Sunday, October 30, 2011
TENNESSEE over Indianapolis
New Orleans over ST. LOUIS
Miami over NEW YORK GIANTS
CAROLINA over Minnesota
BALTIMORE over Arizona
HOUSTON over Jacksonville
BUFFALO over Washington
Detroit over DENVER
New England over PITTSBURGH
SAN FRANCISCO over Cleveland
SEATTLE over Cincinnati
PHILADELPHIA over Dallas
San Diego at KANSAS CITY
Bye: Atlanta, Chicago, Green Bay, Oakland, NY Jets, Tampa Bay
Last Week: 9-4
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
It’s popularly noted that the NFL has become the league of the quarterback.
In Week 7 it was the running backs that stole the spotlight. Some played hero while others weren’t in long enough to be the goats.
Injuries can sometimes cause for the question of someone’s toughness, but amidst the slew of injuries in Week 7 could a kicker have been the toughest player in the NFL this week?
So who rose to the occasion and who wished they could’ve gone and hide in this weekend’s games?
MVP of the Week
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Last year’s breakout player had an absolutely monster game for the Texans against the Titans. In the past four games, Foster had only broken 100 yards rushing once. But against the Titans Foster not only had 100-plus rushing yards for the second time this season, he also had over 100 receiving yards for the second time this season.
Foster had 115 rushing yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns as well as 119 yards—a team high—and caught all five passes thrown to him. He also scored a receiving touchdown. He picked up six first downs and, oh yea, the Texans won by 34 points.
Foster was just flat-out untouchable Sunday.
Honorable Mentions: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints; Plaxico Burress, WR, New York Jets
Bust of the Week
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
He missed on 16 passes, completing only 50-percent of his passes. He threw for under 180 yards (outgained by guys like Matt Moore and John Beck). Yes, the Jets defense, especially its corners, is supposed to be very good but Rivers was abysmal.
His two interceptions were game changers. Sure, the second one was tipped by Vincent Jackson, but the interceptions were untimely both coming on third down. Also, on the all-important last drive down, down by four the Chargers faced a fourth down and three. Rivers threw a pass intended for Antonio Gates, but the ball sailed into the sideline. On a potential game-ending play you need a much better effort than Rivers gave.
(Dis)Honorable Mentions: Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Indianapolis Colts; Miami Dolphins
Surprise of the Week
It wasn’t pretty on offense, but they scored just enough point to beat the Ravens while Jacksonville’s defense manhandled Baltimore’s offense.
The defense held Baltimore scoreless until 2:02 left in the game. They limited Ray Rice to 28 yards rushing, his lowest total since Week 4 of last season, and they forced the Ravens offense into two turnovers.
But really, come on, did anyone expect Jacksonville to even be in this game, let alone win it? Gutsy performance from the guys in Jacksonville.
Honorable Mentions: Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets; Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans
Play of the Week
All defensive players in the NFL should watch Neil Rackers’s form on this tackle. That’s how you take down a guy. No need to spear him with your helmet.
Rookie of the Week
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys
In his first start ever, Murray, filling in for the injured Felix Jones, surpassed legendary RB Emmitt Smith for the record for most rushing yards in a game by a Cowboy.
Murray ran for 253 yards and a touchdown (on a first-half run for 91 yards) on 25 carries. Other ways Murray made the history books: it was the most yards run for in the NFL this season so far, it was the second-longest run in team history, it was the second-most rushing yards in a game by a rookie in NFL history and it was the most yards rushed for against the St. Louis Rams.
“I never thought in a million years that I'd ever have a day like this,” Murray told the press after the game. “This is what I've been working hard for since my Pop Warner days.”
I don’t know if anyone else thought he would either, but it was a very impressive performance nonetheless. Maybe he won’t have another game this good, but at the very least he probably passed Felix Jones and Tashard Choice on the depth chart.
Honorable Mentions: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers; Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos
Despite the successes of DeMarco Murray and Arian Foster it was a tough day to be a starting running back in the NFL.
Darren McFadden, Beanie Wells, Marshawn Lynch, Joseph Addai, Willis McGahee and Mark Ingram all left their respective games and did not return because of injuries (Lynch didn’t even make it to the game, he was pulled during warm ups). Also, Tim Hightower and Earnest Graham not only were taken out of their games because of injuries, but they will miss the remainder of the season.
It is unfortunate for all these backs, but for the ones that do miss more time maybe their replacement could be as big a surprise as DeMarco Murray.
Honorable Mentions: winless teams still winless
DeMarco Murray: AP Photo/Sharon Ellman
Sunday, October 23, 2011
The big news in Week 7 is the game of quarterback shuffle going on: at least six different quarterbacks will make their first start of the season.
The most hyped new quarterback is obviously Tim Tebow as he returns to Florida to take on the Miami Dolphins, who are still searching for a win.
Also on the slate of games is a match-up for first place in the AFC South between the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans. Both teams have lost key players to injuries and are coming off of losses. Who will take control of the division?
Who will win this week’s games? The home team is in caps.
NEW YORK JETS over San Diego – The Jets win over Miami wasn’t pretty but they couldn’t afford to lose a fourth straight game. That being said, the Chargers have struggled as well, specifically Philip Rivers and his interceptions. Against a dominant Darrelle Revis and a hyped-up Antonio Cromartie it will be a rough day for Rivers.
TAMPA BAY over Chicago – If the Bucs can force Drew Brees to throw three interceptions imagine what they can do to Jay Cutler, a quarterback notorious for turning the ball over under pressure.
CAROLINA over Washington – The Redskins brass talked about how good John Beck looked during preseason and still decided to start Rex Grossman at quarterback. So what does that say about Beck? He hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2007, when he was not the answer for a one-win Miami Dolphins team. Four of the Panthers five losses have come by one touchdown or less, so the ball has to bounce they’re way one of these times (so long as Cam Newton stops throwing costly interceptions).
