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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Brett Favre fined for not doing what the NFL says

The NFL has finally "dropped the hammer" on Favre fining him $50,000 for his sexting escapade with former Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger. The league said Wednesday that Commissioner Roger Goodell “could not conclude” that Favre violated the league’s personal conduct policy based on the evidence currently available to him. Deadspin (After this and the Rex Ryan wife foot fetish thing, are they like the new TMZ of sports now?) originally reported this story back in October that Favre had sent unsavory messages to Sterger.
So let me get this straight, after all the tough talk from the commish Roger Goddell on players not protecting the shield of the NFL and Favre gets a basic slap on the wrist for showing off his other gunslinger and sounding like Pat O'Brien on Sterger's voicemail? $50,000 to him is like $5 dollars to me and you, so that penalty isn't more than fast-food money to Favre. On the other hand I guess Goddell figured that old man Favre had to endure his own punishment after such a dreary year in Minnesota. First the losses than the injuries and the end of the streak and now this.

It clearly shows that an NFL star player was given preferential treatment and tells all other players that failure to cooperate may cost you some money but will not result in other punishment,” said Sterger attorney Joseph Conway, who added there was “ample evidence” the photos were of Favre

I am a Brett Favre fan by the way but I assumed this would be the outcome of someone with the magnitude of name carries in the league. Sterger also didn't seem to want to cooperate with the investigation so this was basically a wash from the beginning. Favre obviously has a thing for the brunette's and Deanna (his wife) looked none to pleased about this latest episode in the as the Brett turns saga.

Favre will play the string out for the last game of the year and hopefully call it a career after this season but you never know what the old gunslinger has up his sleeve. Let's just hope he has learned his lesson and keeps the other slinger to himself from now on.

Music City Bowl Preview

Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl

Time: 6:30

Channel: ESPN

Weather: 50 ° with a 50% chance of rain.

Commentators: Sean McDonough, Matt Millen & Holly Rowe

The Tennessee Vols look to cap off an improbable season with a bowl victory in the Music City Bowl. Its fitting that they landed in Nashville for a showdown with the North Carolina Tar Heels, as both teams have fought off obstacles to just make it to a bowl game. Tennessee started the year off a disheartening 2-6 under first year coach Derek Dooley but upon inserting freshman sensation QB Tyler Bray for Matt Simms, the Vols and their once anemic offense took off. Bray would spark a unit that was previously ranked near the bottom of all the major passing categories in the SEC. Bray was just sensational in his 4 start as he took home freshmen of the week honors in two of his starts. Tauren Poole and the run game also benefited from Bray’s presence in the pocket. The Vols rolled to four straight victory earning them there second consecutive bowl berths. This is basically a home game for the Vols as the expected crowd is predicted to be 90% in Vol Orange. Local players like Eric Gordon, James Stone and Marsalis Teague will have to find a lot of tickets to accommodate family and friends. Although this should make for a familiar atmosphere, it can sometime become a distraction before the game itself. Coach Derek Dooley will be participating in just his second bowl game and is also learning the ropes of the bowl game aura as this basically amounts to a home bowl game in Nashville.

The North Carolina Tar Heels season has been mired in controversy. They started off the season suspending thirteen players including standouts defensive end Marvin Austin and Michael McAdoo, starting cornerbacks Kedric Burney and Charles Brown, wide out Greg Little, Tailbacks Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston; safeties Brian Gupton, Da'Norris Searcy and Jonathan Smith; and defensive end Linwan Euwell for receiving improper benefits. And yet another scandal rocked Chapel Hill as the NCAA investigated a former tutor who was employed by the University committed academic misconduct by performing players’ papers for class. And lastly (I promise you North Carolina I’m not trying to pile on your guys) assistant John Blake was accused of setting up a meeting between an active college athlete and an agent could be a major NCAA violation. Blake resigned as the defensive line coach at UNC amid allegations that he was siphoning Tar Heel players to an agent. That is just the type of year it has for the guys in powder blue. Even with all the off-field distractions Coach Butch Davis and his team have weathered the storm though and finished up with a 7-5 record and were in contention for the ACC Coastal division to very end. While speaking of suspension, yet another was handed down for the Tar Heels as starting running back Anthony Elzy was suspended for as Coach Butch Davis termed it “Failure to meet his obligations as a student-athlete”.

Keys to the game:

1. T.J Yates vs. Tennessee defense: Yates was the glue that held this ravaged roster together as he finished the regular season with 3,184 yards and 18 touchdowns. His 148.78 passer efficiency was good enough for second in the conference. Tennessee will have to find a way to counter Yates. The Vols secondary actually is best unit they have on defense with the likes of Janzen Jackson and Prentiss Waggner. If the Vols can frustrate Yates it could lead to turnovers as Yates has been prone to interceptions. Who ever win this match-up will have the inside track to winning the game.

2. Tyler Bray’s Poise vs. North Carolina’s Pass Rush: North Carolina came into this year boasting a defensive line that featured two projected NFL draft picks in Mario Austin and Michael McAdoo but due to the suspensions at the beginning neither player has played a down for the Tar Heels this year. Even without those two they’ve managed 25.0 sacks. Bray has stood tall all year since he was handed the keys to the Vols offense but he is still a freshman. The Tar Heels must get pressure on him if they expect to have chance in this one.

3. Turnover battle: The team that usually wins the turnover battle wins the game and both North Carolina and Tennessee prove that theory to be true. North Carolina is +6 in that department this year and UT is +2 so neither team is terrible at this statistic. When teams are this evenly matched as they are in this one, it’s the little mistakes that lead to turnovers that so often determine the game.

Prediction: This is a game of evenly matched teams. Both have good passing games and decent running attacks. The difference in the game will be which defense can apply pressure to the opposing QB. UT will also have the crowd on their side and should use that to their advantage. I can’t go against the “home” team on this one. UT 28-24

Sportaholic NFL Power Rankings Week 17: Holidays Edition

Tis the season for playoffs positioning in NFL. The Saints victory over Atlanta on MNF wasn’t of much importance except maybe in the mental department for New Orleans. The Saints finally looked poised and ready to make a run in the NFC, which will be wide open this year. I really think any of the teams that make the playoffs in that conference could run the table. The AFC playoffs spots are all but wrapped up with the only real drama being in the AFC South as Indianapolis and some QB you might have heard of try to make it in the for the ninth consecutive time.

