Thursday, January 31, 2008

PHSports Simulation Series: Super Bowl XLII (pictures to come soon ...)

by Chris Clement

In a tradition that has gone as far back as…today…we here at PHSports are ready to do away with computer and metric-based simulations and instead focus on something random, yet incredible entertaining.

Super Bowl XLII…three days early.

How does it happen? The power of technology!

Enter an XBOX, the New England Patriots versus the New York Giants, a 26-inch flat-screen television and XBOX’s willingness to update rosters on a seemingly monthly basis.

The difficulty was boosted to All-Madden, attributes were reset to system levels, ditto for rules/preferences/options. We tried to silence Madden as much as we could, but we had no hope.

Even an MVP was named.

Let’s check the highlights…

1st Quarter
The coin toss led to New England receiving the ball. Unfortunately for Giants fans, the score wasn’t tied for long. After a rather ho-hum 27-yard return from Laurence Maroney, the Patriots marched down the field 73 yards in 5 plays. Along the way were two runs from Maroney (tabbing 20 total yards) and 3 straight Tom Brady completions to Randy Moss. The end result was the game’s first score, a 24-yard grab from a wide-open Moss. Where were you Gibril Wilson? The Giants struggled out of the gate on offense, with Hixon’s return only reaching the 15 before a 3-and-out with three incompletions from Eli “Don’t Cal me Peyton’s Little Brother” Manning. Kevin Faulk’s 8-yard punt return gave the Pats the ball inside Giant territory. After 2 short rushes, Brady continued his perfect start with 4 completions (2 to Stallworth and 2 to Welker) before hitting Donte Stallworth on a short slant for a 6-yard touchdown on the last play of the 1st quarter. 14-0 Patriots as Brady was 8-for-8 with 2 TDs. A third Super Bowl MVP Trophy seemed apparent.

2nd Quarter
Lightning nearly struck again for Hixon as he took back the Pats kick…to the 15 yard line. Two rushes from Brandon Jacobs and then a TE waggle to Kevin Boss afforded the Giants 1st and goal at the 2-yard line. Eli snuck it in himself on 1st down to give the Giants their first TD of the game, now trailing 14-7. Somehow, New England ran 3 straight times for only 8 yards and punted. After a fair catch from RW McQuarters, the Giants marched downfield on a 8-play, 54 yard drive resulting in a 24-yard field goal from Lawrence Tynes. The key plays on the drive included a 3 and 2 conversion by Ahmad Bradshaw on a screen pass and a crushing hit from Asante Samuel in the endzone, jarring the ball loose from Amani Toomer on 3rd and Goal. With the score 14-10 and less than 45 seconds remaining in the half, it appeared the Giants had officially made a game of it. Not so fast. Randy Moss took a reverse 33 yards and then caught a 41-yard touchdown with 7 seconds left to give the Patriots a 21-10 halftime lead. Eli could only hand the ball off to Jacobs to run out the clock following a mediocre kickoff return. 21-10 at the half, Randy Moss had officially woken out of his playoff slumber.

3rd Quarter
The game saw its first turnover on the first pass of the second-half, resulting in a pick by Adalius Thomas of Eli Manning (who had targeted Steve Smith in the flat). Thomas rumbled 15 yards down to the 6-yard line before being tackled by Plaxico Burress (who, to this point, had 0 catches). Laurence Maroney needed 2 rushes to piledrive into the endzone. Pats fans celebrated while Tom Coughlin stared blankly from the sidelines at a 28-10 deficit. The Giants struggled to move the ball, but benefited from two pass interference penalties on Randall Gay to allow Tynes to sail through an impressive 45-yard field goal. Eli’s completion percentage had dipped below 45% while Brady had only 3 incompletions in over fifteen attempts to that point. The Patriots weren’t able to score on their second drive of the second half; however, they ran out the clock before pinning the Giants inside their own 10 yard-line. 28-13 after three quarters of play.

4th Quarter
In a play eerily familiar to Donald Driver’s 90-yard NFC Championship Game TD, a Super Bowl record was set on 3rd and 3 from their own 13 when Eli Manning hit Steve Smith for an 87-yard touchdown. Simply burning All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel and free safety Rodney Harrison, Smith went untouched into the endzone in what was by far the game’s most exciting moment. Tipping the score to 28-20, the Giants were somehow only one-possession away from tying the game. Thoughts of a tie game seemed realistic after a poor kickoff return and two stuffed rushes by the Giant defense. Then, in one of the oddest playcalls I can remember, the Patriots called a rush up the middle on 3rd and 13 against a rather stacked line. With only three minutes remaining, Laurence Maroney shook off a brutal hit 4 yards in the backfield by Fred Robbins and sliced and diced his way to a 58-yard rush. Pushing him over 100 yards and crippling the chances of the Giant offense, Maroney would remain in the game and broke off another big run, this time of 18 yards, placing the ball on the 4 yard line. A play-action bootleg by Brady, never a norm for New England, resulted in Touchdown Tom’s third TD of the day, this one to Benjamin Watson to give the Patriots a 35-20 advantage. The game’s closing minutes saw Plaxico’s first catch (21 yards) and a forced fumble on Eli Manning by Vince Wilfork (also recovered by Wilfork). The Patriots took two kneels after securing one last first-down on a personal foul late hit downfield by Sam Madison on Wes Welker (after a 8-yard reception on 3rd and 15) and Super Bowl XVII was over. Bill Belichick was lifted up by his players and New England enjoyed their fourth Super Bowl trophy in four years, while Giants players, notably Manning/Jacobs/Strahan (he and the entire Giant team was held sackless), held their heads down in remorse. The camera was even shook by the eventual MVP, enjoying his first Super Bowl victory.

Final Score: New England wins 35-20
MVP: Randy Moss [4 receptions, 106 yards, 2 TDs, 1 rush, 33 yards]

Scoring Summary
1st Quarter
Patriots: Tom Brady 24-yard pass to Randy Moss for TOUCHDOWN
[5 plays, 73 yards, XP Good.]
New England leas 7-0

Patriots: Tom Brady 6-yard pass to Donte Stallworth for TOUCHDOWN
[6 plays, 49 yards, XP Good.]
New England leads 14-0.

2nd Quarter
Giants: Eli Manning 2-yard rush for TOUCHDOWN
[4 plays, 15 yards, XP Good.]
New England leads 14-7.

Giants: 24 yard-field goal attempt by Lawrence Tynes is GOOD
[8 plays, 54 yards, FG Good.]
New England leads 14-10.

Patriots: Tom Brady 41-yard pass to Randy Moss for TOUCHDOWN
[4 plays, 76 yards, XP Good.]
New England leads 21-10.

3rd Quarter
New England: Laurence Maroney 2 yard rush for TOUCHDOWN
[2 plays, 6 yards, XP Good.]
New England leads 28-10.

