Posts Tagged ‘Jared Allen’

Pigskin: It’s what’s for dinner

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

So I watching a recent episode of Friday Night Lights (shame on you if you’ve never seen it) and viewed a scene in which the wily Buddy Garrity talked his way into announcing East Dillon football games on an exclusively Spanish-speaking radio station. The owner of the station hardly understood a word. But “football” needed no translation. Mention of “futbol Americano” (or soccer’s ugly namesake of a cousin) upset the station owner as he threw his hands in disgust and turned away.

Apparently, this man’s been sleeping under a rock.

What has transpired in football circles recently – college and pro – borders on the absurd. In the NCAAs, we saw one of the decade’s greatest fly north to the NFL, another weasel his way west and insensitive, humiliating and criminal behavior including physical abuse and locking people in closets, allegedly. And I’m just talking about head coaches!

In the NFL, fortunately, the excitement has taken place between the goal posts. The playoffs have offered great entertainment: teams combining for 96 points, defensive linemen with a passion for spearing things, and Rex Ryan.

But let’s start in the amateur ranks, where the transgressions of several head coaches have been…well…amateur. Players accused Kansas’ Mark Mangino for making disparaging and humiliating remarks on the field. Down at South Florida, school officials concluded a report claiming Jim Leavitt grabbed a player by the throat, slapped him in the face and lied about it, was true. And at Texas Tech, receiver Craig James said that, after complaining about a possible concussion, Mike Leach forced him in – of all places – an electrical closet.

Sound doctoral advice. No?

Needless to say, all three men are currently on the unemployment line.

And then there’s USC.

A fantasy land for college football since Pete Carroll took over in 2000…until allegations involving recruiting infractions and Reggie Bush reached the surface. Next, headlines alleged running back Joe McKnight’s girlfriend received a vehicle as a gift. And just like that, Pete Carroll had had enough. Shortly after a disappointing 9-4 season, the long-sought after coach was wooed back to the NFL by the Seattle Seahawks. Must have been the weather.

But the drama was only beginning at “The Coliseum.” USC: a soap-opera for men.

The cliffhanger this time? Hiring Lane Kiffin. Yes, that Lane Kiffin. The same wunderkind fired after one season with the Oakland Raiders. The same loud-mouthed, baby-faced nuisance while at Tennessee. And now, just one year into his “tenure” at Rocky Top, he leaves recruits and Urban Meyer behind for a return to LA.

…and gets replaced at Tennessee by Derek Dooley. Come again?

Meanwhile, in the big boy league, stakes are high. We’re a Sunday away from learning the Superbowl matchup.

Vikings or Saints? Colts or Jets?

I can’t wait until Sunday to watch the final installment of a tremendous franchise, titled: Three Men and a Rookie. Starring two of the industry’s all-time greatest, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, an up-and-comer in Drew Brees, and, making his debut, Mark Sanchez – something tells me this chapter could be the best.
Give the rookie credit. He’s playing behind a spectacular defense, led by Deion…I mean, Darrelle Revis, a fantastic rushing attack and one heck of a coach – at the podium, at least. But as improbable as it seemed, Rex Ryan’s drawn-out post-season schedule – including a Superbowl parade through Times Square – is turning more and more probable each day.

Unfortunately, this week the Jets run into Indy’s relentless pass rush, led by Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, and Manning, the human audible. The Colts broke protocol last week and won a playoff game after resting their starters to end the season. It doesn’t really matter where Manning’s throwing the ball – I think he could even find me on a post route – but the veterans (Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark) and the newbies (Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie) are getting the job done.

Meanwhile, in the NFC, some things never change. As much as I can’t stand no. 4 after embarrassing my Cowboys last weekend, it’s hard not to be impressed with Favre’s four touchdown performance – especially touchdown no. 4 (but I won’t get into that). If Jared Allen and the defensive line replicate last week’s performance, there is no way Brees will elude collapsing pockets – or mullets.

One thing the Saints do have on their side – New Orleans. The only place louder than the Metrodome may be the Superdome, and there’s no doubt the Saints’ passionate fans – who have waited years for this moment – will let Minnesota hear it.

My prediction? Colts 20, Jets 10. Saints 27, Vikings 24.

And for you naysayers…Time to pat myself on the back for calling, while 6-3, that the Denver Broncos would finish 8-8. They did. I also predicted the purple-hot Vikings would lose late in the season to the Arizona Cardinals. They did. Fortunately, many of my other predictions haven’t made this blog.

Clearly, when it comes to making news – good or bad – football of the American variety leads the class. You could argue there’s been too much excitement recently.

And I haven’t even mentioned the Pro Bowl…

The game of the year…and I was there.

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

I’ve been to Wrigley Field for opening day. I witnessed game six of the 2003 ALCS at Yankee Stadium. Fenway Park, you’re next on the list.

