NFL 2012-13 Season in Review: The ABCs of the NFL

Baltimore Ravens Joe Flacco After the Super Bowl Win Over the San Francisco 49ers

With the Baltimore Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII over the San Francisco 49ers 34-31, the NFL season has offiically come to an end, and Ravens Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis finally got their rings.  With it, the 2012-13 season of the NFL brought in some interesting twists and turns as the free-agency system has finally matured and transformed the NFL into a season of instability and chaos.  The inclusion of the 2011 rookies also helped as they have created a NFL, a mixture of the old guard and the new.

  • A is for Andy Dalton. Cincinnati Bengals Andy Dalton may have the Donovan McNabb curse.  For the second time in the playoffs, he once again fell flat with the Houston Texans.
  • Y is for Young Guns.  Indianapolis Colts Andrew Luck, Washington Redskins Robert Griffin III, Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson and San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick all changed their teams for the better.  At least for this season. They all have potential to become elite quarterbacks in their own right in the future.
  • A is for Adrian Peterson. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has always been a a workhorse for the team like the St. Louis Rams Steven Jackson.  But this season he proved himself more than ever.
  • P is for Peyton Manning.  Even though he’s not with the Indianapolis Colts anymore, he is still an elite quarterback who makes something out of nothing.  While he’s with the Denver Broncos, he’s going to keep the team competitive, if not better.  He’s already taken advantage of Demaryius Thomas, Denver’s equivalent to Reggie Wayne.
  • R is for Rex Ryan. For the most part this season, he stayed out of the news this year. Surprisingly.  No more supposed Super Bowl parades, and the quarterback controversy between Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow was kept to a minimum.  However, there was some questionable choices during the mid-season involving his roster of injured quarterbacks.  
  • R is for Read-Option. With the Wildcat formation going the way of the Tim Tebow comes the resurrection of the read-option in the NFL.  This is not a long-term gimmick for the NFL as the Super Bowl showed, but it has served well this season.
  • E is for Elite. The New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers earned their spots in the playoffs. Again.  With both Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and Tom Brady of New England, both quarterbacks are performing at a high standard.
  • S is for Second Tier. The Atlanta Falcons, the Baltimore Ravens, the Houston Texans, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Seattle Seahawks all earned their spots in the playoffs this season as well.  These teams don’t have elite quarterbacks, but they are excellent as a team. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco did rise above when it counted against New England Patriots Tom Brady….
  • D is for Defense. Like in previous seasons, stout defenses win games when the games remain tight. The Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers have proven that.
  • F is for Fundamental. Those teams who planned ahead finally got their due — the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.
  • A is for Andrew Luck.  Well, the Indianapolis Colts got their Andrew Luck, a quarterback that is decisively better in the long-term than Washington Redskins Robert Griffin III in my opinion.  However, he buckled under the Baltimore Ravens defense and rookie jitters.
  • R is for Robert Griffin III. Robert Griffin III has proven himself to be Washington Redskins’ franchise quarterback.  But with him participating in the Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks with an injured knee was a bad idea transformed into a worse idea.  
  • C is for Coaches. This was a dismal season to be an NFL coach. The firings of coaches from some teams, like the Cleveland Browns and the Kansas City Chiefs, was expected.   These teams don’t have a record of keeping coaches — and keeping their teams in competitive shape.
  • H is for Harbaugh. The Harbaugh brothers are remarkably intelligent, and neither of them particularly cater the media.
  • J is for Joe Flacco. Despite winning the Super Bowl, in my opinion, he is still a second-tier quarterback.  He is lucky to have a stiff defense helping him when he needs it most.

This season was indeed intriguing as the elite fell to some of the second-tier teams.  Now onto next season…

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Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles: The End of an Era

Former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid gets handed a gameball in his last press conference as a head coach

It’s officially the end of an era for former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid with a devastating record of 4-12 for the 2012 regular season.   Eagles owner Jeff Lurie stood by his word as he bid Andy Reid farewell after an 8-8 record for the 2011 season.  For those fans clamoring that we should not have let Andy Reid go since he was the Eagles franchise most successful coach to date, the Eagles organization is still a business.  And if Jeff Lurie kept Andy Reid for another season as a coach or otherwise, Lurie would be made to be nothing more than a paper tiger at best and a pushover at worst.  In as much as some of us criticize Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder for being a pushover, Jeff Lurie would made to look much worse.

