Archive for November, 2010

A November to Remember

It’s been a November to remember on the gridiron.   As we look back on this month, here are five of our favorite unforgettable football moments…

#5 – Peculiar PAT attempt

The picture of 307 pound defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions lining up for an extra point attempt against the Jets is an image burned in our minds. Suh is on track to earn rookie of the year for his dominating defensive performance this year, but his PAT attempt has made him a YouTube star!  

#4 – Joe Paterno Earns his 400th Victory!

On November 6th, Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno earned his 400th victory.  The 83 year old football legend joined the exclusive 400 club after a comeback against Northwestern, where the Lions were down 21-0 at one point.  The Nittany Lions have a young squad (almost 5 dozen freshman and sophomores and just 8 senior starters), but were able to rally to give JoePa this milestone victory!

#3 – Mental Meltdowns and On the Field Brawls

In addition to the great gridiron this month, there was lots of unscripted action that was not drawn up in the playbook.  Vince Young’s temper tantrum, where he threw his shoulder pads into the bleachers and stormed from the locker room, is just one more memorable moment in this action-packed month. 

Another unforgettable sight was the on the field fight between Houston receiver Andre Johnson and Tennessee Titan cornerback Cortland Finnegan.  At a time when the NFL seems to be trying to squash intensity and emotion, these two players showed that football is a game of adrenaline and passion that is sometimes impossible to contain.

#2 – Michael Vick

Returning to the NFL after serving 21 months in federal prison, Michael Vick’s 2010 season has been phenomenal.  His Monday Night Football performance in a game against the Redskins – 333 yards passing, 80 yards rushing and six touchdowns (4 passing, 2 rushing) – was one of most exciting moments of November.  While this past weekend may not have been his best performance (he threw his first interception of the season and committed a few fumbles), his QB rating is 106 and he remains one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the NFL. 

#1 – Twitty Tweeter

Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson dropped a potential game winning touchdown pass in overtime on Sunday.  After the Bills went on to lose to the Steelers 19-16, a distraught Johnson tweeted the following.. 

There are plenty of players who raise their heads up to praise God after a great play, but Johnson putting the blame on a higher power is certainly unique.  Twitter has given football fans a new form of amusement. Throughout the NFL players send off their latest thoughts, often without fully considering the consequences!  Johnson’s twitty tweet is simply priceless!  It’s moments like these that make football the best sport on earth and definitely made this a November to remember.

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Monday Night Fizzle? Two NFC West Rivals Face Off in a Game with More Fizzle than Sizzle…

Tonight the 3-7 San Francisco 49ers face the Arizona Cardinals, who coincidentally have an identical 3-7 record.  Sound boring?  Well, as surprising as it may seem, both of these teams are still in the hunt for a playoff spot!  Both NFC West teams are just two games out of first place in a very beleaguered division.  While it may seem improbable that 3-7 teams can snag a playoff slot, it is interesting to note that since 1990, three teams have started 3-6 and made the playoffs.  However, unlike the 49ers and Cardinals, all of those teams (the ’94 Patriots, ’95 Lions and ’96 Jaguars) won their 10th games.

The 49ers were predicted to have an outstanding 2010 season.  With a strong, dominant offensive line, running back Frank Gore was expected to lead his team to success.  Instead, they lost their first 5 games and have not won a single game on the road.  Tonight’s matchup is on the road, so if history is an indicator, the 49ers could find themselves eliminated from any potential playoff spot. 

After some lineup changes a few weeks ago, the Niners won two games in a row and it looked as though they were perhaps finally going to live up to the pre-season predictions.  But last week they were shut out at home 21-0 by the Tampa Bay Bucs.  It was their first shut out at home since 1977.  Another loss tonight will not only keep them from the playoffs, but could cost Head Coach Mike Singletary his job.

The Cardinals are on a 5 game losing streak and are even more downtrodden than the 49ers.  But of the remaining 6 games on their schedule, 4 are at home.  A home field advantage could be just what Arizona needs to keep them in the playoff picture, so a win tonight is vital. 

It is unlikely that tonight’s game will have the razzle-dazzle performance that Michael Vick put on a few weeks ago on MNF.  The 49ers are second to last in scoring in the NFL, while the Cardinals are next to last in total yards.  Yes, this may indeed be a game marked by more fizzle than sizzle.  But for two of the worst teams in the worst division, the possibility that a victory tonight could help propel them into the playoffs is at least amusing.

A Serving of Sunday Showdowns Better than Your Momma’s Best Sunday Dinner!