Atlanta over DETROIT – The Lions are without Jahvid Best, and with little depth at the position they have only two healthy runners. Coming off their first loss of the season the Lions are vulnerable right now, which should help the Falcons have their first winning streak of the season.
Seattle over CLEVELAND – Things are falling apart in Cleveland and Payton Hillis is having a rough season. Meanwhile the Seahawks should get a boost on offense if Charlie Whitehurst starts over Tarvaris Jackson. Whitehurst is a mystery still, but he showed last week he’s an upgrade over Jackson.
Denver over MIAMI – It’s a home game for the Dolphins. They are honoring the 2008 Florida Gators, whose starting quarterback is Tim Tebow who is now the starter for the Broncos. Not only will fans be cheering for the “Suck for Luck” campaign they will also be rooting for the opposing quarterback. This has disaster written all over it.
TENNESSEE over Houston – Without Andre Johnson and Mario Williams the Texans look like a team without any bite. The Titans on the other hand have gotten good contributions from other wide receivers since Kenny Britt went down with a season-ending injury and they’re still waiting for Chris Johnson to break out.
Kansas City over OAKLAND – If Carson Palmer starts the Raiders will be using a guy who had a bad year last year and hasn’t played since Week 17 of last season. If Kyle Boller starts it’ll be a guy whose team just traded potentially two first round picks for someone else to start. In a rivalry game things are just a bit too unsettled right now for the Raiders to come away victorious.
Pittsburgh over ARIZONA – The Steelers have feasted on opponents with sub-.500 records. The combined records of teams they’ve lost against: 7-4. And the combined record of teams they’ve beaten: 6-16. They may be older and not as strong as the past few years, but they’re still beating the bottom feeders of the league of which the Cardinals belong to.
Green Bay over MINNESOTA – Christian Ponder gets his first start against Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson and has to try and outgun Aaron Rodgers? No thanks.
DALLAS over St. Louis – Sam Bradford is out and A.J. Feeley is in. Sorry, but not even newly acquired wide receiver Brandon Lloyd can make Feeley look good.
NEW ORLEANS over Indianapolis – The Saints had a rough go of it against the Buccaneers last week. But that’s more reason for them to get back on track at home against a winless team.
Baltimore over JACKSONVILLE – This just seems like the biggest mismatch of the week. The Jaguars are 31st in the league in points scored per game, and you can bet points will be very tough to come by against the Ravens tough defense.
Byes: Buffalo, Cincinnati, New England, New York Giants, Philadelphia, San Francisco
Last week: 8-5
Tim Tebow: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Sunday, October 16, 2011
DETROIT over San Francisco – As good as Alex Smith has played this year he hasn’t been able to produce the yards that the 49’ers would need to keep pace with the Lions.
GREEN BAY over St. Louis – The Packers are playing too well to lose at home to the winless Rams.
ATLANTA over Carolina – Look at the Falcons’ results: they win every other week. So after a loss to the Packers last week, naturally they are due for a win over the Panthers.
CINCINNATI over Indianapolis – The Bengals aren’t world beaters, but they do well against the other bad teams in the league. Their defense is playing very well and should contain the Colts.
Buffalo over NEW YORK GIANTS – The Bills played well against the Eagles and did what they had to do to win the game. The Giants played poorly and lost a game they shouldn’t have. And while they shouldn’t have lost are you really that surprised that they did?
PITTSBURGH over Jacksonville – The Steelers are banged up, but they proved last week that they aren’t done yet. And the Jaguars, to put it bluntly, stink.
Philadelphia over WASHINGTON – You just have to wonder how much longer the Eagles can keep losing. There’s too much talent here to be this bad. It’s not too late for them to turn the corner so there’s still a little bit of hope.
BALTIMORE over Houston – The Ravens have looked real good this season and the Texans are without their best offensive and defensive players.
OAKLAND over Cleveland – The Raiders had a big and emotional win last week and then went and traded for Aaron Curry because they believe they can make a push for the playoffs. Meanwhile Cleveland’s best player, Peyton Hillis, wonders how much longer he’ll be with the team.
NEW ENGLAND over Dallas – Tony Romo can throw the ball and the Pats pass defense is not very good. But are you really going to trust the “Romo Coaster” against a team that hasn’t lost at home since 2008?
New Orleans over TAMPA BAY – The Saints are the best team in the NFL in third down completion percentage. They’re really good at extending drives, scoring points and keeping the opposing offense off the field.
MINNESOTA over Chicago – This one could go either way but the Vikings finally got in the win column this week and that could give them some momentum. Adrian Peterson was huge against the Cardinals and the Bears are 28th in the NFL in rushing defense.
Miami over NEW YORK JETS – Since Rex Ryan has taken the helm of the Jets he’s 1-3 against the Dolphins and 0-2 at home. Just as tough as it is to go undefeated, it’s tough to go winless too. The Dolphins and Jets usually play close despite the records and the Jets are not only slumping but the locker room is starting to fracture.
Byes: Denver, Tennessee, Kansas City, Arizona, San Diego and Seattle
Last week: 8-5
Jason Taylor: AP Photo/J. Pat Carter
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
It’s been said in the media that new United States Men’s National Team head coach Jürgen Klinsmann is still in the honeymoon stage with the team and its loyal supporters. Klinsmann still seems like quite the charmer and is endearing himself to the fans.
Emotions are positive for the German coach. He finally won his first game with the USMNT on Saturday and on Monday, one day before the team takes on Ecuador Klinsmann opened the team’s practice at Red Bull Arena to the public.
Only a day before a game, the practice was light and featured a lot of stretching as opposed to an intense one, but it was a unique opportunity for fans to see how the team went about their daily business with a new coach as well as what Klinsmann’s personal interactions with individual players and the team as a whole are like.
As the players trotted onto the field Klinsmann explained the purpose of the practice and what the fans would see. Things started off with the players breaking up into small groups and doing some one-touch passes in a circle with defenders in the middle. The goalies, in the meantime, did some drills on their own at the end line.
The field players then went to the opposite end of the field and did a lot of stretching. All the players are in the middle of their seasons now. Add in intense training and playing with the national team and injury prevention becomes a big concern.
