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Vick Shines in Eagles’ MNF Destruction of Redskins by Lloyd Vance

November 16, 2010 1 comment

Michael Vick, “You Were Ridiculous!” in the Eagles 59-28 Monday Night Football destruction of the Washington Redskins

With the signing of Donovan McNabb earlier in the day to a somewhat unexpected 5-year, $78 million contract extension with $40 million guaranteed that will more than likely allow the veteran quarterback to end his storied career in the Nation’s Capital, everything seemed in place for a shining moment on Monday Night Football. 

But…Hold-up wait a minute as the quarterback that set the NFL’s favorite weekly evening drama into orbit was none other than McNabb’s former understudy’s understudy, Michael Vick.  The mercurial quarterback, who many doubted ever could become a “complete” passer, opened several eyes as he had a magical night in the Philadelphia Eagles 59-28 demolition of the Washington Redskins (4-5) on MNF.

Vick was the catalyst as the Eagles (6-3) busted out to a 35-0 lead early in the second quarter.  In a night where McNabb – passing numbers 17 for 31 for 295 yards with 2 TDs and 3 INTs in the loss — could only applaud his former Syracuse recruit.  Vick gave Eagles’ Nation something to remember for a long time. 

The Birds set team records for total yards in a game (592), points in a half (45) and had the biggest lead after the first quarter for any NFL road team (28-0) since at least 1950.  “We got outcoached. We got outplayed. They did everything right,” Redskins disgruntled DL Albert Haynesworth said after the embarrassing loss.

At the 2010 Philadelphia Eagles first mini-camp after the draft, I noted to a fellow media member the Vick looked to be 100% back and then he impressed me more by sounding like a new mature humbled individual when I talked with him after practice.  I thought, “Wow”, this guy is going to be an asset helping out new starter as a veteran back-up and serving in the Wildcat.  But none of us had any idea that the NFL’s new quarterback guru, Andy Reid, had remolded the fallen star and created MV7 version 2010, a masterpiece.

Redemption road has been a long one for the former NFL superstar turned public enemy number one for his part in a notorious dogfighting situation that cost him over two years away from the game that he so dearly loves.  But this is not your standard, “Michael Vick is Back” story as there is no question regarding whether the former 3-time Pro Bowl player can redeem himself.

No, the real question is “How Can’t Michael Vick be considered the leading candidate for the 2010 NFL Most Valuable Player Award?”  Forget about McNabb and his extension – former Eagles franchise great already has his hands full enough with a Washington team that badly needs some offensive talent – plus former Reid “anointed” starter Kevin Kolb.

Vick is playing at a level that deserves to put him in any conversation with the Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees.  That’s right…I am doing the unthinkable in putting Vick in a quarterback class that some thought he could ever achieve.  Incredibly at age 30, the former Atlanta troubled prodigy has become the player everyone thought he could be when the Falcons made him the NFL’s first overall draft pick way back in 2001. 

His speed to the corner is at an elite running back’s  level, his arm is looking better than any quarterback in the league right now and under the guidance of Reid, Vick has the work ethic and pocket presence that has to be leaving everyone in the NFL scratching their heads… are you reading Greg Knapp.

On his magical night, Vick became the first player in NFL history with at least 300 yards passing, 50 yards rushing, four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in a game. Ironically it was Vick’s magical legs — ran eight times for 80 yards and two scores plus moved past Steve Young and into second place in NFL history for yards rushing by a quarterback – that were an afterthought as his arm did all his talking.  The former Virginia Tech star threw an 88-yard laser touchdown pass to a streaking DeSean Jackson on his first play of the game and he never looked back in one of the greatest performances in Monday Night Football history. 

“I’ve had some great games in my day,” Vick said. “But I don’t think I’ve had one quite like this one.”  He accounted for 6 touchdowns while finishing with off the chart passing numbers finished 20 for 28 for 333 yards and four touchdowns – completed first 10 passes of the night.  But more impressive to me is the fact that Vick hasn’t thrown an interception or lost a fumble this season – sorry Brett Favre…you lead the league with 16 INTs. 

The Birds are 4-0 when Vick starts and finishes the game, which has made him an instant star in Philadelphia and galvanized a once fractured fanbase. We will see if the Vick Express can continue all the way through the playoffs, if he too can get a coveted extension, and continue playing at a level the NFL has not scene since Steve Young’s magical 1995 Super Bowl winning year for the Niners.

