more than nine wins for the first time since 1995 and it looked as though the franchise had finally turned a corner.  It didn’t even matter that they were thrashed in a Wild Card game matchup against the New Orleans Saints.  Being able to say the word “playoffs” in Detroit was a statement of pride in and of itself.

Megatron has been a huge part of the Lions’ resurgence.

This year, the Lions have begun to realize that consistency is central to growing a perennial powerhouse.  Wins are never guaranteed, and that’s a major reason why Detroit now finds itself 1-3 after losing to a young Minnesota Vikings team.

To revert back to form for the Lions is to become content with “almosts.”  The team has not lost by more than eight points in any one of the three losses, but saying, “Hey, at least we were close” is a curse that the Lions have accomplished far too much to fall victim to.

Their next game, in Philadelphia two weeks from now, could have major playoff implications for the Lions.  The scary thing is it’ll only be Week 7.

Don’t get me wrong—there’s no question the Lions have made tremendous strides since my last live NFL experience in 2005.  But what they have to realize now is that for their team and the City of Detroit, going back is not an option.

Leave a comment

Filed under NFL

MLB Award Predictions

The MLB regular season is less than a week from its conclusion and the races for the various awards are even closer than than that of the final playoff spots. With such a close competition between these top players, a strong last few games from any of them could put them ahead in the final stretch. Here’s a look at how the awards might pan out.

Nice shirt Miguel. Sadly, you’d probably be the best player on the Pistons. But Mike Trout is still better than you.

AL MVP: Mike Trout

The decision between Trout and Miguel Cabrera is the toughest one on this list. Cabrera is a currently a home run away from the Triple Crown and has bigger numbers in the power categories. Yet Trout’s all-around impact on the game, from his hitting to his base stealing to his incredible robbed home runs give him the edge here. And for a leadoff hitter, 29 homers and 78 RBI are pretty darn impressive power numbers.

NL MVP: Buster Posey

This race was close for a while, with Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen in the mix, but Posey has pulled away over the last month. Braun still has had an impressive season, leading the NL in home runs and RBI, yet the Brewers are unlikely to make the playoffs, which hurts Braun’s chances. Posey, meanwhile, is leading the majors in batting average (excluding Melky Cabrera of course) and on base percentage, and is also in the top three in slugging percentage and on base percentage. And he’s done all this while playing the most grueling position in the game.

AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander

As boring as it is to have a repeat winner, there’s no way around the fact that Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball right now. He had another great season, leading the league in strikeouts and being among the leaders in WHIP and ERA while also pitching the most innings.

NL Cy Young: R.A. Dickey

At age 37, Dickey’s success this season is fairly amazing. He’s pitched the best year of his career, mastering the art of the knuckleball while leading the league in strikeouts (as of now) and amongst the leaders in ERA, WHIP, and wins. Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez and Matt Cain could all give Dickey some competition in this award.

Trout’s rookie campaign has been nothing short of spectacular.

AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout

This is far and away the easiest decision of the bunch. Mike Trout’s rookie season has been one of the best in history. His arrival in the league was overshadowed by that of Bryce Harper, but all that attention has shifted to him since then. Yoenis Cespedes also had a nice year, but for a player touted for his power, Trout out-homered him.

NL Rookie of the Year: Todd Frazier

Frazier played in 41 games last year, but in his first full season this year he was a major reason for Cincinnati’s success. While Harper had more hype and attention throughout the season, Frazier simply did more, putting up bigger numbers than Harper and doing so in less at bats.

AL Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter

Looking at Baltimore’s lineup, it comes as a bit of a shock how successful they have been. After finishing with the fourth worst record in the MLB a year ago, the Orioles now hold the seventh best. Despite their shortcomings as a team, Showalter has shown them how to win and they’ve learned well.

NL Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen

Just kidding. Dusty Baker gets the nod here. Baker did another great job with the Reds this year. Cincinnati clinched an NL Central division with two worthy competitors in the Brewers and Cardinals and currently have a 10 game lead in the division. And to do this while missing key players Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and Ryan Ludwick missing significant time with injuries.