After stretching the team went into an 11-vs.-10 half-field scrimmage with Clint Dempsey donning a blue pinny and playing as the extra man for both teams. While the starting lineup for the Ecuador game isn’t out the white team featured mostly regular starters like Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Jozy Altidore while the orange team featured the likes of Nick Rimando, Jeff Larentowicz and Edson Buddle, three guys who did not play on Saturday.
The play was pretty back and forth for the most part but with little execution. Only two goals were scored during the 20 or 30 minutes the team scrimmaged for, one by Clint Dempsey (for the white team) and one by DaMarcus Beasley.
Beasley was an interesting player on the left-side for the white team. Beasley showed some speed on the flank and dribbled in circles around Michael Orozco Fiscal. At the same time though, Danny Williams seemed to have his way with Beasley, dribbling around him or pushing him off the ball.
Williams was impressive in his ability to push the ball past his defender and his crosses, as were scrimmage teammate Brek Shea’s, were dangerous.
The highlight of the scrimmage came in a series of nice plays. Kyle Beckerman, playing for the orange team, collected a loose ball and slammed a shot at Tim Howard. Howard saved it and –like his pass to Landon Donovan in the Algeria game at the World Cup—threw the ball almost the length of the field to Jozy Altidore. Rimando came out to cut Altidore’s angle off, but the big forward chipped it over his head for what appeared would be a nice goal. While the ball floated back down to the field however New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream came in, got underneath the ball, and cleared it before it went in the back of the net.
When the scrimmage was completed some of the players that logged big minutes in Saturday’s game (Altidore, Onyewu and Bocanegra for example) stretched at midfield. The rest took part in a crossing drill.
On the left was, as suspected, Brek Shea, Timmy Chandler and DaMarcus Beasley. On the right was Williams, Steve Cherundolo and Jonathan Spector.
Each side would take turns crossing the ball to a man in the middle: Jeff Larentowicz, Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo or Orozco Fiscal.
The crossing and finishing both left a lot to be desired but Larentowicz had the goal of the practice when he took a cross and put a diving header into the net past Rimando.
Klinsmann himself got in on the drill as well, for a brief moment, collecting a rebound and shooting it into the back of the net, earning a nice ovation from the crowd.
At completion of the drill, Klinsmann talked to his team in a huddle and then he and the players thanked the fans for coming out.
The practice wasn’t too intense but it got the fans excited about the team and for the game against Ecuador.
Klinsmann, the players and the fans are optimistic about the team’s future. Now it’s up to the new coach and the players to see how long that optimism lasts.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
For one game BenJarvus Green-Ellis turned the pass-happy New England Patriots into a power running team, and the result was a winning one.
“The Law Firm” had a career-high 136 rushing yards to go with two touchdowns en route to a 30-21 victory over the rival New York Jets.
It was only the fourth time he had eclipsed the 100-yard plateau in his career, but it came at a good time. He became the fourth running back to rush for over 100 yards against a Rex Ryan-led Jets defense.
The attack for New England was a more balanced one than usual, throwing 33 passes and running the ball 35 times, and they had only one passing touchdown compared to both of Green’s rushing ones. Green-Ellis had 27 carries and averaged five yards a carry. He also had one catch for 13 yards, bowling over a couple Jets defenders in the process.
The Patriots held the ball on offense for 33:55, over seven minutes longer than the Jets. Green-Ellis pounded the ball up the middle effectively and wore out the Jets defense, which looked tired and sluggish as the game went on.
On the Patriots' last drive they ran 13 plays for 69 yards and took up 6:12. Of those 13 plays 11 were running plays with the ball going to Green-Ellis 10 times for 59 yards. The drive ended in a field goal, which put the Patriots up by two scores and the game just out of reach for the Jets.
With the Patriots never trailing it was easy to hand the ball off and work to kill the clock. But Green-Ellis made sure to put his mark on the game. The dreadlocked back had given way to rookie Stevan Ridley the past two weeks, with the new guy leading the team in rushing yards both games. But today Green-Ellis not only was the leading rusher, he was the team leader.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: AP Photo/Elise Amendola
The NFL makes sure to capture everyone’s attention on Sunday’s with thrilling performances on the gridiron. And with increased communication we can see what everyone is thinking on Twitter.
So in Week 5 of the NFL what were the headlines that had all of us, including other professional athletes tweeting?
Tim Tebow (@TimTebow) finally replaced Kyle Orton at quarterback in Denver and the Eagles continued their slide with a loss against Buffalo, so Michael Vick was a popular topic of discussion as well. Some pros even got to experience a game live in person and tweeted us their photos.
Here’s what the pros were saying on Twitter.
Carmelo Anthony, NBA, New York Knicks: @carmeloanthony “No matter what happen, Tim Tebow is always ready when his # is called!!!!! #TrueProfessional”
Jared Dudley, NBA, Phoenix Suns: @JaredDudley619 “I think Tebow lock up his starting job.. It wasn't pretty but will take the Win.. Can't wait to see what @RealSkipBayless says bout Tebow”
Jason Thompson, NBA, Sacramento Kings: @jtthekid “Congrats to @MikeVick on Being the All-Time Rushing Leader As a QB!!!! #Respect #Eagles”
Dwayne Wade, NBA, Miami Heat: @DwayneWade “WOW.. The Eagles have done everything in their own power to lose yet another game-and btw its not all @MikeVick fault.”
Heath Pearce, MLS, Chivas USA & USA: @thehp3 “OMG. I.DIE. 49ers r on a roll...... What a sunday for football. Now just need a fantasy win for my team. #repyourhood”
Herculez Gomez, professional soccer player, Estudiantes Tecos (Mexico) & USA: @herculezg “#JustWinBaby! #raidernation”
Stu Holden, professional soccer player, Bolton (England) & USA: @stuholden “C'mon Texannnnnns ! 4th quarter rally caps”
Marshon Brooks, NBA, New Jersey Nets: @Marshon2 “Tom Brady release is flawless...”
