Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving football leftovers

I’m still recuperating from a weekend filled with good friends, good food, good wine and of course good football.  So, let me get straight to a few highlights.

College Weekend.
Auburn is #1.  The Tigers put away Alabama 28 – 27.   They now have the top spot in the BCS and will play for the SEC Championship this weekend.

Boise State loss a close game to Nevada, 34-31.  The loss closed the door on their hopes to play in the BCS Championship Game and opened the door for #4 Stanford,
#5 Wisconsin, #6 Ohio State, #7 Arkansas, #8 Michigan State and #9 Oklahoma to move up.   Arkansas and Oklahoma entered the top 10 after beating LSU and Oklahoma State respectively. 

The Big Ten title is a three-way tie this year.  Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State all ended the regular season with 11-1 records.  Big Ten Conference Championship game can’t come fast enough.     

NFL Week 12
The Thanksgiving Day games went as expected.  The New York Jets beat Cincinnati, New Orleans beat Dallas and New England played with Detroit before Tom Brady crushed them. 

A lot of fans and people close to the sport, believe that the Thanksgiving game should be taken away from the Lions and replaced with a game that has playoff implications.  The Lions overall have not been that bad on Turkey Day.  They are 33-35-2.  The problem is that in the last 10 years the Lions have only won twice and the 8 losses were nowhere near competitive.  From a business standpoint, I think rotating the game could build some excitement and generate more interest on a day where people have all day to eat and watch football.  Personally, I’m tired of people complaining to me about their desire to watch a good game on Thanksgiving instead of my Lions. 

Reminder to everyone: I’m from Michigan.  I don’t have a NFL team.  I liked the Bears, Cowboys and 49ers growing up.  I do not own the Lions nor am I the commissioner of the NFL.  Send your concerns to Mr. Roger Goodell.

After Turkey Day…
Brett Favre had a good day with new Minnesota Vikings Head Coach, Leslie Frazier making the decisions.  Without throwing a touchdown pass, Favre still led the Vikings to a 17-13 victory over the Washington Redskins.  McNabb started off the game well.  The Redskins’ first score was a touchdown pass.  By the end of the game, he had an interception and was sacked four times.  The Redskins are now 5-6.

Michael Vick’s 333 passing yards and two touchdowns were not enough to get Philadelphia a win against the Chicago Bears.  The Bears defense discovered a way to stop Vick.  They intercepted one of his passes and sacked him four times.  Chicago won, 31 – 26.

The Buffalo Bills almost pulled a big upset against an AFC leader, Pittsburgh Steelers.  After two consecutive wins (their only victories this season), Buffalo was prepared to make a statement.  They scared the Steelers and forced overtime with just two seconds left in the game.  Pittsburgh finally won the game with a little more than two minutes left in overtime, 19–16.

Are you ready for some football?
Monday Night Football is out west again this week.  The San Francisco 49ers are traveling to University of Phoenix Stadium to play the Arizona Cardinals.  They are in the same division, NFC West.  They have the same record, 3-7.  They suffered embarrassing losses last week by more than 21 points.  (San Fran did not even get on the scoreboard.)  The situation looks bad for both teams, but all hope should not be gone.  This is not the result of a superstar addition or new coach.  49ers and Cardinals fans can still be optimistic because the NFC West is weak.  The “leaders” in this division, Seattle and St. Louis, are tied at 5-6.  So, this game still has some value.  Both teams have the potential to make it to the playoffs.  As their records illustrate, neither team has done anything impressive this year.  However, San Fran is 12 in the league on defense while Arizona is 29.  Despite an ugly loss last weekend to Tampa Bay, the 49ers are undefeated with Troy Smith starting at quarterback.  We may see some great moves from Arizona wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, but I don’t expect much else from the Cardinals.  I’m picking San Fran.  Honestly, it’s not because of the defense or Troy Smith.  It’s nostalgia.  Joe Montana.  Steve Young.  Jerry Rice.  Deion Sanders.  I loved those guys.  

