Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

Vick Should be Named Eagles Starting QB NOW

After last season’s disastrous showing, Michael Vick was declared DOA by frustrated, angry Eagles fans, the ever-so-opinionated Philly media, and most NFL “experts” far and wide. It seemed as though Vick’s days in the City of Brotherly Love were numbered. Who could defend Vick when the Eagles ended the season 4-12 and Vick himself was the Titan of Turnovers? Then along came Chip Kelly.

Kelly’s decision to turn on the pressure cooker, toss in a couple of QBs and let them fight it out was brilliant. Vick has not only handled the pressure and heat, but is sizzling hot in his first two preseason games and in practices. The threat of losing his starting job to Nick Foles has literally lit a fire under him and he is showing – on and off the field – why he should be named the starter NOW.

Kelly’s quick tempo offense requires a QB with maturity, experience and the ability to handle the hypersonic pace Kelly used in Oregon. Vick still has the quickness both mentally and physically to keep up with an offense that frequently has no huddle and consistently has little time ticking off the play clock. Foles has proven to be an adequate QB – perfect for a backup position – but it’s doubtful that when faced with real game time situations he has yet gained the experience to handle such a demanding, blazing offense.

Off the field, Vick is showing he has matured. His response to the QB competition is the perfect example. Rather than lament about having to once again prove himself, #7 has graciously handled the media inquisition. He has also proven himself a more “Mature Michael” in his handling of teammate Riley Cooper’s recent racist rant. Vick stepped up as leader of the team and diffused a ticking bomb that could have easily exploded on the team early in the preseason.

On the field, Vick has shown that he has the confidence and the mental capacity to handle Kelly’s quick tempo, rhythm changing offense. Kelly has had success with mobile QBs at the collegiate level. Love him or hate him, no one can argue that Vick’s dual threat abilities make him a much better fit for Kelly’s game plan compared to Foles. He is a dynamic, game changer who seems to have learned a lesson in humility after last year’s woeful showing. Perhaps more importantly, Vick seems to have developed patience – a trait often lacking in his past – that will hopefully prevent some of the bad game time decisions that earned him a 78.1 QB rating last season.

The Eagles enter the season with a brand new coach and brand new game plan. Vick is part of that new reality and comes in with a brand new attitude. With Kelly at the helm, Vick won’t need to perform Superman feats in order to carry his team. Those Superman heroics often led to the fumbles and INTs (10 last season, with just 12 TDs) that defined him. Instead, Vick is part of a game plan that will give him better protection and keep the play calling fresh, effective and relevant.

Kelly is not the typical NFL coach so it is hard to predict when he will declare the winner of his pressure cooker-like QB competition, but given Vick’s experience, maturity, dual threat and pure athleticism, there is no doubt that Kelly should choose him as his starter. The Eagles – with Vick under center – may just be the sleeper team of the year. And yes, I am a completely biased Eagles fan. Deal with it! michael-vickFLY EAGLES FLY!

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Despite our every intention to consistently write about the 2011 football season, life has a way of derailing even the most ardent blogger.  With a work schedule that demolishes every Saturday and Sunday, it is nearly impossible to enjoy the games AND write about them.  Choosing work over tailgates and games is a serious dilemma for a real football fan, but given the economy and the cost of shoes, what’s a Gridironglamourgirl to do?  So as we approach the half-way point of the NFL season, here are a few of our observations on what is good, bad and ugly thus far.

THE GOOD: 

The Packers, Saints, Patriots and THE 49ERS?!!

The Packers, Saints and Patriots continue to top the NFL power rankings.  But after many disappointing seasons, the 49ers are the surprise team of 2011, standing at 5-1 and first in the NFC West.  Much of the turnaround can be traced to the off season.   The road to success was paved last January when Trent Baalke was named GM and Stanford University Coach Jim Harbaugh was hired as Head Coach.  Their off season acquisitions have proved to be brilliant.  From their decision to re-sign a bewildered and beaten down Alex Smith at QB –  to their choice of linebacker Aldon Smith as 7th overall in the draft – to the addition of a slew of talented players during the draft and free-agency – the decisions made thus far have been masterful and show real insight and aptitude.  With a schedule over the next 4 weeks that includes the struggling Cardinals, Redskins and Browns, the 49ers look to solidify their place among the top teams in the league.

