Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Posts Tagged ‘Green Bay Packers’

Get used to Aaron Rodgers

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 7, 2011

Courtesy Tom Lynn Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

When people think of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, the first names that usually come to mind are Brady, Manning and Brees.¬† Safe to say after last night and indeed this season, Aaron Rodgers must be included in that group.¬† Last night the Packers won in large part because Rodgers outplayed his counterpart Ben Roethlisberger, and I would say he did so by a wide margin.¬† Rodgers’ Super Bowl numbers were certainly very good (24-39 304 yards and three touchdowns with no picks) but they would have been even better if not for at least four dropped balls on perfect passes (one of which had a good chance to go for an 80-yard touchdown).¬† All told Rodgers threw nine touchdown passes in four postseason games, all on the road, with only two interceptions.¬† Those mirror the touchdown to interception ratio for his career (87 career touchdown passes to 32 picks).¬† Considering Rodgers has only been a full time starter for three years and is still on the upswing, well, the Packers might produce more of the same for years to come.

If anybody should feel vindicated about Rodgers’ success it’s Packers GM Ted Thompson.¬† After Brett Favre announced the first of his many retirements following the 2007 season, Thompson made the decision to move forward with Rodgers, who had been chomping at the bit for his chance to take over for Favre.¬† When Favre said later that summer that he wanted to come back, the Packers found themselves in a very tough position.¬† Many teams have had trouble replacing their legend quarterbacks.¬† Miami has still not found a replacement for Dan Marino more than 10 years after his retirement.¬† Same goes for the Broncos and John Elway, the Bills and Jim Kelly.¬† The 49ers had Steve Young step in when Joe Montana retired, but they have yet to find even a semi-capable replacement for Young.¬† There are other teams still that arguably have never had a franchise QB in their history (the Chicago Bears come to mind as a team still looking for their first as Jay Cutler is clearly not it).¬† Given this, a lot of people, including me, thought the Packers should have allowed Favre to come back in 2008.¬† The reasoning was simple, legend quarterbacks just don’t get replaced.¬† Rodgers has proven that theory wrong, and he has done so in such emphatic fashion that it’s fair to ask whether his career won’t end up better than Favre’s.

Favre of course played three seasons after that, one with the Jets and two with the Vikings.¬† While Favre led the Vikings to an NFC Championship game appearance last year and continued to play at a high level (until this year), Rodgers showed right away why the Packers were so high on him and why they didn’t want him holding any more clipboards on the sideline.¬† All Rodgers did in his first full season as a starter was throw for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns.¬† At age 27, he already has many Super Bowl titles as Favre had in his whole career.¬† He throws the ball with stunning accuracy, and while he’s mostly a pocket passer, he has proven adept at avoiding the rush when he needs to.¬† He gives you the good qualities of Favre without the off the field drama or the hair pulling interceptions.¬† Rodgers is every bit as good as Manning, Brady or Brees.¬† Perhaps the scariest part for NFC opponents is that the Packers won the Super Bowl this year despite losing a staggering 15 players to injured reserve.¬† The running backs and receivers are young, and so is the defense.

Recent history has shown that Super Bowl champions are highly unlikely to win a playoff game the next year, let alone repeat as champions.  The last Super Bowl champ to win a playoff game the next year was New England, when the repeated as champions in 2003 and 2004.  That said, the Packers have as good a chance as any to repeat next year, and compete for a good long time.  As long as Rodgers is under center he will have the Packers in prime position  .

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Super Bowl Pick

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 4, 2011

Last Week: 2-0 Playoffs: 6-4

To be perfectly honest, I feel like it’s been so long since the conference championship games that I’m struggling to get in football mode for the Super Bowl on Sunday.¬† In many ways, it feels like traditional football is over, and we’ve now surrendered to the hype machine that makes the Super Bowl feel like it’s a corporate driven party as opposed to a football game.¬† Of course this is different if your team is playing in the game, and it’s been more than 10 years since I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Broncos compete for the Lombardi Trophy.¬† Nevertheless I will be in front of the television like everyone else Sunday (with plenty of junk food), ready to watch what should be a thoroughly entertaining game between the Packers and Steelers.¬† If the matchup is as good as it appears to be on paper, this has a chance to continue the trend of thrilling games we’ve seen the past five years or so, as opposed to the blowouts of the 80s and 90s.

While I am seeing many predicting this to be a low scoring, defensive type game, I think we might be in for a shootout.¬† When these teams met during the 2009 regular season, the teams combined for 73 points, 94 pass attempts¬†and 886 passing yards in a game won by Pittsburgh 37-36.¬† While I don’t think we’ll see that kind of offensive explosion, I think we’ll see some points put up on the scoreboard.¬† Let’s not forget this game will be played indoors, and the Packers’ offense in particular has put up terrific numbers in dome games.¬† While the Packers offense struggled at times during the NFC title game in Chicago, the environment¬†at Cowboys Stadium will be much more conducive to them passing the ball more.¬† I expect Aaron Rodgers to pass the ball 40 times or so, and I think the Packers’ receivers have the ability to spread the Steelers out and neutralize¬†the physicality of their secondary.¬† As for the Steelers, people think of them as a power running team, and while they run the ball well, they do have deceptively talented receivers, and as much as I dislike Ben Roethlisberger it’s hard to deny his ability to make plays out of the pocket and extend the play when things break down.¬† Both teams have outstanding defenses, two of the top ranked units in the league, but I think this is a matchup that will lead to a higher scoring contest.

Before the season started I picked the Packers¬†as my NFC representative in the Super Bowl largely because I thought Rodgers was due for a breakout year.¬† However, I picked the Steelers to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs partially because I thought they would struggle during Roethlisberger’s suspension at the start of the year (as it turns out they went 3-1 without him), and partially because I thought they had a look of an aging team.¬† Turns out I was wrong on both counts.¬† I also had their division rival Baltimore as my Super Bowl pick in the AFC, and as it turns out the Steelers erased a 14-point halftime deficit and rallied for a playoff win against them.¬† I bring all of this up to emphasize that early season predictions are unreliable and almost never right, but also to point out that as unpredictable as those predictions are, picking the Super Bowl winner can be even harder.¬† See, the Super Bowl is only one game, and what happened prior to this point in the season is completely irrelevant.¬†

I think both quarterbacks will have success passing the ball.¬† I think both sets of receivers have an edge against the other secondary.¬† I think Pittsburgh has a slight edge running the football only because the Packers are down to roughly their 15th running back due to many injuries.¬† Pittsburgh also has an edge in experience, having won two of the past five Super Bowls, while this is Green Bay’s first appearance since 1997.¬† Those two¬†facts alone tells me I should pick Pittsburgh to win, but something tells me that the Packers special teams could be a major factor in this game.¬† When the Packers played at New England in week 15 (without Aaron Rodgers) they opened the game with a surprise onside kick.¬† Not saying they’ll do that on Sunday, but we saw one of those from the Saints last year.¬† I think this will be a close, high scoring game, and my pick, despite the fact I think this might be against my better judgement is:

Packers 27 Steelers 24

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Conference Championship Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 21, 2011

Last week: 2-2  Playoffs: 4-4

In many ways, this playoff year is a microcosm of the regular season.¬† We’ve seen both number one seeds lose in rather emphatic fashion on their home field, while both six seeds are alive and well. I knew all along that my goal of a perfect 11-0 record in the playoffs was a longshot, but I didn’t expect it blow up in the first game with a win by the 7-9 Seahawks.¬† No one picked that game correctly, and I don’t know of anyone who actually picked the Patriots to lose at home with a straight face.¬† The fact that the Pats had beat the Jets 45-3 in the regular season only to lose to them a month later and look very bad doing it, well that has to rank up there with one of the biggest playoff upsets in history.¬† What will we see this weekend?¬† I wish I could tell I know for sure, but here is my best guess:

