Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday Night Football Rutgers vs Louisville...Saints vs Falcons

What I Will be watching  this Thursday Night

Rutgers hosts Louisville 7:30

The Big East Showdown, it’s as if whoever scheduled the season saw the future in advance. Rutgers wins they have sole possession of the division championship, if Louisville wins? Well then things get interesting. After an upsetting loss to a Pitt Panther squad that has underachieved all year but is always tough to beat at Heinz field, RU gets a chance to redeem them selves at home against an all to familiar foe. Going all the way back to 1976 in their first meeting, Rutgers leads the all-times series 7-4 and are 4-1 against the Cardinals in Piscataway, so a cake walk should be the furthest of expectations tonight as both teams know what it at stake because the pressure is on! As a New Jersey native it’s no secret who I am rooting for tonight but if Rutgers were to lose and Cincinnati takes down UConn, there will be a four-way tie (Rutgers, Syracuse, Louisville and Cincinnati) for the Big East title giving Louisville the edge for the BCS game due to the tie breakers…with that being said it’s just not going down like that tonight…..RU!......RU!……..RU!…

Keys to the game:  Turnovers- Rutgers must win the turnover battle, I expect it to be a close game so therefore one or two turnovers either way could decide the game. Which means it’s crucial that Nova takes care of the ball.

                               Ball/Clock Possession- Pound the ball Jawan Jamison a back who I believe is one of the best in the country ,eat up of chunks of yards and free up that play action passing game with those big RU receivers.

                               Special Teams- This category should never be forgotten, a punt return, punt block or constantly pinning Louisville deep in their own territory will allow Rutgers to dial up some blitz packages and cause some potential turnovers and keep their offense stagnant.

And finally WHO WANTS IT MORE!?? lets enjoy what we have left of the Big East as a BCS birth is on the line!

Saints at Falcons 8:30 

The 5-6 Saints have been playing playoff football for weeks now after their poor start to the season and a loss tonight against a division rival could just about put the nail in the coffin. The Falcons are a -3 ½ favorite tonight given the fact that they are undefeated at home this season. We must not forget though that single blemish on their record came against this same Saints squad who has seemed to have their number. For some facts, Saints are 4-0 in ATL in the last four meetings so tonight the Falcons will be tested once again. It feels like ATL has been in a game that has come down to the wire in the passed few weeks now, maybe that brings the question of their legitimacy but you can’t deny the fact that they are winning games. With a win tonight ATL would all but sure up a NFC South title. Will the Saints keep their hopes alive tonight? I wouldn’t bet against them, but I’m not a gambling man.

Keys to the Game :     Ground Game- Which team will be able to establish some form of a run game. The Falcons piled up less then 50 yards rushing in the first meeting against the Saints, on the flip side you never know what your going to get out of the Saints backfield, that’s not to say they don’t have the talent at the position. For personal (Fantasy Football) reasons I hope Jacquizz Rodgers has a big game tonight…I’m just saying though..

                                  Red Zone Efficiency: What team will put up touchdowns instead of field goals in the red zone? As Explosive as the Falcons offense has been, this is an area where they tend to struggle at times giving opposing squads a chance to stay in the game, and against an offense like the Saints it’s not a healthy diet to give them too many of those chances off of missed opportunities.

                                   Turnovers/ Special Teams: As I stated before when speaking about the Rutgers Louisville game this is where most games are won and lost, key take a-ways, field possession, someone on one of these units tonight is going to step up and make a game changing play.

One things for sure, the Georgia Dome will be rockin!

Two Great games on Thursday Night Football….Enjoy!...I definitely will..

Thursday, November 8, 2012

AFC South Power Rankings

After years of dominance and 12 win seasons this is no longer a division dominated by the Indianapolis Colts….well as a Indy fan I’ll just say for now…The Houston Texans who were always overlooked like the ugly girl in grade school that everyone either made fun of or ignored, but overtime she started to mature and started getting better looking and better looking until finally few years later we finally noticed her and wait a minute!? She is now strait bangin! and irresistible! That’s why my mom always told me never to be mean to the ugly girls..I listened for the most part... This exact transformation is what has taken place down in Houston. A team that was once at the bottom of this division for years and years is now sitting at the thrown at the top. The Texans are one of the most well rounded squads in the entire NFL top to bottom. Rarely if ever have we seen all four of these AFC South squads competitive for a playoff birth at the same season and this year is certainly no exception, but they have all had their share of ups and downs and to be cut and dry two of them and mainly one in particular are definitely on the downside. As Thursday night football kicks off this week between the Colts and Jaguars who would have thought one of these teams would be in playoff contention before the season started? I must admit, I knew we drafted our QB of the future but I made no bold predictions or any such, well except for betting a friend that we would beat the Jets and I’ve learned to shut my mouth since then. Yet, on the other hand I’m not complaining on how this season is panning out! You could say I’ve taken a gulp of the Luck Cool-Aid, but I’d like to say it I’m sitting back and riding the wave and enjoying the ride as my Colts keep playing inspired ball and getting W’s in the process. Tonight is one of those trap games though as they say, and hopefully the Colts aren’t reading or feeding into all this playoff talk because this would be the perfect time for a 1 win Jaguars team to pull of an upset, especially against a hated rival. I’m excited to watch my guys play tonight on the national spotlight, but as I reiterate, like my mother always said don’t overlook that girl everyone thinks is so ugly because you just might be surprised one day…And to just throw in a quick stat, home teams are 5-1 on Thursday Night Football this season…I’m 
 just sayin…

Here are my Power Rankings for the AFC South :

  1. Houtson Texans (7-1)

Key Additions: ILB Bradie James, DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus

Key Losses: DE Mario Williams, ILB DeMeco Ryans, CB Jason Allen

Theres no real dispute that the Texans are the best team in this division, ranking just outside of the top 10 in total offense and top 5 in total defense this is one of the most well rounded teams in all of football. Defensive MVP candidate and flat out beast J.J Watt on one side of the ball and Arian Foster, Matt Schaub, and Adre Johnson on the other side. I believe the thing to watch for this team is how they perform in big games against a squad who can match up on both sides of the ball, we saw them exposed earlier in the year by the Packers and they have another big one coming up Sunday night against the Bears. After their first playoff birth and victory a season a go I believe a lot of people are waiting to see if the Texans will take the next step and prove they are for real by making a deep run in the playoffs.