It is week 12 in the NFL season, which means do or die time for a number of  teams trying to reach the playoffs.  Today’s games offer a football fan’s dream come true in terms of playoff implications and pure adrenaline boosting excitement!  Here are three of today’s key matchups…

Jags vs. the Giants

The Giants are in second place in the NFC East, trailing the Eagles.  After a five game winning streak, they got shocked by the struggling Cowboys, who had just fired their head coach.  The next week, the Eagles served up yet another defeat.  The Giants are playing inconsistently, due in large part to the multitude of injuries plaguing the offensive line and receiving corps.  It is a must win for the Giants.  Their remaining schedule is tough, so they need a victory in order to break their losing streak and get ready for their remaining NFC East division games.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are tied with the Colts for first in the AFC South. It is shocking, given how they started the season.  Frankly, they have been getting lucky in some games this season.  If they lose today, it just may be the start of a long streak of bad luck for the Jags!  Should the Jags fall behind Indy, it will be difficult for them to secure a wildcard spot given all the strong teams in the AFC.

Colts vs. the Chargers

Two phenomenal QBs meet tonight in what will most likely be a high scoring, blazing contest.  San Diego QB Philip Rivers is the top passing QB in the AFC, passing for over 3100 yards this season.  He is a favorite for this year’s NFL MVP.  For the Chargers, who started 2-5 before going on a three game winning streak, they need a win.  They are in 2nd place in the AFC West, behind Kansas City.  Their late season comeback has been a great reversal on a season that looked quite gloomy, but if they want to make the playoffs, they simply cannot afford to lose any more games.

The Colts are tied with the Jags for first place in the AFC South. It appears that there will not be any wild cards slots from this division, so winning it is the only way a team will make it to the playoff rounds.  Peyton Manning has an uncanny ability to win in the home stretch, despite all the injuries the Colts are enduring.  The Colts need Manning to once again work his magic if they are to make the playoffs this season.  A win today is crucial.  Whatever the final outcome, with Manning and Rivers on the field today, look for a scoring extravaganza!

Chiefs vs. the Seahawks

The Kansas City Chiefs hold the first place position in the AFC West, but the Chargers and Raiders are tied for second in a very tight division.  The Chiefs need a victory today to keep their division rivals from overtaking the lead, especially San Diego.  Kansas City has won all 5 of their home games this season, but as they travel to Seattle, they bring with them only one victory away from home.  The Chiefs need a victory on the road to help win the division and leap into the playoffs.

The Seahawks lead the NFC West with a 5-5 record.  St. Louis is one game behind them and struggling.  Winning at this time of the year is important for every team. But in the NFC West, there will likely be no wild card slots because of how poor the teams within the division are playing.  The Seahawks need to use their home field advantage to snag a win and keep their top place in the division to earn a playoff spot.

There is a full menu of mouth-watering games today.  Many of them have playoff implications and are more scrumptious than your momma’s best Sunday dinner.  Check out the Bears vs. Eagles, Packers vs. Falcons and the Ravens vs. Buccaneers.  With today’s delectable choices, you will be sure to have your football appetite filled!

Boise State Falls to Nevada in OT… Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz Oh What a Relief it is!

College football’s most divisive team, Boise State, lost 34-31 in overtime to Nevada last night.  The Broncos were ranked 4th and were undefeated this season.  In fact, they had not lost a game since 2008, when they fell to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl.  Poinsettia Bowl?  Honestly, I did not even know that bowl existed.  This loss makes it quite likely Boise will end up in a similarly named bowl of obscurity.

If you detect a bit of mockery in my tone, you are right.  Politically correct or not, I am willing to admit that I am celebrating Boise State’s defeat.  I have felt all along that they were undeserving of their 4th place ranking.  Given the current structure of the BCS, I have little faith that the actual top teams will be playing for a national title.  The idea of Boise State playing in a BCS bowl game seemed so unjust and bizarre to me.  Thankfully last night’s loss will ensure that the Broncos will not be national championship contenders.  Whew!  What a relief. 

A few days ago Ohio State University President Gordon Gee offered his opinion about Boise State and 3rd ranked Texas Christian University being possible BCS contenders.  Since that statement, he has been widely criticized.  While Gee’s words were perhaps not as eloquent as one would expect from a university president, the basic concept he was trying to convey resonated among many fans.  During an AP interview, Gee said

I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like murderer’s row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day. So I think until a university runs through that gauntlet that there’s some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to (be) in the big ballgame.

It was an insensitive way to basically argue that schools like Boise State and TCU do not play with the “big boys”.  However, the OSU President should have looked at strength of schedule stats before making such a controversial, public statement.  It turns out that OSU’s strength of schedule (59) is only slightly better than TCU’s (68) and Boise’s (73).  These strength of schedule (SOS) stats have now been used against Gee by basically every sports commentator and writer around.

