Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kiffin Out, [Insert Lame Duck] In

Chris Mortensen of ESPN is reporting that Raiders owner Al Davis has fired head coach Lane Kiffin (by telephone), seemingly ending the charade that has taken place since Kiffin's hiring last year. That said, Davis aims not to honor the remainder of Kiffin's contract. For that, Davis will be criticized for yet another reason.

The demise of the Raiders is nothing new. Though Davis should be remembered for his contributions to American football, his missteps (and cowardice) as owner over the last five years may result in this generation forgetting that.

In spite of a 4-12 record last year and the exact same winning percentage so far this season, the Raiders were making progress under Kiffin, who was doing his best despite not having any real control over personnel and staff. With the likes of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Kansas City (my pick), Detroit, Minnesota, St. Louis, San Francisco and perhaps Seattle looking for a new head coach in the off-season, Kiffin will have a leg up on the competition due to his youth and experience.

Drafting For Need Is Not Overrated - Just Ask The Steelers Now

Last night, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens. However, the win came with potentially greater losses. First, they lost 1st-round pick Rashard Mendenhall (shoulder fracture), whose name I often altered due to his tendency to put the ball on the ground. Second, starting right guard Kendall Simmons suffered a right Achilles injury. Both players are done for the season and will be placed on injured reserve. In the meanwhile, either Darnell Stapleton or Trai Essex will start in Simmons's place. As for running backs, Mewelde Moore is the only healthy one on the roster, so do not be shocked if the likes of Shaun Alexander, Cedric Benson, Najeh Davenport, Barry Foster, Franco Harris or Rocky Bleier get a call.

After the end of last season, one thing was clear for Pittsburgh. They needed to strengthen the offensive line. In short, that did not happen. Alan Faneca did not re-sign and the Steelers gave a backup tackle (Max Starks) Lee Majors type money. At the NFL Draft, all signs pointed to beefing up the O-Line; however, the first two picks were spent on ultra-talented skill position players who slipped in the eyes of many. In the third round, the Steelers selected speed rusher Bruce Davis with the intention of moving 2007 first-round pick and Ricky Williams shoulder crusher Lawrence Timmons to the inside. Offensive tackle Tony Hills was selected in the 4th round, but was that enough? No.

If the Steelers cannot run the ball with authority, then the team loses the identity that the city of Pittsburgh has come to know and love. Furthermore, the team becomes one-dimensional and predictable, resulting in their big investment, Big Ben, to be on his back on Sundays and in the trainer's room on Monday through Saturday. With a physical defense like the Jacksonville Jaguars (Pittsburgh's Week 5 opponent) anxiously waiting in the wings, I am curious to see how the Steelers will alter their passing game to avoid situations early in the game in which Big Ben is in the pocket for long periods of time. Earlier in Big Ben's career when he was less established, the Steelers used more wide receiver screens to get the ball out of his hands and let teammates makes plays. Perhaps, this will be a strategy employed to reduce the predictability of a team led by a dropback passer who lacks the privilege of a firm run game. No matter what strategy they use in the coming weeks to win games, the Steelers will need to rely on defense and special teams.

Tuesday FourCast: Week 4

Three solid weeks of the FourCast to start off the season, and the NFL must have sensed I was coming to bat since it gave me a plethora of things to write/cheer/bitch/celebrate/groan about. Hell, so much happened that I didn't even have room to include an item complaining about the horrid officiating (Hochuli strikes again, and WTF happened in the MIN/TEN game??) or the horrid handling of fines for bitching about officiating (WHERE IS NORV TURNER'S F'ING FINE????). Y'all better behave in Week 8 ... otherwise I'll blast you then. For now, it's Week 4's FourCast...

#1. Enver Broncos (There’s no “D”)

I’m sorry, is it just me or is Paul Westhead coaching the Broncos? Westhead, of course, coached the other defense-less pro team in Denver history, the Nuggets, from 1990-1992. In his first season as coach, Westhead’s Nuggets put up a whopping 120 pts per game, kinda like the Broncos have been putting of 33.25 points per game. Problem? The Nuggets gave up 131 points per game. The Broncos haven’t given up more points than they’ve scored quite yet, giving up 29.25 points per game, but are well on their way to doing so. Denver ’s got a powerful offense that is relying heavily on the passing attack, but it cannot continue to win with a defense that gives up 33 points to Kansas City .

Unfortunately for Denver Fans, the Broncos Defense was listening to Peyton's chant...

#2. HOW BOUT DEM … Redskins?

Yes, I’m opting to use one of my points to be a homer. But how could I not, given that the Redskins outplayed a superstar-filled Dallas team in their last-ever meeting at Texas Stadium? The Skins managed an impressive ground game against DeMarcus Ware and Co., enabling the way to a balanced offensive attack (37 rushes, 31 passes) and over 38 minutes of possession time. After four weeks it seems that the Cowboys will have to tweak their defense quite a bit if they want to fulfill the glorious predictions that so many pundits have given (myself NOT included). As for Washington , given their penchant for consultation between players and coaches on the sidelines during each game, this is a team that is looking to learn, grow and develop after every single down played this season … and as a fan of both the Skins and of the NFL, this is something I really like.

Dat's mah Kotaback! Ima throw him under the bus for only gettin me the ball on 1/3 of the plays!

#3. Tragedy Strikes Collier

Why does it seem that I get tragedies related to NFL players for my Fourcasts? Monday afternoon I learned that Jacksonville ’s O-lineman, Richard Collier will be paralyzed from the waist down and also had his left leg amputated from above the knee. Following in the recent shootings of Sean Taylor and Darrent Williams, it seems that someone has painted a target on NFL players. Per the facts available in all three cases, the athletes were innocent in their actions prior to being shot. Taylor sought to defend his family from would-be burglars, Williams was having fun with friends on New Year’s Eve (though there are rumors of a potential dispute earlier in the evening at a nightclub), and Collier and a teammate were waiting for two women outside their apartment. While it is a miracle that Collier survived the 14 bullet wounds to the back, left groin, left legs and right buttock (per Yahoo! Sports), his promising career has been unfairly stopped at the age of 26.

Of course our prayers go out to Richard Collier and his family.

#4. No Family League

The other tragedy is the death of Matt Bryant’s infant son. Bryant buried his three month old son, Matthew Tryson Bryant, on Saturday, and then proceeded to play, and win the game, for the Bucs on Sunday. To lose a child is one of the most difficult things, and yet Bryant was pretty much forced to play. While, again, our prayers go out to the Bryant family, I also am disgusted and appalled that the NFL does not allow a roster exemption for bereavement and other drastically important family matters.

Given the current layout of rules in the “No Family League,” a team can receive a roster exemption for having a douchebag as a player (see Chris Henry, Pacman Jones, et al.), but cannot receive such an exemption for having a dedicated family man on its team. So whether a player’s wife starts giving birth to his first-born child or a player’s spouse, parent, sibling or child dies, that player is all but forced to play. I’m sure the Bucs gave Bryant the option of missing the game, but, being a consummate professional and realizing that his absence would require the team to cut another member in order to sign a replacement kicker, Bryant kicked his team to victory with a very heavy heart.

Kudos and prayers to you, Matt Bryant.

A double-dose of my middle finger to you, NFL policy makers.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Quick Hits from Sunday's Games

Here's one sentence (maybe two) from each of Sunday's games ...

Cleveland @ Cincinnati
Edwards and Ocho Cinco find the endzone, and Quinn should have entered the game for Cleveland after halftime if Crennel knew what he was doing.

Houston @ Jacksonville
Jacksonville evens up its record yet Matt Schaub has a career game. Both defenses stopped the other team's running backs.

Atlanta @ Carolina
Moose reawakens and Atlanta fails to score a TD in its second straight divisional road game.

Denver @ Kansas City
LJ and Clement's fantasy teams got going. Four turnovers and an inability to stop the run killed Denver.

San Francisco @ New Orleans
The return of Deuce McAllister to full-time duty and a full game's worth of production from Drew Brees result in an easy win in the Big Easy.

Arizona @ New York Jets
Thirty-four second quarter led to the clock operator being replaced and Kurt Warner putting up the worst 472 passing yards ever. Arizona will never stay on the East Coast.

