2010 NFL Season Week 3 – Parity Still Reigns

September 27, 2010 1 comment

The St. Louis Rams upset win over the heavily favored Washington Redskins shows that the NFL is still full of surprises and parity

I know there are still 14 more weeks of NFL play…But is it just me or does everyone else feel like every NFL team has a record of 2-1 or 1-2 after almost three weeks of league play? 

Way back during the tenure of influential former NFL Commissioner Bert Bell, a man who was one of the league’s key caretakers, coined the phrase, “On Any Given Sunday”.  In Bell’s dream theory for league play, equitability was extremely high and “competition was key”.  The former league head, who for many years ran the organization from his home in Narberth, Pennsylvania, wanted a league where any team — whether top or bottom — could beat another on a weekly basis. 

Well somewhere Bell is smiling!  The NFL after three wacky weeks of play only has four unbeaten teams remaining including some teams no thought would be at the top. Now only the surprise Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) and Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0), who both unexpectedly have remained unblemished.  Along with the Chicago Bears (2-0) and Green Packers (2-0) who square-off in a Monday Night Football “Somebody’s Zero, Got to Go” game tomorrow night in the Windy City. 

I ask, “Where have the NFL’s beloved/hated dynasty bully teams gone?”  Think of Paul Brown’s Cleveland Browns of the ‘50s, Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers of the ‘60s, Chuck Knoll’s Pittsburgh Steelers of the ‘70s, Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers of the ‘80s, Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys of the ‘90s, and Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots of the ‘00s. 

Hard to believe during the 2009 NFL Season, the 1972 Miami Dolphins – who currently live as the NFL’s only undefeated Super Bowl Champion — were left wondering if not one but two teams might catch them.  It all seems like a mirage as both the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts went 13-0 to start last season.   So far in the 2010 NFL season, the National Football League’s current landscape is filled with “parity”. Teams can no longer just mail-it-in as shown by the formerly winless St. Louis Rams’ unexpected 30-16 victory over the heavily favored Washing Redskins in a Week 3 “Trap Game”

With the aforementioned battle between the unbeaten Bears and Packers yet to be played in Week 3, league standing show that there are two (3-0) teams, fourteen (2-1) teams, nine (1-2) teams, and five lowly (0-3) teams.  The whole parity laden league – or mess as some analysts are saying — has left several NFL fans and media scratching their collective heads when looking at current division leaders. 

You have to start with the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs, who dominated the equally surprising – for the wrong reasons – Niners by a score of 31-10 at renovated Arrowhead Stadium.  It was a battle of two teams headed in the wrong direction.  The Chiefs now hold a two-game lead over the Chargers and could be the NFL’s Cinderella story of 2010.  While you have to wonder if the Niners, who face the “red hot” NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons (2-1) in Week 4, might be looking to replace embattled head coach Mike Singletary after an 0-3 start in a season where his team had very high expectations.

The AFC South has the Houston Texans (2-1) leading by a tiebreaker over the Colts, but that maybe changing soon.  The Texan showed that they were not quite just ready for the “Prime Time” as the desperate Cowboys thumped them 27-13 in Houston while machine like Colts (2-1) easily rolled over the Denver Broncos (1-2) by an identical point difference of 27-13. 

The AFC North is looking like the NFL’s best division with the Steelers, Baltimore Ravens (2-1), and Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) all bunched near the top.  To the surprise of experts –including yours truly – it is the Steelers who are currently undefeated even though their starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is serving a 4-game suspension.  Fueled by veteran quarterback Charlie Batch’s three touchdown passes, the Steelers annihilated the formerly undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 38-13 in Tampa.  Now everything will point to a Week 4 battle between the Ravens and Steelers.

The AFC East also looks like a 3 team race for the top as the NY Jets (2-1), Miami Dolphins (2-1) and New England Patriots (2-1) have the same record.  But a recent two –week streak that included wins over the Patriots and Dolphins has left the “brash” NY Jets sitting on top.  To the delight of head coach Rex Ryan, the King of Hard Knocks, the J-E-T-S took care of business by beating the Dolphins 31-23 on NBC Sunday Night Football in Miami. It was a triumphant homecoming for former Dolphins star and current Jets’ DE/OLB Jason Taylor who had produced 1 sack and 1 tackle in the win.

Switching to the NFC side of the league, there could an 8-8 division winner in the NFC West, which easily is the NFL’s worst division.  Even the Niners at a record of 0-3 still have a chance in their division race.  The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks are currently at the top with a (2-1) record, but both teams are very beatable.  The Cardinals benefited from a rear short field goal miss by Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski to win 24-23 and stay tied with the Seahawks, who surprised the San Diego Chargers 27-20 in Seattle.  This week’s version of Monday Night Football will settle the NFC North picture as the Packers and Bears meet for the 179th time with Chicago being the host city for this tilt. 

The Packers seem to have hit their stride led by QB Aaron Rodgers, but the Bears are hungry as head coach Lovie Smith’s job is on the line this season.  But both teams still need to be weary of the Minnesota Vikings (1-2), who behind some great running by RB Adrian Peterson (160 rushing yards and 2 TDs), finally hit their stride in a much-needed 24-10 win over the struggling Detroit Lions (0-3). And did I mention Favre and his boys will have a Week 4 bye to get healthy.

The NFC South could have witnessed the changing of the guard as the Atlanta Falcons surprised the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints by a score of 27-24 in overtime.  We will see if the Falcons (2-1) and their emerging quarterback Matt Ryan can continue staying at the top of the division.  But I think the Saints (2-1) are learning how hard it is to be the hunted, especially without playmaking running back Reggie Bush who is hurt with a broken fibula. 

