Archive for September, 2011

Rivalry Renewed: The Greatest Sports Rivalry

September 25, 2011

We here at PBSB love the rivalry aspect of athletics. Rivalries tend to evoke different levels of emotion from all those participating, from the players on the field to the rest of us losers off the field.  This Sunday will bring us another chapter in the quintessential rivalry that is the Chicago Bears vs. the Green Bay Packers.

Just two dudes dressing up to watch other men tackle each other.

Two of the oldest teams in American sports, they’ve been going at it (sorry I had to, for those who clicked the link) since 1921 (Chicago leads the series 92-84, with 6 ties).  The division rivals have been both champions and chumps at some point in their histories, but mainly champions. The two teams have combined for 22 NFL Championships. And yes at PBSB we count ALL titles, the teams earned them (except when it comes to the Eagles, they still haven’t won anything). And for you traditionalists, the Chicago Bears had won one (1985) Super Bowl and Green Bay four (1966, 1967, 1996 and 2010). Most recently, they played for the NFC Title last season. Green Bay would go on to win the game and the Super Bowl. Even if one team is having a stellar year and the other is not, the game is always hard fought. Fans are in for a real treat with the greatest rivalry in sports. Don’t give us the Yankees-Red Sox, they play about 60 times per season, and that isn’t a rivalry at that point, it’s like an intra-squad scrimmage. The next best rivalry is UConn-Tennessee in women’s basketball…just kidding it is probably Duke-UNC. But back to the upcoming game: This Sunday is sure to be another good one. Here’s how they match up:

Sweetness was just too perfect of a word to fit across a headband headband.

After posting his first winning season since high school, Jay Cutler leads a revamped Bears offense. The front office seems to believe in Cutler and decided to give him some more weapons on offense, always nice for a QB who always seems to be drawing criticism even when he doesn’t rightly deserve it, in Marion Barber III and Longhorn Roy Williams (basically Chicago signed all of the Cowboys back-ups for each skill position…except Jon Kitna, Dallas wasn’t giving him up). This is all part of the never ending effort in Chicago to bring the offense up to par with the defense—the effort that has failed since Walter Payton retired.The thing is though, Chicago’s defense is so good that they really don’t need an offense that badly, they’d just appreciate it if the offense didn’t blow the game. The defense is led by linebacker-extraordinaire Brian Urlacher and dual threat athlete Julius Peppers. The secondary took a hit losing Daniel Manning and they are still reeling in the loss of Mike Brown. They did however pick up another former U standout in Brandon Meriweather. Although this Chicago secondary isn’t filled with household names like Charles Woodson, they always tend to be a solid unit. The front seven can be considered one of the league’s best with Urlacher, Peppers, and Lance Briggs. Almost as consistent as the defensive play of the Bears is their special teams. And if there ever was a man worthy of the “special teams ace” title, that man is the U’s own Devin Hester. Some of the things Hester can do are not possible in mere mortals. Add in Robbie Gould and the Bears may have the best special teams both ways.

Green Bay on the other hand has one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and the championship belt owner. The Packers managed to win the title last year even though they were faced with a bunch of injuries. Stud tight end Jermichael Finley went down after only two games. The same goes for starting running back Ryan Grant, who went down in the same game. John Kuhn is the best small college fullback in the league…a possibly small group (we don’t research) but still something to be proud of. But seriously he is actually one of the best fullbacks in the league. Jordy Nelson might not be the flashiest receiver but he gets the job done, Donald Driver is older than the coaches but can still ball and Greg Jennings is a top five receiver in the league. So they have a great quarterback, great receivers and backs—the exact combo you need to score points and win games. On the defensive side of the ball, Clay Matthews is the best football playing Fabio look-alike.

Locks of hair.

Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams pair up to be the best cornerback tandem in the league. And they only get better with that front seven we just talked about. The loss of Nick Collins will hurt, but the Pack has more than enough talent to cover for his vacancy. And Green Bay could have just as good of a special teams returner as Chicago does. Packers’ rookie Randall Cobb is tied for the longest return touchdown (in which he could only be tackled by his own teammate in the endzone).