Green Bay @ Tampa Bay
Late burst from Earnest Graham shored up an anything but certain victory for Tampa. Shocker: I saw at least one scuffle and guess who was in the middle? Jeremy Trueblood.

Minnesota @ Tennessee
Tennessee cruises behind its defenses, who caused three turnovers, and effective redzone play. Minnesota is searching for answers.

San Diego @ Oakland
Oakland squanders a 12-point fourth quarter lead and that LT guy wakes up from his season-long slumber. As of the writing of this post, Lane Kiffin still has a job.

Buffalo @ St. Louis
Linehan's out after Buffalo took care of business in the second half. Action Jackson finally finds the endzone.

Washington @ Dallas
Washington outplayed and outcoached Dallas, and TO - the target of 34.5% of offensive plays - complains. Missing person reports were submitted for Marion Barber III and Felix Jones.

Philadelphia @ Chicago
Orton plays his best half as a pro followed by possibly his worst. Philadelphia's inability to translate turnovers caused into points (6 points from 4 turnovers) cost them dearly.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

5 NFL Questions - Week 4

1) Will Santana Moss again burn the Dallas secondary for a huge game?
2) What is the status of Favre's ankle and the Jet offensive scheme?
3) How close will Brian Griese come to matching last week's 76 attempts?
4) How are the respective "healths" of Brian Westbrook and Donovan F. McNabb of the Eagles?
5) Can Michael Turner and John Abraham propel the hapless Falcons to a 3-1 mark?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Our Thoughts: Does Plax's Suspension Shift the Balance of Power in the NFC East?

Sum: No, it doesn't. As I discussed in my Pre-Season Faux-Cast, Eli can do just fine without "talent" at the wide-receiver position, plus the Giants have lots of depth there. In the second preseason game (Cleveland), Eli completed 4 of 7 pass attempts, and none of the recipients were named Plaxico, Amani or Steve Smith. In fact, in that game, none of those three "starters" even caught a pass, and that was one of the two all-important weeks of the pre-season. So, I think the Giants will be fine for the ONE game they're Plax-less. Sure, Plax and Eli have the "connection" down pat, but Eli is a team leader now, and he can lead his team without Burress. Now, if this were last season prior to Shockey's injury, or anytime before, my answer would be much different. The balance of power in the NFC East still has Cowboys-Eagles-Giants at the top with the Redskins a semi-distant second. At least for now.

Armin: Not so much, in my opinion. Dallas is the team to beat in the NFC (B)East. Washington is going to finish last. The battle will be between the Eagles and Giants. However, before Plaxico was suspended, it was not too hard...not TOO hard...for me to say that Philly was playing like the better team. We also saw Steve Smith step it up a little lately, and he looks like he could be a weapon. Toomer is usually "Old Faithful" on 3rd downs. If Eli can create an even better connection with Kevin Boss, the Giants should be ok. I guess the big question is: Will Plax become a problem?

Clement: Determining the 'Balance of Power' in the NFC East won't occur until a few more weeks. Anything before that is speculation supported with speculation. The real key in the coming weeks is which NFC East team can win a game on the road (memo to Zorn and the Skins). It's fun to call Dallas "October's Team", but everybody for years had the same issues (and made excuses) for Peyton and the Colts. It's Romo's third season and the team's defense is still gelling with new additions all over the field (Thomas, Jones, Jenkins, etc.) In reality, New York suspended Burress for far more than missing a practice during a bye week. He just earned a FAT contract and isn't representing the team well with recent reports of potentially missing several meetings and possible potential domestic disturbance issues. Washington isn't allocated for last place, not yet. Every team still needs to answer several questions before we can analyze who is who. Dallas seems at the top right now; however, the Giants are an incredible road team and that isn't something I'm willing to pass up. Eli will have a lot of work to do without Plax for a week, obviously. What I'm really interested in is how the Giants balance their platoon of 3 backs. It doesn't take a fantasy owner to realize that Brandon Jacobs needs more than 12-15 carries a game to impose his size, strength, and will on an opposing defense.

Paymon: In a word, YES, it most certainly does. At a maximum, only three NFC East will make it to the playoffs. In reality, some weaker team will rise from the scrap-heap to claim the second wild card slot. The season is not decided in September, but Dallas certainly has the look of the best September to December team in the NFL, let alone their conference and division. As noted, Philadelphia and New York were in a dead heat for second billing with most giving the Eagles a slight edge. Washington, who was expected to be the doormat of this division, have reeled off two straight wins, albeit at home, against decent competition and Jason Campbell looks worthy of being an NFL quarterback. You can think of this as a one-game suspension. You can also think of this as a potential chemistry killer. Chemistry - the very reason that the Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions. Though the Giants are off to a 3-0 start, their competition is a combined 2-7, and they had to eek out an overtime home victory against the winless Bengals. Long story short, the margin for error is too little for chemistry issues in addition to the existing set of personnel losses. Plax's ego minus his production is too big a loss, because I do not think he will let it go (even though he is likely at full fault for whatever it is that he did) after he returns to work two weeks from now. Also, his presence allows for players like Toomer to dominate on 3rd down and Smith to roam the field out of the slot.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

NFL Picks & Prognostications...Week 4

This is how we do it…

NFL Picks: 6-7 [I really need to start picking some freebies.]
Upset Special: 1-3 [Well damn!]

San Francisco @ New Orleans(-5)
Is the J.T. O’Sullivan Project really worthy of a 3-1 start? Sure! However, I’m taking the desperate Saints to take the W, barely, despite a porous secondary and a complete inability to convert on 3rd and short late in the 4th quarter.

Minnesota @ Tennessee (-3)
Minnesota dug itself out of a hole with Frerrotte at the helms (like I said!) and they are rewarded with the NFL’s “worst” 3-0 team ever (at least according to the “experts”) in Tennessee. I’ll take Jeff Fisher over Brad Childress any day. Especially in Nashville. Beware of a monster day for APete though.

Washington @ Dallas(-11)
Landmark matchup in Week 4. Seriously. With neither of the teams in this STACKED division having lost outside of the division (Dallas & NY 3-0 as well), this game means a TON. Dallas must defend homefield and the Skins must continue spreading the ball out all over the field. Santana Moss loves eating up the Big D secondary. It’s gonna be nail-biter to the very end, but I’ll take the Boys for now.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-5 1/2)
Who’d have thunk the Ravens would be 2-0 after three weeks? Nobody. Then again, nobody predicted their Week 2 matchup against Houston would’ve been postponed until Week 10. Funny thing is, they’d probably be 3-0 if they’d gotten to play that game. Nevertheless, the Ravens can go 3-0 in division with a road win here. Despite a banged up Big Ben, I’m taking the Stillers to cruise. Rashard Mendenhall looks awful by the way.

Upset Special
Green Bay @ Tampa Bay (-1)
Battle of the Bays sans-Sapp and Favre now. Oh well. Tampa is again a sneaky team at 2-1 and Green Bay looks to shake off the Sunday night loss to Big D at Lambeau. The Pack travel well as of late (most 13-3 teams do) and I see no reason they can’t contain Griese, Graham, and company Sunday afternoon.

3 Must Starts and Must Sits


…Last Week…
Justin Gage didn’t play (thanks!), Ike Bruce thankfully added a TD to his crummy 19 yards, and Darren Sproles wasn’t a factor (maybe the only Charger who wasn't too).

…This Week…
Ike Hillard will further frustrate Galloway owners as the TD-catching Buc, Patrick Crayton has to a catch a TD (seriously), and Kerry Collins will toss two TDs against the Vikes this weekend.


…Last Week…
Mark Clayton wasn’t a factor at any point, DeSean Jackson had nowhere to go but down, and LJ owners breathed a sigh of relief (at least for one week) with a rock solid second-half performance.

…This Week…
DeSean Jackson needs to be traded now while his value is at its highest, Willis McGahee is too frustrating to even hover around a starting lineup these days, and Brian Griese won’t get half of 400 yards against a brutal Pack secondary.

…yes I realize the irony of choosing a Buc wideout and not its starting QB…

Enjoy your NFL and fantasy weekends.
I know I won’t!

Until next picks and prognostications…

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Aloha, Matt Millen

Add Detroit to the places where Aloha means Goodbye.

