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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sportaholic NFL Power Rankings Week 12

The playoff push begins now for the teams with those Super Bowl aspirations. No team is up more than one game on the second place team in every division. This year is shaping to be playoff race like we have never seen. It’s crunch time for teams on the brink like the New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, and the Washington Redskins. The window is closing so these teams need to get hot and stay consistent if they want in on the playoffs this year. There are a few more teams in contention with San Diego, Tampa Bay, and Oakland all in the mix in their respective divisions. Each week from here on out will be like a survivor episode as every lost will cast a team out the playoff picture. As the tension mounts and the drama unfolds, no team in contention can afford to lose and it going to make for an interesting next two months for football fans.

Now to unveil the rankings:

1. New England Patriots (9-2) – You didn’t really think they would lose to the Lions, did you? The Pats outscored lowly Detroit 35-7 in the second half as Tom Brady and co. got it rolling and continued to burn Detroit’s secondary, primarily Alphonso Smith. Brady looks in-sync with his receiver and put on a clinic in the second half of the game and he would finish a surgeon like 21/27 for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns. The man had a perfect QB rating of 158.3 for crying out loud. The subtraction of Randy Moss is proving to be an addition to the offense. You can longer key on one guy in their offense. The days of Wes Welker underneath and Randy Moss over the top are over and that entire side of the ball is reaping the benefits. The only thing that scares me with this team is the defense. They are a bend but don’t break unit but their will come a time when Tom terrific can’t bail them out. They should tested early and often next game against their arch rivals.

2. New York Jets (9-2) – No cardiac comeback this week as the Jets handled the Bengals easily. Brad Smith did all the dirty work as he accounted 200 total yards. Smith, done it in a variety of ways as he had three carries for 55 yards, one catch for 23 yards and an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He brings a do-it-all mentality to the offense for New York. I’m interested in the growth of Mark Sanchez most importantly though. For the Jets to go all the way, the second year pro from Southern Cal has to keep his mistakes at a minimum. The Int he threw to Rey Maualuga was especially troubling. And speaking of trouble, I know I wasn’t the only looking for some good trash talk from T.O and Darrelle Revis after both took jabs at each other last week but no dice in that department. As it stands, my top two teams face off next week on Monday night, so that will surely affect the rankings.

3. Atlanta Falcons (9-2) – This is the team no one pays attention to and all they do is continue to win. Matt Ryan is now 19-1 as a starter at home and has the Falcons holding the inside track to home-field advantage in the playoffs. This guy is just a winner and his numbers don’t do justice to what he means to that team. It doesn’t hurt that he has “Rowdy” Roddy White on the outside and Michael “Burner” Turner to hand the ball off to as well. Ryan just picked apart Green Bay’s vaunted defense as he hit his first 14 passes and finished 24 of 28. Atl will keep winning and no one outside of the 404 will care until the playoffs. See you in January Matty Ice.

4. Chicago Bear (8-3) – I have been reluctant all year to trust these Bears, but they proved it to me on last Sunday, that they can be a force. Any team with Jay Cutler as your QB is always going to be up and down because his play. He can be the hero and the goat on consecutive plays, that just how he rolls. Mike Martz and Lovie Smith finally have realized that and now feature the run more and for Bears fans that should make you happy. The defense is stacked with Peppers, Urlacher, and Briggs bringing it every game. They proved there worth as they were able to stop Michael Vick. They have a game up on Green Bay and with a game left against them we will find out what the Bears are really about. I just don’t trust Cutler though

5. New Orleans Saints (8-3) Welcome to the rankings Saints. As my New Orleans friend says, it looks like the Mojo is working again in Louisiana. The Saints have been struggling to find their consistency on offense but they have finally broken through. Drew Brees just assaulted the Cowboys defense (Who isn’t these days?) to the tune of 352 yards and a touchdown. The defense has been waiting for the offense to catch up and it appears it finally has.

Other league news and notes:

Josh McDaniels and Spygate II – It seems that McDaniels is losing his grip as the coach of the Broncos. Denver is 5-16 in their last 21 games under the embattled coach and this latest incident doesn’t make anything better. It was reported that Steve Scarnecchia, the video man for the Broncos, video tapped the 49ners walk thru and did so unknowingly from McDaniels. McDaniels went on to compare this to the original spygate in New England and also proceeded to trash the Pats in the process. As it is, he and the Broncos were fined $50,000 a piece. The only cure for this type of thing is to win and McDaniels team couldn’t even do that as they lost to St. Louis. If the team doesn’t make drastic improvements by the end of the season, McDaniels could be gone.

Andre Johnson vs. Cortland Finnegan – Doesn’t it seem like Finnegan is the crazy guy who is getting beat-up but keeps asking for more? He was clearly the instigator in the fight but now makes it seem as if Johnson should have never took swings at him. Johnson very well didn’t have to take it to that extreme that he did but everyone at one point of their life has lost their cool because of someone else. And the $25,000 that both were fined is just a slap on the wrist. Its crazy because neither player showed restraint and everyone in the league knows what Finnegan is about. He will do any and everything to get under your skin to gain the advantage. You just have to be prepared for that or you can just punch him like Johnson did. Get ready for round two in Nashville on Dec 19, that should be a fun rematch.

Leslie to the rescue: Didn’t the Vikings look lose and carefree Sunday? When you’re not worrying about your coach getting fired it makes everything a little easier as the Vikes proved. Brett Favre was running like he had his wranglers on and Minnesota beat the Skins. Frazier brings a calm that Brad Childress lost during his tenure. The players are familiar with him since he has been on the staff since Childress was there. They played harder as a result and if Zygi Wilf had made this move earlier they might have been going to the playoffs.

Best game next weekend: It has to be the Monday night game with the Pats and Jets going at it. These teams hate each other and would rather sit in gasoline with a match than to see the other win. They are both 9-2 and fighting for the division lead. Rex Ryan will do and say what ever it takes to motivate his team. The hoodie won’t do it in public like Ryan but believe you me, when he behind closed doors with his team, he is wearing out the Jets. This one will be hyped relentlessly by the media so get ready for it but at least it should result in a good game.

Monday, November 29, 2010

UT Report

Tennessee earned their bowl eligibility with a high flying offensive attack, defeating the Kentucky Wildcats for the 26 straight time 24-14. This so called rivalry has been one sided but the Wildcats have been on the verge of beating the Vols, including an overtime loss to Tennessee just a couple of seasons ago. This is a remarkable turnaround for a team that was 2-6 entering the month of November and had a slim chance of going bowling for the second consecutive year; but by beating Memphis, Mississippi, Vanderbilt and now Kentucky, the Vols are bowl bound. If you notice the momentum began with freshman sensation, Tyler Bray being inserted as the starting QB.

The Vols offense was on the attack for most of the afternoon thanks to it new found leader, in Bray. He would throw for 354 yards and 2 touchdowns in the victory. Bray's main target was senior Denarius Moore who caught 7 passes for 205 yards and 1 TD and became the first ever Vol to have two 200 yard games in a season.