As a triumvirate – they are the Mecca’s of baseball.

But baseball season is over…almost. I’m ready for some football. And unlike baseball, there is only one Mecca in the NFL.

It’s name – Lambeau Field.

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers

I’ve been dying to cross this off my “bucket list.” I grew up in the Midwest – Des Moines, represent – and I spent four years at the University of Wisconsin. Still, no Lambeau visit.

Until last weekend.

A month ago I received a phone call from my father.

“Ariel, what are you doing November 1st?” he asked.

“Umm…I dunno,” I responded.

“Would you like to go see the Vikings and Packers at Lambeau?”

“Umm…YES!”

I mean…this was to be the most anticipated game of the year! Maybe even the decade! Brett Favre against his former team. A town’s once-beloved son returns home, only this time as the red-headed stepchild! Exclamation marks!

Thus began a month of anticipation, eagerness and excitement. Finally, it came. After a few short hours of not-so-clear-headed sleep (thanks a lot Halloween) a friend and I hit the road to meet my dad in Milwaukee for the trip to Green Bay.

A few hours later, we passed over the Fox River – and there it was – Lambeau Field.

We quickly found a parking spot (and dealt with some playful rousing by the locals towards my father, the Vikings fan) and walked towards the stadium. From the moment I stepped onto Oneida Street and viewed a casket and tombstone reading “R.I.P. Brett Favre” on the left and smelled the aroma of beer and brats on my right, I knew this wasn’t just any other Sunday.

As we approached the intersection of Oneida and Lombardi, I got my first up-close look at Lambeau Field. It’s no mystery what makes this place so special. I’ll best describe it as the “Wrigley Field of football.” One minute, you’re walking through a charming little neighborhood – the next, an imposing structure full of tradition and pageantry.

Tailgating intensified, music blasted and the crowds grew louder and larger. And I realized the tremendous time I was having people-watching. Little kids screamed “Minnesota sucks!” and “Go home Vikings!” Shirts proudly displayed messages like “Favre sucks” and “We 4-get you.” No. 4 Packers jerseys’ nameplates were replaced with “Brutus” “Judas” and “Benedict Arnold.” I knew I was in for a treat. But my favorite? This Jared Allen look-alike (excuse my finger). From the mullet to the headband to the hair fades – the resemblance was uncanny. The only thing missing were fatigue cargo pants…oh wait.

Let’s get back to football.

Kickoff approached, time to find our seats. And discover another great thing about Lambeau. We sat in second to last row of the end zone, literally, and they were great seats! Unlike the multi-million (or, sorry Jerry, billion) dollar stadiums of today – Lambeau truly is different. It’s a small, intimate enclosure, where even the worst seats are good seats. Perched on the slightly uncomfortable bleachers – while devouring some deliciously healthy cheese curds – I scanned the sea of green and yellow (and purple) and reviewed the wall of fame. Bart Starr. Reggie White. Ray Nitschke.

But, still, one name eludes this class.

Brett Favre.

There he was tossing the ball at midfield. Warming up like he did for 16 consecutive seasons, only this time, on the opposing side. And there he went, back through the tunnel to a loud chorus of boos.

But the biggest fan reaction came when Green Bay’s newest hero, Aaron Rodgers, was announced and emerged onto the field. The crowd let out a deafening roar that – for a moment – made you forget he’s only in his second year as a starter and hasn’t really accomplished anything. I had to ask myself, was this really a pro-Rodgers chant or an anti-Favre rally?

And then a football game broke out.

Amidst the constant booing on every early possession, Favre dominated the first half as he fit a number of tight spirals into even tighter openings. This led to one Packers fan commenting, “I had no idea how much fun it was to root against this guy!”

Meanwhile, Rodgers ran for his life. On every down. Talent on the Packers offensive line is painfully lacking, and Rodgers – six sacks Sunday – doesn’t help his cause by holding onto the ball too long. He is one of the most effective quarterbacks in the league when given time, but Rodgers must improve his pocket presence if he ever wants to be an elite quarterback.

By the second half though, momentum had shifted. Rodgers marched his team up and down the field and Favre threw several questionable passes into heavy traffic. The Packers climbed within a touchdown twice, but the exploits of Percy Harvin in the return game, Adrian Peterson in the run game and Favre were too much for the Packers to handle.

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers

And in the end, Favre did what he had so many times before – exit Lambeau Field, arms extended skyward, and a satisfying grin encompassing the entirety of his face. Unfortunately, the home crowd could not do the same.

What an eerie feeling for Packers fans. But for me, it was a day I’ll never forget.

Thanks dad.

NFL Week 8: 10-Favre

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Usain Bolt adopted a cheetah named Lightning Bolt.

