Let’s face it Monday’s usually suck. The weekend is filled with movies, concerts, sporting events, drinking, just about all the things most people love to do. As much we all dread the beginning of the work week, we all have a silver lining to the evil weekend snatcher that is Monday. Super bowl week is upon us as folks as New England and New York get ready to do battle in 42nd edition of America’s most watched event. You can’t be help but to be excited at just the thought of the crowning of a new NFL champ on the grandest, most commercialized and hyped event in American sports culture. You have every right in my book to call it a holiday as it brings together that weird combination of crazy family members, close and distant friends and strangers who all are just taking it all in. It’s freaking Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning, chapped face Tom Couglin vs. the hooded evil genius Bill Belicheck, Pepsi vs. Coke in commercials, and Mike Strahan and his gap vs. anyone who picks against the Giants. So this week we here at the Sportaholic will be introducing all Super Bowl related content.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
The Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans played a bore of a game with the Ravens coming out on top even though their offense sputtered at best (more on that later) and Tom Brady (5 TD passes in first half) just obliterated the Denver secondary as the New England Patriots ran the Broncos and Tim Tebow out of town and the playoffs
Now that the dust has settled, we now have our conference championship match ups set with New England vs. Baltimore for the AFC crown and San Francisco vs. New York for the NFC. As always here at the Sportaholic, we will attempt to tackle the five burning questions for both championship games. As usual we have staff regulars Taylor Cannon and the lovely Ashley Danielle. We also have enlisted special guest writer and sports fanatic Qwan Dowell along with the crew this time.
So without further ado, we present to you the burning questions of AFC-NFC games:
Carlos Paige: I for one have always questioned the leadership skills of Joe Flacco. It’s especially ironic that he called himself out this off season by saying he belongs in the elite QB talk as well, yeah right. 14-27 for 176 won’t get it done against the Pats high octane offense. Even future Hall of Famer Ed Reed can’t hide his disgust for what he saw out of Flacco saying: “They had a lot of guys in the box on him and they were giving [the pass] to him," Reed said. "I think a couple of times he needed to get rid of the ball. It just didn't look like he had a hold on the offense. I don't know how much of [that was] the play calling … The Ravens offense should be concerned about their ace all purpose back Ray Rice as he was held to 60 yard on 20 carries. Rice will have to be at his best in order for Baltimore to have a chance. He will need to come out and assert himself and to give the Ravens a chance to control the time of possession. So to answer the question, yes I think they should be a bit concerned with their offense and the mindset that Flacco has right now going into the biggest game of his life.
Taylor Cannon: They should be concerned but not too much. The Patriots D is ranked last in the league in defense. The O-line has to step up their blocking though because I don’t think Flacco can take back to back beatings and still win. They have to get Ray Rice and Ricky Williams (wow there’s a name I haven’t said or thought would be a factor in a championship game).
Quawn Dowell: The Ravens offense has never been the focal point of their team or philosophy. The Texans boasted a very good defense under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips this year. Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin have mis matches that can be exploited againts New England's defense. Look for several big plays from screens to Rice and a touchdown from Boldin this Sunday.
2. Is there any way Tom Brady and the red hot Patriots offense be contained?
Carlos Paige: This is a multi faceted offense that seems to add just enough of a new wrinkle each game to throw teams off (See: Aaron Hernandez at running back). Tom Brady seems to be in his zone right now after ripping the Broncos secondary a new backside. I saw no weakness in their offense last game but of course the Ravens defense with Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis, Terrell “T-sizzle” Suggs and Ed Reed will present a significant upgrade in talent they will face. As the Broncos defense proved, if you don’t get pressure on the golden boy, he will absolutely cold bloodily kill you. The Ravens will most definitely get more pressure on Brady (Ravens team had 48 sacks this year) and have sack extraordinaire Suggs. They also will have to find a way to contain the tempo when the Pats choose to go no huddle as that proved to much for the fighting Tim Tebow’s but if any team can do it then it’s the Ravens.
Taylor Cannon: They might be stalled if Aaron Hernandez can’t go and they have to get Wes Welker involved too keep the Ravens guessing.
Quawn Dowell: Containing Tom Brady is a very tall task for any team to accomplish, even one with the Ravens defense. With that being said Tom has shown this year at times he can get flustered and make a few mistakes. If the Ravens can control the ball running and with short passes that keep the clocking running they help their defense immensly. The Patriots TE's have a match up nightmare for any team and the Ravens won"t be the exception. Look for two TDs from the best TE tandem in football
3. Which is the better strength for both respective teams? The Ravens defense or the Patriots offense?
Carlos Paige: Right now based on the way their playing I have to go with the Pats offense for the reasons I stated above.
