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Category:NFL
Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:34 pm
 

In The Trenches: Week 2 Thoughts

The top two scoring teams in the NFL after two weeks: Buffalo and Detroit.

Say What?

Lions, Bills, & 4 Wins, Oh My-Granted, two of them are against the injury-ravaged Chiefs, but Detroit and Buffalo are looking to cement themselves as legitimate playoff contenders.  It comes as no surprise that quarterback play has sparked the good starts as Matthew Stafford has shown us why the Lions hitched their wagon to him while Ryan Fitzpatrick has instilled life into a once lifeless Bills offense.  Detroit has to feel good considering the rest of the NFC.  The NFC West as previously concluded is a race to 8 wins, and the Cowboys and Giants have both caught the plague as players continue to drop like Obama’s approval rating.  I don’t think they’re ready to take down the Packers, but the path to a Wild Card spot looks to be within reach.  The Bills are in a much deeper AFC, including the Jets and Patriots as division opponents, but look like they will be playing meaningful football come December.

Vick’s Return to Old Nest Sour-The Eagles looked like they had taken control of the game late in the third quarter with a 31-21 lead.  Vick had been effective, but had also taken a beating throughout the game as the Falcons defense constantly got to the former Atlanta quarterback.  The hits piled up, and Vick was eventually forced to leave the game with a concussion.  However, nobody thought it would be his own offensive linemen to do the trick.

That Tom Brady’s So Hot Right Now-Zoolander’s Hansel would be proud to see what Tom Brady has been up to these days.  With what seemed to be all day to read the defense, Tom Terrific looked just about unstoppable as San Diego was his latest victim.  An early frontrunner to repeat as MVP, Brady will have to keep it going against the, dare I say it, offensive juggernaut that is the Buffalo Bills next week.

Redemption for Romo-Roasted across media outlets after his forgettable fourth quarter against the Jets, things were not looking great against the 49ers.  Two fractured ribs and a punctured lung are painful enough, much less dealing with that while reading coverage, avoiding massive linemen, and throwing the ball.  But Romo would go on, leading the fourth quarter comeback and overtime win to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start.  Romo definitely won over many who doubted him, but things don’t look up with wide receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin both dealing with nagging injuries.  Oh, and a few broken ribs.

Steel Curtain Clamps Down-All is well for Pittsburgh as the Steelers were left for dead by many after the Ravens blew them out.  Nothing like a matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, to lift their spirits.

Ravens Get Clipped-Remember how great Baltimore was last week?  Me neither.  After filling up the bandwagon with a blowout win against the Steelers, Joe Flacco and Co. struggled mightily against the Tennessee Titans. #discouraging.

Smile for the Cam-era-The game against the Cardinals was taken with a grain of salt, shaky secondary play and all.  Green Bay’s defense is an elite one, and Cam Newton throws for another 400+ yards.  The three interceptions keep everyone in check as a reminder that Newton will have his lumps during his rookie season.  But this man looks like a star in the making, possessing the size, strength, and athleticism to be a force to be reckoned with.

Vikings Can’t Keep It Up-A second straight week the Vikings had a double-digit lead at halftime.  A second straight week the Vikings lose late in the fourth quarter.  Donovan McNabb, where art thou?

Jets Bounce Back-Having realized that they won’t face Romo again, New York decided that wins may not be gift wrapped as nicely as last Sunday’s.  The Jets stomped the Jaguars 32-3 behind four interceptions while holding Jacksonville to 203 total yards.  The offense didn’t face its biggest test, but Sanchez showed signs of improvement, going 17-24 for 182 yards.  The two interceptions are still a concern.

G-Men Win, But It Ain’t Pretty-A win is a win, but that was not an inspiring performance for the Giants as whole.  Eli Manning finished 18-29 with 200 yards, but started the game going 2-11.  The offense was helped by four first downs via Rams penalties along with St. Louis settling for three field goals in three red-zone trips.  It also didn’t hurt when Cadillac Williams watches a lateral instead of going after it, allowing Michael Boley to return the fumble for a touchdown. 

<span style="color: #6e8dcf;">Primetime Thoughts

Follow <span style="color: #3b5998;">David S. London on Twitter

Posted on: September 12, 2011 12:51 pm
 

In The Trenches: Week 1 Thoughts

I sure do miss that lockout talk.

Thoughts

Packers On Cue-If you had any doubts about the Packers contending this season, those should now be gone.  Aaron Rodgers looked sharp as did the rest of the Packer offense, putting up 42 points on the scoreboard and almost 400 total yards.  They allowed nearly 500 yards to the Saints, but let’s not forget about the fireworks Drew Brees and Co. regularly put up as well.  The Packers were able to slow New Orleans down on several occasions, including a goal-line stand to end the game.

Ravens Pummel Steelers-Games between these two tend to be hard-fought, down-to-the-wire, and low-scoring.

