Monday, January 19, 2009

Arizona Cardinals' Run: Revolutionary for All Doormat Teams

Sometimes you have to sit back and take a second to realize what is going on and truly admire what the run by the Arizona Cardinals. In the NFL there are a handful of teams that for much of their existence have struggled. Teams that season after season find a way to live down to expectations.

Some of those teams include the Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, and of course the Arizona Cardinals. Yes, Cincy has been to two Super Bowls, and yes on a regular basis the Saints are a solid .500 team, but, overall they have been franchises that have always been at the bottom of the standings.

I have been a Saints' fan my entire life. Lately, good fortune has been abundant for a franchise that at times has looked hapless. I can recall so many heartbreaking losses where despite the lead the Saints' held they would somehow some way find a way to lose. This thinking, this negativity surrounds all struggling franchises.

I will never forget the night the Cardinals lost to the Bears 24-23. In my lifetime I have never been so upset to see a team choke away an NFL game not involving the Saints. I guess in a way I saw with the Cardinals the same hapless demeanor inside the Saints for many years.

I am sure Lion fans and Bengals fans can agree.

But through all these tough times, through all the years of unfilled expectations, through all blown games, the Cardinals defied all logic. 1947 the St. Louis Cardinals won the NFL Championship and since then only one playoff victory has come to the franchise. Coming into the season, Arizona again had high expectations and for once looked to be living up to the billing, but losing four out of their final five towards the end of the season pretty much drowned out those thoughts.

Arizona was supposed to lose to Atlanta, but they didn't. They were supposed to lose to Carolina, but they didn't. They were supposed to lose to Philadelphia, but they didn't.

I have nothing against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I have to root for the ultimate underdog. I have to root for the franchise that has spent 61 years with little happiness.

When the Cardinals take the field to play the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII they will be cheered on by more than the Cardinal faithful. They will be cheered on by every fan out their of every struggling franchise because deep down inside these fans are thinking, "Hey, if the Cardinals can do it why not us?"

Why not?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Florida Wins Another Title and NFL Playoff Hoopla

From January 8 to January 11 football was at it's peak. First and foremost the Florida Gators won their second BCS title in three years. What Urban Meyer's crew has been able to do is nothing short of extraordinary. With that said here are some general thoughts on the 24-14 victory over Oklahoma.

In a game of that magnitude teams can not waste golden opportunities. Let's look at the Utah Utes win over Alabama. Utah seized every opportunity they had right from the get-go. When deep in Bama's territory, Utah did not turn it over, but rather they scored points. That's why it was 21-0 and that's why Utah would win the game.

Flip ove to the Oklahoma Sooners in the BCS National Championship Game. In the first half it happened twice where the Sooner got inside the Gators' 10-yard line and both times Sam Bradford and Co. could not muster any points. The halftime score was 7-7, but anyone could tell you that scored favored the Gators.

With all that said I must give credit where do. No question the Florida defense played one of the greatest games a defense has ever played. Coming into the game the Oklahoma Sooner averaged 54 points per game. In the title game the Sooners scored a mere 14. Kudos to Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and the performance his unit pulled off on the field.

Now onto the NFL playoffs...

This week I did a bit better, but still going 2-2 is nothing to brag about. (Overall 3-4 record)

Cardinals 33-13

The Arizona Cardinals are in the same league as the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints. For much of their existence the franchise has struggled. You have to tip your hat to what is being done. I expected the Carolina Panthers to win a close one, but never did I remotely consider the Cardinals winning by 20. More so than we the viewers can imagine, Arizona is playing with a huge chip on their shoulder. This is a team that is hungry and loves to be doubted week in a week out.

Ravens 13-10

The Ravens' defense was getting beat early on by Tennessee, but somehow the group pulled itself together and clawed its way to victory. Joe Flacco is a smart quarterback who, when needed, can make the big throw. The official missing the delay of game call is unfathomable, but for Titan fans to rest the loss on the is ludacrious. I believe the Ravens' have the best defense and will continue to win every game they win the turnover battle.

Eagles 23-11

Like so many teams in the playoffs, Philly has one heck of a defense, though the single biggest reason Philly moved on was McNabb's uncanning ability to make numerous third down conversions. For a defense, giving up third downs is devastating, but to give up third and that is crippling. Eli Manning was rattled all day and was about as ineffective as I have seen him in a while. In short, I can honestly say the Eagles dominated this game on every side of the ball. New York got beat in a way they are very unfamiliar with. And by the way, never in the history of the NFL has a game ended with the score of 23-11.