The last division race is probably the most surprising as the NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) may found their catalyst in quarterback Michael Vick – has gone from Public Enemy No. 1 to the leading candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year.  The former 3-time Pro Bowl player in his first game as the Birds anointed starter passed for 291 yards and 3 TDs in a dominating 28-3 win over the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars. 

The real fun will come next week when Vick and rising Eagles host former Philadelphia and current Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb.  However the Skins and Eagles can’t get too comfortable as the Cowboys (1-2) are still lurking and they should get even better after a Week 4 bye.

The unexpected surprises of the undefeated Kansas Chiefs and the Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers plus the revival of the Michael Vick Experience so far show that nothing is a given in the NFL. 

And “Yes”… “Any Given Sunday” still reigns supreme in the NFL.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Reid Makes the Right Decision in Choosing Vick by Lloyd Vance

September 22, 2010 1 comment

The Philadelphia Eagles QB Controversy took a crazy turn as head coach Andy Reid named Michael Vick as his starter for the rest of the 2010 season

In a shocking and quite bizarre change of events, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid did a total 360-degree about face by naming comebacking quarterback Michael Vick to be his starter for he rest of the 2010 season.  Reid said in a September 21st press conference to announce the change, “Michael Vick will be the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. I think his play has even exceeded expectations over the last two weeks.” 

Of course in naming Vick the starter, Reid who has notoriously been quite stubborn over his 12 years in Philadelphia –- see former receivers that he told us were good enough…when we all knew they weren’t (i.e. Pinkston, Thrash, Mitchell) — definitely had to back track on his anointing of former starter, Kevin Kolb, who had been the team’s face since an Easter Sunday 2010 trade of 11-year veteran Donovan McNabb. The 4th year quarterback and first-time starter had been given a lucrative extension on April 29th with the terms 1-year, 12.26 million through 2011 with all of it guaranteed and $10.7 million in a signing bonus.  Reid even said when Kolb signed his new deal, “When given the chance, Kevin has proven to have good command of this offense and we’re looking forward to having him operate as the number one quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles”. 

I guess the coach misremembered his comments from April and a couple of days prior, because now Vick is his guy.  Reid tried to soften the blow to Kolb by saying, “This has nothing to do with Kevin Kolb’s injury. Kevin Kolb has done a phenomenal job for us here and the future of Kevin Kolb is not slighted by this one bit. He has an opportunity, obviously, to be, what I would consider, a franchise quarterback and deserving of so.”  In trying to further justify his decision Reid added, “Again, this is more about Michael Vick and his accelerated play. He’s sitting there as possibly the hottest quarterback in the National Football League at this time and deserves an opportunity to play. It also allows Kevin to continue as a young quarterback in the National Football League, his maturation process, and, again, to become a franchise quarterback in the future.”

Alright before we try to get in the mind of Coach Reid and understand why he flip-flopped in a matter of 3 Days, we have to first jump in the hot tub time machine and go over the events that led to the firestorm of activity around the Birds’ quarterbacks.  Let’s go back to Sunday September 19th around 5:00 PM EST; the Eagles had pulled off a hard-earned 35-32 win over the scrappy Detroit Lions.  Where backup quarterback Michael Vick, who was making his first NFL start since December 31, 2006, for the second week in a row had given the Eagles a noticeable spark as Kolb recovered from a concussion suffered against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1.  The former 3-time Pro Bowl player was sensational as he made something out of nothing several times, both in and out of the pocket, in the win over the Lions.  Vick finished with numbers 21-for-34 for 284 yards passing and two TD tosses, with 37 yards rushing plus he withstood being sacked 6 times behind a porous Eagles’ offensive line. 

Almost immediately after my hometown Eagles put the final touches on a good win that put them at 1-1 and we later learned a tie for first place in the NFC East, my cell phone started going crazy.  I didn’t even need to answer a single call or read one text message.  Because I knew the “vocal” majority of the Birds’ fan base –- the same ones that wanted McNabb gone and for Kevin Kolb to take over… but I digress — had now switched their allegiance to Vick.  However almost immediately into his post-game press conference, Reid tried to squelch any Vick talk by saying that his now-healthy Week 1 starter, Kolb (concussion), would be returning as the team’s starting quarterback next week against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3.  Can you say, “Quarterback Controversy”? The move was both lauded and loudly questioned on post-game radio, television and Twitter in the Philadelphia area and nationally.

To Vick’s credit, he showed that he had moved on from his former selfish ways that plagued him during his time with the Atlanta Falcons by supporting his teammate.  Of the whole Kolb-Vick quarterback controversy brewing in Philly, Vick stepped away from the grenade by humbly saying, “This is Kevin’s team”. Vick added, “All I wanted to do was come out and get the momentum going. I’m sure Kevin will be back next week.”  But you had to think that deep down after all he had been through that even Vick -– career passing numbers 973-1801, 54.0%, 12050 yards, 75 TDs, and 52 INTs with additional rushing numbers of 4094 yards, 7.2 ypr, and 23 TDs — knew that he “deserved” to get his shot back in the spotlight. As incredibly as it sounds, the player once described as “Public Enemy No. 1” in the minds of many NFL fans had done the unthinkable, going from a hated reputed dogfighter to a playmaker.