Sunday’s was none of the above.

In what may be his coming-out party, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco torched a tough Steeler defense for 224 yards and 3 touchdowns.  The stats may not be too eye-popping, but you saw Flacco dissect a Pittsburgh unit with ease, threading one pass after another.  Combine that with Ray Rice cruising to 107 yards rushing and an elite defense, folks we may have a runaway in the AFC North.

Falcons Get Clipped-All this offseason hype about a revamped offense, I was among many who jumped on the Falcons bandwagon.  The acquisition of Julio Jones was the last piece of the puzzle for Matt Ryan.  The offense would become an aerial assault and fade away from the run-heavy approach.

Maybe next week?

Ryan left much to be desired, with two turnovers and unable to get the Falcons in the end zone.  Perhaps credit is due to the Chicago Bears; I still am not sold and likely will not be for a while.  Things don’t get easier with a matchup against former Falcon Michael Vick next Sunday.

Life Sans Peyton-Talk about an eyesore.  Could it be any more clear which quarterback is most valuable to their team after Indianapolis looked like a shell of their former selves?  Kerry Collins is trying to fill some of the biggest shoes around in Peyton Manning, who is out indefinitely and it wasn’t pretty.  The Colts trailed 34-0 at halftime, the largest ever in their franchise history.  On the bright side, if Peyton doesn’t return, that put the Colts at the front of the line for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

Not the worst thing in the world, considering we can’t actually expect Manning to lead the Colts forever.  At least not with these recurring neck issues.

Dream Team Off To Good Start-Michael Vick took way too many hits and was 14-for-32, but the offense picked up where it left off last season in a 31-13 victory.  A bit sloppy for the Eagles, but the flashes of brilliance were demonstrated throughout the game.  Not the biggest test for the revamped defense, but a solid showing nonetheless.

Lions Pounce Tampa Bay-So far so good for the Lions bandwagon.  Matthew Stafford performed as expected, throwing for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Tampa is not quite in the elite category, but they are no slouch either, and Detroit simply manhandled them on all fronts.  The Lions’ defense limited Tampa Bay to 1 touchdown and 56 yards rushing. 

Cam Newton Impresses-The pass coverage played by Arizona yesterday left much to be desired, but Cam Newton definitely showed people he is more than capable of leading an NFL offense.  A rookie-record 422 yards speaks for itself.  The Panthers are far from the playoffs, but they will be somewhat competitive and Newton will learn on the fly.  You can only learn so much while holding a clipboard. 

G-Men Replaced By Little Giants-The injuries that piled up during the preseason were absolutely inexplicable.  If the Giants had no bad luck, they’d have no luck at all.  Eli Manning also lost two reliable options on offense in Steve Smith (Eagles) and Kevin Boss (Raiders).  That being said, the last Manning standing looked atrocious.  A veteran quarterback by now, Manning looked lost at times in the second half.  The Redskins offense looked better than it has in recent memory, Rex Grossman, Sexy Rexy, proved capable.  Again, give credit where it’s due.  But if you’re a Giant fan, it doesn’t look too promising going forward.

Chargers Get Around Slow Start-They all said that this season would be different, that they’d get off to a quick start.  Last season’s special teams’ issues are a thing of the past.

Only to allow a kickoff-return touchdown on the very first play.

San Diego trailed 17-7 at halftime and looked headed for yet another season with early letdown.  Philip Rivers was not the sharpest, throwing 2 interceptions, and the Vikings offense in the first half showed some signs of life.

Much like that time Huff and Doback put liquid paper on a bee, the Vikings offense, died.

Donovan McNabb’s debut as a Viking, well, not the best.  It’s hard to find positives when your final stat line looks like this: 7-for-15 with 39 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.  That’s an average of under 6 yards per completion.

Yikes.

San Diego was fortunate that their slow start was outweighed by Minnesota’s quarterback’s ineptitude.  The victory was bittersweet, as they lost their Pro Bowl Kicker Nate Kaeding to a torn ACL and Nose Tackle Luis Castillo to a broken leg.

Romo Hands Win To Jets-For the most part, Mark Sanchez was Dirty Sanchez, leaving the Jets offense nowhere to be found.  Tony Romo had been cruising all day against one of the top defenses in the NFL.  I’m not blind to the fact that other plays were crucial in this fourth-quarter meltdown, such as the blocked punt for a touchdown, or Jim Leonhard not giving up on the play and stopping Witten at the Jets’s 3-yard line, but Romo’s two turnovers in the fourth quarter cost at least a field goal and set up the Jets in field goal range with under a minute remaining.  The Jets better hope Mark Sanchez picks up his play, because they don’t play Tony Romo again this season.