Is Cam Newton as Good as All the Hype?

The franchise QBs that never fail to disappoint – Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees –  are posting impressive stats.  Their numbers and performances are nothing out of the ordinary for QBs of their stature.  Perhaps the most unpredictable surprise amongst QBs this season is Cam Newton.  The Carolina Panthers QB has demonstrated that his number one spot in the draft last spring was deserved.  While the Panthers are struggling with a 2-5 record, Newton is proving he can make the transition from college to the NFL.  Newton had plenty of critics, including me.  But the guy has legitimate talent and is challenging defensive coordinators to recognize and address his dual threat capabilities.

His 7 rushing TDs tied Vince Young’s record for most in a QB’s rookie season and there are still 9 games remaining.  While he has more INTs than TDs, each week he is showing signs that he is capable of leading his team.  His confidence and ability to master a full array of play calling are impressive for a rookie.  It will be fascinating to watch Newton develop the rest of the season, but if his start is any indication, he may just find his name mentioned among the elites very soon.

THE BAD: 

The St. Louis Rams

Pre-season predictions had the Rams winning the NFC West.  They now stand winless at a pitiful 0-6 record.  As the Saints come marching in this weekend, could it be that the Rams end up 0-7?  It’s quite likely.  St. Louis is suffering from a multitude of injuries and has had 7 different cornerbacks this season.  QB Sam Bradford missed the last game and is questionable against the Saints.  The receiving corps is not performing and the defense is ranked 29th in the NFL, giving up and average of 410 yards per game.  The Rams may very well be the worst team in the NFL right now.  The only solace Rams’ fans can take is that their team will likely get some early draft picks as a result of their abysmal season.

Rex Grossman

Washington QB Rex Grossman is just plain BAD.  He has the highest interception percentage over the years since he was first drafted.  This season he threw 6 TDs and 9 INTs, but unlike Newton, shows no signs of improvement.  In fact, when questioned about his performances, he seems downright delusional.  We wouldn’t be so harsh if perhaps Grossman could recognize his mistakes, but he seems blissfully ignorant of his lack of fundamentals and poor decision making at game time.  For that reason, he gets our vote as just plain BAD!

THE UGLY:

Is Michael Vick the Cause of the Eagles’ Ugly Season?

Any devoted reader knows that no blog is complete without discussing our favorite player, Michael Vick.  But putting him under a heading with the title “ugly” is downright wrong!  Sure, the Eagles look ugly – as though their wings have been clipped by a hedge clipper – but our faith in Vick remains strong.  What looked like a dream team at the beginning of the season has now turned almost nightmarish.  With free agency acquisitions that had owners and managers throughout the league green with envy, the only green Vick has been experiencing is his body implanted in the turf.

So how did a much touted team with a roster full of talent find itself with a 1-4 start?  There’s no easy answer, but part of the failure is due to new coaches, young players on the O-line and games plagued with turnovers.  So far this season, Vick has thrown 8 INTs, been sacked 8 times and has committed 7 fumbles.  Compare that to the entire 2010 season, when he had a mere 6 INTs and 11 fumbles, and you can begin to discover at least PART of the reason the Eagles have stumbled and Vick has found himself running for his life against defenders.

Vick’s passing numbers are decent – 9 TDs and over 260 yards per game passing – but they do not compare to the phenomenal numbers he posted last year. The victory two weeks ago over Washington ended Philly’s losing streak and left them with a 2-4 record.  Combined with a bye last week and three home games ahead of them, the Eagles hope to keep the momentum going.  If Vick can work on making better reads and getting rid of the ball more quickly, he could salvage the remainder of the season.  The bottom line is this:  Vick is a scrapper AND a dual threat that makes defenses respect him in and out of the pocket.  Head Coach Andy Reid has an extraordinary record coming off a bye week – 12-0! – and he will use Vick to continue that winning streak.  With Vick’s leadership, unparalleled athleticism and grit, the Eagles will once again soar.  Vick can then be removed from the “ugly” category and return to his rightful place as a football fashionista’s favorite!  Let’s face it, only Vick can turn flip flops, shorts, and a jacket and tie into a good look!