The game itself started out with a bang for Tennessee as Freshman receiver Da'Rick Rogers flashed his speed and returned the opening kick-off 78 yards to Kentucky's 17-yard line. The Vols however would end up with no points on the drive after rushing the ball twice and incompleting a pass on third down. The previous perfect Daniel Lincoln (9-9 on FGs) missed a 29-yard field goal.

The Wildcats took on their own 10 yard line and promptly took the ball down the field for a touchdown. The drive featured RB Derek Locke and do-it-all receiver Randall Cobb. The two would combine for 68 yards on the drive, with Locke taking it on a 17-yard burst up the sidelines. Tennessee would go three-and-out on the next series. The Wildcats would drive the ball to the goal line of the Vols again, with a series of runs to Locke and play-actions passes. However, the Vols would force Locke to fumble and LB Nick Revivz would recover in the end zone for a UT touchback.

That was a momentum shifter as Tennessee got the ball on their 20 yard line and looked like a different offensive team. The drive began with a incompletion but from there Bray would hit his next three passes to TE Luke Stocker for 17-yards, then a 44-yard sling to Moore and finally a 12-yard TD pass to WR Gerald Jones. The quick lighting drive only lasted 61 seconds and tied the score at 7-7. Kentucky would get a one first down on their next series before being forced to punt. The deadly combo of Bray to Moore would strike again as freshman found his senoir wide out for a 49-yard bomb and again on a 12-yard touchdown pass. The Vols offense was red hot now and they took a 14-7 lead.

It would be the defense's turn next to heat up as they tackled Kentucky's Locke behind the line of scrimmage for a loss and DE Chris Walker sacked QB Mike Hartline for a 12-yard loss, ensuing another Wildcat punt. The Vols were penalized on the first two plays of the drive but on the second Bray again was able to find Moore for another 48-yards. The resulting penalty would make it 1st and 20 for the Vols and Bray would be sacked for another 10-yard loss. After the sack Bray would incomplete his next two passes and the red hot offense of the Vols had been cooled and forced to punt.

The Wildcats took over from the 26-yard line and after four plays fumbled as Alcoa native Randall Cobb was hit and coughed up the ball. As good as Bray is, we have to remember this only his fourth game starting and he would throw an interception on the Vols first play after the Cobb fumble. Kentucky got the ball back with 4:01 left in the first half. They would drive the ball all the way to the Tennessee 25-yard line to set up a Field Goal, only to the miss the 42-yard attempt. The score at half was UT 14 Kentucky 7

Kentucky coach Joker Phillips must have said the right things as The Wildcats scored on their opening possession to tie the game at 14-14. The combination of Locke and Cobb was at it again on the scoring drive. Tennessee’s Bray would misfire on his next three passes and UT looked to punt on the 4th and 10. The Vols however pulled out the trick play as punter Michael Parlardy scampered 17-yards for a UT first down. It would be short lived for the Vols as that drive ended with the second of the two picks for Tyler Bray. Kentucky would stall however and go three and out. The Vols would ride the hand of Bray again on the next drive as he hit Gerald Jones for a 21-yard gain on the first play. The run game also got cranked up as Tauren Poole had 13 rushing yards on the drive and capped it with a 2-yard touchdown run that put the Vols up 21-14.

Entering the fourth quarter, Kentucky would go three and out again on their initial drive and UT would move the chains on their next as Bray got TE Stocker involved as he hit him for 21-yard gain. The drive would continue and eventually lead to a field goal for the Vols as Daniel Lincoln would connect from 36 yards out, making the score 24-14

That would all that was needed as the Vols defense held the Wildcats offense in line for the rest of the game. Once again Tyler Bray was the star of the show with his performance. The freshman has all of Vol nation talking with his rocket arm. The win sets up a bowl berth for the Vols, who after a 2-6 start, turned things around to finish 6-6.

The Vols will likely end up with a Music City Bowl appearance for there efforts. The future looks very bright for the Vols with Bray, Justin Hunter, Da’Rick Rogers and Tauren Poole all returning next year. The defense also was key to their success as they ratcheded it up for the second half of the season. The Vol faithful should be proud of this bunch, as they came from the depths to have a classic Vol November finishing 4-0 for the month. Congrats to the Vols on a better than expected season.

Titans vs. Texans Game Review

In a week that has been filled with drama for the Titans, with the Vince Young-Jeff Fisher fiasco and Mike Hermindinger announcing he has cancer, the game turned out to be anti-climatic. Tennessee was defeated in ugly fashion as the Houston Texans handed the reeling Titans their 4th straight loss. From the start of this game it looked like it was going to be a long day for the Titans as Matt Schaub and the Texans offense raced up and down the field. It got even worse as Cortland Finnegan got into a full fist fight with all-pro wide out Andre Johnson and both were ejected from the game.

The thought going into this one was that the focus would be turned to rookie QB Rusty Smith, as he got the start for the injured Vince Young but this one quickly turned into a dissembling of a team that was once 5-2 and leading the AFC South division. The Titans looked flat and the Texans came out and handed it to them.

Now for the breakdown of the game:

The Texans were able to do as they pleased on offense as they racked up 346 yards of offense to the Titans 162. Rusty Smith was abysmal going 17/31 for 138 yards and 3 interceptions. I wish I could have some of those throws back," Smith said. "You can't get them back." Tennessee barely looked like a threat as they were shutout by the Texans. This was Houston’s first shutout since 2004. This game was supposed to feature the two leading rushers in the league with Arian Foster of the Texans and Chris Johnson of the Titans. Foster held up his end of the bargain rushing for 143 yards but the most telling stat of the game was Chris Johnson numbers, as he was held to a career low of 5 yards rushing on 7 carries. We weren't able to run the ball at all," Johnson said. "I don't know why we couldn't run it."

The Texans came into the game ranked 31st in the league and had not held an opponent to fewer than 24 points this year but were able to take it to the Titans, holding them to just 12 yards and no first downs in the first quarter. Glover Quin recorded his first career interception on the very first play of the second quarter and would go on to set Houston’s franchise record with 3 for the game. Matt Schaub went 25/35 for 178 yards in the game but didn’t need to be spectacular in this one as the Titans offense could never get rolling.

After a Neil Rackers FG kick in the third quarter, the score was 17-0 and it didn’t look like the Titans could muster a first down, much less a touchdown. The Titans finally got some momentum and were able to drive the ball to the Houston 12 after a pass interference call on Houston safety Bernard Pollard. But rookie QB Rusty Smith would throw another costly interception to Quin yet again and the Titans would never recover.

The fight that broke out between Finnegan and Johnson was the real highlight of the game. The two had a minor shoving match on one play before taking it to an all out brawl on the next. Finnegan jabbed at Johnson’s neck and face mask and Johnson responded by ripping Finnegan’s helmet off and connected twice with two punches to Finnegan’s head and neck. Finnegan would take his turn at ripping off Johnson’s helmet before the refs got involved and separated the two. "He kept doing little things and I told him: 'Just because you're frustrated, you need to stop what you're doing,"' Johnson said. "I guess he thought it was funny." It's just a buildup of things over plays," Johnson said. "I just lost my cool."