Steelers 35-24

The underdog story of the San Diego Chargers came to a screeching halt. In the freezing cold of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Big Ben and Co. jumped all over a SD team that looked out of sorts in the snow. With such an impressive showing the Steelers look like the Super Bowl favorite. The defense is one of the best, the offense is clicking, and the special teams with Santanio Holmes is good for seven points about every other game.

NFC Championship

The Arizona Cardinals are one game from the Super Bowl. That sentence alone is leaving so many people across the US unsure on when this week the apocalypse will be occurring. As great as this run is I think it comes to a close Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Arizona has beaten up two good teams so far, but keep in mind they have not gone against a defense like Philly. Philly's defense will have it's way with QB Kurt Warner. Look for another big, game-changing interception by the Eagle secondary. McNabb will shine in the spotlight and continue to defy the odds.

Eagles 28-20

AFC Championship

Beating a team once in the NFL is difficult. Beating them twice is very difficult. Beating that same team three times is immeasurable. In Pittsburgh, the Steelers will hope to defeat their bitter rivals the Baltimore Ravens for the final time this season. In two meetings this year, Pittsburgh has won by an average of 3.5 points. Look for this one to be a bigger margin. Joe Flacco has been consistent, but not much on the big playmaking chart. Sure a touchdown pass here and there, but not a whole lot else. Big Ben has not been overly glamourous either, but he does have two advantages: the game is in Pittsburgh and he has won a Super Bowl. Big Ben has more experience in games like this. This won will be close...right till the end.

Steelers 23-14

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bowl Season Analysis, BCS Title Game Prediction, and NFL Playoff Hoopla

Must say this past week had all the ups and downs the sport of football can have. First, I would like to touch upon the NFL playoffs. I am amazed when you get right down to it how down right lousy I am at predicting the winners in football games. Now I do consider myself a knowledgeable person about the sport of football, but man, I can't predict worth a darn!

This past weekend I went 1-3. I predicted the Atlanta Falcons beating the Arizona Cardinals by two touchdowns. As we all know, Arizona won that one by six. Then, I had the Indianapolis Colts beating the San Diego Chargers right at the end. I was close, but not close enough as San Diego prevailed 23-17 in overtime. And finally, I predicted a seven point win for the Baltimore Ravens against the Miami Dolphins. Never did I imagine Baltimore would straight up manhandle the Dolphins.

But there is one bright spot! The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Minnesota Vikings 26-14, I predicted 27-17! Right on the money if you ask me.

Anyway onto this week...

The Arizona Cardinals impressed everyone with their win against the Atlanta Falcons. To the shock of the world this Arizona team woke up at the right moment. Sure they stopped Michael Turner, but I don't think the same success will occur against Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers. Earlier this year Carolina won 27-23. I look for yet another close game that will ultimately be decided by a late game winning drive by Jake Delhomme and Co. Arizona will hang tough, but Coach John Fox's crew is on a mission.

Panthers 27-20

The Baltimore Ravens have a defense that is not over embellished at all. They are for real. The Ravens' D will have an even bigger task this week as they travel into Tennessee to go against a Titans team with an amazing rushing attack. Sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling and that rests with the Ravens. The Titans have a banged up line, which will only help that Baltimore running game. Look for this to be a heartbreaker for the Tennessee faithful.

Ravens 19-16

The San Diego Chargers have been playing five weeks of playoff football. Can the magic continue in Pittsburgh? Yes, Big Ben is banged up but you have to like this Pitt team playing home in the playoffs. Darren Sproles did well last week against Indy, but Indy's D isn't Pittsburgh's D. The cold is really a huge factor as well. Look, San Diego will be fit and ready to play in the cold, but I just get this feeling that for the Steelers the cold is like a drug. It gives them a boost. Big Ben will have a big day.

Steelers 27-14

As long as McNabb and Reid are together in Philly the Eagles will always be feared come playoff time. If the New York Giants want to repeat as Super Bowl champs they will have to win at home against a division rival they have already played twice this year. (The teams split the meetings.) Both defenses are top 5 material and will definitely make an impact, but who ultimately wins this game will be on the other side of the ball. My deciding factor is Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs may not be 100 percent, but he's pretty close. With him opening up the running lanes, that will gave Eli a chance to make some plays. McNabb and company will hang tough for a while, but being in the Meadowlands in New York, against the defending champs, will ultimately prove to be too much.

Giants 30-20

Now that I have covered the NFL I would like to discuss the college football world.