Buster Posey has shown that if you strike him down, he will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

AL Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Dunn

Dunn was arguably the worst player in the league last year, hitting an abysmal .159 and just 11 home runs. He’s marginally better in batting average this year (up to .207), but his power numbers are back. He’s blasted 41 home runs, driven in 94 runs and his ability to take walks (he leads the AL with 104) has given him a respectable OBP which is pretty impressive given how terrible his batting average is.

NL Comeback Player of the Year: Buster Posey

Another obvious choice. Posey’s injury last season looked like it could be career threatening, or at the very least put his ability to play catcher in jeopardy. Instead, Posey returned better than ever, catching one of the league’s best pitching staffs while also handling the brunt of the offensive workload for the Giants. An incredible season for Posey.

Leave a comment

Filed under MLB

Just How Bad Did Roger Goodell and The NFL Screw Up?

Finally the NFL did what was right.

Finally Commissioner Roger Goodell practiced what he preached.

And finally, the real referees will return to their jobs.

It took a national televised debacle, one the likes the NFL has never seen before, to end the stalemate between the NFL and the league’s referees.

That now infamous play has changed this NFL season forever.

The Packers are 1-2, tied for last in the NFC North instead of being 2-1 and tied for first place. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are 2-1 and in position to make a run at the postseason.

Image

One referee signaled touchdown while the other referee signaled timeout, which usually happens after an interception.

For the NFL and Goodell, it can’t get any worse. Their refusal to budge and send competent referees to the job has altered the seasons of the both of these teams, and the entire playoffs. Now the league has to hope that both the Packers and the Seahawks miss the playoffs by more than one game so that playoff spots, playoff seedings and home field advantages aren’t impacted. If not, then the whole season has been tainted and compromised by referee mishaps.

While that stain on the season has a chance to fade, the stain on Roger Goodell’s legacy is permanent.

Goodell, commissioner since 2006, built his reputation on protecting the integrity of the league and making player safety a cornerstone of rule changes. He delivered heavy punishments to players like Adam “Pacman” Jones and the Michael Vick for disgracing the game. He instilled rules that banned late hits on the quarterback, head-to-head hits and the hitting a player up high.

However Goodell’s decision to allow heavily outmatched replacement officials to referee NFL games went against both of those principles.

By not putting the highest quality of officials on the field, Goodell disgraced the reputation of the game and allowed the failures of those officials to make the league a laughing matter on television networks nationwide.

The replacement referees weren’t even from the highest level of college. Rather they from non-BCS conferences in Division 1, lower college divisions, junior colleges and high school.

Aside their overuse of pass interference penalties though, the replacement referees penalties called relatively the same amount of penalties as the actual referees did up until this point in 2011.

Image

Hines Ward has some competition for league’s dirtiest offensive player…

Instead, the problem was their inability to control the game. From numerous after-the-play cheap shots to unnecessary player scrums, control was far from the norm.

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III told the media that St. Louis Rams defenders hit him several times after the play ended. Video evidence confirmed his remarks.

In week two, Golden Tate delivered a vicious hit on a defenseless player while his quarterback broke the pocket to run the ball. Tate, who wasn’t flagged, should have been called for block-in-the-back. A week later, Tate pushed a defenseless Green Bay defender on the final play on Monday Night’s game.

In all these situations, player safety remained second to Goodell and the league’s dispute with the regular referees. Luckily no player was seriously injured.

The replacement referees put the NFL players’ safety in danger, and Goodell and the league allowed that to happen.

This weekend the regular referees will take over but the damage has been done.

Leave a comment

Filed under NFL

Call in the Replacements: Monday Night Meltdown

There was plenty of excitement to go around on Monday night in Seattle.  The Seahawks were fresh off a win against the Cowboys and ready to show off Russell Wilson, a rookie at the helm of a team with one of the NFL’s most loyal fanbases.

The primetime spotlight and a national TV audience gave the Seahawks the attention they had long been waiting for.

Sacking Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers eight times in the first half, the Seahawks didn’t disappoint either, providing the offense with an opportunity to secure a win that could potentially be a good indicator of a turnaround in the Pete Carroll era.