C’mon not even Hollywood could have written a better script. The long redemption road that the former Virginia Tech star had traveled since his last start in December 2006 has been a well-documented rollercoaster, to say the least. Vick’s road back to NFL glory included an 18-month stay in Leavenworth Prison for his role in a dogfighting ring and a getting-to-know-you 2009 season where he served as a spare part Eagles’ third-stringer –- only threw 13 passes, completing 6 for 86 yards and 1 TD. But now he was back to the player that once had the NFL buzzing back when he led the Falcons to a mission-impossible 27-7 win over the Green Bay Packers at snowy Lambeau Field in the Wildcard round of the 2002 NFL Playoffs.  Surprisingly 8 years later, his 4.3 speed was back and he also added another piece to his repertoire by showing the vision needed to make passes downfield from the pocket. Even Reid couldn’t help talking about Vick’s eye-opening effort in the win over the Lions, which unfortunately for Kolb, probably forced his hand in naming Vick the starter.  Reid said after the Lions win about Vick, “You’re talking about a phenomenal football player who’s had another chance to prove himself…To see the sparkle in his eye is amazing.”   

Call me “crazy”, but Vick –- salary of $3.75 million in 2010 plus an already paid $1.5 million roster bonus — has bought into Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s coaching enough that now he looks like Donovan McNabb circa 2000.  That season the Eagles made the playoffs for the first time under Reid by finishing 11-5 even though they were a very young team.  Back then the Eagles relied heavily on their dual-threat quarterback and McNabb produced passing (over 3,000 yards), and rushing (over 600 yards) while accounting for 27 touchdowns (21 passing and 6 rushing)…Does any of this sound familiar.  In two weeks of play in 2010, Vick –-passing numbers through 2 weeks of 37-58, 63.8%, 459 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs with a career-high passer rating of 105.5 plus 140 rushing yards — has knocked off several years of rust to become Reid’s type of starting quarterback.  He no longer is settling for his first read then taking off to make spectacular running plays only, Vick is a passer first…if you can believe it. The exciting thing is that the Eagles have responded under Vick’s leadership by putting up 52 points in six quarters. 

Reid recently said in a press conference that he now is in the enviable spot of having “Two Quality” quarterbacks.  But give me break coach…you can spin it anyway you want, the reality of the situation is that Kolb -– career passing numbers of 84-140, 60.0%, 909 yards, 4 TDs, and 7 INTs with a 1-2 starting record –- was not the “right” guy for the 2010 Philadelphia Eagles.  I know that sounds harsh after Kolb has only played in basically one half of football -– passing numbers of 5-for-10 for only 24 yards and produced only 3 first downs before the concussion knocked him out against the Packers.  But today’s NFL is a “Win Now” league.  Everyone from fans to the media to the team’s management are not content with having a rebuilding season when the NFC East is there for the taking. Fox Sports analyst Terry Bradshaw also believes now is the time for Vick.  Bradshaw said on the network’s pregame show of the situation, “With Kolb, you’re looking at a guy who really doesn’t have a resume”.  The Hall of Fame quarterback added, “He’s only started three games. I would find it very difficult for Kolb to win with the Eagles offensive line being in shambles. Vick is better suited right now to win football games than Kevin.”

The division-favorite Dallas Cowboys (0-2) are looking like they could implode at any moment and the other teams in the division, the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, don’t look like they are making reservations for Super Bowl XLV either.  As always, Reid’s goal is to make the playoffs and he knew Vick was his best chance to win.  Though I am not entirely ready to say the Eagles are definitely a playoff team with Vick.  Who knows if the 2010 Eagles could possibly catch the same lightning in a bottle that caused the 2005 Steelers, 2007 NY Giants, and 2009 NY Jets to make to make strong playoff runs, despite having some regular season flaws.   

Another deciding factor for Reid had to be an offensive line that is beat-up and sorely missing their leader, Jamaal Jackson.  The Eagles’ offensive line needs to make adjustments, because as a unit they have allowed a whopping 12 sacks in two games and lost Kolb to a concussion.  Vick, who has been sacked 9 times despite running from pressure, is the Eagles’ best weapon against the fast attacking defenses that have been exploiting the team’s protection breakdowns. And I won’t even go into whether the Eagles wanted to take back the Philadelphia area’s sports fans’ attention from major league baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies who look like they are surging to their 3rd World Series appearance in three years, but that is always an item for debate.

Whatever the reason for naming Vick the starter, it was the right reason for the Philadelphia Eagles to win now.  Reid said of the decision to go with Vick, “This is my decision”.  Reid strongly added, “Listen, when you deal with a decision like this, you take as much time as you possibly need to take and so I did that. It’s not my obligation to tell people my decision. It’s my obligation to make the proper decision. That’s why I took the time to do that.”

Good Luck coach with your new starting quarterback, because you know this quarterback controversy is not going away anytime soon… especially with the passionate fans of Philadelphia. 

Wonder if Eagles fans and Reid would rather still have Big 5 still under center –- he beat Dallas in Week 1 and threw for over 400 yards in a loss to the Texans in Week 2…..Alright I won’t go there.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Stay Out of Lockeroom by Ritchie Owens

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

In the past week, I have seen various female reporters and woman’s groups getting fired up over the decision or lack thereof the NFL made to not punish the Jets for the alleged incident after last weeks loss.  And by no means am I condoning any behaviors that can be conceived as harassment.  The issue, to me, is that she and her colleges should never have been in the locker room in the first place.  After all, even families aren’t allowed in the locker room post-game.

Here’s the solution to the problem, remove ALL reporters from the team locker room and place them in a separate room to do their interviews!  There you go equal access.  Because it’s not about a Woman’s right to go into a Man’s locker room, it’s about the right to have equal access to players regardless of gender. As a former player, I think that it is ridiculous to have to speak to people while you are fresh out of the shower, trying to get dressed, etc…  And let’s be honest, most reporters are only there to interview the same 5 or 6 guys every week anyway.

Contrary to what some reporters, male included, are calling a, “gender neutral area“everyone‘s “work area“.  I say it is not.  A reporter in a locker room is a courtesy not a right.  You do not work for the organization that you cover.  Ask anyone who has every showered in a health club or any other open shower setting if they would mind if a few dozen members of the press could come in get some interviews.  It isn’t a public area.

