Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas weekend in the NFL

While Santa and his elves were making final preparations, packing up the sleigh, and blitzing around the globe to deliver gifts to good boys and girls, teams in the NFL were blocking, passing and blitzing to make this a Christmas to remember.  Some of them got nice gifts and others were left with a lump of coal.

NFL Week 16: The Gifts…
The New England Patriots blew out Buffalo 34 -3 and secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  So, the AFC playoffs will go through Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  Tom Brady continued to demonstrate why he is the highest paid player in the NFL.  He extended the NFL record to 8 consecutive games with two or more touchdown passes and no interceptions.  He has now thrown 319 passes without any interceptions.

The Lions went down to sunny Miami and won.  They came back from a deficit of 10 points and beat the Dolphins 34 – 27 on the road.  The victory gave the Lions their third win a row – something that they have not had since 2007.  Motown should be singing and dancing this holiday season.

At Soldier Field, Chicago got a quick 10-point lead against the New York Jets.  After a scoreless first quarter, the Jets’ offense came alive, scoring 24 points in the second quarter.  The lead did not last long.  After halftime, the Bears returned and took the lead again.  The Jets fought back but a Mark Sanchez interception sealed Chicago’s 38 – 34 victory.  The Jets still secured a playoff spot.  Thanks to a nice gift from the Washington Redskins.  Their victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars confirmed a Wild-Card playoff spot for the Jets.

The Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles also secured playoff spots over Christmas Weekend.

NFL Week 16: Lumps of Coal…
While Philadelphia is going to the playoffs because they clinched the NFC East division title, Mother Nature is not being nice to the Eagles.  Due to a blizzard in Philadelphia, they did not play the Minnesota Vikings yesterday.  The game will be played on Tuesday night.  This means that the Eagles will play three games in just 12 days. 

The New York Giants had six turnovers in their loss to the Green Bay Packers.  The defense allowed four touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers who just returned after suffering a concussion.  The Giants will have to put playoffs on their wish list for next Christmas.

San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Mike Singletary was fired last night.  After two disappointing seasons, the organization relieved him of his duties with just one game left to go.  I think that was more like a ton of coal.

Are you ready for some football?
Tonight MNF heads south to the Georgia Dome for its finale.  It is a divisional rivalry game between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.  Atlanta beat New Orleans earlier this year, so they are looking to win the series.  They are already in the playoffs, but they have not clinched the NFC South title.  At 12 – 2, with two games left, they could end the season tied with the Saints who are 10 – 4.  This is what makes this game a “must watch.”  A Saints victory would put them just one game behind the Falcons with the same conference record.  A Falcon victory tonight, would guarantee them the NFC South title and home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs.  Atlanta has not lost at home in over a year.  The Saints demonstrated that they could not handle a strong running game last week when Baltimore’s Ray Rice ran all over them.  Atlanta has someone stronger, running back Michael Turner.  He is ranked #5 this year in the league with over 1,250 rushing yards.  Two good teams, but the Saints defense will not be able to stop Atlanta passing and running.  I’m going with Atlanta tonight.

MNF kicks off at 8:30 pm on ESPN.  This week we are doing a special game watching party to support the Muskegon Rescue Mission.  Join us this week as we tackle homelessness in West Michigan the only way we know how – with fashion and football!

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, December 20, 2010

Only in the NFL

The unexpected happens in the NFL, especially in December.  Teams headed to the playoffs lose to horrible teams.  Rookies step up.  Good teams look vulnerable.  It all makes the end of the season very interesting.   Yesterday was filled with some great matchups!  

Favorites from NFL Week 15
Detroit Lions got their fourth win of this season and their first win on the road since 2007.  With a record of 3 – 10, the Lions went down to Florida and beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a playoff contender, 23 – 20 in overtime.  They did this with their third string quarterback, Drew Stanton.  Lions fan should be excited about where they will be next year with a healthy Matthew Stafford.

New York Jets bounced back after losing two games in a row and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 22 -17.  Pittsburgh attempted a come back, but it was unsuccessful.  After being humiliated by the New England Patriots and Miami Heat, the Jets got their first win in December and held on to the Wild-Card playoff spot.

Baltimore Ravens beat the New Orleans Saints, 30 -24 at home.  The defending Super Bowl champs had not lost a game since October.   Baltimore’s offense and defense was on point.  Ray Rice led the offense with 153 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while the defense limited the Saints to just 27 rushing yards.  Both teams are fighting to keep a Wild-Card playoff spot.