That opportunity was glorified by one final play.  On fourth down and ten yards to go with a mere 8 seconds left on the clock and the Seahawks trailing 12-7, Russell Wilson rolled left, squared up and fired a pass into triple coverage in the back left corner of the end zone.

The questionable call improved Seattle’s Monday Night record to an amazing 17-8.

After hanging in the air for a split second, the ball appeared to have been picked off by safety M.D. Jennings, a play that would have effectively ended the game for a feisty Seahawks squad.

At the last possible moment, however, Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate got a hand on the secured ball and the two fell to the ground and were smothered by players from both teams, making it difficult to see who had the ball for the longest time.

In what was widely considered to be an outrageous call, both referees signaled a touchdown on the play, giving the Seahawks a 13-12 lead and the victory on the field.

A booth review following the 24-yard touchdown in question led to even more incredulousness.  Not only was it revealed that Jennings did in fact have control over the ball at the “moment of truth,” but also Tate pushed Packers defensive back Sam Shields to the ground before leaping to “make the catch.”

The call should have been offensive pass interference and would have, again, ended the game with a Packers win.

Instead, the Seahawks now have a 2-1 record and hold a signature win that could give them the confidence to make a run at either the NFC West crown or a Wild Card spot.

League officials have acknowledged that the ruling on the field was incorrect Monday night but did not make any efforts to condemn the play and certainly didn’t attempt to reverse the call.

A number of the replacement refs were actually fired by the Lingerie Football League.

The league doesn’t have the authority to reverse a call from any game, but the play brings up the bigger issue of poor officiating throughout the first three weeks of the season.

Currently, NFL referees are in the midst of negotiating a contract with the NFL and have been locked out until a deal is reached.  “Replacement” referees from the NCAA, Arena Football League, XFL and even the Lingerie Football League have been brought in to try and fill the void and have been berated and criticized by NFL players and coaches for a plethora of blown calls.

NFL refs are trying to gain more complete 401k’s and better compensation, an increase in pay that would cost the NFL just under $40,000 per referee.

While the price is a bit steep to bring these officials back on Sundays, the consistent incorrectness of the replacement refs is making the new contract appear more and more worth it every week.

It’s unclear when we’ll be seeing the likes of Ed Hochuli’s biceps on the field, but for now all we know is that the Packers are 1-2, the Seahawks are 2-1 and there are a lot of unhappy football fans across the nation.

Leave a comment

Filed under NFL

So… Who are This Year’s Best Teams Again?

A wild 2012 NFL season took a turn for the crazier this week. Seven of last year’s playoff teams lost and six of them are below .500 after three games.

The drama started with the 49ers los to the Vikings in which San Francisco’s dominant defense allowed 24 points to a below average Vikings offense. After looking like perhaps the league’s best team through two weeks, the Niners week 3 loss to Minnesota has cast some doubt over the team’s invulnerability.

After a strong start to the season, the 49ers were unable to stop the Vikings in Week 3.

The Packers, who lost to the 49ers in their season opener, dropped to 1-2 on the year after Monday’s loss to the Seahawks. Aaron Rodgers has not lived up to last year’s MVP season thus far, with just 3 TDs and 2 interceptions, and Green Bay has not looked like the Super Bowl favorite many projected the to be.

While not a member of last year’s playoff group, the Eagles are a team full of talent that have had high expectations for several years. After escaping with two narrow victories over the Browns and the Ravens, Philadelphia was crushed by the Cardinals 27-6. Arizona is a surprising 3-0 to start the season.

The Lions dropped to 1-2 after falling to the lowly Titans in overtime. While Detroit league’s the league in passing, their struggles running the ball and on defense have haunted them so far this season.

The Jets have actually played pretty well this season, with a 2-1 record, but they just learned they have lost their best player, Darrelle Revis, for the season with a torn ACL. This could cause their defense to struggle the rest of the year.

Winless on the season, Drew Brees and the Saints are in need of a hug.