But to dismiss Gee’s arguments by simply quoting SOS data misses the bigger picture.  There is validity in what he was trying to say.  Frankly, the WAC and Mountain West conferences, which Boise and TCU play in, are NOT as competitive as the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-10 or the ACC.  While teams like these do play weaker opponents, the majority of their games are against teams in more powerful conferences.  For example, #2 ranked Auburn has faced Arkansas (#12 at the time), LSU (#6 at the time), South Carolina (#12 at the time) and Alabama (#11 at the time).  Conversely, Boise State’s ranked opponents have been Virginia Tech (#10 at the time) and # 19 Nevada, whom they lost to last night.

Consider the argument from yet another perspective.  If you are a high school football player, being recruited to play at the collegiate level, would you choose a school from the Mountain West over ANY school in the PAC-10, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12 or SEC?  Of course there are exceptions, but the majority of elite high school prospects choose colleges from the powerhouse conferences.  This means that week after week teams like Auburn, Alabama and OSU face athletes who are simply stronger, faster, bigger and yes, better.  So until Boise State and TCU can compete against better caliber opponents on a consistent basis, football fans like me will continue to doubt them.

All the controversy about strength of schedules, BCS computer rankings and so forth could be eliminated if a college football playoff system was implemented.  It would put an end to the endless arguing about who deserves to play in the major BCS bowls.  Gordon Gee is not a proponent of a playoff system and prefers the status quo.  If he truly believes OSU is far superior to teams like Boise and TCU, he should welcome NCAA playoffs. 

In the meantime, people like me have to sit back and hope that the football media darlings, like Boise State, fall from grace and get eliminated from the national championship discussion.  If you listen closely, you can hear the sigh of relief from football fans throughout the land.

Cam Newton is the Comeback Kid!

If you watched Auburn vs. Alabama today in the Iron Bowl, I hope you didn’t turn it off at halftime to go grab some Black Friday bargains.  The game was one of the most exciting deals you could ask for and it was certainly a tale of two halves!

Auburn entered the game ranked 2nd in the nation.  The atmosphere at Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium was hostile, with much of the hatred directed at Auburn QB Cam Newton.  Newton has been embroiled in pay for play allegations for weeks.  As the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, it is not surprising that Alabama Crimson Tide fans targeted Newton.   They threw play Monopoly money at him as he entered the stadium and the loudspeakers blared out the song “Take the Money and Run” during pre-game warm-ups.  In the end, though, Newton would silence all his critics with the biggest comeback n Auburn’s history!

The first half was dominated by 9th ranked Alabama, who at one point led 24-0 in front of their home crowd.  Alabama tore the Auburn Tiger defense to shreds and it looked as though a blow out was developing.  In fact, the Tide controlled the first half so completely that it was 21-0 before Auburn even gained a first down! 

Cam Newton had a dreadful start and at the end of the first quarter was 0 for 1 in passing and had 5 carries for negative 6 yards.  Late in the 2nd quarter, Auburn finally answered back with a 36 yard TD pass from Newton to wide out Emory Blake to close the scoring gap to 24-7.  Little did anyone know it was just the beginning of the Cam Newton Comeback Show.

In the second half, Newton threw a 70 yard TD pass on the second play to make it 24-14.  The Tiger defense stepped up and forced Alabama to punt, allowing Newton and his offense to work their magic.  Late in the 3rd quarter, Auburn scored again, this time on a Cam Newton run, to bring the score to 24-21.  With just over a minute left in the 3rd quarter, Alabama kicked a field goal and led 27-21.

In the first half, the Auburn defense gave up 379 yards to the Crimson Tide offense.  But Auburn’s defense looked like a different unit when they emerged from the locker room and held Alabama to just 67 yards in the second half!  Another Cam Newton passing TD early in the 4th quarter gave Auburn the lead for the first time, 28-27.  The Tigers would keep that lead and prevent Alabama from scoring for the rest of the game.

Cam Newton’s performance was indeed magical.  Alabama had won 20 consecutive home games and it looked as though they were about to seal their 21st victory.   But Newton would not be deterred.  His determination to keep Auburn’s undefeated record and national championship hopes alive was remarkable and should solidify his #1 position in the Heisman race. 

Despite the hostility directed at him and the incredible media scrutiny he is under, Newton was able to keep his composure and lead his team from what seemed an insurmountable 24-0 deficit.  He threw for 216 yards and 3 TDs, as well as running for a TD.  At the end of the game, he not only defeated the Crimson Tide football team, but also silenced the more than 100,000 fans who left the stadium in stunned silence.  On so many levels, Cam Newton truly was the Comeback Kid today!

