Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

NFL Midseason Report

November 7, 2011

Half the NFL season is over, so it is the perfect time to take a look back at our preseason picks and judge how we did. There is no trick journalism here…we’re just that good. Alright fine, our picks weren’t that great, but sports are about unpredictability. And that’s our defense. Let’s see who we picked and how they turned out.

NFC

Contenders

Atlanta

At 4-3 the Falcons look pretty good, but not as good as we’d thought. The run defense is continuing where it left off last year, currently ranked 7th allowing 98.4 yds/ game. After a king’s ransom for Julio Jones, the offense hasn’t seem to hit its stride with Matt Ryan having a pedestrian 9 TDs to 8 INTs. Normally unstoppable at home, Atlanta looked questionable after blowing an early lead and eventually losing 25-14 to GB, their first loss in 23 games after having the lead at halftime.

Green Bay

The Super Bowl Champs haven’t lost a game since week 15 against the Patriots 31-27 when backup QB Matt Flynn was put in the game after an injury to Aaron Rodgers. Flynn played surprisingly well and the Flynn-led Pack almost pulled off the win. But that was last year. Aaron Rodgers is playing out of his mind, shredding any opposing defense that’s put in front of him. Rodgers has a 125.7 passer rating (1st), 20 TDs (1st), 2372 yards passing (3nd) and just 3 INTs. The Packers defense however has not looked as dominant as it was last year. Charles Woodson with his 5 INTs and the rest of the defense have held it together by forcing turnovers when it matters most.

Philadelphia Eagles

The “dream team” started the season off with some troubles. After beating the lowly Rams (1-6), Philly dropped their next four. In defense of the Eagles, they did lose to solid teams though. The Giants (4-3), New York (5-2), San Francisco (5-2) and Buffalo (5-2) are all above .500. But that isn’t how the “dream team” was supposed to play. Philly turned it on then, and they won their last two games, both over division opponents. With those wins in the books, the most recent over Dallas very convincing, Philly seems like they’re back on the right track. They have a huge game coming up against the Chicago Bears on Monday night. If they can win that one, they’ll be back at .500. And looking ahead, Philly has games against the Cardinals, Seahawks and Miami. Those should all be easy wins. They do have to face the Jets and Patriots though, which are always tough games. The Eagles have so much talent, it shouldn’t be this hard. Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel should be more valuable than sub-.500 shouldn’t they? PBSB has faith the Eagles will keep building and finish much better than they started. McCoy is second in the league in rushing yards (754), so feed that guy the ball. The biggest indicators on the Eagles results will be their rushing defense and whether Vick can hold onto the ball. He already has eight picks, more than he had all of last year.

How they’ll finish: 10-6

New Orleans Saints

Who are the real New Orleans Saints? The guys who beat the Colts 61-7 (we know the Colts are basically a middle school team, but still, 61 is a whole lot of points) or the team that just lost to the Rams last week? Even after giving St. Louis their first win, the Saints are 5-3. One loss to the undefeated Super Bowl champs and another to division rival Tampa Bay are losses News Orleans can live with.

They need to focus on their ground game. They spent a pick on Mark Ingram, paid Darren Sproles in free agency and kept Pierre Thomas. Use all three of those guys and get the play-action going for Drew Brees. Between those three back, they should be averaging more than 117 yards per game. But remember, the run is meant to set up the pass. They have to keep giving Brees opportunities to sling it. He’s already thrown for 2,746 yards (first in the league by nearly 400 yards) and 19 TDs (second in the league). Also, who would have thought Jimmy Graham was going to have 713 yards receiving mid-way through the season. New Orleans upcoming schedule is split. They have games against Tampa, Atlanta twice, the Giants and Detroit. But on the other hand, they play Tennessee, Minnesota and Carolina.