  1. Indianapolis Colts (5-3)

Key Additions: CB Vontae Davis, QB Andrew Luck, TE Coby Fleener, TE Dwayne Allen

Key Losses: QB Peyton Manning, TE Jacob Tamme, WR Pierre Garçon, C Jeff Saturday

2 wins a year ago, they release the face of the franchise, new head coach new defensive schemes and after all these changes the Colts have not only doubled their win total from a year ago, they are in playoff contention. Rebuilding? Someone should tell Luck he’s just a rookie, after breaking the single game passing record last week against the Dolphins, Luck has the 4th highest rated QBR in the entire NFL. Let’s add it helps to have the old reliable vet Reggie Wayne as his security blanket as he continues to put up great numbers week in and out. It’s hard for me to keep my bias out of this but as inspired as this team has played for their head coach Chuck Pagano how could you root against them? Avoiding all the outside talk will be key for this year’s team to make a serious playoff run. As long as we can continue to put up points and have Freeny and Mathis closing these games out, it safe to say we definitely have a little more the Luck on our side….corny pun but had to be done.
 A Fellow Colt fan put this on my wall earlier this week..and we might just be talking about them this year

  1. Tennessee Titans (3-6)

Key Additions: LG Steve Hutchinson, DE Kamerion Wimbley, WR Kendall Wright

Key Losses: Cortland Finnegan

The powder blue throwbacks gives the potential of potentially looking like the best in the division but the on the field product is a head scratcher. Second year head coach Mike Munchak doesn’t seem to have the pulse of his team, and lack of talent doesn’t seem to be the central issue. One week they have an impressive win against a Steeler team that is now red hot, and last week they let up 50 plus points to the Chicago Bears in an outright chow down for Jay Cutler and crew. I had to look twice when I saw that final score pop up at the bottom of the screen. CJ 2k has been hot and cold, Kenny Britt has had self inflicted off the field issues and has been plagued with injuries, Jake Locker has dealt with injuries as well. On paper is seems as if this should have been the at worst the second best team in the division coming into the season but that obviously not been the case. Unless they get hot with a late playoff push this is looking like another year the Titans miss the playoffs.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7)

Key Additions: DE Andre Branch, WR Justin Blackmon, WR Laurent Robinson, WR Lee Evans

Key Losses: Not pulling of the trade for Tim Tebow?

A defense that raked 6th a year ago has dipped all the way to 27th, offensively they  rank second lowest in the NFL, the Jaguars look like the team headed for the number 1 pick in next years upcoming draft. This is a team that has lost by a combined score 126 points to just 34 at home. Their best player MJD is out with a sprained foot, Blaine Gabbert’s passer rating improving from 65.4 his rookie season to 78.4 this season but even this has not has not been enough to get this offense clicking in the right direction. They re- loaded with some weapons on the outside but none of these receivers has made a clear impact outside Cecil Shorts who’s had a good game or two. Pass rushers Austen Lane, George Selvie and John Chick have returned to the lineup from injuries in recent weeks improving the defense, but it remains the offense that continues to look like a chicken with its head cut off as they continue to struggle putting up points. With all that being said their sole win this season came against the Colts earlier this season, and like they always say, you don’t win games by just showing up. The Jags are professionals just like everyone else and I think they have the potential to upset a couple more teams this season….possibly 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Orginal "Black Mamba"

The“ Black Mamba” and no I am not talking about Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, I’m talking about arguably one of the most exciting players in all of college football and his name is De’ Anthony Thomas of the #3 ranked Oregon Ducks. What is a “Black Mamba”and whats the significance of this nickname? By definition a black mamba is “A highly venomous, slender, olive-brown to dark gray snake that moves with great speed and agility. Native to eastern and southern Africa, it is the largest poisonous snake on the continent”               

                                                                                                                                                                     A Little Glimpse if you haven't seen him play before...Now back to the story...
                                                                                                                                                                 These characteristics and attributes applied to Thomas his entire life, a native of Crenshaw California Thomas used his mental and physical abilities to stray away from the temptations of the gang affiliated area where he was raised. At the age of 12 Thomas played for the Crenshaw Bears in Snoop Dogg’s youth football league, it was there where it was said the story of the “Black Mamba” begun. A human joystick zig zagging through defenders, breaking ankles whit his peers seeming to have an ice cubes chance in a sauna to bring him down or even contain him. The D O double G aka Snoop Dogg credits himself for giving him the nickname while announcing one of his games but Sports Illustrated reported that is was actually another coach in the league who originally anointed him the “Black Mamba”. I would tend to believe it was the quick witted rapper who came up with the name but that’s another argument. Thomas actually prefers it spelled “Momba” which is the solo difference between him and Bryant’s spelling of the nickname. Nevertheless, both of these athletes are game breakers and game changers, and even though Thomas received the name first, I don’t think he has a problem sharing it with one of the greatest athlete’s in his own respective sport. Standing merely 5’9 and 175lbs soaking wet Thomas is a threat to strike and go the distance each and every time he touches the ball. With his fastest 40 time being clocked at a 4.2,5 his lightning speed and ability lead him to being the number 1 recruit in the class of 2011, a year where he led Crenshaw High to its second of consecutive city championships. At the next level there hasn’t been a drop off, since he chose to attend the University of Oregon over the closer to hometown USC. Think about these stats for a second, as a true freshman at Oregon he racked up 2,235 all-purpose yards, if that isn’t eye popping he added 18 touchdowns which set the school record for the number of touchdowns by a true freshman. For a kid in his first year with all the hype and expectations to have an impact right out the gate with the number of options Oregon has at its disposal year in and out is needless to say, impressive. In a recent interview on ESPN Thomas considers his role with the Ducks similar to the NBA’s James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder, a 6th man who comes off the bench to provide a spark, and more times then not that spark leads to an outright fire that the defense can’t put out. Thomas who you will not see on the field every snap has a role which would very accurately be defined as such a comparison, a spark in the offense who takes advantage of his opportunities, and boy does he. Oregon takes on Pac-12 rival Arizona St. who is also undefeated in the conference at 3-0 and 6-1 overall. Oregon has had their number as of recent but they may pose some challenges for the Ducks as they have proven to be solid and maybe somewhat underrated on both sides of the ball in the early season, if not for their one loss coming in a close game against Missouri. Will this be an early statement game in the Pac-12 where the Ducks prove are fore real? Or will this be that one trap game which cut short another perfect season for the team with the best uniforms in all of college football. I will tell you one thing when #6 is on the field, make sure you don’t blink because you might miss the “Black Momba” strike. 