The Most Surprising and Disappointing Players of 2010

It has not even been two weeks since Super Bowl XLV and we are already feeling lost.  Sure, basketball is entertaining, but NOTHING beats the thrill and excitement of the gridiron.  As we look back, we are highlighting some of the players whom we personally found to be the biggest surprises and disappointments of the 2010 season.  Before long it will be time to move on and talk about the possible impending NFL lockout, the 2011 draft and other player, coach and team issues.  But for now, let us bask just a bit more in last season and some of its hot and not-so-hot players!

Biggest Player Surprises

Arian Foster

Houston RB Arian Foster ranked 1st in rushing in the NFL during the regular season, running for over 1600 yards and 16 TDs.  Foster also had over 600 receiving yards and 2 TDs, which ranked 1st for running backs in the NFL.  Foster has come a long way.  I remember being at the 2007 Outback Bowl in Tampa when Penn State played the Tennessee Volunteers.  Foster was playing for the Vols. and with the score tied in the fourth quarter, Foster fumbled the ball near the goal line.  A Nittany Lion returned it 88 yards for a TD and PSU ultimately went on to win 20-10.   That notorious fumble gave him a reputation for inconsistent ball handling, and in 2009, Foster entered the league as an undrafted rookie.  That season he started in just one game.  But he started off 2010 in a blaze of glory.  In the first game vs. the Colts, Foster had 231 yards rushing and 3 TDs.  It was the 2nd best rushing performance on opening day in NFL history, falling just 19 yards short of O.J. Simpson’s 1973 opening day performance.

T.O.

Terrell Owens ended his season early with the Cincinnati Bengals due to a torn meniscus.  T.O.’s season was a pleasant surprise.  He had 72 catches for almost 1000 yards and 9 TDs.  T.O’s supreme confidence and his constant desire to talk about himself and his athletic abilities have created a large number of haters and skeptics.  Like him or not, he had a surprising comeback season.  Unfortunately, the Bengals had an abysmal 4-12 season and failed to make the playoffs.  Since T.O. is a free agent, it is anyone’s guess what team he will end up on.

LaDainian Tomlinson

31 year old Tomlinson had a resurgent 2010 season with the NY Jets.  Many considered him past his prime and believed he would serve as the backup to Jets RB Shonn Greene.   But Tomlinson got more carries than Greene and rushed for over 900 yards and 6 TDs.  These may not be mind blowing stats.  But given the pre-season predictions regarding L.T., he certainly surprised many fans, critics and media members with his important contributions to the Jets.

Michael Vick

Ahhh..one last chance to talk about our favorite player!  You really didn’t think we would keep Michael Vick off this list, did you?!  If you’re a regular reader, you already know how deep our love for Vick runs.  We have always been believers, but many considered Vick a non-factor for the 2010 season.  Pundits predicted the Eagles would use him in limited “gimmick” plays for short yardage.  But when Kevin Kolb got injured, Vick seized the opportunity and showed he had not missed a step from his playing days before being incarcerated.  In fact, Vick’s hard work and off field preparations were evident and he played better than ever.  He rightfully earned the starting position and threw for over 3000 yards, 21 TDs and had a passer rating of 100.2.  He rushed for nearly 700 yards and 9 TDs.  At 30 years of age, Vick’s comeback was one best surprise of the season!

Biggest Player Disappointments

Chris Johnson

In 2009, Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson tore up the NFL as he rushed for 2006 yards.  Football enthusiasts had high hopes for Johnson this past season.  In fact, he was the number one draft pick in most fantasy football leagues.  Prior to the start of the season, Johnson himself predicted he would rush for 2500 yards.  It was a bold prediction to make and he fell considerably short.  Johnson rushed for over 1300 yards and 11 TDs, ranking 4th in rushing overall in the NFL for the regular season.  These are impressive numbers, but given pre-season hype and expectations, we can’t help but be a bit disappointed.