AFC Championship: Steelers over Jets – In many ways I feel like the Jets keep winning just to spite me.¬† All season long I’ve felt they are the most overrated team in the league.¬† I think if they played in say, St. Louis and not New York, they wouldn’t get near the coverage that they do and wouldn’t be the media’s darlings.¬† I think the Jets were lucky in at least four of their wins during the year.¬† They only won in Denver thanks to a horrible pass interference call on fourth down.¬† They needed overtime to win in Cleveland. They only won at Detroit thanks to a bizarre Ndamokong Suh missed extra point and poor clock management by the Lions.¬† They only won against Houston because of a poor use of prevent defense by the Texans.¬† You get the idea, the Jets have several wins based strictly on luck and luck alone.¬† I will admit they have a lot of talent on their team, and they carry themselves with such confidence that they feel they can beat anyone.¬† In their two playoff games, they managed to shut down offenses led by two of the best of all-time, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.¬† The Jets also managed to shut down Ben Roethlisberger in their regular season meeting, one of the Jets’ legit wins, at Heinz Field no less.

So why do I think the Jets won’t win at Heinz Field again?¬† Well, I just don’t trust them ultimately.¬† I think the Jets will play with confidence, I think the defense will be effective, and I think Santonio Holmes will have a good game against his former club.¬† I also however think the Steelers are not quite getting the credit they deserve.¬† They managed to overcome a 14-point halftime deficit against Baltimore last week.¬† No one does that.¬† I think the Steelers defense will force at least two turnovers against Mark Sanchez.¬† I also think the Jets running game has very little chance to be effective against one of the best run defenses in the league.¬† I also think the Steelers know how to win.¬† Most of the roster was around for at least one if not both of their recent Super Bowl victories.¬† I think this will be a low scoring competitive game, but I think Roethlisberger will be better than Sanchez and that will be the difference.¬† Pittsburgh 20 Jets 17.

NFC Championship Game: Packers over Bears – It should tell you all you need to know that the Packers are favored even though they’re on the road.¬† Green Bay has the look of a team that is playing so well at the right time that no one in their right mind should want to get in their way.¬† Aaron Rodgers is playing perfect football, making every perfect decision while making tough throws.¬† The Packers’ defense has been nothing short of dominant against Michael Vick and Matt Ryan.¬† The Packers also are a team that is not afraid to play on the road, and has proven an ability to win in any kind of weather.¬† As for the Bears, they have had a fine season, winning the division.¬† In their win against the Seahawks, they showed their defense is among the best in the league and they also showed they can run the ball with effectiveness.¬† Jay Cutler even lost his head and played a very good game, actually making smart decisions while not turning the ball over.¬† This shapes up for an epic conference title matchup on paper.

In actuality, I think this will be a mismatch.¬† I think the Bears were nothing short of lucky to get to beat up on the under .500 Seahawks last week, and I think their victory is more a reflection of how bad Seattle is than how good Chicago might be.¬† When that game was 7-0, Cutler threw a pass to a wide open Jordan Babineaux of Seattle, who promptly dropped the sure interception.¬† Had he picked Cutler off, he would have had a sure touchdown for there was nothing in front of him.¬† Had Babineaux taken that to the house, the game might have turned out very differently.¬† Green Bay played a complete game in destroying the top seed Falcons in the Georgia Dome.¬† I think even though this is at Solder Field, the home field edge will be negligible because the Packers are obviously used to cold weather.¬† I think Aaron Rodgers is playing so well that he will be good for at least three touchdown passes.¬† I also think the Bears offense could be in for a long day, particularly if Green Bay jumps to an early lead.¬† The bottom line is I trust Rodgers way more than I do Cutler.¬† I think the Bears are here because of their defense and running game, but as well as the Packers are playing on both sides of the ball, I don’t think it will matter much what Chicago does.¬† I really don’t think this is going to be close.¬† Green Bay 31 Chicago 17.

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Wild Card Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 8, 2010

I do plan to break down the disaster that was the Broncos’ season soon.¬† Frankly it is still hard to fathom falling from 6-0 to 8-8, a collapse that is more painful in many ways than those of 2006 and 2008.¬† Thus I need a little more time to compose my thoughts on the season and the mess that it became, but I should be¬†ready to post sometime next week.¬† In the meantime, I will never miss the NFL playoffs regardless of whether the Broncos are in it or not, and this weekend we have what I think are four very intriguing games, and I think you can make a good case for either team in all four contests.¬† This is further compounded by the fact that three of the four games are rematches¬†of games we saw in week 17, which is just crazy.¬† I know it’s happened before where teams have met in the first round of the playoffs after squaring off in the season’s final game, but I never remember more than one meeting at a time, let alone three rematches in the same weekend.¬†¬† Now on to our wild card selections.¬†

Last week: 12-4   Final regular season record: 169-85 (.665)   Hey, roughly two out of three games correct, not bad!

– New York Jets @ Cincinnati Bengals: Last week the Jets demolished the Bengals 37-0.¬† I have read countless accounts from those who believe Saturday’s game will be more of the same.¬† I am going to come right and say that I disagree vehemently with those accounts.¬† Let’s be clear about something: Cincinnati made no attempt whatsoever to win that game.¬† Yes, they did play Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco¬†during the first half, but the game plan was obviously very vanilla because the Bengals knew they would be playing the Jets again in a much more meaningful contest the next week and didn’t want to reveal¬†anything that they were planning to do offensively.¬† The Jets knew they had to win in order to make the playoffs, so of course they came out guns blazing and went all out to win, even knowing they would see the Bengals again in the playoffs.¬† The Jets defense was outstanding, holding Cincinnati to an astounding seven yards of total offense in the first half, but again we can’t read anything into that because we know the Bengals weren’t trying.¬†

We also know that the Jets have not played against a team actually trying to win for two weeks now, because they got the benefit of the Colts waving the white flag in the third quarter the week before.¬† The week before the Colts game, the Jets looked listless in a 10-7 home loss to Atlanta, a team that will be watching the playoffs on television this year.¬† The two weeks prior to that the Jets beat Buffalo and Tampa Bay, two of the league’s dreads.¬† So really it has been awhile since the Jets have been presented¬†with quality competition.¬† The Bengals meanwhile have dealt with the tragic death of receiver Chris Henry, but nearly stunned red hot¬†San Diego on the road toward the end of the season.¬† The Jets are¬† clearly coming into the game with more momentum, and I am on record saying that does count for a lot, and the Bengals are coming in with none being that they tanked last week’s game, so from that standpoint the Jets do have an advantage there.¬† However I do think in this case the Bengals didn’t show all their cards and they will have something ready for the Saturday that the Jets may not be ready for.