 Enjoy some more highlights #3 Oregon vs Arizona St. 9:00 pm ESPN



Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Inspiration" Indy wins one for Chuck

"Don't think you're not here." Was the text message sent from interim head coach Bruce Arians to Coach Pagano before the Colts took the field against the Packers Sunday afternoon.Head coach Chuck Pagano who we know by now was diagnosed with a treatable form of Leukemia and will not be with the team and remain in the hospital for at least six weeks, even after there are still questions as to if he will be able to resume his head coaching duties this season. Emotions were high at Lucas Oil stadium with players and coaches of both teams wearing shirts reading “ChuckStrong” recognizing and supporting the cause of Indy’s ailing head coach. A new look Colts team at that, 1-2 before Sunday with uncertainty in the present for sure but a promising future with number one overall pick Andrew Luck as the new field general and the face of the franchise. But on this Sunday with the pretentious powerhouse Green Bay Packers in town what were the realistic expectations to have for this game? As a Colts fan since they had Edgerrin James at running back I was eager for a positive outcome but I’d be blowing smoke if I told you I had any insinuation of what was yet to come. No clue these group of men would rally and fight in honor of a man who was only three games into his first head coaching gig. With his presence felt throughout the stadium, it's maybe by coincidence or request to think he is sitting in a hospital bed which is only two miles away. But even in that passion filled stadium at halftime the score read Packers 21-3 with the game seemingly headed towards a blow out. Let’s rewind for a second though, who is this Chuck Pagano guy? I’ll give you some quick history, his coaching career started in 1984 as a graduate assistant at USC, with a unwavering passion for coaching it lead him to a few other stops in the college ranks even the former powerhouse Miami aka “The U” from1995-2000 where he coached special teams and the defensive backs, there he also recruited a young receiver by the name of Reggie Wayne. Pagano finally got his break in the NFL in 2001 coaching for the Browns, Raiders secondary and his last stop in Baltimore as the defensive coordinator before he received the head coaching call from the Colts. Pagano’s coaching journey is one that would be defined by the patience climbing the ladder of progression. A model of consistency and hard work is what comes up when Pagano’s name is brought up around the league. So I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise when I read In a column on by Peter King where he stated “All week, even though Pagano was supposed to be in his second week of an arduous chemotherapy regimen to attempt to blast the leukemia out of his bloodstream, his mind was with his team. Every day he'd watch the practice tape sent to his iPad, sending out suggestions to individual coaches”. A man fighting a battle with his health and lively hood that still has the passion to contribute to what he loves to do, coach football. And with one final message sent to his team before the game inn a power point e-mail his only request for his guys not to be worried about him but to focus on being .500 by the time 4:30 came games end. It took them a half to settle down but they sure did deliver on that message as they turned a 17 point halftime deficit into a 30-27 victory in a one of the most inspirational TEAM performances I’ve seen. Sack after sack of the reigning MVP, every catch by Reggie Wayne in traffic seeming to more grueling then the next, especially game winner where was able to stretch the ball out for the touchdown with defenders draped all over him. In his 12 year of his career, 10 playing with the great Peyton Manning, Wayne has a career day of 212 yards catching passes from a rookie quarterback? Nevertheless it was a stimulating performance inspired by the man who believed in a high school kid from New Orleans and recruited him to “The U”and the rest is now history...4th quater...The clock winding...the Packer get into field goal range for one last play.... With maybe a little help from the man upstairs the Packers line up for a game tying kick from the sure footed Mason Crosby ... a knot in the chest of all Colt faithfuls .….wide left!......the stadium erupts! ….a kneel down by Luck….the Colts win one for Chuck. What a game, what a win, and it's only right who received the game ball...

Determination can produce what seems like miracles. But maybe it's about the effort we put forth to be apart of something bigger then ourselves when we are rewarded. 

This post is not just about Chuck Pagano, its about anyone that you know who is going through a battle with cancer. For the strength they need to get through it, we as loved ones must continue to let them know they are not alone in this battle.Cancer may have started the fight, but through constant love, faith, payer and family we are more then equipped to punch back! Giving up will never be considered an option. Through every dark avenue, that light, that victory is right around the corner!

                                                     Dedicated to my brother Tracey Hudson

Thursday, October 4, 2012

NFC West Power Rankings

Coming into the 2012 season it was well known that the 49ers are top dogs in the NFC West. After 4 games into the year season, all viewers outside of the Seahawk, Cardinal and Ram Faithfull’s of course, have been front row and center to the surprise divisions in the entire NFL. The Cardinals 4-0? The Seahawks and Rams both at 2-2 with quality wins? It hard to tell if it's just early season success, help from the replacement officials or maybe this is now a division that is not a doormat to the 9ers. As of right now I would compare the NFC West as a whole to a Nikki Minaj hairstyle, you just don’t know what’s real it looks funky but  some how it ends up working out in its own kind of weird unique way, take the Seahawks uniforms for example.. although I am personally a fan. One thing we must take serious, is the fact that these teams have made it a point to improve their defenses. In a copy cat league and with a blueprint from San Fran all four teams rank top 15 in the league in total defense and although still early that is one way you continue to keep yourself in football games. Offensively the 9ers are the most well rounded but each team has their own identity whether it is on the ground with Steven Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore or in the air with Larry Fitzgerald. The NFC West features a Rookie qb, a former backup, and two former number one overall picks as the men under center and not one of them are deemed to be elite as of yet. We are far removed from the high powered St. Louis Rams of the early 00’s and the 9ers of the late 80’s early 90’s that won Super-Bowls with great offenses. Or even more recently unpredictable Cardinals and Seahawks teams that represented the NFC in the Super Bowl within the last 10 seasons. This is a new look division with head coaches that have focused on a more well rounded approaches. Will this be the year we see more then one team from the NFC West enter the playoffs? Will the 9ers who were a fumble lost away from going to the Super Bowl get their chance once again?  I believe it’s a general consensus that the 9ers are legit, but we’ll have to wait and see if that stands true for the rest of the division. One things for sure, I will be tuned in tonight for an important early season division showdown between the Rams and the Cardinals. This should be 5-0 start for the birds out in Arizona right?