However, this will go down as one of the most interesting year in recent memory as far as surprise teams and the highly unlikely. Who pegged Chicago with Jay “The Rifleman” Cutler as the NFC North champs outside of the windy city? Who would have thought that Michael Vick would be doing his best Steve Young impersonation and take the spot of Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb? Didn’t everyone think Washington would be a little more competitive? We’re not going to even talk about Tennessee’s yo-yo season and acquiring Randy Moss just to have him play decoy in an already boring offense. Brett Favre whole career and life’s work culminated this season (I think better yet I know he wishes he stayed down Mississippi), the NFC West is a complete joke as it stands with Sam Bradford being the best QB already. Peyton Manning looked like Joey Harrington for a stretch but returned to his sheriff duties here lately. The most consistent team this year has been New England of course with the hoodie roaming the sidelines and Brady handling the QB spot with such precision. These guys know how to win games no matter the situation, circumstances, or forces of nature that come against them. All of this in one season as the lockout looms over the league like a storm cloud ready to let loose its fury onto the fans like you and me.

Uncertainty should the name of the game in the NFL this year but enough already with the small talk, time to get down to business and rank the top 5.

1. New England Patriots – Can’t really earn anything from beating the Bills. That’s like beating up your kid brother. If you lose everyone calls you out for losing to your little brother and if you win no one cares because you should be able to beat your little brother up. The Pats close out the season with reeling Miami (losing to the Lions? Come on Dolphins) so don’t look for leading Pro Bowl vote recipient and contending MVP candidate Tom Brady to play long. The Pats already have the top seed in the AFC locked up.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) – The Steel city men did exactly what they needed to do against an inferior opponent in Carolina; they won the game and escaped with no major injuries. Troy Polamalu is expected to be at practice this week which is a good sign. All Pittsburgh has to do to lock up the number 2 seed and a first round bye is beat the Browns. All signs point to a win in that game.

3. Chicago Bears (11-4) – I have been waiting all year for the implosion of Jay Cutler. It looked as if it was finally was taking place at Solider field this Sunday when Cutler threw a pick six in the second quarter. Cutler quickly rebounded though in the third with 3 touchdown passes and when they get Matt Forte involved the way they did (113 yards on 19 carries and 4 receptions for 56 yards) they are a tough out for anyone. Big showdown with Green Bay this Sunday. I love the way Lovie Smith is approaching the game with his arch rival as he said he intends to play his starters. Green Bay needs the win to get into the playoffs so this should make for a very entertaining game. Tune in folks.

4. New Orleans Saints (11-4) – The Saints made notice that they are still the defending Super Bowl champs as they took down the Falcons. Drew Brees didn’t have his best game as he threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter including a pick six, but was bailed out by his defense this time. The opportunistic defense that was so valuable to their run to the Super Bowl last year caused Atl to fumble twice and that was the Falcons first turnovers in their last seven games. What this win does is more in the psychological than anything else as this was a potential playoff match-up in the making. The Falcons showed they are vulnerable and can be beat and the Saints showed their championship resiliency. So much for smack talking tweets huh Roddy White? He finished with 3 catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. The mojo must have been put on him.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (10-5) This was a hard decision to place them this high as I could have went with Atl, Baltimore, Green Bay or even the Jets. I know I will get a lot of slack for putting them this high after that dismal performance last night, but I wouldn’t put much into that game. For one, the scheduling fiasco probably took off any edge they had going into this game playing in a half empty Lincoln Financial stadium on a Tuesday. For two, they haven’t seen much game film of Joe Webb (although that isn’t saying much) and for three, Leslie Frazier is a former Def backs coach for them so he knew their offensive scheme. Even with that being said though, the Eagles should have displayed a better offensive game plan. They couldn’t stop a simple cornerback blitz either as Antoine Winfield was basically in the backfield all game and that came back to doom Philly as he stripped sacked Vick and returned it for a score. They also need to show at least a threat of a run game to take some of the pressure off of Vick. However, even with such a bad loss, the Eagles are still the most exciting team in the league. In the NFC I would take them over all of the contenders including the Saints, Falcons, Bears and Packers and that’s why I have them in this slot. As long as they can protect Vick (which they didn’t do last night) they can beat anybody with that offense.

Other News and Notables:

Another week, another coach gets the ax: This time it was Mike Singletary of San Francisco and this was probably long overdue (Why do I find myself saying this about every coach that gets fired?). Singletary is the embodiment of a great player and bad coach. He has the passion for the game but not the management nor patience for it in the coaching sense. He played yo-yo with his QBs all season long as he flipped from one Smith to another in Troy and Alex Smith. He showed terrible clock management in games as he burned all three of timeouts in one quarter of a game earlier this year. He even got into a heated exchange with a local sports personality on the radio. When you add up all those incidents and the 5-10 record then it was finally time to take him out his own misery. The last straw had to be the ugly argument he had in plain view with Troy Smith. Coaches and QBs shouldn’t be arguing and almost coming to blows on the sidelines. He makes the fourth coach this year that has been shown the door and most definitely won’t be the last. The reported hot seat of coaches include: Gary Kubiak, Jeff Fisher, Tom Couglin, John Fox, Marvin Lewis, Eric Mangini, and Tony Sparano. Look for a lot of movement this off-season in the coaching ranks.

MVP Countdown:

1. Tom Brady – Brady all but wrapped up the honors last night after his only real competitor Michael Vick faltered against the Vikings. Brady has been nothing short of Spectacular this year as he has now thrown 319 straight passes without an interception (Breaking Bernie Kosar’s NFL record) as everyone knows by now. Brady was near perfect in New England’s biggest games this year. Against the likes of Pittsburgh, New York Jets (twice), Baltimore, Indianapolis, Chicago and Green Bay Brady was an astonishing 140/215 in completions, threw for 1748 yards with 14 touchdowns to 2 interceptions and stupefying QB rating of 113.8. If you take away the first Jets game the QB rating jumps to 122.4. Talk about rising to the level of your opponents.