Redskins fans had been boasting a better record and a victory over their division rival, Dallas Cowboys.  All of that is over now.  While the Redskins experimented with benching quarterback, Donovan McNabb for Rex Grossman, the Cowboys are ending strong.  Dallas led the entire game.  Washington fought back but missed a field goal to tie the game.  Dallas won, 33 – 30.  The Cowboys and Redskins are tied for third place in the NFC East at 5-9.

While Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Washington failed at coming back, but quarterback Michael Vick and the Eagles got it done.  Philadelphia was trailing the New York Giants by 14 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter.  Vick passed, ran and scored a touchdown to get the Eagles 28 points in the final quarter of the game!  This is why he is leading Pro Bowl voting.  Philadelphia won, 38 – 31.

Rookie Debut
Quarterback Tim Tebow made his first start in the NFL.  He had 138 passing yards, 78 rushing yards and a touchdown.  It was a good start to his NFL career, but not enough for the Denver Broncos to beat the Oakland Raiders.  The Raiders won, 39 -23.

Are you ready for some football?
Tonight MNF is going to cold Minnesota, but not to the Metrodome.  The Chicago Bears will play the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium, home of the University of Minnesota football team.  This is the result of Metrodome collapsing last Sunday.  Officials ruled that it could not be repaired in time, the Bears petitioned the NFL to disallow the game at TCF Bank, but the show is going on.  Outside of the Brett Favre drama, this game is centered on Chicago keeping its playoffs hopes alive.  Right now Chicago is leading the NFC North, 9-4; but the Green Bay Packers are right behind them.  They meet for the final game of the season.  I think that Chicago will keep it together, while the Vikings still figure out who they are after a crazy season.  MNF kicks off at 8:30 pm on ESPN.

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, December 13, 2010

If the NFL playoffs started today

Since the regular season is coming to a close, I thought I better get you prepared for the playoffs.  The postseason in the NFL is a three-week playoff system and the Super Bowl.  The rounds are: Wild-Card, Divisional, and Conference Championship.  The conference champions play in the Super Bowl.  Let me explain the how teams get on the road to the Super Bowl.

The NFL is divided into two conferences, the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC).  Each of those conferences has four divisions (North, South, East and West).  The playoffs are comprised of 12 teams, 6 from each conference.  The four division winners get playoff spots.  This is the reason why there is such a focus on division leaders.  You may have heard someone comment, “they are leading the AFC East” or “they are only two games behind first in the NFC North.”  It is all about making it to the playoffs.  After the division leaders are determined, two more teams are selected from each conference.  These are the teams that have the best record in the entire conference not including the division winners.  They will play division winners in the Wild-Card Round, hence they are referred to as “wild-cards.”  The best two teams in each conference are off during the Wild-Card Round and they have an automatic home game.  They play the winners of the Wild-Card Round in the Divsional Round.  The overall best team in the conference gets all of its games at home, not including the Super Bowl; unless, of course the Super Bowl is in their home stadium.   Jerry Jones thought his team would do it this year, but they are not even going to make the playoffs.

With three weeks left in the regular season, there are several teams “in the hunt.”  This means that they are close to becoming a Wild-card.  I’ll use the current NFC standings to illustrate this.  At the moment, the New York Giants have a record of 8 – 4 after 12 games.  They would have a Wild-Card spot if the playoffs started over the weekend.  Tampa Bay is at 8 – 5 after 13 games.  They are hunting for the wild-card spot.  The Giants game this evening against Minnesota is pivotal.  If they win they move to 9 – 3 making Tampa Bay’s hunt more difficult.  If they lose, they will be tied with the Bucs.  This helps Tampa Bay with its hunt to become a playoff team. 

All of this leads me to tonight’s games.  The New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings are playing in Detroit at Ford Field because the roof of the Vikings home stadium, Metrodome collapsed early yesterday morning.  As I shared, it is a big game for the Giants.  Minnesota would love to mess up things for the Giants, but I don’t think they are equipped to do so.  They don’t know who is going to be their quarterback (Favre is still trying to recover) and they did not know they had to make a road trip until yesterday evening.  The Giants better stay focused and get it done tonight.  Next week they have Philadelphia at home.