Stephen Colbert and Colbert Nation are sponsoring the U.S. speedskating team in the Vancouver Olympics.

A golfer tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.

Manu Ginobili pulled a flying bat out of the air during a basketball game. (I once accidentally pulled a live bat out of a washing machine. I thought it was a sock stuck to the wall of the inside of the machine. It screeched and spreads its wings. I threw it, said swear words, and ran upstairs. I don’t love flying bats.)

The three daughters of OJ Simpson’s lawyer are all over reality TV and gossip mags and marrying Lamar Odom and getting dumped by Reggie Bush.

The NFL and FOX devoted one camera to a single player for an entire football game on Sunday.

Stephon Marbury got ejected from a Knicks game… from the first row of paid seats where he was a spectator.

Nothing should surprise us in sports anymore – not Michael Vick, not Tim Donaghy (that one was almost predictable), not Tom Cable, or the Denver Broncos or Tennessee Titans, not Andre Agassi, and not even Syracuse WR Mike Williams quitting on his team this week. Stud college WR’s named Mike Williams do not have a good track record.

It shouldn’t surprise us that Brett Favre was booed mercilessly for most of the game in his return to Green Bay, where for 16 years the good people there put cheering for Favre on the same level as feeding their kids, going to church, and Old Milwaukee. I was a Viking fan living in Wisconsin for 14 years. I witnessed Favre becoming an icon, a legend, and seemingly a best friend to Packer fans. And while the treatment Favre got at Lambeau Field on Sunday should not have surprised me, it did. I didn’t expect a standing O or anything close to it, but I didn’t expect non-stop booing.

It’s about the same as a dude who dates a girl for a long time, then she decides to break up with him and he gets a bummed out, but when she wants to go back to him, he refuses and then hates her with more vigor than he ever loved her and when he sees her at the grocery store, he just boos at her through the produce section and all the way to the deli, down the cereal aisle and right up to the check-out counter where he encounters her new guy who is taller, better looking, makes more money, and was the same dude who struck him out in a high school playoff game to end his baseball career. And then when the girl and her new guy walk out to the parking lot, the dude is standing there with a sign that reads, “Legends Don’t Wear Purple.”

It’s about like that.

It seems to me that the same things that endeared Favre to Green Bay fans are the things for which they now boo him. He is human; he is flawed. They loved him for his energy and passion and for speaking uncensored early in his career. They loved his unorthodox play and didn’t mind his vices at all. He was like them, like us; he could have been your neighbor. But the flaw they couldn’t accept was the man’s inability to decide when to retire from the only thing he has ever done. He reached a level in the minds and hearts of Packer fans where the humanness of him transcended into something other than human and they expected him to be perfect. They forgot that he’s human. He is just like them, but they wanted him to be something better.

Then he went to a division, border, and bitter rival, which doesn’t help anything except the Viking offense.

And now he has found Sidney Rice and made him 6th in the league in receiving yards.

The Vikings improved to 7-1 on the season, including a Green Bay sweep, on which ESPN dedicated roughly 1,793 hours (and counting) of programming.

Chris Berman loves Brett Favre. He loves Favre more than Kanye loves Kanye.

Aaron Rodgers has taken 31 sacks this year through 7 games, thanks in great part to Jared Allen. Ten quarterbacks last year took over 30 sacks all season long, including Rodgers who took 34. Rodgers is a good quarterback. He can run and throw and he’s a smart guy. He can make every throw you need him to make except the one out of bounds to avoid taking a sack. And now he has two sprains to nurse.

Jared Allen has a great sack dance. As much as I didn’t like Gilbert Brown, he did too.

My brother works a job in Wisconsin where he uses two-way radios daily. He is a Viking fan living in Wisconsin and working with mostly Packer fans. When he confirms that he has understood a radio communication, in stead of saying “10-4”, he says “10-Favre”. One guy he works with has taken to responding to that with “12-Rodgers” – which is hilarious because it makes no sense at all.

Anyway.

The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts are the last of the undefeated. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are playing about as well as you can. The Saints receivers – Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey, specifically – made some ridiculous catches last night in their win over the Atlanta Falcons. Jason Elam was struggling with the kicking last night and had he been on, it may have been more interesting than it was at the end of the game. Both Pierre Thomas and Michael Turner looked really good.

Manning and Brees are at the top of the NFL QB class right now, but Matt Ryan will be there one day soon, along with Joe Flacco, who led the Baltimore Ravens in a beat down of the previously undefeated Denver Broncos.

The Chicago Bears chewed up and spit out the Cleveland Browns. Derek Anderson has thrown 9 interceptions and has the same number of passing TD’s as he does rushing TD’s: 2. Not great. The Browns scored a TD… then missed the extra point. Not great. Eric Mangini, in response to a question about why he didn’t replace Anderson with Brady Quinn earlier, said, “I thought we actually moved the ball at times earlier.” Anderson was 6-17 for 76 yards, 0 TD, and 2 INT. Not great. They had 191 yards of offense and were 1-11 on third down. I’m not sure when Mangini thought they were moving the ball well.