Taylor Cannon: Patriots offense, The Ravens D, As the old saying goes offense wins games but defense win championships
Quawn Dowell: The Ravens have a great defense this year but the Patriots have a historically good offense. In this new passing era where running backs are interchangeable the Patriots utilize their complete roster to keep the defense off balanced. In order for the Ravens to win this game they will have to outscore the patriots.
Ashley Danielle: I always say a defense wins games so that will be the test of the night. If the defense can produce a master plan to attack the receivers then they may have a chance. I don't even consider shutting down Brady an option. That just won't happen. The game changer would only come from mistakes on the rest of the offense.
4. Was New England’s new found defense last week just a product of facing Tim Tebow or was it a sign of things to come?
Carlos Paige: A little bit of both I think. Tebow only completed 9 passes but those are typical numbers from him anyway. The key for New England’s defense was limiting the big plays in the passing game that allowed the Broncos to beat the Steelers. The Pats defense is as healthy as it’s been all season with the return of safety Patrick Chung, LB Jerod Mayo, and DB Devin McCourty. Those guys all ar einstrumental to the what the Pats like to do on that side of the ball so I definitely believe that they are playing much better now that they have the right personnel in place for their scheme.
Taylor Cannon: A little of both they stopped Tim Tebow and the offense (sure he didn’t have help or his throwing accuracy was horrible), but that game may have given the Patriots D some confidence in stopping the Ravens offense which had trouble getting Ray Rice going into the game
Quawn Dowell: Lets face it Tim Tebow just isn’t a NFL QB. He doesn’t posses the awareness, the release, the accuracy or the ability to beat you day in day out through the air. Tebow also lacks the speed to go with his ability to run the option. Once the Patriots saw the mistakes Pittsburgh made by giving Tebow the one pass he feels comfortable with, the deep ball, there was nothing he could do. I think this speaks more about Bill Belicheck making adjustments than it does the Patriots defense. I expect Baltimore to be able to effectively do whatever they desire on offense in this one.
Ashley Danielle: That's a good question! I was surprised by the level of confidence everyone had in that game. The defense was in rare form. I won't call it luck but you can tell that the team knows how to play good, clean football when it counts....and that's using good and clean in the filthiest way!
5. Who wins the game and why?
Carlos Paige: The Patriots will win this game and if I had to place it on a scale from 1-10 I would say I’m at about an 8 in the confidence meter. The Ravens offense just doesn’t have enough fire power to hang with Brady and co. Now their defense will keep them in the game for as long as they can but it will come a point in the game when they won’t be able to get the necessary stop they need. The only possible way I can see the Ravens winning is for Flacco to have a major game and as history has told us this year that likely won’t happen. Patriots 35-24
Taylor Cannon: Ravens D will hold for a minute but the D can’t score. The Patriots will do enough to hold and give the Patriots offense field position for them to score. Patriots win 28-21
Quawn Dowell: My heart is telling me the Ravens win and maybe thats because I'd love to see the brother re- match in the Super Bowl, but my gut says New England. Too much fire power and they are too hot at the right time Patriots win 28-21
Ashley Danielle: Umm....I think I've bragged enough for you to know where my money's going....
NFC Championship: New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers
Carlos Paige: The same way they stopped Drew Brees which they really didn’t with him throwing for 462 yards, they just knocked the hell out of anybody that caught his passes. The 49ers have to be the best tackling team in the league as evident by their performance against arguably the best receiving tandem for gaining yards after the catch. Eli can rack up the yards just as Brees did but as long as the Niners lay the wood like they did against New Orleans they should be just fine.
Taylor Cannon: REPEAT WHAT THEY DID AGAINST THE SAINTS- make him throw picks and pressure him. Also they must shut down the tall athletic Giants receivers. The crowd must get into the game to put some pressure to distract Eli also.
Quawn Dowell: Frank Gore and Patrick Willis. The 49ers got into a shoot out with the Saints; they do not want to take that approach with this one. Pound Frank Gore and blitz the LBs at the right tims to keep Eli under duress. Eli has been playing very well but does have a history of making mistakes under pressure.