Eagles’ veteran receiver Jason Avant said of his quarterback’s phenomenal play, “The guy is unreal. How do you defend him when we have everything going? I have not seen anything like that. It was so much fun out there.”

But more importantly, the Eagles and Vick now have move into a NFC East first-place tie with the New York Giants (6-3) setting the stage for next week’s megawatt Sunday Night Football battle at the Linc.

 

 

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 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)

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)

Eagles expected to pay Vick’s bonus by Lloyd Vance

Looks like quarterback Michael Vick will be with the Philadelphia Eagles a little longer than originally anticipated

For years, disgruntled former Philadelphia Eagles have left the nest complaining about the front office’s low priority in paying veteran players.  From Troy Vincent to Corey Simon to Jeremiah Trotter to Lito Sheppard, there was animosity towards the team’s management as fans seethed on the radio and message boards about their “thrifty” nature. 

Even recently, “stand up guy” Brian Westbrook had some choice comments on his way out the door. Westbrook said via the Dan Patrick Radio Show, ” The players want to win, but with the management, I would hope winning is the priority – but I don’t know that.  The thing for (the Eagles’ front office), it’s always money. It’s always dollar signs. If they can find someone to do it a little bit cheaper, they’ll go with that guy.”

With the Eagles image of not “paying” veteran players being in the public’s forefront.  All along I thought there was no way that the team would pay spare part 3rd string quarterback Michael Vick’s upcoming bonus.  Vick is due a $1.5 million roster bonus payment on March 5th (start of NFL free agency and new calendar year).

But to everyone’s surprise, people around the Eagles that I have recently talked to definitely believe that the team is indeed strongly considering paying Vick his bonus.  To further solidify my findings, my colleague Geoff Mosher of The News Journal recently wrote, “Multiple league sources have told me that they anticipate the Eagles paying Vick’s 1.5 roster bonus and holding onto Vick for as long as possible to get the best available offer. Shelling out $1.5 million is hardly unreasonable if the team gets a third-or fourth-round pick in return.”

I know most Michael Vick followers will not understand the team paying for basically nothing.  However I have to agree with the team’s thinking in this case.  Everyone around the league already seem to be playing the waiting game with the Eagles at this point, to see if Vick will be let go to become an unrestricted free agent.  Obviously with Eagles quarterbacks Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and Vick all entering the 2010 season on 1-year deals, clearly the under-utilized 3rd stringer has to be the odd man out. Especially at his total price of $6 to $7 Million in 2010. 

Vick’s last season playing time and numbers (passing: 6-13, 46.2%, 86 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INTs plus 24 rushes for 95 yards, and 2 TDs) also clearly show that McNabb and Kolb are the team’s future and not him.  But any trade leverage that the Eagles posses with rumored destination teams — Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, or Carolina Panthers – hinges mainly on making it look like there is a chance of Vick staying in Philly.  So paying him on March 5th seems very probable. 

However paying Vick’s bonus this week does present another problem.  If the Eagles can’t unload Vick via trade there are provisions in his contract that would make him the costliest 3rd stringer in the NFL.  His $1.5 million roster bonus can quickly grow into a minimum of $2.5 million dollars ($1M of his $3.75M salary for 2010 becomes guaranteed once his option is picked up).  And I won’t even go into the amount of $5.25 million dollars, if Vick is with the Eagles for the entire 2010 season.

Clearly the Eagles have to make a “tough” decision on Friday, March 5th.  But I do believe they will buck their perceived cap-conscious reputation by calling Vick’s agent Joel Segal to inform him that “yes” the check is in the mail. By paying Vick’s bonus, the Eagles will buy some much-needed time to ensure a trade before the 2010 NFL Draft on April 22 – probably a 3rd or 4th rounder in return. 

 Stay tuned as we will see if the Eagles make a dollar sign decision on March 5th.

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

The Michael Vick Experience returns to the ATL in fine fashion by Lloyd Vance

For the first time since 2006, QB Michael Vick had the Georgia Dome rocking with a strong performance

The Philadelphia Eagles 34-7 shellacking of the Atlanta Falcons became a footnote to bigger story.  No it was not the fact that the Eagles (8-4) are now tied for first place in the NFC East with Dallas Cowboys.  The main storyline that dominated Sunday afternoon’s game was the triumphant return of Eagles backup quarterback Michael Vick to the Georgia Dome.  The trip back to Atlanta had been an emotional one for Vick.  He later admitted to tearing up on the bus ride over to the stadium.  This was the city where he first made his mark in the NFL as the Falcons star billboard player only to fall to tragic lows in 2007 due to his involvement in dogfighting. 