The Dallas Cowboys routed the Seattle Seahawks. The Eagles spanked the New York Giants and now the NFC East has three five win teams. Dallas goes to Philly for Sunday Night Football this week. Big game with a couple of big play guys in Miles Austin and DeSean Jackson. The Giants play host to the San Diego Chargers, who had the good fortune of playing the Oakland Raiders last week.

I am begging Eli Manning to get things on track because I need Steve Smith to be an awesome fantasy WR for me and he hasn’t scored or cracked 100 yards in three weeks.

The St. Louis Rams and the Tennessee Titans got their first wins of the year. Steven Jackson got his first rushing TD of the season on Sunday. He is second in the NFL in rushing with 784 yards and has only 1 TD. The Rams aren’t good, but they were playing the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

The Titans beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, who I just cannot figure out at all. The Jags very nearly beat Indy in Week 1 and then beat Houston in Week 3. They beat Tennessee by 20 in Week 4 and then lost 41-0 against Seattle. They were favored by 9.5 points the very next week and managed a 3 point win over the then winless Rams and then this week they lose to the Titans by 17. No idea.

Vince Young played well, completing 15 of 18 passes. He did not have to do too much though because Chris Johnson ran for 228 yards and 2 TD’s. Maurice Jones-Drew had 177 yards on 8 carries in that game.

Ted Ginn, Jr is a guy I can’t really figure out either. Every once in a while he makes a big play – or two in one quarter like he did on Sunday – but he also does a lot of things that make you scratch your head (for non-Miami fans) and throw bricks at windows (for Miami fans). Rex Ryan and Bart Scott were not exactly gracious after the New York Jets defeat at the hands of the best football team with the best talent and the best of everything else in America, the Miami Dolphins.

Arizona Cardinals vs Carolina Panthers. Your QB’s: Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme

One of them is going to turn the ball over six times. Who is it going to be? Delhomme, right? Wrong.

Not a good game for Kurt Warner. Warner is a really good guy. This has been well documented. And good guys are often generous and more than willing to share, so maybe Warner took sympathy on the struggling Panthers and decided to share the ball with them. It’s easy to hold Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin to 89 yards combined when Warner is being so generous.

If the playoffs started today, the Houston Texans would be a wild-card team. They beat the Buffalo Bills by three scores on Sunday. Two big things from that game: 1) Owen Daniels is done for the year with a knee (again, thank you Al Michaels) and 2) Terrell Owens was seen in the end zone with the ball in his hands for an alleged touchdown. It’s been a rare sight this year.

NFL leaders in receiving TD’s:
Vernon Davis, 7
Visanthe Shiancoe (and four others), 6.
Owen Daniels (and three others), 5.

Next Week: The Tampa Bay Bucs try to get their first win when Green Bay comes to town.

Quick World Series note on this NFL post: FOX gave the player of the game thing to Cliff Lee last night. Lee pitched pretty well but it was a mostly unremarkable performance. He gave up 5 ER over 7 IP, meanwhile Chase Utley hit 2 HR’s. I think FOX was more concerned with integrating movie previews into their broadcast than they were getting that one right. The Phillies go to New York now for Game 6. Pedro vs Andy Pettitte on three days rest. It should be a great. My wife cannot wait for it to be over so she can get her FOX TV shows back.

NFL Week 6: The Review

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

NFL week six is in the books. We’ve officially reached the point where teams are who we thought they were – or are.

So what do you say…let’s say we get this party started right…Raider-style.

Oakland Raiders v. Philadelphia Eagles

“We went out and threw a fight on somebody and said, ‘Enough. Let’s play,'” said Raider coach Tom Cable after the game. And if you’re headed into a fight, who better to lead you than Tom Cable? Allegedly. JaMarcus Russell set season highs for completions (17) and passing yards (224) as the Raiders somehow defeated the mighty McNabb’s 13-9. Reverting back to form of year’s past, Philadelphia ran the ball just 14 times. Eagles coach Andy Reid has an extra day this week to let his visible disgust subdue. Fortunately for Eagles fans, next stop is the nation’s capital.

Washington Redskins v. Kansas City Chiefs

In what may best be described as an “offensive pillow-fight,” the Chiefs recorded their first win of the season, beating a pathetic Redskins team 14-6. Don’t let the score fool you – there were no touchdowns in this one. Washington converted just 2-14 third down conversions and held the ball for 23 minutes. Jason Campbell was benched in the second half. Jim Zorn was stripped of his play-calling duties. And Dan Snyder paid one million dollars for an up-and-coming hot dog vendor. I’ll let you decide which of those are true and which is false. Congratulations, Ryan Succop. The Chiefs kicker – and NFL Draft 2009 “Mr. Irrelevant” – went 4/4 and was apparently the only player who didn’t “Suck-op.”