Here are my Power Rankings for the NFC West:

San Francisco 49ers: Last Season (13-3) -2012 (3-1)

Key Losses: WR Joshua Morgan

Key Additions: WR Randy Moss, WR Mario Manningham, WR A.J. Jenkins, RB LaMichael James, RB Brandon Jacobs

A team with the best defense in the NFL as well as arguably the best balance overall. The 9ers are expected to win this division and are expected to return back to the playoffs for another run at the Super Bowl. We saw this team go through an early blip in the schedule after loosing to the Vikings who have seemed to do that to a few teams already to come back a week later to embarrass the Jets 34-0 on the road. Jim Harbaugh has changed the mentality of this 9ers team, he has given Alex Smith a new found confidence to lead and win games. We see one of the best ground attacks in the league with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter who has emerged as an explosive backup. We’ve also seen a wrinkle of the wildcat with second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick proving to be another explosive weapon which opposing defenses will have to prepare for. To add they have future Hall Of Famer Randy Moss patiently waiting to make his impact in the red zone which was the one area as well as 3rd down conversion percentage where the offense seemed to stall last season. So I will chalk that Vikings loss to one they were caught sleeping, the 9ers are legit and this is their division to lose. And a scary thought it the fact that the more efficient that offense gets?? Watch Out.

2. Arizona Cardinals Last Season (8-8) 2012- (4-0)

Key Losses: CB Richard Marshall

Key Additions: WR Michael Floyd, CB William Gay

Kevin Kolb or John Skelton, the Cardinals were the last team to announce their starting quarterback coming into the season and we all sat back thought it’s the Cardinals who cares??!.. right?.. Well they had us all fooled, dating back to last season Arizona has won 8 strait at home and 11 out of their last 13 games. Those type of numbers don’t happen by accident. With the emergence of young players RB Ryan Williams 3rd year wide out Andre Roberts on offense, and on the defensive side CB Patrick Peterson and 3rd year linebacker Daryl Washington who leads the team in tackles, the Cardinals early success can be attributed to consistent play, mainly on defense as well as late game composure from Kolb. I mentioned the young guys but Safeties Adrain Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, DT Darnell Docket are still playing at a high level. Arizona has guys stepping up by committee on the other side of the ball, and lets not forget they still have a top three wide-out in the game in all-pro Larry Fitzgerald. Wins against the Patriots and Eagles two teams we mostly see as playoff contenders coming into the season, the Cardinals are a team you must bring you’re A game against. I did not rank them 1st in the division because they still have to go through the 9ers who won this division a year ago as well as barley escaping a near scare against the Dolphins last week which I believe brought them back down to earth. They’ve found a way to get it done thus far and I am curious to see how legit they are as the season continues.

3. St. Louis Rams Last Season (2-14) 2012- (2-2)

Key Losses: WR Brandon Lloyd

Key Additions: CB Cortland Finnegan, DT Michael Brockers, WR Brian Quick, CB Janoris Jenkins, RB Isaiah Pead, WR Chris Givens, CB Janoris Jenkins, Head Coach Jeff Fisher

Kurt Warner, Issac Bruce and Marshal Faulk aren’t walking out the tunnel anytime soon, this is a different looking Rams Squad. They now have the head coach from the opposing team of their one Super Bowl victory in recent history, who is already changing the identity of this 2 win squad fro a year ago. Well they have as many wins as a year ago so far so there goes one accomplishment in itself. Joking aside with the few additions they made to the defensive side of the ball, mainly CB’s Cortland Finnegan and rookie Janoris Jenkins this has become a scrappy unit that’s is ranked top 15 in total defense. LB James Laurinaitis has continued to come into his own as the leader of that defense now in his 4th year out of Ohio St as he leads the team in tackles. Offensively is where this team needs to pick it up, former number 1 overall pick Sam Bradford has played solid but has yet to live up to the hype of his draft stock. This could be a result of the lack of weapons he has around him so I don’t give him all the blame. 5’11 3rd year receiver Danny Amendola has emerged as the teams leading receiver and Sam’s go to target, other then Brandon Gibson there fails to be another wide out with over 10 catches on the year. Relying on the run game with all-pro running back Steven Jackson is a must but on the down side is his health remains to be an issue. We will see who if anyone steps up for this offense as this remains to be a team that will rely on their defense and special teams.