Cincinnati has not won a playoff game since 1990, so the Bengals fans have been waiting¬†for something to celebrate for a long time.¬† Paul Brown Stadium will be rocking, and that should give the home team a tremendous lift and boost of confidence.¬† This should not be¬†underestimated as an important X fact0r¬†in this game.¬† I know home field advantage doesn’t mean as much as it used to, but in this case I have a feeling the Bengals will benefit from the support of their crowd that is dying to enjoy playoff success.¬† As for the matchup, we have a rookie quarterback on the road in Mark Sanchez, and while the Jets have won five of six heading into the postseason, Sanchez’ numbers have not been that terrific (he only threw for 63 yards last week), while the Bengals have Carson Palmer, who¬†is eager for a playoff performance that will make everyone forget his only other playoff appearance, in which¬†he got hurt on the first series and the Bengals lost to Pittsburgh in 2005.¬† I also think the Bengals have considerably more talent at receiver, and while Mr. Ochocino¬†could very well have a tough time with Derrelle¬†Revis¬†(the best corner in the NFL), I think Palmer will have no qualms about spreading the ball around to other targets.¬† Then, I have a feeling we’ll see a huge play from Ochocinco¬†late in the game.¬† I know he has a tough matchup with Revis, but I don’t see any way Chad doesn’t show up in front of the home crowd on football’s biggest stage.¬† I think both teams are capable of running the ball well with Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, but I give the Bengals an overall edge offensively because of the passing game.¬†

The bottom line¬†on this game is frankly it wouldn’t be a shock if it went either way.¬† The Jets have the momentum, while the Bengals have the home field and the advantage of not revealing their game plan last week.¬† I think from a defensive standpoint, the Bengals will be much better prepared than last week having seen what the Jets will throw at them, and in particular Cincinnati will have a chance¬†to come up with ways to contain Brad Smith.¬† Benson didn’t play last week, so he should be¬†fresh and ready to go, allowing the Bengals a chance to control the clock with the running game.¬† I think both teams will put some points on the board, but I just think the Jets are way too cocky and overconfident.¬† (When your coach says you should be the Super Bowl favorite and you’re the five seed, that’s being way too overconfident).¬† I think the Jets are about to get punched in the mouth being that they are playing a real team trying to win for the first time in two weeks.¬† I also think the Bengals will be motivated to show up and will win a close one.¬† Cincinnati 27 NY Jets 24.¬†

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys: Last week the Cowboys shut the Eagles out 24-0 in a game where both teams were playing hard and trying to win, because the winner got the NFC East title and the right to have this game at home.¬† In the Eagles case, they blew a shot at a first round bye, so they are limping in, while the Cowboys are red¬†hot, having won three in a row, including shutouts in each of their past two games.¬† Dallas in fact swept the regular season series against the Eagles, so a lot of¬†cards are falling in Dallas’ direction heading into this one.¬† The Eagles have also been flashy at times this season but every once in awhile¬†have been plagued¬†by inconsistency.¬† Believe it or not the Cowboys have not won a playoff game since 1996, so patience could be wearing very thin in Big D if the Cowboys don’t win this one, leading to speculation that Wade Phillips might not be¬†retained if they lose.¬† On the flip side the Eagles have experienced big time playoff success in the early rounds¬†under Andy Reid, so winning a road game in the first round is old hat for them.

There is an adage that it tough to beat a team three times during the regular season, so that might be the biggest thing working against the Cowboys here.¬† I would be really surprised if we saw a repeat of what transpired in week 17 simply because the Eagles coaches are sure to make corrections and adjustments, and while the Cowboys do have the momentum coming in, it seems in this case that Dallas might be the team with more pressure on themselves here.¬† Before the week 17 game I expected offensive fireworks on both sides and that a fourth quarter turnover could well decide the game.¬† In spite of the blowout last week, I’m still expecting Saturday night’s game to be¬†high scoring on both sides and a very entertaining affair.¬† We have good quarterback play on both sides with McNabb and Romo (who is playing the best football of his career), good receivers on both sides led by DeSean¬†Jackson and Miles Austin, and a good running game from teams thanks to Marion Barber and the duo of Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy.¬†

I think the difference in this game will be which defense is more up to the task of slowing down the other team’s offense.¬† That being the case I give the edge to the Cowboys because in the past they have succeeded¬†in slowing down San Diego (holding them to 20 points, even though the didn’t win the game), the Saints and the Eagles.¬† The play of the front seven, led by DaMarcus¬†Ware, has been particularly outstanding.¬† Philadelphia surrendered 24 points to a Denver team that struggled offensively much of the season, so it seems like they are a little more vulnerable there¬†heading in.¬† I think the Eagles will show up better than last week, and they will make some big plays and put some points on the board, but in the end I think the Cowboys will be able to put up a few more points, and they will be lifted by a raucous crowd in the first playoff game at their new stadium.¬† Dallas 30 Philadelphia 24.¬†

Baltimore Ravens¬†@ New England Patriots: This is the only game of the weekend that is not a rematch of a week 17 contest, but they did square off in week four, with New England winning 27-21 in Foxboro.¬† This was a terrific game in which both teams had over 300 yards of total offense, and it ended with the Ravens driving in the final¬†seconds and Joe Flacco¬†missing a wide open Mark Clayton on fourth down.¬† The Patriots come into this game having suffered a devastating injury with the loss of Wes Welker last week.¬† The loss of Welker is huge for the Patriots because he is the league’s best slot receiver and creates lots of matchup problems for opposing defenses.¬† The encouraging thing for New England is that replacement Julian Edleman¬†had over 100 yards receiving against Houston after Welker went down, so in typical fashion the Patriots may not skip much of a beat if Edleman¬†continues to play well.¬† Reports also indicate¬†that Tom Brady is playing through injured ribs, but Brady has played through pain before and played very well, so that injury is not near as much of a factor.¬† As for the Ravens, they still have an outstanding defense, although there have been games this year in which they have surrendered points against high scoring offenses (especially Minnesota and Green Bay).¬† Baltimore beat up on weak opponents in December (Detroit, Chicago and Oakland) so it will be interesting to see how they play against a step up in competition on Sunday.

The key for the Ravens if they want a chance to win this game is they will need to run the ball to be¬†effective, and I think they will be able to do that.¬† Ray Rice had 103 yards on just 11 carries in the week four meeting, so it is pretty obvious that Rice will be a big part of the Ravens’ game plan.¬† Baltimore also has to be¬†encouraged by improved play of late from Willis McGahee¬†over the past few weeks, so if they can get a balanced running game going with both backs, that could prove to be¬†a devastating combo for opponents in the playoffs.¬† If the running game is working, it will take a lot of pressure off Joe Flacco¬†and not put him in positions where he needs to be flashy and big up big numbers for the Ravens to win.¬† If the running game is stalled, the pressure may too much for Flacco¬†to overcome.¬† Defensively, the Ravens are still very good, and as long as they still have Ray Lewis in the middle, I’m not going to say for sure that any team is guaranteed to light them up in the playoffs.¬†

New England is a good position for the simple reason that they have Brady, who has had more playoff success than anyone else in the NFL.  Even if he is playing hurt, Brady is still someone I would not want to see on the other sideline if I was a defensive coordinator.  Even without Welker, he still has plenty of weapons to throw to, including Randy Moss.  Moss took some heat last month for some bad games, but I think he will show up in the playoffs, especially since he knows the Patriots really need him without Welker.  The Patriots have defined playoff success for much of the decade, and during the playoffs have been virtually unbeatable at home.  For this reason alone it makes it very difficult to pick against Belichick and company, injuries or no injuries.  New England may have had their woes on the road this season, but they still proved to be very tough at Gillette Stadium, so it is clear that it is one of the more formidable home field advantages in the NFL.