2. Michael Vick – Vick’s performance last night was mediocre at best. The Vikings blitzed, blitzed, and blitzed some more. The Giants used this same tactic against Vick and it worked for three quarters until Vick remembered how fast he was and began burning the Giants with his scrambles. That is what makes him so dangerous. He can read and scope your defense in the passing game and when that break down he can burn you with his 4.3 speed. I do look for more teams to follow the blitzing model that the Vikes did last night. It seemed to slow him down and he was noticeably limping after the game. His offensive line HAS to do a better job of protecting him. Tom Brady has been more consistent but no one turns away from the T.V. when Vick is playing. What a remarkable turnaround. I always said if this guy could combine his athleticism with a good pocket passing game he would revolutionize the position and he is now doing it.

3. Matt Ryan – Ryan had a real chance at making some noise Monday night against the Saints but didn’t show much on the national stage. He still is having a sensational year for a guy who only in his 3rd year but if you want to win an MVP, you have to show up when the lights are brightest. He has solid numbers throwing for 3,469 yards 26 touchdowns to only 9 interceptions. Good enough to be in the discussion but not good enough to win the race.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NFL MVP Debate: Similar and Contrasting backgrounds of Brady and Vick

The MVP race in the NFL has turned into a two-man race. Tom Brady has been nothing short of great leading the New England Patriots to a league best 12-2 mark while posting a 109.9 QB rating. The much maligned Michael Vick has been revitalized by coach Andy Reid and has set the league on fire leading the Philadelphia Eagles to first place in the NFC east with a record of 10-4 while posting a career high 103.6 rating himself. Brady was suppose to be in the discussion but most would have called you crazy if you said Vick would be here at this junction of the season. For those reasons, it intrigued me to delve deeper in the subject of these unlikely superstars. Both men have faced some tough circumstances but have overcome them to become the two of the best at the hardest position in sports.

From the outside looking in, the two leading MVP candidates in the NFL are very contrasting figures. Tom Brady is the all-American good boy with his good looks and fiery personality. He is married to supermodel Giselle Bunchen. He seems to live a charmed life that’s much in-tuned with mainstream America. He is a regular on magazines such as GQ and a T.V. darling with the likes of TMZ and every other media outlet following his every move. As for Vick, we all know his story. He was the QB who was supposed to revolutionize the way the position was played when he was drafted out of Virginia Tech. He was a beloved superstar but not in the way Brady was. Urban America loved Vick as much as mainstream America loves Brady. Vick was featured in music videos with star such as T.I and was the toast of Atlanta as their starting QB. Vick will always bear the stain on the dog killing scandal that has engulfed his life. It’s something he can never go back and change. The only thing he is able to do is to continue to play at a high, a la Kobe Bryant and the alleged rape case he faced. Vick has paid his debt that was placed on him by the court of law. He has risen above his mistakes and now showing that he still has the abilities and focus now to take the QB position to another level.

However, there are more surprisingly contrasts between these two QBs. Vick grew up in the Ridley Circle Homes, a housing project in the east of Newport News, Virginia. Vick was surrounded by negative influences like drugs, gangs and drive-by shootings. His mother worked two jobs to support him and her three other children. His father also worked as a sandblaster on the shipyards of Virginia. He was able to escape the endeavors of his everyday life with football. Vick made a name for himself as a freshman in High School as he threw for 400 in a game. He would end up going to Warwick High School after Homer L. Ferguson High School closed, and would star for the school. He passed for 1,668 yards with 10 touchdowns and ran for another 1,048 and 18 scores on the ground. Vick had offer letters from every major school in America that year, but choose to attend Virginia Tech because of its proximity of its location to his family. Under the tutelage of Frank Beamer, Vick flourished. He scored three touchdowns in his first game in the first two quarters. Vick would go to lead the Hokies to an 11-0 record and to the national championship game. Virginia Tech would lose to Florida State but Vick was spectacular as he led his team back from a 21-point deficit. Vick would go to lead the NCAA in passing efficiency and broke the freshmen record at 180.4. Although he was widely considered the best player in college football that year, he would place third in the coveted Heisman trophy voting, even though that was the highest a freshmen had ever placed at that time. After one of the most successful freshmen seasons in NCAA history, Vick came into his sophomore year with raised expectations. He would lead the Hokies to another sparkling record of 11-1 with the lone loss coming in a game that he didn’t play with an injury. In his final game at Tech, Vick received MVP honors in the Toyota Gator bowl as he led the Hokies to victory. Vick’s buzz could not be ignored and with his family still stuck in Newport News, Vick made the decision to jump to the NFL and was selected number 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons.

Tom Brady was born San Mateo, California, a suburb of San Francisco. Brady and his father regularly attended 49ers games when he was a child and Brady began to emulate his idol Joe Montana. Brady would star at Junipero Serra High School and went on to have 219 completions for 3,514 yards and 33 touchdowns. The famous work ethic that Brady is praised for now showed at an early age as Brady reportedly would work out in the school gym three times a day. Although he wasn’t as highly sought and recruited as Vick, Brady was able to land a scholarship at the University of Michigan. He also was drafted in the 18th round of the 1995 Major Leagues by the Montreal Expos. In his first two years, Brady was relegated to backup as Michigan featured Brian Grease as the starter. Brady grew frustrated with his lack of success as a freshmen and sophomore but got his chance to start his junior year. He had to beat out Drew Henson for the starting job but Brady made the most out of his opportunity. The Wolverines would win 20 of 25 with Brady as the Starter. He would set Michigan records for most pass attempts and completions in a season with 214. Brady capped off his career by throwing for 369 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Alabama in the Orange bowl. Brady would enter the draft as he after thought though and was picked with 199th pick by the New England Patriots.