How they’ll finish: 11-5

Pretenders

Minnesota Vikings

So it only took the Vikings until week 7 to bench Donovan McNabb for Christian Ponder. As predicted, the NFC North is super competitive this year; Green Bay is undefeated, the Lions now look like a playoff-caliber team and the Bears 4-3 record is deceiving (see Matt Forte). It’s going to be a long year for Minnesota, unfortunately not long enough to get Andrew Luck, but pbsb thinks that they’ll be ok with Ponder under center. Ponder didn’t look terrible in his debut and the Vikings still have the best back in the NFL in Adrian Peterson.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas is too up-and-down to trust. They’ve blown huge leads. Tony Romo isn’t dependable. They blew  fourth quarter leads against the Jets and blowing a 24-point third quarter lead against Detroit. Surprisingly enough, Dallas gave the 49ers their only loss. So which team are the true Cowboys. We think they’re the ones that blow leads. There always seems like a lack of focus in Dallas, so until that changes, PBSB isn’t backing the ‘boys.

How they’ll finish: 8-8

Surprise

Detroit Lions

Detroit’s 6-2 record is somewhat misleading. They’re getting wins, but they aren’t really quality wins. Who have they beaten that are a true contender? They topped Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Minnesota, Dallas (we already talked about the Cowboys problems), Chicago and the Denver Broncos Tebows.

Calvin Johnson…is that a complete sentence yet? Because it should be. Megatron has 804 receiving yards (third in the league) and has eleven TDs, which puts him on pace to tie the NFL record for TDs in a season (Jerry Rice will truly always hold the record; he scored 22 in just 12 games during the shortened 1987 season). The Lions are ranked sixth in the league against the pass. Can that continue that when they face Green Bay twice, New Orleans and San Diego?  Detroit has the best turnover differential in the league at +13. That becomes more valuable when every possession is more important.

How they’ll finish: 11-5

AFC

Contenders

Kansas City Chiefs

This pick looked really bad for a while. When they lost 41-7 to the Bills, it was before everyone knew the Bills were actually pretty good. Then they fell to the Lions and San Diego, both respectable teams. In our defense, the people we thought would be most important for Kansas City’s success, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry, got injured in the first two games of the season. And that’s when PBSB went into a minor depression. Then the skies opened, and Kansas City turned it on. They’ve won four in a row, albeit not over the greatest teams (Minnesota, Indy, Oakland and San Diego). But wins are wins, especially when they make us look better. The Chiefs up-coming games: Miami, Denver, Oakland and Denver again. That seems like a pretty easy schedule. That’s probably because we didn’t include their tough games. New England, Pittsburgh, Chicago, the Jets and Green Bay. It won’t be easy for Kansas City the rest of the way, but they’ve found ways to win thus far, PBSB has faith it will keep going.

How they’ll finish: We have no idea…9-7?? Too up-and-down

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have one solid win…Last week against the Pats. That’s really it. Seattle, Indy, Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Arizona aren’t really impressive victories. But when it gets colder, the Steelers get better. They are already first in opposing pass yards, and eighth in opposing rush yards. They are also eighth in passing yards behind Ben “the motorcycle riding, sexual harassing” Roethisberger. Pittsburgh will always live and die by their defense, and that defense is still strong enough to get them deep into the playoffs.

How they’ll finish: 12-4

New England

At 5-2 the Patriots seem to be right about where we thought they’d be at this point in the season give or take a Brady Ugg endorsement or a Vince Wilfork INT.  While Tom Brady continues to be NFL’s poster child, the Pats D isn’t where we thought it would be. They rank dead last against the pass and Albert Haynesworth isn’t having the rebirth we thought he would’ve, recording only 2 tackles at this point in the season. But a well deserved shout out goes to Kyle Arrington and his 4 INTs, good enough for 3nd in the NFL. Also, where is Ochocinco? He’s yet to reach the end zone and only has 9 receptions.

New York Jets

The Jets stand at 4-3 good enough for 3rd in the AFC East. Already having to play second fiddle to the Patriots in the division was bad enough before the Bills started to wake up. The offense has yet to get its act together ranking near the bottom of the league in rushing yds (28th), passing yds (22th) and total yds (29th). Post-Jail Plaxico hasn’t exactly been the spark for the offense that we thought he would’ve, although he did have the 3 TD on 5-reception performance against San Diego. Plax isn’t completely to blame for the offense’s woes. We blame Mark Sanchez.