Brett Favre

We have always loved Brett Favre.  His place in NFL history can never be taken away.  This past season, though, was a difficult one to watch as Favre dealt with struggles both on and off the field.  His scandal with a former NY Jets employee, coupled with his injuries and on the field play – 11 TDs and 19 INTS – were unfortunate ways for the “gunslinger” to leave the NFL.  Favre’s streak for consecutive starts was ended this season as well.  After 297 consecutive starts over 19 seasons, the 41 year old legend finally succumbed to an injury to his throwing shoulder that he simply could not overcome.  We will forever love and respect Favre.  It seems jumping on the “anti-Favre” bandwagon has become fashionable.  But we refuse to ignore the incredible legacy he built both on and off the field, despite the way this particular season unfolded.

Randy Moss

Another player people love to hate is the never dull Randy Moss.  Sure, he may be brash and outspoken.  But Moss still possesses the raw athletic ability, speed and capacity to out jump even the most talented cornerbacks.  We contend that he can find success with an NFL team in the future, but it needs to be with a team that uses him correctly and can handle his personality.  But his selection to 7 Pro Bowls was not a fluke.  Moss has talent that cannot be denied.  This season, he was the center of a number of controversies and was traded by both the Patriots and the Vikings.  He played his remaining games with the Tennessee Titans, but they have announced that his future with them is uncertain.  Given the right circumstances, we believe Randy Moss can shine once again.  Unfortunately, he did not shine this season, which is quite sad for those of us who still believe in his talent.

Our list of surprises and disappointments is, of course, incomplete.  There were many players that, like a phoenix, seemingly emerged from the ashes and had brilliant seasons.  Others simply crashed and burned.  This unpredictability is what makes each season so captivating.  While players’ surprising and/or disappointing performances can frustrate our most carefully planned fantasy teams (we speak from personal experience!), we would not trade it for the world!

NFL 2010..One Roller Coaster of a Season!

The 2010 NFL Season had more ups and downs than all the roller coasters in Cedar Point combined!  We love roller coasters and since the NFL season had just as many thrills and chills, we thoroughly enjoyed these past months on the gridiron.  Here are just a few of our favorite highs and lows….

High Points:

Michael Vick’s comeback! 

This is no doubt the “feel good” story of the year.  Vick’s phenomenal performance after being incarcerated on dog fighting charges and being relegated to back up behind both Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb could truly be a movie script.  The perfect ending may have to wait, though.  Only a Super Bowl Championship seems like the larger than life finale fitting Vick, Andy Reid and the Eagles.

Ndamukong Suh PAT attempt 

In early November in a game vs. the NY Jets, 307 pound Ndamukong Suh, a rookie tackle for the Detroit Lions, lined up for the extra point attempt after the starting kicker got injured.  While he missed the extra point, the sight of Suh making the attempt was definitely a highlight of the 2010 season!

Celebration dance by B.J. Raji 

In the NFC title game vs. the Bears, Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji intercepted a Bears pass and “ran” 18 yards for a TD.  His hula hoop-like dance was one of the most amusing, fun moments of the playoffs!  Click below to see Raji in motion.

The Chicago Bears

The Bears made it to the NFC title game, despite the preseason prediction by most pundits who beleived they were a below average team with little hope.  In 2009, they went 7-9 and had failed to make the playoffs for the third consecutive year.  The Bears ended the 2010 season at 11-5.  Some people believe that luck was a big factor in their winning season, as they faced a number of back up QBs and a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks team in the playoffs.  In Week 1 against the Lions, a Detroit TD was overturned by a little known, controversial call with just a minute to play, giving the Bears the win.  Lucky or not, it was good to see the Bears return to the playoffs once again!