4. Seattle Seahawks Last Season (7-9) 2012 (2-2)

Key Losses : MLB David Hawthorne

Key Additions: QB Russell Wilson, QB Matt Flynn, DE Bruce Irvin

I rank the Seahawks last in the division for now due the fact of the controversial “Touchercption” against the Packers and last weeks loss to in division Rams. But on the positive side this Seattle team has one of the best overall defenses from top t bottom in early season play. We saw the 8 first half sack performance and explosive D-Line play from Chis Clemons and rookie Bruce Irvin against Aaron Rogers. We continue to see one of the best secondary groups in all of football with Safeties Cam Chanecllor, Earl Thomas ,Corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. The problem is clearly not on the defensive side of the ball. The problem is they have a rookie quarterback who although shows a lot of promise has not passed for over 160 yards in a game yet. And in a passing league this is a problem which needs to be fixed in order for the Seahawks to take the next step. They seem to have the names to be more potent in that facet with names like Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Braylon Edwards or even a Doug Baldwin who has not been fully healthy but came on strong in the 2nd half of the season last year as a rookie. This is another team who like the Rams must rely on their all-pro running back, and although Marshawn Lynch embraces his role to the fullest, defenses know what to expect as well. If they some how can find a way to put up points with that defense this is a team that will challenge for years to come in the NFC West, but as it stand now they don’t have the cohesion on offense to get it done, this is why they are currently in last place.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Inspiration" Two Men with Heavy Hearts

Before I get back to my power rankings, this week I chose to switch it up and write something about two football players’, two men who rose above tremendous adversity in their lives and were able to come out and put up colossal performances to contribute to their teams’ success. I call this piece “Inspiration” because that it the first word that comes to mind when I think about what these guys were able to accomplish while dealing with personal tragedies. The strength the courage to go out there and get it done showed remarkable heart and character. As you may see some of these words repeated, it is only to emphasize their importance:

Manti Te’o #5 Notre Dame:

All American senior linebacker and team captain Manti Te’o is widely regarded as not only as leader of this Notre Dame squad but one of the best linebackers to play in school history. A Sure first round pick in next years draft Te’o draws comparisons to the late Junior Seau. The Hawaiian native posses heart, passion, focus and execution, all the attributes that you would want in your leader and star linebacker. With his motor and drive never in question Two weeks ago Te’o would take an unforgettable detour in his life as Notre Dame faced then ranked a #10 Mich St. team. Earlier in the week leading up to the game Te’o lost his grandmother and his girlfriend within 48 hours of each other. This obviously taking a huge toll on him but never the less he decided to go out and play. With the emotion all over his face throughout the game Te’o went out there and had 12 tackles holding standout running back Le’Veon Bell and the high powered Spartan ground game scoreless. Manti followed that up with another standout and fired up performance recording 8 tackles and 2 interceptions shutting down Denard Robinson and the Michigan Wolverines. Te’o has lead the Fighting Irish defense to holding opposing offenses to a 4th in the Nation in points against allowing just 9.0 ppg. Notre Dame is 4-0 and currently ranked 10th in the country.

Torrey Smith #82 Baltimore Ravens:

Second year wide out Torrey Smith came on the scene out of the blue as a blessing in disguise for the Ravens offense a season ago, giving them the explosive deep threat that offence has lacked for years. Getting off to a sluggish start this season with just over 100 yards combined in the first two games, Torrey was looking to have a big game on Sunday night against the New England Patriots, the team that served as their road block enroot to the Super Bowl just a year ago. Unfortunately, Smith would be hit with a devastating curveball when he learned just 24 hours before kickoff his 19 year old brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. Barley sleeping the night prior Smith decided to suit up for the game. With visible raw emotion before during and after the game Torrey delivered one of his finest and definitely most memorable game as a Raven posting 6 catches for 127 yards and touchdowns in a game that went all the way down to the final seconds in a thrilling victory for the Ravens. Baltimore is now 2-1 and sit at the top of the AFC North.

These two guys showed that football to them is more then just a game. It’s a family away from their own family. It’s an outlet in which they were and are able to honor their names as well as the ones they lost more significantly. Both of these guys were courageous examples of how to carry yourself with class and dignity when life gets in the way. We all have our daily diatribes and mishaps which seem to get us down or out of character, myself included but we all need to look deep in the mirror as to what’s really important. The message I received by these guys simply going out to play the game of football was not only a testament to their characters but an inspiration to many people and sports fans around the country. We come to learn that life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass but instead bringing out those dancing shoes and doing our own two step in the rain. As the little things may get to us, regardless of your own personal faith, the connection we share with family and loved ones are paramount and we must cherish the time we have with them. So my condolences go out to Manti Te’o and Torrey Smith and their families and I also salute them for going out there and balling out! Not everyone possesses the will power to have gone out there and performed at a high level no matter what your profession. These are two special men and I’m sure we will see continued success.

"Pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly ... and if left unresolved for very long, you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place"
-William P. Young

" Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have - life itself."

-Walter Anderson 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What I learned from MNF and AFC WEST PR

A couple nights ago on Monday night football we all were eyewitnesses to my main man Peyton Manning and the Bronco offense struggle in a loss to the Falcons. After an impressive week 1 victory against the Steelers, without a doubt I was pumped to see Peyton back on the field first and foremost and the ability to early success with the victory. We saw vintage Manning, we saw the pre-snap adjustments dissecting the chess match with Polamalu and the Steeler D, we saw a team that looked like a force to be reckoned with in the AFC.  On the other hand their were a couple of caution signs that came up in my mind before I was to caught up in the moment and join the consensus that HE’s BACK. As a Colt fan since grade school I spent many years praising and in awe of #18 but now it’s time for me to be analytical and tad bit little critical, here’s why; before the game Jon Gruden continued to remind us that during his conversations Peyton himself said his health as well as the cohesion with the offense was still a work in progress. We must remember this is a new system for him under Mike McCoy which he is still learning as well as implementing a lot of things we are accustom to seeing from his days as a Colt. With that being said 100% of the fault does not fall on #18’s shoulders, this guy is a football genius as we all should know and the offensive line, backs and receivers have a lot to take in to be on the same page with Peyton.  Also, referring back to that week 1 win, I didn’t see too many big plays down the field which lets me know he’s still building the strength to have the mustard needed to “consistently” throw the ball down field. Now getting to the MNF game against the Falcons, they were playing on the road vs. a fast and hot Falcons team and defense in particular that walked through the Kansas City Chiefs a week prior in impressive fashion. Early we saw the defensive backs from ATL disguising coverage’s and flying around the field making plays all game but mainly in that first quarter where they picked off Manning 3 times. I saw a couple of passes float in the air which needed to be on “a rope” to his receivers eluting back to the arm strength or lack there of. On the positive side, I also saw Peyton lead that team to within a touchdown from coming back to win that game. His arm strength improved as the game went for example  on a deep post he threw to Eric Decker which was dropped late in the game. So my level of concern for this team is at about 4 out of 10. This is the rust he needs to get out of his system. The more games Peyton gets under his belt, the more throws, the more in sync we will see that offense and as a result, this will be more like that dangerous team we saw week one with the big splash plays down field in addition. After coming off 4 neck surgeries I’d say he’s pretty darn close to being at the MVP caliber level we are used to seeing. As many have broken down and dissected this week 2 loss, no one is more critical of his game then Peyton himself, so I know for a fact he is in the film room correcting those mistakes and continuing to rehab as we speak. No need to panic Bronco fans. P.S you guys have my quarterback so I am definitely on the bandwagon.