Former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens and quarterback Donovan McNabb

Andy Reid became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles on January 11, 1999.  It was not without criticism upon arrival in Philadelphia after he was lured from the Green Bay Packers. In 2000, the Philadelphia Eagles reached the playoffs with a 11-5 regular season record.  In 2001, the chain of playoff wins came.  With quarterback Donovan McNabb, running back Brian Westbrook and safety Brian Dawkins coming to maturity, the Philadelphia Eagles was the team to beat in the NFC East with conference championships in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.  In 2004, with the acquisition of wide receiver Terrell Owens, the Eagles were at this time the cream of the crop of the NFC East and decisively the NFL.  The Eagles made it to Super Bowl XXXIX but was ultimately defeated by Tom Brady and his New England Patriots 24-21.  Donovan McNabb simply cracked under pressure in this Super Bowl, and with the Eagles essentially without a functioning quarterback, the New England Patriots won.

Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jeff Garcia on the Sports Illustrated cover

After the stream of successes prior to 2004, the wheels of the truck began to fall off in 2005 as the disputes between Terrell Owens, Donovan McNabb and David Akers tore apart the team in the locker room. In 2005, the Eagles ended with a regular season record of 6-10.  In 2006, with the season-ending injury to Donovan McNabb in October, backup quarterback Jeff Garcia took over the reigns and nearly led the Eagles to another Super Bowl after defeating the Carolina Panthers, the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. However, as Jeff Garcia led them closer and closer to the Super Bowl, Donovan McNabb came out of the woodwork and became disruptive from the sidelines in a sense.  This antagonism ultimately led to Jeff Garcia being released — and Donovan McNabb as well.

In 2008, the Eagles made their way to the NFC Championship game whereupon they lost to the Cardinals 32-25. The Eagles traded Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins in 2009, and after McNabb’s departure, then backup quarterback Michael Vick was named starting quarterback in 2010.  Vick’s most notable game as a Philadelphia Eagle was the decimation of Donovan McNabb and his  Washington Redskins on the night of November 15, 2010. On that night, Michael Vick was unleashed as he had four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns with a passer rating of 150.7.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick after another loss

After Michael Vick’s spectacular run in 2010, the wheels began falling off the truck again.  Most teamis had developed a gameplan for Vick’s weaknesses and tendencies as the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys both built sufficient defense gameplan templates the season before.  The other teams in the NFL basically followed suit, adjusting their templates as needed.  And with Michael Vick not holding much better himself in the 2011 and 2012 regular seasons, the Philadelphia Eagles demise was gradual and climaxed in this regular season with compounding losses with ridiculous amount of turnovers.

Juan Castillo as Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator

With the loss of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson on July 28, 2009, the Philadelphia Eagles defense never was the same.  Sean McDermott took over, but he could never build the Eagles defense as Jim Johnson could.  Soon, even he was released to the Carolina Panthers on January 5, 2011.  And with the acquisition of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie in the 2011 season, it seemed like a recipe for success.  Perhaps under the traditional defense of Jim Johnson.  With Juan Castillo and his implementation of the Wide-Nine defense, the defense collapsed unto itself as there were no leaders, only highly-paid players.

Andy Reid should be remembered for the successes he bought to the Philadelphia Eagles organization.  With few notable candidates currently to fill the void, 2012 Maxwell Coach of the Year Penn State’s Bill O’Brien seems to be the leading candidate.  Quite possibly, in my opinion, the former Chicago Bears Lovie Smith would be a potential option as well.  In either case, the options are not particularly tempting.  Reid went over his head with the promotion of Juan Castillo as a defensive coordinator, the firing of Sean McDermott and the wholesale acquisition of free agents. These are perhaps what did him in as a head coach.  Most likely, he will be acquired by the Arizona Cardinals as Ken Whisenhunt was recently fired.  A change of scenery will do him good.  Will it bring him as much success with the Philadelphia Eagles?  Perhaps, but I remain skeptical.

My Top 10 Favorite Super Bowl XLVI Commercials

While the Super Bowl was a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, unfortunately, most of the commercials for the Super Bowl were mere regurgitation for the most part.  Some were inventive, and others were not.  With the car companies, after the American public initially bailed them out from their financial meltdown, it’s nice to know that nearly all of these car companies have money to burn for the Super Bowl.  But we’ll leave that issue for another day…when your hangover is over.