New York: 45-yard field-goal attempt by Lawrence Tynes is GOOD
[5 plays, 45 yards, 1 penalty]
New England leads 28-13.

4th Quarter
New York: Eli Manning 87-yard pass to Steve Smith for TOUCHDOWN
[3 plays, 93 yards, XP Good.]
New England leads 28-20.

New England: Tom Brady 4-yard pass to Benjamin Watson for TOUCHDOWN
[5 plays, 85 yards, XP Good.]
New England leads 35-20.

Key Player Statistics
Tom Brady: 14-17, 169 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs
Laurence Maroney: 16 rushes, 128 yards, TD
Randy Moss: 4 receptions, 106 yards, 2 TDs, 1 rush, 33 yards
Donte Stallworth: 2 receptions, 26 yards, TD
Wes Welker: 3 receptions, 27 yards, 2-first downs
Benjamin Watson: 3 receptions, 1 yard, 1 TD
Adalius Thomas: 5 tackles, INT, sack
Vince Wilfork: 2 tackles, 1 sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery
Rodney Harrison: 8.5 tackles, 0 penalties

Eli Manning: 11-19, 222 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 Rush TD, 1 lost fumble
Brandon Jacobs: 8 rushes, 38 yards, 1 reception, 10 yards
Plaxico Buress: 1 receptions, 21 yards, 2 drops, 1 tackle
Amani Toomer: 4 receptions, 60 yards
Steve Smith: 4 receptions, 126 yds, TD
Kevin Boss: 1 reception 5 yards, 1 drop
Michael Strahan: 1 tackle, 0 sacks, 0 QB hurries
Antonio Pierce: 11.5 tackles, 2 pass deflections
Lawrence Tynes: 2/2 FGs, 2 XPs, 8 points

PHSports Play of the Game: Steve Smith’s untouched 87-yard touchdown reception.
Art Monk Award: Laurence Maroney
-For carrying the ball with intensity and quiet composure. Rushed for 7 first downs on 16 carries, including drive during which Maroney carried the ball 4 times for 81 yards.
Defining Moment: Maroney’s 54-yard scamper on 3rd and 13 to break open a 28-20 game.

I hope you enjoyed it. I wish the game had been closer, but it was surprisingly fun to watch.

Until next time…

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Record Day for PHSports

Yesterday, PHSports not only broke its previous record number of hits for a single day, but tripled it leading to a wild day that was pretty unfathomable in the eyes of each of our unique contributors.

On behalf of the contributors, I'd like to thank all who helped shatter that record.

We will continue to provide you in-depth NFL and NCAA coverage. Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

PHSports 2008 NFL Mock Draft: Super Bowl Week

Once again via conference call, the PHSports foursome conducted our pre-Super Bowl Mock Draft. This time we went two rounds deep.

Team Allocations

Clement: NY Jets, Cleveland, Dallas, Tennessee, Oakland, Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis

Paymon: Miami, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Detroit, Carolina, Arizona

Sum: New England, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, NY Giants, Denver, Green Bay, New Orleans

Armin: Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Washington, Houston, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Minnesota

1st Round:
1. Miami: Glenn Dorsey, DT - LSU
2. St. Louis: Jake Long, OT - Michigan
3. Atlanta: Matt Ryan, QB - Boston College
4. Oakland: Darren McFadden, RB - Arkansas
5. Kansas City: Chris Long, DE - Virginia
6. New York Jets: Vernon Gholston, DE/OLB - Ohio State
7. New England*: Mike Jenkins, CB - South Florida
8. Baltimore: Brian Brohm, QB - Louisville
9. Cincinnati: Sedric Ellis, DT - USC
10. New Orleans: Keith Rivers, OLB - USC
11. Buffalo: Adarius Bowman, WR - Oklahoma State
12. Denver: Kenny Phillips, FS - Miami
13. Carolina: Ryan Clady, OT - Boise State
14. Chicago: Andre' Woodson, QB - Kentucky
15. Detroit: Derrick Harvey, DE - Florida
16. Arizona: Calais Campbell, DE - Miami
17. Minnesota: Quentin Groves, DE - Auburn
18. Houston: Aqib Talib, CB - Kansas
19. Philadelphia: Malcolm Kelly, WR - Oklahoma
20. Tampa Bay: Sam Baker, OT - USC
21. Washington: Limas Sweed, WR - Texas
22. Dallas**: DeSean Jackson, WR - California
23. Pittsburgh: Gosder Cherilus, OT - Boston College
24. Tennessee: James Hardy, WR - Indiana
25. Seattle: Rashard Mendenhall, RB - Illinois
26. Jacksonville: Phillip Merling, DE - Clemson
27. San Diego: Tracy Porter, CB - Indiana
28. Dallas: Leodis McKelvin, CB - Troy
29. San Francisco***: Mario Manningham, WR - Michigan
30. Green Bay: Justin King, CB - Penn State
31. New York Giants: Dan Connor, LB - Penn State
-- New England forfeits pick

* = from San Francisco
** = from Cleveland
*** = from Indianapolis

2nd Round:
32. Miami: Reggie Smith, DB - Oklahoma
33. St. Louis: Ali Highsmith, OLB - LSU
34. Oakland: Kentwan Balmer, DT - North Carolina
35. Kansas City: Chris Williams, OT - Vanderbilt
36. New York Jets: Felix Jones, RB - Arkansas
37. Atlanta: Jeff Otah, OT - Pittsburgh
38. Baltimore: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB - Tennessee State
39. San Francisco: Shawn Crable, OLB - Michigan
40. New Orleans: Antoine Cason, CB - Arizona
41. Buffalo: Charles Godfrey, CB - Iowa
42. Denver: Frank Okam, DT - Texas
43. Carolina: Joe Flacco, QB - Delaware
44. Chicago: Anthony Collins, OT - Kansas
45. Detroit: Jamaal Charles, RB - Texas
46. Cincinnati: Tony Hills, OT - Texas
47. Minnesota: Marcus Griffin, DB - Texas
48. Atlanta****: Early Doucet, WR - LSU
49. Philadelphia: Lawrence Jackson, DE - USC
50. Arizona: Jonathan Stewart, RB - Oregon
51. Washington: Pat Sims, DT - Auburn
52. Tampa Bay: Branden Flowers, CB - Virginia Tech
53. Pittsburgh: Marcus Monk, WR - Arkansas
54. Tennessee: DeJuan Tribble, CB - Boston College
55. Seattle: Martellus Bennett, TE - Texas A&M
56. Cleveland: Mike Hart, RB - Michigan
57. Miami*****: Curtis Lofton, ILB - Oklahoma
58. Jacksonville: Earl Bennett, WR - Vanderbilt
59. Dallas: Steve Slaton, RB - West Virginia
60. Green Bay: John Carlson, TE - Notre Dame
61. Indianapolis: Chris Ellis, DE - Virginia Tech
62. New York Giants: Jonathan Hefney, DB - Tennessee
63. New England: Jerod Mayo, LB - Tennessee

**** = from Houston
***** = from San Diego

Here's a link to the last mock draft we conducted for Week 12

Please leave comments. We're big boys, we can take the criticism (and some praise too)

Monday, January 28, 2008

2008 NCAA Tournament Projections - January 28, 2008

It’s official. Kansas is Self-proof. And by that, I mean by that this Kansas team can win the National Championship in spite of Bill Self’s record in big games. For that reason, I’ve decided to place to Jayhawks – who have shown zero vulnerability since the Arizona game – ahead of Memphis who is fantastic in their own right. Meanwhile, the battle for the final #1 seed tightened as North Carolina has forgotten how to defend and Duke continues to churn out victories.