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving with college and NFL teams

It’s Thanksgiving week.  My weekend was filled flipping the channel between football games and the Food Network.  As I watched some games over the weekend and developed new ideas to enhance my Thanksgiving recipes, I thought about what some football teams would be thankful for this year.   Before I get to that, I have to share one tip to help with your Thanksgiving dinner.  If you are responsible for the turkey this year, purchase a cheesecloth.  It is the best secret to baking the perfect turkey.  Soak it in your favorite marinade, place it over the turkey and let it bake.  The moist cloth prevents the turkey from getting dry and protects the color from getting too dark.  I create a marinade using apple cider, cinnamon, rosemary and sage.  When the turkey comes out, I garnish with apples and cinnamon sticks to accentuate the aroma.  It is a great centerpiece at the dinner table.  

Now here is my take on what we would hear around the table at Thanksgiving from some college and football teams.

Around the college Thanksgiving table.
Wisconsin: “We are thankful that Michigan’s Denard Robinson’s record setting performance on Saturday was not enough to stop us from beating the Wolverines 48–28.   We are the highest ranked Big Ten team in the BCS.”

Michigan State: “We are thankful that we scored 22 points in the fourth quarter and came back from a 28–13 deficit and managed to beat Iowa 35–31.  In this close Big Ten race, we are grateful that we already beat Wisconsin and don’t play Ohio State this year.”

Ohio State: “We are thankful for Terrelle Pryor.  He ran on a crucial 4th down and brought us back from behind to barely defeat Iowa 20–17.” 

Oklahoma State: “We are thankful that Nebraska loss to Texas A&M.  We are now the highest ranked Big 12 team in the BCS.”

Notre Dame:  “We are thankful that we won the inaugural college football game at the new Yankee Stadium, 27-3 over Army, in front a record crowd of 54,251.   We are going to a bowl game.”

Michigan:  “We are thankful that the superstars on our offense are sophomores and we are going to our first bowl game under Coach Rich Rod.”

Around the Thanksgiving table after NFL Week 11
Washington Redskins: “We are thankful that Tennessee made a ton of mistakes that allowed us to win 19-16 and put us at .500.”

New York Jets: “We are thankful that Mark Sanchez threw a perfect 42-yard pass to Braylon Edwards with 16 seconds remaining in the game.  After blowing a 16 point lead, we beat Houston 30 – 27.”

Dallas Cowboys: “We are thankful that we played the Detroit Lions in our home debut with Garrett as the interim head coach.  It allowed us to get our first win at home.  The 35–19 victory gives us confidence to play like we have talent.”

New England Patriots: “We are thankful that we have Tom Brady.  He makes things happen even with rookie receivers.  We are also grateful that our defense intercepted Big Manning’s first and last pass of the game and we beat the Colts 31–28.

Philadelphia Eagles:  “We are SOOOOOOO VERY THANKFUL, GRATEFUL AND APPRECIATIVE that Kevin Kolb’s injury opened the door for Michael Vick to play.  We are just over filled with gratitude because Vick replaced Kolb as our starting quarterback.  He has demonstrated that he is still a franchise QB.  We look so smart for sending McNabb to Washington.  After beating Young Manning and the Giants 27–17, we are in first place in the NFC East by ourselves.  Again, we are SOOOOOOO VERY THANKFUL, GRATEFUL AND APPRECIATIVE.

Are you ready for some football?
Monday Night Football goes out west tonight.  The San Diego Chargers host the Denver Broncos.  This is an important division game because the AFC West is so close.  Oakland and Kansas City are tied for first place with a 5-4 record, San Diego (4-5) is in third and Denver (3-6) is in last.  Both teams are passing machines.  Both quarterbacks, Philip Rivers (Chargers) and Kyle Orton (Broncos), are on pace to challenge Dan Marino's single-season record of 5,084 passing yards.  I think that this game will come down to defense.  San Diego has the best defense in the league right now.   On the other hand, Denver has defensive tackle Jamal Williams, who is in first season with the Broncos after 12 seasons in San Diego.  I think Jamal may give his new team some insight on how to get past the Chargers’ offensive line.  So, I’m going with Denver. MNF is at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.  If you’re in DC, you can join us at Degrees in the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good teams comeback

Sometimes a team with lesser talent, but more focus and determination humbles a very talented team.  What makes a talented team a good team is the ability to identify the issues, quickly make adjustments and play to their full potential.  Good teams comeback.  Sometimes the comeback is after a shocking first half.  Other times it is after a devastating loss.  This weekend some good teams bounced back.  Others were humbled, so we’ll see in the weeks to come if they are truly good teams.