Here are my Power Rankings for the AFC West:

  1. Denver Broncos Last Season (8-8)

Key Losses: DT Brodrick Bunkley, WR Eddie Royal, QB Tim Tebow

Key Additions: QB Peyton Manning, TE Jacob Tamme, WR Andre Caldwell, CB Tracy Porter

Exit Tim Tebow, enter Peyton Manning the 2012 Broncos have a HOF quarterback now under center. I’ve already broken down my thoughts on the early 1-1 start to the season and I still have them at the top of the division. This is a team that will only get better from week to week. The balance of run and pass is present as RB McGahee continues to prove he still has some juice left in the tank. On the other side of the ball you still have pro-bowlers Champ Bailey, Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller leading the defense that is getting stops when needed. It’s early to say how good this team could or will be and I'll try to keep my bias out the equation by saying we will have to wait and see, but as for now they are the team to beat in the AFC West. 

  1. San Diego Chargers Last Season (8-8)

Key Losses: WR Vincent Jackson, RB Mike Tolbert.

Key Additions: OLB Jarret Johnson, OLB Melvin Ingram, WR Robert Meachem, WR Eddie Royal, FB LeRon McClain

Year in and out we don’t know what to expect from this Chargers squad..... well, aside from the fact that head coach Norv Turner will be on the hot seat. They have their all pro quarterback in Philip Rivers. They had a defense which ranked middle of the pack last season but is more then capable of being a top 5 defense which it has done by getting off on the right track this season. Despite the usual slow start they’re 2-0, but wins over the Raiders and Titans don’t necessarily put them at the top of the division just yet. With injuries to key players TE Antonio Gates and RB Ryan Mathews as well as hits to the offense and defensive line it’s yet to be seen what they will look like once they are tested by a formidable opponent. As well as how soon or long it will take for these players to return to the lineup. Also it has yet to be seen who will step up and fill the shoes of Vincent Jackson who is now with the Tampa Bay Bucs. Meachum and Royal only have a combined 6 catches between them after the first two games of the season. Others have stepped up though prime example backup tight end Dante Rosario who caught three touchdown passes last week vs the Titans. All in all, the Chargers have found away to get it done thus far, lets see if the trend continues.

¾. Kasas City Chiefs Last Season (7-9)

Key Losses: CB Brandon Carr

Key Additions: RB Peyton Hillis, CB Stanford Routt, RT Eric Winston

Before I get into the expectations for the Chiefs I ranked them as interchangeable between the 3 and the 4 spot with the Raiders because it’s a toss up as to who has had a worse start as both look to try and avoid going 0-3. I give the Chiefs a slight nudge over the Raiders because they seem to have more pieces but back to what I just said "slight nudge". There is still a questions mark after Matt Cassels' name as if he is the quarterback to lead this team. There is also a questions mark after Romeo Crennels’ name because they are not sold  if he is the head coach for the job to lead this team back to the playoffs. They still have weapons at the skill positions with Jamall Charles and Peyton Hillis putting up 151 yards pg. on the ground thus far. Dwayne Bowe continues to be Cassels’ security blanket but there hasn’t been a solid second option to step up. Defensively this team is lacking the ability to have what it takes to get opposing offenses off the field or even provide some type of speed bump. And After loss to the Buffalo Bills it doesn't seem as if things will get any better. This team seems to lack a leader on the field and until some type of unity is formed or some one steps up I believe they will continue to struggle. As they face off against another 0-2 opponent against the Saints this Sunday we will see how desperate they are for a win.

¾ Oakland Raiders Last Season (8-8)

Key Losses: DE Kamerion Wimbley, CB Stanford Routt, RB Michael Bush

Key Additions: OG Mike Brisiel, OG Tony Bergstrom, RB Mike Goodson, CB Ronald Bartell, WR Juron Criner

This team has one of the most explosive backs in the league in Darren McFadden but you can’t run the ball if people don’t respect the pass or even have the ability to open up holes. They sit dead last in the league in the run category. As they recently switched to a zone blocking scheme in the off season, it has yet to pan out for a team that relies so much on their ground game. Carson Palmer hasn’t looked all that impressive as well as he has vowed before the season to shrug the doubters that say is no longer an elite quarterback. On the other side of the ball they have been struggling heavily with stopping the run ranking 29th in the league in that category. Rolando McClain has not stepped up thus far ranking 7th on the team in total tackles as their feature middle linebacker. After an embarrassing season opener against the Chargers where they had trouble between the punter and long snapper exchange to last week getting ran all over by Reggie Bush and the Miami Dolphins. I believe it once again come down to leadership, who will step up for this team and say enough is enough? This is definitely not the start the Raiders hoped to get off to and it’s not going to get any easier as they face the Steelers this week.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