Millen (Photo Courtesy of ESPN)

Only a couple days after William Clay Ford, Jr. (son of Lions owner William Clay Ford, Sr.) let his feelings be known publicly that he would fire Millen if he had the power to do so, someone with the power to do so agreed. At approximately 10:30 AM ET today, reports surfaced that the Detroit Lions ended their relationship with team President and CEO Matt Millen, thus ending an era that Detroit Lions fans would like to forget. As seen in my Tuesday FourCast, I pointed out that the Lions are the worst team in the NFL, and that Millen should be held responsible.

The Matt Millen Era in Detroit (2001-2008) was full of blunders. The coaching hires have been far from successful. We all remember Steve Mariucci and Marty Mornhinweg. However, the Millen Era will probably be most well known for the drafting of four wide receivers in the first round of the NFL draft in five years. Since I like to consider myself the resident draft guru, I will place my focus on Millen's drafts on a year-by-year basis.

2001: Day One was highlighted by three fixtures on the offensive and defensive lines. While day two, at best, provided a QB who started a few games, but caused an "Evil of Two Lessers" QB Controversy

1st: Jeff Backus - OT
2nd: Domanic Raiola - C
2nd: Shaun Rogers - DT
5th: Mike McMahon - QB

2002: What looked like a great Day One on draft day crashed and burned due to potential that was never realized. Day Two was nearly non-existent.

1st: Joey Harrington - QB
2nd: Kalimba Edwards - DE
3rd: Andre' Goodman - CB

2003: Rogers never lived up to his big play billing. Bailey was up and down and dinged up a lot. Redding has come around in the last 2-3 seasons, and was recently franchised by the team. Another weak Day Two yielded only two out of eight picks who had any impact at all (but both are out of the NFL now).

1st: Charles Rogers - WR
2nd: Boss Bailey - LB
3rd: Corey Redding - DT
4th: Artose Pinner - RB
5th: Terrence Holt - S

2004: Roy Williams has been one of Millen's better picks. Jones was serviceable when healthy and had one good season. Lehman and Smith offered value as part-time starters as well as coming off the bench. Day Two...still haunting Millen.

1st: Roy Williams - WR
1st: Kevin Jones - RB
2nd: Teddy Lehman - LB
3rd: Keith Smith - CB

2005: Another ugly draft. Mike Williams was a year removed from playing organized football. The next two picks in the draft were DeMarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman. Cody's doubters, who questioned his size and desire, were proven right. Wilson, like Smith the year before has had some spot starts, but never fully cracked the starting lineup. Dare I mention the obvious?

1st: Mike Williams - WR
2nd: Shaun Cody - DT
3rd: Stanley Wilson - CB
5th: Dan Orlovsky - QB

2006: Sims is arguably Millen's best pick (Calvin Johnson was a no-brainer). While undersized, he has proven to be a tackling machine who plays all over the field with his speed. Bullocks was another good pick who has proven himself as an NFL starter. Calhoun showed promise before tearing his ACL (and possibly ending his career). Scott also showed promise before being cut earlier this season. Day Two…where are you???

1st: Ernie Sims - LB
2nd: Daniel Bullocks - S
3rd: Brian Calhoun - RB
5th: Jonathan Scott - OT

2007: Adding a franchise player like Calvin Johnson could have been key to saving Millen, but why get rid of a pass-happy OC in Mike Martz and add a Run-First OC in Jim Colletto? Jury is out on Stanton, but he can't beat Kitna for the job. Alama-Francis and Alexander have promise but the jury is out on them as well. Day Two still looks like a waste.

1st: Calvin Johnson - WR
2nd: Drew Stanton - QB
2nd: Ikaika Alama-Francis - DE
2nd: Gerald Alexander - S

2008: Seventeenth overall is kind of high for a right tackle. Cherilus may prove to be a reach. Dizon was a great pick. Kevin Smith won the starting RB job, but has proven to be very average. Fluellen and Avril make this list on potential alone. The Day Two Trend looks like it continues. (*Note: The 3rd round is now part of Day Two in the current draft format, but for purposes of this piece, 3rd rounders in 2008 will be considered first day picks)

1st: Gosder Cherilus - OT
2nd: Jordan Dizon - LB
3rd: Kevin Smith - RB
3rd: Andre Fluellen - DT
3rd: Cliff Avril - DE

Take any NFL General Manager, who has eight consecutive drafts, and there's a good chance that he has unearthed a couple of gems on Day Two. While some consider Day Two of the NFL draft a crap-shoot, some of the most successful GMs make their impact on that day (Ron Wolf, Bill Parcells, Jimmy Johnson). Where the Lions go from here, it is hard to say. However, getting a GM who knows how to run a scouting department and can draft well will at least get this outfit back on the right foot.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday FourCast: Week 3

Clement is always a tough act to follow. The guy just has a knack for analyzing what happens on the field/court/rink/pitch/etc. Now it's my turn, and I do my analysis like I like my football games...UGLY!!! Week 3 had its shares of ups and downs, but I decided the bigger stories were more interesting to me.

Without much further ado...here's your Tuesday FourCast

#1. The Bane of Their Existence

How fitting is it that the team to end the New England Patriots' 21-game regular season winning streak would be the Miami Dolphins? The Curse of the '72 Dolphins persists. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Somebody has to shut those geezers up, and stop those corks from popping. I am not a fan of the Pats, but would have been fine if they put a cork in those geezers last year. Regardless of who is playing QB, nobody expected a 38-13 drubbing. But, is that what this team has become without Brady? Sure, they didn't have Maroney, but what does Maroney mean to that team anyway? He's been highly replaceable in my opinion. Would last year's Patriots have given up 4 TDs on the same gimmick play? Is Randy Moss giving up on another team? Charlie Casserly seems to be alluding to that. Regardless, we saw something that none would have dreamed while watching the Patriots tear through the league last season. The Foxboro faithful booed their own team.

#2. Al Davis and His Red Kimono

In Japan, by the time man reaches the age of 60, he is commemorated with a special ceremony. This ceremony features the man wearing a red kimono, which denotes that he no longer has the responsibilities of being a mature adult. Al Davis has been wearing a proverbial red kimono for some time now. The whole Lane Kiffin situation is nauseating. What self-respecting coach with any kind of experience would consider "coaching" the team under Al Davis? Kiffin is part of a long line of coaches that Al Davis has walked all over, dating at least back to when Shanahan was there. Davis owns a team that acts just as juvenile as he does. He breeds an environment for immaturity. The Raiders Culture is no longer a bunch of players who intimidate the other team on the field. They are now a team of individuals who do whatever they want at the detriment of the team. The latest, a Davis confidant John Herrera, showed those that saw the post-game video how despicable of a person he is. I say they parade him around the sidelines in Al's Red Kimono the rest of the season, before firing him.

#3. Jerrah and his Blue Storm

Switching from Al Davis to the owner that I respect the most in the NFL. Jerry Jones may be a meddlesome owner, but he knows his football. He's one of the better GMs in the league, and could probably head to the sidelines and coach that team. Jerrah is everything Al Davis tries to be (while failing miserably). He also deserves a ton of credit (so does Tuna) for having the best team on the field every Sunday. And yes, that is the most painful thing for a Redskins fan to say. The makeup of this team has championship written all over it. Now if they can just win their first playoff game in over a decade. Franchise QB, check. One-Two Punch at RB, check. Star Receivers, check. All-Star Offensive Line, check. Their offense has put up 96 points in the first three games. The defensive front seven is stacked like a 3-4 defense should be, with a slew of gutsy linemen and talented backers. The defensive backs are so deep with starting caliber talent that they can adjust to any team's style. Some haters will point to the players with unattractive character, but they forget the guys that are good influences on the team (Tony Romo, Flozell Adams, Zach Thomas, Ken Hamlin). Watching them pound the Packers this week cemented my feelings about the Cowboys. While I don't see them matching the regular season of the 2007 Patriots, I can easily see this team making another addition to the team's Lombardi Trophy case.

