Monday, January 31, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: When the Packers are on Offense

Super Bowl XLV is going to feature two of the most storied franchises in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Their passion, tradition and success make them icons in the world of football.  Their city nicknames tell it all.  Pittsburgh is the “City of Champions” and Green Bay is “Titletown, USA.”  The Steelers have won the most Super Bowls with six.  While, the Packers only have half as many Super Bowl wins, they have the most NFL championships with 12.  The trophy given to the winner of the Super Bowl is named in honor of Green Bay’s greatest coach.  It is the Vince Lombardi Trophy.  See, the history of greatness runs deep in both franchises. 

To start our preview, we will examine the offense of the NFC Champion, the Green Bay Packers.  Green Bay’s offense is led by quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.  He has not been included in discussions about the league’s current top-tier quarterbacks like Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady.  After leading Green Bay to become the first 6th seed playoff team in the NFC to reach the Super Bowl, he is showing why his name should be included in that conversation.  During the playoffs he had 790 passing yards and 6 touchdowns. 

The key to the Packers’ offense is Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and James Starks.  They will need to balance their passing and running game and avoid turnovers.

Here is a look at all of the players that will most likely start on the Packers Offense next Sunday.  (Go back to our post on Offense Controls the Game to review the roles of each player.) 

Aaron Rodgers (#12) – Had a great playoff performance.  Known for his accuracy.  Led the league in passing yards and had the most rushing yards for a QB during the playoffs.

Scott Wells (#63) – Strong and versatile.  Will need to be ready for Steelers defense blitzing.

Guards and Tackles – Block against a very tough, experienced Steelers defense.
 Daryn Colledge (#73, Left Guard) – Needs to hold off the Steelers to help the running game.
 Josh Sitton (#71, Right Guard) – Strength and speed make him the best offensive lineman on the team.
Chad Clifton (#76, Left Tackle) –  Must protect Aaron’s blindside.
Bryan Bulaga (#75, Right Tackle) – Rookie going against a top defense.

Wide Receivers
Donald Driver (#80) – Veteran option for Aaron.  Known as Mr. Reliable because of his consistency and number of starts in 12 seasons with one team.  This was his first season in six seasons accumulating less than 1,000 receiving yards.

Greg Jennings (#85) – Had his third straight season with more than 1,000 receiving yards and tied for the most touchdown catches at 12.  Led the league in passing yards during the playoffs.

Running Backs
James Starks (#44) – Rookie who led the league in rushing yards during the playoffs after getting his first start in the Wild-Card game against Philadelphia.
Quinn Johnson (#45) – Tough runner who can also block.  Not much experience, but he has not fumbled.

Tight End
 Andrew Quarless (#81) – Rookie who did not play in the first three games of the regular season.  Started because of injuries and proved that he could use his size to block.

Tomorrow we will look at the men planning to stop these guys – Pittsburgh Steelers Defense.


Heels & Helmets®

Monday, January 24, 2011

What a year!

Dallas Stadium is set, the commercials are sold out, North Texas is ready to party and now we have our teams.  Yes, Super Bowl XLV is on!  Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers who won their conferences and earned a trip to Dallas.  Green Bay won all of their playoff games on the road and beat the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game to reach the Super Bowl.  Pittsburgh stopped the New York Jets from coming back to take the AFC title and get their third trip in six years to the Super Bowl. 

Championship Sunday started off lackluster.  Both games came down to defenses holding off come back victories.  Green Bay dominated the Bears in a very cold Soldier Field.  At half-time they were up, 14 – 0.  Neither team scored in the third quarter.  All of sudden Chicago came alive in the final quarter of the game and scored touchdowns – twice.  This put them behind by only one touchdown.  It was too late.  With their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, on the sidelines STANDING with a hurt knee, there was nothing they could do against Green Bay’s defense.  (Not questioning if Cutler was really hurt, but he was STANDING and it was the CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.)  Even Green Bay’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers got a tackle!

