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NFL: Championship Weekend

My predictions over the last several weeks have been simply awful. As a matter fact, had you taken my predictions and gone to Vegas simply to bet against me, you could have made some serious money. Anyway, in spite of my past failures, here we go again.

Aaron Hernandez

Baltimore Ravens versus New England Patriots: First, let me start by saying I really do not like Tom Brady. I never have. I don’t know why, but I just don’t. I acknowledge that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. If he wins another Super Bowl, I might just fall into a state of depression. (I’m just joking, of course.) Currently, I’m having flashbacks to the Brady hysteria that we heard back in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The fact that the Patriots have not won a Super Bowl in the last five years has dampened that hysteria considerably. As I look at the remaining teams in the Super Bowl hunt, it is hard for me to see anybody who has a good opportunity to beat Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. Tom Brady with this outstanding tight ends, Deion Branch and Wes Welker, will use the short and medium range passing game to move the ball relatively effectively against a good but not great Baltimore Ravens defense. I think it is quite possible that the Patriot offense can put up 25-30 points today. On the other side of the ball, I just don’t see how the Baltimore Ravens are going to be able to match that offensive output. I don’t see how they are going to be able to consistently move the ball and score points. New England wins and advances to the Super Bowl.

Eli Manning

San Francisco 49ers versus the New York Giants: Eli Manning is currently playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL. The Giants seem to have put together several solid team performances, landing them in the championship game. The multiple problems they had on defense seem to have been fixed. On offense, the running game is much better and Eli Manning is on fire. The dropped passes that we saw from all of his wide receivers seem to be a thing of the past. I’ve counted out the San Francisco 49ers multiple times this year. I have underestimated Alex Smith, time after time. In the last five minutes of the New Orleans Saints game, he played as well as any quarterback in the league. He threw the ball accurately and made outstanding decisions. I don’t think that you can underestimate how well the San Francisco 49ers are playing on defense. They are stopping the run and they are playing pass defense extremely well. I look for Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers to take advantage of turnovers and head back to the Super Bowl for the first time in more than a decade.

This should be a great day of football.

By |2012-01-22T13:11:42-04:00January 22nd, 2012|NFL|Comments Off on NFL: Championship Weekend

No Tebow Time

Is it wrong that I watched most of the Denver Broncos versus New England Patriots football game? I watched it mainly to see how Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would manage to slow down and derail the Tim Tebow train. The game opened with a long Denver Broncos drive. In typical Denver Broncos fashion, they ran the ball more than they threw it. They ran the ball extremely effectively. The final play of the drive was Tim Tebow shrugging off a defender in the backfield and then serpentining his way into the end zone. For some reason, the Denver Broncos decided to go for a two-point conversion and failed.

The New England Patriots came back and scored in five plays. The Denver Broncos drove the length of the field in only four plays and scored another touchdown. The New England Patriots defense look like it was about to roll over. Then the second quarter happened. After the Broncos kicked a field goal, Tom Brady drove the length of the field in 12 plays and scored a touchdown. On the very first play, the Denver Broncos fumbled the ball. The New England Patriots moved the ball down to the 3-yard line and had to settle for a field goal. For the first time in the ball game, the Patriots were ahead. They led 17-16. The momentum was turning. Denver got the ball back in three plays. Later, Tim Tebow himself fumbled the ball. Six plays later, Tom Brady sneaked into the end zone from the one-yard line. Momentum was clearly sitting on the New England Patriots’ sideline. Denver got the ball back and had gained zero yards after three plays. They punted the ball back to New England with just 40 seconds left on the clock. New England ran five plays and then had to punt with 14 seconds left on the clock in the second quarter. Denver muffed the punt. With three seconds on the clock, the Patriots could once again put up a field goal. Denver had three turnovers in the quarter. Three!!??

I can describe how Tom Brady, in spite of having been sacked twice, stood in the pocket and surgically dissected the Denver defense. We’ve seen it many times before over the last decade and this was no different. When Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos made their move in the fourth quarter, scoring a quick touchdown with eight minutes and 41 seconds left on the clock, Tom Brady did exactly what you would’ve expected him to do. He responded with a nine-play drive which ate up 4:31 off the clock and ended with a touchdown. The score was 41-23 with four minutes and 10 seconds left in the game. The game was over. Probably the signature play which revealed the futility of the Denver Broncos’ efforts in the last four minutes of the game was Tim Tebow scrambling around and getting sacked for a 28 yard loss. He probably ran more than 100 yards as he desperately tried to find an open receiver. He ran back and forth. He pumped, then dodged, then ran back and across before he was sacked. 28-yard loss. It looked similar to that Bob Griese play where he scrambled and got sacked from many Super Bowls ago. Anyway, this game was done. No Tebow Time.

It is clear that Tim Tebow is a gifted athlete. There are many gifted athletes in the NFL. It is clear that he and John Fox came up with a new way to run the football that most NFL teams have not seen. I look at it as Denver’s version of the wildcat. Remember when the wildcat was new? The Miami Dolphins would take their quarterback and flank the quarterback out as a wide receiver. The ball would be snapped to Ronnie Brown, who could run the ball, or handed to Ricky Williams. In later variations of this offense, he would even throw the ball. The wildcat was extremely successful for several weeks, about half a season. The Miami Dolphins racked up multiple wins using a strong defense and this ball control offense. Sound familiar? Unfortunately for the Miami Dolphins and the Denver Broncos, this is a gimmick. The league will figure out how to defend the triple option. Then what? Look at what happened to the Miami Dolphins. Tony Sparano came up with an innovative offense but never had a durable and viable NFL quarterback. Two years after he made something out of nothing with the wildcat and had some significant success with a team that was mediocre at best, he was fired. To win the NFL and to win consistently, you must have a quarterback that makes plays throwing the football. (The exception to this rule would be having one of the great defenses of all time, like the Baltimore Ravens or the 1985 Chicago Bears.)