#4. The Bane of Their OWN Existence

Some are pointing to the St. Louis Rams as being the worst team in the NFL. However, I believe the owner of that title belongs to the Detroit Lions. I especially loved William Clay Ford, Jr. coming out and saying his father should fire Matt Millen so that the team can reach some level of success. No truer words have been spoken. The Lions are 31-84 under Millen. The bye week couldn't have come at a better time, because they go on the road in week 5, where Millen's road record is 8-49. While St. Louis is 0-3, they played teams like Philly, the Giants and the Seahawks (two playoff teams and a team that's playing like they're playoff bound). The Lions on the other hand have played two weak teams (Atlanta & San Fran), made them look good and have given up 113 points after 3 games. Their running game is in shambles, Kitna keeps putting the team in a bad situation by claiming they're going to win 10 games every year (giving other teams the motivation to shellack them), the offensive line, as talented as the individuals are, can't put it all together for an entire game, and the defense isn't playing with much heart outside of the LB corps. Management needs to show Millen the door. Not just for his mistakes, but also to give the team a fresh start from the top. The team may even need a fresh start from the coaching staff that runs the team more like a boot camp. Either way, it will be a long season for the Lions, and they may be looking at the #1 pick in the draft.

Monday, September 22, 2008

JagsFan Was Correct

When I started this site almost two years ago, the guiding principle was and still is accountability. When we are right, we recognize it (sometimes, we gloat, and by we, I mean Sum in reference to accurately predicting a 4-12 record for KC last season). When we are wrong, we do the same.

That's why I have to recognize JagsFan for his bold assertion that the Jaguars would gain at least 200 yards on the ground. Forty-eight carries and 236 yards later (average of 4.9 ypc), Jacksonville chopped wood en route to a surprising 23-21 win over Indianapolis. After two games, despite Bob Sanders's injury, there was no reason to believe in the Jags' ability to run the football with authority. At the fear of sounding like Bill Maas (e.g. "In this league, you need 10 yards for a first down"), I'll stop short of saying that Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew are an excellent tandem, but cannot gain yards without a functioning offensive line. You know the drill. Jacksonville can prove that Week 3 was no fluke when they welcome Houston.

It's Time To Bench Derek Anderson

On Thursday, we discussed a possible scenario that may result in the benching of Derek Anderson (in favor of Brady Quinn) against the Ravens. After holding a halftime lead, the Browns sputtered thanks to three interceptions thrown by Anderson, including a pick six by Ed Reed. After the situation presented itself for the hook, Anderson remained in the game and continued to stink up the city of Baltimore with his quarterback play, which if you have visited it, is rather impressive.

With another poor showing, Romeo Crennel feels the heat and said, "I told the guys we're going to look at everybody in every position, and then we're going to do what we think is the best and try to improve this team." Long story short, Brady Quinn will receive more snaps in practice and may be named starter as a potential job-saving move for Crennel. However, we all know that desperation is a stinky cologne.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

NFL Sunday: Live Updates & Mini-Analysis


-Close non-call on a deep ball from Kurt Warner to Steve Breaston that winds up a deflected ball, Carlos Rogers INT, and Skins ball inside the red zone in a 17-17 game. (What a surprise, Cards keep this series close and LOSE at the end every time!) Small screen to Santana Moss leads to 24-17.

-Ronnie Brown has 5 TDs. 4 rushing and 1 passing. Anthony Fassano is back to fantasy elite-status as a TE. Meanwhile, is Randy Moss already giving up with a shaky QB? Probably. Phins are up 35-13 and will snap New England's 21-game regular season winning streak.

-Larry Johnson owners can breathe...for now. 100+ yards and a RUSH TD help out those who idiotically believed in him.

-Oakland up 16-7 at Buffalo. Interesting, indeed.

-Matt Schaub looks as bad as Tyler Thigpen this week. When will we first see Sage this season?

-Brandon Lloyd caught a TD pass. Vinny Cerato has to be smiling somewhere, right?

-Bengals clinging to the Giants, trailing 16-13. Antonio Chatman seems to be this team's #1, catching countless slip screens for minimal yardage. Where are you Ocho Cinco?

5 NFL Questions – Week 3

  1. How will Tony Romo be received at his homecoming?
  2. Will the Raiders be smart and kick away from Roscoe Parrish?
  3. Will the Eagles’ offense continue to roll or will Pittsburgh make them return to reality?
  4. Which late game will yield the most points scored?
  5. Which underdog (excluding Carolina) will win today?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

LIVE PHSports Saturday College Football Top Ten Rankings

I know it's a jam-packed Saturday of sports (from Ryder Cup to pennant races to the second-t0-last game at Yankee Stadium to exciting WNBA action to ....), so thanks for being here!

After a freak-injury in practice on Friday (yes, I coach middle school football) and car issues today (I love being stuck with my girlfriend's '94 Ford Explorer!)...I'm trying to be there for you all.

Call it fortuitous timing or just an all-out advantage; however, knowing a few results already and having a few key games going out right now has only aided me giving you THE best top 10 possible.

As if you expected anything less?

...starting at the bottom...

10. Texas Longhorns
Their game against Arkansas postponed, the Longhorns remain hovering around most top 10 teams. They'll have their chance to make a statement on October 4th when the visit the Buffaloes in Colorado.

9. Wisconsin Badgers
After holding on 13-10 against a high-scoring Fresno State team (in California), the Badgers are off until the 28th when the visit the Big House. That October 4th meeting in Camp Randall against the Buckeyes will be HUGE for this team's Rose Bowl/National Title aspirations.

8. Texas Tech Red Raiders
UMASS in town this weekend should mean another 50-point outing. Respectability will be tested with unranked Big XII opponents Kansas State and Nebraska in the docket in the coming weeks.

7. Auburn Tigers
I can't help but love a team who wins a hard-fought SEC game 3-2. They get their first real shot at making national noise with LSU in town this weekend. Brutal, indeed.

6. LSU Tigers
Part of the aforementioned matchup with the Tigers of Auburn, the Bayou Bengals remain a relatively unknown entity...that is until this matchup goes final.

5. Florida Gators
Traveling to Knoxville, where I have to think another blowout might spell doom for national title-winning coach Phillip Fulmer, Urban Meyer's intensity and passion to stomp the Vols bleeds throughout his entire roster during this "rivalry" games. Somebody page Tee Martin to help the Vols out. At 17-0 with 3 minutes to go in the first quarter, those "experts" calling for a Vols-upset are sweating it out more than a little bit.

4. Oklahoma Sooners
Leapfrogging the Bulldogs in most national polls, Boomer Sooner looks white-hot after straight up annihilating the Huskies of Washington. While it's not the immediate game, the Red River Shootout on October 11th against the Longhorns will be the early statement game for Oklahoma to convince everyone they are a step above the Bulldogs, Gators, and (my) Tigers.

3. Missouri Tigers
27-14 against Buffalo, unless it's the Bills maybe, isn't the prettiest site. Nevertheless, the Tigers are wading through the easier part of their schedule...that is until Nebraska on October 4th. The Huskers will have a few things to say about Big XII north supremacy. Remember, Mizzou doesn't have Oklahoma, Texas Tech, or Kansas on its schedule. Don't sleep on these Tigers.

2. Georgia Bulldogs
Their west-coast trip to take on Dennis Erickson's Sun Devils took a major blow when UNLV shocked ASU late last weekened. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs have plenty to prove - especially QB Stafford - with doubters piling up and an SEC-West STACKED matchup taking precedence this weekend. I still believe in you Mark Richt.

1. USC Trojans
September 25th against Oregon State. Look out Beavers.

Dropped Out: Ohio State (USC is that good, Ohio State isn't that bad though.)
Inserted: Auburn (Win 3-2 and jump up into the 7-spot? You betcha!)
On the Fringe: Alabama, South Florida, BYU, & Wake Forest)

No need for the "5 Games" this weekend...it's all out there for ya!

Until next rankings...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Clement's Weekly Picks and Prognostications...Week 3

Back again with your weekly check-up!!!
Now bend over and cough...

NFL Picks: 4-5 [The horrid call in the Chargers/Broncos game pushes me under .500.]
Upset Specials: 1-1 [Of course it was easy to pick against the Bungles, but I told you to double-up and cash in. Boo ya!]

...all spreads are courtesy of Yahoo! Sports…

Dallas @ Green Bay (+3)
Starting off with a road dog? You know it! Dallas needed to pull out that victory last weekend to hold serve at home. While Rodgers has looked better than Romo, Barber III will be begging for the ball and the injury to Charles Woodson could be a problem. Dallas wins, even if it’s by a push.