I think this will be a game very similar to what transpired in week four, a back and forth affair with the lead changing hands several times.¬† I think the Ravens will¬†have success on the ground and the Patriots will be able to move the ball through the air.¬† Any number of little things could end up deciding this game: a dropped ball, perhaps a fumble, maybe a decision on whether or not to go for it on 4th and 1.¬† This is a wild card¬†game¬†that has the feel of a later round matchup.¬† The stat that really surprised me is that the Ravens have never beaten New England, ever.¬† Baltimore is 0-5 against the Patriots.¬† I know the Patriots at home in the playoffs is about as safe a bet as there has been in the NFL playoffs, but something I can’t put a finger on doesn’t seem right about this year’s group.¬† I pick Baltimore in the upset not because of the Welker injury, but because I think the Ravens are a sleeping giant capable of bucking the trend of playoff road teams in Foxboro.¬† The Ravens won two playoff road games last year, so there is no reason they can’t do it again.¬† Baltimore 24 New England 20.¬†

Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals: Another rematch of a blowout from week 17, with the Packers rolling 33-7.¬† The game last week was meaningless for both teams, but the Packers elected to play hard and try to win, while the Cardinals tanked the game, electing to rest their starters and hold back their game plan for the playoff rematch.¬† The game ended up being costly for Arizona in more ways than one, as the Cardinals lost receiver Anquan¬†Boldin¬†and star corner Dominque¬†Rodgers-Cromartie¬†with injuries.¬† Neither has been declared¬†out for the playoff rematch on Sunday, but it’s safe to say that neither will be at 100 percent if they do play.¬† It will be interesting to see how Sunday’s game unfolds, because Green Bay looked like a very dangerous team last week, and the Packers have indeed been playing well throughout December, with their only loss coming on the last play in Pittsburgh.¬† The Cardinals have really been up and down all year, so for them it could depend on which team ends up showing up.¬† It’s hard to get a read on them last week considering Matt Leinart was in most of the game at quarterback.¬† In a way, the Cardinals are limping into the playoffs exactly the same way as last year, and we know they caught fire, so it’s possible that could happen again.

This has the potential to be a high scoring game considering the quick strike offensive ability of both teams.  As long as Kurt Warner is throwing to Larry Fitzgerald (and the Cardinals hope Boldin), the Cardinals have the opportunity for the big play at any time.  Aaron Rodgers has also had a tremendous season, and has done the unthinkable, which is make Packers fans forget about Brett Favre.  Rodgers has managed to buck the trend of replacing a legend quarterback, and for him to have experienced the success he has so far under those circumstances is nothing short of incredible.  While Greg Jennings and Donald Driver may not have the pizzazz of Fitzgerald and Boldin, they have been every bit as productive.  I think Green Bay does have a pretty big edge in terms of being able to run the football for the Cardinals have really struggled with Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells, although Wells started to come on in the second half of the season.  Defensively, neither team jumps off the page, but whichever one can win the turnover battle will go a long way toward deciding this contest.

I think like the other week 17 rematches, we should definitely see a much more competitve game than we did last week.¬† I think the Cardinals have an advantage in terms of not having tipped their hand as far as strategy, but the Packers clearly have more momentum heading into the game and are definitely healthier.¬† I think Aaron Rodgers still feels like he has a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, and while the Cardinals have much of the same group that made their Super Bowl run last season, they are going to need a dramatic kick in the rear to get jump started again this playoff year.¬† Also, it’s not the Cardinals have much of a home field advantage.¬† Phoenix is a city made up of people from other locations, especially in the winter, and legions of opposing fans are very common at University of Phoenix Stadium.¬† Factor in that the Cards have actually been a much better road team this year than at home, and that the Packers could well be the best non division winner still in the running in either conference, and I’ll take the Packers to win on the road in what feels like the biggest slam dunk of the weekend (My apologies to Mike McCarthy in advance for the jinx).¬†¬† Green Bay 34 Arizona 21.

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NFC North Preview

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 29, 2009

Teams listed in projected order of finish.  I will say that I think this division is very tough to project as the top three teams could end up all being very close.

1. Minnesota Vikings РI tipped my hand in an earlier post before the season preview that I think the Vikings will be scary good in 2009.  Last year they did manage to win this division, thanks largely to winning five of their final six regular season games, only to get surprised at home by the Eagles in the first round of the playoffs.  There is no question that Minnesota has talent all over the board, and now they might have enough to take the next step and really give people in the Twin Cities something to celebrate.  There is also little doubt the Vikings offseason was very eventful, and according to many very controversial (even perhaps causing some tension in the locker room?), but I think in the end it will prove to make all the difference for the Vikings.

The reason for the controversy surrounding the Vikings is Brett Favre. ¬†I am on record as saying I think he can still play and will end up being a good fit in Minnesota. ¬†I do think his will he or won’t he retire saga did get very old very fast, especially because it seems the whole thing was planned all along for him to miss the arduous training camp. ¬†The fact is that prima donna or not, Favre is still good enough to make a difference for the Vikings. ¬†I don’t think anyone can make a reasonable argument that he isn’t an improvement over Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. ¬†Jackson’s performance last season was shaky enough that coach Brad Childress felt compelled to trade for Rosenfels back in Februrary. ¬†Even at his age Favre is an improvement over both, and he knows the offense. ¬†Favre will also have the benefit of throwing to veteran wide receiver Bernard Berrian, who will be joined by first round draft pick Percy Harvin of Florida. ¬†Harvin has blazing speed and should be a terrific fit on the Metrodome surface. ¬†Tight end Visanthe Shaincoe also gives Favre a reliable target over the middle, and Bobby Wade is a good option in the slot. ¬†The biggest strength for the Vikings though is the running game, anchored by the NFL’s top running back, Adrian Peterson. ¬†The scary thing for opponents is that Peterson worked very hard in the offseason to improve his pass blocking and his receiving ability. ¬†As it is, Peterson won the league’s rushing title last season with 1,760 yards, and that was without a consistent passing game. ¬†If Favre is even just above average, teams will have to respect the passing attack with those receivers, and that could mean even better numbers for Peterson. ¬†Chester Taylor also gives Minnesota a good option for a few carries per game as well as a third down back so they don’t have to wear down Peterson. ¬†The offensive did lose center Matt Birk in free agency, but they still have an excellent left side of the line in tackle Bryant McKinnie and perennial Pro Bowler Steve Hutchinson at guard. ¬†They also drafted Oklahoma’s Phil Loadholt in the second round for depth.

There is also no question the Vikings defensive line is an easy top three unit and probably the league’s best. ¬†Defensive end Jared Allen made a huge splash last year as Minnesota’s big free agent signee with 14.5 sacks, while tackles Kevin and Pat Williams both made the Pro Bowl as well. ¬†The Williams’ could be facing a four game suspension by the league if the courts ultimately rule in the league’s favor that the duo used a banned diuretic last season. ¬†Right now their fate is unknown, but the Vikings are hopeful that they’ll be able to play a full season. ¬†It is worth noting that the Vikings’s first four games are very manageable so a suspension may not cripple the team in any case. ¬†The Vikings’ front seven is also boosted by linebacker E.J. Henderson, who is an excellent tackler. ¬†For years teams have been unable to run against the Vikings, plus they are able to get great pressure on the quarterback. ¬†I see no reason that won’t continue this year. ¬†The secondary did lose safety Darren Sharper to New Orleans, but the coaches also felt his talent was slipping after he intercepted just one pass last year. ¬†The Vikings are confident that Tyrell Johnson can take his place, and the corners are solid, anchored by Antoine Winfield.

The kicking game is in great hands with veteran Ryan Longwell.  Punter Chrs Kluwe took a lot of criticism last year (mainly for not kicking away from Reggie Bush in a Monday night game last year), but he does have a strong leg and the coaches have confidence in him.  Percy Harvin is expected to handle the return duties, and he should be able to make an impact there.

I said before I started this preview that I think the Vikings are headed for the Super Bowl. ¬†They had most of the pieces in place already, and I think Favre will put them over the top. ¬†A decent passing game coupled with the league’s top running game and a very stingy defensive front seven is a tough combination to beat. ¬†In any case they are clearly the class of this division.