The two will surely be disciplined by the league when Commissioner Roger Goodell receives the game footage. The fight was fitting in a since as it signified the Titans season at this point. They are fighting with each other and with other teams. As I stated in one of previous game reviews, the Vince Young incident had a chance to either bring the team together or bring them down, and it looks as if the latter of the two is happening.

The Titans got lucky with both the Jaguars and Colts losing their games Sunday. Tennessee is actually just a game behind first place Jacksonville at 5-6 but they are also last in the division per their record. I also would like to know why Chris Johnson only got 7 carries when it obvious he should be the focal point of the offense with a rookie QB starting. Coach Jeff Fisher looked none too pleased with his team and for good reason. The Titans ship is sinking and fast. The Titans next game is versus the division leading Jaguars and those two always mix it up in this rivalry. Let’s hope for the best for the Titans and hope that they can display a better performance than the one we saw this Sunday.

Games notes: Randy Moss caught three passes to pass Andre Reed for eighth all-time on the career receptions list. Titans K Rob Bironas had his franchise record streak of consecutive games with a field goal snapped at 20.

College Football Weekend Finale Spectacular

The Thanksgiving weekend is always one of the best gauntlets of games of the entire year. It features some of the best rivalries the sport has to offer. No matter what part of the country you’re in, there is a guaranteed match-up that will draw your attention. It could be the classics such as Michigan vs. Ohio State, Texas vs. Texas A&M. Florida vs. Florida State. USC vs. Notre Dame, Mississippi vs. Mississippi State in the Egg bowl just to name a few or named games like the backyard brawl between West Virginia and Pittsburgh, The Bedlam Battle between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma and the battle for the Palmetto state featuring South Carolina and Clemson.

As you can see, this was a mega weekend in college football. You had your upset as Nevada took down Boise State, your classic Iron Bowl as Bama let an golden opportunity slip away to ruin their arch rivals dream season, and Notre Dame finally toppled USC and gave Brian Kelly his signature win of the season.

Now lets breakdown the best games of the weekend:

Auburn 28 vs. Alabama 27– This was just an epic game. Bama really jumped out on the Tigers and could have put this one away early, if it wasn’t for some missed opportunities in the red-zone. The Crimson Tide dominated the first two quarters. They led 21-0 before Auburn had even recorded a first down. Alabama QB Greg McElroy started hot by hitting his first 12 passes including a 68-yard touchdown to Julio Jones and a 12-yard touchdown strike to Darius Hanks. Alabama had all the momentum and it looked as if they would go up 28-0 as defending Heisman winner Mark Ingram rumbled towards the end-zone after catching a short pass from McElroy. Ingram however would stumble and the hustling Antoine Carter came in from behind and stripped Ingram at the 19 yard line. The ball would roll all the way into Auburn’s end-zone and would be recovered by Demond Washington of the Tigers. Auburn would stall again on offense and Bama marched right down the field to the Tigers 4-yard line only to manage a field goal, after Trent Richardson dropped a sure handed TD pass from McElroy. Alabama would have yet another chance in the red-zone but would fumble again as Greg McElroy this time coughed up the ball after being hit by Nick Fairley, who would also recover the ball as well. The score could have been 42-0 at this point but with the miscues from the Tide it remained 24-7 going into halftime. What ever Auburn coach told his players at the half should be put on paper and framed in the halls of Auburn lore. The Tigers would storm back as Cam Newton got hot. He found an open Terrell Zachery for a 70-yard bomb touchdown pass to make it 24-14. On the Tigers third drive after halftime, Newton would lead the Tigers from their own 25 yard line to another TD as he found the end-zone on a one-yard run making it 24-21 Alabama. Bama would be forced to punt on their next possession but would get a present from Auburn as the punt was fumbled and recovered by the Crimson Tide. The turnover would lead to another field goal by the tide and made it 27-21 in favor of Alabama. Cam Newton would not let his team lose though as they got the ball at the end of the 3rd quarter and drove it down field. Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn drew up a beautiful play as he designed a tight end throwback and Phillip Lutezenkirchen delayed his route and eventually escaped out and was wide open for the go ahead score. From there Bama would challenge but never score again. The Tigers much maligned defense held serve and now with a win over South Carolina in the SEC championship game, Auburn should be playing for the national championship. This one will go down as one of the all-time classics in Iron Bowl history. Say what you want about controversial Newton, but I bet you wish he was on your team.

Nevada 34 Boise State 31 – It all came crashing down for the blue field Cinderella’s from Idaho. The Broncos were well in control of this game as they were handing it to the Wolfpack 24-7. That was until the 3rd quarter when Colin Kaepernick and the pistol offense started rolling. Nevada would go on to out rush the Broncos 238-9 in the second half, against the No.1 statically ranked run defense in the nation. The Wolfpack came back and tied the game twice, before the Broncos hit a long pass with 2 seconds left that appeared to set up the game-winning FG. But senior kicker Kyle Brotzman, who missed only three attempts all year, yanked it wide right sending it into overtime. Brotzman even got another chance to attain for the miss but pulled another try left on the first possession of overtime for the Broncos. Nevada got their chance and put it through the uprights as a local product, Anthony Martinez spoiled Boise’s perfect season. The win validated a Wolfpack squad that didn’t get much respect, even though they have been ranked much of the season. The loss for Boise now takes them out of the national title picture and relegates them to the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl. That just isn’t right. The Broncos deserve a BCS bid way more than the eventual Big East champs who will have at least four losses, but that is just how it goes for the have-nots in college football.

Notre Dame 20 USC 16 – The 8-game losing streak had to end one day didn’t it? The Irish snapped the skid to the Trojans with a stunning victory as the football gods finally shined on the Golden Domers once again. Freshmen Tommy Rees accounted for 4 turnovers but was able to lead the Irish on game-winning 77 yard drive. Former Arkansas QB Mitch Mustain got the start for the injured Matt Barkley and had a decent game, going 20/37 for 177 yards and 1 INT. The game-changing play or should we say non-play came when the usually sure-handed WR Ronald Johnson dropped a for sure TD pass for the Trojans. Even with the drop Mustain was able to convert on 4th down and get the Trojans in position to retake the lead; however he would be intercepted as he made a bad decision and Harrison Smith of the Irish clinched the game with the pick with just 36 seconds remaining. It was truly a great victory for the Irish as they season has been filled with tragedy with the death of a student videographer during a windy practice last month. The Irish finish the regular season at 7-5 and it doesn’t get much better than beating their arch rival in the Coliseum.