Carolina @ Minnesota (-3 ½)
Note: Here is my rough draft on Tuesday of this pick. I stand by it more than ever. Especially since I’ve been saying it for MONTHS. Yes, months.
Another road dog? Nope. Minnesota can’t face 3-0, even though Detroit would always be worse in the NFC North. Tarvaris Jackson might lose this job if he starts off too poorly (yes, even to Frerotte). A Pete should run wild in the dome again and even though Steve Smith is back, the Panthers will struggle mightily to run the ball against the Vikes front 7. Vikes win, barely.

New Orleans @ Denver (-5.5)
New Orleans has a terrible secondary. Enter Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler, and the NFL (and fantasy’s) highest-profile offense to date. Things won’t stop in Mile High. Broncos roll as the Saints start to creep back into ‘Aint form.

Cleveland @ Baltimore (-2)
Cleveland needs it too much; despite how rested B-More is. Joe Flacco can manage a game, but the aging Raven D and a still hobbled-McGahee won’t be enough to overcome the stench of road desperation from the Browns.

Upset Special #1
Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia (+3)
Sorry Pay, I’m picking the Stillers. Gut shot: Pay is too, I bet. Both teams went primetime, yet looked quite different. The Steelers are now my AFC frontrunners, largely because I think this team is built to perform on the road. Yes, even in it’s home state.

Upset Special #2
NY Jets @ San Diego (-9)
I’m not supposed to pick Jet games. Screw it. San Diego will win; however, 9 points is just too many to leave out there. Even with the vanilla offense the Jets are mired in through 2 weeks.

3 Must Starts and Must Sits


…Last Week…
LJ sucks, Alge Crumpler was useless beyond belief, and Patrick Crayton was invisible despite his team scoring 41 points. I reached and I SUCKED.

…This Week…
Justin Gage loves Kerry Collins and vice-versa, Darren Sproles is gonna put up a Kevin Faulk-type performance on Monday Night (with better fantasy points too!), and Issac Bruce is a fun spot-start here. ***Bonus Pick*** Tennessee’s D is gonna vault them to 3-0 with a defensive TD (or two!).


…Last Week…
Devrey Henderson wasn’t a factor at any point, LJ Smith remains an enigma, and Pierre Thomas had a TD and nothing else. He was mediocre in TD-only leagues at best as a start. 3 for 3 redeems a horrific begin to fantasy advice this week (aka “Start").

…This Week…
DeSean Jackson won’t go 3 straight weeks for 100 yards (he won’t even break 50), Larry Johnson is done, baby, done, and Mark Clayton is never a sleeper wideout. No Raven ever is.

Think you can do better?
You’re probably right.

Until next week…

Friday's Quick Hits

A few quick hits on this fine Friday. Less than 49 hours and counting to the 1pm ET Sunday kickoffs.

- In the minds of many, Lane Kiffin is irrelevant. To people who have played football, they have viewed his public display of insubordination as an affront to the sport. I view it as courage and long overdue public criticism of Al Davis, who lost it 20 years ago. Mind you, that's a conservative estimate. Gregg Doyel describes it much better than I do or ever will in this piece about Kiffin's bravery. Simply stated, Kiffin continues to position himself for his next NFL head coaching position. If he wants a college head coaching position, he can go that route as a secondary option.

- On Wednesday, I asked the question, "Can Koren Robinson Make Good in Seattle?". The more operative question is, "Can Koren Robinson can get in football shape and learn enough of the playbook to warrant snaps against the Rams?" I know, that's a long question and you've already put too much into your work week. Bear with me.

- I forgive you, Ed Hochuli. Others who are struggling to stay classy may not. Unlike other game officials, you did not cower after a botched call that unfortunately led to the wrong team winning. You took e-mails from the haters and you responded to them. I've been to a number of college basketball games and a good portion of which involved controversial calls deciding games (the worst one of which was UConn/Washington in the 2006 Regional Semifinal - UW got jobbed and UConn got theirs two days later). The view, which I've seen more than once, that I cannot get out of my head is that of zebras sprinting to the locker room to avoid any measure of accountability. I am fully aware that many of those wishing to make zebras accountable are heavily inebriated; however, some of us are only drunken with sporting integrity.

- Adrian "All Day" Peterson spent all day missing practice Thursday. As a note to our readers, I have been adamant that due to his running style and inability to stay healthy and the need to carry this team on his shoulders without a proven quarterback, Peterson would get injured and miss significant time on or before the sixth game of the season.

- Also, loyal college basketball fans, I just got my hands on my first college basketball preview magazine. Midnight madness is less than a month away ...

Would Cleveland Pull Derek Anderson on Sunday?

Yesterday, we saw the imminent announcement of Gus Frerotte replacing Tarvaris Jackson as the starter in Minnesota.

If Cleveland finds itself down at the half in Baltimore, will head coach Romeo Crennel pull Derek Anderson in favor of Brady Quinn? It's clear as day that the front office is unhappy with the team performances and record after two games and the coaching staff is not exactly smitten with the decision to acquire DT Corey Williams and trade away DB Leigh Bodden. Though it's too early to pull Anderson, the insertion of Quinn may be the shot in the arm the Browns need to avoid three straight losses to start the campaign.

To date, Anderson has been, well, very ordinary and some might argue that he has been substandard. Through two contests, albeit against strong opposition, Anderson has only completed 51.8% of his passes and has a QB rating of 57.1, which is a far-cry from his 2007 numbers of 56.5% and 82.5, respectively. Anderson has also thrown more interceptions (2) than touchdowns (1) this season, compared to 29 TDs and 19 INTs last season. Of his two interceptions thrown last week against Pittsburgh, the one tossed before halftime killed a drive in the red zone and altered the landscape of the game.

In Anderson's defense, he has not worked with a full complement of receivers. Free agent signing Donte Stallworth has yet to suit (well, he suited up in Week 1 and injured himself in warm-ups - tell me Cleveland is not cursed). Braylon Edwards's new nickname is Visine. And Joshua Cribbs is unhealthy and unhappy with his contract. Additionally, the offensive line has been banged up, causing harm to the running (3.1 ypc for Jamal Lewis after averaging 4.4 last season) and passing game. If Quinn does replace Anderson at some point either on Sunday or later in the season, then the line will not magically begin to block; however, Quinn may bring a renewed sense of vigor when eventually given his chance.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Finding the Next Manning-Harrison Connection

I grew up in the '80s and watched the beginning, the evolution, and the end of the Montana-Rice combo. It was a thing of pure beauty from start to finish ... Joe Cool dropping back, finding the greatest WR of all time cutting across the middle, or gliding down along the sidelines, and finding a way to place the football directly into Jerry's arms, time and time again. How fitting that the one time that Joe Montana didn't win a Super Bowl MVP award, Rice was the one to receive it. Sure, Young-to-Rice resulted in more touchdowns (and was a dynamic combo in and of itself), but Montana-Rice was the original to me ... and who knows? Would Rice have developed to be so great without the tutelage of Montana? Sadly, however, that connection ended after time, and many wondered if we'd see such a bond between QB and WR ever again.

Which duo will be the next to carry the torch of awesomeness?

Of course, the late 1990s and this decade brought us the Manning-to-Harrison tandem, which proceeded to break the marks set by Montana and Rice. Like Montana and Rice, Manning and Harrison developed the bond that allowed them to know what the other was thinking before he thought it. And, of course, it led to many amazing passes and pass receptions for the viewing pleasure of NFL fans. But, alas, it seems that this bond is singing its own swan song, with Harrison missing most all of last season, and with neither of them at 100% this year. So, the question before the NFL is, will we ever see another fantastically prolific QB-WR duo? And if so, is that tandem together in the league right now? I'm going to venture out and analyze four potential duos that might soon vault to that level.

1. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall
Even though the season is young, and the two have only played one game together this season, this is the trendy pick. Both are young and dynamic players in their third seasons. Cutler has a cannon of an arm, and is a tough player who willed himself through a 40 pound weight loss, caused by diabetes, last season. His grit and playmaking abilities, in my opinion, remind me of a less-spastic Brett Favre. The question remains in his football intelligence, though that should be determined by season's end. Marshall is a playmaker through and through. Eighteen catches in his first appearance this season says enough. However, unlike Harrison, he's not the quiet type, and does have a bit of the T.O. "i love me some me" mentality, which could lead to excessive temper tantrums down the stretch, thereby diminishing his relationship with Cutler.
But, the strongest argument aside from their individual capacities, in my mind, that these two can become the next Manning-Harrison, stems from that brazen personality of Marshall. Last summer, when Marshall injured himself through his wayward antics, Cutler didn't hold back. He called out his #1 receiver in the public eye. While most may see that as a source of friction, I see it as the type of "calling out" that exists between two people who respect each other and hold one another in high regard ... like a guy telling his close friend to shape up. If I'm right in my reading of the situation, this duo should have many seasons of success before it, barring intervention by free agency.

2. Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress
This list couldn't be complete without including the younger Manning brother as a potential heir to his brother's spot. It took Eli four seasons to catch the Super Bowl win that it took Peyton nine seasons to grasp, and Archie has always said he feels Eli was the better player ... maybe there's something to that. Plaxico is no slouch either. Sure, I enjoyed referring to him as "Plexiglass" for his first few seasons, thanks to his countless injuries. But his tough play through injuries during all of last season earned him lots of respect. His talent was never a question, but he has excelled past where I had him ranked.
Eli, in his fifth year, has finally matured into a leader and has developed the calm swagger requisite for a QB to attain elite status, though he's still a total dork. That Eli has reached a higher level of play at the same time Plax has finally stepped up into a #1 WR role bodes well for the Giants and very well for the potential of keeping a Manning as part of the NFL's top QB-WR combination.

3. Trent Edwards and Lee Evans
Trent Edwards is only in his second season, but he has developed a solid relationship with his fifth-year wideout. The thing I like about this team is that Evans had three years to mature as a receiver before Edwards came along, much like Harrison having a two-year head start over Peyton Manning. This gap lets the receiver aid in tutoring the quarterback, thereby allowing Edwards the opportunity to not only learn how to be a good QB in the NFL, but also how to be a good QB for Evans.
Of course, there is less of a body of evidence to base this on than there is the Cutler-Marshall combo (the requisite "M" last name is also missing from this duo), but the situation is one that I like a lot. Even if it does not excel to the levels of Manning-Harrison greatness, it is one that will still excel for a few years.

4. Matt Ryan and Roddy White
This is probably the biggest gamble I'm taking, but then again each of these is a gamble. Matt Ryan had an awesome finish to his college career, and had an amazing start in the NFL, tossing a 62-yard touchdown pass on his very first professional throw. Roddy White is a talented fourth-year receiver who has the tools to be able to make it as a premier wideout. Unfortunately, this duo only has 120-minutes of game experience to be analyzed, so I cannot really say much. However, I can point to the six times they have connected for 113 yards, an average of nearly 19-yards per reception. That's not exactly the stuff of legends, but given the 2:1 run:pass ratio used by the Falcons thus far, the numbers aren't shabby. Ultimately my gut wants me to include them as the fourth option, given their individual talents, that White has three seasons already under his belt, and that Ryan seems to have a good football head on his shoulders.

Honorable Mention
If I were to include a fifth tandem, it would likely be Brees-Colston, however Brees has been too inconsistent over his first seven seasons and Colson will miss the next six weeks or so. I just don't see it. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. They have a lot going for them, but I'm not sure I see the possibility of that "connection" that is necessary to reach Montana/Rice or Manning/Harrison levels. Also, there are other duos capable of great successes, such as Romo/T.O., Brady/Moss, and McNabb/Jackson. However, in each of these pairs, there is one player who has at least reached the 10-year mark on his career (T.O., Moss and McNabb), which doesn't bode well in hoping for numerous years of awesomeness as a QB-WR duo. But still, they do get some props.

Implications of Bob Sanders's Injury

As if the Colts early struggles were not enough to warrant worry, concerns about being a serious Super Bowl contender multiplied when hearing that 2007 Defensive POY Bob Sanders will be out for up to six weeks. Even with Sanders in two games this season, the Colts defensive statistics were nothing to write home about. With a healthy Sanders who played in all but one game last season, the Colts boasted a top five defense while playing in a division that had three teams make the playoffs. In 2006, the 5 foot 8, 206 pound Sanders only featured in four regular season matchups, allowing for everyone with two legs to rack up 100+ yards and at least one touchdown on the ground.

2008 Defensive Ranks for Indianapolis
Total Defense: 16th
Rushing: 28th
Passing: 4th

2007 Defensive Ranks for Indianapolis
Total Defense: 3rd
Rushing: 15th
Passing: 2nd

2006 Defensive Ranks for Indianapolis
Total Defense: 21st
Rushing: 32nd
Passing: 2nd

Looking forward to the next six weeks, Sanders will likely be replaced by backup strong safety Matt Giordano, who started four games last season and played admirably in three years of spot duty. Though he is not the dynamic safety that Sanders is, Giordano will be very serviceable in defending the pass. Yet, the major void left by Sanders’s absence may be felt immediately in stopping the run when Jacksonville, an equally hurting team, visits Indianapolis with the desire to resurrect the physical nature that has made them a regular fixture in the AFC Playoffs. Knowing this, the Colts must also rectify their inability to make holes for Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes in order to reduce the number of throws that Peyton Manning must make in order to win games. A team that cannot win either battle on the line will be a team that will be watching the playoffs at home.

Colts’ Opponents During the Next 6 Weeks
Week 3: v. Jacksonville
Week 4: v. BYE
Week 5: @ Houston
Week 6: v. Baltimore
Week 7: @ Green Bay
Week 8: @ Tennessee

Can Koren Make Good in Seattle?

Yesterday afternoon, speculation quickened about Koren Robinson's unexpected return as two more Seattle WRs (Logan Payne and Seneca Wallace) succumbed to injuries on Sunday.

By the evening, the much-maligned Robinson signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks (also trading for Keary Colbert). Never short on talent, Robinson was selected by Seattle with the 9th overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. In his second season, he caught 78 passes equaling 1240 yards and 5 touchdowns. However, Robinson's maturity never matched his ability to make plays on the field, and has numerous brushes with the law.

Though Robinson has seemingly turned the corner in his personal life, can he compete at a high level? We will find out quickly as Robinson will have a great opportunity to put up numbers against the St. Louis Rams (prior to the Seahawks' Week 4 bye), who surrender a league-worst 327.5 ypg in the air.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tuesday FourCast: Week 2

Pay did a near perfect job with the season debut of the FourCast last week, so it’s only fair I take away all of that positive mojo and momentum.

As if you didn’t hear enough from me this weekend.

#1. Reality Check for Several Teams

So who’s 0-2? Miami, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Detroit, and St. Louis had to expect to fall onto tough times this season. However, there are a few “other” teams who couldn’t have anticipated such a start, brutal schedule or not. Cleveland had playoff hopes; instead, they’ve been non-competitive AT HOME against Dallas and Pittsburgh. San Diego, screwed in their last game, has lost in the closing moments in each game. Minnesota still has Tarvaris-issues and choked away a 15-point second half lead against Indy AT HOME. Meanwhile, everyone on the roster in Seattle appears primed for the IR and Jacksonville is turning over the ball far too much not to be 0-2. Scary times indeed for several of the playoff-predicted.

#2. It’s not Brady or Belichick: It’s Both

As a Jet fan, I knew exactly what was going to happen Sunday. As always, the Jets would play New England tough, but not nearly tough enough. We’d (when you suffer like us, you get to say WE) be given a chance or two to make that stop or score that TD. But we didn’t. Is it because of us? Partially. Far more of it has to do though with who gameplans against us. The focus of the past week spent far too much time debating whether Belicheat could win without Brady. Of course he can. Instead of being in Cleveland, he’s surrounded in Foxboro by Pro Bowl talent, incredible veteran leadership (but not from Moss, mind you), and a couple dozen guys with more than a couple Super Bowl rings already. Instead of simply writing off the Pats (or believing they’ll be just fine without Brady), I continue to tell everyone to allow a few weeks to settle and see how the Pats compete against the real meat of their schedule. Not the Jets and their aging QB.

#3. Don’t Believe the Hype…because it MIGHT be True

Last week Pay wisely warned us about a few younger QBs in the NFL. One of them, you need not worry: Aaron Rodgers. While there’s likely to be a few growing pains and his health has never proven to be anything less than satisfactory, Rodgers has fantastic ability and the perfect motivation. Brett Favre is still playing. If Favre had retired, it’s likely Rodgers might’ve relaxed in the shadow of Favre. Instead, he’s trying to put Favre and his legacy in the rear seat immediately. Is it likely to happen? Who knows? What I do know is that Rodgers, whose mechanics look flawless yesterday compared to those at the combine three-plus years ago, looks light years ahead of the draft disgust that plagued him during late-March and early-April in 2005. Remember this folks. Rodgers was drafted 23 spots BEHIND #1 overall selection Alex Smith. Whoops.