2. Can the 49er offense put up points again like they did against the Saints?
Carlos Paige: Alex Smith made me a believer last game with his play. Throwing for 300 yards with 4 TDs (3 passing 1 rushing) and especially doing it when the game was on the line solidified it for me. So yes I think they can put up enough points to beat NY especially with that nasty run game that they feature with Frank Gore. Vernon Davis showed that he finally can be the reliable tight end that we’ve always expected out of him and he is Smith’s go to guy now. It gives me great pleasure that his lasting image now won’t be him walking off the field and being sent to the locker room by Mike Singletary. Who can forget that famous rant that Singletary had: "[As for] Vernon, it was something I told everyone at the beginning of the week. I will not tolerate players who think it's about them when it's about the team. And we cannot make decisions that cost the team and then come off the sideline nonchalant. No. You know what? This is what I believe, I'm from the old school. I would rather play with ten people and just get penalized all the way until we gotta do something else rather than play with 11 when right now that person is not sold out to be a part of this team. I told him he would do a better job for us to take a shower and watch the game on the sidelines rather than take the field."
Taylor Cannon: No, The Giants Front D is a little better than the Saints D so they will not let them get their run game started and they will rattle Mr. Smith a whole lot more than the Saints D, but the Gians secondary has been known to be suspect from time to time.
Quawn Dowell: No the 49ers offense isn't best equipped to play the way they did against the Saints. They get back to their game this week and pass when needed. Also the Giants pass rush is the best in football. Osi, Tuck and Pierre-Paul are nightmares for a team wanting to pass the ball. I see this game staying in the low 20s high teens at best.
Ashley Danielle: San Francisco has some key players including Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. If Alex can link up with Davis and Crabtree like he did last week then they won't have a problem. I'm not banking on a high scoring game....may even come down to a field goal for the win.....
3. Which WR is likely to have the bigger game for the Giants?
Carlos Paige: Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz? Hmm now that is a good question. If I had to pick I guess I would say Nicks who is having a breakout playoff performance so far. Nicks has 13 catches for 270 yards and 4 TDs. The most impressive stat however is the 21.5 yards per catch he is averaging right now. Cruz has received a lot of double coverage to open up that side of the field for Nicks so it almost like pick your poison at this point. I do believe Cruz will make it to the end-zone at least once in this game so get ready for a little salsa dancing.
Taylor Cannon: Wow, I think both need to come up big to help the Giants win cause THIS IS THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP , everyone needs to bring their A game (especially the receivers) to get to the BIG GAME..
Quawn Dowell: By the way things have been going it appears to be Victor Cruz's time to take the stage. Both of these guys have shown the ability to step up when they other is not having their best game. I see Cruz with his speed being able to get downfield and cause problems for Niners secondary.
Ashley Danielle: Hmmmm.....Hakeem Nicks will be my pick. Last week he had 7 receptions, 2 TD's and longest catch, an impressive 70 yarder to Cruz's 5, 0 and 18, respectively. Since he had such a big game last week, I don't doubt that Eli will ultilize him this Sunday. Hell, either way they both play on the same team....whoever has the best playoff bonuses will probably do the best....haha...money talks....that's all I'm sayin'
4. Which defense is playing better and which would rather have?
Carlos Paige: Both defenses have just been mauling opponents this post season. The Giants defensive linemen are just big powerful men who overwhelm you with power and speed. Justin Tuck, Osi Umineyora, and Jason Pierre-Paul can wreak havoc on any team and they have all come to play in the playoffs. But if I had to choose I think I would have to say San Francisco because they seem to be the more complete unit. The defensive line with Justin Smith and Aldon Smith provide adequate pressure on the QB, the LBs with Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman will hit like a freight train, and the secondary has been all over the field with Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner and Tarell Brown in coverage. This defense reminds me of the old dynasty defenses that the 49ers had in the late 80s and 90s.
Taylor Cannon: - The Giants -They kind of remind me of the run they did a few years ago when they were the wild card. This team somehow plays its best when they have its backs against the wall. Also if the front line gets going and puts some pressure they cannot be stopped.
Quawn Dowell: The 49ers have the beter defense but the Giants defense is playing the best. Right now there is no better pass rush than the Giants posses and this allows their corners to play more aggressive. The 49ers will be hard to run the football on but the Giants have numerous weapons and will be tough to
Ashley Danielle: If I was still playing fantasy football I'd prefer to have the 49ers defense. They have some impressive men on the line including Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and defensive end Justin Smith. They were first in the league in run defense (77.3 yards per game) and fourth overall (308.1 yards per game) which means they are a force to be reckoned with. All I have to say is "Watch out Eli!! Them boys are coming for ya, AGAIN!"