Following the top 11 spots, there is a considerable drop-off in resume quality. Despite a loss on their home floor to UConn who was missing two players, Indiana’s high upside keeps them right above the 4-line. On the 4-line, Arizona and Drake are unexpected inhabitants. For the former, Jerryd Bayless is healthy and the ‘Cats are 13-3 when he plays (1-3 when he does not). As for Drake, they continue to win close games in the ultra-competitive Valley, but their luck may soon run out.

In the ever-changing Mountain West, UNLV is the conference’s lone representative this week, as they defeated San Diego State in enemy territory. Staying out west, New Mexico State validated my confidence in them by thumping Utah State, who played without four players due to suspension.

In the battle for the final two at-large selections, it was a four-way scrum between Maryland, Arkansas, Syracuse and Villanova. By virtue of winning 6 of 8 and giving Duke all it could handle, Maryland has shown plenty moving into February. In spite of having the single strongest win between the three (versus Pittsburgh), Villanova’s play this week was appalling at best and they seem to be heading in the opposite direction. Though Syracuse was impressive in defeat (@ Georgetown) and in victory (vs. Providence), Arkansas gets the nod due to having more quality wins.

That’s all for now. If you have any questions, comments, or just wish to send a shout, shoot me a line at

The Seedings
1: Kansas (Big XII), Memphis (C-USA), UCLA (PAC-10), North Carolina (ACC)
2: Duke, Tennessee (SEC), Michigan State (Big Ten), Georgetown (Big East)
3: Washington State, Texas, Xavier (A-10), Indiana
4: Butler, Marquette, Arizona, Drake (MVC)
5: Wisconsin, Kansas State, Gonzaga (WCC), Vanderbilt
6: Dayton, Oklahoma, USC, Pittsburgh
7: St. Mary’s, Louisville, Stanford, Texas A&M
8: UConn, Clemson, West Virginia, Mississippi State
9: Ohio State, Florida, Baylor, Kent State (MAC)
10: Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Rhode Island, Miami
11: UNLV (MWC), Purdue, South Alabama (Sun Belt), St. Joseph’s
12: Illinois State, Cleveland State (Horizon), Maryland, Arkansas
13: George Mason (Colonial), Davidson (Southern), Sam Houston State (Southland), Oral Roberts (Summit)
14: Cal State Northridge (Big West), New Mexico State (WAC), Cornell (Ivy), Siena (Metro Atlantic)
15: Winthrop (Big South), Hampton (MEAC), Bucknell (Patriot), UM-Baltimore County (America East)
16: Northern Arizona (Big Sky), Austin Peay (Ohio Valley), East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun), Sacred Heart (Northeast), Alabama State (SWAC)

IN: Oklahoma, UConn, UNLV, Purdue, St. Joseph’s, Maryland, Arkansas, Oral Roberts, Cornell
OUT: Arizona State, UMass, San Diego State, Villanova, Providence, Virginia, Creighton, Yale, IUPUI

Last Four In: St. Joseph’s, Illinois State, Maryland, Arkansas
Last Four Out: Syracuse, Villanova, UMass, NC State
Next Four Out: Arizona State, Boston College, Oregon, Georgia Tech

Seeding Summary (Multi-Bid Conferences Only in Order of Percentage)
Pac-10: 5/10 – UCLA, Washington State, Arizona, USC, Stanford
Big XII: 6/12 – Kansas, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Baylor
SEC: 6/12 – Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Florida, Ole Miss, Arkansas
Big East: 7/16 – Georgetown, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Louisville, UConn, West Virginia, Notre Dame
Big Ten: 5/11 – Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Purdue
ACC: 5/12 – North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Miami, Maryland
A-10: 4/14 – Xavier, Dayton, Rhode Island, St. Joseph’s
Missouri Valley: 2/10 – Drake, Illinois State
Horizon: 2/10 – Butler, Cleveland State
West Coast: 2/10 – Gonzaga, St. Mary’s

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My Somewhat Unhealthy Blake Griffin Man Crush

Be it an open court dunk or a fight for a loose ball on the blocks, Blake Griffin does it.
Credit: CNN
Earlier this week, I made the decision to exclude the Oklahoma Sooners from the Big Dance entirely upon learning that freshman forward Blake Griffin would be out with a knee sprain for approximately four weeks. Prior to this knowledge, the Sooners were rated among my top 25 teams. That’s because since watching Griffin’s grit and determination against Gonzaga and then in a hostile semi-away game versus West Virginia in Charleston, yours truly has developed a basketball man crush. After working 12 hours two Mondays ago, I took solace in that I would be watching Blake Griffin take on Kansas’s big man trio of Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun. Sadly, Blake Griffin sprained his knee early in the first half in a game which Oklahoma had zero margin for error. When the news of four weeks on the shelf hit the wire, the expectation of returning to the NCAA Tournament went to the wayside.

Of course, as we now know, four weeks happened to be 11 days, as Griffin unexpectedly returned Saturday to play at Baylor with his customary contribution of 17 points and 15 rebounds ... but only in 22 minutes. The result was a 77-71 triumph.

A calming influence and a leader, Griffin reminds me of Sean May at the collegiate level with more athletic ability. Evidence to that fact was Griffin’s return to the hardwood last night. Entering with 14 minutes remaining in the first half, Griffin took down a board, delivered a dish and scored a bucket that buoy the Sooners on a 10-0 run that placed the team in a position of relative comfort for the remainder of the game.

Many are pondering whether Griffin will stay in Norman with his brother, Taylor, or bolt for greener pastures of the Association. At present, Griffin may garner lottery considerations, but may be best served to stay in school for at least one more year due to an impressive crop of one-year wonders who might very well be selected before him.

Looking ahead, the Sooners (14-5, 2-2) have a tricky next five games in which they hope to win four of five.