As for the NFL careers of Brady and Vick, neither went as expected. Both men would get there first starts in 2001. Vick, as the anointed savior and number 1 pick of a fledging franchise that was the Atlanta Falcons would have to try and live up to the expectations to all that hype. Brady on the other hand had to fight just to make New England’s roster as he was fourth on the depth chart. He would do well enough in the preseason to merit a roster spot, albeit it as the third QB. Vick starred in Atlanta his rookie year as he broke multiple records including most rushing yards in a game by a QB with 173 versus Minnesota. Vick would lead the Falcons to an upset victory over Green Bay in 2003 for his first playoff victory.

Brady got his chance after a vicious hit that left incumbent Drew Bledsoe on the IR. Brady wouldn’t show his promise until his fifth game. He would lead the Pats on a fourth quarter comeback past the San Diego Chargers. Trailing 26-16, Brady would take command and lead the Pats on two scoring drive to force overtime. The Pats ended up winning 11 of 14 that year and Brady was firmly entrenched as the starter.

From 2001 to 2007 Vick and Brady would combine for 7 pro bowl appearances. Brady won his first title with the Pats in 2001(And won the MVP award becoming the youngest to win the award) and would go on to win three of the next four championships for the Pats. Vick didn’t have that kind of success but he was still a top 10 QB during his stint for the Atlanta Falcons. In 2004, Vick was named to his second Pro Bowl after completing 181 passes for 2,313 yards with 14 touchdowns. He ran for 902 yards and that put him at third all-time by NFL QBs.

Everything changed for Vick in August 2007. After the Pit Bull ring investigation by authorities, Vick was charged with sponsoring a dog-fighting operation by a federal grand jury and was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison. He has had the world against him since the moment the bombshell of this case was dropped against him. Some people called for to be sentenced to life in prison or to be banned from the NFL altogether.

Brady on the other hand was enjoyed his best season ever in 2007. With the newly acquired Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Brady would go on to throw for 50 passes (An NFL record) and lead New England to an undefeated record only to lose in the Super Bowl as heavy favorites to the underdog NY Giants. Brady and the Pats came into the 2008 year with great expectations following there record breaking year in 2007, but those plans would be cut short by when Brady suffered a season ending knee injury in the season opener against Kansas City. Brady stated that at the time was the most difficult thing he had faced since becoming a pro. Backup Matt Cassel played well and led the team to an 11-5 mark but they would miss the playoffs. Some critics pointed to Cassel’s success and said that Brady’s was a part of a system that could make most QBs succeed. Brady scoffed at that notion. Other critics said that Brady should be traded before his contract was due up and be replaced by Cassel, which sounds like ludicrous nowadays.

Both men finally got back onto the field at the start of the 2009 season. After completing his jail sentence, Vick was mentored by Tony Dungy and in August of 2009 Vick would sign a one-year deal with Philadelphia. Vick wouldn’t play much in his first year as he was mostly used in wildcat formations. The bigger battle was off-field where citizens in the city of Philadelphia didn’t initially embrace Vick. Through it all though Vick stand tall and took the criticism aimed at him. Vick would get an early shot at redemption against his former team the Falcons in week 13. He would run for a touchdown and pass for another in his homecoming. Vick would receive the Ed Block Courage Award as voted by teammates. The award honors players who “exemplify commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.

Tom Brady picked up right where he left off in 2007 as he threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills. Brady would finish the 2009 regular season with 4,398 yards passing and 28 touchdowns for a 96.2 rating as he won the 2009 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.

That’s brings us full circle to now the 2010 year. Vick wasn’t even supposed to be starting for the Eagles as Donovan McNabb was traded to Washington and the keys of the franchise were given to Kevin Kolb. Kolb however would be concussed in the season opener by Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers. Vick was inserted and the rest has been history. Vick now combines his uncanny athletic ability with a cerebral approach in the pocket. He is the best of both worlds as he proved against the Giants. He can beat you with his legs as he for 130 yards on them and his arm as he threw for another 242 yards. From the fan point of view, it’s hard to take your eyes off of him because he could provide an electrifying moment at any time.

Brady has been just as good and probably safe to say better than Vick this year but not by much. Brady has total command of his offense and its not too much a defense can do to fool him. The Pats retooled by letting Moss go and opening up their offense to feature a lot of underneath passes to their tight ends and short speedy receivers. Brady has been nearly flawless in his pass 6 games as he hasn’t thrown an interception now in 292 straight passes. This year may not be his best statistical year but I would argue anyone that this may be his best overall year in terms of his leadership and charisma that have come to define his team.

Sometimes the bad things in your life can turn out to be the blessing that you have needed to correct an issue your life. Michael Vick prison sentence is an example of this. He might have never understood or to a degree cared about the opportunity that had been given to him. He always had his athletic ability but to succeed at QB in this league you have to study and prepare like no other and now that he does, the difference is evident.

Brady is also an example of this. He started off playing behind Brian Grease at Michigan and made the most of his turn when his number was called. He wasn’t a top draft pick, instead going 199th to the Patriots who initially were to use that pick on Tim Rattay. He fought his way onto the roster and had to have a freak injury to Drew Bledsoe just to get his chance to start. He suffered a horrific knee injury and disparaging comments but yet again fought his way back onto the field.

Both of these men are equally deserving of the NFL’s highest regular season honor. Both men have had to overcome their personal obstacles to obtain their success. As much as they two differ, the more they are the same. One may have grown up in the projects of a crime infested neighborhood in Newport News, while the other grew up in one of the more luxurious suburbs in San Francisco, but both men posses a rare trait found in most people today called resiliency. The more you try and knock either of these guys out the more they bounce up. Either could have given up at multiple times in their life but neither has. Now one of these two men will be your 2010 NFL MVP.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Titans vs. Texans Game Review

The Titans ended their six-game losing streak in convincing fashion as they defeated the Houston Texans 31-17. The Titans jumped on the Texans early and never let up. They definitely didn’t resemble the team that was self-destructing before our eyes. The offense was fluid as Kenny Britt breathed some much needed life into the passing game. Chris Johnson was able to find some running lanes that haven’t been there in the losing skid. And even the defense jumped in recording four sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception by Alterraun Verner. The much hyped rematch of Cortland Finnegan and Andre Johnson never came in fruition and that should both should be applauded for letting cooler heads prevail. An all around victory for the Titans, as they keep their minimal playoff chances alive. They have to win out and the Colts and Jags would have to lose for Tennessee to win the division. In other words you and I reading this have a better chance at winning the power ball.