I heard during today’s telecast that Tim Tebow said that winning at the end of the game is about character. Horse hockey!! The reason that the Denver Broncos are successful at the end of the game is because Tim Tebow, somehow, almost miraculously, becomes an accurate passer. He begins to make plays from the pocket and he makes plays with his feet. Winning consistently, at the end of the game, is about execution. If Tim Tebow learns how to throw the ball accurately for all four quarters of the game, the Denver Broncos will go deep into the playoffs year after year. (With this defense, which is really good, they could even make it to the Super Bowl.)

By |2011-12-19T04:32:42-04:00December 19th, 2011|NFL|Comments Off on No Tebow Time

NFL: weekend wrap-up and Jay Cutler

Yes, I know that the State of the Union address begins in one hour. I don’t know, something about the State of the Union address has turned me off for more than a decade. The spectacle of I stand up and you sit down and look stonefaced kind of makes my stomach turn. So, I’m going to be pouring over the text of his speech for the next hour and hopefully I’ll have something intelligent to say in the morning. Hopefully.

Green Bay Packers versus Chicago Bears – Let me lay out the scenario for you. The Chicago Bears have a good defense. Unfortunately, they’re nothing like the 1985 Bear defense. So, they are probably not going to win the game for you but they’re not going to lose the game for you either. They do create turnovers. I’ve never been a believer in the Bear Offense. They were good, not great. On the other side of the ball, I thought the Packers were pretty well-balanced with a very good defense and a great offense. I thought that Aaron Rodgers was playing in the zone. His game against the Atlanta Falcons will be watched for years to come. It might not have been perfect but he was really, really close. So, if this assessment was correct, it was critically important for the Chicago Bears to come out red hot. They needed to seize the initiative. They needed to make the Green Bay Packers play from behind. They needed the special teams and Devin Hester to do something special. Chicago’s first five drives ended in punts. No drivers were more than six plays. The sixth drive ended in an interception (a terribly thrown ball by Cutler). This is simply a disaster, a real disaster for the Chicago Bears. The only thing that can be said about the first half that was actually good for the Chicago Bears was that the defense did not get totally overrun. The defense settled down and were able to get stops by the early part of the second quarter. Unfortunately, the score was already 14-0. The game was over by halftime. The Green Bay Packers were clearly the better team.

Now, there’s a lot of controversy and yackity-yak over Jay Cutler and his early departure from the game. It really doesn’t matter if I think that Jay Cutler (in the words of Deion Sanders) tapped out. He may have. The question is whether his teammates believe in him and his abilities. The question is whether his teammates believe that he is going to fight for them as hard as they are fighting for him… That’s the question. It appears that his teammates have rallied around him. Jay Cutler’s problem is one of perception. He doesn’t show any the emotion and the rah-rah leadership that many want to see from a top-tier quarterback. As a matter fact, most of the time he seems to have this confused look on his face. Jay Cutler got completely beaten up earlier this year. The first four games were a nightmare. He seemed to be sacked or hit on nearly every play. Yet, somehow, he played through that misery. What I do know is that Jay Cutler’s performance on Sunday was abysmal. Between Todd Collins and Jay Cutler, they were 6/18 for 80 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. I can do that, promise. (BTW, he has some sort of partially torn ACL.)

New York Jets versus Pittsburgh Steelers – It was only yesterday I was able to watch the whole game without interruption. What the hell? The Pittsburgh Steelers are walking around and pounding their chests like they did something. What? They did not win that game; they just didn’t lose it. The New York Jets fumbled away an excellent opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. This game should eat away at every Jet player for the next several weeks or months, if not years.

The game opened with Rex Ryan trying to be cute and deferring when he won the coin toss. Deferring? That’s a Bill Belichick maneuver. That’s crap. Rex Ryan had to know that his offense was going to have some tough sledding against the outstanding Pittsburgh Steelers defense. He needed to make a decision, a real decision. This is football. Bill Belichick, in my opinion, is an arrogant knucklehead. Why would anyone want to follow in his footsteps? (I would like to be as successful as he is but not follow in his footsteps.) Rex Ryan has a real defense. He needed to go to his defense and tell them that he believes they are best defense in the league and therefore, if he were to win the toss, he’d elect kickoff. Instead, he deferred. His defense got pounded. It was an embarrassing, humiliating and demoralizing 15-play, 9-minute drive which ended in a touchdown. Game over. The New York Jets, on their critically important first possession, moved the ball a whopping 19 yards (+10 yards they received in penalties). Yes, there were more touchdowns, interceptions, field goals, goal line stands and valiant efforts but for all practical purposes, the Pittsburgh Steelers said everything they needed to say on their opening drive. The New York Jets went into halftime 21 points down. That’s the game. The Steelers simply outplayed and outcoached the New York Jets in the first half.

Don’t get me wrong. The Jets did make some adjustments at halftime. The Jets really shut down the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half. Mark Sanchez, who appeared comatose in the first half, began to play like a first-round draft choice, but it was too little, too late. The Jets needed his leadership, that grit, earlier, still in the first half. Oh, by the way, if you’re trying to overcome a major deficit in the second half you cannot go on an 8-minute drive and stall on the one-yard line. That simply cannot happen if you want to go to the Super Bowl. Somehow, in some way, the Jets needed to get the ball in the end zone on that drive and it didn’t happen.

If you like defensive struggles this was a good weekend of football.

By |2011-01-25T22:05:11-04:00January 25th, 2011|Sports|Comments Off on NFL: weekend wrap-up and Jay Cutler
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