Mon, Jan 28 – vs. Oklahoma State
Sat, Feb 2 -- @ Texas A&M
Wed, Feb 6 – vs. Texas
Sat, Feb 9 -- @ Colorado
Wed, Feb 13 – Iowa State

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pro Football HoF Missing an Important Piece

Do you remember that kid in high school who everybody loved? You know, the one who was good at so many things, but hardly ever bragged about it? The one who was always there when you needed him? The one who had the potential to be the star at everything, but spent his time quietly helping others achieve their personal best? That’s right … the one who everybody knew should have been voted “Most Likely to Succeed” instead of the loudmouth showboat who ended up winning that particular superlative.

Well, the NFL and the Pro Football Hall of Fame have their very own version of “that kid.” His name is Art Monk. He was the first player in NFL history to break the 100-reception mark in a season, a barrier that was not broken by another player for six more season. He retired in 1995 as the all-time receptions leader with 940 catches. He caught all of these passes without whining to his coaches or quarterbacks (none of whom were named or played at the level of Joe Montana, Steve Young or Troy Aikman) about wanting more catches. In fact, he caught 940 passes while helping his fellow wideouts break loose for long plays, and helping his teams’ running backs by some of the best downfield blocking seen from a wide receiver.

Photo from

Yet, Art Monk has been snubbed by the Hall of Fame Voters time and time again. They point to the fact that his career yards-per-reception stands at “only” 13.5, ignoring the fact that he put his body on the line to go across the middle time and time again. How many times have we seen supposed star receivers develop a case of the alligator arms while trying to catch a first-down pass across the middle? You never saw Monk pull back. To that end, during his 14 years as a Redskin, nearly two-thirds of Monk’s 888 receptions were for first downs. How’s that for a statistic?

The case for placing Art Monk in the Hall of Fame would take up pages upon pages of this blog, space which we do not have. However, I urge you to take a look at this letter and either cut/paste it or use it as inspiration for your own letter to any or all of the Hall of Fame voters. The names and contact info for all but 6 of the voters is below. If you have info on any of the ones I’m missing, please pass it along.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with two items. First is a link to an excellent website devoted to getting Art Monk into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Second is an excerpt from an article that’s Peter King wrote about how he changed his mind from being a Monk hater to a believer:

As I made my rounds of training camps this year, I asked veteran coaches about Monk and the one word that kept coming up was “unselfish.” His downfield blocking prowess kept coming up. His long-term numbers were almost Yastrzemski-like (one or two great years, lots of productive ones, very reliable). But when I talked to Joe Gibbs on Friday, the one thing that stood out was the body of work we don’t see — the downfield blocking, the quiet leadership, and this: Unlike his louder receiving mates Clark and Ricky Sanders, Monk, according to Gibbs, never once said he wanted the ball more. “We used him almost as a tight end a lot,” said Gibbs, “and not only did he do it willingly, he was a great blocker for us. If he’d been a squeaky wheel, who knows how many catches Art would have had. But he cared about one thing — the team.” ( - 11/27/2006)

Kent Somers, Arizona Republic

Len Pasquarelli,

Scott Garceau, WMAR-TV

Mark Gaughan, Buffalo News

Charles Chandler, Charlotte Observer

Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune

Chick Ludwig, Dayton Daily News

Tony Grossi, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News

Jeff Legwold, Rocky Mountain News

Mike O'Hara, The Detroit News

Cliff Christl, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

John McClain, Houston Chronicle

Mike Chappell, Indianapolis Star

Sam Kouvaris, WJXT-TV

Bob Gretz, KCFX Overland Park, KS

Edwin Pope, Miami Herald

Sid Hartman, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Ron Borges, HBO Sports/Pro Football Weekly

Pete Finney, Times-Picayune

Vinny DiTrani, Bergen Record

Paul Zimmerman, Sports Illustrated

Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange

Paul Domowitch, Philadelphia Daily News

Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bernie Miklasz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jerry Magee, San Diego Union Tribune

Ira Miller, The Sports Xchange

Clare Farnsworth, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Ira Kaufman, Tampa Tribune

David Climer, The Tennessean

David Elfin, Washington Times

Charean Williams, Ft. Worth Star Telegram

Howard Balzer, The Sports Xchange

Jarrett Bell, USA Today

John Clayton, ESPN/ESPN Magazine

John Czarnecki,

Nancy Gay, San Francisco Chronicle

Dave Goldberg, Associated Press

Peter King, Sports Illustrated

Bob Oates, Los Angeles Times

Friday, January 25, 2008

Postseason-less Blues…Revived: The AFC

As many of you know, most fans of the non-playoff bound variety have turned their heads towards two of the most important stages of any NFL “off-season” (is there truly one?):
The NFL Draft
Free Agency

Every team faces these issues. However, they’re far more apparent for those who aren’t watching film any longer of upcoming opponents.

AFC East

Miami Dolphins…
After a dreadful 1-15 season (thank you, Brian F. Billick), Dolphins fans can at least enjoy the #1 overall pick AND the addition of the Tuna into South Beach. With an offense that lacks any real firepower outside of the still-recovering Ronnie Brown and Ted Ginn Jr., things still remain bleak. While adding RB Darren McFadden to the backfield remains unlikely, who exactly will be brought into Miami to aid its skill positions on offense. While high expectations will be given to second-year wideout Ted Ginn, it will come down to the front office-driven decision of what to do at the quarterback position – filled currently by QBs Cleo Lemon and John Beck – that dictates the first year of the Parcells regime in Miami.

New York Jets…
10-6 and a playoff darling spiraled into 4-12 and calls into whether there is a “Mangenius” in New York. With the 6th pick in the draft, it seems clear that if a certain playmaking Razorback hasn’t slipped, a pass rusher or stand-up 3-4 backer is desperately needed. Not to mention, with their bitter rival Pats picking at #7 right behind them, the Jets have a lot of pre-draft studying to do. While questions surround veterans Laveranues Coles and Jonathan Vilma, we yet again fall into the quarterback trap with the Jets. While a top pick on a QB is highly improbable, it appears two-time winning playoff QB Chad Pennington will be back with the Jets and will compete with third-year QB Kellen Clemens. While neither was far from impressive in ’07, was enough of a stride made by Clemens to secure the lead in the quarterback derby? Methinks not.

Buffalo Bills…
With Trent Edwards, Marshawn Lynch and Lee Evans in place, the offense seems to have a core it can build around. As for the defense, it was beat up and battered last year, no more than rookie LB Paul Posluzny. While a large target to go over the middle is needed, it’s hard to believe the Bills are set with KR Terrence McGee being their off corner. With the Jenkins brothers (related only by last name) both likely to be drafted in the middle of the first-round, the Bills might be wise to stockpile secondary depth ready to cover the plethora of talented Patriot wideouts.