Vick’s fall from grace was swift and when he went to prison for a 23-month period, he not only left behind his family and friends, but also the franchise that stood by him since he first entered the NFL in 2001.  The Falcons owner Arthur Blank had given the keys to the franchise to his pseudo son only to have Vick disappoint him and ultimately causing the team to walk away from their former electrifying player.  While Vick was beginning his prison sentence in late 2007, the Falcons were also a shattered mess.  The 2007 season was one of the worst in Falcons’ history as the team finished with a dismal record of 4-12, their head coach Bobby Petrino quit with only a few games left, and many blamed the duo of Blank and Vick for the overall collapse of the former 2004 NFC Championship contender.  Vick finished his 6-year Falcons’ career with passing numbers of 930-1730, 11505 yards, 71 TDs, 52 INTs, and a 75.7 rating plus a record of 38-28-1 as a starter.

Though the Falcons rebounded in 2008 to make the playoffs under rookie of the year quarterback Matt Ryan, the attention of many in Atlanta still remained with Vick.  The journey of Vick from a jailed dogfighter back to the NFL has been well documented and when the Eagles first signed the former Falcons star in mid-August there was a firestorm of activity on message boards, talk radio, and any other medium associated to fan feedback.  To say the least the Vick signing was polarizing across the country sometimes along racial lines – especially in Atlanta and Philadelphia.  One camp had the former 3-time Pro Bowl player designated as persona-non-grata for the heinous nature of his crimes against dogs while others believed he deserved a second chance after serving his time.  However much like any big head line story, the Eagles signing of Michael Vick eventually faded into the back pages of NFL news after a while.  The majority of fans that had threatened to boycott their beloved Eagles due to the signing of Vick still packed the stands and on the field the former first overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft had become a “spare” part in the Eagles’ offense.  Vick would come in for a play here or there out of the Eagles version of the Wildcat formation called the “Spread Eagle”.  But other than a big 34-yard run against the San Diego Chargers, No. 7 was relegated to a designed run every so often while mostly watching starter Donovan McNabb from the sidelines.  Vick’s numbers in 9 games – suspended for the first two games — before Sunday were anything, but electrifying (3 of 9 passing for 7 yards and 0 TDs with 15 rushes for 65 yards and no touchdowns).

Even Vick’s return to Atlanta to face the Falcons was considered non- front page news as many figured the former Falcons’ star would play maybe one or two plays as he had done throughout his stint with the Birds.  But fate and a soft spot for a “comeback” story by Eagles head coach Andy Reid stepped in to bring Vick’s name back into the spotlight.  Playing in the Georgia Dome, which was once dubbed “The House that Michael Vick built”, the former 6-year Falcons player was everywhere.  Vick led the Eagles out of the tunnel to start the game, was a designated team captain for the coin toss, and received probably his most playing time of the season.  However when Vick entered the game on the Eagles fifth and seventh plays of their opening possession, he was showered with boos.   But those boos quickly faded in the 3rd quarter. With the Eagles leading 13-0, Reid re-inserted Vick in the redzone.  The former Falcons’ starter lined up in shotgun formation and after a direct snap, Vick ran into the endzone for a 5-yard jitter-bugging touchdown.  The play was pure “Vick” as he sprinted to his right then sharply cut back to his left then broke a tackle before finally divining into the endzone.  The play led to a thunderous ovation as many fans wearing No. 7 jerseys stood for their former superstar. 

As good as his first touchdown run since Oct 15, 2006 felt, the NFL’s only 1,000-yard rushing quarterback had to feel even better later on.  With the game well in-hand, Vick showed everyone that he still has plenty of juice left in his rocket left arm as he fired a 43-yard completion to receiver Reggie Brown.  Then in the redzone for the second time, the “Michael Vick Experience” was back as he sprinted out to his left then lobbed a pass back to the right to wide-open TE Brent Celek in the endzone.  The dome’s roof shook again as indeed the prodigal son had returned home.  Vick finished the day with numbers 2 of 2 passing for 48 yards and 1 TD plus 4 rushes for 17 yards with 1 TD.  Not bad for a “spare part” and there were even chants of “We want Vick! We want Vick!” from his former home crowd in the fourth quarter after his satisfying day was done.  Vick said of the fans cheers for him, “It was as loud as it gets in the Dome, I heard the chants all through the stadium and it sent chills down my spine. They were just letting me know that people still appreciate what I’ve done.”