Sugar Bowl: Utah 31 Alabama 17

I was pretty impressed with the way the Utah Utes were able to beat a good Alabama team. The biggest thing an underdog needs to do in a high-profile game like this one is take advantage of every opportunity they get. Utah did this early on. Instead of getting two field goals or one, Utah got three touchdowns right at the beginning to go up 21-0. That is huge because again I can't emphasize how important it is for an underdog to seize every opportunity. Brian Johnson knew field goals were not going to be Alabama; touchdowns were. Also, let's not forget about that tremendous drive by Utah in the third quarter with the score only 21-17. Most teams in that situation seem to crumple. You had a 21 point lead and now it's seven? PANIC! Brian Johnson kept his head up and lead Utah down for a huge touchdown to put the score at 28-17. Impressive to say the least.

Fiesta Bowl: Texas 24 Ohio State 21

This was a game that was nothing short of entertaining. Colt McCoy definitely put himself on the Heisman watch for the 2009 season with that late game winning scoring drive. Texas could not run the ball, yet McCoy was still able to have so much success. And this was not a lousy defense, this was an Ohio State defense. One of the best. What McCoy did was remarkable. As for Ohio State I was impressed with how they came roaring back to take a 21-17 lead. Down 17-6 it looked like Ohio State was going to lay down yet again. I think Ohio State needs to revamp their offense. At times the play calling is disgustingly conservative. You have Terrelle Pryor! Open it up! Pryor showed a lot of his athleticism, but I was disappointed how he seemed to short arm some of his throws. All in all, I look for Texas to be in the top 3 for next year and the Buckeyes to be even more dangerous as the offense will be opened up.

I think that covers all the subjects. Oh, wait the BCS National Championship! Nearly slipped my mind!

BCS National Championship Game

Why Florida May Win: The Gators have been clicking on all cylinders lately. Coach Meyer's team hits you in the mouth right from the get-go. But as the SEC Championship game suggests, when faced with adversity this team can rise to the occasion and overcome the obstacles. Furthermore, Florida does have the dynamic Tim Tebow. Against a stout Alabama defense Florida was still able to put up 31 points. Think how many points they will put up against an Oklahoma defense that gives up 24.5 points per game. That spells good news for the Gators.

Why Oklahoma May Win: The Florida defense may only be giving up 12.8 points per game, but against a fairly basic Alabama attack the Gator defense had their hands full. Florida did leave with a victory, but one can only wonder how a record-setting offense in Oklahoma's will do against the Gators' defense. Sam Bradford has thrown 48 touchdowns and only six interceptions. His offense lines is second to none. That all adds up to Bradford being able to put up lots of points. And my final point, Tim Tebow may be an incredible quarterback, but the offense he runs is far too basic at times. Oklahoma's defense will be able to slow it down and in turn do enough to get a victory.

Final Prediction: Two high-powered offenses are coming into Thursday night's matchup with a lot on the line. Which ever coach does win the game will be taking home their second BCS title. In the end, I believe the Florida Gators will win this game. First, Tim Tebow is a once and a lifetime player. To me, I think he's better than Bradford because during this year Tebow has been put in a situation where if he did not make a play Florida could lose. Bradford is yet to be in that sort of situation and succeed. The only one I can think of is the Texas game where Oklahoma lost. And finally the biggest reason Florida will win is the Florida defense. A lot of talk is going around that no defenses exist in the Big 12. Missouri struggled against Northwestern and Texas struggled against Ohio State. Now the Sooners will not struggle as much as Mizzo or UT, but the no. 1 offense will no doubt have it's issues with a hungry Gator defense and that will be just enough for a Florida victory.

Florida 38-31

Friday, January 02, 2009

2008 NFL Wildcard Week Predictions

Kicking off tomorrow will be the ever-exciting NFL playoffs. More so than in the past, this year's crop of teams seems to consist of no clear cut favorite on the path to the Super Bowl. Sure the Giants look like they could win it again, or the Titans, or the Steelers, or the Panthers.

Well you get the idea so without further ado I give you my predictions for the 2008 NFL Wildcard Weekend

Saturday, January 3rd
1 PM

Indianapolis Colts (12-4) @ San Diego Chargers (8-8)

Why the Colts Will Win: Indy was 3-4 this year. 3-4! I remember thinking, "Geez. Guess this is the year the Colts are finally off." Not so fast. Like the championship team these guys are they rallied, and man did they rally. Indy will win this game because of Peyton Manning. Manning just threw for his ninth consecutive 4,000 yard season. That does not bode well for a San Diego D that has been up and down this season. Did I mention that Colts' D? There's a reason Indy finished 12-4 aside from Mr. Manning. The D is bringing the heat. Phillip Rivers will have his hands full.