Maya Moore, WNBA, Minnesota Lynx: @MooreMaya “My 1st Vikings Game! Nice Win guys! lockerz.com/s/145840549”
Jose Bautista, MLB, Toronto Blue Jays: @JoeyBats19 “Let's go Steelers!! Time for that bounce back W!! #pregame #warmups #withmybro”
Tim Tebow: AP Photo/Joe Mahoney
Under Bob Bradley, the United States Men’s National Team was a reactive team: play tough defense and withstand pressure from the opposition and go on the counter attack when the other team overextends itself and is vulnerable.
With Jurgen Klinsmann at the helm the USMNT is working on being a proactive team, attacking and imposing its will on its opposition.
The similarity of both regimes is that they both rely on Tim Howard being at his best.
In the team’s 1-0 victory over Honduras the goalie was once again asked to play hero in net in order to preserve a positive result, just like he has time and time again since being named the No. 1 keeper in 2007.
Howard made six saves, a number of which showcased his incredible athleticism, and was named Budweiser Man of the Match.
The win was his 37th for the red, white and blue tying him for second with Tony Meola on the all-time wins list, behind only Kasey Keller (53). And he has earned every single one of them, not to mention the ties the team has a direct result of his stellar play.
Against Honduras Howard made several big saves. In the 18th minute Honduras sent a ball over the top of the defense that Jerry Bengston collected and went in 1-vs-1 on Howard but the keeper made a point blank stop to deflect the shot away.
He made a diving save on Carlos Costly in the 26th and then in the second half he made a leaping grab on a long range shot from Boniek Garcia.
“Tim is getting to a time in his career where he realizes these are the golden years for him ahead,” Klinsmann told the media after the game. “We really enjoy what he brings to the table.”
Howard is one of only two players to start all four games under Klinsmann (Carlos Bocanegra is the other). His consistently strong play is very important to new German head coach right now.
As the team is adjusting to playing a more attacking style they sometimes get caught too far up field. The formation has changed, with only one defensive midfielder as opposed to the two the team used to put on the field. So on the counterattack there are only five players back to defend at most.
If (and at times when) a player is beat or when there is a lot of space many shots come through. It is up to Howard to save them and bail out the rest of the team while they (hopefully) hustle back.
Howard’s ability to make spectacular and clutch saves lets the rest of the team continue to learn how to attack and go up field, make and learn from mistakes and allows the team not to get frustrated giving up a number of goals and revert back to their old less productive ways.
Klinsmann knows he needs good goalkeeping during these experimental times so the players can learn on the fly but the team can still get results that aren’t too discouraging. One only has to look at his roster selections to see the faith that he has placed in Howard.
Brad Guzan has been the first-choice backup behind Howard the past few years and has started big games during World Cup qualifying and the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. But he hasn’t been called up to the National Team by Klinsmann yet. Neither has Marcus Hahnemann, the third goalkeeper on the 2010 World Cup team and Howard’s new teammate at Everton.
The backup has been Bill Hamid, a 20-year old goalie for D.C. United that has not made an appearance for the United States at any level.
There were games in the past, like the Argentina friendly at Giants Stadium or the game against England to open the 2010 World Cup, that the USA would not have gotten a point in had it not been for Tim Howard.
Last night, even with a new coach and new philosophy, was no different. And as the U.S. team continues to work on its attacking style of play and new young players are brought into the fold nothing will be more important than the veteran and extremely talented presence of Howard.
A feature of Tim Howard, his rise to stardom and his intensity. Video from YouTube.
Tim Howard: AP Photo/Paul Sancya
A quarter of the season is complete and we have reached the first week of byes as six teams will sit this week out.
Only two teams remain undefeated (and coincidentally they both play in the NFC North) but double that amount has yet to win a single game.
Tragedy struck the NFL this week as longtime Raider owner Al Davis passed away on Saturday. Many jokes have been made in recent years about the state of Davis while running the Raiders, but make no mistake about it he was a huge part of the NFL for a long time and will be missed, especially by Raider Nation. How will his team respond and play in his honor?
Who do you think will win this week?
Tennessee (3-1) at Pittsburgh (2-2)
It’s a small sample size but the Steelers are 0-2 against teams above .500 this season.
Ben Roethlisberger (foot) will most likely play, but he’s extremely banged up thanks to a porous offensive line. And while the line has not helped the quarterback out they also haven’t helped the running game either.
The Steelers are 21st in the league in rushing yards per game. Rashard Mendenhall has only 173 yards in four games and is questionable for the game against the Titans with a hamstring injury.
There was some concerns the Titans wouldn’t be as good offensively as they had been at the start of the season after Kenny Britt was lost for the year, but the team scored 31 points last week and Chris Johnson finally stepped up and had a 100-yard rushing performance. Now all he needs to do is score a touchdown.
Seattle (1-3) at New York Giants (3-1)
Last year the Giants beat the Seahawks 41-7 and Ahmad Bradshaw scored two touchdowns. And that was in Seattle, where the Seahawks were 5-3 last year.
The Giants haven’t had a 100-yard rushing game from any back thus far this season but at home that could be changed this weekend. They give up 105 yards per game on the ground and that is mostly because they fall behind big early.
If the Giants can get up by a couple scores, probably thanks to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, they can let Bradshaw run out the clock against a team struggling on offense to keep pace.
New York wins.
Cincinnati (2-2) at Jacksonville (1-3)
The Bengals are first in the league in defensive yards yielded (1,102). They are in the top 10 in both passing yards per game allowed and rushing yards per game allowed. They are also sixth in points allowed.
The Jaguars are last in the league in passing yards per game and last in the league in points scored.
New Orleans (3-1) at Carolina (1-3)
This one should be exciting: two of the top three ranked passing teams square off, Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees vs. rookie sensation Cam Newton.
But New Orleans averages almost 14 yards more per game on the ground and they score nearly ten more points per game than the Panthers do. And over the past two years the Saints have won three of four games against the Panthers.