2. Green Bay Packers – The Packers as expected had a rough first season post-Favre. ¬†The irony is it wasn’t really Aaron Rodgers’ fault. ¬†Rodgers did a much better job than expected of handling the pressure of replacing the Packer legend, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. ¬†What doomed the Packers was the defensive side of the ball. ¬†In a six day span in late November, Green Bay surrendered a staggering 86 points in losses to New Orleans and Carolina. ¬†The Packers did finish on a positive note, winning their final game against 0-16 Detroit, but they had lost six straight prior to that, finishing 6-10 overall. ¬†The Packers should be much improved this year, and they are confident that lying in the weeds quietly is a better approach than the big splashes made by their division rivals.

We touched on Rodgers’ season a year ago, and his first full season as a starter certainly exceeded expectations. ¬†Now he needs to put it together when the game is on the line. ¬†The Packers were 0-7 last year in games where the offense got the ball with less than five minutes to go in the game with a chance to tie or win. ¬†Rodgers took that stat personally, and he vows to be better in 2009. ¬†He will have plenty of help from an offense that returns largely intact from a year ago. ¬†Running back Ryan Grant rushed for over 1,200 yards, but his yards per carry dipped from 5.1 in 2007 to 3.9 last year. ¬†To be fair, he played through a hamstring injury last year and is now healthy, so the Packers feel he should be back to his old self. ¬†They also hope to find a complementary back, such as Brandon Jackson, who can spell Grant on occasion and keep him fresh. ¬†The receivers are also strong, with Greg Jennings and Donald Driver both very capable of stretching the field. ¬†The duo combined to catch over 150 balls last year, and if Rodgers improves in his second season as a stater, that number should go up. ¬†Tight end Donald Lee is also an excellent red zone presence as well as a blocker in the running game. ¬†The offensive line is a bunch of unknowns, but it returns intact save for the addition of center Duke Preston from Buffalo and the loss of tackle Mark Tauscher to free agency. ¬†Since the unit is virtually the same from a year ago, the Packers hope the continuity will breed improvement.

Defensively, the Packers got quite possibly the steal of the draft in Boston College nose tackle B.J. Raji at number nine overall. ¬†Raji was clearly the best defensive player available in most scouts’ minds, and his presence should be huge for the Packers in the middle of their defense, especially since they will play a 3-4 this season. ¬†The linebacking core is also starting to mature with former Ohio State standout A.J. Hawk and steady veteran Nick Barnett. ¬†The secondary is anchored by cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris, both of whom made the Pro Bowl last year despite the struggles of the defense as a whole. ¬†Both are aging, but are still among the best in the league. ¬†Their play will offset that of the young safeties, Atari Bigby and Nick Collins. ¬†I do expect the defense to be better than last year mainly because of the presence of Raji, and I think that could be enough to make the Packers a contender for a wild card slot.

The Packers are set at kicker for a long time with Mason Crosby, who has a very long leg (he kicked a 60-yard field goal in college at Colorado).  Punter is another story however, as Derrick Frost was so horrible he got the boot after 12 games last year.  Jeremy Kapinos of Penn State will take that over this year.  Will Blackmon returned two punts for scores last season, so the Packers do appear to be in good shape there.

I think the Packers could be in play for a wild card. ¬†I like Rodgers and the offense to be better, and I also think the defense will be tougher with the presence of Raji. ¬†The Packers didn’t make many moves in the offseason, but it’s possible their stability could make the difference as opposed to the big shakeups of their prime rivals.

3. Chicago Bears – The Bears have a very different look from the team that made the Super Bowl in 2006. ¬†For years they have been a run and play defense kind of team, winning lots of low scoring games. ¬†Last year they did finish 9-7, but they let a playoff spot slip away with a bad loss at Houston in the final game of the season. ¬†The Bears still have their running game and defense to rely on, but now they have a quarterback to go with it, as they pulled off the offseason’s biggest trade by acquiring Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler from the Broncos. ¬†All of Chicago is ga-ga over Cutler, who is only 25, has a rocket arm, and may be Chicago’s best quarterback in 30 years. ¬†The Bears feel Cutler is the missing piece for a run at the Super Bowl. ¬†While they have good reason to be excited, I don’t see a Super Bowl in Chicago’s future just yet.

Cutler no doubt has posted good numbers in Denver. ¬†Last year he threw for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, but he also threw his share of interceptions, many of them forced into double coverage, and is just 17-20 as a starter. ¬†Cutler also played very poorly in Denver’s final three games last year, resulting in a Broncos’ collapse out of the playoffs. ¬†The Bears do have reason to be very excited about Cutler, for they have gone through a whopping 37 quarterbacks over their last 171 games, a span of nearly 11 seasons. ¬†Given that you can’t blame Chicago for paying a steep price to land a quarterback. ¬†Cutler does have a lot of years ahead of him and is very talented. ¬†Chicago does need to hope that he cleans up his attitude (the Broncos felt many of his interceptions came when he got impatient and frustrated), and Cutler does need to show that he has what it takes to win in the clutch. ¬†The good news for the Bears is they may not need to rely much on their passing game, because Matt Forte is quickly emerging as one of the league’s top running backs. ¬†Forte rushed for over 1,200 yards last year, and he has shown an ability to run inside and outside. ¬†The Bears are counting on the mere presence of Cutler to open up the running game significantly. ¬†They also hope that Cutler’s presence will improve the passing enough to make their offense a threat not seen in Chicago in a long time. ¬†Cutler will have to work magic with a very suspect group of receivers, the best of which is probably Devin Hester, who is still adjusting after transitioning from cornerback. ¬†The Bears do have a good tight end in Greg Olsen, but the rest of the group consists of rookie Juaquin Iglesias of Oklahoma, and a pair of relative no-names in Rashed Davis and Earl Bennett. ¬†The offensive line also took hits with losses of John Tait (retirement) and John St. Clair (to Cleveland). ¬†They did sign veteran Orlando Pace to protect Cutler’s blind side, and Olin Kruetz remains an excellent, albeit aging, center.

Defense has long been a Bears’ staple, and this year shouldn’t be much different. ¬†The defensive line has good talent in Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye and Tommie Harris. ¬†The linebackers are outstanding, led by Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. ¬†Despite all this talent in the front seven, the defense wasn’t always its usual self last year, surrendering 41 and 37 points respectively vs. division rivals Minnesota and Green Bay. ¬†One reason is that their secondary can be considered average at best. ¬†Charles Tillman can’t really be considered a shutdown corner, and Nathan Vasher is a liability against the run, and has also battled injuries the last two seasons. ¬†The Bears did add safety Josh Bullocks from New Orleans. ¬†If the secondary is average again, the Bears will have to rely very heavily on their front seven.

The Bears are in great shape at kicker with Robbie Gould, who has hit on 85 percent of field goals in his career despite kicking in windy Soldier Field, as well as punter Brad Maynard, who placed 40 punts inside the 20-yard line last season. ¬†Devin Hester’s reputation as a returner is well documented, but the Bears might want to be careful not to let him get too distracted by trying to play wide receiver that he loses steam as a returner. ¬†Daniel Manning as well as the rookie Iglesias could be capable of stepping in that role as well.

The Bears could well be a playoff team despite playing in a brutal division.  I know many people in Chicago think Cutler is their knight in shining armor, but I think he has some work to do before he becomes an elite player.  The question marks at receiver, offensive line and secondary could prove to be their undoing.  Despite that, it should be a great battle with the Packers and Vikings in this division.

