Just a few random thoughts that I had during the game and after the game:
On Sunday, Feburary 6, the Green Bay Packers will face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. The game has a number of compelling story lines, including historic franchises, outstanding 3-4 defenses (particularly the Pittsburgh ties of Packers defensive coaches Dom Capers, Kevin Greene and Darren Perry), and more. No angle has garnered as much attention as the matchup at the quarterback position. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, 27, is playing as well, statistically, as any passer in the league. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, 28, is seeking his third Super Bowl title in 6 years.
There is no need to be complex about the games on tap for this afternoon. These teams all know one another. They all play tough, physical games. Today’s contests should be no different and should come down to the wire.
Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears.
I am sure that I like Jay Cutler, the QB, much more than most people. I think he can do most of the things that Aaron Rodgers can do, but I don’t believe he does them as artfully or as consistently. That should be the difference. Packers 27, Bears 23.
New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Jets are doing something very wise this week. They have been quiet in the days leading up to today. They have not sought to manufacture tension or animosity. They’ve needed this time to rebuild their emotional reserves following 2 games vs. heated rivals in New England and Indianapolis. I think the Jets will that energy against a healthy defense featuring the league’s most dynamic player in Troy Polamalu. The Steelers also bring the league’s #2 offense over the second half of the season. I like the Steelers to finish what they started in the 2nd half against Baltimore where they outscored the Ravens 24-3. I know everyone expects a close game, but I have a feeling that Pittsburgh may have tapped into something that really works. When is the last time anyone outscored the Ravens by 3 touchdowns in a half? Steelers 38, Jets 13.
Note: Roethlisberger is 9-2 in playoff games. The losses? 1) A 41-17 blowout loss in the 2004 AFC Championship Game, at home vs. the New England Patriots during his rookie season. 2) A 2007 Division Round Game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars at home. The Steelers played without Willie Parker (the league’s leading rusher through Week 16 that season) and Aaron Smith. The Jags won on a gutsy 4th-and-2 draw play by David Garrard. The league later admitted to missing the hold that kept Steelers DT Casey Hampton from crushing Garrard. That’s it.
Note 2: According to Cold Hard Football Facts, the Defensive Hog Index is one stat that tends to track well with predicting post-season winners. How did it work last season? Not so great. The number 1 ranking Green Bay Packers were knocked off in an offensive firestorm out in the Arizona desert. What’s the deal in 2010? The Steelers ranked #1, the Jets are #4, the Bears are #6, and the Packers are #10.
First things first: What happened in the AFC West? The San Diego (not so Super) Chargers finished the 2010 season with a 9-7 record. The Chargers led the entire NFL in offense and defense, but missed the playoffs. San Diego finished 2nd in the division to the Kansas City Chiefs. If that wasn’t strange enough, the Oakland Raiders beat every team in the AFC West twice this season, but finished in third place with an 8-8 record. Today, they wrapped up Week 17 with a resounding road win at the new Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. The Raiders won 31-10 and completed their sweep of the playoff bound Chiefs.
The Raiders were the ONLY team in the NFL to sweep all division games this season. Oakland became the first team since the merger to sweep a division and miss the post-season. The Chargers could not have been better statistically on either side of the ball. Oakland and San Diego will have a lot to think about in the off-season. The Raiders’ focus, according to reports, is replacing Coach Tom Cable and establishing consistency at the quarterback position:
Perhaps part of the problem has been Cable’s wavering on the Raiders’ starting quarterback. After starting the season with Jason Campbell at the helm, Cable switched to Bruce Gradkowski when Campbell struggled. After Gradkowski separated his shoulder, Cable turned back to Campbell but insisted Gradkowski was still the starter. While Campbell was under center during the Raiders’ three-game midseason win streak, Cable fluctuated between both quarterbacks throughout the second half of the year until Gradkowski reinjured his shoulder and was placed on injured reserve.
Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is rumored to be taking the same job down in Gainesville at the University of Florida. What does this for next week’s contest vs. the Baltimore Ravens? (more…)
For Black quarterbacks across the NFL, October 10 is a day that many of them (based on their previous recorded statements) will view as just another Sunday. But, for observers of the game and others aware of the way that questions of race color perceptions of performance, yesterday was a historic day. For the first time that I can remember, more than one or two Black quarterbacks faced off against elite non-Black quarterbacks on the same Sunday. I’m sure it’s happened before, but my memory is not coming up with another such Sunday. I might have to go all the way back to the heyday of Daunte Culpepper and Aaron Brooks to find such a week. I’ll take a look and see what I come up. But for now…yesterday was one interesting day.
Who is in your Top 10?
Drew Brees is a no-brainer. What about Vince Young (26-13 as a starter)? Joe Flacco (21-13 as a starter)? Alex Smith? Mark Sanchez? Are you looking to the upside of a quarterback who has yet to make his mark, or are you sticking with the men who’ve done it before? Manning (2x) and Brady. What about the potentially retired? Are you expecting a Beltway Revival for choir boy turned QB, Jason Campbell? How much are you going to hold Peyton Manning’s Super Bowl loss against him? How much are you going to hold Eli Manning’s late season collapse against him? How ’bout them fumbles (Tony Romo)?
Who do you rank in the top 10 — and who is number one on your look good chart?
On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers opened the action at Chicago’s Soldier Field with a simple off tackle run to the left side. Ryan Grant ran untouched 62-yards to the end zone. Check this out.
We’re heading to the Quarter Post. Week 4 is here and games are on tap for 28 teams in the league (Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia are off.). The first three weeks have shown that some patterns are continuing:
- Peyton and Eli run smooth operations in Indy and New York;
- Donovan McNabb will be injured and open the door to speculation about his tenure in Philly;
- The Denver Broncos will get off to a fast start and impress no one (3-0 in 2008 and 2009);
- Jim Zorn is still confused;
- Tony Romo is who we thought he was;
- Byron Leftwich isn’t half the quarterback that Romo and Delhomme are (sarcasm);
- Tom Brady is not as good as new;
- LaDainian Tomlinson is not as good as new;
- The Raiders may punch you out, but they won’t punch it in the endzone.
Five things on my radar this week:
1. Packers at Vikings. Revenge is a dish best served old. I have this feeling that the Vikings may not be served by the spectacular success of last week’s win vs. the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners are a team that lacks the offensive punch and balance of the Packers. The Niners lost Frank Gore early in the game and were unable to run out the clock with less than 2 minutes remaining.
I am wondering if newly-minted OLB Aaron Kampman is comfortable enough in his new position to bring the pain from the edge. He was the best DE you’d never heard of for the past three seasons. He notched 37 sacks playing in a 4-3 scheme. He’s been moved and has only registered one sack through 3 games. Does he break out in Minnesota? I’m sure he’ll want to show former fellow-Hawkeye and current Viking LB Chad Greenway a few tricks.
I think Al Harris and Charles Woodson are really going to be up for this game. I think Brett Favre will be so charged up that he will have to work hard to resist his urges to embarrass the Packers. The men he is most angry with will not be covering Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin. If Favre loses focus, Harris and Woodson could take him to the wood shed.
The 2009 NFL season is now headed to Week 3. It is still very early in a season that has yet to reveal its true self. It usually takes more than two weeks. With that said, I believe that some early events and trends may be indicators for the long haul. Some of these events and trends are carry-overs from last season. Some are as new as Sunday afternoon or Monday night.
1. The Colts run defense is atrocious. Since his Pro Bowl season of 2005, Colts SS Bob Sanders has missed approximately 27 games. That is too much time for this elite player to be considered a “reliable” factor in the Colts defense. Sanders is as likely to play a season as he is to miss a season. He’s never played 16 games in a season (The Colts routinely held elite players out of Week 17 games under Tony Dungy.) and has played as few as 6 games twice. The Colts cannot stop the run without Bob Sanders on the field. The first time this weakness was revealed Jacksonville’s Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew lit up Indy for 303 yards. Last night, the Dolphins went for 239. The Colts have neither the personnel, the scheme, nor the inclination to fix this problem. The only 2009 solution for the Indianapolis Colts is the return of Bob Sanders. Until then, get used to seeing this team’s Front Seven get mauled. (more…)