Pretenders

Indianapolis Colts

It’s safe so say we told you so. Manning is donezo for the year and we see what the Colts are like without their fearless leader. We thought that they’d be bad, but come on. They’ve yet to win a game and their remaining schedule doesn’t get any easier with games against New England, Baltimore and Atlanta. How fortunate would the Colts be to land Luck? They got Manning with a #1 pick. But would Manning be a mentor to Luck or take the Favre approach to things? Anyway, the Colts look horrendous and are bound for a high draft pick.

San Diego Chargers

Oh San Diego, how you tease us. So much talent you’ve had over the past few years, but you still can’t seem to bring it all together. Back-to-back losses against the Jets and Chiefs put them back in second place in the AFC West. The Chargers have the interception leader, Eric Weddle with five. They are sixth in passing yards and fourth in passing yards against. Stopping the pass and being able to pass is huge, especially when you play in beautiful San Diego, but they will do something stupid and blow games. The Chargers are -5 in turnover differential. As much as PBSB loves San Diego for its weather, we think the Chargers will be spending their January on the beach…lucky guys.

How they’ll finish: 8-8

Surprise

Houston

Matt Schaub's wife...We approve. "He's necking with the cheerleader"

Injuries to Mario Williams and the still nicknameless Andre Johnson haven’t slowed down the Texans who at 5-3 are 1st in the wide-open AFC South. The offense is moving the ball with Arian Foster on the ground averaging 140 yards a game and Matt Schaub is 10th in the league with 264.8 yards a game. The sans Mario Williams defense is quietly near the top of many defensive categories including rushing yds 97.4 (6th) and passing 198.4 yds allowed (5th). With a solid defense, a consistent run game and a reliable QB look for the Texans to make a playoff run.

New Surprises

Miami Dolphins

We don’t think the Dolphins were the Super Bowl pick for many people this year, but 0-7? The Dolphins are at the front of the pack in the Suck 4 Luck campaign and Coach Tony Sporano recently put his house up for sale. Not much going Miami’s way this season.

Buffalo Bills

If we told you the Bills weren’t terrible you’d believe us right? Well they are actually are pretty good this year. They already beat the Pats and the Eagles. With two games against Miami, games against Tennessee and Denver, the Bills could actually win the AFC East. They had to be at the bottom of this division at the beginning of the season. We wish we were betting men. And we also wish we predicted the Bills would be good, but we just assume they will always be awful. Congratulations Buffalo. Enjoy it until you miss a big field goal.

Athletes We Hate

October 24, 2011

Hate is a strong word. It’s used a lot in sports, maybe too much. But get used to it, because that’s what this post is about. It is important to note that there is a big difference between sports hate and regular hate. Regular hate is not cool, unless it’s that kid in school who thinks he is a tough guy but really isn’t—you can hate him all you want. But that’s one of the few exceptions. Sports hate is different. It can be one tiny thing about the athlete that makes you hate him or her. So here is our list.

Rajon Rondo: He can ball. Don’t get us wrong. But he threw Kirk Hinrich into the scorer’s table which wasn’t a cheap shot. And he must have gone to the Carmelo Anthony School of fighting, because when Hinrich came after him to retaliate, Rondo just kept backing up. If you want to fight (PBSB are lovers not fighters) then do it, but don’t cheap shot somebody then wuss out when they come back at you. Also he used to wear his headband upside down—how annoying is that. We hate it when people try to make it seem like they don’t care, but are trying really hard. “What’s that, the logo is upside down on my headband…whatever I don’t care.” Yes you do Rajon, we know you do. Plus, the dude cannot shoot a jumper.