NFC North

Week 2 continues tonight with two franchises that have the longest history as rivals dating back to November 27, 1921 which the Bears won 20-0. It’s Bears versus the Packers, its Thursday night football. Let me take a few line and go back in time on the history of this rivalry, a history of hard nose, cold, bloody smash mouth football. A history that has produced 5 Super Bowls combined as well as 48 members of the Hall of fame. Names like Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, George Blanda, Mike Ditka, Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, Earl L. Lambeau, Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Jim Ringo, Reggie White. Some of the most iconic names to ever grace a football field were products of this rivalry and still remain today ( The Lombardi trophy, Lambeau field), and that’s no disrespect to the few that I left out  ThisA historic rivalry also handed out the NFL’s first official ejection because the Bears Frank Hanny and Packer Walter Voss were in heated exchange of words which lead to hay makers being thrown. That’s what happens when these teams get together a fight to the end even if it has been one sided in the score board at times. These two teams have met 184 times with the Bears having a slight advantage in wins with 92 to the Packers 86 and 6 ties between the two. Let’s fast forward to tonight and recent history. The Packers have had Chicago’s number in recent history Winning 6 of the last 7 meetings dating back to 2009 including the last 4 straight. With that being said on the flip side Cutler has not faired well against these Packers throwing more interceptions then touchdowns with a 1-5 record since putting on a Bears uniform. None the less, these are two teams striving to Super Bowl stature and both knowing they must go through each other in order to accomplish that. It’s only week 2 but the intensity will be high at Lambeau Field, lets sit back and enjoy this one, its Thursday night football! 
Haha, funny pic but all jokes aside theres nothing funny about the way Clay Mathews plays the game of football, here are my power rankings for the NFC North.

  1. Greenbay Packers (Last Season 15-1)

Key Losses: LT Chad Clifton, S Nick Collins, RB Ryan Grant, QB Matt Flynn

Key Additions: OLB Nick Perry, C Jeff Saturday

Blazing through the regular season everyone outside of New York and maybe San Fran respectively believed the Packers were on their way to their second strait title or at least Super Bow appearance. Lead by NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers who led the NFL in passing with a 122.5 rating, posting 45 touchdown passes to only six interceptions and a 68.3 completion percentage and 85.2 QBR which also lead the league. Was it there 32nd ranking in total defense that finally showed it’s true colors? Soar and sensitive subject but was it the mourning of their former coach Joe Philbins son which took away from the focus needed to play? That would be understandable of course, but the Packers sure didn’t seem to give the Giants much credit after that game saying that “they beat themselves” on that day. What ever the reason was the fact is they lost in their playoff opener and were eliminated last season. Now this year they start the season with a loss to the 49ers in a game where San Fran controlled the game from beginning to end. Defensively the Packers looked confused on plays, hinting to Randy Moss’s wide open touchdown, Frank Gore was Frank Gore and Alex Smith looked like a pro bowl quarterback. Defensively the still have issues outside from the talent they perceive to have on paper and although on he other end they still posses that explosive passing attack they have yet to establish a running game. It’s def a cause for concern but a time to hit the panic button, at least not yet. Tonight will be another early test.
Chicago Bears (Last Season 8-8)

Key Losses: Johnny Knox (spinal injury P.U.P List)

Key Additions: WR Brandon Marshall, DE Shea McLellin, WR Alshon Jeffery, RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Cambell

There’s a reason why I ranked the Bears higher then the Lions in this division and it’s not because opened the season although impressively it was against a rookie quarterback, but I will get into that when I discuss them. At 7-3 the Bears looked as if they were destined for a playoff birth before Jay Cutler went down for the season. Caleb simply could not shoulder the load as the Bears went on to lose 5 of the last 6 missing the playoffs not to mention leading rusher Matt Forte going down with a knee injury in the process. With no stats or numbers needed to be provided it has been well known that the Bears have been known for their defense over the years with an offense that has been below average to put it nicely. Their last 1,000 yard receiver was in Marty Booker in 2002 and their leading receivers for the passed 4 seasons have been Devin Hester and Johnny Knox both explosive players but not receivers that should be relied upon as primary options. Well Bear fans, I believe that is all about to change due to the acquisition of Pro Bowler Brandon Mashall and rookie Alshon Jeffery. And we all know about the previous history between Cutler and Marshall back in Denver who seemed to pick up right where they left off as Marshall went over 100 yards with a touchdown. Also adding power back Michael Bush whether Forte like it or not will take away touches but will also take away hits from their star running back and provide a down hill goal line option. Maybe for once we will be talking about the Bears offense instead of the defense? Its premature to say for certain but as long as health is not an issue I think this Chicago Bears squad is for real.

3. Detroit Lions (Last Season 10-6)

Key Losses: CB Eric Wright

Key Additions: OT Riley Reiff, WR Ryan Broyles, CB Dwight Bentley

Ok now to attempt to dissect the highly talented Detroit Lions who made the playoffs a year ago. Why do I have them ranked behind the Bars you ask? Well….its the “Madden curse” of course for Calvin Johnson. Alright, alright jokes aside from Megatron and Stafford passing for over 5,000 yards in only his third year, this team simple has not shown the maturity to be consistent. Lions already cut CB Eric Berry for off the field issues, defensive tackle Nick Fairley and running back Mikel Leshoure who are both supposed to be major contributors both remain suspended for the field issues. Ndamukong Suh has been on good behavior since his infamous stomping against the Packers last season but who knows if an issue will resurface, I would hope not. Don’t get me wrong this team still has the pieces to compete with each team in this division but I believe a key factor will be will they grow up as a unit and reach that potential that is right around the corner for them. Because just as many steps as they took forward last season a few more of these issues could put them right back out of the playoffs. All though it came down to a last second drive, they are off to the right start and in the win column after week 1.

4. Minnesota Vikings (Last Season 3-13)

Key Losses: None

Key Additions: LT Matt Kalil, WR Jerome Simpson, WR Greg Childs, WR Jarius Wright

Good news: Vikings are 1-0 and Adrian Peterson is healthy scoring two touchdowns in the process Bad New: They beat the Jacksonville Jaguars who were just as bad as they were a year ago, but I guess u start somewhere. Ranking 18th in total offense a year ago and 21st in total defense major improvements are needed on both sides of the ball if this team has hopes to return to playoff contention. It seems like just the other day Brett Favre lead this team to the NFC championship game, boy how times have changed in Minnesota. And I believe the jury is still out on second year quarterback Chris Ponder who took over the starting job in relief of the failures of veteran quarterback Donovan Mcnabb. With limited weapons I continue for it to be a growing process for him as they look to build for the future. But with AP on your roaster how long before he starts getting ancy for a championship caliber team which I am positive he craves. As it stands now this a team which still has some talent with the back flips from Jerome Simpson, the runs from AP and the big play ability of Percy Harvin to make Sports Center top 10 highlights. Sorry to sayt, this is not a playoff team and remains a work in progress.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots (Last season 13-3)