Now to my top 10 list of favorite Super Bowl XLVI commercials:

2012 M & M’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It

This commercial was hilarious.  The red M & M made the show.

2012 Honda CR-V “Matthew’s Day Off”

Bueller, Bueller, Bueller. Enough said.

2012 Volkswagen “The Dog Strikes Back”

Fantastic commercial throughout from the dog to the Darth Vader chokehold in the cantina.

2012 Coca-Cola “The Catch”

Amusing Coca-Cola commercial. Best CGI commercial although not quite as inventive as the Warcraft commercial of the past Super Bowl.

2012 Toyota Camry “It’s Reinvented”

The Toyota Camry is reinvented and so is everything else.  Very creative and witty.  The best of the Super Bowl commercials in my opinion.

2012 Skechers “Go Run, Mr. Quiggly”

Funny commercial yet involving another dog.

2012 Doritos “Sling Baby”

Funny but wrong in all sorts of ways. What’s with Doritos launching projectiles in recent Super Bowls anyhow?  First, it was chips, and now, it’s babies.  I guess it’s a step up — sort of.

2012 Acura NSX “Transactions”

Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and a 2012 Acura NSX.  Of the three, I want the NSX — in black please.  Amusing commercial nonetheless.

2012 Careerbuilder “Business Trip”

Not quite as inventive in the past, but the satire is perfect in today’s business world.  We all have office monkeys in our midst.  It is particularly entertaining when they decide to join for a business trip.

2012 Volkswagen “The Bark Side” 

One last commercial involving a whole slew of dogs barking the Imperial March.  The dog AT-AT and Chewie dogs made this commercial special.

Volkswagen made the best impression in this Super Bowl, but they always have creative advertising minds whether it’s the Super Bowl or not.  In my opinion, Toyota Camry’s “It’s Reinvented!” commercial was the tops.  After the slow-as-molasses (generally) Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and New York Giants, it’s time to prepare for next season’s hangover as the New York Giants win Super Bowl XLVI with the score of 21-17.

New York Giants vs. New England Patriots: Super Bowl XLVI Post-Game Analysis

After the singing of the national anthem by Kelly Clarkson, it’s time for the Super Bowl.  It’s a rematch of of Super Bowl XLII in which the New York Giants performed the 2007-2008 playoff run and ultimately a Super Bowl championship with a 17-14 win.  With New England Patriots Tom Brady third in quarterback rating in the playoffs with 105.8,  New York Giants Eli Manning is not far behind with 103.1.  On the Giants offense, the tandem running backs of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are presently second and fifth in the postseason in terms of running yardage, and their wide receiver corps of  Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are ranked first and fifth.   With the offense as hot as it is, the Giants look like the team to beat, but the Patriots Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick are fired up and out for revenge and blood.

Now to the post-game analysis:

  • After a decent drive established by Giants Eli Manning via rushing of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, Eli Manning got sacked twice during the series by Patriots defensive ends Mark Anderson and Brandon Deadrick.
  • After an  intentional grounding call on Patriots Tom Brady in the end zone, the Giants get a safety to bring the score 2-0 with 9:00 in the first quarter.  The pressure from Giants defensive end Justin Tuck forced the call.
  • Sticking with the run by Ahmad Bradshaw, Eli Manning threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz for a Giants touchdown to bring the score 9-0 with 3:29 in the first quarter.
  • After a 17 and 19-yard pass to Patriots wideout Wes Welker, Tom Brady’s drive stalled, and their kicker Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 29-yard field goal with 13:52 in the second quarter.
  • After defenses contested each other for most of the second quarter, Patriots Tom Brady threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Danny Woodhead to bring the score to 10-9 Patriots with 15 seconds left until halftime.
  • The Madonna halftime show was incredibly average, but then again, this is Roger Goodell’s iron-fisted NFL.  Madonna has matured and become incredibly outdated and boring.
  • Led by a 21-yard pass to his wideout Chad Ochocinco and a 17-yard run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis, tight end Aaron Hernandez 12-yard touchdown reception brings the score 17-9 Patriots with 11:25 in  the third quarter.
  • With the Giants drive stalled at the Patriots 20-yard line, Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes kicked a field goal to make the score 17-12 Patriots with 6:47 in the third.
  • After steadily moving down the field with Brandon Jacobs, Bear Pascoe and Hakeem Nicks, the Giants drive stalled at the Patriots 9-yard line, and Lawrence Tynes kicked a 33-yard field goal to bring the score 17-15 Patriots with 4o seconds left in the third quarter.
  • After defenses contesting each other throughout much of the fourth quarter, with the New York Giants burning two timeouts and the drive led by Mario Manningham, running back Ahmad Bradshaw ran for a 6-yard touchdown to bring the score 21-17 Giants with 1:04 in the last quarter.