The Williams Sister: Serena and Venus Williams are the only hopes for Americans when it comes to winning majors, but we here at PBSB can’t root for them. Their shrieks and screams are just too much for us to handle. They aren’t the only females who scream too much when they’re playing tennis, but at least Maria Sharapova is somewhat attractive. Add to the screaming that the sisters are rude and it isn’t a combination PBSB can stand behind. Their outfits are also absurd. Serena also has a temper problem. Like a very serious temper problem.

Tom Brady: This one is more of jealousy-hatred than anything else. He’s too perfect. No one should be as talented and lucky as he is.

Super Bowl rings, money, Giselle Bundchen—you name it there is a good chance Tom Brady slept with it. He does have some bad hair though, so eat that, Tom. What!? Giselle likes his hair like that. Alright, well we have nothing against this guy then, but we still don’t like him. Our ACLs have never been torn, so take that, Tom.

Mark Schlereth: You probably know Mark from his ESPN work covering the NFL. But he wants you to know him as the guy who had thousands of surgeries. If I have to hear Schlereth complain about how many surgeries he had one more time, I will go to Bristol and break his leg so he has to get another one (it’s about the two minute mark when Mark talks about himself…and the four minute mark). You played football, Mark; it’s a contact sport, so get over yourself. Maybe you should’ve done ballet if you didn’t want to get injured…but then your toes might hurt. He also tried to be an actor on a soap opera…two strikes, sir.

Old Brett Favre: We love young Favre, but flash forward to 2005ish and on. Brett Favre is now the grizzled veteran. He’s the gunslinger. He’s mulling retirement. He’s retired. He’s making a comeback. He was inching towards breaking just about every passing record, including INTs. Offseason drama with Green Bay was the norm and Favre seemed closer to retirement than ever after the 2007 season. Favre retired but made a comeback and had himself cleverly traded to the Jets after requesting his release from the Packers, which then allowed him to go to the Vikings. The move to Minnesota could’ve been a brilliant dig at new Packers GM Ted Thompson if Favre wouldn’t have thrown one last deciding INT in the NFC Championship game. His name was in the news for all the wrong reasons after his sex scandal while with the Jets and he has now resurfaced, seeking attention by giving his opinion on his successful successor Aaron Rodgers. Favre went from a painstakingly consistent player to a man that seemed to be just like every other selfish, wayward athlete.

Paul Pierce: How does he do it? He’s not the biggest guy on the court and not nearly the fastest. Paul Pierce has been getting it done in the league 13 years now. Although he’s one of the worst floppers in the game and has been accused of faking an injury, Pierce has had an impressive career, all the more reason for us at PBSB to hate him. He’s an NBA champion and Finals MVP, albeit only after BOS signed KG and Ray Allen, but anyway he’s only one of three Celtics (Larry Bird and John Havlicek) to score 20,000 points with BOS alone, has a mean 3 pt shot and is a 9 time All Star.  But he cannot grow facial hair.

LeBron James: Now don’t just go putting PBSB on the side of “LeBron Haters.” If you’re not a diehard LeBron fan, it’s easy to hate him. How can you not? The man is 6’8 250 and can play virtually any position on the court. He’s still young and is now on a team that looks like they can help him earn his first, well deserved ring. It’s not his play on the court that makes us hate LBJ; he’s a clean player and his game speaks for itself. A perennial All Star, the #1 jersey seller and he’s endorsement laden; LeBron is very hateable. Things like “the Decision” and the constant comparisons to Jordan are what make us hate LBJ. There will never be another Jordan and LeBron needs to be put in his own category that includes other new age multipurpose freaks like Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge and Josh Smith.  

Rodney Harrison: He could be considered one of the dirtiest players in NFL history. A study done in 2008 showed he was ranked 2nd since 2001 with 14 personal fouls. He was also a part of the Patriot teams that were caught during Spy Gate, which also doesn’t help his cause. Somehow now he’s an NFL analyst for NBC, which is a whole other topic pbsb has beef; the selection of former athletes that get hired as analysts and commentators. Harrison did however score points for his owning of Athletes We Hate Semi-Finalist Freddie “FredEx” Mitchell in the 2004 Super Bowl.

Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod is just a crappy person. We here at PBSB don’t understand how he gets girls. Either he isn’t how he seems or some women like money. It’s probably the money thing, isn’t it? Most importantly, A-Rod cheated. He took steroids and we don’t like that at all. Speaking of cheating jerks…

Barry Bonds* and other roiders: These guys cheated, plain and simple. Traditional training wasn’t enough, so these guys (Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmero, Jason Giambi, Jose Canseco and the list goes on) broke the rules by taking performance-enhancing drugs. We stuck to just baseball here, but let it be known all sport’s roiders are included. They’ve taken the joy away from the game. Now we question every single feat by an athlete. A guy jumps from 15 to 40 home runs…steroids. Someone works out all off-season and improves…has to be roids. The innocence is gone from baseball and every sport to a degree, and sadly it may never return.

For part one of this segment, Athlete We Love, continue reading below.

Athletes we love

October 14, 2011

This post and our next post will be all about the athletes who play the game. And whether or not we love or hate those athletes. Up first are the athletes we love (not all the athletes, just some of our favorites).

Michael Jordan: The greatest basketball player ever has to go top on this list. You knew exactly what you were getting from MJ. Every time on the court he gave his all. It’s not even possible to put a highlight reel of Air Jordan together (some people try), because it would be too long. Six-time NBA champ, five-time MVP (should have been more), six-time NBA Finals MVP, 14-time All Star, ten-time scoring champ, three time steals leader…OK I’ll stop there. There may never be someone as clutch as Michael again. And it wasn’t just his athleticism. He redefined his game as he got older and still dominated the league. Just remember he was not only the best offensive player in the league at the time, but also the best defensive player—an improbable combination that created one of the greatest careers in sports.

Derrick Rose: There isn’t any Bulls bias here…Rose is just the most fun player in the NBA to watch right now. That’s not to say he’s the best in the league, but he can get there. The jump he made last year was incredible. Rose truly cares about the game and wants to get better. You cannot say that for everyone in the league. While some people are out at clubs getting drunk, PBSB pictures Rose at home just hanging out. It’s perfectly fine either way (party or not) but we want the star of our team to care more about basketball than the hoochies at the bar. Rose extended his range, got even stronger and worked on his defense last offseason (some Derrick Rose in HD!); we can’t wait to see how he improves this year (get the season going!).

Richard Gasquet: This man has the prettiest backhand in the world. That isn’t a euphemism, he’s a tennis player. Gasquet hasn’t won a major yet, but he had some great tournaments last year. He also got off of a suspension for drugs, by claiming that he kissed a girl at a club who had cocaine on her lips. So whichever way that story goes, I’d like to hear more. We can even overlook the fact that he’s French and say we love him.

Ken Griffey Jr: The number one thing we can say about him is that he did it the right way. Nothing points to illegal substances and the shape of Junior’s career is the natural shape that it’s supposed to take. Great when he was younger and decayed with age. He always had a smile on his face and seemed like the most approachable guy in the world. He would be the all time home run had he not put his body on the line so much in centerfield…and had so many other players not used steroids.

Maria Kirilenko and Ana Ivanovic: Only a picture is needed to let you know why we love these ladies, so click on the links. We’ll wait…you done? How about now? OK. So, are they the best tennis players ever? No, but Ivanovic has a major win and Kirilenko is an up-and-coming 24-year-old. We don’t always have to watch sports for the talent, sometimes we watch for other things.

Andre Johnson: Johnson just does what he is supposed to. He catches balls and makes plays, but doesn’t have to bring attention to himself. And also he beat the crap out of Cortland Finnegan, which PBSB is OK with. And he has a really sweet voice. Sultry smooth.