Key Losses: DE Andre Carter, DE Shaun Ellis, DE Mark Anderson, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB Kevin Faulk

Key Additions: WR Brandon Lloyd, WR Jabar Gaffney, DE Chandler Jones, LB Dont’a Hightower, DE Jonathan Fanene, S Steve Gregory, CB Alfonzo Dennard, Jeff Demps RB

The Patriots remain the class of the AFC east, after a super bowl loss to the Giants it’s back to the drawing board for them. Although I wish I could there is not much I can say to dispute the fact that this is one of the best teams in the AFC let alone the AFC East. But if there is anything I could nit pick, we did see first hand the blueprint for success against the Pats is to get constant pressure on Tom Brady, hence the fact that they need better cohesion out of their offensive line group. This is definitely a focus coming into the 2012 season as well as making major improvements in a 31stranking in total defense from a year ago. They have addressed some of these areas through the draft as well as reloaded on the offensive side in free-agency acquiring Brandon Lloyd and Olympian track runner Jeff Demps for example . The 2012 Pats will be ready for another long run into the playoffs, as long as #12 stays upright and healthy and they have Bill Belichick at the head of their franchise.

  1. New York Jets (Last Season 8-8)

Key Losses: LaDainian Tomlinson (retired), Plaxico Burres (free agent)

Key Additions:  DE Quiton Coples, WR Stephen Hill, S LaRon Landry, Tim Tebow.

A disappointing season for Rex Ryans’ Jets last season after failing to make the playoffs. A change is necessary and Ryan has vowed to tone down the predictions and simply get back to coaching his guys up, not to mention loosing an impressive 100 lbs himself. But Ryan isn’t the only one coming into the season with a new look, the Jets found a way to be the talk of the city once again by trading for QB Tebow to stir up a necessary fire inside starting quarterback Mark Sanchez who’s numbers dropped last season. How will a two quarterback system work? The addition of offensive coordinator Tony Sparano is the answer to this question. Taking the league by storm in 2008 while running the “wildcat” offense in Miami, Sparano will look to implement Tim Tebow in that role to add to a vanilla Jets offense which struggled mainly in the red-zone last season. At first it seemed as is this was a failed experiment not scoring an offensive touchdown until the final game of the pre-season.. But suprise! suprise!the Jets explosion of 48 points against the Buffalo Bills, I guess they had us all fooled all along. And we must not forget the Jets still have a top 5 ranking defense with Derelle Revis and company did not fail to impress. If the Jets continue to put touchdowns on the board in the red-zone and play with early leads their defense should and is more then capable of holding up their end, which as a result I believe would make them a dangerous squad and a playoff contender once again.

  1. Buffalo Bills ( Last Season 6-10)

Key Losses: LT Demetress Bell

Key Additions : DE Mario Williams, CB Stephon Gilmore, DE Mark Anderson, OT Cordy Glenn

Coming off a week 1 loss where they let up 48 points in a loss to the Jets I was tempted to place the Bills 4th in the division.  This is a two faced Bills team which is hard to understand. Stemming back to last season, they start off 5-2 with Fitzpatrick posting a passer rating of 97.8 and the team looks a if they are playoff bound. Only to go 1-8 in the final 9 games of the season to finish 6-10. With the big free agent splash signing of Mario Williams , selecting Gilmore in the draft and Mark Anderson from the Patriots this was supposed to be the makings of a new and improved defense which ranked 26th in total defense a year ago. But after a sub par week 1 performance Bills fans are left with a bad taste in their mouth of "these are the same old Bills" once again. Offensively this season starting off with Fred Jackson going down seemed to be salt in the wound, as well as getting down  on the scoreboard early forced them to play right into the Jets pass defense. Just maybe we can chalk that one up as a bad game. This team still posses some explosive weapons on offense with Stevie Johnson who is still returning to top form coming off of off season groin surgery and the emergence of CJ Spiller. A sigh of relief with Fred Jackson returns from what seemed to be a season ending injury they should have a foritable dynamic duo in the back field. I believe the Buffalo Bills will be more competitive then they showed week 1 but unfortunately will be on the outside looking in when it comes playoff time. Lets just hope we see some consistency out of these Bills.

  1. Miami Dolphins Last Season (4-9)

Key Losses: Chad Johnson/ Ochocinco whaterver you want to call him, Vontae Davis (traded to the Colts)

Key Additions : QB Ryan Tannehill, RT Jonathan Martin, CB Richard Marshall

Dolphins finished 4th in the division last season so why should Dolphins keep their heads up you ask? Ryan Tannehill is my answer, in a quarterback driven league I believe the Dolphins made the right choice in selecting this young man and promoting him to their starting quarterback. One immediate issue that comes to mind are his passes that are batted down at the line of scrimmage which was an issue stemming from college and were on display week 1 vs the Texans. At 6’5 220lbs this guy is the prototypical quarterback and can make all the throws so this is an area though where he should be able to improve, especially with more experience and eventually when they get more pieces around him. On a side not, I lost interest in the HBO series “HardKnocks once Ochocinco was released by the team, needless to be said his personality/antics  made the show. In addition to releasing Ocho the Dolphins also traded their #1 corner Vontae Davis to the Colts for draft picks. Looking back on the aftermath on the surface this decisions may seem detrimental to the overall talent of the team but  it is clear cut the that their is a new sheriff in town, and his name is Joe Philbin On this guys watch, he will get the players he wants to represent the Dolphins and re-transform them into a high class organization, which I assume he took a page from his time with the Green Bay Packers. It may not show in the wins and losses this season but the Dolphins are building a franchise from the ground up. Speaking of ground, Tannehill's best bet this season may be to rely on Reggie Bush and the young backs to take on much of the load. But as I alluded to earlier Dolphins fans, this will take time and patience.