Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Trouble with loudmouths... 

The world has become smaller, much smaller. Information from across the globe can find us in seconds. Bombs in Moscow, shootings in Tucson, a State of the Union in D.C. All of these things would have taken hours to reach us not even ten years ago. It would have taken days a century ago. We are now in an era where information cannot travel any faster. We are swarmed by people's opinions, facts, humor, satire, and everything in between.

As an educator this can be a challenge. Kids are wired in a lot in their down time. Taking in positive and negative information. Things happen faster. It's what they expect. Instant access, in some cases, without an hard work.

As an educator I sometimes find myself frustrated with the outside world, frustrated because what I try to do with my fourth graders everyday is so easily offset by a stupid lyric in a song on the radio, or a chain email that they receive, or a bad joke on TV that they do not understand but have no problem repeating. 

As a society we have moved towards less restrictions, or at least we have moved towards easier access. A lot of what is out there now was out there before, now it is easier to find, and kids in some cases are more savvy than their parents. Making it hard to control what goes on every hour of every day. I do not envy parents one bit in the this day and age.

Across the country we have heard about students killing themselves because they are being bullied by peers. Now that people are constantly plugged-in there is no escape, no one to run to. It is not just in school, but it is on-line. Facebook, twitter, and email are ways for tormentors to make their target's life a living hell. So much so that it drives some kids to suicide.

This past weekend in the NFC Championship game Jay Cutler called it quits, he decided his knee was in too much pain and he could not play. I am not going to waste my time judging him for that decision. That is all his, he can own it or regret it, I honestly do not care.

What I do care about is the treatment and reaction by some of Cutler's peers, especially the reactions on twitter. These reactions are out there for all to see, and also for all to spread around. These are the moments in my life where I feel like my teaching in the class is balanced out by the stupidity of people outside of the school where I teach. 

 Raheem Brock Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears is driven to the ground after throwing by Raheem Brock #98 of the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on October 17, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Seahawks defeated the Bears 23-20.
 Raheem Brock getting to know Jay Cutler...
Raheem Brock, a guy whose team, the Seattle Seahawks, was crushed by Cutler and the Bears one week ago, decided to tweet while watching the game on Sunday afternoon. While watching the game he decided to attack Cutler. Here are the two tweets that stood out to me as I waded through the crap he has tweeted since Sunday afternoon:

"Cutler u little does it feel that ur back up's backup is the only 1that can put pts on the board!I bet cutler comes back now!"

"Cutler...wut a sissy! This is the NFC Championship game! Guaranteed if it was brett farve..he would still be in the game!"

These two tweets are calling out Cutler's manhood, calling him a sissy. Now do I understand that Raheem Brock and Jay Cutler are grown men? Yes. Does Brock realize that anyone can read what he writes? Maybe not.

Maurice Jones-Drew threw in a jab at Urban Meyer in his tweet. Urban Meyer is a guy who just retired from coaching at Florida due to medical issues. Here was Jones-Drew's thoughts when Cutler went down.

"the urban meyer rule is effect right now... When the going gets tough........QUIT."

Jones-Drew said that his comments were taken out of context (can you take a tweet out of context?). He said he was joking and did not know that Cutler was hurt. However, if you look at his tweet feed there are comments about Todd Collins being in the game before he tweeted about quitting. Then he  the next day he sent this tweet out, which in my eyes is another another dig at Cutler.

"Don't worry tweeps me and physical therapist mike ryan are hard at work and he keeps telling me don't QUIT...."

Jones-Drew missed the last two games with a knee injury. The Jaguars were in the playoff hunt. 

As athletes these two guys need to realize their effect on others, especially kids. This type of tweebuse (does that work as a word?) is reprehensible. If a student wrote something like this on someone's Facebook Wall or in an email they would have to answer to a teacher or administrator, and at some point the police. Cyber-bullying, or any kind of bullying needs to be done over the course of time. One act of unkindness does not make a bully. However, when Brock and Jones-Drew are calling Cutler names it opens it up to others, mainly kids, who think that they can do it too. 

Educating kids in this time period is a give and take. We have things that the kids are going to learn from outside sources. Sources more powerful than teachers and administrators. Some of these things are very positive and some are very negative. Are all athletes role-models? No, not even close. But I think when athletes put themselves and their opinions on the internet calling people sissys and attacking them in a large public forum, well then they do become a form of role-model.

Who knows, maybe this will launch Cutler into "redemption mode." Big Ben is about to cash his redemption check... someone has to be next.



Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Final Four...

I find myself sad this week. Sad that I do not have a football team in the race anymore. Sad that other people still do. Jealous as hell that co-workers who root for the Steelers, Jets, Packers, and Bears can all settle into Sundays game with a genuine rooting interest. I don't have one, and it stings. The thing that hurts the most is I should, if the Pats showed up to play or if the Jets made one stinking mistake last weekend the Steelers would be coming to Foxboro. Ugh...

Anyway, onto the Conference Championship predictions.

NFC Championship Game 
Green Bay Packers AT Chicago Bears (+3.5)
3:00PM Eastern

The Packers are the hot favorite in this game. They demolished the best team in the NFC last weekend in Atlanta. They go on the road for a third straight week to frigid Chicago.

What do the Bears have to do to win?
The Bears have a few things that they need to do really well to win this game.