Pretty much the same thing happened in Heinz Field where Pittsburgh hosted the New York Jets.  Steeler Nation was fired up and the team kept the flame going.  The defense did not let the Jets run and stopped them from scoring a touchdown when they were within three yards from the goal line.  The Jets started their come back right before half-time by getting on the board with a field goal.  After that, the Steelers never scored again.  The Jets took over in the second half of the game.  They scored two touchdowns and got a safety.  It seemed as if they were going to stun a team with another come back victory the way they did so many times during the regular season.  However, this time; time ran out.  New York Jets Head Coach, Rex Ryan, comes close again but doesn’t get to the Big Game.  Instead, Mike Tomlin is going to his second Super Bowl as a head coach in just four years.

Last year after Championship Sunday, Heels & Helmets, began with the goal of being a resource to help ladies join the conversation when men discuss football.  (It’s our birthday!)  In the past year, we have written about the game, conducted workshops to explain football and hosted events to raise awareness and funds for organizations supporting women and youth.  Our posts have ranged from game recaps and predictions to new NFL rules.  We have also provided insight to player trades and the college recruiting process.  It has been an exciting year!  We’re just getting started.   So stay connected to know everything that is coming up.

As we kick-off our second year, we want to review the basics to get ready for Super Bowl XLV.  Read posts on the line of scrimmage, offense, defense, special teams, game strategies and playing time to freshen up on your knowledge.  Oh, don’t forget the new overtime rule for playoffs.  Next week we are doing a week-long special for Super Bowl.  We will write every day and break down the strengths and weaknesses of each of our Super Bowl teams, Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.  You will be able to compare and make your prediction for the winner of Super Bowl XLV. 

Thank you for following.  We hope that we have helped you join the conversation at the office and surprise your sweetie. ;)  We look forward to another exciting year!

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, January 17, 2011

NFL Conference Championships are set!

Next weekend is Conference Championship Sunday.  The Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers are just one game away from playing in Super Bowl XLV.  Chicago will host Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game and Pittsburgh will host New York in the AFC Championship Game.

I am going to recap the Divisional Playoffs to show how each team got there. 

Green Bay traveled to the Georgia Dome and shocked the Atlanta Falcons.  Aaron Rodgers  I was really shocked to see him comfortable moving out of the pocket.  He had 366 passing yards total without any interceptions.  This coupled with a dominating performance from the defense that got 5 sacks and two interceptions (one was a touchdown) resulted in the Packers 48 – 21 victory over Atlanta and a trip to the NFC Championship Game.  This is what happens when you have a hungry offense and experienced defense.  To get to the Super Bowl Rodgers will have to stay focused and accurate. threw 3 touchdown passes and ran for one touchdown.

In the other NFC divisional game, the Seattle Seahawks’ luck ran out in Soldier Field.  Yes, I said luck.  They were lucky to win a division by only winning seven games.  They were lucky to enter the playoffs with home-field advantage.  They were lucky that the Saints did not take them serious.  Yesterday it was clear from the beginning that the Seahawks were just out of their league, or should I say division.  The defense could not stop Jay Cutler who threw two touchdowns and scored two touchdowns running.   Chicago won, 35 – 24.  Now they will stay at home to host their archrival, Packers, in the NCF Championship Game.  To earn a trip to Dallas, Cutler will need to stay on his feet and the Bears will need to protect the football.

In the AFC, Baltimore disappointed their fans and surprised me.  They started the game controlling both sides of the line of scrimmage.  The offense and the defense made big plays.  The funniest touchdown came from Cory Redding returning a fumble that all of the other guys thought was an incomplete pass.  I’m still dumfounded by all of those guys standing around waiting for the whistle to be blown.  Anyway, by halftime the Ravens were up 21 – 7, but after halftime it was the Steelers game.  The Steelers defense only allowed Baltimore to get a field goal, while Ben “Big Ben” Roethlisberger got the offense going enough to get three touchdowns.  They won, 31 – 24 and will host the AFC Championship Game.  To win next week, they will need to do what they did during the second-half the entire game. 