5. Who wins and why?
Carlos Paige: The 49ers 27-20 victory in week 8 was one of the better games of the year and gives us somewhat of a blueprint towards how this one will be played. Both teams are physical upfront with New York having the edge on offense, and San Fran the edge on defense. I’m taking the 49ers in this one by the slimmest of margins based on the fact that they have home field advantage and that defense that suffocated one of the most potent offenses of all time in the Saints. Look for it to be tough physical game that will see a few players go down. I do believe that if Eli Manning gets hot then he may just will the Giants to the win but like I said I just think San Francisco with that defense and at home will be too tough. San Francisco 30-23.
Taylor Cannon: Giants defense will set up great field position for its offense and Giants will not turn the ball over and will get the run game going to set up the pass early. Giants 28-17
Quawn Dowell: The Giants win a close game mainly due to Eli Manning out playing Alex Smith. Lets face it Alex Smith impressed everyone last week with his gutsy performance. But I’m not sure it didn’t take everything they had emotionally to win that hard fought battle. The Giants had an easier time with GB and I see them more poised to win the game. Looks like we are headed to a rematch with NY vs. NE, Giants win 24-14
Ashley Danielle: These two teams met up in the regular season with a Giants loss, 27-20. Eli has something to prove since Justin Smith single handedly batted down his 4th down pass to potentially win that game. I'm going to to leave this one up to the God's of Football. I just want to see a great game.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Wow and not the good awe inspiring way. Bama absolutely took it LSU in defeating them 21-0 leaving little doubt who is the national champion is. 21-0 doesn’t even really do justice to what the Crimson Tide were able to do to the Tigers. LSU didn’t even cross mid field until 8 minutes left in the game and were out gained 384 yards to just 92. LSU only had 5 first downs. The Tigers QB Jordan Jefferson had the deer in the headlights look on his face for most of the game going 11-17 for 53 yards and just never seemed comfortable against the smothering Bama defense. He was sacked four times and threw one ugly interception to the RB who wasn’t even looking when he threw it.
The Crimson Tide offense on the other hand seemed to come into this game with a purpose. Bama learned from the last game and had a much better game plan that featured A.J McCarron throwing the ball a lot more on first down and it led him being named the game’s offensive MVP. He was 23/34 for 234 yards. Trent Richardson had just 58 yards on 20 carries but this game was really all about the relentless Bama defense which shut the Tigers down in every conceivable way. When you have a great offensive line like I have, and great players around you, it makes your job easy as quarterback," McCarron said. "I've got to give all the credit to them. I wish I could have the whole team up here."
Congratulations to the Alabama Crimson Tide, your NCAA National Champion of 2011-12.
What they are saying about the game:
New Orleans radio host Bobby Herbert, former NFL QB: “It’s like ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ The clock struck midnight on the Mad Hatter.”
Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports: Perhaps we should have known Sunday morning, when Nick Saban was both witty and relaxed in his final news conference before he undressed Les Miles.
Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN: To those LSU followers who think they got short-sheeted by the BCS … To those Oklahoma State honks who insist their team belonged here Monday night … To those Associated Press voters who said they would keep LSU atop their ballots even if the Tigers lost to Alabama …To all of them I say, "Are you nuts?"
Steve Greenberg of Sporting News: Worst of all, according to Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the game’s defensive MVP, Jefferson was playing scared. “A lot of our guys were coming to the sideline (after stops) and talking about him,” Upshaw said. “Every time he’d go into the huddle, he was looking at us. I think he was pretty rattled.”
Monday, January 9, 2012
Wild-card weekend usually lives up to its name as it can be unpredictable on so many levels. It’s the weekend when hot teams meet consistent teams and they clash on the field to see which team comes out on top. Upstarts like Detroit, Houston, and Denver crashed the playoff party and looked to navigate their first playoff appearances in years (Houston’s first time at all) against heavily favored competition. This year’s collection of games was no different other than the fact that all top four seeds are in intact for both the AFC and NFC.
Houston Texans 31 Cincinnati Bengals 10 - Cincinnati was done in by a few rookie mistakes by rookie QB Andy Dalton, a healthy dose of Arian Foster and the Texans new found smothering defense. The Texans were able to generate enough offense with their own rookie QB T.J Yates as he connected with stud WR Andre Johnson for a 40-yard TD and they were able to rely on Foster and RB Ben Tate the rest of the way. Foster finished with 154 yards and 2 Tds. Dalton wasn’t great in his first playoff appearance throwing 3 interceptions including one that was a spectacular play for J.J Watt as he took it to the house for the score. Houston will take on Baltimore next week in a rematch from week 6.