The Titans took control of this game in the first quarter as they racked up 21 points on their first three possessions. Kerry Collins hit rookie Damien Williams for a 39-yard strike on the eighth play of the drive to put the Titans in scoring position. Collins would find Nate Washington (I don’t know about that dance though Nate) for a 3-yard touchdown to cap a 9 play 60-yard drive to start the game. The Texans usually commanding offense was no where to be found in the first quarter as they ran a total of 12 plays resulting in total of 17 yards. In stark contrast, the Titans kept finding success in the air. Collins dialed up another bomb, this time to Kenny Britt for the first play of their second drive. Collins dropped a beautiful lob to Justin Gage in the corner of the end-zone to complete the drive.

After another three and out by Houston, the Titans received the ball with good field position at the Texans 44. Chris Johnson would begin to get loose on this drive as he ran for a 9 and 3 yard gain. Kerry Collins found an open Kenny Britt yet again for a 21-yard that put the Titans at the 11 of Houston. From their CJ would take it in for the score and the Titans were up 21-0 before you knew it.

Entering the second quarter, it looked as if the Titans would turn this one into a blowout and exact some revenge from the loss they took from the hands of the Texans the last time they met. But the Titans would offense would cool down and only muster a FG in the second quarter. The Texans could only match that FG by Tennessee and the score would be 24-3 going into halftime.

The game was pretty much over from there as Houston could never solve the Titans defense. The Texans would add two touchdowns after intermission but it wouldn’t be enough as the Titans would score again as well on a short drive and sealed the victory.

Tennessee finally looked like a team that was having fun again as evident by the big smiles and pats on the back on the sidelines. The offensive passing game was great as Kerry Collins had time from the offensive line to just pick apart the porous Texan secondary. Kenny Britt makes such a big difference for Tennessee when he is healthy as you can see. He provides big plays and energy to that unit. Chris Johnson 130 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. He looked more like the 2009 CJ as he was able to get the edge a few times this game and break some long runs. Kerry Collins made some downright beautiful throws and even got lucky on that one Britt pass but I’m sure he will take luck any day. Vince Young even made an appearance on the sidelines as he and Kenny Britt looked to be having a good time. That is definite good sign for all Tennessee fans.

The Titans now are 6-8 and done with the six-game losing streak. They went 56 days in-between victories so this has to feel like a load coming off their back. They travel to division leading Kansas City next week before ending the season at Indianapolis in two weeks. Even though its highly unlikely that the Titans can make it in the playoffs due to their circumstances, weirder things have happened. We can say this much, at least they came out and played with some fire that we haven’t saw in quite a while and they still have a reason to play hard next week and just hope for some luck. Stay tuned folks.

Sportaholic NFL Power Rankings Week 16

What a week of football we just witnessed. From the Al Michaels “He did what ?!?”department, Desean Jackson stunned the Giants after a furious come back by the Eagles, the most dominant team I’ve seen this year, the Pats struggled with the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, and the demise of the New York Jets have been greatly exaggerated as they outlasted Big Ben and Pittsburgh. Peyton is Manning and he looks to be out of the mini slump as lead his team past the Jags to take the AFC lead, and the Saints weren’t marching on the Ravens

This was one of the best slates of year as far as match-ups and playoff implications. Most teams still have something to play for as all but three teams have clinched a playoff berth (Atlanta, New England, and Pittsburgh). The season has only two weeks left (That’s such a horrible thought to think about) and this should be as fun of an end of the season that has been seen in awhile.

Now to the rankings:

1. New England (12-2) – The Pats won but looked surprisingly vulnerable against Matt Flynn of Green Bay. Flynn was able to find open receivers when he wasn’t pressured and put it to the Pats defense. Green Bay was also able to find rushing room with Brandon Jackson as he finished with 22 carries and 99 yards. Who knew the best play of the game would come from lineman Dan Connolly as he took a kick-off return for a 71-yard “scamper”. The big man showed some agility and had a good looking stiff-arm but gets an F for ball security with his loaf of bread carry. The Pats young defense has to keep its edge if they want to continue their winning. Bill Belicheck can’t be pleased with their performance but I know he will take win. Tom Brady wasn’t on fire this game but had decent numbers as he passed for 2 touchdowns and no interceptions, extending his streak 292 straight passes without an interception, good for the third-longest ever run in NFL history.

2. Atlanta Falcons (12-2) – The most un-sexy of elite teams has to be Falcons. As I always state in this column, these guys just know how to win. Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan was his usual consistent self going 20/35 for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns. The thing I like most about this team is there offensive balance. Michael “Burner” Turner had 82 yards on 25 carries. “Rowdy” Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez provide Ryan with security blankets in the passing game. On the side of caution though for Atlanta has finished the season with a relatively soft schedule. These type of top heavy teams tend to flame out early in the playoffs (see 2008 Miami Dolphins) They have a showdown New Orleans next week and could prove a lot to me if they can take it to the Saints in the Georgia Dome.

3. Philadelphia Eagles (10-4) – There may be better teams in the league than Philly, but the Eagles are the most dynamic and exciting team in all the NFL. After looking dead in the water all game long, the Eagles ran off the last 28 points of the game. Michael Vick reverted back to his Atlanta days as he reeled off 130 yards as the Giants pressured in the backfield most of the game. The Giants did what ever they wanted in the first half. Eli Manning just went all big brother on us in the first half as he threw 4 touchdowns. Even with Manning’s heroics in the first half though, you could feel the momentum shift in the second half as Vick begin to break lose on some big runs and also made some big plays with his arm. Vick brought the Eagles back and put Jackson in position for the “Miracle in the Meadowlands” as they are calling it. How many guys do you know who can fumble the ball and then recover it, then just absolutely burn everyone on the field and take it to the house? Not many. This was one of those games where you could just see this happening before your eyes and still didn’t believe what you had seen. I know the punter Matt Dodge of the Giants panicked after the high snap but why did he kick it straight to Jackson? You have to avoid an explosive threat like Jackson at all cost. What a great finish and a great game.