4. Detroit Lions – Last season was obviously one to forget for the Lions, who became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16. ¬†Most of their games weren’t even close, and perhaps the only positive thing for Lions fans was that the team sent general manager Matt Millen packing after years of ineptitude. ¬†Not surprisingly, the head coach also lost his job, and the team used its first overall draft choice on a new quarterback. ¬†Oh, and the logo is new too, because we all know that makes all the difference. ¬†Of course it will take much more than a new logo to generate success in Detroit, but at least they can’t be any worse this year right?

Clearly there will be a lot of pressure on Matthew Stafford, the talented signal caller from Georgia who was the Lions’ choice at number one overall in the draft. ¬†The Lions are hoping for some good karma here. ¬†See, Stafford went to the same high school as the only legend quarterback in Lions’ history, as well as the last one to lead them to a championship. ¬†That would be Bobby Layne, and the year of that championship was 1957. ¬†The Lions hope that Stafford will prove to be a good selection, and he definitely has the tools to be a good player. ¬†He will have competition this year though from Daunte Culpepper, who has bounced around to several teams but lost 30 pounds in the offseason and has actually looked good in the preseason. ¬†Either way, the Lions hope the position will be improved over last year, when Dan Orlovsky memorably symbolized the futility by running out of the back of the end zone untouched for a safety against the Vikings. ¬†Whoever is at the controls will have the luxury of throwing to one of the league’s top receivers in Calvin Johnson. ¬†Despite the awful quarterback play last year, Johnson ranked fifth in the NFL in yards and first in touchdowns. ¬†With improvement under center, Johnson might be able to post scary numbers (Be sure to tab him in fantasy this year if you can). He will be joined by Bryant Johnson, who comes over from San Francisco and Ronald Curry, signed from Oakland. ¬†Not necessarily household names, but they are decent enough to be able to take some pressure off Johnson. ¬†Second round draft pick Brandon Pettigrew of Oklahoma State also adds an intriguing option. ¬†The Lions top running back is Kevin Smith, who nearly hit 1,000 yards last year, and he will be backed up by Maurice Morris, who is looking for a fresh start after leaving Seattle. ¬†The offensive line wasn’t really addressed save for the addition of no name Daniel Loper from Tennessee. ¬†Odds are the line will be a mess, and that means the offense overall will unfortunately still be a work in progress for Detroit.

New coach Jim Schwartz is frantically trying to get his defensive linemen to bulk up. Last year no one on the line weighed over 300 pounds, which put them at a disadvantage against opposing offensive lines virtually every week. ¬†One of the Detroit’s free agent signings was tackle Grady Jackson from Atlanta, who weighs roughly 345 pounds. ¬†They also drafted Sammie Hill, a 329-pound tackle out of little known Stillman University. ¬†The linebackers should be significantly improved with the additions of Larry Foote, a key player on Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl winning teams in ’05 and ’08, as well as Julian Peterson, who comes over from the Seahawks. ¬†The secondary was also addressed in the offseason, a good call considering they unit picked off just one pass last year. ¬†Phillip Buchanon comes over from Tampa Bay, and the Lions also tabbed Anthony Henry from Dallas. ¬†Couple those additions with holdover Keith Smith, who actually has good cover ability, and I’ll go out on a limb and say the Lions’ secondary will pick off more than one pass this year.

Detroit’s longest tenured player is kicker Jason Hanson. ¬†He was vocal in his displeasure last season, and he is back for another year in the Motor City. ¬†Punter Nick Harris has bounced around to multiple teams, but was very consistent last year (Hey, he had plenty of practice!). ¬†Rookie Derrick Williams from Penn State is a candidate for return duty, as is Avion Cason, who was solid but not spectacular in the role last season.

I will make a bold prediction and say the Lions will not stumble to 0-16 two years in a row.  It may not be in the first few weeks, but there are a few winnable games on their schedule.  The defense is completely rebuilt, and the offense has some talent.  It will take a few years, but believe it or not there is a new direction here.

Coming next: the AFC South

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Week Two Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 12, 2008

This NFL season is certainly shaping up to be very intriguing on a number of fronts. ¬†Could we possibly have a playoffs that doesn’t include New England OR Indianapolis? ¬†It could be possible if Matt Cassel proves to be no Tom Brady and the Colts take too long to get it together after their disastrous week one effort. ¬†Are the Jets the new favorite in the AFC East, or is Buffalo for real? ¬†Are the Steelers ever going to get their due for being consistently good? ¬†Is the Bears defense back to the level of two years ago? ¬†Who is going to win the awful NFC West? ¬†It’s only one week into the season, and a number of my season picks are threatening to blow up in my face already. ¬†I keep telling myself it’s still early, but it is possible that my AFC Super Bowl pick may not be all its cracked up to be. I still think Jacksonville’s defense will not allow them to be a disappointment. ¬†Was I nuts to pick the 49ers to win the NFC West? ¬†I still maintain they’ll be a surprise by the end of the year. ¬†Was I drinking the Kool-Aid on the Minnesota hype? ¬†I still think they have a team that is scary talented. ¬†Am I underestimating Aaron Rodgers? I have to admit he looked very good in week one. ¬†We’ll see if he can maintain it over the long haul. ¬†Are the Chargers in trouble without Shawne Merriman? ¬†Or is that wishful thinking on my part?. ¬†It did seem like someone forgot to tell them the season started for three quarters against Carolina. ¬†Speaking of the Panthers, are they once again a contender in the NFC? That offense could really come alive when Steve Smith returns from suspension in week three. ¬†How praytell did the Falcons win a game, let alone dominate? I reserve judgement until I see them against someone other than Detroit. ¬†

At least I got a few things right in week one. ¬†The Cowboys dominated on the road. ¬†The Browns looked lost and confused. ¬†The Giants looked dominant like you would expect a defending champ to be. ¬†The Bengals REALLY stink, or did you see Joe Flacco score on a 38-yard touchdown run while jogging through the Bengals defense? The Seahawks looked horrible on the road. ¬†Brett Favre can still play a little. ¬†Donovan McNabb looks poised for a big season. ¬†The Raiders are a mess akin to Days of Our Lives as usual. ¬†The Broncos offense could be scary good. ¬†Or maybe that’s wishful thinking. ¬†Perhaps that was more the Raiders are awful. ¬†

One thing I know, this could be a season unlike any other. ¬†Or maybe it will be just like any other. ¬†For 11 consecutive seasons, there have been at least five teams in the playoffs who did not qualify the previous year. ¬†With the exception of the 2006 Seahawks, the Super Bowl loser has missed the playoffs every year since 2000. ¬†Even at that the Seahawks only made it past the first round the next year thanks to Tony Romo’s butterfingers. ¬†Here are the numbers:

2000 New York Giants – Lost Super Bowl XXXV
2001 New York Giants – 7-9 record, no playoffs

2001 St. Louis Rams – Lost Super Bowl XXXVI
2002 St. Louis Rams – 7-9 record, no playoffs

2002 Oakland Raiders – Lost Super Bowl XXXVII
2003 Oakland Raiders – 4-12 record, no playoffs

2003 Carolina Panthers – Lost Super Bowl XXXVIII
2004 Carolina Panthers – 7-9 record, no playoffs

2004 Philadelphia Eagles – Lost Super Bowl XXXIX
2005 Philadelphia Eagles – 6-10 record, no playoffs

2005 Seattle Seahawks – Lost Super Bowl XL
2006 Seattle Seahawks – 9-7 record (made playoffs, 2nd round exit)

2006 Chicago Bears – Lost Super Bowl XLI
2007 Chicago Bears – 7-9 record, no playoffs

2007 New England Patriots – Lost Super Bowl XLII
2008 New England Patriots – ??????

This does not bode well for the Patriots in light of Tom Brady’s injury. ¬†I know, I picked the Patriots to return to the AFC title game, but I also said they were done if Brady went down. ¬†It will be interesting to see if the Patriots continue the trend of Super Bowl losers struggling the next year. ¬†On one hand, it is hard a fathom a team threatening history one year and missing the playoffs the next year. ¬†On the other hand, the Patriots missing the playoffs this year would be right in line with what the NFL is about much of the time. I still shudder when I think of the Broncos going 6-10 in 1999 after winning back to back Super Bowls and being favored to compete for a third. ¬†After all there is the old cliche “On any given Sunday……” ¬† Now on to the picks.