Aaron Rodgers 

The Packers’ QB finally emerged from Brett Favre’s shadow.   His stellar play this season earned the Packers a Super Bowl Championship, but nearly as important, gave Rodgers the recognition he deserved.  During the regular season, he earned a passer rating of 101.2 – the third best in the NFL.  He also ranked third in rushing yards by a QB.   In the post season, Rodgers had a passer rating of 109.8 and showed his composure and exceptional ability to read defenses.  What we love most about the Aaron Rodgers 2010 story is that in addition to being a great QB, he seems to be a genuinely good guy as well!

Low Points:

Mike Shanahan   

Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan started a streak of behavior in October that slowly spiraled into a complete lack of respect for veteran QB Donovan McNabb by the end of the season.  Trailing by 6 and with less than 2 minutes left in a game against Detroit, Shanahan benched McNabb and put in back up Rex Grossman.  On the next play, Grossman fumbled the ball, Detroit returned it for a TD.  After that fiasco, most coaches would have tried to apologize for their poor decision.  But Shanahan went in front of the media and awkwardly tried to explain his decision by first claiming he benched McNabb because he didn’t feel he could run the 2 minute offense.  His statement was perceived as a criticism of McNabb’s intellectual ability by many in the public, so Shanahan changed his reason, stating that he actually thought McNabb didn’t have the physical endurance to effectively run the two minute offense.  Later, he modified his statement once again and claimed McNabb was suffering from sore hamstrings.  The tension between Shanahan and McNabb was quite evident.  Later, with only 3 games left in the regular season,   Shanahan benched McNabb in favor of Rexman and actually publicly demoted him to 3rd string.  The Redskins had a myriad of problems this season.  But it appears that Shanahan chose to focus on McNabb rather than recognize other issues hurting the team, including the coaching staff and their poor decision making over the course of the season.

Peyton Manning’s streak of INTs

11 INTs over a three game span brought forth criticism about Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning.  Some questioned his age, while others questioned his ability.  Manning had to deal with a porous offensive line, a slew of injuries to his receiving corps and no running game all season.  Despite his 4700 yards of passing this year, Peyton could not carry the team alone.  But to question Manning’s ability is absurd and short sighted.  It was one of the low points in the season for us, but Manning himself seemed unscathed by his critics.  That focus and drive makes him one of the game’s all time greatest QBs!

Vince Young meltdown 

In a game vs. the Redskins, Young injured his hand.  When Titans coach Jeff Fisher put back up Kerry Collins in, Young became agitated and a childish tantrum ensued.  He paced the sidelines, swearing and mumbling to himself, and then tossed his shoulder pads and jersey into the stands as he stormed into the locker room at the end of the game.  That day was his last as the Titans’ starting QB.  Owner Bud Adams recently announced that Young will not be on the roster next season.  He will either be traded or released. 

Inconsistent fines by the NFL 

The NFL established a reactionary, subjective policy early in the season in response to a number of head injuries.  While we applaud their efforts to protect players, this policy fell short and needs to be revamped before next season.

Super Bowl XLV seat fiasco  

In the most technologically advanced and extravagant stadium in the history of football, Jerry Jones’ Cowboys Stadium came up short on the most important day for the NFL.  400 fans attending the Super Bowl were unable to be seated because their seating area was not completed in time.  The seats were valued at $800 and the NFL issued a refund of $2400 to each of those affected.  Fans had the option to watch the game in the $350 “Standing Room Only” section or on monitors in the North Field Club.  Despite these allowances by the NFL, fans were understandably upset.  There is no excuse for incomplete seating areas in a venue like the Super Bowl!

New York Jets Tripping 

The Jets Strength and Conditioning coach, Sal Alosi, admitted he intentionally tripped Miami’s Nolan Carroll as he raced down the sideline on punt coverage.  Alosi’s role in the NFL was to help players become physically stronger and healthier, yet he showed a complete lack of judgment when he tried to trip an opponent running at full speed.  Alosi was subsequently fined and suspended by the Jets.  Later, the NFL levied a $100,000 fine against the Jets.  Alosi announced his resignation from the team January 31st.