1) Get Devon Hester the ball. This means creating times on offense where he may get the ball in open spaces, however, it also means forcing the Packers to punt from spots on the field where Hester can get the ball. Hester has the ability to change a game in one play.

2) Make James Starks and the Packers running game beat you. Aaron Rodgers is on fire right now. Before the season he was one of two guys I invested in to win the MVP. The other? Tom Brady (Tooting my own horn....). If the Bears can make the Packers run the ball it could be a long day for the Packers. Who knows, the Bears might be taking a page out of the Jets playbook this week and playing a ton of coverage and hoping Peppers and the others on the front line can get to Rodgers.

3) The offense needs to remain balanced. The Bears' Matt Forte is a very good runner. He is explosive and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Him and Walter Peyton are only Bears players to ever have 500 yards receiving and 1000 yards rushing. Greg Olsen had a great game against the Seahawks, however, the Green Bay linebacking corps and secondary are much stronger than the Seahawks. They were terrible in that game. Jay Culter needs to find all his targets and of course he needs to continue taking care of the ball. He is much improved in that category the last two months of the year.

What do the Packers have to do to win?

1) Play great defense. In their week 17 battle the Packers allowed 3 points to the Bears in a 10-3 win. It was a game that was unimportant to Chicago but important to the Packers. The irony of that game is that if the Bears had won the Giants would have made it into the playoffs instead of the Packers. The Packers defense is turning the ball over and they may have the best young defender (Clay Matthews Jr.) and also the best old defender (Charles Woodson). These guys are reeking havoc. B.J. Raji is dominating the middle of the line, taking double teams and allowing Mathews and A.J. Hawk to run around and make plays. This defense is stout, and they will need to make Chicago one dimensional on Sunday. If they do that I think they win big.

2) Run, run, run. James Starks didn't need to have a big game last week. The Packers passing offense was great and the fact that they had short fields and a big lead put no pressure on him to perform. He did have 25 carries and only gained 66. A measly 2.8 yards per carry will not do it against Urlacher and company on Sunday.

Just a great picture....

3) Win the kicking game. Obviously Hester is dangerous, however, kicking field goals could be huge in this game. We saw Nick Folk miss a kick early in the Pats-Jets game last week. Early missed field goals can have a big effect on a team's momentum. Kicking to Hester is a no-no. I still don't understand why you don't kick it out of bounds. He averaged 17.1 yards per punt return. That means he turns a 45 yards punt in a 28 yard punt. Punt the ball 38 yards out of bounds. Its a no brainer.

I think overall the things the Packers have to do and also the things the Packers need to have happen are more likely.

Prediction: Green Bay 27- Chicago 22

AFC Championship Game
New York Jets AT Pittsburgh Steelers (-4)
6:00 PM Eastern

After a big win over the Pats last week full of trash-talk the Jets this week have taken a completely different tact. They are complementing the Steelers every chance they get. Talking about how much they admire Big Ben and how the Steelers are a fantastic football team. Did Roger Goodell play a Jedi mind trick on the Jets? Personally, (warning: Bitter Pats fan bubbling to the surface) I think part of the Jets sweetness this week is one last slap at the Pats. After calling Brady an asshole and ranting about how disrespectful the Pats are now they are treating the Steelers like they are God's gift to the NFL. I know this is all a game played through the media. I just think it is interesting that all of a sudden the trash-talking Jets are giving the Steelers a little reach around.

What do the Steelers have to do to win the game?

1) Protect Big Ben for the love of God! The Jets defense proved it could get to Brady through disguising coverages and dropping 7 and 8 guys into coverage. Making it hard for Brady to find players quickly. Big Ben is a MUCH better quarterback when a play runs "off-schedule." He is massive and very hard to take down. Big Ben can get rattled though, and I think the Jets are a better team than the Ravens. That Ravens team had a 14 points halftime lead. They were swarming in the first half against the Steelers. The Jets this week might do what they did to the Pats and Colts, sit back and cover as best they can. Or they might end up blitzing the hell out of them and letting Comartie and Revis play man-to-man all evening.

2) Keep the crowd in the game. The Jets are on the road for the third straight game. They have quieted two crowds. Do not let them do it a third time. Heinz Field was a morgue at halftime of the Ravens game. However, that third quarter turnaround made it impossible for the Ravens to function at all. Sanchez is slowly turning into a quarterback we can believe in. His throws great passes late in games and his ability to move in the pocket is outstanding. Having a frenzied crowd will make his job harder on Sunday.

3) Test the Jets secondary. The Pats did not do this enough on Sunday. The Steelers have Mike Wallace who can get behind a defense and stretch them out. They will need to do this to keep the Jets honest. It could be the kind of game where the Steelers come out right away and throw a deep pass. It could change the complexion of the game entirely.

What do the Jets have to do to win?

1) Get the ball to their playmakers. A lot of people talk about the Jets and mention the last minute wins they had against weak opponents this year: Lions, Browns, and Texans. However, they won all those games. They won them because Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards had huge catches. The Steelers cornerbacks are going to be overmatched with these guys on the outside. Polamalu will be busy watching Dustin Keller all afternoon.