Five Fabulous Reasons to be Thankful this Football Season…

As we pause to reflect upon the people and things in life that we are grateful for, we of course think of our families, special friends – both near and far – and other wonderful blessings.  As football fans, we are also thankful for the 2010 season and the excitement it has brought us thus far.  Here is our top five list of what we are most thankful for this football season…

#5 –  The Hokie Bird

Thanksgiving has a variety of traditions, like turkey and football, and what better turkey to represent the day than the Virginia Tech mascot?  The maroon and orange turkey may not be as ferocious as a lion or tiger, but he does have spectacular spirit as he struts his stuff around Lane Stadium.  In the 4th quarter as he dances the “Hokie Pokie”, you must admit there’s really no other mascot quite like him!

#4 – Mid-Season Coach Firings

After watching two of the most incompetent NFL coaches bumble along this season, we are grateful that the Cowboys and the Vikings had the courage to fire their head coaches.  Minnesota’s Brad Childress lost control of the team early in the season.  But his handling of Randy Moss truly epitomized his incompetence.  Now at 3-7, it will be interesting to see if interim head coach Leslie Frazier can salvage the season.  The Cowboys also made the bold move of firing head coach Wade Phillips mid way through the season.  Newly appointed Head Coach Jason Garrett seems to have shaken things up, as the Cowboys are playing much more motivated, disciplined football compared to when Phillips was coach.  It remains to be seen if these coaching changes will result in any real improvement in team play.  But, at the very least, we are thankful that we no longer have to endure the awkward and embarrassing behaviors of Childress and Phillips.

#3 –  Fantasy Football

While my team may not exactly be winning (ok, ok..we are in next to last place), entering a fantasy league for the first time this season has been one of the most fun and exciting things I have done in a long time.  Each week, as I set my starting line up in hopes of achieving the perfect team to annihilate my opponent, I love the strategy involved.  With players on my roster from throughout the league, I am interested in more games than ever before.  It is a great, new way to enjoy the gridiron and I am so thankful to be in such a great league (Go, HokieHokieHokie!)

#2 – Denard Robinson

He may not be as popular as Heisman hopeful Cam Newton of Auburn, but there’s something about Denard Robinson that makes us smile!  The University of Michigan QB, known as “’Shoelace”, is just plain fun to watch.  As he leads the Wolverines with his untied shoelaces and signature dreadlocks, he poses a dual threat to opposing defenses.  He alone has accounted for nearly 70% of Michigan’s total offense.  He is the first quarterback in NCAA history to pass for more than 1500 yards AND rush for 1500 yards in a single season.  At 7-4, Michigan’s season has been disappointing, which is one of the reasons Robinson may not be as highly touted as other Heisman candidates.  But nothing beats his pure athleticism and raw talent.  He is truly one of the most dynamic players in college football today and one of our very favorite things about this football season!

#1 – Michael Vick

Is there a better story in football this year?  After 21 months in federal prison because of his involvement in dog fighting, most people wrote Michael Vick off.  He lost his QB position with the Atlanta Falcons, declared bankruptcy and became one of the most despised figures in America.  Upon release from prison, most people expected him to return to his old lifestyle and friends and fade into obscurity.  But with the help of former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who mentored him while in prison, Vick changed his attitude, his work ethic, and in the end, his life.  His story is one of redemption and should give each of us hope.

As the starting QB for the Philadelphia Eagles, Vick’s performance this season has been phenomenal.  He is a serious contender for this year’s MVP.  Under the watchful, fatherly eye of Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid, Vick appears to be thriving both on and off the field.  With his unparalleled physical abilities, he is arguably the best overall athlete in the NFL.  Like our #2 favorite, Denard Robinson, we just love watching Vick play!  That immeasurable, distinctive ability to make plays with both his arm and his legs are simply magical and make him our VERY FAVORITE thing about the 2010 season so far!

Happy Thanksgiving fellow football fans!  Enjoy the rest of the season!

Shop til you Drop!

As we prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, we can’t help but think of another Thanksgiving tradition – Black Friday shopping!  If you are looking for that perfect holiday gift for your favorite sports fan, check out the fantastic Black Friday sales from some of the leading sports retailers around!  Many retailers have not yet announced their Black Friday promotions, so check your favorite  online sites tomorrow for a sneak peek.

There will no doubt be some fabulous deals, so you can also grab a little something for yourself!   Enjoy your Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, get filled up on LOTS of football, then head out early Friday morning and shop til you drop!  If you aren’t an early bird, have no fear.  Retailers are now offering many promotions online that were previously only available in stores.

The Sports Authority is one of the few sports retailers to reveal their Black Friday sales.  They are opening at 5 am nationwide.  There will be 10 hour door busters, from 5 am until 3 pm, with fantastic deals – like 60 and 70% off select items, while supplies last!  There is a buy one, get one 50% off deal on all footwear.  Need a football for your next backyard game?  The Nike Downfield Football is a great catch at 50% off and just $15!

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