4. Baltimore Ravens (10-4) - I been saying for the last 3 or 4 weeks that if the Ravens just get Ray Rice the ball more then their offense would be more potent and he proved my point against the Saints. The Ravens were at their best last year when Rice was running and catching passes out the backfield. He returned to those duties this game as he was able to carve up the Saints to the tune of 153 yards on the ground and caught five passes for 80 yards going for 2 touchdowns. Joe Flacco was just 10/20 for 172 yards but those 20 attempts should be right around the amount of passes you want him to throw a game. I’m still not in love with their defense as well. They have blown eight-fourth quarter leads coming into this game but were able to put the clamps on against a very potent New Orleans offense. The Ravens should be able to hold on to the wild card spot as they go on the Buckeye state championship facing Cleveland and Cincinnati for their last two games.

5. New York Jets (10-4) - The five spot was a toss up this week between a few 10-4 teams (Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Baltimore) but because of the Jets hard fought victory (and because they didn’t trip anyone) I’ll go with gang green. Their game against Pittsburgh was the man game of the week as both teams hitting in full force. New York needed this game after losing it previous two and their offense looking anemic. Good teams go through slumps just like the bad ones. When you are in a funk the only thing you can do is find ways to win and that’s what the Jets did. Their offense is still a piece of work as they scored for the first time in 12 quarters of football on a Mark Sanchez bootleg play. Brad Smith’s explosive kick return helped out the cause on the opening kick-off and the Jets D was just enough to keep Big Ben on ice. This win obviously meant a lot to Rex Ryan as he was visibly emotional after the game. The Jets just like the Ravens are in good position for a wild card berth.

Other News and Notes:

Tim Tebow gets his first start: Let Tebow nation stand for a round of applause. The rookie finally got a chance with McDaniels finally not around to hold the youngster back. Or maybe the Broncos just realized they are 3-11 and not going anywhere so may as well as throw Tebow in there and see what all the fuss is about. Interim coach Eric Studesville turned him lose and Tebow responded with a decent game. His 40-yard burst for a touchdown was reminiscent of his Florida days. As for his passing, that’s another whole story. He finished 8/16 for 138 yards a touchdown and no interceptions. He showed why maybe McD was hesitant to throw in the fire as well with a few bad decisions on throws and some very reckless abandon for his body. Hopefully the kid keeps getting an opportunity because he an exciting player to watch who can only get better.

Rex impressive in his debut: Speaking of QBs, how about Rex Grossman throwing 4 touchdown passes in place of Donovan McNabb? Grossman must have really practiced on improving because he looked like a legitimate number 1 quarterback. I can’t believe how far McNabb has fallen in just one year. First the Eagles give up on him and now the Redskins are burying him behind the likes of Grossman and John Beck (who?). Let the McNabb speculation begin now as potential teams like Arizona and Minnesota should be in line next to see what they can coax out of the former pro bowl QB.

Detroit finally ends their epic road loss streak: They had to win on the road again one day didn’t they? After a 26-game losing, Detroit was able to hand Tampa Bay a 23-20 defeat and end the longest road losing streak in NFL history. Its good to see former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz get his first road win as well. And they did it with their 3rd string QB in after Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill were both out for this game. The football gods finally shined their light on this futile franchise.

MNF Match-up: Minnesota vs. Chicago – So they found a place to play after all of the drama and modifications to the Metrodome. The game will be held at the University of Minnesota in an outside stadium. This will be the first time the Vikings have played a home outdoors game since 1981. And with Joe Webb filling in for Brett Favre and Tavaris Jackson, I don’t think they will be getting their first win since then. The Bears come into the game off an spanking from Tom Brady and the Pats and probably are none too pleased with their last effort. Webb will struggle as Chicago will undoubtedly bring pressure from all directions on him. Look for Peppers Urlacher and the Bears defense to be the difference in this one. The Pick: Bears 28 Vikings 21

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Urban Meyer steps down as Florida Head Coach..... Again

So again with this huh Urban? For someone reading this and thinking it 2009 all over again, its not but Meyer is up to his old antics again. Less than a year removed from his previous resignation citing health concerns, Meyer has a press conference 5 pm ET to announce his departure yet again.

Florida took a big step back this year going 7-5 after going 26-2 the previous two seasons. The core of the team including Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes and Joe Haden all left for the draft last year. As the perfectionist that Meyer is, maybe that had something to do with him resigning this year. Meyer pushed himself maybe like no other in the game and as a result he has become one of the best in his craft. At that same token, the stress of remaining in that position has taken it toll on him. I won't speculate about his current health condition even though it was noted his issues he had last year that forced to take what amounted to a vacation last year.

The biggest question to me in all this is who takes over for him? Florida is a top 5 job in college football. Its has fertile recruiting base with the state of Florida always producing some of the best athletes in the nation. The Gators have a first class facility that rivals no one and they have a football rich tradition. Some of the early favorites have to Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong (I bet both of those guys wished they had known this was going to happen before leaving.) Both were assistant coaches under Meyer and know the school and administration well. Who ever gets the job will be getting one gems in all of college football. But who is to say ol' Urban won't pull another stunt and come back like he did last year? Stay tuned folks

Titans vs. Colts Preview

Are you ready for some Thursday night football? The Titans and Colts face off tomorrow as two desperate teams searching for answers right now. Indianapolis and Tennessee are the perennial powers of the AFC South. Since the creation of the division in 2002, these two are the only teams to win it (Colts have won the title six times and the Titans the other two times). Both teams started the year off hot with Indianapolis going 6-3 and Tennessee jumping out the gates at 5-2. But since then both teams have been in a deep slump as the Colts have lost three in a row and the Titans 5. The Colts still control their playoff destiny at 6-6 and the Titans aren’t so lucky at 5-7. With Jacksonville at 7-5, mathematically both of the teams still have a chance to catch the division leading Jags. With that being said, these two teams know each other well and if they want to win division this year; neither can afford to lose this game.