<span style="color: #6e8dcf;">Primetime Thoughts

Follow <span style="color: #3b5998;">David S. London on Twitter

Posted on: September 8, 2011 12:45 am
 

In The Trenches: NFL Season Preview

The lockout is old news and the Saints and Packers square off Thursday.  The only thing missing from this anticipation of the NFL season is Brett Favre overkill…for now.

Packers Set To Defend Title-The Green Bay Packers begin their title defense against New Orleans with the dreaded Super Bowl hangover tossed around.  Unlike the many winners before them, Green Bay looks equipped to dominate for the immediate future and make a run at a dynasty.  Aaron Rodgers has made all Cheeseheads forget bout his predecessor/alleged sextor, letting his play speak for itself.  With a loaded receiving core, a healthy Ryan Grant in the backfield, and a defense which remains intact, look for more of the same from the Packers. 

Eagles Do Their Best Heat Impression-There was no championship-esque celebration in the offseason or guarantees of 5, 6, 7 titles, but the Philadelphia Eagles were reeling in big names much like the Miami Heat.  Nnamdi Asomugha, Domingue Rodgers-Cromartie, and Asante Samuel give the Eagles the best cornerback trio in football.  Jason Babin shores up the defensive line.  The linebacker group is weak in comparison, but with the Eagles likely leading most of their games, teams will be forced to pass against the aforementioned three-headed monster with a solid defensive line.  The offense got deeper as well with Ronnie Brown backing up LeSean McCoy.

New Cardinal Set To Spread Wings-It was discussed before the lockout began, and it happened once the lockout ended.  Traded for Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 2nd-round pick, Arizona is banking on Kevin Kolb to be more Kurt Warner and less like Derek Anderson.  The Cardinals locked up Kolb for 6 years, $65 million, with $22 million guaranteed.  Now Kolb has impressed when he’s played, but the guy’s only made 7 starts in his career.  Whether Kolb ends up working out for the Cardinals only time will tell, but they’re probably relieved that Anderson is no longer starting.  The numbers may be easy to top, but will he be as <span style="color: #743399;">serious about the game?

Who Wants the NFC West?-In all seriousness, a 7-9 team made the playoffs for the first time in NFL history.  You could’ve discovered that all four teams were doing their due diligence in hopes of a high draft pick.  All these teams seem to be undergoing makeovers.  The Cardinals have a new quarterback, St. Louis looks to build off Sam Bradford’s solid rookie season, Rookie Head Coach Jim Harbaugh throws Alex Smith one last bone to provide pedestrian results under center (though he could be secretly plotting for Andrew Luck, hmm), and Pete Carroll’s balance-of-power-changing move was, Tarvaris Jackson?Not so sure about that one Petey, but Sidney Rice is a nice addition to the receiving core.

All in all, let’s hope this isn’t another race to 8 wins.

AFC South Up For Grabs-A division which Peyton Manning has routinely put in his back pocket now looks to be up for grabs.  The Colts quarterback’s streak of 227 consecutive games comes to an end due to a slow recovery from neck surgery.  Somewhere Favre is basking in the glory of his streak remaining intact while sporting his wrangler jeans on a tractor in the heart of Mississippi. 

Manning’s return remains a question mark, leaving the Houston Texans in the driver’s seat.  With last year’s 9-7 season being their first ever above .500, Houston looks primed to make a postseason appearance.  The offense remains intact with Matt Schaub at the helm, with Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, and Arian Foster at his disposal.  Although if Foster gets a hold of his teammates future scans, it may put them at a disadvantage (I hear he posts them on twitter).  The offense is the same, but the defense looks to be viable with the addition of Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips.  Prized acquisition Jonathan Joseph should help the secondary, but it will be up to Phillips to turn this defense around. 

Lions Ready to Roar?-The laughingstock of the NFL for the last several years, non-sextors aside, the Detroit Lions bandwagon looks to be filling up rapidly.  Franchise Quarterback Matthew Stafford has shown flashes in his two seasons.  Only thing is, he’s only played 13 of 32 games due to injury.  If Stafford can prove to be healthy, watch out for the Lions offense to be a top-10 unit this season.  That with arguably the nastiest defensive line in football has people thinking relevant December football for these guys, and dare I say it, playoffs?  The rest of the defense may be shaky, but when you put pressure on the quarterback, it makes the job a lot easier on everyone else.   

 Hey Everybody, It’s the New Kid-Two rookie quarterbacks will be thrown into the fire from the get go.  Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals and Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers will have even less to work off than most rookie quarterbacks because of the lack of offseason workouts with teammates.  Neither one is ready to take the reins, but Carolina needs to sell tickets, and frankly, if you’ve seen Jimmy Claussen play, you know Carolina is no better.  So Newton might as well take his lumps and earn the experience.  Dalton was supposed to sit and learn the ropes, but then Carson Palmer decided he didn’t want to play for a halfway house, err, the Bengals anymore.    Palmer will play for anyone else, but Owner Mike Brown won’t budge, feeling that Palmer should, “honor his contract.” Funny coming from an owner who will never hesitate to rid themselves of a bad deal. 