I remember being in the locker room and feeling very uncomfortable with the fact that there were women (and to a greater extent people with cameras and whatnot) in there while I was showering, and changing.  And yes, I have caught females in the locker room stealing glances or even straight out giggling to someone else.  To be fair, I did not know what they were saying, but the timing was suspicious. Please understand that there are more than just reporters in the locker room, its camera people, sound people and whoever else happens be associated with the production that day for various news agencies that has access to team facilities.

An incident that occurred while I was in the locker room that involved a female (I don‘t know if she was a reporter) showing myself and a couple of teammates a photo of a very well muscled teammate of ours.  Once over our initial shock of this woman who had the audacity to show us this picture and actually ask us if we knew who it was, we promptly reporter her to our public relations staff.   This woman was summarily ejected from the locker room.  To this day, I still don’t know who that woman was.

My whole point, ladies and gentlemen, is this.  It’s not about what is right or wrong.  This isn’t a matter of a woman being denied her rights.  This is a matter of what is proper.  Men aren’t allowed (with good reason) into woman’s locker rooms because is it not proper?  Therefore, women should not be allowed in man’s locker rooms.  Now since we don’t want to deny our sisters equal access to players, all reporters should be made to wait in a designated “interview room”.  I don’t understand what is so hard about that to figure out.

Ritchie Owens is a former Defensive Lineman in the NFL who played for 10 seasons.  He Currently hosts his own show ” Sack Sound with Ritchie Owens” on the Sports Journey Broadcast Network.

Steelers remain unbeaten without Big Ben after beating Titans by Lloyd Vance

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment

The Steelers (safety Troy Polamalu pictured) continued to show that they are not a one-man gang as they outworked the Titans in a 19-11 win to stay unbeaten

When the NFL announced that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was going to suspended for the first 4 games of the 2010 season, there were a ton of people that immediately predicted demise for the league’s cornerstone franchise.  Well everyone that hit the panic button, you better re-think your thoughts on the Steelers.  With Big Ben only 2 games away, the Steelers have re-emerged as the surprise leader of the AFC North at a perfect 2-0, after a solid thumping of the Tennessee Titans 19-11.

Despite losing backup starter QB Dennis Dixon (left knee injury) in the second quarter, the Steelers stayed the course and played tough blue collar football all-day (ran the ball and played tough D).  Right from the start, the Steelers established themselves against the Titans.  Rookie receiver Antonio Brown scored on an 89-yard kickoff return to open the game, and that play proved to be a catalyst as the Steelers forced seven turnovers (3 INTs and 4 fumble recoveries) on their way to victory.

The seven turnovers were the most allowed by the Titans since 2000 and the Steelers also added four sacks as quarterback Vince Young (7-for-10 for 66 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs and a one fumble lost) was under duress during his time on the field.  After a strong Week 1, V.Y was befuddled and never got in rhythm before Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said he had seen enough and sent in veteran Kerry Collins after Young had his 3rd turnover.

The Steelers defense – ranked in the Top 5 against the run every year since 2004 –also shutdown Tennessee running back Chris Johnson.  Pittsburgh stopped CJ2K’s 100-yard rushing streak at 12 games and the 2009 NFL’s rushing champ finished with just 16 carries for 34 yards — longest carry of the day was 11 yards.  It was the third time the Steelers have held Johnson to less than 100 yards.  In CJ’s defense, he did have an electrifying 75-yard + touchdown run called back on a weak holding penalty.

For most of the game the Steelers were content to protect backup quarterback Charlie Batch – expect the team to bring back QB Byron Leftwich who was cut earlier — by running last week’s hero RB Rashard Mendenhall (69 yards on 23 carries) and letting the Titans turn the ball over.  The player of the game for the Steelers had to be former Defensive MVP LB James Harrison, who had three sacks, forced a fumble and recovered one too.  Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of the win, “You come into a hostile environment versus good people it’s going to require a lot. We were far from perfect today but the guys really hung together and gave an outstanding effort”. 

The charismatic head coach added, “We made enough plays in enough areas to get out of there. I like what the team is doing in terms of working together, fighting the adversity and uplifting each other.”  Tennessee did try to make it interesting at the end of the game by scoring a late touchdown — 58 seconds left in game – and a two-point conversion plus recovering an onside kick.  But in the end, the Steelers stayed tough and finished the job.

Next up the Big Ben-less Steelers are the surprisingly undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) in a game where someone’s “0” has got to go.  Other 2-0 teams after two weeks of play are the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers, and Miami Dolphins.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Week 2 Preview by Lloyd Vance

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Manning Bowl 2 is one of the highlights of 2010 NFL Week 2

After the glitz and glamour of the opening week of the 2010 NFL Season is over, Week 2 begins our standard weekly journey around the league. I am so glad that this week’s schedule only has two game days with 15 games on Sunday and our usual one game match-up on Monday Night Football.

 Week 1 had a lot of drama including an NFL-record 11 games that were decided by 7 points or less and ton of surprises — Houston Texans led by RB Arian Foster dominating the Colts, Chiefs taking out the Chargers in the 2nd MNF game, Seahawks pounding Niners who were supposed to be the NFC West favorites and several photo finishes.  But I am expecting Week 2 to provide just as much excitement along with starting the separation process that is inevitable every football.  As I like to always like to say, “NFL teams are either preparing for the playoffs or the upcoming draft”.  And now is the time where teams start their trek toward one destination or the other.