Q&A:

  1. With the new targets of Roy Williams and rookie Dane Sanzenbacher, will Jay Cutler be the third straight QB to throw for 400+ yards against this Packers secondary, which just lost Pro Bowler Nick “The Pick” Collins?

Let’s look back to the first two games of the season for Chicago. Jay Culter has thrown for 556 yards in the two previous games this season. That isn’t very good. Especially when you consider that Matt Forte has only ran the ball 26 times (for 117 yards). As we stated above, the Bears offense isn’t their strong suit, but it takes just one play for Chicago to gain a bunch of yards. Forte had a 56 yard reception against Atlanta, Devin Hester caught a screen pass and turned it into a 53 yarder. Johnny Knox has 30 and 25 yarders. The Bears can move the ball in big chunks, which will be the key for Jay getting 400 yards. The Packers’ defense won’t give Chicago many chances so they’ll have to make the ones they do get count.

2. How does the GB special teams unit plan to contain the always dangerous, Devin Hester?

Well, Green Bay gets help from the new 35-yard line kickoff…which is the dumbest rule since my parents made me go to bed at 8:30 (it’s not safer because returners are now taking more risks coming out of the endzone. If you want safe, start at the 20 yard line. But they won’t do that because they they’ll lose guaranteed commercial breaks). Anyway, Hester hasn’t been great returning this year, but he is always due for a TD, and an amazing one at that. He has two punt returns for 10 yards and 5 kick returns for 100 yards (29 long). That isn’t anything special. The best way for the Pack to contain Devin is to keep it away from him. Kick it out of the endzone on kickoffs and directionally punt it so he can’t get a good return. That is easier said than done, right Matt Dodge?

3. The loss of Cullen Jenkins in the offseason to the “dream team” was a big hit to the defensive line. Now with the heir apparent to his starting role, Mike Neal down with an injury, how will GB stop the CHI run game?

This may not be a problem for the Packers. The Bears have run the ball only 39 times in the two games, less than 20 per contest. Mike Martz normally has a great offensive game plan, but he will have to mix it up to keep the Packers defense guessing. But perhaps the fact that they threw the ball 77 times will work in the running games favor. Another thing working in the favor of Green Bay, and possibly a reason Martz has been less willing to run, is Chicago’s horrid offensive line. Their line sucks…I’ll say it—especially when Gabe Carimi and Lance Louis are out (that’s the right side of their o-line).

4. Will the Bears offensive line, which has allowed a league high in sacks, be able to slow down Green Bay’s rushing defense, one of the best in the league?

My initial thought is no. As stated above, the Bears are missing the starting right side of their line—a line that wasn’t great to begin with. Olin Kreutz left after being with the team from their inception in 1919. He was a big loss, as he kept people in the right position and was a coach on the field. Now it is Jay Cutler coaching from his back. B.J. Raji is a like two men in the middle of that line, and when you add the secondary into the equation it is probably going to be a long day for Cutler.  I fully expect Clay Matthews to have eight sacks by the end of this game, and Kristin Cavallari’s phone number.

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An open letter to all involved in the NBA negotiations

September 20, 2011

There was finally some good news from the NBA’s bargaining table…that was quickly followed with some bad news, but let’s try to be positive. According to the story, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Phoenix owner Robert Sarver “expressed dissatisfaction with many of the points,” that the owners were discussing amongst themselves, after meeting with the players earlier in the day. Apparently things were going pretty well—closer than ever. According to this SB Nation story, the owners were willing to reach a compromise on a new collective bargaining deal this week.” But then Gilbert and Sarver ruined. The story also says that the Knicks’ James Dolan and Lakers’ Jerry Buss “were visibly annoyed by the demands of Gilbert and Sarver. You know, the powerful owners were mad the underlings were messing stuff up. And I can’t blame them. Later David Stern would say that the owners had “virtual unanimity.” Who knows what is really going on, but it seems as those things are getting closer, and that means an NBA season.