Are you ready for some football?
Monday Night Football is traveling to the Lone Star State.  The Baltimore Ravens play the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium.  Even at 5 – 7, the Texans are still in the hunt for a playoff spot.  After a tough loss last weekend, Baltimore’s offense will be solid.  Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and Le’Ron McClain should not have any problems against the Texans’ 31st ranked defense.  On top of that, the Ravens’ defense is ranked #7.  I don’t see Houston’s Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson doing too much damage against Ray Lewis and the gang.  I’m going with the Baltimore Ravens tonight.  MNF kicks off at 8:30 pm on ESPN.  This week we’re going to the hippest part of Washington, DC for the game, U Street.   Join us at Ben’s Next Door.

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, December 6, 2010

December separates the best from the rest

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Ahhh… December.  College bowl games, the Heisman Trophy announcement and NFL divisional battles. 

Yesterday the BCS announced the schools that are going to play in its bowl games – the Rose Bowl presented by VIZIO, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl, All State Sugar Bowl and Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.   Auburn Tigers and Oregon Ducks will play in the championship game on January 10 in Arizona.  This was not a surprise.  Both teams won their conference and are undefeated.  Every year there is controversy over whether the BCS selects the right schools and delivers a true champion. 

I think that the right schools are going to play in the title game.  Auburn has a superstar quarterback in Cameron “Cam” Newton.  The guy is big, fast, and can throw the football.  He could help teams in the pros like the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions today.   With a new quarterback, things started off slow for the Tigers.  They had close wins against unranked Mississippi State and Clemson.  Each week Cam displayed just how good he is and took Auburn through the tough SEC without a loss.  Oregon is a high scoring team.  They dominated all of their opponents.  Thanks to quarterback, Darron Thomas, and running back, LaMichael James, the Ducks won 10 of their 12 games by 17 or more points.

Michigan State got a raw deal.  The Spartans shared the Big Ten title with Wisconsin and Ohio State.  Despite beating Wisconsin during the season they were not selected to a BCS bowl game.  Instead they are going to play Alabama and their former coach, Nick Saban, in the Capital One Bowl.   It will be frustrating for the Spartans to watch the team they beat represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. 

Quick hits around the NFL Week 13
Dallas Cowboys beat the Indianapolis Colts 38 -35.  The Cowboys’ defense intercepted Peyton Manning four times.  Two of them were returned for touchdowns.  Just when Dallas was starting to look like the team people thought would contend for the Super Bowl, they lose wide receiver Dez Bryant.  Bryant suffered an ankle injury yesterday and is out for the season.

For the second time this season, a controversial call clouds the Chicago Bears victory over the Detroit Lions.  The Bears were behind when Lions rookie defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was penalized for unnecessary roughness.  The Lions’ sideline thought that Suh just pushed Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to the ground.  The referees saw a blow to the back of Cutler’s head.  The penalty setup a Bears touchdown.  Chicago wins 24-20.

Atlanta Falcons came back in the fourth quarter to beat Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28 -24.  They remain first in the NFC South.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback, Brett Favre, injured his throwing shoulder.  With Tarvaris Jackson at the quarterback position, the Vikings beat the Buffalo Bills 38-14 at home.     

Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off a win against AFC rival Baltimore Ravens.  It was a bloody battle between two powerful defenses – literally.  The game left Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger with a bloody jersey and broken nose.  Steelers win 13-10 and hold first in the AFC North by themselves.

Are you ready for some football?
Monday Night Football is going to feel like the AFC Championship Game.  The New York Jets are going up to cold Gillette Stadium to play the New England Patriots.  They are divisional rivals tied at 9-2 for first place in the AFC East.  So, this is a battle for the top spot in the division and the conference.  Earlier this season (Week 2), the Jets beat the Patriots at home when they still had Pro Bowl receiver Randy Moss.  Tonight’s game is going to come down to experience and talent.  The Patriots have quarterback, Tom Brady, but I don’t think that it is going to be enough.  New York Jets quarterback, Mark Sanchez, may only be in his second season, but he is surrounded by a lot of experienced, talented players. Jets defensive backs Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis will be able to beat anyone that Brady tries to throw to.  I’m going with the Jets.  I know that the Patriots slaughtered the Lions last Thursday.  Yes, the Jets barely won the last few weeks.  They don’t have to blowout teams to get to the Super Bowl.  They just have to win.  Good teams find a way to win and the Jets will do just that tonight.  MNF kicks off at 8:30 pm on ESPN.

Heels & Helmets®