 Unfortunately after only one week of play, some NFL fans are already panicking a little over whether they think their team is a pretender or contender.  I know some fans, like the San Francisco 49ers’ faithful, have to be a little disappointed by their team’s effort from Week 1 – Niners suffered a lopsided 31-6 loss at the hands of the resurgent Seattle Seahawks.  But everyone around the league should remember that it is way too early to start making season-long assumptions based one week of play.  To anyone feeling the pinch of the NFL season after one week, please relax as the NFL regular season is a 17-week marathon with many twists and turns ahead. 

 It is way too early to paint broad conclusions on teams and players’ futures.  Sure injuries and areas to fine tune are prevalent throughout the NFL, but take the results from Week 1 as partial results.  I am urging all fans to wait until at least 5 to 6 games have been played before jumping on or off their respective teams’ bandwagons.  As we saw last year with the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints unsuccessful quest for perfection (both started their seasons 13-0), it is almost unthinkable that a team can get through an entire season undefeated in today’s NFL –– this fact should make you truly appreciative of the Herculean effort of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins.

 An interesting stat is that at the end of Week 2, no more than 14 teams will be able to claim a perfect 2-0 record, leaving at least 18 clubs at 1-1 or 0-2.  However whether a team is 2-0, 1-1, and 0-2 after two weeks of play, it still doesn’t matter as everyone has a chance to make a playoff run — even the hapless Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns who were both bad losers in Week 1. Since realignment in 2002, 54 of the 96 playoff teams (56.2 percent) began the year at either 1-1 or 0-2.  Four of the past nine Super Bowl champions began their seasons with a 1-1 or 0-2 record. Plus last year half of the NFL’s 12 playoff teams started 2-0 and the other half at 1-1 before righting themselves. 

 Even though records should not be first on NFL teams’ minds, they still should be mindful that you don’t want to dig too big of a hole to recover from in time to make a playoff run.  Sure, history has shown that 0-2 teams can advance to the playoffs — since 1990, 22 teams have started 0-2 and still qualified for the postseason, including three teams in 2008 – Miami Dolphins (won NFC North), Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers (won AFC West).  But it is still a daunting task to comeback from 0-2 and a season death sentence of 0-3 is too close for comfort to that record, so teams should be fighting for more than pride in Week 2.

 This is an odd weekend as there are only 3 divisional games (Baltimore at Cincinnati, Tampa Bay at Carolina, and the New England Patriots at NY Jets), but there six inter-conference games.  We will see if all of these non-familiar match-ups will equate to some great action on the field. 

 Some Games to watch are:

 New England Patriots at New York Jets — One of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries will take center stage at New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday as the Jets host the Patriots in a clash of AFC East contenders.  Both clubs advanced to the postseason last year, with the Patriots winning the division and the Jets securing a Wild Card berth and advancing to the AFC Championship Game.  The HBO series Hard Knocks has heightened the Patriots-NY Jets rivalry even more.  Brash NY Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan who definitely likes to take a page from his father, former NFL defensive guru Buddy Ryan, has stirred the pot talking about the AFC East is their division. Several NY Jets have said that they don’t like Patriots QB Tom Brady and his team. With Captain America countering by saying, “The feeling is mutual”.  So we will see if Ryan’s team can knock-off the Patriots, like they did early in 2009.  Before that win, Ryan said of the J-E-T-S playing the vaunted Patriots, “I didn’t come here to kiss (Patriots coach) Bill Belichick’s rings. I came here to win. … I’m certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else.”   — LV’s Pick: New England Patriots

 Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions – This is a must win for the Eagles as they travel to Detroit very injured.  The Birds lost FB Leonard Weaver (ACL) and center Jamaal Jackson (torn triceps) for the season to injuries.  Plus concussed players QB Kevin Kolb and MLB Stewart Bradley will sit this one out too.  However the Eagles do have quarterback Michael Vick – had 100 yards rushing and over 170 yards passing in last week’s 27-20 loss to the Packers – making his first start in the NFL since December 31, 2006.  The Lions will look to their young rookie playmakers RB Jahvid Best and DT Ndamukong Suh to make plays.  — LV’s Pick: Philadelphia Eagles

 

Week 2 Featured Game

 NEW YORK GIANTS (1-0) AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (0-1) – Sunday Night Football @ 8:20 PM ET on NBC

 Broadcast Team: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Andrea Kremer (Field Reporter)

 Manning Bowl 2 – Sunday night’s matchup on NBC will feature the Manning brothers.  I guess former NFL quarterback Archie Manning and his wife will be wearing ½ Giants and ½ Colts jerseys this week in Lucas Oil Stadium.  There will be some serious in-fighting within the NFL’s first family as Big Brother Peyton Manning’s Colts host younger brother Eli’s NY Giants. For only the second time the two poster boy brother quarterbacks will meet as pros.   

 In 2006, the Colts defeated the Giants 26-21 in the first game in NFL history that two quarterback brothers started for opposing teams.  “It is rare that you get to face your brother,” said Eli Manning.  “You kind of appreciate that when the National Anthem is being sung and you look over and see your big brother.  That’s pretty special.  You have to try and enjoy it and have fun with it and understand it’s something that doesn’t happen often.”  Indy is coming off a disappointing opening loss to the Houston Texans, so I fully expect No. 18 to be an in formidable host to younger brother Eli. 

 The Giants showed last week that they can bring defensive pressure as they dominated the Carolina Panthers 31-18, mostly by producing turnovers. Also New York wide receiver Hakeem Nicks led the way with three touchdown catches and became the first player in more than 20 years to score three touchdowns in the first game at a new stadium. Indianapolis will look to rebound from a rare September loss. 

Entering 2010, the Colts had posted a 26-6 (.813) record in the opening month over the past 10 years (2000-09).  However all is not lost as Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell said, “The season is a long haul.”  Caldwell added, “It’s Round One of a 16-round fight.  What we have to do is continue to get better each and every week.  That’s what we’re focusing on.” 