Last Week: 9-7

– Jaguars over Bills: I have to admit I really struggled with this one. ¬†The Bills dominated Seattle last week, and the Jaguars look like they could be in trouble. ¬†Still, I can’t picture the Jaguars 0-2, especially with Jack Del Rio having a week to drill discipline into his team before the home opener.

– Cardinals over Dolphins: Surprise stat of the week: the Cardinals actually went 6-2 at University of Phoenix Stadium last season. ¬†The Cardinals at 2-0 would rank among the season’s early surprises, but it would be an even bigger surprise if Chad Pennington had a big day against what is becoming one of the league’s most underrated secondaries.

– Jets over Patriots: Brett Favre’s home debut in New York puts an extra charge into this one, plus the Jets would just love to stick it to the Patriots in the wake of Spygate last year. ¬†I have a feeling Matt Cassel will find the road to be much more daunting than Gillette Stadium. ¬†Oh, and he doesn’t have the luxury of facing the Chiefs.

– Titans over Bengals: No Vince Young for Tennessee, but it won’t matter. ¬†There are high school teams that tackle better than Cincinnati’s defense. ¬†The Bengals offense looked a little confused too last week. ¬†Carson Palmer under 100 yards passing? ¬†The Marvin Lewis watch begins in Cincinnati. ¬†I say 75 percent he’s axed before the year is over.

РSteelers over Browns: Pittsburgh will run away with the AFC North.  The Browns proved last week that they are a ways from the elite against Dallas.  This one will be competitive due to the rivalry factor, plus an emotional under the lights home crowd in Cleveland, but the Steelers are the class of the division and they will prove it.

РVikings over Colts: Chalk this one up as the most intriguing game of the week for me.  Is this an elimination game of sorts already?  The Colts cannot be confident heading into the loud Metrodome after getting shelled at home in their opener.  Minnesota needs Tarvaris Jackson to show that potential we keep hearing about, but the Vikings defense will follow the Bears blueprint and harass Peyton Manning.  Peyton, meet Jared Allen.  Good luck.  The Colts at 0-2? It seems beyond crazy, but it might just happen.

– Broncos over Chargers: Denver’s confidence is sky high after destroying the Raiders on the road, plus Brandon Marshall is back. ¬†If D’Angelo Hall couldn’t cover Eddie Royal one on one, how are the San Diego corners going to handle him and Marshall? ¬†The Chargers pass rush will really miss Merriman, plus Antonio Gates is hobbled. ¬†The Broncos might allow a high rushing day for LT, but their offense will be enough to win a shootout and enjoy a large lead in the AFC West. ¬†San Diego at 0-2? Seems really crazy, but it just might happen.

РChiefs over Raiders: Dud game of the week.  The rivalry is nasty enough that the game could actually be fun to watch, but these are two of the worst teams in the league.  The Chiefs are reportedly having trouble selling out Arrowhead for this game, which tells all you need to know about the state of football these days in Kansas City.  Still, the Raiders are a mess in every way, and Larry Johnson will run for enough to get KC a rare W.  

– Giants over Rams: The G-men’s biggest challenge will be overcoming a 10-day layoff after opening the season with their Thursday night win over Washington. ¬†St. Louis was maybe the worst team in week one, so there is nowhere to go but up. ¬†This seems like it could be a trap game for New York if the Rams’ offense wakes up (Torry Holt 1 catch for 9 yards last week – are you kidding me?). ¬†Still, the Giants should be able to rely on their championship experience and pull out a win.

– Saints over Redskins: New Orleans will really miss Marques Colston, who is out 4-6 weeks. ¬†Still, Drew Brees has enough targets for the team to score offensively. ¬†The Redskins looked like they didn’t know which end was up offensively last week. ¬†If that continues, New Orleans will win a low scoring affair.

– Bears over Panthers: This should be a great game. ¬†Both teams pulled shockers in week one, so it’s hard to say which of these teams is better right now. ¬†The Panthers are without Steve Smith for another week, so that gives an edge to the Bears defense. ¬†Chicago won on the road during their Super Bowl run two years ago, and the hunch is they’ll find a way to pull out this one. ¬†This one really could go either way though.

– Packers over Lions: Aaron Rodgers played well last week in the spotlight, and the Packers look like they have a statement to make. ¬†Detroit? The Lions should be embarrassed losing to Atlanta. ¬†Home field advantage won’t help the Lions if they keep playing like that. ¬†This won’t exactly be a difficult road environment for Green Bay’s young signal caller.

– Buccaneers over Falcons: Brian Griese gets the start for Tampa so that gives slight pause. ¬†Still, the Falcons aren’t playing Detroit anymore. ¬†Matt Ryan could be in for a rude awakening this week against Monte Kiffin’s defense. ¬†Tampa Bay almost stole one last week and could be just good enough to make things interesting in the NFC South. ¬†On a side note, I am kicking myself that I didn’t rank Michael Turner higher in fantasy this year. ¬†He could have some big games this year even though he’s playing for the Falcons.

– Seahawks over 49ers: Seattle is still really banged up, and I really want to pick the upset. ¬†Thing is, Seattle has a tremendous home field advantage, and there is no reason to back San Francisco on the road right now after the way they played last week. ¬†Besides, Matt Hasselbeck has got to play better this week doesn’t he? This could be a really sloppy game.

– Texans over Ravens: This game has been moved to Monday night due to Hurricane Ike, which makes it the first Monday night game in Texans history. ¬†Even though it won’t be nationally televised,that’s enough for me in this toss-up matchup. ¬†Baltimore’s defense is still good, but I still want to see Joe Flacco on the road. ¬†Houston is a much better team than what they showed last week.

– Cowboys over Eagles: This too will be a fantastic game. ¬†In a way it’s a shame one of these teams will have to start the year 1-1. ¬†I like the Cowboys in what should be a raucous atmosphere for their home opener, on a Monday night no less. ¬†Still, the Eagles pose a big challenge. ¬†The sway factor will be a monster game from Terrell Owens, eager as always to show Andy Reid and company they did him wrong.

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Football Thoughts

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 6, 2008

– I think the Broncos are darn lucky that Brandon Marshall wasn’t suspended for more games than the three handed down by Roger Goodell.¬† Considering the suspension will likely be reduced to two games after Marshall undergoes counseling, the Broncos should be thankful they aren’t losing their star receiver for half the season.¬† Granted, Marshall will miss two division games (at Oakland and home versus San Diego) but at least he isn’t out for a longer period of time.¬† Marshall is still poised to have a big year on the heals of a 102 catch season, and hopefully he has learned his lesson about toeing the line off the field.