2) Do not let Harrison, Farrior, Timmons, and Woodley effect the game. These guys are all great linebackers. They rush the passer, they can cover, and they hit people hard. When you beat the Steelers you neutralize their linebackers. Play action passing and counter running plays will slow down their reaction time.

3) Make sure to score in red zone. I do not trust Nick Folk. Heinz Field is one of the toughest places to kick in the league. This game is going to be close. The Jets need to make sure they get all the points they can. Kicking field goals will be risky business and could cost them a chance at a Super Bowl birth.

The Jets last week said the Pats game was the second most important game in franchise history, only behind the Super Bowl III. How does a team now get up for what is no doubt the second most important game of its franchise's history. The build up for that Pats game was huge. One has to wonder if they blew their load a little bit early. They were flawless last week, outstanding. Their gameplan caught the Pats off guard and it was masterful.

If Rex Ryan can pull this off with this team he deserves all the praise he will undoubtedly receive. However, I think the combination of another road game after a huge game against the Pats will end up catching up them. As Rex Ryan said, "Same old Jets." Yep Rex, same old Jets, losing before they can satisfy its fan base.

Prediction: Steelers 24 - Jets 19

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Part 2: Pats Musing at the end of a season

Looking Back.

The Pats post-game show posed this question. Was this season a success or a failure? I think if you told me in September the Pats would go 14-2 I would have been shocked. I thought this was a 10 win team at best, and I worried about their ability to compete with the Jets and also with their very difficult schedule. Obviously expectations change as the team's performance progresses.

I think there are some things to take from this season that make it a success. For instance, Devin McCourty, a guy who people in this area were upset about having on their team, was outstanding all year. He is a future cornerstone of this defense. The defense improved over the course of the season. They were the youngest in the league, and hopefully they learned from their failures on Sunday.

Jerrod Mayo had a great season, leading the league in tackles. However, I do wonder why I have never heard his name called on a big play.

Tom Brady's knee is just fine and he still has some very good football in him. The offensive line took good care of Brady this year, until Sunday. That will help his longevity as he gets a bit older.

BenJarvis Green-Ellis might be a feature back. He ran for 1,000+ yards and didn't fumble the ball once all year. I would like to see a running back taken in the draft though.

Deion Branch's return was a huge help to this offense.

I am disgusted that this could actually happen in Gillette...

The Jets knocked off the two best quarterbacks in football in 8 days. Very impressive. I think one big thing I take from that is that a great quarterback can get you into the playoffs, but a good team gets you through the playoffs. Brady's season was amazing, he had some good weapons around him. On Sunday night he looked lost and frustrated, which hurt the team. I think Brady has a lot of pressure on him, some internal and some external. Manning was the same way this season. Neither had a Super Bowl team surrounding them. The Jets exposed that during both games. The Jets have a Super Bowl type team, the Pats don't. Unfortunately it took a tough loss to realize that.

Overall, I would say this year was a success. You cannot win all the time, am I disappointed/bitter/angry/sad about Sunday's loss? You bet. However, I think the Pats got their butts kicked and had all their weaknesses exposed by Rex Ryan and the Jets.

Looking forward

The natural thing to do when your team's season is over is to ask why it ended when it did, and then look forward to figure out how next year can be better.

Last year people said that the Pats had holes all over the defense. The front seven was weak, the defense overall was porous and there was no real leader in the secondary. 

The Pats bolstered their linebacking corps and their secondary made a leap with the development of Devin McCourty. 

Now the question is: What do the Pats need to do this off-season to get further than the Divisional Round of the Playoffs.
The Pats need a pass rusher. Someone like a Julius Peppers that teams need to gameplan for. Right now they have no one who strikes fear in an offensive line. Obviously Peppers is not leaving Chicago. The Pats tried to get him last year and he was too much money. Maybe this draft can bring the Pats 1 or 2 guys who could develop into a monster pass-rusher off the edge.
The Pats need a Playmaker to throw the ball to (Great Greg Jennings Madden Video...hilarious). A guy who has the ability to go up and make a catch over a cornerback. They do not have one. They have guys who run good routes and get open in the middle part of the field. Randy Moss was not that guy. I know he could stretch the field, but he was not a guy you could count on to go up and fight for a ball. Maybe a Gronkowski or Hernandez can become this guy. They have the size.

Brandon Meriwether was a non-factor on Sunday. He has played games this season where you never here his name called. He is constantly late on plays and just flies around. Is he the guy the Pats want leading this secondary? He does not seem like it. This guy's offseason could be spent looking for a new job. If not, he is on thin ice in my mind. The only memory I have of him on Sunday is being dragged into the endzone by Braylon Edwards (another playmaker).

Finally, I think the Pats need to add depth in their running game. The last Super Bowl they won was with a guy who ran for 1,600 yards. Corey Dillon was outstanding that season, and he added so much to the offense. Maybe BenJarvis Green-Ellis has a few solid years for them. But I think they need more depth and possibly end up with a stud in the draft or free agency.

Next season is in the balance. There is no Collective Bargaining Agreement. You have to wonder how successful teams that are in flux will be next year.  They could lose a ton of preparation time, new coaches and teams with a lot of new players could struggle. That could help the Pats start the season fast, their core is pretty set, which could be a huge help.

The Pats have Logan Mankins and Matt Light coming off the books. One of these guys needs to stay. You cannot lose your two best linemen, especially when they both play on the same side of the line. I am hoping they pay Mankins the money he wants, and I am also hoping Light will take the hometown discount as he reaches the twilight of his career.