What they said after the game: You can see that they were all so proud of their team,” Houston owner Bob McNair said of the team’s long-suffering fans. “We want to have a team everybody can be proud of and want to feel an attachment to. I think they have that.”
Andre Johnson on finally getting a playoff win: “This is something not just for me, but for the whole organization,” the Texans star receiver said. “It’s a very special feeling. That’s probably the most I’ve smiled in a long time.”
“We have to get beyond this,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “We play in a very difficult division. We have to win games in the division, that is important and it sets up opportunities like this, all the time.”
What they said after the game: “We were pulling out all the stops,” Brees said. “We play aggressive. We’re not going to apologize for that. That gives guys in the huddle a lot of confidence. We’re not going to pull the reins back. It’s pedal to the metal.”
All-pro receiver Calvin Johnson on the Lions season: We did make the playoffs this year and that’s a great accomplishment,” Johnson said. “We have some things to work on and we will. We know what we have to do to make the next step.”
New York Giants 24 Atlanta 2 - The New York football Giants put on a defensive showcase as they repeatedly stopped the Atlanta Falcons on 4th down and never let them get into the game. The Giants can go all the way to the Super Bowl if they continue to come with it on D like they did Saturday. The Giants stifled the Falcons offensive attack all day and looked like the Giants of yesteryear with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs running the ball well. Hakeem Nicks 72-yard TD pass from Eli Manning broke the game open and the Falcons never really threatened from there. Atlanta again was done in by its inability to make any explosive passing plays and by three of ill-fated fourth down decisions. Matt Ryan failed to convert on a couple of 4th down QB sneaks and Michael Turner was also stopped on another down. Ryan’s numbers of 24/41 for 199 yards just isn’t going to cut it in the playoffs. This ends yet another disappointing season for them. As for the Giants they travel to Green Bay next week to take on the Super Bowl favorite Packers and their sterling 15-1 record. We will find out if this Giants performance was for real or just a one week thing. I’m excited about this match up.
What they said after the game: We are going to out there and give all our effort and we are going to walk away with a win,” All Pro defensive end Jason Pierre Paul said
We can’t lose like this in the playoffs,” defensive end John Abraham said. “We should have been able to do something different. We played well in the beginning, but it kind of got away from us in the end.”
’We know they are a good team,” said Manning, who completed 23 of 32 for 277 yards. “We played them tough here, did some good things here, we scored some points. We know offensively we are going to have to play strong, score some points.”
Denver Broncos 29 Pittsburgh Steelers 23 - And the best game of the weekend was the last game as Tim Tebow found yet another way to win a close game. He found a streaking Demairyus Thomas for the game winning 80-yard pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers. You couldn’t have scripted it better than that for Tebow as he actually showed that he can be a threat with arm and his legs. He only completed 10 passes but he threw for 316 yards in the process. A week after Bronco great and current President John Elway told Tebow to “Pull the trigger” the Steelers looked down right surprised that Tebow and the Broncos were so openly passing on them and made a few big plays. Maybe it was not having leading tackler Ryan Clark not there due to his Sickle Cell trait or maybe the Steelers just didn’t think Tebow would have the audacity to open it up on them like he did. Whatever the case may be they allowed Thomas to slide behind the defense on a play action fake that even fooled all-pro safety Troy Polamalu and the rest is history now. Ben Roethelisberger looked like a shell of himself in the first half before he got things rolling in the second. It did appear that the ankle injury did hamper the usual Big Ben scrambles that we are so accustomed to seeing. Pittsburgh came out flat before waking up only to have their heart taking out in overtime. This game will go down as one of the all time greats because of Tebow and because its was against the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers. What a game, what an ending and what a opening playoff game for Tebow. The Broncos now get a second crack at Tom Brady and the Patriots and have a lot of momentum rolling into this one.
What they said after the game: Tebow on game winning pass: “When I saw him scoring, first of all, I just thought, `Thank you, Lord,”’ Tebow said. “Then, I was running pretty fast, chasing him—like I can catch up to D.T! Then I just jumped into the stands, first time I’ve done that. That was fun.”
“We were moving it and we had a shot,” Roethlisberger said. “Someone got, it felt like a finger, on the ball and knocked it out. After that, you’re trying to throw a 70-yard Hail Mary and that’s hard.”
Broncos RB Willis McGahee on Tebow critics: “Case closed,” McGahee said. “They say he couldn’t throw. They said we wouldn’t be able to run the ball on them. We did that. I wonder what they’re going to say next week