#4. Tragedy in the Heartland
I’m not going to go Berman on the horrific situation. Instead, I’m going to ask for you all to do things:
1) Educate yourself on what’s going on.
2) Consider giving whatever you can.

This is far bigger than the NFL or fantasy football. Even if it’s hard to sometimes remember that, sadly.

Tangled Up Bungles

As a DCPO (Disgruntled Carson Palmer Owner) and for no other reason, I am curious to know why the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense has stumbled out of the blocks in 2008.

It's put up or shut up time for the Bengals

Credit: Third and Long

Key Statistics from Week 2

First Down Differential: -5
Yards Per Carry: 3.1
Net Opp. Rushing Yards: 177
Turnover Differential: -1
Time of Possession: 27:26
QB rating: 41.3

Key Statistics from Week 1

First Down Differential: -13
Yards Per Carry: 2.8
Net Opp. Rushing Yards: 229
Turnover Differential: 0
Time of Possession: 23:45
QB rating: 35.3

As a result of their ineptitude, the Bungles rank dead last (NFL averages) in first downs, time of possession and passing yards and 30th in rushing yards allowed. Through two games, Cincinnati is averaging less than half of their first downs last season (20.0 per game) and are vastly underperforming from their 2007 season ranks in the passing department (7th), total offense (10th) and points scored (11th).

Though I’ve heard the phrase “Carson Palmer is done” more than a few times in the past couple weeks, I simply remind those people of Drew Brees who was comparatively atrocious and played poorly for four straight games prior to waking up from his quarter season-long coma.

Could it be cutting Rudi Johnson? Or, perhaps the sending off of tackle Willie Anderson in favor of the less experienced Stacy Andrews? Did Chad Johnson’s antics piss off more people than you or I thought it would? Are the wide receivers unable to get open for a QB who’s moving at Jason Campbell speed through his progressions? Has Marvin Lewis lost the locker room? Have “the same five plays”, as Clement puts it, made defenses ready for what’s coming and made Bob Bratkowski’s once-thriving offense (http://www.bengals.com/team/coach.asp?coach_id=5) obsolete? Does the defense lay out a welcome mat for even the most obscure opposing backs to run all over for games on end?

Bengal WRs: Nowhere to be found

Credit: CNN/SI

In a single word, … YES. It’s all of these things and a few more, like welcoming back criminal recidivist Chris Henry. While it’s too early to declare this season over and order a massive overhaul after two poor showings, the Bungles had better make things right internally before their Week 3 tilt with the defending Super Bowl Champion, the New York Giants.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

5 NFL Questions - Week 2

1) What will life be like for the Patriots after Tom Brady?

2) Will the Cincy Pro Bowl wideouts return to form this weekend against Tennessee?

3) How long will Damon Huard hold onto the starting QB job in Kansas City?

4) Which team will most surprise you at 0-2 after today: Indianapolis or Minnesota?

5) Can Jason Campbell win games in the West Coast offense?

Saturday Night Live: 5 College Football & 5 Non-College Football Thoughts

Okay, so technically I'm staring at my computer's clock and it's 12:52am. I know that makes it Sunday morning and SNL (which I haven't watched since Kevin Nealon was doing the Weekend Update) is over anyways.

Nevertheless, I like to set up barriers just so I can knock them down!

I missed out on tonight's USC/OSU (live, at least) to play tennis with a bitter rival. A terrible start put me in a 6-3, 6-3 hole and throwing my racket two more times than anyone else at the 16-court park. My bad! However, I dug deep down after trailing 5-3 and ended up taking the next three sets successively 7-5, 6-4, and 7-5. Two words sum up my night: boo ya.

Boo no was watching USC/OSU on fast forward (x2) with my DVR.

One word there: OUCH!

Let's get into the meat and potatoes (boy would that be good now) of my late-night rambling...

...5 College Football "Quick Hit" Thoughts...

1) USC is good. Real good. Scary good. Insanely good. While OSU was down Beanie Wells and lacked a true offensive identity, the Trojans went up and down the field at will. Honestly, this team is so talented it deserves the #1 and #2 spot in the rankings next week.

2) Georgia won on the road in South Carolina...who cares if it wasn't pretty. Moreno's TD was still a work of art and Stafford made enough NFL-quality throws. It's good to have a defense that can hold a competent team to 7 points (on the road, no less) and anytime you win at an SEC opponent, you take it.

3) 3-2? Seriously? That was the score between Auburn and Mississippi State. I remember a spectacular NFC Title game that might've ended 6-5 if it wasn't for Bert Emanuel's "non-catch" and a guy named Ricky Proehl. What a score. Who cares about analyzing the game? That's National League baseball at its best!

4) Wisconsin has Fresno State 13-7 right now, but there is a TON of time left. If they can return to Camp Randall without an L, they may be in the driver's seat (for now) in the Big Ten. Especially when considering long-term health issues for the aformentioned Beanie Wells.

5) My Red Raiders and my Tigers (of Missouri) keep beating down opponents they should. While WVU choked on me early (good win btw for ECU @ Tulane), I'm sticking with my guns on two of the "shakiest" of Big XII title contenders. Watch out haters!

...and now for the rest...

...5 College Football "Quick Hit" Thoughts...

1) K-Rod breaks Bobby Thigpen's mark. Good for him. He's uber-talented and soon to become even richer this offseason. Will his arm be tired in October, does this mark really equal some of the greats, is he better than Rivera/Papelbon...that can all wait. Let him enjoy a record-smashing season.

2) UFC and MMA has dwarfed boxing. Please, don't be afraid of this high-octane, amazing sport. Kimbo Slice vs. Ken Shamrock actually has cache. More important, I'm on the lookout for two HUGE fights (Rashad Evans v. Forrest Griffin & BJ Penn vs. Georges St. Pierre). Come on Dana White...DO IT!

3) Ike delays Houston/Baltimore. How many fantasy owners will be reeling late tonight or early tomorrow? Biggest losers have to be AJ owners. Right behind them, McGahee owners. While there are others who COULD start (Schaub, Clayton, Heap, etc.) it's those two who might hurt the most. Bye weeks later will be softened, but I could see a loss or two (by me!) because of this cancellation.

4) Charlie Weis hurt on the sideline. I am not a huge fan of Weis, but I feel for his pain. As a coach, I'll have to protect my knees (already each has been surgically repaired) from plays that extend beyond the field. I don't want to be mean, but Weis's weight is a turnoff to the point where I won't watch "entertaining" Notre Dame games (when are those again?). As a bigger guy myself, even I realize that Weis needs to quit the quick-fix surgery route and get on a routine that is much more proven and less taxing on one's heart. He's a moment away by the looks of it.

5) Wild-Card race. Wake me up in two weeks. Maybe it's my Yankee-moaning or the fact that I can't get behind some of these teams. I just am not interested one bit right now. Sorry.

That's that. Two more words: Good Night!

Until tomorrow morning...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

5 Things You Might Not See Coming for Ohio State/USC

You can go anywhere - maybe outside of the local beauty salon - to gather analysis, insights, a few too many predictions on the top 5 matchup pitting the Buckeyes against the Trojans.

Not that I’ve been hanging around any beauty salons or anything.

Nevertheless, the title of this particular post says it all. Let’s take a look at 5 “things” you might not have considered before; yet might be vital to the game’s outcome.

Credit: LATimes.com

1) A 3-headed platoon isn’t better than having a SUPERSTAR RB
No more than 9 carries per back, 5+ yards a carry average for each, 200+ total yards, and plenty of contrasting styles for the three USC runners (Johnson, McKnight, & Gable) against the Wahoos two weekends ago. That’s all and good, but when the big carries come…I don’t want to depend on who’s the hottest or who seems the “best” that day against the opponent. A dynamic playmaking running back never has to platoon with two other guys. USC doesn’t have a SUPERSTAR back.