The Pats have 8 picks in the first 4 rounds of the draft. 3 of those picks are in the top 33 overall. The Pats could have a huge draft and get some great new young players. This is not the year to trade down and collect more picks for the future.

There you have it, the Pats season is now officially over. Keep your eyes open for my Conference Championship predictions...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Part 1: Pats Musings at the end of a season

What more can be said about the Pats loss to the Jets this past Sunday? Nothing... the radio and local papers have pretty much come up with these excuses:

1) The Jets outplayed the Pats.
2) The Pats made too many mistakes.
3) The Pats were never supposed to be this good this year.
4) The missed fake punt was the turning point.
5) Blah...
6) Blah...
7) Blah...

This Pats loss hurts as bad as it does because it was the Jets. After all the trash talk this week, all the Jets trash talk this year, it was my team's chance to shut them up. It was my team's chance to move on in the playoffs. It was, once again, my team's chance to win the Super Bowl. It all blew up in three hours on Sunday afternoon.

Eric Mangini wrote a great piece this weekend about how to beat the Pats. As I read it it seemed obvious to me. However, the one thing that stood out to me is that in the NFL games are lost more than they are won. I found that a fascinating theory, and as I watched the Pats game progress it really rang true. The Jets played a great game, the Pats made the mistakes that cost them the game. I will not say the Pats lost the game (because I think the Jets did win it), but those errors, those uncharacteristic errors, hurt their chances.

The first mistake was on the first drive. Brady threw a bad pass that was intercepted. Alge Crumpler made an incredible play and managed to catch David Smith before he could get in for a touchdown. The Jets did not score, Folk missed a field goal. However, this interception was like a boxer getting clocked in the face in an early round when he expects to win the fight without much of a battle. That interception was the punch, and the Pats were stunned for most of the game.

The Patrick Chung fumbled fake punt will go down as the biggest mistake because it led to points right before halftime. A 7-3 deficit grew to 14-3, a punch to the gut. Pats punter Zultan Mesko said after the game that the decision to run the play was Chung's. He read something in the Jets coverage and changed the play. If that is the case you have to wonder what kind of future Chung has with the Pats. That seems like something Belichick would not put up with. I guess we will have to wait and see.

For me the thing that stood out in this game was the ability of the Jets to cover the Pats receivers. A lot of people will point at the 5 sacks of Brady and say that the Jets pass rush was outstanding. It was good, but so many of those sacks and pressures on Brady came after Brady had time to look down the field. Coverage sacks were the name of the name. The Jets dressed 11 defensive backs. They have 45 players in uniform. Rex Ryan knew what he was doing.

Edwards before he pulls in a big catch... Playmaker...

Another thing that stood out was the Jets playmakers. They have them, and honestly the Pats do not. Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes were very good, and Jerricho Cotchery made a huge 58 yard play to kill the Pats momentum. Santonio Holmes and Edwards both made great catches down the field. Holmes' TD catch was ridiculous, and Sanchez's throw was pretty solid too.

The Pats playmakers were nowhere to be found, and I think it is because the playmakers are not that great. Clearly getting rid of Randy Moss was a good choice, however, having a guy like Moss, that can go deep will help this team. Moss would not have been the answer last night, but after watching Holmes make that play and then thinking that the Pats were targeting Alge Crumpler in the red zone makes me want to throw up. The Pats need a guy who can "go up and get it." The Packers, Steelers, and Jets all have one (or more). Moss was not that guy, he quit on balls that were not thrown right to him. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Holmes, Edwards, Mike Wallace are those types of guys. Could you pick a Pats receiver that would make the catches that Holmes made on Sunday or the one Edwards made against the Colts? I can't.

As the game came to an end was anyone else SHOCKED at how many people left early? Really? Are we that spoiled as sports fans that we cannot stick around for the end of a playoff game? That was despicable. I would have been pissed sitting there watching the end of the game, but I would have been sitting there. That was inexcusable.

Brady looking confused was not a normal occurrence this year... until Sunday...

My last thought on the game is this: Can the Pats get back to their winning ways in the playoffs? It seems like they are a team that can be stopped by the best coaches when they need to. A regular season game has a different feel, and this playoff game proved that. Rex Ryan dialed up some very different defensive looks that the Pats would not typically see in September-December. When do they start to figure that out again? When do they win a playoff game again?

Stuff to read:
Brady thinks Jets get to Super Bowl? Reverse Jinx?
Branch chastises "classless" Jets...
Bob Ryan.. the guy I go to first...the best...
Chris Gasper, another good piece about Pats...
Sanchez is world-beater...
Brady is human...
Pats future starts now...
Good photo gallery of game...
Go to 36:35 mark of this Mike and Mike Podcast from January 17. Tom Jackson claims he picked the Pats to win 30-10 to get the Jets angry and ready to play. And then he takes credit for the Jets winning!!

Part 2 coming tomorrow. Looking back at the season and looking forward...

Divisional Weekend Recap

This past weekend saw a lot of crazy happenings. The Ravens lost a 14 point halftime lead, the Packers looked like world beaters (they are), and the Pats were over-matched.

Here were the questions I had asked last week regarding the games, and some quick thoughts in hindsight.