The NFL’s decision to postpone the Eagles vs. Vikings game 

In late December, the NFL postponed the Eagles/Vikings game because of a predicted winter storm expected to dump 18 inches of snow on the city.  Since when does FOOTBALL get postponed due to weather?  This isn’t soccer and the NFL set a bad precedent by postponing the game when both teams were in the city and capable of playing.  Vince Lombardi must have turned over in his grave!

We hope you have enjoyed our review of our favorite ups and downs of this past season.  It truly was an exhilarating ride, but like any good roller coaster, seemed much too short!

Post Season Awards! Brady Earned NFL MVP, But We Still Don’t Have to Like Him

The Super Bowl is over and it’s time to reflect upon the past season.  What were the highs and lows?  What player or team was the biggest surprise and who left fans feeling disappointed?  Which coaching and owner decisions were successful and which were foolish?  There’s plenty to discuss about the 2010 NFL season and playoffs, but before we delve into these issues, let’s take a look at a few of the major post-season honors recently awarded to some of the gridiron’s greatest players.

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady was named the NFL’s 2010 MVP.  The award is bestowed by the Associated Press and voters consist of 50 members of the media from throughout the U.S.  For the first time, the vote for MVP was unanimous, with Brady receiving all 50 votes.  In 2007, with a 16-0 record, Brady received the MVP award with 49 votes. 

This season Brady passed for over 3900 yards.  With 36 TDs and a mere 4 INTs, his TD:INT ratio of 9.0 set a record for the highest ratio in NFL history.  The previous record was set by Brady in 2007.  Brady also set another incredible record this season with 334 consecutive throws without an interception.  His pretty boy looks, coupled with his exceptional athletic ability, make him one of the most popular NFL players among women – just not us!  But we will concede that he truly did deserve this award.

The 33 year old Patriots QB was also named AP Offensive Player of the Year.  He led his team to a 14-2 regular season record, the best in the NFL.  Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick shared the spotlight as well.  He was named NFL Coach of the Year, receiving 30 of the 50 votes by members of the AP.  Since joining the Patriots in 2000, Belichick has led the Patriots to 3 Super Bowl Championships, 4 Conference Championships and 8 Division titles.  This is the 3rd time he has received Coach of the Year honors.

The NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year was a much closer vote, with Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu edging out Green Bay Packer linebacker Clay Matthews by just 2 votes.  Polamalu received 17 votes, Matthews earned 15 and fellow Steelers linebacker James Harrison received 8.  Polamalu had 63 tackles this season, along with 7 INTs in 14 games.  His game-changing play ability, coupled with his natural instincts, helped Pittsburgh earn its #2 defensive ranking and get them to the Super Bowl.  In the end, however, Clay Matthews earned the NFL’s most sought after award – a Super Bowl title.  His forced fumble in the 4th quarter was a MAJOR momentum changing play in the game and helped seal the Packers’ victory.

Speaking of the Super Bowl, another award was given out Sunday night.  Aaron Rodgers became Super Bowl XLV MVP after he and the Green Bay Packers defeated Pittsburgh 31-25.  Rodgers completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards.  He had 3 TDs and no interceptions.  The victory was the first Super Bowl title for the Packers since 1997.

Finally, we come to an award that is perhaps our very favorite this post-season – the Comeback Player of the Year.  Michael Vick was recently honored with this AP award, receiving 29.5 votes.  After limited play in 2009 as a back up to Donovan McNabb, the 30 year old Vick began the 2010 season as a back up to Eagles QB Kevin Kolb.  When Kolb became injured in the first game of the season, Vick stepped in and his exceptional performances earned him the starting position for the rest of the season.  This season, Vick threw for over 3000 yards, 21 TDs, 6 INTs and had an impressive QB rating of 100.2.  His spectacular scrambling and running ability earned him 9 rushing TDs and almost 700 yards on 100 attempts.  After his 18 month incarceration for dog fighting, his success both on and off the field this season deservedly earned him the Comeback Player of the Year honor.