Other notables and notes:

Bedlam in Stillwater: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State staged a scoring spree that would drive a defensive coordinator crazy. The Sooners looked to be in control but a furious come back by the injured Justin Blackmon and Cowboys got turned this one into a barn burner. The two teams traded blows for the entire second half but it would turn out to be a Sooners victory as the Cowboys defense let the team down again and again. In one stirring sequence in the fourth quarter Oklahoma QB Landry Jones found Cameron Kinney for an 86-yard touchdown pass. Oklahoma State responded on the kick-off with Justin Gilbert taking it to the house. Jones would come right back to find James Hanna for a 76-yard bomb to make it 47-38. The Cowboys would tack on a field goal to make it 47-41 but that would be as close as they would get. The Sooners, based on BCS rankings should now take over the Big 12 south and face Nebraska in the championship game. So close but no cigar once again for Oklahoma State

Coaches Canned: Miami’s Randy Shannon was shown the door after his team limped to the finish line with a 7-5 record after expecting to compete for the ACC title. Shannon was able to recruit well and land some of the best classes the Hurricanes had seen in years but in the end it wasn’t enough to keep his job. Early rumors have Jon Gruden as the leading candidate for the job but isn’t he always the leading choice when a job opens up.

Robbie Caldwell steps down at Vandy – This one was coming a long time ago. After taking over as the season began, when long time coach Bobby Johnson stepped down, Caldwell already was in a bad position. To make things worse his team finished 2-10 and the rumors were already swirling about his job security. Caldwell did the smart thing by announcing before the Commodores last game against Wake Forest that he would resign effective immediately after the game. I haven’t heard of any early favs to land the job and it usually hard to find a good candidate to take over an academic school smack in the middle of SEC country. Only time will tell who will take over for the struggling Commodores.

TCU going to the Big East: According to sources, TCU will be headed to play with the Big East beginning after the 2011-2012 year. Yahoo sports reports that a Monday afternoon news conference will announce the decision to move to the BCS conference. This will make the Horned Frogs insiders instead of outsiders, as the Big East receives one of the six automatic bids for a BCS bowl. Good move for the Horned Frogs. Doesn’t it seem they are always one step ahead of Boise State?

Arkansas gets the best of the Mad Hatter: The pivotal play in the Arkansas vs. LSU game came when the Razorbacks appeared to be prepared to take a knee and go into halftime tied at 14-14. However with three seconds left in the half, the Razorbacks pulled off some mad hatter magic of their own as Ryan Mallett hit Cobi Hamilton over the middle, and two LSU players ran into one another and next thing you know, Hamilton is racing for an 80-yard touchdown pass and Arkansas takes a 21-14 lead going into halftime. That play would end-up shifting momentum to the Razorbacks side and they would go on to win 31-23. The win sets them up for a possible Sugar bowl appearance.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Titans Turmoil

The Vince Young and Jeff Fisher saga is getting as messy as the ending of a bad Hollywood relationship. Coach Jeff Fisher reportedly told Young not to attend a team meeting being held yesterday. Initially the Tennessean reported, citing unidentified sources that Young was in the training room Monday when he was asked to leave the facility by the quarterbacks coach and told he wasn’t wanted in the building after what happened Sunday. The newspaper said Young left without incident. The story was later refuted by Fisher on his radio show but he did confirm that he sent an assistant coach to inform Young that he was not to attend the team meeting. Fisher also said that he hasn’t spoken with Young since he stormed out of the locker room after Sunday’s game. Bud Adams stated that the two will just have to work it out and the story will blow over after a few days. Adams also went on to say that he wants Young to be in the team’s plan in the future. “It is one of those things that happened” Adams said but I think he is underestimating just how bad the rift between Young and Fisher is.

So you have your quarterback who acted out like a high school freshman throwing a temper tantrum after not getting to play when trainers and the coach clearly didn’t think he was healthy enough to play. A coach who seems to never really been fond of his supposedly franchise QB, and doesn’t sound interested to talk to him either after their confrontation. And lastly an owner who thinks the two guys just need to sit down and sing Cum-bi-ya together and everything will go away. This is what makes this situation so defective. All three involved in this stand off have different views of the situation. Young believes he was slighted by Fisher and acted selfishly and immature in the aftermath, Fisher, who would rather have anyone else start at this point than Young and wants to wash his hands of him completely and the disillusioned owner in Adams who doesn’t want to play sides with the two but seems to really have an affection for Young no matter what he does.

This is a toxic mix of motives and ideas. I just don’t see a resolution in this other than one of the two being exited from the organization. The writing is on the wall for Young or Fisher. The two don’t seem to be able to co-exist in a productive manner. You know it’s bad when you have Randy Moss playing the peacemaker on the sidelines. Neither trusts the other and no other position on the field needs trust more than the QB to the coach. Look at the most successful franchises over the last decade in New England with Brady and Belicheck and Indianapolis with Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy in the beginning and now with Jim Caldwell. Could you imagine either one of those teams going through this kind of chaos? Me either. It goes without saying that the QB and the coach have to be on the same page in order for the entire team to be successful, and New England and Indianapolis prove that. When you look at the relationship Fisher had with the late Steve McNair, you can clearly the trust was there and that led to great things as the Titans had there greatest seasons in that era.

In summarizing, this is a story that is not going anywhere anytime soon. It has dominated national news and we’re not even going to speak about the way its being covered by the local media here in Nashville. This has become a fire storm of a topic. I can’t dodge it myself, as every time I talk sports to my friends and family it is all they want to talk about. It may die down in importance as the season wears on but one thing is for sure in my mind. Either Vince Young or Jeff Fisher will be gone after this season. Bud Adams will ultimately have to make that unsavory decision and it will be a tough one but its one that has to be made. Who would you rather see leave Nashville: Fisher or Young?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sportaholic NFL Power Rankings Week 11

In what was yet another tumultuous week of games in the NFL, week 11 turned out to be one of the more normal weeks in the season. All of my top five teams won and most of them won handedly My top team, the New York Jets, however narrowly escaped defeat again, almost blowing a 16-point lead to Houston (The Texans have to be the worst finishing team in the league). New England and Indianapolis renewed their rivalry featuring the greatest QBs of our generation. Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay put an emphatic nail in Brett Favre and Minnesota, and effectively ended the Brad Childress era. San Diego is on its annual second half tear, now winning their last three games after blowing out the Broncos on Monday night (Do the Chargers get some type of super powers in the second half on the season?). Michael Vick wasn’t what he was against Washington but Philly was still able to defeat the other Manning and Giants, making it officially a bad day in the Manning family.

Now last week I said that I wouldn’t let one team leap frog another team ahead of it unless it was a loss and a very valid reason. And with that being said, I have a new # 1 on the list. Even though the Jets didn’t lose, I have my reasons that will be explained. So with that let’s jump into the rankings:

1. New England Patriots (8-2) – There is no denying this team. You can talk about the golden boy Tom Brady all you want but for me it’s all of their other parts. At the top of that list is little Danny Woodhead. This guy looks like a kid running around with men but is still able to be an effective weapon in their offense. He was the key component in the Pats victory over Indy. In one sequence Woodhead scored on a 36-yard burst showing his speed and agility. On the ensuing kickoff after the score, Woodhead came and swooped in making an exceptional tackle. That’s the kind of effort and commitment every football coach wants to see from their players. The Pats offense without Randy Moss, are now also utilzing their tight ends to their advantage with rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski catching touchdown passes in nine of the Pats 10 games. It sounds like a broken record as I say every week but as long as they have Tom Brady, who by the way was 19/25 for 186 yards and 2 TDs, and the hoodie, then they will have a chance to win Super Bowls.