Baltimore AT Pittsburgh

Can the Ravens move the ball on the Steelers?
No, they could not. The scores the Ravens got were all based on Steelers' mistakes. When do you think the players will begin to realize that when the ball is on the ground the best thing to do is pick it up?

Can Joe Flacco protect the ball?
Nope. He threw a huge interception in the third quarter which completely turned the tide of the game.

Can Pittsburgh's line protect Big Ben?
The Ravens pressured Big Ben, but the Steelers made that big 3rd and 19 play. This Steelers line is the key to the Jets game this Sunday (I just threw up in my mouth).

Green Bay At Atlanta Falcons

Can Atlanta play better than their average offensive and defensive stats?
No they can't. The Falcons were completely over-matched in every facet. Matt Ryan still has some growing to do. How good is Aaron Rodgers? My goodness.

Can Matt Ryan hold his own against a very good defense?
Ryan threw 2 picks and only had 189 yards total passing. This Packers defense is very good, and I think Jay Cutler will have his work cut out for him.

Can James Starks run like he did against the Eagles?
Starks ran for 66 yards. He had 25 carries, so the Packers were determined to run the ball and melt the clock.

Seattle AT Chicago

Can the Seahawks continue their momentum from last week?
Unequivocally no. This game was a total mess, the Seahawks looked terrible. They looked like they had made it as far as they expected and that was it. Greg Olsen had a huge catch early and it sucked the air right out of the Seahawks.

New York Jets AT New England

Can Mark Sanchez deal with blistering cold?
Yes, yes, and yes. Sanchez was outstanding on Sunday. He took care of the ball, made some great throws, and had his receivers make some superb catches. He dealt with the cold, with a loud crowd, and that pathetic Pats pass rush.

Can the Pats defense hold up for 60 minutes?
They did not hold up well at all. The defense was good on Sunday night. I thought they did a decent job, however, they allowed big plays at bad times. Their youth showed in that they struggled to play from behind (they had not been behind at halftime of any game since Thanksgiving). That is a different type of defense, time will tell if this young defense will grow into a Super Bowl defense.

How are the Jets going to stop this offense?
Here is what I wrote last week...

"Pressure Brady like the Giants did in the Super Bowl. Brady is human, and getting to him and around him will bother him a lot. It also throws off the timing of a lot of the offense.

The Jets will also have to win the turnover battle. The Pats dominated the turnover battle this season. They were +28 overall, ridiculous. Jets taking care of the ball will be huge, Sanchez cannot throw a pick."

They did both those things very well. They took care of the ball and made Brady nervous in the pocket.

Coming tomorrow... my 2010 New England Patriots Obituary...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Second Course of a four course meal.

After a weekend full of football I am getting geared up for another one this coming weekend. Last weekend was a feast full of delicious stuffing, turkey, gravy, and unfortunately one serving of brussel sprouts (the Ravens-Chiefs game).

Now for the next course.. the Divisional Playoff round...

Baltimore Ravens AT Pittsburgh Steelers (-3)
2010 meetings:
Week four- Ravens 17-Steelers 14 (Big Ben suspended...)
Week thirteen- Steelers 13-Ravens 10

I saw a stat this week about the last 17 games the Ravens and Steelers have played. It was amazing, the Steelers have won 9 games and the Ravens 8. The average score for BOTH TEAMS over the course of those 15 games is the EXACT SAME, 17.8.

Needless to say these two teams are evenly matched, this season's game were both decided by three points, both times the home team won.

Now we are left with the rubber match, the Steelers are at home and rested. The Ravens traveled to Kansas City last weekend and won in a blowout. The questions that this game brings to mind:

Hey Big Ben, Suggs and Company are coming...

Can the Ravens move the ball on the Steelers?
I say no. The Ravens offense is lacking an identity, and the Steelers defense is the best unit that either of these teams has.

Can Joe Flacco protect the ball?
I say no. I have zero trust in Flacco, a good game in Pittsburgh would change my mind. I do not see it happening. He did play well this season against Pitt, throwing for 260 both games and only 1 interception total.

Can Pittsburgh's line protect Big Ben?
No matter how big and strong Big Ben is, this has been a huge problem all season. Big Ben is an escape artist, however this Ravens team is full of mean, nasty hitters. The match-up between Baltimore's defensive line and Pitt's offensive line could be the deciding factor.

Prediction: Steelers 28 - Ravens 20

Green Bay Packers AT Atlanta Falcons (-2.5)
Previous meeting:
Week 12: Atlanta 20 - Green Bay 17

Another rematch (just like every game this weekend) leads us to believe this will be a close game. The Falcons won at home against the Packers in week 12, and now we are left to wonder if the Packers are better than they were in week 12. I think they are, I think Aaron Rodgers is moving toward being an elite quarterback (I don't know why ESPN is so desperate to label every single player). Matt Ryan is incredible at home, 20-2 in his career.

The Packers are the new favorite in the NFC, people love them. They love the defense, they love Rodgers, they love it all. People are worried about the Falcons after their really bad performance in the Monday Night game against the Saints where they lost 17-14 and looked very vanilla and played it close to the vest.

You will know this guy's name on Saturday Night if the Falcons are going to win.