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals…
Fortunately, any talk of trading Chad Johnson died long ago. While the defense has been labeled time and time again as the weaker unit, the entire team has taken several steps back since their fateful playoff loss in 2005 to Pittsburgh. So who’s under the microscope? Marvin Lewis and the entire Bengals coaching staff. Without a strong improvement, don’t expect this regime to stick around much longer in the second city of Ohio.

Baltimore Ravens…
Point and case: the quarterback position. With Steve McNair headed to the green pastures of retirement, Kyle Boller using up his fourth and fifth last chances and Troy Smith unlikely to be penciled into the starting lineup in Week 1, who will quarterback the Ravens next season? With John Harbaugh lined up as their coach, might a higher-than-usual draft pick may address this issue immediately? However, with an aging roster, is it likely a rookie QB taking snaps is the best medicine?

Cleveland Browns…
Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn? That’s child’s play. The real question Browns fans are asking is: How long can we rely on RB Jamal Lewis to be our running back? Likely to see another one or two-year tender, Lewis should remain a Brown, but was this season a return to superstar-form or a one-year aberration. Though the backups (Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison) are adequate, the Browns can’t afford to bet wrong on Lewis.

AFC South

Houston Texans…
8-8 and the only AFC South team not in the playoffs. Despite a strong surge late from backup Sage Rosenfels, QB Matt Schaub was plenty effective when healthy. With a slew of talented draft picks developing (Robinson, Ryans, Williams, and Okoye), the Texans must continue to strengthen their defense. Despite stunting a bit in his growth since his rookie season, CB Dunta Robinson needs a lot of help. The secondary must be addressed, early and often in both the draft and free agency.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs…
Falling down to Earth as hard as any team in the past season, the Chiefs have a glaring issue at QB (Croyle/Huard/???), a lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball, and free agents (Jared Allen) galore. Fortunately, the draft has been good to the Chiefs of late. However, the staple of the Chiefs – especially during their numerous playoff runs – has always been their offensive line. With countless departures, injuries, and underachievers, it’s clear that the line needs to add two or potentially three new starters…FAST.

Oakland Raiders…
The Lamont Jordan project was a bust, ditto potentially for Dominic Rhodes. Meanwhile, Justin Fargas isn’t a 250-carry back during an entire season. With a name like Darren McFadden on the board, the Raiders may have their back for the future … and then some. Perhaps, they may seek a wideout for 2nd-year QB JaMarcus Russell (DeSean Jackson perhaps?) Either way, the Raiders are likely to bolster the offensive unit even if it’s on the line.

Denver Broncos…
Missing out on the playoffs is tough, especially in Denver. The two Super Bowls in Denver occurred nearly a decade ago and the roster seems split between aging veterans (Rod Smith & John Lynch) and promising young stars (DJ Williams & Brandon Marshall). Despite countless attempts in the draft and via Cleveland, the defensive line better get help. Pounded by San Diego twice a year, Denver needs to stop going for the quick-fix and instead must bolster their line depth – alongside a recovering Jarvis Moss (last year’s #1 pick) – as Denver attempts to rebuild the mojo in the Mile High city.

While countless teams seem to be addressing the quarterback issue, it’s clear that there is plenty to offer for every team in the NFL this season: playoff-bound or not.

Remember, the NFL Draft is only 3 months away!

Until next time…

Postseason-less Blues…Revived: The NFC

By: Chris Clement

As many of you know, most fans of the non-playoff bound variety have turned their heads towards two of the most important stages of any NFL “off-season” (is there truly one?):
A) The NFL Draft
B) Free Agency

Let’s dissect a few issues surrounding the playoff-less.

NFC East
…Philadelphia Eagles...
-Without any contract issues and a rehabbing knee (2-year recovery, remember!), QB Donovan McNabb seemed to turn a few heads back to his side after winning their last three games in impressive fashion. Despite rumors that he was briefly put on the trade market, it seems highly unlikely the Kevin Kolb era is any closer to starting in Philadelphia.

NFC North
…Detroit Lions…
-Selecting outside of the top 10 for the first time in years, disappointment was still the resounding sentiment in Detroit following a second-half collapse. Finishing near dead-last in every meaningful defensive category, the Lions have invested a ton of cash in their interior defensive line. Whether isolating one of the Jenkins’ CBs in the draft or a free agent, look for the Lions to make a big play for a replacement (finally) for departed CB ‘Dre Bly. None better on the market than potential former-Pat CB Asante Samuel.

…Minnesota Vikings…
-Losing their final 2 games – and thus, missing the playoffs – may have left more than a few doubts in Brad Childress’s mind about current starting QB Tarvaris Jackson. While it seems likely they’ll miss out on one of the three big draft QBs (Matt Ryan, Brian Brohm, Andre’ Woodson), the Vikings have to start deciding who is or isn’t the quarterback of the future.

...Chicago Bears…
-Everyone is talking Rex Grossman and the QB position in Chicago. Yet, two of its biggest free agents are its starting wideouts [Bernard Berrian & Muhsin Muhammad]. Berrian appears ready to cash in big time as an emerging young wideout with big play ability on the market. With a mid-level First Round pick available to the Bears, offensive playmakers seems to be the idea. Quarterback? Receiver? Offensive Line???

NFC South
…Atlanta Falcons…
-Another team with a QB debacle, the Falcons have the aging Warrick Dunn and an underdeveloped Jerious Norwood in their backfield. With a name like Darren McFadden lingering among the likes of QBs Matt Ryan and Brian Brohm, the Falcons need an offensive stud, but who do they like the most?

...Carolina Panthers…
-Underachieving again and again, this has to be the last year John Fox is given to realize his team’s true potential. While playmakers are needed on both sides of the ball, the injury to QB Jake Delhomme further proves this team’s need for a young QB to build their franchise around. However, if a Brohm or Woodson is selected…what does that mean for an aging Delhomme?

…New Orleans Saints…
-With the honeymoon officially over for Sean Payton, Drew Brees and Reggie Bush, 2008 will display whether the Saints are an NFC contender or pretender. After the disastrous free-agent signing of CB Jason David and health issues for Mike “the Predator” McKenzie, the Saints are likely, with the 10th pick, to have top choice at a top-flight CB.

NFC West
…San Francisco 49ers...
-Without their 1st-round pick (#7, which now belongs to the 16-0 Pats of all teams), the 49ers will have to test both the free agent market and the later rounds in the draft to add new talent. While they don’t have a shot at a first-round QB, perhaps competition would be better suited in the 2nd or 3rd round (i.e. John David Booty) rather than overspending on a free-agent like Derek Anderson. With so much money invested in former overall #1 pick QB Alex Smith, the entire position is one of contention.

…St. Louis Rams…
-After spending a recent 1st-rounder on OT Alex Barron, is it too early, especially with the 2nd pick, to focus on Jake Long. Whether Glenn Dorsey is available after the 1st-pick has a lot to do with that. Nevertheless, protecting Marc Bulger and blocking for a healthy Steven Jackson is a top priority this off-season for the Rams. Whether via a veteran backup, depending on LT Orlando Pace staying healthy isn’t a wise option.