Stay tuned for more post-season discussion!  Next up:  the highs and lows of the 2010 NFL season!  With more drama than a cat fight on an episode of “The Bachelor”, this past season had many thrilling ups and downs that are both entertaining and interesting to look back on.  The season may be over, but a true fan never tires of gabbing about the gridiron!

Black Eyed Peas and Sangria? It Must be Super Bowl Sunday!!

Last year, 106.5 million people tuned in to watch the Saints and Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.  That broadcast broke the record for the most viewership which was previously held by the finale of the show “MASH”.  There will be a projected 110 million viewers for Super Bowl XLV. 

Women account for approximately 34% of viewers during the regular season.   But on Super Bowl Sunday that percentage is obviously higher as some women who don’t have a real interest in the game tune in for the entertainment, commercials and to simply be part of the experience.  While it is hard for us to understand why a woman would not be watching the Super Bowl for the sheer fun and excitement that occurs on the field, we do acknowledge some women really don’t have an interest in football.  With that in mind, we are providing a guide to today’s pre- game and half time entertainment.  Later this week, we will do a review of the best and worst of Super Bowl XLV’s commercials.  As you prepare for the game, we also wanted to share our very favorite Sangria recipe for those fans who want a departure from beer. 

Prior to the game, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly will conduct an interview with President Barack Obama.  O’Reilly is billing the interview as “the most watched interview in history. More people will see this interview than any other interview that’s ever been done in the history of mankind.”  It’s hard to say if all 110 million viewers will tune in to see the O’Reilly-Obama interview, but it should make for an interesting pre-game battle between two very opposing forces!  Here is the rest of today’s entertainment, but of course we believe the best show takes place on the field at kick off time – 6:30 pm ET on Fox!

Pre-game entertainment will include performances by the Blue Man Group, Maroon 5 and Keith Urban.  Glee’s Leah Michele will sing “America the Beautiful” and the National Anthem will be sung by 5-time Grammy Award winner Christina Aguilera.

The half time show will feature the Black Eyed Peas, with “surprise” appearances by singer Usher and guitarist Slash from Guns n’ Roses.

A slate of diverse and high quality entertainment… a few hours of funny, clever commercials… and oh, by the way, a thrilling football game in between… is the recipe for a perfect day and a gridiron fan’s dream!  As you enjoy today’s festivities, we hope you will also enjoy our Red Zone Sangria!

Red Zone Sangria

For one pitcher of Sangria, use the following ingredients

1 lime

1 lemon

1 orange

1 apple

Red grapes

3 Tablespoons of sugar

½ bottle of full bodied red wine

1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

Ice cubes

Orange soda

Ginger Ale

½ cup orange flavored liqueur or brandy (I prefer to use Triple Sec)

Slice the fruits (lemon, lime, orange, apple, grapes) and place in pitcher with the liqueur, brandy, or Triple Sec.  Let stand a minimum of 30 minutes.  Add the wine and lemon juice and stir.  Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes more.

Before serving, add the ice cubes and fill the pitcher with equal amounts of orange soda and ginger ale.  Garnish with red grapes and enjoy!

Can Clay Matthews and the Packers Bring Down Big Ben?

The clock is ticking down to Super Bowl XLV and we are getting excited for this classic match up!  We’ve taken a look at Pittsburgh’s offense, focusing on the offensive line and the adversity it has faced this past season.  We believe that the O-line must win the battle in the trenches and allow a rushing game to develop in order for the Steelers to win.   Standing in their way is Green Bay’s defensive guru – Dom Capers.  Let’s examine Capers, some key players and the potential strategies Green Bay will use to stop Big Ben and company.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is considered one of the most organized and thorough coaches in the league.  He keeps volumes of notes and is a master at devising schemes that confound opposing offenses.  When he coached at Pittsburgh in 1992, he and Dick LeBeau, the Steelers’ current defensive coordinator, created and installed the 3-4 zone defense that the Steelers use today.  On Sunday, Capers and LeBeau face off against each other in a battle of defensive masterminds.  There is no doubt that both defensive coordinators will devise clever, well designed game strategies.  The game will come down to which team best executes those game plans.