Three questions I have about this game:

Can Atlanta play better than their average offensive and defensive stats?
The Falcons are 15th in passing and 12th in rushing. Their defense ranks 22nd against the pass and 10th against the rush. The Falcons are a mediocre team, there I wrote it. They are called a rushing team, but don't do it very well. They had a weak schedule and took advantage of it, losing once since Halloween. I do not think they play over their heads on Saturday night. They will be what they are, average.

Can Matt Ryan hold his own against a very good defense?
This Packers defense is very good, they did a great job against the Eagles. The offense took their foot off the peddle, allowing the Eagles back into the game. Matt Ryan is still young and new at this playoff thing, he has one game under his belt where he threw 2 interceptions against the Cardinals in 2008. Obviously, this is a small sample. He has some good targets in Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White to throw to. I think Matt has a great game in his home stadium, just like he always does.

Can James Starks run like he did against the Eagles?
Starks ran for 123 yards last weekend. He had only played 3 games prior to the playoffs. In those three games he had not run for 123 yards combined. The Falcons allow 105 yards a game, Starks should be able to get around 75 yards, not anymore though.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 28 - Atlanta Falcons 17

Seattle Seahawks AT Chicago Bears (-10)
Previous meeting:
Week 6: Seahawks 23- Bears 20

My god. Is it true that one of these teams will be playing in the NFC Championship Game? I think there are three teams at home this weekend in the NFC that are better: New York Giants, Tampa Bay Bucs, and the Philadelphia Eagles.

I am honestly not looking forward to this game. The Bears are one of those teams I do not enjoy to watch, however I do enjoy rooting against Jay Cutler.

I think this game will come down to the Bears offense moving the ball. When they played John Knox had 120 yards receiving, that was about it. They couldn't run the ball or pass. Cutler did protect the ball though.

When you google Jay Cutler the option for "Jay Cutler Drunk" comes up. Another
quarterback that has that same option? Big Ben. Two who don't? Brady and Manning...

I only have one question about this game:

Can the Seahawks continue their momentum from last week?
This game could be decided in the first 10 minutes. If the Bears can get their crowd into the game and ease the tension of being a huge favorite they should win this game. However, if the Bears give the Seahawks life this game could be interesting. Matt Hasselbeck had an incredible game against the Saints, and the Saints were scared when it came to kicking to Leon Washington.

The Bears have to play fearless and come out and hit the Seahawks hard. You cannot give life to an underdog. The only thing worse than a loud crowd in Seattle last week, is a scared crowd in Soldiers Field.

Prediction: Chicago Bears 24 - Seattle Seahawks 14

New York Jets AT New England Patriots (-9)
Previous Meetings:
Week 2: Jets 28 - Pats 14
Week 13: Jets 3 - Pats 45

Tom Brady has not thrown an interception since October 17, 2010. Here is a list of things I have done between that date and January 13, 2011.

- Dressed up for Halloween
- Ate Thanksgiving Dinner
- Christmas Shopped
- Celebrated Christmas
- Celebrated New Years
- Eaten 264 meals
-Taken about 90 showers

The guy had probably the best season as a quarterback ever, I know it is debatable, however he went into eff you mode, which apparently hurt Antonio Cromartie's feelings.

The Jets do not know how to shut up, and it may cost them. They are in the position where they can say what they want, they are expected to lose. If they do, people will just think, "oh those Jets, they were so entertaining this season." If the Jets win people will say, "Man, those Jets really back up what they say. They sure can walk the walk."

The teams split their season series, but the Pats team that lost in week 2 is nothing like the team now. They got rid of Moss and their young defense is blossoming. Braylon Edwards will not abuse Darius Butler like he did in week 2 because the Pats realized Butler is not a starter anymore. Devin McCourty has come into his own along with Brandon Spikes and Jerrod Mayo.

Hey Mark... Stay Warm!

Anyway, three questions I have:

Can Mark Sanchez deal with blistering cold?
No, he cannot. I do not know what it is about this guy, but everyone wants him to succeed. His performance against the Colts was bad. He was inaccurate, indoors. Now he will be in Foxboro, it is supposed to be freezing cold. If the Jets lean on Sanchez it will be a long game. If the Jets instead lean on what they are good at - running the football - they could win this game. They only let Manning get the ball three times in the second half on Saturday night. If they can do that they will look a lot smarter than throwing the ball 30-35 times. Kill the clock, keep Brady off the field.

Can the Pats defense hold up for 60 minutes?
This defense is young, and now they are in a new territory, the playoffs. The Jets have already played a game this post-season, which could work in their favor. This Pats defense was bad, record breaking bad. They allowed 260 yards passing a game. That is awful. They made stops in the red zone, and as the season progressed they were also better on third downs. Third Down and the Red Zone will be critical in this game. The defense needs to get off the field and stop the Jets. It will keep the crowd into the game and and on a cold night it will be important to keep them screaming.

How are the Jets going to stop this offense?
This is the ultimate question. The Pat scored 45 points last time these teams met, it was ugly. Revis did not have one guy to cover like he did when Moss was on the team. You can take one guy out of the game, but then that leaves others for Brady to throw to. Welker, Woodhead, Green-Ellis, Branch, Aaron Hernandez, Gronkowski, and Tate have become a great group for Brady to throw to. If the Jets are going to stop them here is what they need to do:

Pressure Brady like the Giants did in the Super Bowl. Brady is human, and getting to him and around him will bother him a lot. It also throws off the timing of a lot of the offense.