State of AFC West Address-The Chargers, perennial favorites, say this year’s different, that they won’t struggle out of the gate.  If they can live up to their promise, this division is theirs for the taking.  Kansas City was a nice story, but they seem more like a bubble team.  Don’t be fooled by Denver starting Kyle Orton, the playoffs take a backseat as the Broncos try to decide what exactly should Tim Tebow be doing.  Among options such as tight end and full back also include team pastor.  And nobody really ever knows what Al Davis is doing with the Raiders.

Big Names, New Places-Donovan McNabb is a Viking, Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth are both Patriots, and Reggie Bush is a Dolphin.  Aging Pro Bowl players, expect all to make impacts with their new teams, showing to all that a fresh start was in order, especially McNabb.

Coaching Debuts-6 teams will be with new coaches, only 1 (John Fox, Denver) is not coaching their first-ever NFL game.  None of these teams are expected to do much in the standings, but Raiders Head Coach Hue Jackson has to be aware of the looney bin that also serves as his boss.  Talk about job security.

Predictions
My regular season picks <span style="color: #743399;">last season left much to be desired, only nailing 7 out of 12 playoff teams, but I did pencil Green Bay for the Super Bowl, thus credibility is restored. 

NFC East
Philadelphia
Dallas
New York
Washington

NFC West
Arizona
St. Louis
San Francisco
Seattle

NFC North
Green Bay
Detroit
Minnesota
Chicago

NFC South
Atlanta
New Orleans
Tampa Bay
Carolina

Wild Card: Dallas, New Orleans

AFC East
New York
New England
Miami
Buffalo

AFC West
San Diego
Oakland
Kansas City
Denver

AFC North
Baltimore
Pittsburgh
Cleveland
Cincinnati

AFC South
Houston
Indianapolis
Tennessee
Jacksonville

Wild Card: New England, Pittsburgh

Super Bowl XLVI- Atlanta vs. New York

<span style="color: #6e8dcf;">Primetime Thoughts

Follow <span style="color: #3b5998;">David S. London on Twitter

Posted on: August 31, 2011 5:11 pm
 

Eagles Go Against Their Grain, Open Wallet

Older people, much less old people, don’t generally fare well with the Philadelphia Eagles.  It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done.

Whether you’re the face of the franchise for many years, as well as Campbells Chunky Soup, with 5 NFC Championship appearances and 6 Pro-Bowl selections such as Donovan McNabb.  Or if you’re the heart and soul of the defense for over a decade like Brian Dawkins.  30 may be the new 20, but as far as the Eagles are concerned, you might as well relocate to the nearest senior center once you wave goodbye to your 20′s.

Not that I blame them.  Like any other business, the Eagles have decisions to make, and throwing around max contracts to players who are up there in age, less likely to finish their contract, much less play up to it, are not necessarily the best investment.

Which leads me to scratching my head with Michael Vick.

Vick had a renaissance year, winning comeback player of the year award, showing everyone the visions many had for so many years when first drafted by the Atlanta Falcons.  A combination of speed and arm strength from a quarterback which has never been seen in the NFL.  Vick had finally put both to use, and was not simply a QB on the run.  Vick threw for over 3,000 yards for the first time ever, had a TD:INT ratio of 21-6, and had a career-high in completion percentage at 62.6%.

Is a career year enough to throw $100 million, with $40 million guaranteed, for a 31-year-old injury-prone quarterback?

I’m not sure, but what I am sure of is, why are the Eagles all of a sudden willing to take a chance where they would generally steer clear of.

Vick’s style of play is based on his explosiveness and ability to improv on any given play.  That comes with a more hits than your standard savvy pocket quarterback like Peyton Manning.  Vick missed 3 games last season due to injury. 

Then there’s the expectation that Vick’s previous season is a sign of things to come, and not in fact lightning in a bottle.  Once again, I bring up his age because, well, performance-enhancing drugs aside, athletes’ athleticism tends to fade over time, which Vick heavily relys on.

Whether or not you agree with the Eagles decision to throw bags of money to Vick is irrelevant.  It’s simply the fact that Philadelphia went away from their typical ways of management and signed an older player to a long-term deal.  They must have the utmost confidence in Vick as they traded Kevin Kolb to Arizona for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick in 2012 (Although a young Pro-Bowl corner and a top-50 selection may be more valuable if they feel Kolb was simply ordinary and replaceable, but a discussion for another time).  

All factors considered, it’s odd to see the Eagles do what they did.  Let’s just see if Vick can live up to his contract and can fly like an eagle.  To a Super Bowl win that is.

Primetime Thoughts

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com