…Arizona Cardinals…
-After a 27-touchdown season – playing through multiple injuries mind you – QB Kurt Warner’s career seems far from dead. Yet, a ton of cash and promise is packaged into playboy QB Matt Leinart. The former Heisman winner has had trouble both staying on the field and performing at a consistent level. With a steady #3 QB Tim Rattay a solid backup, could Warner be on the blocks? Or might we have a real interesting training camp controversy brewing in the desert?

…The AFC will receive the treatment later today…

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I'm Pulling A Villanova For The Evening

... and going to bed. Here are a few observations at 930pm.
  • Quietly, Purdue is making the case for a 5th Big Ten team. In my humble opinion, they will have to win at least one game against the trio Wisconsin (v. 1/26, @ 2/9), Michigan State (v. 2/12) and Indiana (@ 2/19).
  • Kent State defeats Akron as expected but in comeback fashion.
  • NC State and UVa lose games that they'll regret come March.
  • Baylor up 52-50 at A&M with under 10 minutes to go. Are they for real?
  • Memphis in a tight one ...

Have a good night!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Trend Data Trumps Big East Passion

Question: Should the Big East remain the 3rd-rated conference according to the RPI, what percentage of their teams will they advance? What does the trend data suggest?

YearConferenceFraction of ParticipantsPercentage (%)Seed Numbers
2005Big XII6/1250.02,3,3,6,8,9
2004Big East6/1442.93,5,5,6,7,8

Total Percentage: 26/57 (44.1%)

As evidenced by the trend data, the last two years have been statistical anomalies and deviate from the five-year average by more than 10 percent. Given this data, it would be reasonable to posit that the #3 conference (currently, The Big East) should gain approximately seven bids. Projections above eight bids or below six bids would be considered statistical outliers.

As for seeding, #11 is the lowest seeding to be gained over this five-year period (Stanford, 2007). Perhaps, the Big East seedings (3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 13) from the January 21 NCAA Tournament Projections may have been harsh. Nevertheless, the allocation percentage (50.0%) is more generous than the five-year average of 44.1%.

Monday, January 21, 2008

2008 NCAA Tournament Projections - January 21, 2008

Suicide Saturday has come and gone. North Carolina and UCLA not only lost, but succumbed to defeat on their home courts against who were not members of the 65-team field last week.

Along the 3rd seed line, Texas A&M and Marquette lost two double-digit games this week, bringing them down at least one tier. Reaping the benefits are Indiana and Xavier who simply took care of business. Another high riser is Kansas State who affirmed last week’s road victory against Oklahoma with a lopsided triumph against Texas A&M.

Speaking of Oklahoma, we are now projecting that they will be out of the mix given that Blake Griffin will be out for four weeks. Despite a win at home against Texas Tech without Griffin’s services, the Sooners are too thin to compete in the Big XII with a 7-deep squad. If they happen to win half of those games, that will go a long way in reconsidering the Sooners case for an at-large bid.

Syracuse (giving up 50+ in the second half at home to Villanova) and Arkansas (two losses to the SEC East cellar dwellers) did nothing to help their status and are now on the outside looking in. Syracuse’s Big Monday affair tonight at Georgetown will go a long way in determining which tournament they’ll be playing in March.

In the Mountain West, we have decided to switch allegiance to San Diego State for now due to their spotless conference and a win over Utah. In the WAC, many are predicting Utah State, but we are sticking with New Mexico State. Blue-chip recruit Herb Pope (#31 according to finally stepping onto the hardwood (5 pts, 9 reb, 4 ast, 6 TOs in 23 minutes) in a win versus Louisiana Tech cements that decision.

That’s all for now. If you have any questions, comments, or just wish to send a shout, shoot me a line at

The Seedings
1: Memphis (C-USA), Kansas (Big XII), UCLA (PAC-10), North Carolina (ACC)
2: Duke, Tennessee (SEC), Michigan State (Big Ten), Washington State
3: Georgetown (Big East), Texas, Indiana, Xavier (A-10)
4: Drake (MVC), Butler (Horizon), Dayton, Texas A&M
5: Marquette, Wisconsin, Gonzaga (WCC), Kansas State
6: Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Stanford, Pittsburgh
7: Rhode Island, Arizona, Ohio State, Louisville
8: Clemson, St. Mary’s, Arizona State, Kent State (MAC)
9: UMass, West Virginia, Miami-FL, Florida
10: USC, Illinois State, San Diego State (MWC), South Alabama (Sun Belt)
11: George Mason (Colonial), Baylor, Cleveland State, Villanova
12: Davidson (Southern), Sam Houston State (Southland), Mississippi State, Virginia
13: Providence, Siena (Metro Atlantic), Notre Dame, Creighton
14: Cal State Northridge (Big West), New Mexico State (WAC), Winthrop (Big South), Hampton (MEAC)
15: Bucknell (Patriot), UM-Baltimore County (America East), Yale (Ivy), IUPUI (Summit)
16: Austin Peay (Ohio Valley), Northern Arizona (Big Sky), East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun), Sacred Heart (Northeast), Alabama State (SWAC)

IN: USC, San Diego State, Villanova, Mississippi State, Providence, Creighton, Cal State Northridge, Bucknell, Northern Arizona, Alabama State
OUT: Oklahoma, Syracuse, Arkansas, Oregon, Utah, Boston College, UC-Santa Barbara, Holy Cross, Montana, Jackson State

Last Four In: Virginia, Providence, Notre Dame, Creighton
Last Four Out: Oregon, Boston College, Oklahoma, NC State
Next Four Out: Arkansas, Akron, Maryland, UConn

Summary (Multi-Bid Conferences Only in Order of Percentage)
Pac-10: 6/10 – UCLA, Washington State, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State, USC
ACC: 5/12 – North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Miami-FL, Virginia
Big East: 8/16 –Georgetown, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Louisville, West Virginia, Villanova, Providence, Notre Dame
Big XII: 5/12 – Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Baylor
SEC: 5/12 – Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Florida, Mississippi State
Big Ten: 4/11 – Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio State
Missouri Valley: 3/10 – Drake, Illinois State, Creighton
A-10: 4/14 – Dayton, Rhode Island, Xavier, UMass
Horizon: 2/10 – Butler, Cleveland State
West Coast: 2/10 – Gonzaga, St. Mary’s

Sunday, January 20, 2008

5 Questions for Championship Sunday in the NFL

Who will be hoisting the conference championship trophies today???


1) Given the success of AJ Feeley and Kyle Boller against seemingly undaunted New England, can Billy Volek's relative anonymity be a boon to the Chargers should the QB be forced into duty?