Why the Chargers Will Win: So what that they are 8-8. They got into the playoffs and frankly that's all that matters. The past four weeks the Chargers have gained something they did not have for most of the season. Their swagger. The confidence Phillip Rivers will be playing with, plus a home game at Qualcomm Stadium will be enough for this energized SD team to pull of the upset.

Final Prediction: The Colts will win this game not because LT and Gates are banged up, but rather the fact that the San Diego defense is just not suited to stop Peyton Manning. So you have a four game winning streak? Big whoop. Peyton Manning will lead a late drive to get his team a tough victory in San Diego.

31-28 Colts

Saturday, January 3rd
4:30 PM

Atlanta Falcons (11-5) @ Arizona Cardinals (9-7)

Why the Falcons Will Win: Power running game. Matt Ryan has had a stellar year at QB, but honestly his best game will not be needed Saturday. Reason? Michael Turner. Turner will rip through a porous Arizona defensive line. As soon as Turner gets going, Ryan will be able to pull of some play actions to keep the defense checking and in turn land Atlanta an easy victory.

Why the Cardinals Will Win: Chip on their shoulder. The only way the Cardinals beat a solid Atlanta team is if Arizona comes out angry, mad, upset, you name it. Cardinals have been the butt of every joke (aside from the Lions). The Cardinals are a better team than we have all been a victim of seeing in the past month. Quarterback Kurt Warner knows his time as an NFL starting QB is running out. This could be his last shot to work some magic.

Final Prediction: We would all like to believe that Arizona wakes up and plays. Sorry, not today. Atlanta will run the ball right down Arizona's throat. Oh, and that Atlanta D will get an early interception. Warner will lead somewhat of a rally, but sadly the consistency of Matt Ryan will smash any chance of a victory.

41-27 Falcons

Sunday, January 4th
1 PM

Baltimore Ravens (11-5) @ Miami Dolphins (11-5)

Why the Ravens Will Win: Big Ben had to drive 92 yards to beat the Ravens right at the end. If that doesn't happen you very well could be looking at a Baltimore team that is the second-seeded team in the AFC. But as we know Pitt scored, Baltimore lost. Point being? Baltimore is a legit contender, more importantly there defense is incredible. As they say, "defenses travel well." Even on the road I still expect the Baltimore D to be too stifling for an over-anxious Miami team. A recipe for a victory for Baltimore is: play defense, cause turnovers, and get that running game going. Miami quarterback Chad Pennington has had his comebacks this year, but not Sunday.

Why the Dolphins Will Win: Yes, Baltimore has a great defense, but what about Miami? Dolphins have snuck under the radar with their tenacious D. But the real factor in a Miami win is the fact this team has a) won multiple games right at the end and b) the team is thrilled to be in the postseason. Let me evaluate on part B. Sometimes a team is so pumped to get in the spotlight that the players play lights out right from the get-go. Coach Tony Sparano has had Miami doing that all year. No reason to think it will stop.

Final Prediction: The Miami feel-good story will be coming to a close. Again, Baltimore was thisclose to having a first round bye. This team is hungry and will do just enough in the turnover category to move to the next round.

17-10 Ravens

Sunday, January 4th
4:30 PM

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (10-6)

Why the Eagles Will Win: The Eagles got into the playoffs in a manner that is nothing short of a miracle. First, Tampa Bay lost to Oakland then Chicago lost to Houston, but to top it off Philly beat Dallas. And man did they beat Dallas. Philly will win this game because McNabb and the offense are playing as good as anyone out there. Unless they are going out against a D like the Ravens you can pretty much be assured McNabb and Co. will be putting points up. Furthermore, the Minnesota QB situation may have gotten Minnesota a playoff spot, but it sure as heck is not going to win you a game. Look, Gus Ferotte and Tavaris Jackson are decent, not great. Great QBs are needed to win playoff games.

(Ron Jaworski was right maybe that tie would come in handy. It was enough to earn them a playoff spot.)

Why the Vikings Will Win: Adrian Peterson is nothing short of spectacular. Big time players such as him step up in big time games. This will be his coming out party. Once Peterson gets going, that will open up whoever is under center for Minnesota to throw the ball down field. Last week Philly won 44-6 because let's face it everything went right! Minnesota will be ready for that. And did I mention that Minnesota does have a defense as well? Jared Allen was brought into Minnesota to terrorize guys like McNabb in games like this. He'll be a huge difference maker.

Final Prediction: I was never overly impressed with what Minnesota did this year, but there were games where I did see Philly and I was overly impressed (Week 3, Week 17). Philly can put up points, I just don't think Minnesota can do the same. Look everyone knows Peterson is getting the ball A LOT. So now Jackson or Ferotte will need to win the game? Don't see it happening.

27-17 Eagles