– The Broncos have a couple of injury concerns already in camp that haven’t been discussed much.¬† One is center Tom Nalen, who sat¬†out the final 11 games last season after tearing his right biceps, and is currently recovering from off-season surgery on his left knee.¬† Nalen will likely miss the entire preseason (let’s be honest¬†– that’s not really important) but it doesn’t seem for sure as though he’ll be ready for the opener at Oakland.¬† The fact that Nalen is missing time now also begs the question as to whether he’ll be able to finish the season healthy.¬† Nalen is the leader of the offensive line and his absence was definitely noticeable last year.

– The other injury is to rookie running back Ryan Torian.¬† Torian was carried off the field this morning after being hit by Jamie Winborn and Nate Webster.¬† Torian suffered a broken elbow and will miss 6-8 weeks, meaning at the earliest it will be late September before he can return to action.¬† Even though he was selected in the fifth round, the Broncos had high hopes that Torian could become the feature back in the offense because his running style is a perfect fit for the team’s running scheme.¬† Torian will now miss the rest of camp and the preseason, which is more important for a rookie because he needs that period to adjust to the rigors of the NFL, plus it might actually impact Torian’s chances of making the team.¬†

– As far as Brett Favre is concerned, I think the Days of Our Lives theme music is appropriate here.¬† This has become such a circus it’s ridiculous.¬† At this point, if the Packers are that convinced that Aaron Rodgers is their guy and they don’t want Favre around, they should just release him.¬† Of course, they’re not going to do that because Favre would sign with division rival Minnesota immediately if not sooner.¬† It’s funny, I’m tired of hearing about Favre, but on the other hand I’m dying to see what happens next in this saga.¬† It has gotten to the point where it’s so crazy that it is rapidly becoming entertaining and tiresome at the same time.¬† Regardless of how it turns out, any Favre game against the Packers will be must see, wherever Favre ends up playing.¬† That is, if he ends up playing.

– It will be interesting to see how this affects Favre’s legacy.¬† He’s a sure fire Hall of Fame lock for sure, but will he be remembered for this drama at the end of his career?¬† I am intrigued to see how Favre will be recalled in ten, or even five years.

– It is also interesting how because of the Favre saga, we haven’t heard much about the other 31 teams in the league besides the Packers.¬† Maybe this is one of the reasons why it doesn’t quite seem like it should be time for football yet.¬† Of course, it is only preseason right now, so really we’re still a month away from any football that matters, but I don’t generally remember football sneaking up on me as much in previous years as it has this year.¬† Maybe it won’t seem that way once the Broncos have their first preseason game (or as I¬†prefer to think of it,¬†glorified controlled scrimmage)¬†on Saturday night.

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Favre or no Favre?

Posted by mizzou1028 on July 9, 2008

I don’t know any more about the nuances of the rumors surrounding a possible return to the NFL by Brett Favre than the man in the moon.¬† I don’t know if Favre is really feeling the itch to return just months after an emotional retirement press conference, or if this is just being fueled by the media to fill up time when they have nothing else to talk about.¬† I don’t know what Packers management is thinking on this.¬† What I do know is that if Favre does want to return, and the Packers say no thanks, than they had better be prepared for it to backfire.¬† There is not a good track record in NFL history for replacing legend quarterbacks.¬† In fact, it is about as close to guarantee for failure as there is in the sport.¬† Nothing against Aaron Rodgers, who played well against Dallas last year when Favre was injured, but if the Packers really think they’re better off with Rodgers than they would be if Favre came back, they are probably in trouble.

The list of quarterbacks that have tried to follow legends in NFL history is a rather dubious one.¬† By the nature of it, trying to follow a Hall of Famer is not an easy task anyway, particularly when a young signal caller is trying to replace a guy who’s an icon, like Favre is in Green Bay.¬† Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls in the 1970s with Pittsburgh, but it wasn’t until Ben Roethlisberger in 2005 that the Steelers really had any stability at the position after Bradshaw’s retirement.¬† Bradshaw was followed by among others Cliff Stoudt, Mark Malone, David Woodley, Scott Campbell, Bubby Brister, Neil O’Donnell and Kordell Stewart.¬† The Steelers had a number of good teams between Bradshaw’s retirement and their Super Bowl win in ’05, even making the Super Bowl in 1995 with O’Donnell, but all of those guys had to play in Bradshaw’s shadow.¬† How about guys who have followed John Elway in Denver?¬† Try Brian Griese, Gus Frerotte and Jake Plummer.¬† The Broncos went 6-10 in 1999 the first year without Elway, and this was with a team that won back to back Super Bowls in ’97 and ’98.¬† There is no doubt that the Broncos would not have been near that bad in ’99 if Elway had returned to play for another season.¬† As a side note, you could even make the argument (however thin) that Terrell Davis never would have torn his ACL had Elway returned.¬† See, that happened on a play where Griese threw an interception into double coverage that Elway never would have thrown, and Davis got injured trying to make the tackle.¬† How about the Miami Dolphins post Marino?¬† Again you’ll find Brian Griese’s name among the replacements, and actually Frerotte’s as well, in addition to Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Joey Harrington, Cleo Lemon, A.J. Feeley and Sage Rosenfels.¬† Miami STILL has no stability at QB since Dan Marino retired in 1999.¬† There is no doubt that Miami fans would have gladly taken one more season with Marino at the helm in 2000, if nothing else for one more shot at a run before the inevitable rebuilding process.

The point of all this is not to say that Aaron Rodgers will fail.¬† Truth is, we have no idea how he will do.¬† It is reasonable to say however that being quarterback of the Packers for a full season is quite different than coming in as an injury replacement for one game.¬† The point is that if the Packers are that fast to say goodbye to Favre, and are ready to take their chances with Rodgers, they should be prepared for the team to struggle.¬† In fact, history shows they are likely to miss the playoffs with Rodgers at quarterback based on the track record of teams the season following the retirement of a legend quarterback, particularly when that quarterback is the face of the franchise.¬† If Favre wants to come back and play one more season, the Packers should welcome him back with open arms, period.¬† Favre had one¬†of his best seasons last year,¬†and there¬†is no reason to think he can’t still play at a high level if he wants to. ¬†Can you imagine Mike Shanahan in 1999 if Elway said he wanted to return a week before camp, even in the wake of his retirement press conference?¬† Can you imagine¬†Shanahan telling Elway, “no I think we’re set with Brian Griese, thanks”?¬† Me neither.

Whether Favre actually plays this season or not will be interesting to see.¬† It will more interesting if he wants to play and the Packers wave him off.¬† If that were the case, the Packers would have to either release him, allowing him to play for another team, or they would have to trade him, neither of which would be an easy pill to swallow for Green Bay fans.¬† If the thought of Favre in another uniform makes a Packer fan want to throw up, than imagine Favre playing for arguably the one contending team that is missing a quarterback.¬† The one team in the league that is set at pretty much every position except for quarterback.¬† A team that made a big splash in the offseason bringing in Jared Allen (arguably the league’s top defensive lineman) and a good receiver in Bernard Berrian.¬† A team with one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks and a team that in recent years has been amazingly stingy defensively against the run.¬† A team who’s current top QB is very young, inexperienced, and could use a year under Favre.¬† A team that as currently constructed has been picked to win the Super Bowl by Sports Illustrated’s¬†Paul Zimmerman.¬† That would be the Minnesota Vikings, prime division rival of the Packers.¬† If the Packers are that sure they would rather take their chances with Aaron Rodgers, they should envision this scenario: Week one, Monday night at Lambeau Field, Packers-Vikings, Favre coming out of the tunnel in Vikings purple.¬† It should be enough to make any Packer fan want to throw up.¬† That is, until they envision Favre holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season in a Vikings hat, after the Packers have suffered through a 6-10 season under Rodgers.

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