2. New York Jets (8-2) – The Cardiac Jets survived their latest scare, this week from Houston. They almost blew a 16-point lead as I stated above but like they always do they pulled out the win with some late game heroics. It’s hard to really know what this team is at this point. In the great words of Bill Parcells “You are what your records says you are” and if that’s the case with the Jets they are a good football team. The thing is that you can’t keep playing with fate this way. I usually don’t like to put a team higher than the team I had ahead of them but because of the Jets inability to play up their potential on a week in and week out basis, I have to drop them a slot. I can say that Mark Sanchez is showing a lot of grit in pulling off these late game comebacks and Santonio Holmes is proving why the Jets took the risk on him. Firemen Ed will have a heart attack if they continue to play these close games.

3. Philadelphia Eagles (7-3) – Mike Vick came back down to earth, after his record breaking and awe-inspiring performance against the Skins, but Philly was still able to handle the Giants. The Giants did get to Vick, with Justin Tuck sacking him three times and Vick being hit another five times behind the line. That can’t possibly be healthy for an already banged up Vick. If Philly wants to make it the Super Bowl, than number 7 has to stay clean.

4. Green Bay Packers (7-3) – I bet when Aaron Rodgers finally had some time to himself and digest the beat down he and the Packers put on the Vikings, he had to think that felt good. He beat the man who he replaced in Lambeau lore, the man who never was that fond of him, the man who many said shoes he would never be able to fill and the man who spanked the Packers twice last year in Brett Favre. The Packers are for real with a mean defense that features two of the best at their position in Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews (They have allowed 10 points in the last three games) and a high-flying offense with Rodgers leading. The former Cal QB has a 75 percent completion rate with seven TDs and no interceptions in his last two games. Green Bay was picked by a lot of experts at the beginning of the season to be a Super Bowl contender and they appear now ready to ascend to that level.

5. Atlanta Falcons (8-2) – Just another nothing to see here performance by the Falcons. They aren’t the most exciting team to watch but they know how to win games. Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan is finally back in his rookie form that saw him win rookie of the year honors. Michael “Burner” Turner also is playing like his former self as he ran all over the Rams to the tune of 131 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons will continue to march on to the playoffs and have a favorable schedule along the way. New Orleans will still have something to say about the division title though.

Other news and notables:

Vince the Villain: The way things played out for Vince Young and the Tennessee Titans begs the question: Will Young be back next year in a Titans uniform? From all indications if it was Coach Jeff Fisher’s decision he would not, but it’s not Fisher’s call. Bud “Bottom Line” Adams stated that two will just have to work out their differences but how can they at this point?

If you haven’t heard by now, Fisher did not put Young back into the game after he sustained an injury to his thumb on his throwing hand. Young looked intended on going back into the game as he was throwing passes to Randy Moss on the sidelines. Fisher stated that Young’s passes were loose and off-target, so he stayed with rookie Rusty Smith. Young was visibly upset and in the locker room after the game Young muttered words as Fisher addressed the team after their lost. Young apparently was leaving as Fisher spoke as well, and Fisher told him not to quit on his team, this being reported by Titans insider Jim Wyatt, Young said he wasn’t quitting on them but he was quitting on Fisher.

Now when you add that with the report that Young was egging on the crowd to boo and also tossing his shoulder pads and helmet into the crowd, how can this type of damage be repaired? Young definitely acted immature and childish. He takes things way to personally to be a professional athlete. You have to say that some things come with territory when you’re a highly paid and publicized figure in this world. The Boos will come sometime but you have to be a professional. I can understand being angry for not getting back into the game, but to induce the crowd and to toss your equipment in the stands is just uncalled for.

Fisher deserves some blame in this fiasco as well. His body language and actions have always showed that he doesn’t really like Young. Remember it was Bud Adams who told Fisher to put Young back in the lineup when the Titans started 0-6 last year. It was Fisher who took Young out when the Titans were getting manhandled by the Steelers earlier this year. You just get the feeling that at the end of this year, especially with the way Fisher was talking in his press conference yesterday, that one of these two men will be gone. Bud Adams seems to have this illusion that Young still will blossom into the game-changing QB that he was in Texas, but how many people believe Young will ever become more than he is? Adams will have to make a decision to either axe the longest tenured coach in the league or get rid of his hand-picked hometown QB who he has invested a lot of money and effort in. Fisher may make it easy by just walking if Adams doesn’t want to let go of Young. It almost seems as a good thing that Young was hurt and won’t be able to play the rest of this season. We will see how this play out in the off season.

The champs are back: Don’t look now but the New Orleans Saints are back marching again. After starting the season in Super Bowl hangover fashion, the Saints looked to have found their groove again. Drew Brees was 29 of 42 for 382 yards and broke Archie Manning’s (Told you it was a bad day to be a Manning) team record with his 1,850 completion. As bad as New Orleans started out of the gates, they are now just one game behind NFC South leader Atlanta. Watch out Falcons.

The epic showdown between the Sheriff and the Golden Boy: These two guys just deserve each other This is just good stuff for us fans The last six times these two have faced each other, the combined margin of victory is just 22 points. They will be known as the best quarterbacks of their generation with Manning’s 4 MVP and 1 Super Bowl and Brady’s 3 Super Bowl titles. Each year the NFL makes sure to schedule these two teams because of the sheer brilliance that is on display when they face off. Brady had the better numbers in this one but Manning was still Manning and despite making some unmanning like mistakes, still had his team close to a victory. The pick at the end soured an otherwise good game for Manning but he shouldn’t be throwing the ball 52 times like he did anyway. These two will meet again next for year for sure and maybe in the playoffs. When ever you get a chance to see these two match-up make sure you’re tuned in because you are watching greatness vs. greatness.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chilly gets shevled in Minnesota

There have been whisperings of this all season. After the Vikings got shellacked by Favre's former team Green Bay 31-3, Owner Zygi Wilf finally gave Brad Childress his walking papers. This has been a tumultuous year to say the least for Childress. He coddled Brett Favre and even sent players down to Mississippi to try to pry Favre out from his farm to give it one run at the Super Bowl. He also swung for a trade for the Mercurial Randy Moss, only to release him after four games. The releasing of Moss without consulting the Owner Wilf, probably had sealed Childress’s fate after this season anyway. Childress's players often referred to him as not having there back and out to prove points that didn't need to be made. He reportedly got into arguments with Percy Harvin and Brett Favre at one point or another this season. Wilf had to make a move as the Vikings are 3-7 this year and appear to be going nowhere. Childress’s leaves the Vikings with a reord of 40-37, including 1-2 in the playoffs

Last year Childress and the Vikings almost made it to the Super Bowl losing to the Saints in the NFC championship game. After a dream season in 2009 things quickly soured for him this year. Once you lose your players in the locker room its not long before they stop playing for you on the field, just ask Wade Phillips. And speaking of Phillips isn’t it funny that two playoff teams, considered to be Super Bowl contending teams this, were the first to fire their coach this year?

