Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Curious Case of Peyton Manning

Peyton with his older brother Cooper in 1990
     The Polians are gone, and Colts Owner Jim Irsay is making all the decisions for the Colts. This means that everyone that contributed to their 0-13 start is now unemployed. However, it also means that the team is now moving in a different direction. New head coach Chuck Pagano will not have a say in roster moves, because he does not have the experience to demand that kind of power. This does not bode well for Peyton, because he is due a $28 million bonus in March, and its tough for Irsay to decide to pay that money out of his pocket before he knows if Peyton will ever play again. To make matters worse, there have been problems between Manning and the organization. In an interview with the Indianapolis Star, Peyton said, "Everyone's walking around on eggshells." In response, Irsay said, "The horseshoe always comes first, and I think one thing he’s always known, because he’s been around it so long, is that, you know, you keep it in the family." Things are changing in Indianapolis, and that includes the quarterback situation. Things were not always this way. In fact, ever since he was born, The Sherriff has had smooth sailing.

Manning after being draft 1st Overall in 1998

      Born the son of a former NFL QB, Peyton Manning has always had high expectations, and has always exceeded them. In high school, he was the Gatorade National Player of the Year, and earned a full scholarship to the SEC's Tennessee Volunteers. In college, he threw for over 11,000 yards and became Tennessee's all-time leading passer, while also breaking the conference record for most wins in a career. In his final year, he finished 2nd in the Heisman Trophy voting and was later selected 1st overall in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts.

    Manning after winning Super Bowl XLI

     Throughout his 14 years with the team, they have went through some major ups and downs, but he has firmly established himself as one of the most consistent winners in NFL history. 9 consecutive playoff appearances from 2002-10. 2 Superbowl Appearances. 1 Superbowl Win. Aside from that, his personal success is arguably better than any other player in the history of the NFL. 11 Time Pro Bowler. 1 Superbowl MVP. 4 time League MVP.

Peyton waves to the fans, possibly for the last time

    Peyton Manning has been one of the faces of the National Football League for years, but it all came to a swift end this September when he had this third neck surgery in 2 years, and had to sit out the entire 2011 season. Everyone is doubting him right now. Many believe that he will be cut from the team, and others say that he will never play another down in the NFL. A swift and disappointing fall for one of the All-Time greats, but something tells me that this will not be the last chapter of his career. Peyton Manning, first and foremost, is a competitor. His whole family is competitive, and that is why they are such great athletes. The Colts look to have moved on, but expect Peyton to play somewhere next year. Whether it is in D.C, New York, Arizona, or someplace else, he will not let his career end like this.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Postseason Preview: Conference Champhionships

     This week is the second biggest of the year in the world of football. The AFC and NFC Championships will be played on Sunday for a bid to play in Superbowl XLVI in Indianapolis. The Packers are out. The Saints are finished. Nobody is immune to losing but this guy. The Super Bowl is in just two weeks, and pressure is building for athletes to perform in 4 cities around the US: Boston, Baltimore, New York, and San Francisco.

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
      The Baltimore Ravens travel to Foxboro, MA on Sunday to face their toughest opponent of the season. Baltimore has been winning ugly with game-changing defensive plays. Joe Flacco, despite winning a postseason game in each of his 4 NFL seasons, does not have the confidence of his teammates.This week will truly put him to the test, as the Patriots are known around the league as a very poor defensive team, yet they also have one of the best offenses. On the other hand, the Patriots are rolling. With Rodgers and Brees being taken out early, Tom Brady has everyone's attention and is being touted as the greatest ever. Rob Gronkowski is still a beast. The Patriots are just too hot for the inconsistent Ravens. New England is going to the Super Bowl, they will handle Baltimore: 38-20.

New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers
      To start this off, both teams had amazing performances last week. Alex Smith and Vernon Davis in the last 4 minutes proved themselves worthy members of a team that was once glorious, with plays reminiscent of the past. The Giants proved they were a better team despite the referees' best efforts to give the game to the Packers. Eli Manning has proven himself to be an elite quarterback. (In the same class as Tom Brady) This game has all the makings of a classic, and I believe it will be just that. In the end, the Giants will come out with the win. 27-20.