Right now, the Panthers just aren’t at the same level as the Saints even if the game is a home one. The Saints are a legitimate Super Bowl contender and are playing like one of the best teams in the league right now.
New Orleans win.
Oakland (2-2) at Houston (3-1)
There have been a number of times where we have seen teams rally behind the loss of someone special to the organization. The Raiders will want to play a good game in honor of former coach, general manager and owner Al Davis, who pass away on Saturday.
The Texans had a big win last week but they will be without top wide receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson has 352 yards receiving this year. No other player listed as a wide receiver has 92 yards receiving. It’s a big loss in their offense.
Philadelphia (1-3) at Buffalo (3-1)
What it will come down to is which defense will yield more: the Philadelphia Eagles defense against Fred Jackson and the Bills running game or the Buffalo Bills defense against Michael Vick and the Eagles passing game?
The Eagles have gotten torn apart on the run, 30th in the league in rushing yards allowed and allowing Frank Gore his first 100-yard game of the season.
Meanwhile the Bills are 25th in passing yards allowed per game and are last in the league in sacks with only four in four games.
It’ll be a sigh of relief for Michael Vick if he isn’t hit or hurried. He’s been banged around a lot this season yet he’s still 11th in the league in passer rating, only two tenth of a point behind Tony Romo to fall in the Top 10.
The Eagles will have to play with some urgency to avoid falling to 1-4 and if Vick isn’t pressured then he could lead the Eagles to a very big game.
Kansas City (1-3) at Indianapolis (0-4)
At home, this could finally be the week the Colts get their first win.
Matt Cassel is 29th in the NFL in passer rating and the Chiefs are 30th in passing yards per game. He could be in for a long day with the pass rushing specialties of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Both have three sacks this season (in the top 20 in the league).
Curtis Painter played pretty well last week, throwing for 281 yards and two touchdowns. The Chiefs aren’t playing as well as the Bucs so it could be another solid outing for Painter.
Arizona (1-3) at Minnesota (0-4)
Despite Adrian Peterson and the third ranked rushing game the Vikings are winless. And the passing game is where they really are at a disadvantage.
They are 31st in the NFL in passing yards and 28th in passing yards allowed. A poor passing game in Minnesota definitely benefits the Cardinals defense, which has been poor in defending the pass.
They can throw the ball on offense though. They are 14th in the league in passing averaging 243 yards per game. And while winning games will be the team’s incentive, Larry Fitzgerald, the team’s leading receiver, will be extra motivated to make plays. He’s pledged to donate $1,000 per catch and $10,000 per touchdown this month to breast cancer research. A score or two from him would go a long way in this game.
Tampa Bay (3-1) at San Francisco (3-1)
The Buccaneers aren’t the only team that can make comebacks.
The Niners completed a 20-point second half comeback against the Eagles last week. Frank Gore ran for a season-high 127 yards and the game-winning touchdown and then said that the Eagles basically threw in the towel.
Another player to look out for this week is Niners wide receiver Michael Crabtree. After missing Week 3, Crabtree caught five passes for 68 yards against the Eagles. The Buccaneers have the 21st ranked pass defense in the league so it could be a good day for San Francisco in the air at home.
San Francisco wins.
New York Jets (2-2) at New England (3-1)
The Patriots haven’t lost at home since 2007.
The Jets may have the second best pass defense and Revis Island, but the corner can only cover one receiver. The Patriots have plenty of weapons in the passing game that have helped Tom Brady make the Pats the best passing offense in the NFL.
Wes Welker is first in the league in receiving yards (616). But then you have tight end Rob Gronkowski (296 yards, five touchdowns) who has been a huge red zone weapon as well as Deion Branch who also has over 200 yards receiving. Tight end Aaron Hernandez had 165 yards and two touchdowns in his first two games before being injured, but he did practice this week and the Jets will need to plan for him. And don’t forget Chad Ochocinco, who hasn’t made too big a splash yet this year but is learning the playbook more and more and will have a breakout game sooner rather than later.
The Pats have been balanced on offense, unlike the Jets, as they are also ninth in the league in rushing yards per game thanks to the trio of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead.
New England wins.
San Diego (3-1) at Denver (1-3)
The Broncos are 29th in the NFL in points allowed. And while the Chargers haven’t been as dangerous so far as in years past they still are an extremely competent offense just waiting to break out.
Kyle Orton may be sixth in the NFL in touchdowns thrown, but he also has six interceptions in only four games, including three last week. The Chargers are fifth in the NFL in passing defense and could make life hard for Orton.
San Diego wins.
Green Bay (4-0) at Atlanta (2-2)
The Falcons have struggled with consistency in the early going while the Packers seem to be effortlessly rolling.
Aaron Rodgers was unbelievable last week, throwing for 408 yards and four touchdowns and adding two rushing touchdowns. Everyone on offense is making contributions and this team is just firing on all cylinders right now.
It’s tough to go against a team that’s playing so well and looks like the best team in the league right now.
Green Bay wins.
Chicago (2-2) at Detroit (4-0)
The Bears are 0-2 against teams that have a record better than .500 and they lost their only game on the road so far this season.
The Lions and their fans are fired up right now. The team is undefeated, they have two 20-point comeback victories in back-to-back weeks and now they have their first primetime game in six years (they haven’t played on Monday Night since 2001).
The fans also will be excited for the potential debut of first round pick Nick Fairley.
The fans will be loud and the team looks good right now.
Bye week: Cleveland, Dallas, St. Louis, Miami, Washington, Baltimore
Last week: 11-5
Al Davis: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Last night the world was shocked when Steve Jobs passed away due to pancreatic cancer. He was the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Apple Inc. and was also a CEO with Pixar Studios. He’s known as one of the best American innovators, being a part of so many things in the technology industry that have changed our world.
When the news was dropped yesterday many people took to Twitter to pay their respects. Amongst those Tweeting were many professional athletes, offering their condolences and remembering the genius of Steve Jobs.
Here is what some of them Tweeted.