The other AFC matchup featured the team with the league’s best record getting embarrassed at home.  The New England Patriots could not do anything against the New York Jets.  A team that is known for being well-coached looked completely unprepared and made a ton of mistakes.  Tom Brady could not get the offense going, threw his first interception since October and special teams seemed confused.  The Patriot defense could not stop the Jets in the air or on the ground.  The Jets defense really exposed Brady’s weakness.  He is not comfortable leaving the pocket.  When he did not have a passing option, he didn’t move.  That is why he was sacked five times.  Mark Sanchez did a great job leading the offense.  Half of their touchdowns came from rushing and the other half came from passing.  The Jets backed up all of the trash talk that their coach, Rex Ryan, put out and beat the Patriots 28 – 21 on the road.  They are headed to Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship Game.  To compete for the Lombardi Trophy they will have to play just as good against another rival and not get cocky.  They had some bloopers yesterday that could have been costly.  Receivers in the same area and backs bumping into teammates can’t happen next week if they want to be successful.

So who will come out victorious on Conference Championship Sunday?  I say the visiting teams.  Green Bay Packers and the New York Jets.

Green Bay will beat Chicago and become NFC Conference Champions because of their defense.  Jay Cutler will not be able to survive five sacks and score the way he did against Seattle.  Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams will force turnovers that will lead to points.  The Packers will be packing for Dallas.

New York will overcome Pittsburgh to be AFC Conference Champions because of an explosive offense and tough defense.  I know Steelers defense is synonymous with tough, but they are not going to stop Shonn Green, L.T. (LaDainian Tomlinson), Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes.  Jets defense will be able to confuse the Steelers offense like they did against the Patriots.  Big Ben will not go down as easy as Brady did, but he will be forced to throw.  When he does, Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis will be around to intercept.  The Jets are going to the Super Bowl.

The Conference Championships are Sunday on CBS and FOX. 
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears - Sunday, Jan. 23, 3:00 PM ET on FOX
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers - Sunday, Jan. 23, 6:30 PM ET on CBS

Join us at Ulah Bistro, in Washington, DC for Conference Championship Sunday.  We’ll watch the end of the NFC Game and stay for the entire AFC Game.
Update: 1.20.11 @ 3:15 pm - We are no longer watching the game at Ulah Bistro.  We are going to watch the game with International Lifeline Fund and help them tackle filthy water and poverty in remote areas of Africa.

Are you ready for some football??? 

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, January 10, 2011

NFL Playoffs and BCS Champs is all Newton

Wild-Card weekend provided us the expected and unexpected.  Here is a recap of what happened in the first round of the NFL Playoffs.

In the first playoff game of the season, Seattle Seahawks shocked the defending Super Bowl champion, New Orleans Saints and won 41 -36.  They are the first team with a losing record (7-9) to win a playoff game.  The biggest play of the game was Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard run for a touchdown.  Kudos to Pete Carroll for leading the Seahawks to victory in his first year back in the NFL, but I still think that the game should not have been in Qwest Field.  I am not making excuses for the Saints’ performance.  However, playing well during the regular season should be rewarded with a home game during the regular season.  A team that didn’t even win half of its regular season games should not be at home during the playoffs.  (Really, they should not have been in the playoffs, but I’ll save that for another time.)  In Qwest, opponents average over 2 false starts, thanks to the “12th Man.”  We call it home-field advantage for a reason.  Nevertheless, the Seattle Seahawks will go to the “Windy City” to play the Chicago Bears.