Things got a little to Chilly for Childress and now he joins Wade Phillips on the unemployment line. Long tenured defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier takes over for Childress and tries to right the ship in Minnesota. If you were wondering, he has already stated that Brett Favre will be his starting QB. So much for that idea.

UT vs. Vandy Game Review

This was a game of two teams going in opposite directions. UT has strung together a three-game win streak now and still has a chance at a bowl game. Vandy has lost its last 6 games and likely just wish the season would be over at this point. The Vols continued their streak of 28 consecutive defeats of Vandy in Nashville. UT is coming together at the right time and has Kentucky left as their only obstacle in the way of their second straight bowl appearance. That is a long way from where they begin the year under first year coach Derek Dooley.

Now for the break down of the game:

Tyler Bray got started early for the Vols as he connected on nine of his first ten passes. On the Tennessee’s second possession Bray was firing on all cylinders. First he hit wide-out Da’Rick Rogers for a 5-yard gain. After a Tauren Poole rush up the middle for 5 yards, Bray found David Oku sneaking out the back field for a 34 yard gain. That would set up a Justin Hunter 15-yard touchdown pass. Bray floated a soft pass in the corner of ther end-zone and the athletic Hunter went up and snagged it for his UT record tying sixth receving touchdown of the year. Vandy would go three and out and their next drive. Tennessee connected on a few plays on its next drive but would be forced to punt as well.

Vandy’s first drive in the second quarter ended the same way their first one did, with a punt. The Vols received the ball on their 19-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Bray found Denarius Moore for an 11-yard strike for a first down and then Rogers again for another 27-yard gain. From their UT turned to the run game and Poole. He would get the next three carries for no gain, 9-yards, and a 2-yard gain up the middle. Gerald Jones got in on the action as he took a toss sweep to the left for a 8-yard gain. Another another two rushes from David Oku and Bray, The freshman QB found Denarius Moore on an out pass. Moore was able to shake off a defender and take the pass in for a 20-yard TD pass. That score put Tennessee up 14-0 in the mid second quarter.

On the Commodores very next play on offense QB Larry Smith was intercepted by the Vols Prentiss Waggner. Tennessee now had a chance to really take control of the game but on their third play, Tyler Bray suffered his first interception since becoming the starter as he picked off by Heyward of the Commodores. Vandy would march down the field only to be stalled at the 13 yard line and with only 3 seconds left on the clock before halftime, the Commodores settled for the field goal. Halftime score: 14-3 Tennessee.

After intermission, the Commodores received the ball first and promptly went three and out. Vandy got lucky on UT next possession as Anderson of the Vols fumbled on their first play and Vandy recovered. Vandy moved the ball well and got another gift from the Vols as they committed an 11-yard pentalty. That would put Vandy in field goal range and after two runs for a net gain of 3 yards and an incomplete pass, the Commodores attempted and missed a 25-yard field goal.

The Vols took over from there but Tyler Bray would be intercepted again The Commodores got down the field again and set up for another field goal attempt. This time it was blocked by the Vols and Gerald Jones returned it for 8-yards. The teams would trade punts from there to end the 3rd quarter.

UT had the ball entering the final quarter and would put together a nice drive that would net them a 29-yard field goal by Daniel Lincoln. The Vols and Commodores again would trade punts on the next few possessions. Vandy finally got into the end zone of their next last possession on the game when back-up QB Jared Funk hit wide out J. Matthews for a 16-yard TD pass, making the score 17-10. It seemed for a minute there we might see some magic at Commodores stadium but it was short lived. The Vols marched right down the field and Tauren Poole put the dagger in Vandy, with a 28-yard burst for a game-clinching touchdown.

The Vols could have really blown the doors off of Vandy if they didn’t commit some timely turnovers. As it stands the Commodores once again just couldn’t find any offense when they needed it most. It has to be frustrating for Vandy as this whole year their defense has played admirable but isn’t getting any help from its offense. UT played OK considering it was coming off a blow out victory over Ole Miss.

Both teams now have one game remaining with the Vols welcoming Kentucky to Neyland stadium and Vandy going on the road to finish its season against the Wake Forest Deamon Deacons. Great game for the locals here in Nashville, now lets all pull for UT to beat the Wildcats and get in a bowl game.

College Football Weekend Finale

In what was suppose to be a down week as far as the good games, this week saw its share of close to the wire finishes, as Ohio State was able to pull out a thriller in Iowa City vs. the Hawkeyes, LSU and the mad hatter put on show with Jeremiah Masoli and Ole Miss, and Michigan State came from behind to stun Purdue. We even had some comic relief as Northwestern and Illinois played a one-way football game (All that was missing was the all-time quarterback) in historic Wrigley field.

The top three in Oregon, Auburn, and TCU were all idle, so the BCS standings stayed the same in that department for the fourth consecutive week. Following this weekend's games, there remains only one more week in college football's regular season which is such a bittersweet thought for me. Their are some exciting conference races that will come down to the last game in the Big Ten, Big 12 and the Big East. As the season winds down, now is where the great teams will separate themselves from the good teams.

Now lets breakdown the top games of the weekend:

Ohio State 20 Iowa 17 - Terelle Pryor just finds ways to win and when his team needed him, he put on a season-defining drive for the Buckeyes. On their next to last drive, Pryor led the Buckeyes on a 12 play 76 yard drive that would put them ahead for good. The drive would feature gorgeously lofted 50-yard bomb pass from Pryor to DeVier Posey that would have been a touchdown but was dropped by Posey on third and 10. Pryor wouldn't let that deter his team as he scrambled for 14-yards on fourth down to keep the chains moving. Pryor then completed a 24-yard pass to Dane Sanzebacher to set up Dan Herron's go-ahead score. The Hawkeyes and QB Ricky Stanzi couldn't muster up any late game heroics themselves on their last drive as the Buckeyes defense stuffed them. It was just a great performance for Pryor who was having a shaky game before leading his team on the game-winning drive. His athleticism rivals Heisman front-runner Cam Newton, with his length and speed. Iowa as I suspected had no answer for him on defense. The Buckeyes keep there Rose bowl chances alive with the win even though they are a long shot with Wisconsin being ranked higher than them in the BCS rankings.

Wisconsin 48 Michigan 28 - This one turned out exactly as I thought it would. The Wolverines just could not contain the powerful Badger run game. Wisconsin just pounded Michigan into submission with 354 yards rushing. RB Montee Ball, just the third string back two weeks ago, ran for 194 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman James White pitched in with 161 yards and two touchdowns. QB Scott Tolzien completed his first 10 passes and finished the day nearly perfect going 14 of 15 for 201 yards and an interception. Even in the lost, and Michigan QB Denard Robinson set the all-time record for QB rushing yards with 1,538 yards in a season after running for 121 yards on 22 carries. This is the Badgers first win at Michigan since 1994. Wisconsin built a 24-0 lead going into halftime and there was no way Michigan could overcome that lead with the way the Badgers run the ball. Wisconsin now is the highest rated BCS team in the Big Ten and if they win out they should make a run for the Roses in Pasadena.