LeBron James, NBA, Miami Heat: @KingJames “R.I.P Steve Jobs. Someone who definitely left his mark on this world! Innovations that will live and last forever!!”
Tracy McGrady, NBA, Detroit Pistons: @TheReal_TMAC “amazing how steve jobs changed people's lives all around the WORLD”
Cappie Pondexter, WNBA, New York Liberty: @cappa23 “I bought an ipad today in memory of#stevejobs thnkyou for ur genius!! Rip”
Serena Williams, professional tennis player: @serenawilliams “Steve Jobs the Thomas Edison of our day. You will be missed but your Legend will Live forever.”
Ndamukong Suh, NFL, Detroit Lions: @ndamukong_suh “It is very sad to hear that Mr. Steve Jobs has passed.He Will be greatly missed in many ways, will pray for his family!! #RIPSteveJobs#Apple”
Zoltan Mesko, NFL, New England Patriots: @ZoltanMesko “Forever the face of Apple...Steve Jobs. Bravo.”
Freddy Adu, MLS, Philadelphia Union & USA: @FreddyAdu11 “Wowwww Steve Jobs died. Man he changed the World with his vision. RIP Steve Jobs”
Nick Rimando, MLS, Real Salt Lake & USA: @NickRimando “I'm late but RIP Steve Jobs, don't know what I'd do without apple. What a Brilliant man!”
Carlos Bocanegra, professional soccer player, Rangers FC & USA: @BocaBoca3 “Steve Jobs , a modern day Da Vinci. He definitely warrants that shout. You changed the world.”
Abby Wambach, WPS, magicJack & USA: @AbbyWambach “Rip steve jobs! #iSad”
Steve Jobs: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
According to ESPN's "Numbers Never Lie" there was a combined 7,886 passing yards in Week 4, the most ever in a single week in league history.
So that means a lot of big plays from quarterbacks and wide receivers. Which also means an entertaining race for Week MVP. But while some quarterbacks were doing everything possible to win their game there were a few who seemed to do everything possible to blow it.
Who stood out in victory? Who was embarrassed? Here are the awards for Week 4.
MVP of the Week
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
His performance against the Broncos was just sheer brilliance. He had a 76-percent completion rate, 408 yards passing (career-high) and four passing touchdowns (tying a career-best) to go along with 36 yards rushing and two rushing touchdowns. He became the first player ever to record 400 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. He was responsible for six of the team’s seven scores (the other coming on defense from a pick-six). And his Packers remain undefeated.
There’s really not much more to say. Rodgers has really made his case for best quarterback in the NFL and on a day like Sunday you wonder what else is there for him to do?
Honorable Mentions: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions; Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears; Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
Bust of the Week
Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
If you didn’t know better an innocent bystander would have thought that “The Sanchise” was in cohoots with the Ravens to help them win the game. He completed only 11 of 35 passes. He registered a 30.5 quarterback rating. But his turnovers were unforgivable.
Sanchez threw one interception on the day and it was returned by the Baltimore defense for a touchdown. He fumbled the ball four times. Three of those fumbles were recovered by the Ravens. Two of them were returned for touchdowns.
So that means Sanchez gifted Baltimore 21 points (the Jets lost by 17) while managing to lead the Jets to zero points (New York scored on a kickoff return, an interception return and a field goal).
Sanchez not only didn’t help his team, he actually performed better for his opposition.
(Dis)Honorable Mentions: Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys; Ronnie Brown, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Surprise of the Week
The Dallas Cowboys were grooving throughout the first half. And when Jason Witten scored on a one-yard pass at the start of the third quarter to make the score 27-3, surely the Lions perfect season would be coming to an end.
Detroit had made a 20-point comeback the week before, surely they didn’t have another one in them, right?
But thanks to two huge mistakes from Tony Romo and tremendous play from wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the Lions roared all the way back to win the game.
After the Witten touchdown, Romo threw two interceptions that the Lions returned for touchdowns and brought the deficit down to 10 points. And in the fourth quarter Johnson caught two touchdown passes, including the game winner on a leaping grab with only 1:39 left to play.
That makes two consecutive 20-plus point comebacks for the Lions, making them the first team to do so in NFL history.
Honorable Mentions: Cincinnati Bengals; Curtis Painter, QB, Indianapolis Colts; Vince Wilfork’s second interception of the season
Disappointment of the Week
The team that got all the hype in the (brief, yet fast-moving) offseason. The team that some called the best football team ever assembled (a bit of hyperbole). After blowing a 20-point halftime lead at home against the San Francisco 49ers the Eagles are 1-3 and dead last in the NFC East.
“It's unacceptable to give up a lead that size in the second half,” defensive tackle and one of those high-priced acquisitions Cullen Jenkins told reporters after the game. “If we don't win, we're just a bunch of talented people who haven't done anything, and there’s a lot of teams like that.”
Along with the big lead, the Eagles wasted a standout performance from QB Michael Vick (career-best 416 yards passing, two passing touchdowns and a team-best 75 yards rushing). Reasons for the downfall: a fumble (throwaway) on the 49ers’ one-yard-line by Ronnie Brown, a blocked field goal, a missed field goal and a Jeremy Maclin fumble with 2:06 remaining in the game to ruin any chance of a late comeback.
Maybe expectations were too high to start the season but this is a poor effort from the Eagles.
(Dis)Honorable Mentions: Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys; Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens; Buffalo Bills
Rookie of the Week
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
The LSU-alumnus gave Pats fans a glimpse of why he was selected in the third round, even with fan favorites BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead ahead of him on the depth chart.
Ridley showed a nice blend of power and finesse, carrying the ball ten times for 97 yards (a whopping 9.7 yards per carry). His touchdown run was for 33 yards and showed a nice burst through the hole, shed three would-be-tacklers and had a nice sprint down the sidelines to the end zone.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him eat into more of BJGE’s carries as the season goes on.
Honorable Mentions: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers; Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons; A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals
After missing Week 3 with a hamstring injury Wells returned to have a career day. Unfortunately for him though his team still lost.