Peyton Manning’s struggles have been well documented this year. He had another 4 pick performance last weekend against the Dallas Cowboys and hasn’t looked like the Peyton that we have been accustomed to or he may be doing his best Brett Favre impersonation. Manning has thrown 11 interceptions during Indianapolis’ three-game losing streak. He now has to take on a Titans defense ranked eighth in the league with 15 interceptions. I won’t place all the blame on him though, as the Colts are without some of their top playmakers in Joseph Addai, Austin Collie, and Anthony Gonzalez. Their run game has been a joke this year averaging just 54.6 yards and 3.0 yards a carry. You can tell Peyton has figured that he will have to do it all himself and is pressing. The result of his pressing has been the interceptions that you don’t usually see from him.

Tennessee’s problem has been the offense. As of week 6, the Titans had the number 2 scoring offense in all of football at 29.2 points a game, but as of the last 13 quarters they haven’t scored an offensive touchdown. You would think with the addition of such an accomplished receiver as Randy Moss that their production would increase not decrease when he came to town. The Titans haven’t really used Moss as I predicted that they would and he seems to be frustrated with the direction the team is going in. Chris Johnson has found little running room in the last two games as he has just 58 yards in those contests. The Titans need a spark offensively and got some good news with the return of Kenny Britt at receiver. Another problem the offense has faced is the inconsistency of having the same QB week to week. Kerry Collins will start for the second consecutive time, marking only the first time the Titans have had a QB start consecutive games since Vince Young, beat Dallas and Jacksonville in weeks 5 and 6.

Now for the key match-ups that will determine the game:

1. Peyton Manning vs. Titans Secondary – As I stated above, Manning is facing a top ten secondary so he has to play like the 4-time MVP that he is. In the game against Dallas, I saw throws come out of his hands that I haven’t seen since his playing days with the Tennessee Volunteers. He was thinking instead of reacting as he usually does. He is trying to make the big play instead of the good play and it is leading to turnovers. He has to manage his eagerness and just do what he capable of. The Titans secondary is very opportunistic and will have some chances to swing the momentum if Manning continues his lackluster performances of late.

2. Colts run game vs. Titans defense – If there was ever a time for the running game to show up for the Colts the time would be now. The Titans have allowed 159.4 rushing yards during it’s their 5 game losing streak. The Colts added their former running back Dominic Rhodes to bolster that department. Joseph Addai also has seen limited action in practice this week has been ruled out for the game. Mike Hart is yet another injured running back for the Colts and his game status is unknown. If the Colts could somehow get one of their main guys healthy, they would have a chance at a big game against the Titans. Maurice Drew-Jones made a highlight reel of the defense last game, going off for 186 yards. The run more than anything else would help Manning at this point. He would be able to set up play-action fakes and take some of the pressure off his shoulders to carry the offense. This may be the most important factor in the game.

3. Chris Johnson vs. Colts Run Defense – The prediction CJ made this year was the worse thing he could have did. Not only did he basically put every NFL defense on notice but he also put a large target on his back with his 2,500 yards statement. Every team the Titans have played this year now implements a certain defensive scheme just to stop number 28. I know Johnson won’t back down but that prediction was a bust as he now has 1,026 yards so far this season. He may finally find some running room in this game as the Colts defense is allowing 171.3 yards a game during their three game slide. I look for the Titans to get him the ball early and often to try and soften up the Colts run D. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are two of the best pass rushers in the game and they will feast on the QB if they don’t have a reason to worry about the run. Johnson will have his chances; it will be up to him to take advantage of them.

This will be a great game based on the pure agony each team will face with another lost. Peyton will be on his A-game after his dreadful performance against the Cowboys. You don’t see many back to back bad performances from the Sheriff. The Titans have lost five in a row and are due for a good game at this point. If the Colts and Titans want to keep the division within reach, then this is the game where it has to start. Another loss for either and they will continue their drop into obscurity. Which team will show up and play to their capabilities? Hopefully both teams but we will see.

Game Notes: Since the advent of the AFC South in 2002, only two franchises have won the division title: the Colts (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009) and the Titans (2002, 2008). The AFC South is the only division in the NFL with only two champions from 2002 to present.

• Thursday night’s game marks the first of three AFC South games over the next four weeks: Tennessee this week, Jacksonville (at Lucas Oil Stadium) on Dec. 19, and the Titans (at Lucas Oil Stadium) on Jan. 2.

• Despite trailing Jacksonville (7-5) in the AFC South race by a game, Indianapolis (6-6) can win the division by posting victories in all four of its remaining regular-season games.

• Four of the Colts’ six losses have been by three points or fewer (Jacksonville, 31-28; Philadelphia, 26-24; New England, 31-28; and 38-35 to Dallas in overtime).

• The average margin of defeat for Indianapolis this year is 6.8 points.

• Two former Colts currently play for Tennessee: offensive guard Jake Scott(notes) and linebacker David Thornton(notes). Scott was a fifth-round draft pick by Indianapolis in 2004. Thornton was taken in the fourth-round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Colts. Both joined the Titans as free agents once their original Indianapolis contracts expired.

• Peyton Manning has an 11-5 regular-season career record against Tennessee. He has completed 357 of 503 passes for 3,976 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 16 regular-season games against Tennessee.

Manning has completed 71 percent of his career passes against the Titans. He has a career 101.3 passer rating when facing Tennessee.

He has thrown for 300 or more yards five times against the Titans, with a high game of 425 yards in a 51-24 win on Dec. 5, 2004.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sportaholic NFL Power Rankings Week 13

The big showdown between the Pats and Jets turned out to be a bust. New England just controlled the game from the start. The buildup for this game was gargantuan as both teams sported a 9-2 record and were thought to be the class of the league. Rex Ryan made cocky comments and shared his philosophies to anyone who would listen. Unfortunately for him the Patriots were not into the hype, they were just into the game. The rhythm and timing of their offense with Tom Terrific was just too much for the Jets to handle. Brady just dissected what was supposed to be one of, if not the best secondary in the league. He torched the Jets to the tune of 21 of 29 for 326 yards, with four touchdowns to four different receivers, and no interceptions. Brady completed passes to eight different receivers, and has thrown 228 consecutive passes since being intercepted, a New England record. He hasn’t thrown a pick in seven consecutive games and now has at least one touchdown pass in all 12 of New England's games. One more nugget on Brady, he just set an NFL record by winning his 26th straight home game.