Texas A&M 9 Nebraska 6 – This one was a low scoring affair that your dad would have been proud of. Cyrus Gray led the Aggies with a career high 137 yards and if you haven’t saw this guy play, your missing out. He was elusive and only got stronger as the game wore on. This was Gray’s fifth consecutive game over the century mark. The game was a defensive struggle for the entire night and Nebraska just couldn’t muster up any offense. They also committed way too many turnovers and a few key ones that may have cost them the game. The roughing the passer call on 3rd and 11 continued the drive that led to a go-ahead field goal by the Aggies. Taylor Martinez missed the last five minutes of the first quarter and the entire second quarter after hurting his right ankle. He came back for the third quarter and played the rest of the game despite noticeably being hobbled. He was flagged for intentional grounding on first down on Nebraska’s last drive and then sacked on third down. The biggest show of the game may have come on the sidelines as Cornhusker coach Bo Pellini was upset with Martinez for some apparent reason and resorted to shouting and poking his finger in the chest of his QB. The loss doesn’t affect the Huskers in the Big 12 south race as they still control their own destiny with a win next week over Colorado. The Aggies now have won four straight and look continue their hot streak and sneak into a New Year’s Day bowl.

Other News and Notables:

Northwestern vs. Illinois – Sometimes schools and administrations force things and this sure felt that way with this game being played at Chicago’s historic Wrigley field. This one had all the makings of a bad game with the teams only able to one way on offense. It was comical to say the least but Northwestern wanted this game played so badly and they made it happen, even if it wasn’t the best conditions. This was the butt of many jokes including where is the all-time QB? There was also a few Arena league quips. The sod was so lose on the field that most players spent their day trying not to slip. The one person who took advantage was Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure, running for a school record 330- yards. Illinois became bowl eligible with the win.

Stanford – After Cal nearly pulled off the upset of Oregon, the thinking was that they and the Clancy Pendergrast defense actually stood a chance in this one. In the great words of Lee Corso “Not so fast my friend”. The Cardinal went out and whooped the Golden Bears in the annual Big Game 48-14. Andrew Luck once again put on a great performance tossing two touchdown passes. He redeemed himself for his less than stellar performance in last year’s game. The 48 point outburst from Stanford was the highest scoring total ever for one team in this heated rivalry.

The Mad Hatter vs. The Nutt – Where is the D in the SEC? The 79 points the teams combined for are the most in the SEC this year. LSU came in with the No. 1 ranked defense in the SEC but allowed Jeremiah Masoli and the Rebels to rack up 36 points. This one had everything you expected from it when Les Miles and Houston Nutt teams get together. The teams traded blows back and forth in the 4th quarter combining for five touchdowns in the period. LSU is such a fun team to watch. They always play down or up to their competition so even they play a team like Ole Miss or Tennessee and it makes for a good game. The Tigers are entrenched in the BCS rankings at # 5 and should hold that ranking this week with the win.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Titans vs. Redskins Game Review

Tennessee let another game slip from their grasp, losing this time in OT 19-16 to the Washington Redskins. In a game that was built up as "Haynesworth Homecoming", this one was hotly contested from the beginning and the pressure may have gotten the best of Vince Young and the Titan faithful. The fans at LP field didn't seem to happy about the questionable play-calling, in particular not getting Randy Moss involved. The raucous crowd begin to boo the Titans and Young seemed to take exception. Young reportedly waved his hands at the booing fans as too egg them on apparently in the late first half. Young (12/15 for 165 yards) was having a decent game before slamming his hand a helmet as he completed a 37-yard pass to Nate Washington. He would stay in the game for the next play and before going to the sidelines and having his thumb taped. Trainers tried to re-taped Young's hand as he tossed passes to Randy Moss but Young couldn't return. This is interesting in itself because earlier this week there were reported rumors circling the Titans locker involving Young's toughness and commitment. It was even reported that some teammates preferred Kerry Collins to start when he returned. This make for the 3rd time in last four games played Young has been knocked out the game.

Coach Jeff Fisher now says that Young may have a season ending torn flexor tendon in his right thumb. The injury will would require season ending surgery. Fisher would go on to say that no matter injury, rookie Rusty Smith would be the Titans QB going forward. This latest situation with Young seems eerily similar to the infamous Jaguars game meltdown that Young had. Both times Young was injured and both times he handled the situation in undermining ways. Its disappointing for Young and the Titans because he had been playing his best football in a Titans uniform this year.

As for the game, with Young going down yet again and Collins still sidelined with an injured calf from last weeks game, The Titans had no choice but to insert the rookie Smith. Smith would drive the Titans down the field and set up a field goal that gave the Titans the lead 16-13. It would be short lived lead because the Redskins would come right back down the field on their next drive and kick a field goal themselves to tie the game 16-16. On the very first play after the Titans next drive, Redskins CB Phillip Buccannon would pick off Smith. Washington was unable to take advantage of the turnover and would punt. The Titans Chris Johnson found a lane and took it 20-yards on 2nd down of the next drive and burst for another 29- yards on the very next play to take the ball to the Redskins 45. Johnson would finish with 21 carries for 130 yards. The play took the game into the two-minute warning and the Titans were building a drive. Randy Moss would be penalized for a false start that moved the ball back to midfield. That penalty seemed to doom the at first promising drive as Smith completed a 6-yard pass to TE Jared Cook and incompleted his next pass to Nate Washington and the Titans would be forced to punt.

Donovan McNabb would give Washington a chance as he directed the Redskins down the field on some clutch throws to Chris Cooley, Keiland Williams, and Brandon Banks. Tennessee was charged with too many men on the field and that moved the ball to the Titans 35, that would set up a potential game winning 47-yard field goal attempt for the Redskins. Graham Gano would however would miss the attempt sending the game into overtime.

The Titans would win the toss and receive the ball first. Chris Johnson got the ball moving for the Titans on the first play of the drive, gashing the Washington D for a 15-yard run. Johnson would get the ball again on the next play for no gain and Rusty Smith would incomplete his next two passes forcing the Titans to punt. McNabb completed a beauty to Chris Cooley for 29-yards on the next subsequent play to get the Redskins drive started. McMabb would be sacked on the next play and then was called for a delay of game. But this is the point where the Titans begin to self inflict themselves with penalties. Titans DE Jason Babin would be called for unnecessary roughness and LB Wil Witherspoon was called for roughing the passer that went for another 15 yards. After another McNabb completion and a Titans timeout, rookie Alterraun Verner was called for a 5-yard illegal contact penalty but Tennessee would get those yards back as Washington's Will Montgomery was charged with a false start. Even after the Redskins penalty, Washington was in range for a 48-yard field goal. The Redskins, probably weary from the miss Gano had at the end of regulation, went on to run a few more plays before sending Gano back out. However this time Gano kicked it right down the middle for the game winner.