2) Will Sunday evening’s NFC title tilt be the coldest game in Playoff history?

3) Will Antonio Cromartie’s presence as a starter in the Chargers secondary, which he wasn’t in Week 2, play a major role in the outcome of the AFC Championship?

4) Will the Giants depleted secondary be able to contain Donald Driver in the flat, Greg Jennings along the sidelines, and the wizardry of the forever-young Brett Favre?

5) Seriously, how many personal fouls are you tabbing Rodney Harrison for?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Scoring Recommendations for Consideration by the Bracketology Community

Scoring Recommendations for Consideration by the Bracketology Community

Thanks to Brian at the Bracket Project, we have the Bracket Matrix. This bracket clearinghouse not only updates bracket projections on a regular basis and lists links and names of bracketologists ranging from experts like Joe Lunardi (who finished 30th … out of 30 in 2007) to your slightly better Joe with considerably less pub, but it also averages the projected seed. At the end of the season, the final bracket projections are evaluated based on three metrics:

* Teams picked correctly
* Teams seeded correctly
* Teams seeded within one of NCAA seed

Last year, Gary Parrish from CBS Sportsline informally suggested giving one point for each accomplished metric. Nevertheless, at present, there is no gold standard for scoring bracket projections.

With that said, here are my scoring recommendations.

  1. Teams picked correctly – Among the three metrics, this is the most important. Additionally, all bracketologists should know the 31 automatic bids by 5pm Eastern Time. Given this premise, I recommend that we give three points for each of the 34 at-large bids that are picked correctly.
  2. Teams seeded correctly – Right beneath selecting the correct at-large teams is picking the exact seeds of those teams. Therefore, let’s give two points for picking the exact seeds.
  3. Teams seeded within one seed of NCAA seed – Though important, this is the least important of the metrics and is largely present to accommodate the near-misses of bracketologists. You see the trend … one point for accurately placing teams within one NCAA seed.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Clement's Weekly Picks and Prognostications...Conference Championships

Just when you thought regular season glory was good enough, playoff spreads bite you in the butt. Anyone can go 3-1 picking games straight up, but 1-3 via the spread results in wasting the almighty dollar. Fortunately, less teams equals higher stakes. Not to mention, with the Pats still around, there are higher and higher spreads to tackle.

Let’s roll!

AFC Championship Game:
San Diego @ New England [-14]

Don’t even get me started on how many injuries the NFL’s
dirtiest player, "accidental cheater" Rodney Harrison, might
cause on pile-ups against several of the banged-up Bolts.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Combined, they’re enjoying winning streaks of 25 games (17 for the Pats, 8 for the Bolts). Though, sadly, I’ve come to the all-too-true conclusion that this New England team is completely unbeatable. Yep, even as a die-hard Jet fan and SpyGate preacher, I finally have lost all hope and given in to the supremacy that emanates from Foxboro. In fact, the 2007 edition of the Patriots may end up being the greatest NFL and sports team ever. So, do you think I’m honestly gonna take Phillip Rivers/Billy Volek over Tom Brady? Norv Turner over Bill Belichick? Not a chance, folks. I just can’t bank on this team, even with talent so rich from the likes of Chambers, Merriman, Gates, Cromartie and a guy named LT. Call me a pessimist, depressed, or simply pragmatic, but the point remains: The Chargers don’t stand a chance. They won’t get to Brady nearly enough and won’t make the key plays (i.e. stopping Faulk on the screen, Welker in the flat, Moss deep, Donte on the screen) on defense to allow their own injury-infested offense to keep up. Sorry haters, the Pats do it to us again in blowout fashion as they continue their march to immortality.

NFC Championship Game:
New York @ Green Bay [-7]

Some weather reports have the negatives winning out for the game-time temperatures.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Straight up, you know I’m granting the request of every Giant fan and taking the Packers. As for the spread, perhaps it’s a bit too large despite homefield advantage and the extra week of rest for the Pack. Personally, I am already sick over the media hype of Favre vs. Brady. The Swansong vs. Perfection. A far more fascinating story has taken place the last three weeks concerning the team many “experts” (who me?) pegged for 4th place in the NFC East, the road-warrior Giants. The same team who, after their now wise Week 17 throwdown against those aforementioned unbeatable Pats, just might get another shot at Brady and company in Super Bowl XLII. Clearly, it seems that Eli/Coughlin are a far stronger tandem WITHOUT Tiki "Remember Me?" Barber. Despite all the good mojo coming out of NYC, I’m backing the all-too-feel-good story of Favre, the phenom Ryan Grant’s continuous surge, Greg Jennings’ affinity for the big play and a immensely talented duo of cornerbacks for the outright W. The Pack win and cover, in a less than exciting NFC Championship Game tilt. You’re welcome Giants fans.

We’ll return in a little under two weeks with staff picks on Super Bowl XLII. After a rather strong staff showing for the BCS Title game (not to mention nearly perfect predictions with Colts/Bears in Super Bowl XLI), we look forward to yet another challenge!

Until next time…

Thursday, January 17, 2008

NFC Championship Game Preview: New York Giants at Green Bay

New York Do’s and Don’t’s – Chris Clement

Do balance the offensive game-plan as brilliantly as you have the previous two playoff match-ups. Eli went 12-18 in the passing game while Jacobs (14 carries) and Bradshaw (6 carries) shared duties in the rush game. While 163 yards through the air and 88 on the ground will not be enough against Green Bay’s red-hot attack, balancing the equation will allow the Giants to control the clock…which keeps Favre and company off the field for as long as possible.

Do open up the playbook early and often. Winning without targeting the big play to Plaxico isn’t likely to work for a second-straight week. Not to mention, it’s highly unlikely that All-Pro caliber cornerbacks Al Harris & Charles Woodson won’t make similar mistakes to what Cowboys defenders did. As they did by flying all over the field last weekend against the Seahawks, the Packers may overplay a few deep routes. Since the Pack are completely capable of putting up 30+ in rough weather, the Giants may need to match touchdown-for-touchdown in the first half.

Do thank the front office for allowing Tom Coughlin another year with the team. The absence of Tiki Barber and the relatively capable handling of the Strahan “holdout” look more than steady with the proper perspective. Ditto with a slew of injuries, a shaky Eli, and the prospects of play vs. sit in Week 17 against the Pats. I never thought I would say this, but the Giants were right to see Tiki leave and Tom stay.

Don’t allow R.W. McQuarters to see too much of Greg Jennings. White-hot in the regular season and now the playoffs, Jennings is an 80-yard touchdown reception threat every time a drive starts for the Packers. With Sam Madison, Kevin Dockery, and now Aaron Ross banged up, a lot will be asked of McQuarters. Pairing him with the likes of free agent rookie (from Howard University, of all places) Geoffrey Pope may be a glaring weakness that Favre tries to expose immediately. This spells even more responsibility for the linebackers, safeties, and the entire defensive coaching staff. Good luck.