Tennessee Titans v. New England Patriots

Speaking of sucking…have you seen the Titans? I know they’ve been hit hard by injuries…but 59-0? They gave up five touchdowns…in the SECOND QUARTER! Jeff Fisher should have walked off the field at halftime and never come back: “Okay guys…I’ve had enough. But keep at it…see you tomorrow.” Alas, he stayed – long enough to watch Brian Hoyer sneak in for the Patriots eighth touchdown of the day. Warren Moon – at the ripe old age of 52 – would have looked better in those Oiler jerseys then the Kerry Collins/Vince Young duo. Two completions…negative seven yards. That’s not a misprint. Oh…and Tom Brady threw for 380 yards and six touchdowns.

Houston Texans v. Cincinnati Bengals

Trivia time: Who leads the NFL in passing touchdowns?

It’s not Drew Brees. And it ain’t Peyton Manning. The answer is Matt Schaub. The Texans rode Schaub’s arm and a stout defensive front to a 28-17 victory. After a run of exciting finishes, the Bengals and NFL rushing leader Cedric Benson (another great trivia question) were held to just 46 yards on the ground. Making matters worse, Cincinnati also lost NFL sack leader, Antwan Odom, (yet another amazing trivia question) for the season. Time will tell if the Bengals can regroup and challenge for the division – or if it’s time to kiss the baby.

New York Giants v. New Orleans Saints

From a baby to a grown man – Eli Manning spent many a football Sunday at the Superdome – but never as a player. And he might want to keep it that way. In Manning’s hometown return, the other quarterback, Drew Brees, spoiled the party. Brees (369 yards and four touchdowns) and the Saints offense scored at will against what many considered the league’s no. 1 defense, winning 48-27. New York gave up 34 first-half points – matching the total they had given up in the first half of their first five games combined. The previously undefeated Giants benefited from a relatively soft schedule, and while they are still among the NFC’s upper echelon, don’t be surprised if they start to falter.

Minnesota Vikings v. Baltimore Ravens

Here’s your Brett Favre alert. The Vikings quarterback hit Sidney Rice on a 58-yard bomb on their final possession to set up Ryan Longwell‘s game-winning field goal. But don’t forget the Ravens came right back and positioned themselves for a 44-yard field goal – until Steven Hauschka missed it. Or the fact that they allowed Baltimore and Ray Rice to score 21 points in the fourth quarter, turning a blowout into a ballgame. The Vikings are 6-0. They’ve got the best rusher in the league, Adrian Peterson, and the best pass rusher in the league, Jared Allen, but they could very easily be 4-2. Looking forward to seeing how this – and by this, I mean Brett Favre – plays out.

Pittsburgh Steelers v. Cleveland Browns

When discussing the bottom-feeders of the NFL, let’s not sleep on the Cleveland Browns. Now 1-5, after a 27-14 defeat to the Steelers, the Browns remain incapable of doing anything right. Derek Anderson played like a Pro Bowler compared to last week, completing a whopping nine passes for 122 yards. He was just slightly overshadowed by Ben Roethlisberger’s 417 passing yards. I would like to personally apologize to Josh Cribbs. He deserves better. After returning a 98-yard kickoff to the house and rushing for 45 yards some team has to get him out of Cleveland – don’t they? And the Browns aren’t willing to pay the man! Pay the man his money! Unbelievable! I don’t know who I feel worse for – Cribbs or Cleveland fans?

Carolina Panthers v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In the latest installment of “games you shouldn’t subject yourself to” comes Carolina’s 28-21 victory against the still-winless Yuccaneers. They’re baaack! They even get to wear their retro orange jerseys this season. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 362 yards rushing and three touchdowns, overcoming Jake Delhomme’s two interceptions and 65 yards through the air. There’s not much else to say about a game like this. It’s too bad somebody has to win.

St. Louis Rams v. Jacksonville Jaguars

Another winless team? Really? A week in which Maurice Jones-Drew publicly called out his coaching staff, the Jaguars rode their little bowling ball to a 23-20 overtime victory. Jones-Drew ran for 133 yards and three scores. Now, 0-6, the Rams have lost 16 straight games dating back to last season. And there really isn’t cause for hope. Fortunately, Sam Bradford is healthy and ready to turn one lucky team around…

Green Bay Packers v. Detroit Lions

How did the Packers manage two bye weeks in a row? Oh…right…they played the Lions. Take a bad team like Detroit, sit their best player, Calvin Johnson, and their starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford, and what do you have? A team incapable of scoring. Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton threw three more interceptions than touchdowns (zero) and Aaron Rodgers excelled at leading his team into the red zone – and letting Mason Crosby kick field goals – as the Packers won 26-0. In more cheerful news, Donald Driver passed Sterling Sharpe for first place on Green Bay’s all-time receptions list. And, no, Brett Favre did not come through the tunnel to carry him across the field.