A very disappointing game to say the least for Tennessee. A number of things need to be addressed after this loss. Vince Young questionable antics makes one raise his eyebrow. We all thought VY was pass the immaturity that had plagued his career to this point.

After the game, Young walked toward the tunnel and suddenly tossed his shoulder pads and jersey into the stands.A few minutes later he walked past reporters already dressed, ignoring both questions and his old college teammate who tried to talk to him.Young tweeted nearly three hours later that he was fine and "sorry to my teammates." He then tweeted "Just want to play"

The play-calling was also suspicious in not including Randy Moss as he was only targeted 2 times resulting in no catches for him. The Titans had wy to many penalties including the embarrassing too many men on the field call. This game could cause the team to spiral out of control with all of the negatives that will come out of it. Only time time will tell how the Titans respond to a loss that had so many missed opportunities for them.

After the jumping out to a 5-2 record, the Titans now stand at 5-5 and now lost their last three. They dropped to third in the divison with Jacksonville winning and the Colts losing to the Patriots. They travel next to Houston to face the Texans in a divisional game. Lets hope the Titans can right the ship and get back to winning games, because it makes things a lot calmer in week for all of us Tennessee fans.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Titans vs. Redskins game preview

Kickoff: Noon

TV: Fox

Radio: 104.5 The Zone

Weather: 54 and partly cloudy

Commentators: Dick Stockton, Jim Mora Jr., and Charles Davis

Tennessee finally gets back to friendly confide of LP field this Sunday, for their first game in nearly a month. The Titans look to rebound from a two-game losing steak. What a good time to have the reeling Washington Redskins to come to town. The Skins got flat out embarrassed by Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles. Vick was a one man show, accounting for 413 total yards and six touchdowns. The Redskins had trouble containing the mobile Vick and he was able to pretty much do as he pleased. This particularly bodes well for Vince Young, who is of course one of the more mobile QBs in the league.

Another interesting storyline going into this game is the return of former Titan Albert “Big Al” Haynesworth. He signed a $100 million deal with Washington after playing with the Titans his first seven years in the league. Haynesworth had an embarrassing play himself Monday night, when he stayed on the ground and didn’t get up as Michael Vick scrambled around (Big Al said “ I had, like a Charlie horse in my Thigh or whatever.”). This is just the latest in a number of incidents that have Redskins fans questioning his effort and Titans fans glad he isn’t with the team anymore. Mike Shanahan and Haynesworth have continuously bumped heads on his conditioning and work ethic. His rocky relationship with Shanahan led to speculation that Haynesworth could be traded back to the Titans and Jeff Fisher even confirmed the report that the Titans looked into the idea, but the deal never really got off the ground.

Haynesworth’s homecoming will definitely be something to see but the Titans are more worried about getting back into the win column. Vince Young gets the start after coming in as the second QB on the depth chart last week. Kerry Collins was initially ruled out for several weeks after injuring his calf against the Dolphins, but now coach Jeff Fisher said he will the number 3 QB. Young has to stay healthy now with the Collins injury as the Titans only have backup rookie Rusty Smith in case Young goes down. Young also has another chance to exploit one of the worst secondaries in the league. Washington is actually allowing an NFL worst 415.3 yards per game, with 286.6 of that through the air. The newly acquired Randy Moss again is pushed to the forefront in this game. After being targeted 4 times and only having one catch, Moss has yet another chance in his first home game to make his mark. He will be matched up with one of the better corners in the league in Deangelo Hall. Hall you may remember intercepted former Commodores QB and current Bears signal caller Jay Cutler four times in one game earlier this season. So that will be a key match-up in the game. As good as Hall is, he is very aggressive and has a tendency to either make the interception or get burned for a touchdown.

Now with the storylines out the way, let’s breakdown the three key factors in the game:

1. The Titans dominant defensive line vs. the porous Redskins offensive line: On paper this one is a mismatch. The Titans have accumulated 25 sacks which has them tied for 3rd in the league. Washington’s offensive line has allowed 25 sacks. The Titans should be able to pressure Donovan McNabb. McNabb has thrown 11 interceptions to 9 touchdowns and the line is to blame for some of that. If the Titans do what they do best, than they should be able to fluster McNabb out of the pocket and help the secondary out. McNabb does throw the deep ball well so you have to account for that.

2. McNabb’s Arm vs. Titans Secondary:  As I stated above, if there is one good thing McNabb still does, it’s taking a shot down field. The Redskins Anthony Armstrong is one of five players in the NFL averaging more than 20 yards per reception and his 22.6 average is the highest in team history since 1952. Tennessee allowed Miami and its three QBs to throw for 316 yards going 24 of 37 in the process. The Titans have allowed six TD passes of 20 yards or longer already this year and are ranked 25th in pass defense, so the secondary will need to step up to defend Armstrong’s big play ability. Cortland Finnegan and Alterrun Verner have to be sure in coverage and the Titans need to continue to get a good pass rush to thwart the McNabb and the Redskins passing game.

3. The Moss effect part 2.: A lot of attention was given to Moss for only catching one pass for 26 yards in last weeks game against the Dolphins. I won’t jump on the bad-mouthing bandwagon though. For one, he was only thrown to 4 times the whole game. For two, it’s hard to expect a guy to come in and make an immediate impact, especially when the QB situation changes on a dime at any moment with Young or Collins. And for three, his debut also came against Vontae Davis who seems to have his number this year. In two games against Davis, Moss has only that one catch he had last week. And just to be sure about my analysis, I made sure to pay extra close attention to how the Miami defended Moss. From my break down they rarely double-teamed Moss, allowing Davis to cover him for the most part. They did keep a safety in the vicinity of Moss though and didn’t have eight men in the box, except on a few plays. That allowed Chris Johnson to get those long gashing runs that he was getting all game. Johnson finished with 117 yards on 17 carries and a lot of it had to do with Moss’s presence on the field. Young and Moss got to have another week of practice under there belt, and also have one of the worst pass defenses coming to town. The Moss effect will show up even more in this game, I all but guarantee it.

Game notes and stats: The Titans enter the game with a 12-game winning steak versus the NFC. This will be only the second time the Redskins have ever visited LP field and the first time was in 2006. Donovan McNabb teams are 46-2 when he has a passer rating of 100 or higher including the playoffs. LB Brian Orapko has 5 ½ sacks in the past five games and 8 ½ in six games versus AFC opponents. Vince Young is 12-2 against the NFC and got his first NFL win against the Redskins in 2006. Chris Johnson ran for his 5th 100-yard rushing game and 21st of his career last Sunday. Randy Moss (949) needs just 3 catches to pass Andre Reed eight-most in NFL history.

Food Drive: The Titans are encouraging fans before the game to participate in the annual Second Harvest Food bank food drive. Fans can drop off non-perishable items at one of the several collection sites around LP field. The most reportedly needed items are canned tuna and chicken, canned vegetables and fruit, peanut butter, rice, chili, and macaroni and cheese.