Wells had 138 yards (a career-high) on 27 carries and scored three touchdowns. It seemed like his third score would be the nail in the coffin, giving the Cardinals a 27-17 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
The Cardinals lackluster defense allowed Eli Manning and Co. to march down the field and score in four plays. Then Arizona got unlucky on the Giants’ next drive with the most controversial officiating call of the week: Manning completed a pass to Victor Cruz, who was not touched but went down to the ground. Since he was not touched the play seemingly wasn’t dead, yet Cruz put the ball on the turf and went to go to the huddle. The Cardinals picked it up, insisting Cruz’s gaffe was a fumble, but the referees ruled that he had given himself up. The Giants would then score the game-winning touchdown later on in that drive.
Wells did everything he could to propel the Cardinals to victory, but it was not in the cards for the Arizona running back.
Honorable Mentions: Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans; Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Mark Sanchez: AP Photo/Nick Wass
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Turns out that professional athletes are just like all of us: On Sundays in fall they too enjoy posting on the couch and watching the NFL all day.
Most of the insight of the day came from the Detroit Lions’ thrilling comeback victory over the Dallas Cowboys, showing tweets of excitement from Michigan natives, tweets of awe for Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and tweets of disappointment from Cowboys fans.
Here’s what the pros had to Tweet about while watching that game and many others around the NFL.
Blake Griffin, NBA, Los Angeles Clippers: @blakegriffin “Big shout out to football season for making it okay to not get off my couch all weekend.”
LeBron James, NBA, Miami Heat: @KingJames “Give credit to Megatron and the Lions on the win. Very good team. They got #swag right now”
Kevin Durant, NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder: @KDTrey5 “Megatron hahaha best in the league”
Grant Hill, NBA, Phoenix Suns: @realgranthill “@jrich23 The ghosts of R. Porcher, Herman Moore, Lomas Brown and Scott Mitchell did us in. Congrats JRich for beating us 4 the 1st time.”
Shane Battier, NBA, Memphis Grizzlies: @ShaneBattier “@realgranthill33 sorry grant about your boys, just just like the Chrysler commercial says, The D is back.”
Dax McCarty, MLS, New York Red Bulls: @DaxMcCarty11: “After watching football highlights, I've decided Calvin Johnson should permanently change his name to Megatron. Just that. Dude is a freak.”
Paul Rabil, professional lacrosse player, Boston Cannons and Washington Stealth: @PaulRabil “#Megatron”
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, professional wrestler, WWE: @TheRock “Huge Lions win. On fire. Detroit's a helluva city - kicked ass there many times. Dallas?”
Jimmy Rollins, MLB, Philadelphia Phillies: @JimmyRollins11 “@eackley1023 well I want the niner's to win........ But don't wanna see the eagles blow the lead!! Tuff spot for me”
Herculez Gomez, professional soccer player, Estudiantes Tecos (Mexico) & USA: @herculezg “SF fans, what are the 49ers doing? That was the worst clock management I have ever seen. Wow. #thatjusthappend”
Jose Bautista, MLB, Toronto Blue Jays: @JoeyBats19 “let's go @steelers!! time to go get a W!! #beastmode”
Jonny Flynn, NBA, Houston Rockets: @J_Flynn “Its like Aaron Rodgers is in a video game every Sunday. You see his #’s & make the ‘really’ face”
Brandon Phillips, MLB, Cincinnati Reds: @DatDudeBP "This game is not looking good for the @Bengals but maybe next half will be better... #WhoDey"
Alejandro Bedoya, professional soccer player, Rangers FC (Scotland) & USA: @AleBedoya17 “Sucks to be Miami #Dolphins fan!! On a positive note former #Hurricanes still holding active record streak for a touchdown in NFL,143 weeks”
Calvin Johnson: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Last weekend 12 out of the 16 NFL games were decided by a touchdown or less.
Nine teams won games by overcoming a fourth quarter deficit.
The cliché of “On any given Sunday,” proves so true in the NFL this year. People liked the Bills and Lions to improve this year, but to come into Week 4 both undefeated? What about the Titans leading their division, or the Rams winless and last in theirs?
With that in mind, I think the Seahawks at home with the less-than-stellar quarterback play of Tarvaris Jackson can actually upend the Falcons, a popular preseason pick to make it to the Super Bowl.
Other things to watch this week: Can Michael Vick stay in the game for its duration? Which team will come out on top in the battle of the winless, the Vikings or the Chiefs? Can Chris Johnson pick up the slack and lead the Titans to another victory and keep them atop the AFC South?
Who do you think will win this weekend?
Carolina (1-2) at Chicago (1-2)
Last week the Panthers prevented the Jaguars from making a play in the end zone. While Chicago’s offense has sputtered lately, it’s hard to imagine this happening again.
The Bears O-line needs to step up and Matt Forte needs to get going after a nine-carry, two yard performance last week but the Bears have faced some stiff competition the first three weeks of the season.
The Panthers aren’t close to the level of the Packers, Saints and yes, even the 1-2 Falcons. They could be battle tested and ready to put a beat down of their own on a lesser team.
Buffalo (3-0) at Cincinnati (1-2)
The Bills are the highest scoring team in the league.
The Bengals couldn't even score a touchdown against the 49ers, putting up eight points thanks to a safety.
Tennessee (2-1) at Cleveland (2-1)
The Titans strength has been the passing game. That takes a huge hit with the loss of Kenny Britt.
To say running back Chris Johnson has been underwhelming is an understatement. He has yet to rush for 100 yards total over three games (98). He's going to need to step it up for the Titans offense to be respectable.
For Cleveland, riding a two-game win streak, running back Peyton Hillis returns after missing last week with an illness.
Detroit (3-0) at Dallas (2-1)
Dallas was able to stay in the game last week against Washington thanks to six field goals from kicker Dan Bailey and the defense holding the inept Washington offense to only one touchdown.
Things won’t be as simple against the Lions. Detroit’s offense is much more dynamic and will be tougher to keep pace with.