And that season, at this point which could still be a full season, means I will have a full season to watch rather than what I was planning to do—which was get a lot more sleep and watch more college basketball players make horrible late game decisions.

But for the first time during this negotiation it seems as though the NBA is getting closer. I haven’t been this happy since those Scarlet Johanssen pictures I found on the internet recently. And that last time I was truly happy before that was when Brian Cardinal was doing work in the NBA finals.

Now some thoughts on those owners who are trying to ruin my NBA fun—Dan Gilbert doesn’t seem to know when to shut his mouth. He said he’d win a title before Miami, and that was crazier than a weekend in Vegas with Charlie Sheen.

Russ Bengston tweeted “Welp, sabotaging a new CBA is one way for Dan Gilbert to make sure LeBron doesn’t win a title.” And that’s true. Maybe Gilbert is sneakier than we all thought. He can’t put together a team around the best player in the league, but he can derail the progress in a negotiation.

And Sarver had one of the best point guards in the game, the best passer and (undeservingly or not) a back-to-back MVP and couldn’t get by the Spurs for years. Now that his window has passed he doesn’t have to care about playing a season (side note: Steve Nash deserves to go to a contender and have a chance to win a ring. I hate to say it, but he would be amazing to watch on the Heat. He would average about 25 assists).

I’m sure both sides are trying to get everything they can, and that makes sense—it’s smart negotiating. But for just two owners to complain, and not even two of the better owners, is pretty upsetting. I just want the NBA!

I need Boozer screaming about rebounds and and-ones, even when the shots never seem to drop for the and-one. I need to see that little rat controlling Omer Asik’s every move, and making him great at defense. I need to see LeBron quit and Greg Oden go down for the year. I want to see Joakim Noah’s flowing hair and Manu Ginobili’s lack of hair. And also Phil Jackson’s chair

Phil is lucky enough to get a high chair.

(I know he is retiring I just can’t pass up an opportunity to rhyme. Maybe I should have gone with Kevin Garnett’s stare or Eddie House’s absurd flair?). I want Kobe to get mad at teammates and Russell Westbrook to freeze out the best scorer in the league by not passing him the ball. I want Baron Davis’ beard and beer belly. The list goes on and on, and I’m willing to do anything for this season to happen.

I have $14 in my wallet. You can split it $7 each way (players/owners). I also have one of the fake credit cards that are sent to you in the mail. Even though it makes me feel worth something, and like a high-roller, I would be willing to part with that as well if it got the season going. We just have to decide who gets the “Your Name Here” side.

But seriously the fans need basketball. I can’t watch hockey. I don’t even know where the puck is half the time. I even thought about learning the rules to cricket or rugby, so that I would have something to watch. Please help me. College basketball doesn’t cut it. You would think it would, being that the hoops are ten feet and all the players are getting paid, but it just isn’t the same. I need the NBA. And so do so many others.

Don’t make me go outside and be active. I can watch other people be active, and that’s what I want to do.

I even watched the WNBA the other day. I’ll repeat that. I watched the WNBA. And to be honest, I slightly enjoyed it. Look what you’ve done to me, lockout…Are you happy?

Soccer doesn’t do it for me. If I wanted to watch flopping I would just watch Manu Ginobili play. Or this video on replay forever until the NBA comes back.

The NFL got their stuff together, you can do it too. I would give up the entire NFL season to have the NBA, partly because my favorite player is already out for the season and my favorite team stunk up the joint  this past weekend…but also partly because I really love pro basketball.

You’re going to lose a lot more than just a season. You’re going to lose fans, the great momentum from an amazing season and even better postseason.Also respect, but that may not matter to you guys—especially on the players side because they can’t have any respect for themselves as they are dating the women from Basketball Wives.

My sources say the lockout could last for a long time–maybe the whole season. And when I say my sources I mean the voices in my head, but they usually don’t steer me wrong.

Fans are forgiving but they aren’t going to just forget. They’ll be back to watch and buy jerseys and show up for games, but they will remember you turned your back. We fans don’t deserve an apology, but don’t forget it’s not just two sides being affected by this. If you get this all figured out before it makes the league miss any time, we won’t need an apology for anything, except some sleepless night. And to make the season happen on time, I’m willing to use my closet as a dungeon for Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Sager. See, everyone has to sacrifice for this to work.