The first half was unusually subdued as both offenses could not gain any sort of rhythm.   However, it was the New England Patriots looked out of sync on both sides of the ball in the first half.  The safety from the end zone was perhaps the most pronounced mistake of the Patriots.  The first half of this Super Bowl mirrored the rematch of Super Bowl XLII — again, slow and low-scoring.

Unfortunately, the second half was much the same.  Both offenses were methodical as they moved down the field without any demonstration of their offensive firepower.  Both the Patriots and Giants had a few spurts of offense, but nothing of any significance until the last couple of minutes. It became a matter of tactics on both sides.  With Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s blessing, Giants Ahmad Bradshaw was allowed a free run for a touchdown with a minute left. Stunningly, the New England Patriots Tom Brady and his wide receivers faltered when it mattered most.

If you were watching this Super Bowl, you possibly burned through a lot of pizza, pretzels, chips and beer for your guests and yourself as slow as this game went generally.  It was like two trains in a wreck Matrix-style without Morpheus and the Twins on the roof…that is, until the last two minutes of the game.  The New York Giants won the game 21-17, overcoming Tom Brady and his New England Patriots once again.

Pro Bowl 2012: Reeling the Regulations and Needed Changes

With the Pro Bowl 2012 over, the Pro Bowl in of itself needs several changes.  Although I realize that the NFL does not want any of the players hurt, it does not mean they should play glorified flag football for the fans.  The fans paid hard money in this depressing economy, and they deserve the players to actually show up for the game.  Unfortunately, the NFL players got most of the fans’ hard earned money for this charade of a game.

Here’s my list of approved changes to the Pro Bowl in 2013:

  • Make tackling relevant.  The NFL All-Stars on defense showed up for a reason — to tackle.  Illegal tackling, such as horse-collar tackles and spearing, should be avoided, but everything else should be legal.
  • Tight End Formation. Having a tight end on each down is good, but the tight ends should participate more as blockers and tacklers like they do during the regular season.
  • Needs More Twists.  Seriously, the linebackers need to allow to twist.
  • Needs More Gadget Plays.  As gimmicky as this sounds, the NFC and the AFC for the 2012 Pro Bowl did this well.  At least, the  coaches were allowed to reinvent the wheel and experiment.  Hopefully, this opens up more varied tactics during the upcoming regular season.
  • Running Backs Need to Rush More. As inclined as say the New England Patriots Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints Drew Brees might be to pass instead, running backs need to be on display again.  They barely showed up in the first half of the 2012 Pro Bowl.
  • Needs More Touchdown Celebrations.  The referees should withhold their excessive celebration flags and allow the players to use props and celebrate however way they like when they score a touchdown.
  • Cornerbacks and Safeties Should Play Hard on Coverage.  They should be permitted to close down the breathing room of wide receivers like they do during the regular season.
  • Overload Blitzes Should be Permitted. C’mon, dude.  The defense should allow overload blitzes more often to sack the quarterback.  With the quarterbacks this elite in the Pro Bowl, they should be permitted to manhandle the offensive line like they do during the regular season.

These are my suggestions for the next Pro Bowl.  With that, it might make the game more exciting to watch.  Although high offensive scoring might appease some of the crowd, it does not appeal to fans who actually watch football instead of being an armchair quarterback.

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Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots: AFC Championship Playoff Post-Game Analysis

After the snow that cruised through the Northeast yesterday, New England Patriots Gillette Stadium finally got cleared as they host the Baltimore Ravens.  The Baltimore Ravens defense has their work cut for them as they are facing the first-ranked post-season quarterback in rating with 137.6, New England Patriots Tom Brady. Can the third-ranked Ravens defense during the regular season stem the second-ranked offensive juggernaut?  Can we have a post-drug-filled rock star in Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler not sing the national anthem in a post-season game?