In Philadelphia, Michael Vick could not get the Eagles pass the Green Bay Packers.  Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes to lead the Packers to a 21 – 16 win.  Charles Woodson and the rest of the Packers defense did a good job containing Vick.  While his last play was an interception, the 2011 NFC Pro Bowl starter still managed 292 passing yards and 33 rushing yards.  People will remember the last play of the game, but what killed the Eagles in this game was special teams.  (I always say these special men will make or break you.)  Philadelphia missed two field goals.  Had they just made those, the game would have gone to overtime.  Who knows what would have happened.  Now the Packers are going to the Georgia Dome to meet NFC Leader, Atlanta Falcons.

I expected the New York Jets to beat the Indianapolis Colts but thought the story would be about the quarterbacks – Peyton Manning (Colts) and Mark Sanchez (Jets).  It was not.  The game came down to special teams and the kickers.  Adam Vinatieri made a 50-yard field goal, his longest kick since 2008, with 53 seconds left.  The Colts thought it was over.  However, 50 seconds later, Nick Folk kicked a 32-yard field goal for the Jets.  Game over.  The Jets are on their way to Foxborough to meet the league’s best, Belichick’s New England Patriots for the third time this season.

No surprise in Arrowhead Stadium.  The Baltimore Ravens – Kansas City Chiefs game was not worth watching.  The playoff experienced Ravens dominated a youthful Chiefs team.  Baltimore’s defense led by Ray Lewis was on fire.  They forced five turnovers, got three sacks and limited the Chiefs to just one touchdown.  The offense looked good as well.  They scored passing and running to get the win, 30 – 7.  The Ravens will play their arch rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers next week in Heinz Field.

So we’re on to the NFL Divisional Playoff Round…

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers - Saturday, Jan. 15, 4:30 PM ET NBC
This is going to be a blood bath between division (AFC North) rivals.  Both teams are known for their old school, hard-hitting defenses.  At their last meeting, the Steelers won (narrowly), but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left the game with a broken nose.  These guys don’t play that push-you-out-of-bounds stuff, they tackle!  I see Ray Lewis’ adrenaline still pumping and the Baltimore defense continuing its roll from yesterday to end the Steelers’ season.

Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons - Saturday, Jan. 15, 8:00 PM ET FOX
Green Bay loss to Atlanta in November by just a field goal.  Green Bay ended the season with two tough games to guarantee a playoff spot.  They are focused.  The Falcons have been resting.  On Saturday, I think Green Bay will return to the Georgia Dome with a hungry offense and an angry, experienced defense to avenge their previous visit.

Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears - Sunday, Jan. 16, 1:00 PM ET FOX
Seattle is feeling confident.  They just upset the defending Super Bowl champs and they beat the Bears 23 - 20 during the regular season in Chicago.  Impressive win on Saturday, but I think that their season ends this weekend.  Chicago has improved since that close game in September.  Most notably is the running game.  Matt Forte ran for at least 91 yards in five of the Bears' final six games.

New York Jets at New England Patriots - Sunday, Jan. 16, 4:30 PM ET NBC
This is a contest between the top two teams in the AFC East.  Their last game again looked more like a pro team scrimmaging a college team.  Tom Brady massacred the Jets 45 – 3 on “Monday Night Football.”  It will not be easy for the Jets to travel and beat a well-rested, well-coached Patriot team.  BUT, the Jets are going to do it.  Mark Sanchez will step up, the defense will realize that it does not need to blitz on every play (deep threat Randy Moss hasn’t been a Patriot since September) and this good team will find a way to win.

College Football Championship Game
Tonight college football’s champion will be determined in warm Arizona.  Auburn Tigers will play Oregon Ducks in the Tostito’s BCS Championship Game.   This game will be “Nothing but Newton.”  Cameron “Cam” Newton.  This is Auburn’s extraordinary quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy this year.  

Oregon went undefeated, but they are in the PAC 10 and only played ONE team in the top 15.  Meanwhile Auburn dominated the extremely competitive SEC and beat FOUR teams in the top 15.  The SEC is the best right now in football.  Their bowl record this year proves that.  I’m a Big Ten girl so it pains me to make this acknowledgement, but I give credit when it is due.