As for the Jets they looked overmatched, outwitted and shell-shocked. They never seemed to have much of a flow to their offense. Mark Sanchez didn’t get it done and had to be looking at Brady with envy. He finished 17/33 for 164 with no touchdowns and threw three picks in the second half. The big bad Jets with all their trash talking were suppose to come in to Boston and serve up the Pats. I can recall most people picking the Jets because of their brash style and smack talking but I had a feeling something like this would happen. They have been playing with fire the last few weeks pulling out victories over teams they should just walked over. This may be the best thing for New York however as they now know their place in the pecking order of the AFC. The Pats now have the upper hand in the division and that could mean a number one seed (with two home games) or the wild card position that would require going on the road in the playoffs.

The Patriots resounding victory leaves no question in my mind who is number 1 and with that, time to unveil the rankings.

1. New England Patriots (10-2) – The Pats have crushed all comers in their last four games and did it against some pretty formidable teams. They hung at least 31 on each team as well in that span. The list you ask? 39 points at Pittsburgh, 31 at home against the Colts, 45 on the Lions on Thanksgiving and another 45 on this past Monday nigh on the overrated Jets. So much for needing Randy Moss huh? New England this season has now beaten Baltimore, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and now the Jets. Should there be any debate who is number one now?

2. Atlanta Falcons (10-2) – Don’t look now but the dirty birds have now won six in a row after their comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Matty Ice was just Matt Ryan at the beginning of the game as he threw two picks (Atlanta’s first turnovers in five games). Ryan and the Falcons showed great resiliency as they overcame his early mistakes and came back from a 10-point deficit. The more I see from this team, the more I start to believe.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) – One of my favorite lines of all time came from ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt. He said Troy Polamalu play likes his hair is on fire! That is the truest way to try to comprehend how this man plays the game. The contest against them and the Ravens was just man football. Big Ben was busted up by the 4th play of the game as hits were being delivered from both sides. These teams play identical to one another but it was Polamalu’s big play that saved the Steelers. The win gives Pittsburgh the lead in the division and an inside track to a playoff bye.

4. Chicago Bears (9-3) – How does Jay Cutler do it with that porous offensive line? “Cut Dog” has a 77-percent passer with six touchdowns and no interceptions over his last three games as Chicago’s offense who looked to jell. The defense will always keep them in games and all Cutler has to do is efficient. Big game next week against the New England. We will see what the Bears are made of.

5. New Orleans Saints (9-3) - It may be too late for them to catch the hot Falcons but that was a gusty win against a desperate Bungals, I mean Bengals team. I was tweeting during the game and Deion Sanders tweet summed it up for the Bengals. He tweeted “The Bengals are like a good sparring partner in boxing. They will mix it up with you, get bloody, and fight till the end but lose by knockout. Great play to get the Bengals off-sides by Drew Brees. The Saints have a tough slate of games to end the season with St. Louis, at Baltimore, at Atlanta, Tampa Bay and this is why I don’t think they will be able to catch Atlanta.

Other News and Notables from around the league:

McDaniels axed in Denver: Not even a week after I wrote that McD was in trouble after his mini spygate episode, he was let go by the Broncos. McDaniels was 13-17 overall with Denver and was 5-17 after getting off to that hot 6-0 start last year. McDaniels exit comes as a surprise as he was just given a vote of confidence by owner Pat Bowlen last week. He becomes the third coach fired this year, joining the like of Wade “Aw Shucks” Phillips and Brad “Chilly” Childress. He will be replaced by Eric Studesville, the RB coach and former RB coach in Buffalo as well. The worst thing about this story is the way the Broncos announced his firing, via Twitter. You would think they would have more class than that. Bowlen will now be paying three coaches as he is still paying Mike Shanahan, McDaniels now and a new Head Coach in 2011. The firing also raises the question about Tim Tebow’s future.

MJD for MVP?: A lot buzz is being made for the Jaguars running back after his sensational performance against the Titans. The pint sized RB assaulted Tennessee for 186 yards and has five straight 100-yard games. His team sits alone atop of the AFC south and they control their own playoff destiny. He has a total of 1,177 yards so far, good for second in the league, only trailing Arian Foster of Houston who has 1,230 yards. He may be a long shot though as he plays in a small market in Jacksonville and doesn’t get the publicity he deserves. Also going against him is the fact that the MVP usually goes to a QB, as the last time a running back won was back in 2006 (Ladainian Tomlinson). If he keeps producing and the Jags keep winning though, he may have a chance.

Battered Brett: As much as some people can’t stand Favre, you have to feel a little sorry for him. He has created this iron man image and is just scratching and clawing his way to start number 300. He was creamed on the first play of the game against the Buffalo Bills and couldn’t return but now Coach Leslie Frazier is saying he expects him to start this week. Someone has to be the voice of reason here. I’m beginning to think Favre is on a mission to die on the field. He loves the game so much why not just be buried on the field with his shoulders pad and helmet on? The man is tough as nails and he proves that every week. He has every conceivable record for QBs, so why does he continue to jeopardize his well-being after football for a season that is going no where? I just don’t understand but to each their own. I hope he makes it to 300 but not at the expense of his health. Brett you will have a life after football but for some reason I don’t think you care about that.

Haynesworth suspended for last four games: The team says in a press release Tuesday that Haynesworth was punished for “conduct detrimental to the club” and that he was told of the suspension by general manager Bruce Allen.

Coach Mike Shanahan says in a statement that Haynesworth “repeatedly refused to cooperate with our coaching staff in a variety of ways over an extended period of time.”

This definitely sounds like the end in Big Al in D.C.