Now to the post-game analysis:

  • With receptions to his wideout Julian Edelman, establishing the run with running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and an unfortunate penalty for the Baltimore Ravens, Tom Brady’s drive stalled on the Ravens 11-yard line, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 29-yard field goal to bring the score 3-0 at 5:52 in the first quarter.
  • After an interception of Tom Brady by Ravens cornerback Ladarius Webb and a hearty 40-yard pass to his wideout Torrey Smith, Joe Flacco‘s drive stalled on the Patriots 3-yard line.  Their kicker Billy Cundiff booted an easy 2o-yard field goal to tie the game 3-3 with 14:23 in the second quarter.
  • After a 20-yard pass to his tight end Rob Gronkowski and a facemask penalty on the Baltimore Ravens, BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran in for a 7-yard touchdown to bring the score 10-3 with 10:40 in the second quarter.
  • After a 20-yard pass to Lee Evans and a 37-yard pass to Anquan Boldin, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco established rhythm against the Patriots defense and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to his tight end Dennis Pitta to tie the score 10-10 with 6:11 until halftime.
  • With yet another drive stalled for the New England Patriots, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 35-yard field goal to bring the score 13-10 with 3:04 left in the second quarter.
  • Continuing the same theme from the second quarter and much of the game, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 24-yard field goal to bring the score 16-10 with 9:09 in the third quarter.
  • With a quick 29-yard touchdown reception from wideout Torrey Smith, the Baltimore Ravens took a one-point lead 17-16 with 3:48 in the third.
  • With a fumble by running back Danny Woodhead on a run-back from the Ravens kickoff that is recovered on the Patriots 28-yard line, kicker Billy Cundiff kicked a 39-yard field goal to bring the score 20-16 with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.
  • After a slow and steady drive to the Baltimore 1/2-yard line, Tom Brady finally got into the endzone with a rushing touchdown to bring the score 23-20 with 11:33 in the last quarter.
  • With the interception by linebacker Brandon Spikes and a 19-yard return and tip-interception to Ravens rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith in the endzone, these two interceptions were a show of defenses with eight minutes left in the game.
  • With a 4th and 6 at the Patriots 33-yard line, Patriots nosetackle Vince Wilfork snagged Joe Flacco and forced him to throw the ball away with 2:53 left in the game.  What a gamechanger!
  • With the clock ticking away and Joe Flacco at the helm, the drive led by the 29-yard reception by Anquan Boldin stalled at the New England’s 14-yard line, and surprisingly, Billy Cundiff missed the 32-yard field goal with 15 seconds left in the game.

With the first half in tow, the Baltimore Ravens were seemingly ready for New England Patriots Tom Brady had an interception.  Baltimore Ravens Joe Flacco demonstrated that he can throw against the porous Patriots defense and keep up with Tom Brady.  It was a great first half as both teams traded blows without letting up. Surprisingly though, Joe Flacco outperformed Tom Brady as Flacco had a 122.4 quarterback versus Brady’s 58.7 into the half.  The Patriots had the lead 13-10 at halftime, but the Patriots could not dominate the Ravens like they did with the Denver Broncos previously.

The stiff Baltimore Ravens defense imposing itself on New England Patriots potent quarterback Tom Brady and their offense in the second half.  Despite the tide turning in the Ravens favor several times, the New England Patriots kept it close, and the defense clinched down when it counted most with 2:53 left in the game on Ravens 4th and 6 on their 33-yard line.  Tom Brady and his New England Patriots squeaked this one out past the Baltimore Ravens 23-20.  However, Brady’s difficulties with the Ravens defense won’t go any easier with the San Francisco 49ers or the New York Giants.

The next game is already up as the New York Giants face the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC Championship game.  Tom Brady will have will the Super Bowl win past either defense in Indianapolis.  With 49ers quarterback Alex Smith and his clutch tight end Vernon Davis on one end and the Giants quarterback Eli Manning and his talented wide reciever corps on the other, this upcoming Super Bowl will be one to watch.