Ed Reed: PBSB loves a guy who does anything to get into the endzone. And that is Ed Reed. He will pitch it, or even steal it from his teammate to score points. Reed interceptions are the most second exciting things in the NFL (only losing to Devin Hester returns…and speaking of Hester)

Devin Hester: Sports are about excitement and nobody brings more excitement when he touches the ball than Devin Hester. Anytime Devin has his mitts on the pigskin, it could go for six (or he could fumble it, but that’s exciting too). Here are the best from college and the pros.

Kevin Durant: Just like Andre Johnson, there is something to be said for guys that just do their job, and do it extremely well. KD is the best scorer in the league and a blast to watch, it only helps him that he is on a fun team like the Thunder. The only thing he is missing is a good nickname. And an MVP trophy.

Kyle Farnsworth: Not for his pitching…no we don’t care about that. It’s for this. Dude is a fighter. Just like Nolan Ryan, Farnsworth isn’t afraid to
beat the crap out of someone who he just threw inside on.

Mark Titus: Perhaps we see ourselves in Titus. We never peaked at the athletic level we wished. But PBSB did combine for one of the greatest plays in sixth grade basketball history. Sadly no film of this play exists, but just trust us, it was awesome. Any, Titus was the basketball walk-on at Ohio State that created the Club Trillion blog. Titus can laugh about himself, but he can still ball. A guy who knows his limits and can entertain us is a combination we can get on board with.

Charles Barkley: Chuck is just a fun loving guy. He was fun to watch as a player, and he may be just as fun to watch now as a personality. Charles was just 6-6, but averaged 11.7 rebound a game. In his post-basketball career Barley isn’t afraid to tell it how it is—or more accurately how he sees it—on any topic. It’s refreshing to find a guy that doesn’t care what others think and just speaks his mind, with humor as well.

Shaquille O’Neal: What’s not to love about Shaq? He was dominant on and off the court, winning 4 NBA titles, rookie of the year in 1993 and MVP in 2000 amongst many other accolades. Shaq was not only born for the basketball court, but also the stage. Shaq is both a versatile actor and rapper.

Jim Thorpe: An Olympic Gold Medalist in 1912 in the pentathlon and decathlon, played collegiate and pro football, baseball and basketball. And do you have a town named after you?

Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson (as an athlete, relax): Orenthal started turning heads while at USC where he won the Walter Camp Award twice, theMaxwell Award and the Heisman Trophy in a landslide. Juice was a gifted runner who was the first NFL back to rush for over 2,000 yards (in a 14 game season) with the Buffalo Bills. He also acted and did some commentating before you know the whole murder case thing.

Jim Brown: He is considered by many to be the best football player of all time. 9 Pro Bowls, 3 MVPs, 9 All Pro Team selections, over 12,000 yards, 120 TDs and much more, all with the Cleveland Browns. He dabbled in acting and is also a member of the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. The scariest thing about Brown? People say he was better at lacrosse than football.

Young Brett Favre: Young Favre (1992-2006ish) was the poster child for the blue collar, tough nosed, selfless athlete. He holds virtually every NFL passing record including TDs (508), yards (71,838) and consecutive starts (297). Favre was named MVP three consecutive seasons (1995-97), was a Super Bowl Champion in 1996 and simply had fun out there making a name for himself as a gunslinger.

Jackie Robinson: Not much needs to be said about the man that bravely broke down the color barrier in professional baseball all while putting up some great stats including a .311 BA, .409 OBP and over 1,500 hits.

Wilt Chamerberlain: A Harlem Globetrotter, the only player to drop 100 pts in a game and the dude also had game off the court.

Barry Sanders: Watching Barry Sanders run was beautiful, even if it was against your favorite team. No one should be able to change directions that fast. Speed, vision, quickness Sanders had it all. He didn’t need to run through people, because he could just run around them. One of the greatest people to make a highlight reel of, there will never be another Barry Sanders.

Bo Jackson: Bo Knows that there’s a trend here with these multi-sport athletes. Jackson was an all-star in the NFL and MLB. He was drafted by the Yankees, but chose to play college football on scholarship at Auburn where he went on to win the Heisman.

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.

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.