Friday, January 13, 2012

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

   Things to Watch 
     There are a number of big games in the NFL this week The number one seeds in both conferences have tough match-ups. New England: The Denver Tebows. Green Bay: The New York Defensive Line.This is what I'll be looking forward to watching this weekend. The New Orleans game has the potential to be just as exciting, but the 49ers have a tendency to suck the life out of a game. 3 yard runs by Frank Gore just don't excite me. Drew Brees? That's what I'm looking forward to. I expect Baltimore-Houston to be a defensive battle. Arian Foster and Ray Rice will shine, but the lack of throwing ability will keep the score down.

New Orleans at San Francisco
     The New Orleans Saints are a dome team. It has been widely speculated throughout the week that although they are very dominate, it will be tough for them to duplicate last week's effort in an outdoor game. Frank Gore will be ready to rip the Saints' 24th ranked defense. Vernon Davis will be looking to exploit the leaky secondary. The thing that will hold the 49ers back is Alex Smith. A match-up between him and Brees is no comparison. Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham, and Marques Colston are outstanding weapons, and they will help propel New Orleans to a victory. 27-17.

Denver at New England
     Once again, we have Tebow vs Brady. A mechanical nightmare against a true prototype. These two players couldn't be more different, yet they are very alike in their 2nd year rise to fame. This matchup is all about these two. Can the Patriots snap their 3 game postseason losing streak? Can Tim Tebow do it again? Many people have continued to doubt him, but he continues to add more badges to his Boy Scout persona. Unfortunately, I just can't will myself to buy in. I still believe Tom Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history, plus the Patriots have this guy. I'm sticking with my gut. Pats win 31-23.

Houston at Baltimore
     This game presents a very intriguing match-up. Two underwhelming quarterbacks with great supporting casts. For me, the difference will be the youth of the Texans. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have been staples of this league for over a decade. Both are future HOFers in my book, but they are past their primes, and Arian Foster & Company are ready to exploit that. The young Houston defense led by Brian Cushing and Demeco Ryans has something that the Ravens will not be ready for. Texans pull it out 20-17.

New York at Green Bay
     The New York Football Giants are ready to pull off an upset that has been billed as the second coming of their Super Bowl XLII victory.Green Bay defeated them in a close bout late in the season, just as the Patriots did 4 years ago. The Giants are more healthy and looking like a better team now, just as they did 4 years ago. However, this is not 2008, and the '11 Packers are not the '07 Patriots. That Patriots team had 8 players on Injured Reserve, while this Packers team has players getting healthy at the right time. Jennings is back. So are James Starks, Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, and Randall Cobb. Bad news for the Giants, the Packers are on their way to the NFC Championship. Green Bay wins 34-24.

Bottom Line
This will be a great week of football for everyone. Ratings will be off the charts. Stakes will be high. Level of play will be amazing. Tebow Time. Mr. Discount Double Check. And BJ Raji will surely show us what he's got.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

LSU vs Alabama: The Biggest Rematch Ever

  Game Overview

   LSU and Alabama have separated themselves as the two best football teams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Traditionally, there have been two keys to success in football: Running the ball and Stopping the run. In a world where teams run spread offenses and neglect to put forth proper effort in their defense, these teams are stuck in the days of the Steel Curtain and the '85 Bears. However, both teams have their own unique way of doing this.

     Alabama relies on their big, strong horses to do all the work. The 5-11 224 pound Trent Richardson is the every down back, heisman finalist, and Doak Walker Award winner. With over 1800 yards from scrimmage and 23 toucdowns, he has helped fans to forget all about the loss of Mark Ingram. On defense, they have a number of physical players that contribute to a bone-crushing scheme. 6-1 310 Josh Chapman at DT. 6-2 263 Courtney Upshaw at DE. 6-3 245 Nico Johnson at OLB. 6-4 260 Dont'a Hightower at MLB. 6-3 190 Dre Kirkpatrick at CB. 6-2 215 Mark Barron and 6-2 210 Robert Lester at Safety. These NFL prospects all play a significant role in an Alabama defense that is number 1 in the NCAA in points allowed per game (8.8) and yards allowed per game (252.1)

     LSU, on the other hand, is less conventional. They run an option offense that features up to 5 different running backs over the course of a game. Stats show no real star power, only the untapped potential of Jordan Jefferson and Rueben Randle. On defense, however, they are led by the two best defensive backs in the nation. The better pro prospect, 6-0 180 Morris Claiborne, is a shutdown corner and a lock for the Top 5 in the upcoming NFL draft. He's got 6 interceptions so far this year, including a critical one in the last matchup against theCrimson Tide. The more explosive player, 5-9 180 Tyrann Mathieu, is a dynamic playmaker who has made his name by scoring touchdowns that create huge momentum shifts. Oregon, Arkansas, and Georgia all fell prey to the "Honey Badger".