College Weekend
There was not any movement among the top 10 teams in the BCS Standings.  Some exciting games over the weekend, but the race for the championship remains the same.  Oregon survived a close game with California and won on the road 15 – 13.  Auburn’s starting quarterback, Cam Newton, got the team together and they beat George 49 – 31 after trailing 21-7.  Wisconsin continued its fight for the Big Ten title by punishing Indiana 83 – 20.  Steve Spurrier has officially turned things around at South Carolina.  In 2005, he took over the program, which had only won more than 8 games in a season twice in the school’s history.  South Carolina’s 36 -14 victory over Florida secured the schools first SEC East title and trip to the SEC Championship game. 

This weekend Oregon #1, Auburn #2 and TCU #3 do not play.  As a result, none of the games this weekend will have an impact on the BCS Championship Game.  Look forward to Thanksgiving weekend when Oregon plays Arizona #22 and Auburn plays Alabama #11. 

NFL Week 10
The Cleveland Browns’ luck ran out against the New York Jets.  Their two-game winning streak with surprising victories against the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots ended yesterday.  The New York Jets did not dominate, but as good teams do they pulled it together and won in overtime, 26 – 20.

Detroit Lions fans can’t get a break.  Just when they were getting excited about their future, they are reminded of the shameful records that they hold and humiliated in a game that they should have won.  It was called the Futility Bowl, because both the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills just seem incapable of success.  Going into the game, Buffalo had not won a game this season and Detroit had not won on the road since 2007.  In a messy game filled with penalties and punts, the Buffalo Bills beat the Lions 14 -12 and get their first win of the season.  The Lions now hold the record for most consecutive road losses with 25.  What makes this worse is that they took the record from themselves.

The Dallas Cowboys got a makeover and things look better already.  Team owner, Jerry Jones, fired Head Coach, Wade Phillips last week.  Jason Garrett is the interim coach charged with salvaging the Cowboys season and at least look like a decent team.  He is off to a good start.  They looked like the talented group that people thought would contend for the Super Bowl prior to the season.  Even with back up quarterback, Jon Kitna, starting, Dallas made a lot of big plays and beat the New York Giants, 33 – 20.  And it was on the road. 

The New England Patriots bounced back after their embarrassing loss last weekend to Cleveland.  Patriot QB, Tom Brady, had three touchdown passes and even scored a touchdown.  The Steelers defense was not able to contain him at all.  Meanwhile New England’s defense sacked Steelers QB, Ben Roethlisberger 5 times.  New England won on the road 39 – 26.

Are you ready for some football?
Tonight Monday Night Football is in the nation’s capital.  The Washington Redskins are hosting the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field.  Redskins QB, Donovan McNabb is playing his old team on national television.  The Redskins won earlier this year in Philadelphia, but Michael Vick did not play the entire game.   He went out early in the game with a rib injury.  Vick is back and with him in the pocket, the Eagles are a tough team to beat.  On top of that, I feel like Redskins Head Coach, Mike Shanahan is full of shenanigans.  In their last game two weeks ago against the Lions, Shanahan put McNabb on the bench supposedly because he did not know the two-minute offense.  Really?  A 12-year veteran, pro-bowl quarterback can’t learn a two-minute offense in 6 months?  Since then the reason for the decision has changed to hamstring injuries and cardiovascular endurance problems.  As I said: SHENANIGANS!  With this type of decision-making and Vick having a spectacular season, the Eagles will win and tie the New York Giants for first place in the NFC East.

MNF is at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.  If you’re in DC, you can join us at Degrees in the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown. 

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, November 8, 2010

Good teams find a way to win

Sink or swim!  (Clap, clap, clap)
Do or die!  (Clap, clap, clap)
Come on Tigers let’s break that tie!

That is a chant from my high school days cheering for the Muskegon Heights Tigers.  The games over the weekend reminded me of it.  There were some close games and several ties.  The good teams found a way to win and the bad teams loss.