The Complaint Department: Episode 1

September 12, 2011

It is extremely annoying when someone that knows nothing about a certain topic pretends that they’re an expert in that field. It doesn’t matter what it is: history, politics, sports, Renaissance paintings, 17th century flowers.

Apparently this is Renaissance art...who knew?

Acting as if you know everything, when you clearly don’t just makes you look like an ass. No one knows everything, not even me (I’m pretty close though, it’s the 17th century flowers and Renaissance paintings that are killing me). And no one is expected to know everything. Hell, you’ll probably be respected more if you admit you don’t know the answer or don’t know something about a certain topic, rather than blurting out some absurd answer just to hear yourself speak. But some people don’t follow that line of thinking. They believe they have to know everything under the sun, and if they don’t know it, they bull shit it.

I bring this up because I have noticed it in the past few weeks in a sport I love—tennis. The US Open is currently being played and all of a sudden everyone is an expert on tennis. My Twitter feed, which consists of possibly two tennis writers, is all of a sudden full of tennis “experts” giving their “expert” opinion on everything US Open. I don’t go on Twitter and write about how to pick up girls on Halloween, even though it may be easier and in my face for that time, but it doesn’t make me an expert. I freely—and sadly—admit that I rarely ever get any play in that game. You would want to go to a frat guy for that type of information, and he’d tell you how to correctly, and casually, roofie a girl.

I’m not the only one who gets annoyed by people who pretend to be experts at something, when really they know nothing about the subject, right? Well it annoyed me so much during the US Open, I came up with a name for it: sports shoobies.

What I mean by sports shoobies, are people that become fans of a sport only when that sport is put in front of them. It’s happening now in tennis, but it can happen in any sport. MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL playoffs are a big time for the shoobies to show themselves. I’m sure it happens during golf’s majors, but the only reason I watch golf is for John Daly’s pants and to see if the Gold Channel has started a 24/7 show following Tiger Woods. I’d love to see how he picks up all those waitresses at the Waffle Houses.

I’m not sure of the origin of the word shoobie, but I heard it first from the cartoon Rocket Power. That probably is not the source of it, but I’m going to say it was started by Rocket Power partly because I loved that show and partly because I don’t want to do research to truly find where it came from (it feels like homework then). Rocket Power used it to refer to tourists who came to the beach during popular vacationing season and encroached on their space (all while wearing their shoes on the beach, I believe). The space that the “natives” occupied all year was all of a sudden taken from them.

Here is the number one definition from Urban Dictionary: “someone who thinks they own the beach when they go just for a weekend or a summer most of them deserve death…even [though] they are the reason our economy survives.”

That definition is perfect. Except the part about deserving death, I’m not going that far. But shoobies are annoying. They act like they own the place, when really they know much about the beach or the conversation. When someone starts talking about the development of Novak Djokovic, even though they don’t know what country he is from—well that’s frustrating. It belittles the sport when someone thinks they can learn all about it by watching a few match four times a year.

But the last part of that definition is important too: “even though they are the reason our economy survives.” The more people that watch tennis, even if it is just for the four majors, help to make tennis a worthwhile sport for the TV networks to put on the air.

So really I should be happy. The more people that watch tennis, the more it will be shown on TV—and I love watching tennis so it seems like a win. But I can’t be entirely happy. I just don’t care for people who don’t know the sport, to talk about it as if they’re experts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be an elitist and say not everyone can be a fan of tennis, or anything for that matter. I’m not an expert on anything. I love tennis but I don’t claim to know every fact or facet. People can like whatever they want to, I’ll never stand in the way of that. But it isn’t the fans that upset me.

I watch certain sports when they are on TV or when it is a big event. But I don’t act as if I’m an expert. I don’t walk into your house and start telling you the history of it or the history of your life, because I don’t know anything about it (and there is a very good chance I don’t really care). So don’t come into a sport or any other topic and pretend to be the be-all, end-all in the discussions of that topic.