With coach Sean Payton missing, the Saints have been a completely different team than the past several years. After being one of the league’s most dominant teams for years, New Orleans has yet to win a game yet this season, dropping to 0-3. That record is even worse, considering their competition has been the Redskins, Panthers and Chiefs, who haven’t looked great against anyone except the Saints.

After looking strong in their season opener, the Peyton Manning and the Broncos have haven’t looked as good since, losing close games to the Falcons and the Texans. Granted those two teams are both 3-0, but Denver’s offense hasn’t flowed quite as smoothly as the Colts were with Manning at the helm.

There was a major overhaul in Pittsburgh over the offseason and so far, things haven’t worked out great for the Steelers. Plagued by injuries, the Steelers have the second fewest rushing yards, with running back Rashard Mendenhall and guard David DeCastro out. With Sunday’s loss to the Raiders, the Steelers have dropped to 1-2.

The Steelers have reason to hang their heads, with a record of 1-2 on the year.

The Patriots have also fallen to 1-2 on the year after Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. New England has lost consecutive games by a total of 3 points, so it’s not panic time yet, but the dominant offense attack we’ve become accustomed to from the Patriots is not the same this year, as Tom Brady has just 4 touchdown passes on the year.

After three weeks, just three teams remain unbeaten: the Cardinals, Texans and Falcons. Of that group only Houston and Atlanta seem for real. Of the many teams expected to contend for the Super Bowl, only those two teams have lived up to the hype.

Leave a comment

Filed under NFL

Top Storylines from Week 4 of College Football

1) Florida State Is Back

Wind back the clock to the 1990’s. The Seminoles were the decade’s most dominant team – four national title game appearances, two championships, and consistent ten win seasons. What followed though was a decade plus of mediocrity. But on Saturday night, Florida State has finally started to reemerge into the national spotlight. On Saturday night in primetime, the No. 4 Seminoles crushed the then-No. 10 Clemson, validating their status as of the nation’s premier teams. Redshirt senior QB E.J. Manuel showed he’s capable of leading his team on the big stage. Florida State’s remaining schedule looks relatively easy aside from a showdown with No. 11 Florida. With all the hype on Alabama and Oregon, the Seminoles might be the dark horse team that wins it all.

2) Notre Dame Is For Real

Image

Will Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o be the first defensive player to win the Heisman since 1997 when Michigan CB Charles Woodson won the award?

On Saturday, the Fighting Irish accomplished what they hadn’t done in a decade – start a season 4-0. Usually, a program known for it’s star quarterbacks, Notre Dame has won games behind its physical, hard-hitting defense. In total, then-No. 18 Michigan and then-No. 10 Michigan State scored nine points. If Notre Dame and its defense can continue their success, linebacker Manti Te’o should get serious Heisman consideration. Notre Dame has turned their early season quarterback controversy into a devastating two-quarterback system that has worked to perfection. Everett Golson has gained valuable experience while Tommy Rees has delivered late when his team has needed him.

3) Collin Klein Has Joined The Heisman Race

Kansas State senior quarterback Collin Klein vaulted himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion when he engineered a 24-19 upset rout of the then-No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners at home. In the weekend’s biggest upset, Klein passed for 149 yards and ran for 79 yards. It’s not an outrageous stat line, or even a stellar stat line, but it is a winning stat line in one of college football’s toughest environments. On the season, Klein has 10 total touchdowns and is his team’s catalyst on offense. Kansas State (4-0) will go as far as Klein can take them, and if they can run the table, he just might win the Heisman.

4) What Is Happening To Matt Barkley?

USC QB Matt Barkley was once the Heisman frontrunner, but fallen far from that throne. Last week’s 2 INTs, 0 TD in a loss to Stanford was supposed to be an anomaly until the senior followed up with another bummer this week. In USC’s unimpressive 27-9 win against California, Barkley threw for just 192 yards and 2 INTs to go along with 2 TDs. With two future first round picks at wide receiver, Barkley’s performance has been nothing short of downright atrocious. Also, his inability to throw an accurate deep ball has been another question mark. Barkley may not just be losing the faith of Heisman believers, but also of NFL scouts.

1 Comment

Filed under Football, NCAA