College Weekend
For the first time this season, the top four teams remained intact.  In the BCS standings, Oregon #1, Auburn #2, TCU #3 and Boise State #4 all beat their opponents by 35 or more points.  Utah and Alabama can give up their hopes of playing in the championship game.  Utah suffered their first loss of the season (47 – 7) to TCU and dropped to #14.  Alabama went down six spots to #12 after receiving their second loss of the season in a close game with LSU.  A lot of people call this an upset.  I don’t.  I thought the game would be a battle between two good teams.  LSU loss a game last month, but it was to a very good Auburn team.  Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide loss to a South Carolina team that is now 6-3.   The scoring went back and forth and Les Miles coached his Tigers to a 24–21 victory.  The win elevated them from #10 to #5 in the BCS.   Stanford made the other big jump.  After beating Arizona 42-17, the Cardinals moved from #13 to #6.

Three games to follow on Saturday and why:
1. #24 Kansas State at #17 Missouri – Missouri is trying to prevent losing 3 in a row and stay #2 in the Big 12 North.
2. #19 Mississippi State at #12 Alabama – A Mississippi upset will officially put Alabama out of contention for the SEC West.  Unless something drastic happens Auburn and LSU are not going to lose three games.
3. #23 South Carolina at #22 Florida – Winner leads the SEC East.

Oh, one special note.  Congrats to Penn State Head Coach, Joe Paterno on his 400th win!

NFL Week 9
In the NFL, overtime is played in sudden death.  The first team that scores in overtime wins the game.  15 minutes are put on the clock, but the game is only played until the first score.  I’m going to discuss the three games that went to overtime yesterday.

The New York Jets almost got their second loss in a row (third of the season) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.  Shockingly the Jets with all its talent did not stop the inferior Lions until overtime.  Before getting to overtime, they capitalized on a poor decision.  With less than 3 minutes left in the game and the Lions up 20-17, Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz decided to pass the ball.   When you are leading, you want to use as much time as you can.  Passing plays are quick, running plays take more time, so the smart thing would have been to run.  Especially, with only a three point lead against a team with the number of offensive weapons that the Jets have! From there, the Jets got a field goal and sent the game to overtime.  In overtime, Jets Head Coach, Rex Ryan, decided to run the team’s 2-minute offense.  (Special plays designed to score in the final two minutes of a quarter.)  It worked.  A little over two minutes later, the Jets kicked a field goal and the game was over.  New York Jets win 23 – 20.

Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings were a different team yesterday.  Well, considering that they let go of Randy Moss last week, they are truly a different team.  With less than 5 minutes left in the game, the Vikings were down by 14 points.  Favre got his team together and they scored two touchdowns to tie the game with 27 seconds left.  In overtime, the Vikings defense stopped Arizona from reaching field goal position.  Favre got the ball back and mixed some passes and runs by Adrian Peterson to put Minnesota in field goal position.  Minnesota wins 27-24.

The Oakland Raiders continued their winning streak.  Like the other two teams that were victorious after overtime, the Raiders were behind close to the end of the game.  With two minutes left in the game, Kansas City was up by 3 points.  Jason Campbell led the Raiders to get in field goal position.  They got the field goal and tied the game with only 3 seconds remaining in the game.  In overtime, Kansas City got the ball first, but did not score.  In just 3 plays, the Raiders got a field goal and the game was over.  Oakland wins 23 – 20.

It was not a tie game, but it was a MAJOR upset.  So, I have to tell you about.   The Cleveland Browns shocked everyone again when they beat the New England Patriots 34 -14.  A couple of weeks ago, they stunned the defending Super Bowl Champs, New Orleans Saints.  Returning from a bye week, they were rested and tore Bill Belichick’s Patriots to pieces.  This is a great win for Cleveland.  Maybe it will help them get over losing LeBron.

Are you ready for some football?
Tonight Monday Night Football heads to Paul Brown Stadium.  The Cincinnati Bengals will host the Pittsburgh Steelers.  This is a divisional conference battle.  If Pittsburgh wins, they will be tied for first with Baltimore in the AFC North.  If the Bengals win, they improve their record to 3-5 and tie for third in the division.  For Cincinnati, as Bengals receiver T.O. said, “This is not a must win.  It’s a gotsta win.”  I don’t think that is going to happen.  The Bengals have two of the best receivers playing right now, but you would never guess that looking at their record or the number of points they have put up this year.  I’m going with the Steelers.  Their defense will force Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer to make mistakes.

MNF is at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.  If you’re in DC, you can join us at Degrees in the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown. 