I want to repeat that fans are great. The more tennis fans, the more it could be on TV and I could maybe make a living on it. But it’s that small group of people that watch one match, maybe even just a few games and then believe that they are experts who have been following tennis closely for years. Become a fan, but don’t try to be an expert. And I’m totally cool with people pointing out how hot Ana Ivanovic and Maria Kirilenko are.

Soooo hot...

So, so hot.

Watching something different or learning about a new topic is fine, but don’t pretend to be knowledgeable if you’re actually a novice. As sad as I am to see tennis on TV go away until basically the Australian Open next year, I’m happy that I’ll have my Twitter feed back and I can continue to read about Kristin Cavaliari’s most recent adventure and European basketball, which I know nothing about but accept that I’m not an expert, just merely a fan.

NFL Season Preview

September 8, 2011

For our first post on the ProBono Sports Blog, we decided to write a season preview for the upcoming NFL season. Instead of covering every single team (BORING) we decided to pick four contenders, two pretenders and one surprise team from each conference.

So without further ado, and in alphabetical order, our NFL picks…and the greatest thing you’ve ever read (until we decide to post something else).

NFC

Contenders

 -Atlanta Falcons

It's ok, Brent Grimes understands that you can't find Shippensburg on a map.

The skies the limit for the loaded offense led by Matt Ryan that was the #1 NFC seed last year. Another year of experience under his belt and new weapon Julio Jones give Matt Ryan the chance for huge numbers. Mike Turner running the ball ain’t too shabby either, rushing for 1371 yards, third best in the league. But as the Packers proved once again, defense wins championships! Ranking 1st last year in rushing yards allowed and third in overall yards per game, ATL and first-time pro bowler and small school prospect Brent Grimes look like a Super Bowl worthy D.

 Green Bay Packers

BELT

They’re the champs until someone else hoists the Lombardi trophy in Indy later this year. The Packers got to showcase their deep, young roster last season when they were plagued by injury. Returning starters TE Jermichael Finley, RB Ryan Grant, a new draft class and a healthy Packers roster are tough to beat. Dom Caper’s Defense led by Clay Matthews and Heisman Winner Charles Woodson paired with Aaron Rodgers and all his weapons give GB scary good balance.

 -New Orleans Saints

PBSB exclusive: Big dudes are key on the line.

They lost Reggie Bush, but really that isn’t much of a loss, considering Bush was about 12% as productive as he was in college (that’s probably because he was getting paid better in college). The Saints offensive line is amazingly good, especially the interior. They signed Olin Kreutz to place between Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans. Nicks and Evans are arguably the top two guards in the league and they’re protecting the same guy. And that guy, Drew Brees, happens to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league as well. Last year the Saints had the third most passing yards and allowed the fourth fewest yards through the air. That’s a pretty deadly combination. Their running game should also improve. We already touched on the offensive line, and behind those guys are three solid running backs in Pierre Thomas, new addition Darren Sproles and rookie Mark Ingram. The only thing that scares me about the Saints is the possibility to repeat this.

 -Philadelphia Eagles

It was almost impossible to find a picture of Vick that didn't have a dog photoshopped into it. And one that he wasn't white.

The Eagles added a bunch of players this offseason, and a lot of them are really good players. But it all comes down to quarterback in the NFL. And it will be interesting to see if Michael Vick can build on the good season he had last year. It seems to me that defenses start to figure out rushing quarterbacks quickly. Vick had a good year, but defenses will be more keyed on his tendencies now, and if he isn’t more accurate he will put up some Jay Cutler-interception numbers. But Vick does have some great weapons in “the Deux Seans” (LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson). They also have some of the best cornerbacks in the league, so barring injuries in their secondary it will be tough to move the ball through the air against them.  And in the “no one but me cares department” the Eagles let go of Stewart “Boy Band” Bradley, which cannot help their chances to win or their chances with the ladies (his eyes pierce my soul).

 Pretenders

 -Dallas Cowboys

Romo's history with women is better than any stat he can put up. Bonus: Jessica Simpson near her peak!