Don’t fear Ryan Grant. As rookies will show you often, one minute they’ve fumbled their first two meaningful snaps and the next they have 201 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Grant’s numbers over the last eleven weeks surpass everyone, including LT. While running at home, potentially in the muck, is tempting to Grant, the Giants survived a dominant Marion Barber, III (100+ yards in the first half) and shut down the bruising back in the second half. While Grant is a different runner, the results must be similar this weekend.

Don’t stop believing. I firmly believe the Giants felt they would beat the Patriots. Ditto with the Bucs and Cowboys. Now, while every team must exude confidence in order to win, the Giants are basking in it. Don’t stop that train of thought. Not even for a second.

Green Bay Do’s and Don’t’s – Armin Mohajeri

Do let Brett Favre do what he does best and sling the rock long. Go for some big plays early. Donald Driver, Gregg Jennings and James Jones can eat the Giants secondary alive. There is nothing to fear about the Giants secondary other than the fact that they're been playing better than they truly are during the run the team has made. A couple of early TD passes by Favre should send the Giants secondary into a downward spiral as they come back to earth.

Do have confidence in your DBs. Woodson and Harris can shut down Plaxico and Amani. This is a match up of veteran WRs against veteran CBs. The veteran CBs won't succumb as easily to precise route running. With Nick Collins and Atari Bigby stepping up this season, they can work their switches in coverage and run a variation of the Cover 2 with the luxury of a linebacker covering TE Kevin Boss (who isn't going to win any foot races). This will allow the Packers front seven to go after Eli.

Do it for Brett. As cheesy as it sounds (and no, John Madden is not pushing me to say this), the Packers have to dedicate themselves to getting their captain back to the Super Bowl. Mark Schlereth said it best during an interview: one of the great motivating factors for his two Super Bowl rings with the Broncos was the fact that the team pulled together and said, "If we can't do it for ourselves, let's do it for John." Brett Favre has accomplished so much; he has dealt with so much adversity; he has suffered so much pain. Yet, he gets out there on the field and performs. He may already have a ring, but he deserves a shot to earn another.

Don't forget the RBs that got you here. Ryan Grant has proven to be a big-play back. He is as critical to the success of the Packers as any player on that squad this season. While the big plays should be flowing, the meat of the game should be using Grant (and Brandon Jackson who's had a few nice plays of late) to wear down the Giants front seven. Wearing down Strahan, Umenyiora and Tuck by constantly running at them will go a long way towards keeping them off Favre late in the game. Of course, unless there's some sort of sack record that Favre feels Strahan needs to break. Then, all bets are off.

Don't let Eli Manning beat you. The Cowboys had the right idea, though they still lost in the end. Go after Eli. Knock him down. It's highly doubtful that Eli will be able to pull off last second heroics if he's hearing footsteps. This will be the test to see whether Eli is maturing, or if he's the same old Eli that eventually folds under the pressure when his team needs him the most. Defensive Coordinator Bob Sanders should send two LBs to help Aaron Kampman in the pass rush. Keep an eye on Brady Poppinga, a former DE who the Giants should not forget.

Don't believe the hype. The Packers are the better team. However, the second they buy into the Giants and their hot play, the game is over. The Packers should take note of the Giants game against the Cowboys. The Cowboys played down to the Giants' level. This is how Cinderella teams are born. If they can overlook the hype and play the Giants for the team they are, the Packers shouldn't have too much problem putting them away. Be confident, yet not over-confident. However, this is much easier said than done.

Key Matchups - Sum Mehrnama

When New York has the ball

RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw vs. LBs Nick Barnett and AJ Hawk

Normally this paragraph would be about establishing and/or stopping the run. However, after witnessing the intriguing idea to lineup Jacobs and Bradshaw as wide receivers on numerous occasions, this is now a paragraph about the passing game. With Jeremy Shockey out, the Giants needed something different in their offense. Thus we had everyone utter a collective gasp of awe when Brandon Jacobs lined up wide and caught a pass as a TE or WR would normally catch. Barnett and Hawk were the better pass-defending LBs for the Packers this year, and they’ll need to be ready for the Giants duo to run underneath receiving routes. If they aren’t ready, then Eli Manning will hit some easy passes to his RBs and will hit his stride early.

When Green Bay has the ball

WR Donald Driver vs. the Entire Giants Secondary

Somehow, someway, the Giants secondary played better on Sunday after Aaron Ross exited the game and left them with exactly zero of their starting CBs in the game. Perhaps Ross’ heroics in using his injuried shoulder to bring down Marion Barber, III inspired his teammates, or perhaps it was the sense of urgency. Regardless, the secondary stepped up at that point (and also received a huge assist from the front-seven pressuring Romo). Unfortunately for the Giants, I think the injuries will leave their secondary exposed this weekend and that spells out an amazing opportunity for Donald Driver. New York’s corners will tire quickly and Driver should be able to capitalize for a career day … unless they manage to re-create that sense of team that carried them through the second half at Dallas. If that happens, then Driver will have to serve as a decoy in order to free-up Greg Jennings.

Intangibles – Sum Mehrnama


As cliché as it is, the weather is a huge intangible for this Sunday’s game in Green Bay. Last week, the frozen tundra resulted in the sack-happy Seahawks managing only one sack (which should’ve just been ruled a tackle for no gain). This week that same snow will require Steve Spagnuolo to devise some ingenious method of pressuring Brett Favre. Slippery conditions will slow down Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan and Kawika Mitchell as they rush the corners. Furthermore, Green Bay knows how to handle the snow. New York’s experience in this weather is greatly limited … in fact, the Giants may want to travel to the greater Boston area to practice in the 20 inches of snow they have up there.

Calm Quarterbacking

Both signal-callers have been prone to succumbing and thriving off of emotion during their careers. Eli Manning has become more accustomed to letting his emotions rattle him than inspire him, while Brett Favre (neé Madden) has both won and lost games due to emotional swings. This outcome of this game depends heavily upon which quarterback is more able to rely on calm and logical decision-making. The instant either of them becomes flustered, a mistake will be imminent. Favre returned to greatness this season by buying into a systematic game-plan rather than relying on his gun-slinging past. The Giants proved that they can beat a quarterback who resorts to gun-slinging (cough*Romo*cough). Eli, on the other hand, has seemingly stolen Peyton’s mojo the past three weeks and become, dare I say it, the better Manning. But we’ve seen his meltdowns far too often to expect them to be gone for good. In a sport that is dominated by clichéd mantras, it’s no surprise that these quarterbacks need to remember that slow and steady wins the race.

Final Predictions

Armin: New York wins, 23 – 20

Clement: Green Bay wins, 33 – 24

Summy: Green Bay wins, 24 – 21