In 2009, Green Bay lost to Pittsburgh 37-36.  Roethlisberger had over 500 yards passing and 3 TDs in that game.  Capers and his pressure oriented defense sacked Big Ben 5 times, but it wasn’t enough to throw the big, physical QB off of his game.  Mike Wallace also had a huge impact on that game.  He had a TD on the first play from scrimmage, as well as the game winning TD in the final seconds of the game.   Capers will likely use that 2009 game as inspiration as he draws up his 3-4, zone-blitz scheme to contain the Steelers. 

In the 2009 contest, Capers didn’t pressure Big Ben as much in the final minutes of the game because his deep coverage was falling apart and Roethlisberger was picking them apart.  He was only able to rush 3 or 4 players in the final minutes and the opportunistic Wallace scored on a 19 yard TD pass.  The Packers have cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams to provide much better coverage than in the 2009 game, which should allow more Capers to rush more players towards the pocket and apply more pressure on Big Ben. 

Given Pittsburgh’s patchwork O-line due to injuries, Capers will look to exploit any suspected weaknesses.  With Pittsburgh standout center Maurkice Pouncey doubtful for Sunday, 6’ 2”, 337 pound nose tackle B.J. Raji is likely chomping at the bit.  Raji has become a YouTube phenomenon after he intercepted a pass in the NFC Championship game, returned it for a TD and proceeded to celebrate by dancing with his hands on his waist and wiggling his hips like he was in a hoola hoop contest.  Raji is the heaviest player to ever score a TD in post season play!  If Pouncey is out, Capers will look to disrupt his replacement – undrafted center Doug Legursky – and the dancing Raji may just be the one to cause that disruption.

Another potential mismatch exists between tenacious left outside linebacker Clay Matthews and Steelers right tackle Flozell Adams.  In last year’s game, Matthews annihilated Steelers tackle Max Starks as he sacked Big Ben twice and hit him hard three times.  Mathews also forced a fumble that eventually got overturned.  Big Ben is hard to bring down, but with Matthews’ success against him from last year, it is an advantage that Capers is sure to use, especially as he is lined up against the declining, older Adams, who is in his 13th year in the NFL.  Both Raji and Matthews will try to disrupt the pocket all game long, pressuring Big Ben and causing a potential game changing turnover in the process.

The Steelers know they will need to run the ball to win and will count on Rashard Mendenhall to carry the load.   In the AFC Championship game against the #3 ranked Jets rush defense, Mendenhall ground out 121 crucial yards.  The Packers have a run defense ranked a mediocre 18th in the league.  At first glance, that appears to give the Steelers a real advantage in running the ball.  However, Capers has deliberately designed his defense to allow opponents to gain 5 or 6 yards on 1st and 2nd down.  They use their nickel package, with 5 defensive backs on the field.  Capers’ strategy is that in passing to set up the run, this scheme gives the Packers a chance of creating an interception.  When it matters, Capers dials up a defense that stiffens to stop the run. 

Raji and tackle Ryan Pickett have been effective in stopping the inside run, which Mendenhall favors.  Matthews and linebacker A.J. Hawk will be called upon to stop Mendenhall from getting to the second line of defense.  In 2009, with much of the same defensive personnel in place, the Packers run defense ranked first in the league.  That is why the #18 ranking is so deceptive.  Capers has simply devised a different tactic that gives up short yardage on 1st or 2nd down, but can effectively stop the run on crucial third downs.

After looking at the matchup between the Steelers offense and Packers defense, we give the edge to Green Bay.  While Roethlisberger will undoubtedly make some clutch plays, we think Capers and his pressure oriented defense will slow down Big Ben’s scoring.  We also think turnovers by the Packers’ defense will play a pivotal role in the outcome of the game.  Clay Matthews missed the Associated Press’ coveted Defensive Player of the Year this season by the slimmest of margins (a mere 2 votes) to Super Bowl rival Troy Polamalu.  The relentless Matthews has something to prove and we feel he may very well be a critical factor in Super Bowl XLV.

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