The Colts look as vulnerable as we’ve seen in a long time and the Giants’ pass rush (featuring four defensive ends) will be a handful for Indianapolis’ depleted offensive line. Could the Colts possibly go 0-2???

 In their favor, the Colts have won five straight against NFC opponents.  And Indianapolis defensive end Dwight Freeney has a sack in his last four games vs. NFC opponents.  I am sure Eli’s team will try to control the clock by running the ball and letting their defense attack the Colts’ suspect offensive line.  Simply put the Colts have to do better in stopping the run and running the football.  Last week the Houston Texans outrushed them 257 to 44, which was a record-high for the Colts’ franchise.

 You can expect a ton offense in this game, but in the end how can you go against Peyton Manning in his home-opener

 LV’s Pick: Colts 24, Giants 17

2010 NFL Week 2

 Sun, Sep 19 

 BAL @ CIN, Paul Brown Stadium 1:00 PM —- CBS          

 MIA @ MIN, Mall of America Field 1:00 PM —- CBS          

 CHI @ DAL, Cowboys Stadium 1:00 PM —- FOX          

 PHI @ DET, Ford Field 1:00 PM —- FOX          

 ARI @ ATL, Georgia Dome 1:00 PM —- FOX          

 KC @ CLE, Cleveland Browns Stadium 1:00 PM —- CBS          

 BUF @ GB, Lambeau Field 1:00 PM —- CBS          

 PIT @ TEN, LP Field 1:00 PM —- CBS          

 TB @ CAR, Bank of America Stadium 1:00 PM —- FOX          

 STL @ OAK, Oakland Coliseum 4:05 PM —- FOX          

 SEA @ DEN, Invesco Field at Mile High 4:05 PM —- FOX          

 HOU @ WAS, FedEx Field 4:15 PM —- CBS          

 JAC @ SD, Qualcomm Stadium 4:15 PM —- CBS          

NE @ NYJ, New Meadowlands Stadium 4:15 PM —- CBS          

NYG @ IND, Lucas Oil Stadium 8:20 PM —- NBC          

Mon, Sep 20 

 NO @ SF, Candlestick Park 8:30 PM —- ESPN     

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Week 1 Review by Lloyd Vance

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

The Seattle Seahawks, fueled by comebacking receiver Mike Williams (pictured), dominated the favored San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31-6 in one of Week 1′s bigger upsets

The first weekend of the 91st NFL season titled: “The Grand Crossroads of Hope” is finally over. NFL nation just couldn’t get enough of America’s Game as Week 1 stretched over three game days (September 9th, September 12th, and September 13th). Even in the face of pending CBA Doom, fans turned out in record numbers as even the downtrodden Jacksonville Jaguars played to a sellout – only one of the NFL’s slate of 16 games, the Tampa Bay Bucs – Cleveland Browns in Tampa, FL was blacked out.

Overall the first week of the 2010 NFL season brought surprises (Houston Texans led by RB Arian Foster dominating the Colts, Chiefs taking out the Chargers in the 2nd MNF game, Seahawks pounding Niners who were supposed to be the NFC West favorites and several photo finishes), non-surprises (Bills finding a way to lose again,  Steelers and Ravens winning “ugly” behind running the ball and attacking defense), cheers, and tears (Sorry Detroit Lions fans…Megatron did indeed catch that touchdown no matter what the officials say) that only NFL drama can provoke. The wins and losses no doubt will create a buzz of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” around the water cooler and on sports radio, but remember the NFL season is a 16 game marathon. To the NFL’s credit, the majority of Week 1 games (11 out  16) were decided by 7 points or less.

The first game on Thursday night kicked off the excitement (fireworks, Grammy winners, etc) and featured the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints using a fast start by their offense to hold off the Minnesota Vikings 14-9.  In the game you could see a couple of things:  The Saints offensive line is physical and can run the ball when needed (didn’t hear Jared Allen’s name called once), Vikings QB Brett Favre looked extremely rusty as he threw a bad interception and couldn’t rally his team in the 4th quarter, and New Orleans probably has the NFL’s highest octane offense even if they were stuck in neutral for parts of the opener.

What I love about Week 1 is experts, fans, and some members of the media start making year-long assertions based on “one week” of real NFL games.  Two of the comments/feedback that I have received after only one week of play that I consider “laughable” from one of my loyal listeners were: “After the way the Texans beat-up Indianapolis, Peyton Manning and the Colts are done…It is going to be a long year in Indy”; “The Philadelphia Eagles have to start Michael Vick because Kevin Kolb will never get it done” and “The Baltimore Ravens are this year’s Super Bowl champs based on their physical play”.  Just slow your roll there a little bit “Mr. Overzealous Fan”.

C’mon some of these conclusions may prove to be true, but Week 1 isn’t enough game action to paint with such a broad picture.  Sure Week 1 is important for setting the tone for the entire season — the last 44 Super Bowl Champions started out a combined 36-7-1 in Week 1 of their championship season and teams that made the playoffs last year were a combined 10-2 in 2009’s Week 1.  But remember in the parity-laden NFL everything can change very quickly. The theme that I will continue to pound at this time of year is that an NFL season is a marathon and should be taken increments.  Being on top early in an NFL season guarantees nothing. Teams can’t get caught up in thinking things are going to be biscuits and gravy throughout the entire season.  The main thing right now is for teams to focus week-in and week-out on the team that they are facing.  Last year after five weeks the NY Giants looked like Super Bowl contenders as they started 5-0 only to limp home to an 8-8 record. 