Arizona Cardinals v. Seattle Seahawks

Matt Hasselbeck’s health was widely considered the Seahawks measuring stick for success. That is until Kurt Warner and the Cardinals debunked that theory. Warner threw for nearly 300 yards, tying Dan Marino’s record as the fastest to 30,000 career passing yards, and Arizona won 27-3. Adding injury to insult – Seattle lost Pro Bowl lineback Lofa Tatupu for the season. Adding insult to injury – it’s raining in Seattle right now.

Buffalo Bills v. New York Jets

Just when you thought we were done with terrible teams…”it” won! Buffalo allowed over 300 rushing yards and still managed a 16-13 victory in overtime. I’m assuming Mark Sanchez’s five interceptions didn’t help. Maybe it’s time to hold off on the photo shoots? Following a 3-0 start this season, Jets coach Rex Ryan finds his team at .500. Over/Under on swear word usage in the locker room this week? 362. Meanwhile, despite losing Trent Edwards, replacing him with Harvard great Ryan Fitzpatrick and Terrell Owens remaining as existent as Dick Jauron’s head coaching job after the season, the Bills are somehow two games out of first place.

Chicago Bears v. Atlanta Falcons

Sunday night featured two potential NFC sleepers. But penalties and turnovers doomed Chicago from the start – and ultimately, their final drive –in a 21-14 losing effort. Jay Cutler, who, at the moment, cannot be considered the best quarterback in his own trade, threw another red zone interception, Matt Forte fumbled on the goal line and the offense committed three penalties on the game’s final drive. Whether it’s been the porous offensive line or the adjustment to a new quarterback, Forte is in the midst of a sophomore slump of epic proportions. And who knows if he’ll ever climb out. On the subject of sophomores, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan continues his impressive play and has his team just a game behind the marching Saints.

San Diego Chargers v. Denver Broncos

This was to be the game when the undefeated Broncos faced reality. In their previous meeting with San Diego, they were demoralized 52-21. They couldn’t win another big game – especially on the road. But the Broncos stomped all over those sentiments about as fast as you can say “Eddie Royal.” The second-year receiver returned a 93-yard kickoff and 71-yard punt return for scores. The 5’10 Royal pumped those legs so fast his Bronco throwback jersey was almost tolerable – almost. The Chargers’ Darren Sproles returned the favor with a punt return touchdown, but it wasn’t enough. The Broncos defense has turned back the clock, going all-Tom Jackson on opponents – having allowed just 10 points in the second half this season – and Kyle Orton keeps winning. Go figure. Kudos to Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator – and San Francisco 49ers vagabond – Mike Nolan. Apparently they didn’t get the message this team should finish with double-digit losses.

How can you not love the NFL? Unless you’re a fan of the Titans, Redskins, Rams, Rai…Scratch that. There are probably a lot of NFL-haters right now. Until week seven…

Big Weekend

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Big weekend in sports coming up. NLCS, ALCS, NFL, College Football, BCS implications, Rivalries, Cross-town Rival High School Games (somewhere probably), tailgating, etc. Lot of action. Lot. Of. Action.

The NLCS kicked off last night with a Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers out-hit the Phillies 14-8, but left 10 men on base, compared to Philly’s 5. Andre Either and Matt Kemp combined to go 5-10 but only managed to score once between them.

Clayton Kershaw, 21, took the loss and Cole Hamels got the win, though he didn’t pitch much better than his counterpart. James Loney and Manny Ramirez each homered off him before he was pulled after five and a third.

Carlos Ruiz and Raul Ibanez each homered for Philly and Ryan Howard drove in two runs. Brad Lidge came in to get the save, but not before walking one and giving up a hit.

Russell Martin and Shane Victorino jawed back and forth all game long. It is always fun when the series gets heated in the first inning of Game 1.

Game 2 this afternoon will see Pedro Martinez face off against Vincente Padilla in a 100% unpredictable match-up. Chase Utley and Jayson Werth will each be trying for their first hit of the NLCS.

Things I didn’t know before either today or last night:

Chan Ho Park can still throw 96.

The only guy in the Phillies starting line-up under the age of 30 is Victorino (except Ryan Howard, who will be 30 on November 19th). The Flyin’ Hawaiian will turn 29 in November.

If you throw the ball into the dugout on a double play try and can’t get out of the inning, Manny Ramirez will hit a home run and make you feel bad about it.

Jim Thome does a fist-pump-whoop combo when Manny homers.