The Jets will also have to win the turnover battle. The Pats dominated the turnover battle this season. They were +28 overall, ridiculous. Jets taking care of the ball will be huge, Sanchez cannot throw a pick.

As a Pats fan the guy I am most scared of is Brad Smith. If he is healthy he could turn this game with a special teams play or plays.

Prediction: New England 34 - Jets 21

Enjoy the weekend of games!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Wildcard Recap...

Well, with Wildcard Weekend behind us I thought I would offer some quick thoughts before looking ahead at the match-ups for the Divisional Playoff Round next weekend...

Prediction: Saints 34 Seahawks 10
Actual: Seahawks 41- Saints 36

Well, needless to say most people outside of the Seahawks locker room did not see this coming. The Saints were beaten in every facet of the game, which to me was shocking. After they jumped out to a 10-0 lead and also a 17-7 lead, I thought the Saints were home free. Then they decided to take the rest of the day off.

The ultimate cheerleader

The Saints defense allowed Matt Hasselbeck to throw 3 touchdowns in the first-half. As I watched the game I could see the Seahawks feeding off the crowd. They looked possessed and brimming with confidence. The key to beating an underdog, especially one with a great home crowd, is to step on them early - give them no hope. The Saints gave them too much hope.

Links on this game:

One of the greatest runs of all time? Or a microcosm of the whole game?


The Original 12th Man

Saints already with a "to-do list"

Prediction: New York Jets 27 Indianapolis Colts 24

Actual: Jets 17- Colts 16

This game was pretty entertaining, especially in the fourth quarter. I was rooting for the Jets in this game, mainly because I think the Pats have a better chance at handling the Jets than the Colts or Ravens.

In the second half the Jets finally decided to slow the game down and do what they do best, run the ball. There are some parallels between this Jets team and the Ravens team. They have so many offensive weapons and both have a young quarterback, however they are most successful running the ball. At times both the Ravens and Jets get away from that and try to heap more responsibility on Sanchez and Flacco. The Jets ran the ball and controlled the clock against in the second half, only giving Manning and the Colts three possessions.

You think Michelle let Rex see her feet after his victory over Manning?

Sanchez made a few good throws down the stretch, however, inside that dome he was inaccurate and antsy. Foxborough will be even less forgiving, the weather will be nasty and the defense will be better. Sanchez was 18/31 for 189 yards and 1 interception. His quarterback rating was 62.1. You can bet your bottom dollar that Bill Belichick will put the game on Sanchez's shoulders, putting 8 in the box and trying to stop the run.

Links on this game:

I hate Ladainian Tomlinson...

Patriots getting ready

Indy seems happy with season...seriously

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 21 Kansas City Chiefs 17

Actual: Raven 30- Chiefs 7

Well, the Ravens and Chiefs both proved some things on Sunday.

The Ravens proved that they are still a vaunted defense and that their offense can be balanced. Joe Flacco, a guy I still do not believe in, was superb. He leaned on Todd Heap, throwing 10 completions to him for 108 yards. He spread the ball to seven receivers going 25/34 for 265 yards and 2 touchdowns. They passed 34 times and ran it 40 times. The Ravens defense also proved it is still legit, forcing 5 turnovers.

The Chiefs proved that they are "a year away" from truly competing in the playoffs. Matt Cassel was smothered, throwing 3 interceptions and only completing 9 of 18 passes for 70 yards. The Chiefs had the balls for only 18:16 of the game. That is absurd. They ran only 37 offensive plays! To put it in perspective, the Jets had the ball for 18 minutes of the second half on Saturday night and ran 38 plays in that time.

Links on this game:

Reed gets game ball, heads home to family.

Is this what it would be like to have Ray Lewis in an office setting?

Prediction: Green Bay 31 Philadelphia 24

Actual: Green Bay 21 - Eagles 16

This game was a bit boring. The Eagles were victims of a kicker missing two field goals, one early and one late in the game.

The Eagles did everything they needed to do to win the game. They kept the Packers to below 200 yards passing while they passed for nearly 300 yards. The Eagles won the turnover battle and kept the possession time pretty close. 32 minutes to 28 minutes in favor of Green Bay. The Eagles, however, allowed the Packers to run the ball a little bit too much, giving up 132 yards. This was the one thing the Packers should not have been able to do. The Eagles were not able to overcome those rushing yards, 2 missed field goals, and a last minute pick thrown by Vick, which was a gutsy throw.

Wildcard Weekend Pick Record:

3-1 (Damn Saints!)

BCS Championship Game Prediction:

Oregon 35 - Auburn 32

GO DUCKS!!!!!!

Coming up this week...The Divisional Playoffs...

Thursday, January 06, 2011


This weekend marks one of my favorite sports weekends of the year. Wildcard weekend is awesome. Four football games, all good teams (except for the Seahawks), and the ability to watch them all. No channel flipping. Hide the controller, grabs some chicken wings, nachos and beer, relax and repeat...

What is going to happen this weekend? I am glad you asked, here are my thoughts.