Remember last year when the Cowboys were supposed to be the most talented team in the league and an easy pick to at least make the playoffs? Well that didn’t happen. Granted Tony Romo did get injured, but they still had John Kitna as their back-up…OK so maybe I found the reason they missed the playoffs.

Tony Romo does have some weapons on offense to go to. If Dez Bryant breaks out in year two the same way he did in my fantasy franchise in Madden, he’ll be really scary. But in all seriousness the Cowboys always seem to have a lot of talent, but never seem to be able to put it together and make something happen. And when they do, Tony Romo can’t catch a snap and hold the ball for a kick (That’s probably where John Kitna excels). It also doesn’t help that they’re in a tough division. Until the Cowboys show that they can do something with the excess of talent they have, I’m not a believer.

 -Minnesota Vikings

Donovan is still nimble...maybe.

Could the addition of Donovan McNabb bring the Vikings back to their days as crème of the NFC? I don’t think so. McNabb’s comeback will fall short, similar to their last veteran QB seeking additional glory and a ring. This move is safe, MIN desperately needs QB help, but the division is too tough right now to try to make gradual improvements. GB and CHI just played for the NFC title and the Lions are a team on the rise, cutting out MIN’s work for them. The good news for MIN: Brad Childress is no longer coaching your team and you still have the RB elite in Adrian Peterson.

 Surprise

 -Detroit Lions

There is no hiding Mr. Stafford; you are fragile.

Detroit really should have won two more games last year. Both times they faced Chicago, Detroit was on the losing end of a bad call, which ended up costing them the game. One of those bad calls came against Ndamukong Suh, who is an absolute freak. What makes him scarier is that he doesn’t seem to care about being penalized. The question will be whether or not Suh will get enough sacks to make up for his personal foul penalties that he seems to love committing. And with Suh in the middle, Detroit shouldn’t have the same issues against Chicago this year, or any other team as they should run right through the opponent’s offensive line. It’s a shame Nick Fairley got injured because Suh and Fairley would have been fun to watch tearing through O-lines. The biggest factor will be whether Matt Stafford can finally stay healthy. He only made it through three games last year and ten games his rookie season. Stafford to Calvin Johnson could be a winning combination for years to come, if Stafford can stay on the field enough to make that happen.

 AFC

Contenders

 -New England Patriots

Griffin adds great depth to the O-line.

Can the Pats do any wrong? (Ok, well other than the whole “Spy Gate” thing) Anyway, the rich get richer. Last year, Tom Brady proved his studliness once again. By the end of the season, he made Danny Woodhead a household name. You’re welcome. But now with a marquee target again at his disposal in Chad Ochocinco, Brady seems destined for another prolific season. The other big off season addition, Albert Haynesworth, gives the Pats crazy depth on the D-Line of their new 4-3. But will these  two additions, who left their former teams on bad terms, shape up for Bill Belichick a la Corey Dillon and Randy Moss?

-New York Jets

PBSB hears that real estate is at a premium on Revis Island

Rex Ryan, Bart Scott and co. can’t wait to get another shot at bringing the Lombardi trophy back to New York…or New Jersey…either way. The Jet defense is stout with Revis Island and an imposing front seven. The defense never seemed to be the problem with the Jets. Now in his fourth year, Mark Sanchez looks to move into the upper echelon of QBs by bringing the Jets O up to par with their D. Adding Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason to an offense with the backfield of LT and Shonn Grenne could make this transition easier for the “Sanchize” or just simply make Sanchez not waste this nickname.

 -Kansas City Chiefs

Berry isn't afraid to crotch-punch someone.