It was easy to see the pure joy that Vick felt playing back in the ATL.  After the game Eagles starter McNabb said of Vick’s fine performance in his return, “You were seeing a guy in his element.  I think he was just relishing the moment.”  After spending a larger amount of time giving on-field interviews and reflecting,   Vick in his post-game press conference said “It couldn’t have happened at a better time, I want to become one of the top quarterbacks in this league again.”

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

Vick plays in his first NFL game in over 2 years by Lloyd Vance

August 29, 2009 3 comments

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Michael Vick is Back in the NFL !!!  Sports Journey’s NFL Insider Lloyd Vance was in the Linc’s pressbox for Vick’s much anticipated return.

After over two years of waiting and anticipation, the ‘Michael Vick Experience’ returned to the National Football League.  With a gaggle of local and national media in attendance — the pressbox seemed to have a playoff game type atmosphere.  Vick played for the first time for his new team (Philadelphia Eagles) versus the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field, ironically in the last stadium he played in way back on December 31, 2006 with the Atlanta Falcons. 

To the surprise of everyone, who had built the third preseason game of the Eagles’ schedule into a frenzy from weeks of radio fueled debate over the signing of the fallen from grace superstar, Vick was well received by the Eagles’ faithful.  The anticipated jeers, protests, and booing never materialized with Vick receiving strong cheers – some fans even gave him a standing ovation. 

 In his postgame press conference, Vick admitted that he was also pleasantly surprised by the fans’ reception – later admitted that he screwed a play up by trying to do too much after the warm reception. The former three-time Pro Bowl player said, “I didn’t think (the reaction) was going to be this positive. I didn’t know what to expect. … I was listening to hear what it would be. I’m very thankful.” 

All eyes had been on Vick during a whirlwind day from flying back and forth to Virginia for a bankruptcy hearing to warm-ups, pregame drills to when the Eagles starting offense had taken the field with Eagles starting quarterback Donovan McNabb under center.  The fans wait did not take long as Vick entered the game on the Eagles second offensive play. 

 With McNabb flanked out wide, Vick started his long road back by taking the snap and executing a safe 4-yard shovel to running back LeSean McCoy.  Then as quickly as he had entered the game, Vick returned to the sidelines waiting for his next opportunity, which arrived a few more times. In all, Vick played in six offensive plays in a variety of roles including quarterback, zone-read quarterback, wildcat quarterback, wide receiver and completed a pass right-handed (naturally a left-handed passer). All of Vick’s playing time occurred in the first half and the Birds netted three points to show for his efforts.

 The NFL’s only 1,000-yard rushing quarterback’s final passing numbers were 4-4 for 19 yards with his best pass a 13-yard bullet to receiver Hank Baskett at the Jaguars’ 11-yard line. Plus he rushed for 1-yard on the aforementioned crowd pleasing attempt, where quite frankly he looked a little heavy-legged than the whirlwind cuts machine of the past.  “Everything he was asked to do, he did it well,” McNabb said.  There were even chants of “We want Vick” that could be heard on the TV broadcast after McNabb threw an interception – where was the Anti-Vick factions then.

 No one seemed to care that the final score was Eagles 33, Jaguars 32  or that the Eagles need to sure-up a myriad of things before their opener (September 13th at Carolina, especially tackling and injuries on their offensive line. But numbers and the final score of the game can never tell the whole story. 

Michael Vick was just happy to get his feet wet in an NFL game for the first time in a long while …well preseason game.  He described the feeling of playing in his first game after his whole dogfighting melodrama as “surreal”. Vick said he had to pinch himself to believe he was back in a real game. The experience was another hurdle that Vick had to overcome on his road back.  The only drawback for Vick’s fans was that it may take awhile for the real “Mike Vick” from the past to show-up. 

Right now Vick put his current condition at 70% of his past faculties, but he added the “sky’s the limit” once he gets his legs under him – working very hard after practice on a daily basis.  He added that he was able to play at a high level before and he believes that he can do it again.

I am sure to Vick six plays and a few minutes on an NFL field once seemed like a lifetime away for the  former poster player when he was in Leavenworth – admitted in a 60 Minutes interview that he cried at night in prison.  But now the former first overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft is back on the gridiron after receiving the “second chance” that many, including myself, believe that he deserves.  Eagles’ fans, coaches, and players plus the Jaguars overall genuinely seemed happy for Vick as cleared another obstacle on his road to redemption. 

“It’s been a long journey for me,” Vick said. “I just want to do it right this time around.” 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)