New Orleans Saints AT Seattle Seahawks (+10.5)

The Seahawks finished the season 7-9, a losing record that won them their lame NFC West Division. The Seahawks are not a good football team, frankly, they suck. Pete Carrol everyone (turn up and enjoy...hilarious...)!

The Saints just placed a key offensive player on injured reserve today. Pierre Thomas will not be playing in the playoffs, a huge loss. The Saints are a team people like for the Super Bowl, they have improved slowly all year and won a big game against Atlanta two weeks ago.

How can the Saint lose? Well they could get lost on the way to the stadium. The only thing that Seattle has in its favor in this game is the crowd. The Seattle fans are some of the best in the league, however, that will not be enough to help their beloved Seahawks.

Could this guy and his buddies tilt the balance against the Saints? Probably not...

Prediction: Saints 34 Seahawks 10

New York Jets AT Indianapolis Colts (-3)

This game is perfect for the Saturday night slot. Two teams that are loved within their fan-base and hated outside of it. As my roommate Pat said when this match-up was announced, "I mean, who do you root for in that game? No one?" Yes, you root for no one.

The Colts and Jets met in last year's AFC Championship game in Indy, the Colts won after trailing 17-6 at halftime. That leaves me asking the question: have the Jets improved enough and have the Colts regressed enough for the result to change from last year? Yes and No.

I think the Jets have improved, I think you cannot underestimate a team that made a run last year in the playoffs. You cannot underestimate a team that has enough swagger for the rest of the league. However, will Mark Sanchez and his sore shoulder be ok? Will the Jets play themselves into a deficit early like they did against the Titans, Browns, and Pats? The Jets are 2-3 in their last 5 games. Did they peak during Hardknocks?

Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning, however, he does have no one to throw to. Dwight Freeney on the Indy turf is a different animal, between the crowd noise and fast ground the defense is more solid at home.

Will we see "The Manning Face" on Saturday night?

Prediction: New York Jets 27 Indianapolis Colts 24

Baltimore Ravens AT Kansas City Chiefs (+3)

The Chiefs are at home. Bonus for the Chiefs. They are 7-1 this year in Arrowhead Stadium. Matt Castle might be a better quarterback than Joe Flacco (who I don't believe in at all). Flacco on the road is a dangerous, dangerous thing- to his own team. As a Pats fan I know that the Pats lost to the Ravens on the road last year, but Flacco threw the ball 10 times. Their defense and running game got them the lead and kept it for Flacco.

The Chiefs are a polarizing team. Many think they are a threat to make a run and others think they are a "year away." Charlie Weis already has his foot out the door for the University of Florida. This could have a larger effect than we may think, we have seen coaches with other jobs totally mail it in during the playoffs.

The Ravens are a scary team too. They run the ball very well and Ray Lewis is the ultimate defensive leader, like it or not. He is the heart and soul of that entire team.

For me it comes down this: Will Flacco limit his mistakes on the road? The Ravens are better than the Chiefs in every facet of the game, but Matt Castle, Jamal Charles, and Dwayne Bowe could tilt the balance if Flacco gives those three guys a short field to score on.

Ray Lewis is going to be a man possessed this postseason.

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 21 Kansas City Chiefs 17

Green Bay Packers AT Philadelphia Eagles (-3)

This is an interesting match up for a few reasons.

1) People love the Packers for the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback, they gave the Pats a run for their money a few weeks ago with Matt Flynn playing quarterback.

2) Everyone has gotten about the Eagles because of their terrible game against Minnesota. They rested Vick last weekend. The Giants comeback seems like a very long time ago.

Can you trust Andy Reid? Can you trust Mike McCarthy? These two coaches are pretty poor game managers. One of them is bound to mess things up at the end of a half or a quarter.

In the end it will come down to turnovers. The defenses are both solid and so are the quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers for my money is the guy I trust more than Mike Vick. I know Vick is undefeated in this round of the playoffs, but I think the Packers defense with Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, and Rod Woodson can handle the Eagles offense.

I heard Brett Favre taught Rodgers everything he knew...sorry, had to throw in a Favre reference...

Prediction: Green Bay 31 Philadelphia 24

My roommate Pat and I had a discussion this week about quarterbacks and coaches that we believe in this playoffs season.

The quarterbacks we believe in:

Peyton Manning
Tom Brady
Big Ben
Aaron Rodgers
Drew Brees

Guys on the fence:

Mike Vick
Matt Ryan

Coaches we believe in:

Bill Bellichik
Mike Tomlin
Sean Payton

On the fence:

Jim Harbaugh
Andy Reid
Mike McCarthy
Rex Ryan

What does all this mean? To me it means you stick with teams that have both a quarterback and coach you can believe in.

Big Ben - Tomlin
Brees - Payton

This years playoffs I think will be awesome and unpredictable, hell the whole season has been crazy.

Round by Round Predictions:

Wildcard round
Ravens over Chiefs
Jets over Colts
Packers over Eagles
Saints over Seahawks

Divisional Round:
Pats over Ravens
Steelers over Jets
Packers over Falcons
Saints over Bears

Championship Round:
Pats over Steelers
Packers over Saints

Super Bowl:
Pats over Packers

I think the Pats have the best team and they are peaking at the perfect time. I do like the Saints, however they have too many injuries to make it through three rounds of the playoffs (although they do have a semi-bye this week with their Seattle game...).

Here's to a great playoff month...