Randy Wolf should wear his cleats at all-times because he just might pinch run. That’s how slow Jim Thome is. Do you think Thome even brings a baseball glove to the game?

Game 1 of the ALCS is tonight. I’m saying Angels in 7 over the New York Yankees. John Lackey versus CC Sabathia. Do you remember Sabathia down the stretch last year for the Milwaulee Brewers? Silly.

Torii Hunter, Vlad Guerrero, Kendry Morales, and Bobby Abreu will bring some power into Yankee Stadium’s launching pad that may be tempered by some not ideal weather. Derek Jeter is used to it, Mr. November has been in cold weather playoff games enough in his career. Mark Teixeira a big strong dude, but it just seems to me that he is not going to be a big fan of cold weather. I have a feeling about this.

The biggest question concerning the weather though is will Alex Rodriguez’s lady friend be sitting in the front row if it is cold, rainy, and windy? This is a commitment testing event for their relationship. The many cuts to her cheering probably make Chris Robinson (her ex-husband) Jealous Again.

Did you know Kate Hudson’s dad, Kurt Russell, was a pretty good minor league baseball player before blowing apart his shoulder and returning to his acting career?

So that’s baseball. It’s also a huge weekend in the NFL.

Spotlight on New Orleans where the undefeated Saints play the undefeated New York Giants. It bothers me when radio and TV people say it’s going to be Drew Brees versus Eli Manning. It’s not. Brees and Manning will never be on the field at the same time until they do a man hug at the end of the game.

It is going to be Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, and the rest of the New Orleans offense against Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and the rest of the Giants defense.

And then it will be Manning, Steve Smith, Brandon Jacobs and the rest of the Giant offense against Darren Sharper, Charles Grant, Jonathan Casillas (yes, Casillas, I’m a homer, a little love to the Wisconsin Badgers) and the rest of the Saints defense.

The Vikings put their undefeated record on the line when they host the recently fined Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco is a guy I like quite a bit, and a guy I like to call Joey Delaware but I will not wince when Jared Allen cattle ropes him. If Cedric Benson can rush for 100+ yards on Baltimore then Adrian Peterson can rush for that plus a bunch more. Hopefully for Minnesota Brett Favre will be doing his post-handoff jump throw fake thing a lot while Peterson is breaking tackles.

The Chicago Bears go to Atlanta to play the Falcons. Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Michael Turner set the San Francisco 49er defense on fire last week. The Bears will want to see Jay Cutler find Devin Hester for some TD’s early so they can just run, run, run with Matt Forte.

The Pittsburgh Steelers host the Cleveland Browns in what should be a close game for at least the first five minutes.

Speaking of the Steelers, check out the ESPN commercial with Snoop Dogg in the Reebok Ascent 2009 Sideline Drift Full Zip Fleece Hooded Jacket. Start looking for these and other Drift items on all NFL sidelines.

In the college game this weekend USC travels to South Bend to play Notre Dame. Jimmy Clausen and Matt Barkley are another QB vs QB favorite match-up for the guys in the studios. So is Sam Bradford vs Colt McCoy when the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns go at in the Red River Rivalry. Those two teams love each other.

Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide play the Ol’ Ball Coach and the South Carolina Gamecocks. My favorite college football player this season is Tide RB Mark Ingram.

Boise State already narrowly survived Tulsa and Cincinnati took care of South Florida to keep the hopes of BCS haters alive that someone outside of the Big Ten, Pac-10, SEC, Big 12, or ACC will make a run at the Championship Game.

Tim Tebow is probably receiving accolades somewhere, too.

It is a big weekend for sports. October is a terrible month for marriages and TV remote control control. This is my first October as a married guy. I think it will be important to set a precedent for future years that the MLB playoffs and the NFL and big college football games will be watched. So when I lose this battle, somebody please be prepared to link me to some highlights and provide detailed and accurate recaps.

The NFL – It’s like a good Clint Eastwood movie

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
Clint Eastwood

Forget my Fansedge blogging debut – I’m done with baseball. Whether a function of my beloved Chicago Cubs ruining the sport or my poor attempt at predicting the playoffs – (enjoy your baseball-shaped bruise Matt Holliday and well-played Kevin Gregg impersonation Jonathan Papelbon) I’m tired of baseball and I absolutely do not have the patience for Chip Carey any longer.

Chip – what happened? Incorrect stats. Horrifically terrible calls. Clichés on top of clichés. I used to like you.

But back to me. If I wasn’t ready to focus all my faculties on the NFL last week, I am all-in today.

Can you believe we’re almost a third of the way into the season? We’ve already seen multiple shockers and utter disappointments.