Also there is Ndamukong Suh, who will be like a shark circling a wounded seal when he goes after Tony Romo. It’ll be hard enough playing straight-up against Suh, but if the Cowboys have more fumbles and miscommunications between center and quarterback it could be a very long day for the Cowboys.
Minnesota (0-3) at Kansas City (0-3)
It's a tough call, but the Vikings are just more dangerous than the Chiefs at the end of the day.
Adrian Peterson is a game changer, while the Chiefs lost their star, Jamaal Charles, to an injury a couple weeks ago.
His first game was bad, but Donovan McNabb has put up respectable numbers the past two games and is still better than Matt Cassel.
The Chiefs have been hit hard by injuries in the early going and just don't have the big play potential that the Vikings have.
Washington (2-1) at St. Louis (0-3)
Rex Grossman has been impressive this year while Sam Bradford has taken a step back but the key in this one will be the running game.
The Rams and Redskins are 11th and 12th in the league in rushing yards per game, respectively. The difference is while the Redskins defense allows just under 100 rushing yards per game (97.7) the Rams are the league’s worst at stopping the run (174.3 yards per game).
Time for Tim Hightower and Roy Helu (5.7 yards per carry) to have a big game, supported by a better passing game than the Rams.
San Francisco (2-1) at Philadelphia (1-2)
Kicker David Akers makes his return to Philadelphia, and he may be the only way the 49ers score any points.
They scored 13 points last week, registering only one touchdown, and are in the bottom five of the NFL in both passing yards per game and rushing yards per game.
The Eagles have struggled in the early going, and Michael Vick has had difficulty staying in games, but expect a long-overdue explosion from this offense, with the team pinpointing the 49ers secondary as the weak link on the field.
New Orleans (2-1) at Jacksonville (1-2)
It's tough to look at anything else beyond Drew Brees vs. Blaine Gabbert.
One leads a high powered offense that makes making big plays look easy.
The other is lucky to put up double digits in points week after week.
New Orleans wins.
Pittsburgh (2-1) at Houston (2-1)
The Texans were challenged last weekend against the Saints and although they didn't win the game they responded well.
It was an entertaining game and the Texans traded shots with the Saints in what was a respectable road loss. If they want to be a legitimate playoff contender this is a game, at home, they have to win.
The Steelers just squeaked by a winless Colts team last weekend (one that the Texans demoralized in Week 1).
While the Pittsburgh defense still stepped up when it was needed most, it showed its age and had difficulty throughout the game and containing third-string quarterback Curtis Painter.
The Texans have a better offense and defense than the Colts and the Steelers have not been sharp in the early going.
New York Giants (2-1) at Arizona (1-2)
To show that this Giants team is still a playoff contender, the team needs to not have a hangover from their big win against the Eagles in Week 3.
Arizona struggled to score points against the Seahawks last week. The Giants will be getting back DE Osi Umenyiora this week, bolstering their usually strong pass rush.
The Giants should also get back leading receiver Hakeem Nicks, making the offense a bit more potent.
New York wins.
Atlanta (1-2) at Seattle (1-2)
The defense for Seattle is playing well enough, but the offense is still having its struggles, as expected. Two things are giving the Seahawks some hope.
Marshawn Lynch had his best game of the season last week, rushing for 73 yards. Atlanta is in the bottom half of the league (20th) in rushing yards allowed per game (112).
To open up lanes for Lynch the passing game desperately needs to improve. They get a big boost from wide receiver Sidney Rice, who played his first game of the year last week and caught eight passes for 109 yards. Atlanta’s pass defense allows 261 yards per game, 22nd in the NFL.
Atlanta has struggled early on this year and the Seahawks play better at home (their lone win so far this year coming in their only home game). With improvements in the offense Seattle can take advantage of a slumping and vulnerable Falcons team.
Denver (1-2) at Green Bay (3-0)
The Packers are rolling. It's hard to imagine that a Denver team that seems to make a lot of crucial mistakes in crunch time could upend such a disciplined and finely tuned machine like Green Bay, on the road nonetheless.
Green Bay wins.
New England (2-1) at Oakland (2-1)
The Raiders looked really good in their home opener against the Jets, dominating their defensive line and keeping the Jets offense in check.
The problem is timing. They face a Patriots team that lost last week. And following a loss the Pats are almost unbeatable, as if to make up for the prior week's stumble. And usually it isn't a close game either.
New England wins.
Miami (0-3) at San Diego (2-1)
The Dolphins' problem is not talent; they have a good amount of players with individual skill.
The issues are poor miscommunication and a failure to execute. Those things suggest that the coaching is subpar. So what do they do at practice?
According to Davone Bess and Reggie Bush, in addition to Chad Henne, Jason Taylor and Yeremiah Bell, the team admittedly doesn't work hard enough on the field nor do they pay attention in team and position meetings. Well then...
Promising rookie running back Daniel Thomas has also been ruled out.
San Diego wins.
New York Jets (2-1) at Baltimore (2-1)
The Jets defense, supposedly their strength, was bullied by the Raiders and their rushing game last week.
Baltimore may not hold the top-ranked rushing attack in the NFL but Ray Rice is considered one of the best backs in the league.
The Ravens have put up 30-points in their two victories. The Jets still struggle on offense and will struggle to keep pace with an improved Baltimore offense, even if they aren't scoring loads of points.
Indianapolis (0-3) at Tampa Bay (2-1)
Indianapolis held its own against the Steelers, especially when Kerry Collins was knocked out of the game with a concussion. So kudos to them.
But now they have to start Curtis Painter. The team didn't have faith in him to start at the beginning of the season. Has anything changed other than the fact that another quarterback ahead of him on the depth chart is hurt?
Meanwhile the Buccaneers did enough to beat the much-hyped Falcons last week, doing something they were unable to last year. Maybe this team really is ready to take the next step.
Tampa Bay wins.
Last Week: 10-6
Marshawn Lynch: AP Photo/ John Froschuer