     In the first game against the Tigers, Alabama dominated throughout. They controlled the ball, they won the field position battle, and they flat-out outplayed LSU for the entirety of regulation. However, a few key plays lost them the game: 4 Missed Field Goals between the two Alabama kickers, and a ball lost by the Alabama TE on the 1 yard line. This time around, I do not expect these same mistakes to occur. During Les Miles' tenure at LSU, he has always been considered somewhat incompetent. Most notably, fans have mocked him with signs saying "Les is Less." The same cannot be said about Nick Saban. He's coached at both schools, and won national titles with both. I have no doubt in my mind that he will not allow his players to lose to the same team twice. Those who do, should take a short trip down memory lane and remember what he did to Tim Tebow's Florida Gators in 2009. (After losing in 2008)

Final Score
Crimson Tide: 20 Tigers: 10

Friday, January 6, 2012

Postseason Preview: Wildcard Edition

Playoff Overview
     This year's postseason is as much up for grabs as any in the past few years. Each team that earned a first-round bye has a problem that could have them put out before they get to the conference finals. The front-running Green Bay Packers have not been as dominate as of late, The Patriots have a horrible defense, the 49ers have a game manager at quarterback, and the Ravens are wildly inconsistent, with wins against the Steelers and Texans, but losses to the Jaguars and Seahawks. There is no one way to predict who will win the Super Bowl, but simple analysis does reveal one fact: Super Bowl Teams have Pro Bowl Quarterbacks. Since the new millenium began, each quarterback that has won the Super Bowl has, at some point in their career, been voted to the Pro Bowl. Although not all took the trip to Hawaii before their first championship, these players have separated themselves from the pack.

2000: Kurt Warner (4 time Pro Bowler)
2001: Trent Dilfer (1 time Pro Bowler)
2002: Tom Brady (7 time Pro Bowler)
2003: Brad Johnson (2 time Pro Bowler)
2004: Tom Brady
2005: Tom Brady
2006: Ben Roethlisberger (2 time Pro Bowler)
2007: Peyton Manning (11 time Pro Bowler)
2008: Eli Manning (2 time Pro Bowler)
2009: Ben Roethlisberger
2010: Drew Brees (6 time Pro Bowler)
2011: Aaron Rodgers (2 time Pro Bowler)

Going by this logic, there are 6 teams that can win the Super Bowl: Green Bay, New England, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, New York, and Atlanta. The others may put up a good effort, but will ultimately fall short.

Cincinatti Bengals at Houston Texans
     The Houston Texans have experienced major troubles lately. They finished the season on a three game losing streak, and at times look like a team that should be in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. However, these performances are an anomaly, and I fully expect the Texans to come back with a vengeance. Andre Johnson is healthy. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are primed for a big day against a Bengals defense that allowed 191 rushing yards to Ray Rice last week. Texans win this one, 27-17. 

Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
     The New Orleans Saints look like the hottest team in the league coming into these playoffs. Drew Brees is playing the best he's ever played. Colston and Graham are the biggest and baddest receiving tandem in the NFC. Even the running backs have chipped in with more than 160 yards per game over the last 4 weeks. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are poised to have big days against this porous defense, but they are not enough to overwhelm Brees' army. Saints take it, 41-24.

Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants
     The New York Giants have the star power to keep up with any team in the league. Superbowl-winning Quarterback? Check. Legitimate number one Wide Receiver? Check. And Check. Top-Tier pass rusher? Check. The Falcons are a great team, with unlimited potential. However, whether it is the fault of the coach or the player, Matt Ryan has never won a playoff game, and I do not expect that to change this year. Giants pull it out, 27-13.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
     The Pittsburgh Steelers have been to the Superbowl 3 times in the past 6 years, but this year it just does not have the same feeling. Roethlisberger has an ankle sprain. Mendenhall just tore his ACL. Ryan Clark's illness does not allow him to compete against the Broncos. Things just look like they are going in a different direction this year. However, they caught a break with this one. Tebow Time has been off-air for the past three weeks, and reality is starting to set in. John Elway was right, we can not be sold on him just yet. Steelers win, 17-10.