I’d be lying if I considered myself a Clint Eastwood buff – big Gran Torino fan – but here’s my take on the NFL’s “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good

In Sergio Leone’s film, Eastwood plays Blondie – “The Good,” a bounty hunter in pursuit of buried gold. He survives numerous “standoffs,” in his successful pursuit for the treasure. In a season with arguably the largest talent gap in league history, only a select few have a legitimate shot of collecting their bounty. I call these teams…bear with me: the unbeatens. The New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, and the Denver – yes, Denver – Broncos. All five of these teams remain undefeated and all five have a legitimate shot of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Miami. The Saints finally have some semblance of a defense to match Drew Brees’ arm. Add in the return of Pierre Thomas on the ground and the exciting, yet enigmatic Reggie Bush in the return game and the Saints have the pieces to go marching. Their only obstacle could be a Kardashian or two – but looks like Lamar Odom has that covered.

I don’t know what’s more intimidating to a Vikings opponent, lining up opposite Adrian Peterson or Jared Allen? The “Adonis” or the “mean mullet?” The only thing holding either player back is their equipment. Throw in a weak division and some guy named Favre – and the Vikings could rack up some serious victories.

Next up: Manning Bowl.

Licking Oreo’s ain’t the only thing these Louisiana boys do well. Eli Manning and the Giants are running over teams, literally. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are putting games out of reach by halftime. But the Giants have capitalized on a ridiculously soft schedule, so I’ll give them the next month (@NO, AZ, @PHI, and SD) to really prove themselves.

Name me an adjective that has yet to be said about Peyton Manning – I dare you. The man is putting up career numbers with guys named Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie at the line of scrimmage. And he is currently on pace to overtake Dan Marino’s single season passing yards record – by 200 yards. Wow. In related news, I hope Marvin Harrison has a great view from a barstool somewhere in Philadelphia.

What’s the more hideous Kyle Orton accessory: last week’s throwback jersey or the neck beard? Either way, nobody around Mile High is complaining about Broncos coach Josh McDaniels any longer. He may be younger than many of the players he coaches and enraged an entire fan base before ever stepping onto the sideline, but boy has his team, and Brandon Marshall in particular, responded. Has there been a better moment this season than McDaniels post-game, on-field cheer lead after the victory over New England? Can you even imagine something like that from Wade Phillips? I’d rather not.

The Bad

A ruthless sociopath, Angel Eyes – “The Bad,” is set on the murder and pillage of a nation…until Eastwood steps in. Unfortunately for the teams in this category – Eastwood has spoken.

The Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all winless. And that group doesn’t even include the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders. Can you remember a season with this many terrible teams?

I’ll keep this short and give each team the effort they’ve given their fans.

The Chiefs are improving, but Matt Cassel has a long way to go before justifying his contract. And…hello? Dwayne Bowe – he’s big, strong and fast. Maybe you’ve heard of him.

Can we please stop calling Tennessee the best winless team ever? How long can that last? If you’re a Titans fan, hopefully not as Kerry Collins grip on the starting quarterback job. Ladies and gentleman, the Vince Young era returns! Not that anybody says that’s a good thing…

The Rams have been outscored by 112 points. That is three more points than the Chiefs and Titans – combined. 112 points!

The week after Greg Olson, Tampa Bay’s second offensive coordinator this season, called Cadillac Williams a “complete player” and “every down back” – he ran for eight yards on 10 carries.

Did you see the “highlights” from the Bills-Browns game? Head coaches Dick Jauron and Eric Mangini, respectively, should be the first two coaches on the unemployment line – and deservedly so. Braylon Edwards hit the lottery and took his fumbling hands elsewhere, could Terrell Owens be next?

Which leads me to the Oakland Raiders…

The Ugly

In the film, Tuco – “The Ugly,” is a vulgar and comical bandit wanted by the authorities.

Sounds a lot like the Oakland Raiders. It’s time somebody relinquishes this team from the ageless wonder, Al Davis.

Their quarterback, JaMarcus Russell, has brought new meaning to the word “bust.” The former no. 1 overall pick is completing 40% of his passes – worst in the league. He has one passing touchdown. And has thrown for 600 yards. That’s a quarterback rating of 47.1 which, miraculously, is not the lowest in the league (Derek Anderson currently holds the honor). Making matters worse, the Raiders know he is terrible. Despite losing 44-9 to the Giants, Russell attempted just 13 passes – a NFL low for team attempts that lost by 35 or more.

Their head coach, Tom Cable, may face criminal charges for reportedly breaking the jaw of an assistant in preseason. The case is now in the hands of the Napa County district attorney. Maybe the authorities can do us all a favor and place the entire roster behind bar.

The state of California vs. the Oakland Raiders.

Poor personnel decisions and offensive ineptitude – facing charges of up to three years in prison and a potential move back to Los Angeles.

So there you have it – “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” Time to pop in a movie.The popcorn’s ready.