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tricked or Treated?

Halloween weekend had its share of tricks and treats.  It also revealed scary realities for some teams.  There is just one month left of regular season college football and the NFL is halfway through it season.  November is here, but let's look at how October ended.

College Weekend
Just when I was ready to inform you that for the first time in October, the #1 team won and stayed at the top spot, the BCS tricks me with me a new #1.  Despite, Auburn pounding Ole Miss 51 – 31, the Tigers dropped to #2 in the BCS.  Oregon moved to #1 after beating #24 USC 53 - 32. 

The BCS is a hodgepodge of the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, USA Today Coaches Poll and computer rankings.  In spite of all of the science that is used in the BCS methodology, the process still seems unscientific and subjective.  This is why we end up with quirky situations like a 9-0 team (Auburn) losing the top spot after a win or a one-loss team playing in the championship game over undefeated teams.  I guess Oregon’s victory over a ranked opponent was more impressive than Auburn’s victory over an unranked team this weekend.  It will get messier during the final month of the college regular season. 

The team to watch is Alabama.  At 7-1, #2 in the SEC West and #6 in the BCS, they still have to play LSU #10 and Auburn #2.  If the Crimson Tide continues to roll over its opponents, beat an undefeated Auburn at the end of the season and win the SEC Championship game, they could land in one of the top two spots.  EVEN if TCU #3 or #4 Boise State are still undefeated. 


Alabama surviving the SEC (playing seven ranked opponents) with only one loss illustrates a stronger team to the humans behind the polls and computer rankings, in comparison to TCU going undefeated in the Mountain West Conference (MWC) and playing only two ranked opponents.  This will become more likely this weekend when TCU #3 and Utah #5 play.  I don’t know who will win, but I do know that the loser will drop.  This puts Alabama in a position to get in the top 5 in the BCS.  A win against LSU on Saturday will get them to at least #5.

NFL Week 8
In the AFC, the New England Patriots took the lead in the conference with a 28 – 18 victory over the Minnesota Vikings and their former star receiver Randy Moss.  Scary game for the Vikes.  Favre struggled and ended up out of the game with eight stitches in his chin.

In the NFC, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is back to himself.  After an embarrassing loss last weekend and a scary start yesterday, he ended the game with over 300 passing yards and 2 touchdowns.  In the second half he only missed two passes.  Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could not get one touchdown pass.  It reminded me that the Saints do have the third ranked defense in the NFL.  New Orleans beat Pittsburgh 20 – 10.

Donovan McNabb was benched in the Washington Redskins loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.  Calvin Johnson, a.k.a Megatron, and Matthew Stafford treated Lions fans to a 37 – 25 victory. 

The New York Jets could not handle the Green Bay Packers defense.  They lose at home without scoring a single point.  Scary.  Packers win on the road 9 – 0.  If you forgot the Packers have last season’s defensive player of the year, Charles Woodson.

The Dallas Cowboys can no longer trick anyone into thinking that they are a good team.  The Cowboys were already off to one of the worst starts in the franchise’s history.  Now their starting quarterback, Tony Romo, is out after breaking his collarbone last Monday.  His replacement, Jon Kitna, is old and has not played in a NFL game in two seasons.  It showed yesterday.  The scariest moment came when he collided with Marion Barber trying to hand off the ball.  I don’t think I have seen that type of confusion in Pee Wee in football. 

The San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos went to the other side of the pond and played at Wembley Stadium.  49ers fans were treated to a different quarterback, a different country, a different team and a different outcome.  Troy Smith in only his third start as a NFL quarterback ran for a touchdown and passed for a touchdown, treating 49ers fans to a 24 – 16 win over Denver, their second of the season.  

Are you ready for some football?
Tonight Monday Night Football is a rematch between the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts.  In the season opener, Houston won 34 - 24.  The Colts are without a couple of offensive threats, wide receiver Austin Collie and running back Joseph Addai.  However, they are coming off of a Bye week and they still have Peyton Manning.  He is rested and at home.  I expect him to make good things happen.  The league’s last ranked defense going against the older Manning brother is a scary thought.  I’m going with the Colts.

MNF is at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.  If you’re in DC, you can join us at Degrees in the Ritz Carlton-Georgetown. 

Heels & Helmets