2) Backup QBs MATTER
Mark Sanchez looked Heisman-good two weeks ago against UVA. Enter dynamic CB Malcolm Jenkins and an impressive veteran Buckeye defense and things might not be as easy. Even more pressing is who the Trojan backup QB is (is it Corp or Mustain?). As for the Buckeyes, impact recruit Terrelle Pryor might need a Tebow-like impact as the #2 QB if the Buckeyes can pull off the upset.

3) The Return Game of Southern Cal
It should come as no surprise to learn the Buckeyes have an elite special teams unit, especially in the kicking game. As for the Trojans, McKnight has solid ability in the return game – but I see him as a tackle-breaker over a takle-avoider – and I still wonder if USC’s kicker (Buehler, Buehler, Buehler) has the stones to nail a game-winning kick.

4) The “other” Buckeye RB named Wells
Sorry ESPN, Maurice Wells won’t be the guy to replace the now ruled out Chris “Beanie” Wells. Instead, the Buckeyes require a trio platoon of their own to perform (including the aforementioned Wells & Herron/Saine). While even Beanie wouldn’t run wild against an amazingly speedy Trojan defense, the Heisman-hopeful RB (at least three weeks ago he was) will be sorely missed for his ability to run in between the guard/tackle AND around the outside corner. Second-level speed is a MUST have for an opponent of the Trojans. Already limited with that at wideout, do the Buckeyes have the team speed to get outside or through the seems and outrun Trojan defenders downfield? I’m a little worried they don’t. Similar thoughts concerned the Buckeyes against the Gators and Tigers in the past two BCS title games.

5) Legacies
Everyone believes USC is the dominant program in the new millennium; however, the Buckeyes are within 2 total losses, 1 national championship, and a couple Heisman winners behind. Jim Tressel and his team are far from intimidated by anything the Trojans have to offer. Even playing in the Rose Bowl. That won't be the reason this game is won or lost. It's a little silly to think otherwise honestly.

MY prediction
: USC wins 37-23
If Beanie had Played”: USC wins 37-23

We’ll check back in here or there with some Saturday reactions, especially to this showdown of juggernauts. Even sans-Wells, perhaps we can have ourselves an epic-September matchup.

Until kickoff…

5 Games I’m Looking Forward to this Weekend

No need to banter, so let’s rant instead!
Just kidding…here they are.

…in all fairness there was a pretty stellar matchup on Friday night between Kansas & South Florida

CHECK OUT the latest PHSports Top 10 Power Rankings HERE!!!

#2 Georgia @ South Carolina

Ole’ Ball Coach needs to pull off a memorable upset, especially after last week’s meltdown against the Commodores. Not likely to happen with Moreno more than rested and Stafford ready to light up a shaky Gamecock secondary.

#17 Penn State @ Syracuse

Seriously, Clement? You pick this game? It’s sad that a school who produced the likes of Ernie Davis, Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, Art Monk, Marvin Harrison, Donovan McNabb, and Dwight Freeney has fallen so low. Back-to-back losses to Northwestern & Akron (by a combined 34 points) prove we are the saddest BCS-team in the country (sorry Notre Dame). Such a shame.

Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech

ACC supremacy isn’t what it used to be; however, Hokie fans might be looking for a ledge to walk off of if they lose their true home-opener (sorry Furman) against the Yellow Jackets.

#5 Ohio State @ #1 USC

What more can I say? Plenty. See you around 5pm right here!!!

#10 Wisconsin @ #21 Fresno State
Sleeper game of the week. Wisconsin’s offense will need to effectively run AND pass the ball to keep up with an impressive offensive attack from the totally-under-the-radar Bulldogs.

Am I going chalk? You got it dude.
It’s college football, remember!
Credit: BrewCrewBall

See you this afternoon/evening for plenty of OSU/USC talk.

Until then…

Friday, September 12, 2008

PHSports College Football Top 10: 1st Week of September

Under the radar is the best way to describe the past weekend in college football. That is, unless you cheer for a certain team from Morgantown.

It should come as no surprise though that the past weekend was quiet, despite a majority of the top 25 playing, when you consider it was opening weekend for an upstart organization named the NFL.

After speaking with the “higher-ups” at PHSports, I’m glad to announce that our top 10 version of our “power rankings” will be out each and every Saturday morning.

I’m waiting for you to exhale now.

Let’s not forget it allows those oh-so-interesting Thursday night matchups to get the tiniest bit of reflection!

For example…UNC’s uniforms stunk. However, they spanked Rutgers from the second quarter on BIG TIME.

As for the rankings, let’s get to it!

..starting at the bottom...

10. Texas Longhorns
Colt McCoy is healthy, Texas is completely under the radar in a loaded Big XII, and yet they still have to travel to Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Kansas. I’ll try not to look ahead too much though. Yeah, sure.
Next Up: (Tropical Storm) Ike has delayed a not-so-intriguing matchup with a highly underachieving Arkansas squad..

9. Wisconsin Badgers
Trailing early 14-0 to Marshall, I wondered if I’d be snake bitten by propping the Badgers up too early in the season? 51 unanswered points later and the Badgers showed they can air it out almost as well as they can run it. Against Marshall, at least.
Next Up: An interesting trip to Fresno State to take on (did you know they were ranked?) Bulldogs of the West Coast today.

8. Texas Tech Red Raiders
One of the reasons I have the Red Raiders in my top 10 is because Pay is correctly critical of their “defense”. However, I’m a little excited to see that the Red Raider D only gave up 19 points to a talented Wolfpack offense.
Next Up: Cupcakes continue for Harrell, Crabtree, and company with SMU in Lubbock today.

7. Florida Gators
The Gators shut down the Cannes by 23 and I drop them two spots? Yep. While Urban Meyer’s crew didn’t do anything wrong, I wasn’t crazy about their first-half performance. I also have a lot of positive things to say about the two teams who leapfrogged the Gators.
Next Up: Tennessee hosts the Gators in a rivalry game that might deserve a few of these “”””” next weekend”.

6. LSU Tigers
Gustav caused a cancellation of their game against Troy; however, it looks like the matchup with North Texas this weekend is…on. Eyes have to be leering ahead to their matchup with Auburn (yes, another Tigers of the SEC) later this month. Can anyone say showdown?
Next Up: North Texas visits the Bayou in primetime tonight. Ouch.

5. Oklahoma Sooners
Props to Stoops and company for playing BCS-conference opponents early on, even if they are middle-of-the-pack squads (Cincy, Washington, & TCU). It will only help when the meat and potatoes of their (Big XII) schedule shows up.
Next Up: Washington and Ty Willingham host the Sooners on “Saturday the 13th”.

4. Ohio State Buckeyes
I won’t put any stock into last week’s game against the Bobcats. Why you ask? The team was missing a key ingredient (Beanie Wells), was obviously looking forward to USC (who can blame them), and was due for a letdown early in the year. That’s your one excuse for the year Buckeye fans. Enjoy it.
Next Up: Traveling to USC in the “Game of the Year” thus far. Ohio State could be an 11-1 team playing in the Rose Bowl again in January, unless they lost by 20-30+.

3. Missouri Tigers
Alright, I got axed for my WVU love. Nevertheless, I’m sticking by my Tigers. They put points on the board, have a QB full of moxy, and I love how they can score on all three sides of the ball.
Next Up: The aforementioned Wolfpack of Nevada tackles another top 10 team, traveling to Missouri this afternoon.

2. Georgia Bulldogs
They’re likely to stick at #2, depending on who winds up victorious in the USC/Ohio State matchup. Don’t pity the Bulldogs though as they’re likely to beat up on the Ole’ Ball Coach and the Gamecocks this weekend. This team is fired up and knows a trip to Arizona State and hosting the Crimson Tide awaits the next two weeks.
Next Up: Spurrier might need to do more than apologize after the Dawgs leave Saturday afternoon.

1. USC Trojans
They had the week off and they’re still amazing. The line against the Buckeyes is 10 ½ and might grow before the end of the week. What an amazing September showdown that should be.
Next Up: Please don’t make me repeat myself.

Dropped Out: West Virginia (ECU is good…but not that good.)
Inserted: Texas (It might be a mistake to underestimate a healthy Colt McCoy and the Longhorns.)
On the Fringe: Auburn, Kansas, Arizona State, Alabama, and BYU

Check out my “5 Games I’m Targeting” early Saturday morning(ish).

Until next rankings…