Some Lloyd’s Leftovers from Week 1 included:

A Bad Rule Rears its Ugly Head – And you thought “Tuck” rule that thwarted the Raiders years ago was bad.  The hard-luck Detroit Lions were jobbed by a rule that doesn’t pass the smell test in my opinion.  In a game that was there’s for the taking, the Lions had fought through losing starter Matthew Stafford and were poised to beat their NFC North rival, the Chicago Bears. With 1:32 remaining in the game, backup Shaun Hill threw a great 25-yard apparent touchdown Calvin “Megatron” Johnson.  Unfortunately after one official called touchdown, the zebras huddled and Johnson’s catch was ruled incomplete due to the big receiver not maintaining possession throughout  his catch according to the officials….Bogus.  I have even listed the cockamamie rule for you to interpret — “If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.”  I thought the call was a disgrace and once again, officials are making themselves part of the story…Sorry Lions fans, you deserved better.

The Ravens Show talk is cheap on MNF – After selling Wolf Tickets on HBO’s Hard Knocks, the New York Jets expected to open their $1.6 Billion Dollar home stadium in style.  Unfortunately, the Jets had no idea what was in store for them.  In a physical dominating win, the Baltimore Ravens, led by veteran linebacker Ray Lewis, put all of the Jets’ Hard Knocks boasting to rest as they showed the country who is the NFL’s best defense.  The J-E-T-S were held to six first downs and a one-of-11 rate on third-down conversions in a black-and-blue 10-9 loss.  Plus Rex Ryan’s rowdy bunch produced a staggering 14 penalties for 125 yards.  Ryan said of his team’s effort, “Today, was a joke.”  Lewis said of the opening-game win, “All the trash talking, it’s out the door. Every time you challenge a warrior, a warrior is going to always respond.”

The NFL Season is Survival of the Fittest– The “tough” physical game of football causes a survival of the fittest on the way to the Lombardi Trophy. No team makes it to the top without dealing with injuries every week of the season. Unfortunately one of this week’s biggest stories was two season-ending injuries for the Philadelphia Eagles as leaders center Jamaal Jackson (torn triceps) and fullback Leonard Weaver (severe knee injury) unfortunately were badly hurt.  The Eagles also will be on the NFL’s front page too for another set of injuries as both QB Kevin Kolb and MLB Stewart Bradley had concussions, but were allowed to return to the field briefly before being shutdown at halftime.  Now both players will have to pass baseline testing and other tests administered by an independent source before returning to game action. Other major injuries were Lions QB Matthew Stafford (Shoulder), Panthers QB Matt Moore (Concussion), Packers RB Ryan Grant (ankle), Cardinals WR Early Doucet (Hamstring), Giants TE Kevin Boss (Concussion), Texans DE Conner Barwin (fractured ankle), Colts S Bob Sanders (elbow), Steelers LT Max Starks (high ankle sprain) and NT Kris Jenkins (knee).

Colts need to get serious about the run – Sure…QB Peyton Manning had great numbers 40-57, 433 yards and 3 TDs in a 34-24 road loss.  But the Colts’ lopsided loss to the Texans showed that successful teams can run the football on offense and stop the run on defense.  Houston out-rushed Indy 257 to 44, setting a franchise record for most rushing yards in Texans’ franchise history and most rushing yards allowed in Colts’ franchise history.

Former playoff teams struggle – As I always say, “Every year is different in the NFL”.  That phrase was never more prophetic than in Week 1 where 2009 playoff teams went a combined 5-7 — winners were Patriots, Saints, Cardinals, Packers, and Ravens.  Yes… the Patriots dominated the Cincinnati Bengals 38-24. 

Witherspoon shows heart – Only days after learning about his mother’s passing, Carolina Panthers LB Will Witherspoon gave everything he had in a loss to the NY Giants. 

Game Balls

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster – What an amazing game for the 2nd year runner, who was viewed as a back-up just a short time ago.  Foster (6’1, 220), running in OC Rick Dennison’s zone-blocking scheme, became the first player in NFL history to rush for 200+ yards and three touchdowns on Kickoff Weekend.  The former Tennessee star finished with 33 carries for 231 yards — including 191 yards in the 2nd half — and 3 TDs as the Texans rushed for a franchise record 257 yards in the big 34-24 win over the Colts.  The Texans maybe changing their ways into a rushing team first as shown by their 42-to-17 run-to-pass ratio in the much-celebrated win.

Honorable Mention – Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte, Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews Jr, Kansas City Chiefs kick returner Dexter McCluster, Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson, New York Giants WR Hakeem Nicks, Seattle Seahawks WR Mike Williams, New England Patriots WR Wes Welker, Pittsburgh Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall, Houston Texans DE Mario Williams, Washington Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall and Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis

Lloyd’s Lackey of the Week

Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid – After already quickly burning his 2nd half timeouts, with the game on the line Reid and/or offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg came up short.  Backup QB Michael Vick had rallied the Eagles from a 17-point hole and the Birds had to convert a fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 42-yard line with two minutes left for a chance to tie the score at 27 points. Reid decided that Vick – who lined up in the shotgun formation —  should run a quarterback draw up the middle instead passing or getting the speedster to the edge.  Of course, the Packers easily diagnosed the play and stuffed Vick for no gain to the ire of the Philadelphia Faithful.  The 4th down play was the cherry on top of Eagles injuries, poor offensive execution in first half, poor offensive line, concussion controversies and penalties…I bet the Eagles will never wear those 1960 throwback jerseys again.  Green Packers LB Nick Barnett said of the crucial 4th down play, “He’d been making all the plays, and we knew they were going to put it on him…So yeah, we were ready.”