The Chiefs were the number one rushing team in the league last year, with 164 yards per game. That was thanks to Jamaal Charles, who had a breakout season. Their weakness was passing though. Perhaps Matt Cassell wasn’t what some thought he was when he filled in well for Tom Brady in New England. Or maybe it is because the Chiefs only have one receiver. Who is Jerheme Urban? Well he is the 30 year old guy with 87 career receptions who is starting across from Dwayne Bowe as the Chiefs’ number two receiver, according to ESPN. On the defensive side of the ball the Chiefs have some great players. Brandon Flowers is a top ten cornerback, Tamba Hali is scary coming off the edge (14.5 sacks last year) and Eric Berry is my hero. Berry is the most promising young safety in the league and led the Chiefs with four interceptions last year. He reminds me of the greatest safety ever, Mike Brown. What’s that, you don’t know who Mike Brown is? Well catch up. The Chiefs could really be something if their passing game could improve to give Jamaal Charles some space, which they should be able to do.

 -Pittsburgh Steelers  

Girls cannot resist Big Ben. No matter how many reasons he gives them.

When Ben Roethlisberger isn’t sexually harassing women, he’s winning football games. And a lot of the time, he’s winning big football games. And when Troy Polamalu isn’t doing Head & Shoulders commercials or sitting on the sidelines injured, he is making plays. If Polamalu and Roethlisberger are healthy, Pittsburgh may be the scariest team in the league. Any play, whether the Steelers are on offense or defense, could turn into a touchdown for them. They get at the opponent’s quarterback and force mistakes. In the 14 games Polamalu played last year, he had 7 interceptions and overall the Steelers had 21 picks for the year. Pittsburgh threw only nine interceptions the whole season. And it’s not just Polamalu on the defensive side of the ball. They have one of the best linebacking crews in the league, which was a big factor in allowing just 61.4 yards on the ground per game, tops in that category. A team that holds on to the ball, stops the run and forces turnovers is hard to beat.

 Pretenders

 -Indianapolis Colts

Manning's big head hurts.

Is the health of Peyton Manning a concern? This is a Manning that we have never before seen. The so-efficient-he’s-robotic QB is rarely seen battered and not 100%. And the rise of young QBs like Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco take away attention from Manning. If Manning does start the season, it will be his 209th, keeping him as the closest active QB capable of surpassing Brett Favre’s 297 consecutive starts record. With Manning on the field, he always gives the Colts a chance to win, but his supporting staff will have to overachieve a lot this year. Could this be one of the rare years that the Colts, dare I say it, don’t win the AFC South? They’ve won 7 of 9 years, with TEN winning in 02 & 08. Manning and only Manning can keep this team competitive and seeking to play for a Super Bowl on their home turf (the Super Bowl is in Indy this year). In fact, according to nfl.com, only five Super Bowl hosts have even made it to the postseason, failing to advance past the league championship game.

  -San Diego Chargers

Eyes up here!

The Chargers are led by Phillip Rivers, the ultimate fantasy football quarterback. He puts up amazing numbers, but those numbers don’t always translate to the win column. More than 4,700 yards is great, but if it doesn’t help the team win, does it really matter that much? It’s not all Phillip Rivers’ fault though. He put up those yards while his number one receiver was holding out for the first eleven games last season. Where would Tom Brady be without Randy Mos…Oh, actually nevermind. But anyway on the defensive side of the ball San Diego added Bob Sanders, who is a game changers when he’s healthy, but the last time he played a full season was also the last time Lindsay Lohan was sober (P.S. the answer is never). Much like the Cowboys, until San Diego shows that they can win games and not just put up sexy stats, I do not trust them.

 Surprise

 -Houston Texans

Andre Johnson is too good to have no nickname

This team has grown up in a tough division, but has put together a competitive team because of this. The Texans need to become the team they want to be–an offense with Andre Johnson paired with a playmaking defense. An emerging defense led by now LB Mario Williams added much needed depth to its secondary with former CHI standout Daniel Manning and CB Jonathan Joseph. Not much needs to be done on the offensive side of the ball as long as they have someone to lob it up to Andre Johnson. Not to mention they have the 2010 league leader in rushing Arian Foster (1,616 yds 16 tds). This team has the potential to win the division and possibly a playoff run. They’ve been sharks swimming in the waters of the AFC and now do they smell Manning blood?

And with that we advise you to tune into the NFL season opener tonight…unless you’re reading this late, in which case you are behind the curve.