Auburn will be champs and here are three quick reasons why:
1.     Oregon has not seen anything close to what they will experience tonight since their meeting with Ohio State in the Rose Bowl .  They couldn’t do anything with Terrelle Pryor and will not be able stop Cam Newton.
2.     Auburn ranks third in the nation in third-down conversions.  Why?  Cam Newton will scramble and make big plays with his feet.
3.     Oregon ranks seventh in the nation in turnover margin.  When they turnover to tonight they will be giving the ball back to Cam Newton.  I think you know what will happen.

Tostito’s BCS Championship Game kicks-off tonight at 8:30 pm on ESPN.

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

A new year is here and the NFL playoffs are set!   The teams from the NFC are Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.  The AFC contenders are New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens.  Playoff action begins on Saturday, January 8, 2011.  See the entire 2010 postseason schedule.

I picked the Jets to win the Super Bowl.  Not because I’m from New York.  Not because green and white are my favorite colors.  Not because of their fancy new stadium.  Not because they were featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” 

I picked the Jets because I saw them balancing youth and experience and building on the accomplishments from the 2009 season. They made it to the AFC Championship game last year with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, so they were just one win away from Super Bowl XLIV.  During the offseason, they retained their starters and strengthened their offense with veterans Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and L.T. (LaDainian Tomlinson).  They ended on a bad note only winning two out of their last five games, but they are in the playoffs.  Yes, I am sticking to my word.  The Jets are going to Dallas

In reflecting on the regular season, here are my top seven moments, events and surprises from the 2010 season.

#7 – Batman and Robin just an old cartoon.  T.O. (Terrell Owens) joining Chad Ochocinco in Cincinnati was supposed to frighten defenses across the league.  The claimed “dynamic duo” only combined for 13 touchdowns the entire season and the Bengals only won four games.

6# - Steelers quarterback drama.  Pittsburgh starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for 4 games at the beginning of the 2010 season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.  First the concern was who would replace him.  Then the concern was where would the team be when Big Ben returned.  Both ended up non-issues.  They won the AFC North with the second best record in the conference and are resting the first weekend of playoff action.

#5 – Tripping to victory.  New York Jets Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Sal Alosi was fined $25,000 after he was videotaped tripping Miami Dolphins rookie Nolan Carroll.  The investigation revealed that he had instructed inactive players to line up along the sideline to position themselves to impede gunners on the opposing team.  As a result, he was suspended indefinitely.  The NFL also fined the Jets franchise $100,000.  Sometimes you are grateful to have “big brother” watching.

#4 – Great coaching puts New England on top.  After losing to the Jets early in the season, the Patriots did not seem like the leader in the AFC.  It really looked like their season was going to suffer when they sent wide receiver Randy Moss to Minnesota.  Head coach Bill Belichick did not let the critics get to him or his players.  He couldn’t replace Randy Moss and did not try to.  Instead he got the job done by having Tom Brady go with shorter passes to tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.  The Patriots have the best record in the league and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  No one is missing Randy Moss in New England.

#3 – Fading Favre.  Not so surprising that Brett Favre isn’t the quarterback that he used to be.  The man is 41.  He has been in the pocket taking hits for 20 seasons.  After last season it is unfortunate that the future hall of famer was forced out of the game and literally ran away after his last game.  He says that he knows “It’s time.”  I hope that he does.

#2 – The soaring Eagles.  Last spring it seemed really crazy that Philadelphia traded quarterback Donovan McNabb to a division rival.  McNabb was benched in his new home (Washington Redskins) and the Eagles are in the playoffs after winning the NFC East, but not because of Kevin Kolb the guy that was supposed to be their starting quarterback.

#1 – Michael Vick is back!  Michael was supposed to just back up Kolb this season.  He got his chance to start in the NFL again after three seasons and has not looked back.  Four months later he is voted the NFC starting quarterback for the 2011 Pro Bowl and a NFL MVP contender.

Heels & Helmets®