Dishonorable Mention – The “Loudmouth” New York Jets, Officiating crew from the Bears-Lions game, Carolina Panthers QB Matt Moore, Niners RB Frank Gore, Bengals WR Terrell Owens and the Dallas Cowboys

2010 NFL Week 1

Thu, Sep 09 

Saints 14, Vikings 9 — Fast start for Brees and his WR’s then a defensive battle..After missing most of camp was Favre rusty??

Sun, Sep 12 

Jaguars 24, Broncos 17 — Big win for the Jags, Garrard 3 TDs         

Titans 38, Raiders 13 — The Titans stomp all over the Raiders led by CJ2K who had 142 yds and 2 TDs

Patriots 38, Bengals 24 — Behind Brady and Welker, New England jumps out 24-3 in first half and cruises home.  Moss bitching about contract         

Bucs 17, Browns 14 — Tampa puts away the hard-luck Browns; Freeman had a good game     

Texans 34, Colts 24 — Fueled by RB Arian Foster (231 yds, 3TDs) Houston rolled; QB Peyton Manning had big yards, but there were several drops

Bears 19, Lions 14 — Chicago wins a good game that was overshadowed by the officials overturning an apparent Calvin Johnson TD        

Steelers 15, Falcons 9 — P-Burgh wins in OT on a Mendenhall run; Lots of D and FGs, but Steelers win on 50-yd TD run in OT

Dolphins 15, Bills 10 — Henne efficient.. Good running by R. Brown; Bills are a bad team

Giants 31, Panthers 18 — Eli and Hakim Nicks have huge days; Matt Moore (concussion) had 2 INTs in the endzone          

Packers 27, Eagles 20 — Philly loses Jackson, Kolb, Bradley, and Weaver; Back-up Vick starts a QB controversy as he almost gets it done      

Cardinals 17, Rams 13 — The Cardinals return to STL and get an ugly win; Though hurting, WR Larry Fitzgerald had the game-winner

Seahawks 31, SF49ers 6 — Hasselbeck has a big day and the Niners look bad; Singletary has some clean-up to do      

Redskins 13, Cowboys 7 — McNabb efficient and Defense scores TD; Romo throws touchdown at end that is disallowed due to Barron’s holding penalty        

Mon, Sep 13 

Ravens 10, NY Jets 9 — Ray Lewis and his defense show the J-E-T-S that “talk” is cheap; Also NY Jets QB Mark Sanchez has to do better than 71 yards passing

Chiefs 21, Chargers 14 — Stayed up late for this one, but it was worth it; Romeo Crennel’s young defense came-up big when it mattered most; KC has some speedsters too 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Taking Bush’s Heisman is the Wrong Decision by Lloyd Vance

September 14, 2010 1 comment

Did really I take this picture of former Heisman Winner Reggie Bush or was it all mirage….apparently the Heisman Trust thinks so

In late 2005, I enjoyed a great evening in New York City as I attended the awarding of the Heisman Trophy.  That night, I was able to cover the award ceremony that I had loved watching as a youth.

To no one’s surprise that evening, former USC running back Reggie Bush won the award.  The player described as having video game type moves on the real gridiron was all smiles as he joined USC’s treasure chest of former winners.

But due to recent events, I have been left wondering if I really did make that trip to NYC five years ago.  After NCAA violations have been discovered against Southern Cal related to Bush, the speedy running back will apparently forfeit his Heisman after being scrutinized by the Trophy’s Trust.  If this does indeed happen, Bush, would be the first player to forfeit or be stripped of college football’s most prestigious honor in the 75-year history of the award.

Apparently in the coming days, Bush will ship the award back, issue an apology and move-on with the 2010 NFL Season as still is a valued member of the Super Champion Saints.  We will see if 2005 runner-up and former University of Texas quarterback Vince Young is ready accept the award – at first the former National Championship MVP said  he didn’t want it, but may have had a change of heart.  I know that Reggie Bush did wrong by accepting improper gifts from agents while he was still in college, but the NCAA and the Heisman people have gone too far on this one.

Anybody can see that this move is just being done to discourage any future college “hot shot” and/or unscrupulous agents from embarrassing the award…But give me a break.  USC has already been served with the NCAA’s harshest punishment since the SMU Death Sentence and Bush has been publicly humiliated by his alma Mater removing him from the school’s record book.  Enough is Enough as you cannot re-write history.

The Heisman Trust may think that they are doing the right thing by passing Bush off as a villain.  But trust me there are thousands of former big-time college athletes that have gotten payoff handshakes during their collegiate playing days.  Let’s face it…NCAA Football is just a glorified minor league for the NFL and NBA where everyone is fatting up huge dollars from Conferences to Schools to Cable Networks to Head Coaches to Athletic Departments.  But players are supposed to just sit quietly and wait for their turn to get paid in the pros…yeah right.

I have never been a big fan of college football and the main reason is the “Hypocrisy” of the entire system, especially their B.S Bowl Championship Series (BCS) that decides their National Championship contenders – something to argue about another time.  If anyone needs to be humiliated further it is not Bush, it should be former USC head coach Pete Carroll, who skated off to millions of dollars in Seattle.  Also you cannot forget the real “pimps” of college football, the Conference heads and school presidents, that keep trying to move the sport back to the Knute Rockne era before it was the billion-dollar business that it is today.

Now is the time for college football administrators to finally figure out a way of compensating players, because the current system is mockery — million dollar bowl payouts, jersey sales, etc…while kids don’t have money for a date.  Taking away Bush’s Heisman is just a “Face Saving” move and is only window-dressing to the much larger problem of college football where players get the shaft over and over, only because they have a scholarship.

Next thing you know former winners Jason White, Eric Crouch, and Rashaan Salaam will have to give back their awards, because they were “scrubs” in the pros.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)