AFC Divisional Playoffs: Top 10 Things We Learned

With the New England Patriots squashing the Tim Tebow miracle out of the Denver Broncos with their 45-10 rout, Tom Brady and his Patriots accomplished in destroying the Broncos morale in the postseason. Denver Broncos coach John Fox was simply out-coached. The Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens fought each other tooth-and-nail, but the Baltimore Ravens defense stepped up when it counted to win 20-13. Now the Patriots will host the Ravens in the AFC Championship game, and this Ravens defense will be put to their ultimate test against the offensive firepower of Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium nonetheless. It doesn’t look pretty for the Baltimore Ravens, but there’s a glimmer a hope.  If the 49ers can topple the offensive powerhouse of the New Orleans Saints, anything can happen.

Now to the top 10 list of the things we learned in the AFC Divisional playoffs:

  1. New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady is a Beast.  With six touchdowns against the Denver Broncos, he broke a previous postseason record, and he came out a 136.1 quarterback rating on that game.
  2. Denver Broncos Tim Tebow Was Out of His Element.  With the Denver Broncos going to the Patriots home, Gillette Stadium, you knew from the outset that it was going to be bad. How bad…how about 136 yards, no touchdowns and a pitiful 55.7 quarterback rating bad.
  3. Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox Was Outfoxed. Continuing from the previous, facing Patriots head coach Bill Belichick alongside  the offensive coordinator-in-training Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos head coach John Fox had too many chess pieces to contend with, no matter how prepared he was or how much he thought of Tim Tebow.
  4. Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens Are Fumble-Prone. Given that the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens both had three fumbles each, I would say ball security should be a focus in the postseason.
  5. Houston Texans Quarterback T.J. Yates Needs Some Work…A Lot of Work.  Replacing Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart was difficult enough, but dealing with the Ravens defense was beyond this rookie quarterback.  Ending the day with 184 yards, 3 interceptions and a pitiful 28.8 quarterback rating won’t earn him a bonus this next season.
  6. Houston Texans Running Back Arian Foster is a Beast. Considering he dealt with the third-ranked defense overall during the regular season, he produced well with 132 yards rushing and a touchdown.
  7. Baltimore Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco Will Never Be Elite. Although he’s been at the helm of the playoff-driven Baltimore Ravens over the past four seasons, he has never developed into an elite quarterback.  Considering he had 176 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, he’ll never reach the elite status of either Tom Brady or Drew Brees.
  8. New England Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez is Versatile.  Considering he produced 61 yards on the ground and 55 yards and a touchdown through the air, Aaron Hernandez is definitely the iron-man of the New England Patriots.  His 61 yards surpassed both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead with their 28 and 25 rushing yards in their game against the Denver Broncos.
  9.  New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski is a Beast.  With his 145 receiving yards, he has shown he is one of the better tight ends in the league, if not one of the best.
  10. Defense Wins Games.  Again, like with the NFC Divisional playoffs, it’s the defense that ultimately wins games.  The Ravens capitalized on turnovers when it counted.

AFC Wild Card Playoffs: Top 10 Things We Learned

What an exciting AFC Wild Card weekend! Quarterback T.J. Yates and running back Arian Foster of the Houston Texans thumped the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10.  And the thriller with the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers…Steelers coach Mike Tomlin could have never predicted the Denver Broncos would have posed a problem as Tim Tebow was almost considered bench material.  Tebow struck, when it counted, in overtime with the 80-yard bomb to his wideout Dimaryius Thomas and won the game 29-23.

And to sum it up, the 10 things we learned from the AFC Wild Card playoffs:

  1. Don’t Underestimate Denver Broncos coach John Fox. He spotted the weakness of the Steelers, their thinned secondary, and exploited it.  He let Tim Tebow go after rushing wasn’t successful with either Tim Tebow or their running back Willis McGahee.
  2. Don’t Underestimate Tim Tebow’s Magic. Tim Tebow’s magic came back when it counted — in the playoffs.  Dimaryius Thomas helped him greatly. (The New England Patriots won’t make it that easy even with their porous defense.)
  3. Houston Texans Running Back Arian Foster is Still The Man. No doubt Arian Foster helped the Texans win as he had 153 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns in the game.  His presence was felt, and he will be in their next game against the Baltimore Ravens.  A tale of two running backs in this divisional game, you bet.
  4. A Hobbled Ben Roethlisberger Didn’t Help the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Not just his mobility was off, but his accuracy was off as he had throw over the linebackers of the Denver Broncos even without the help of Brian Dawkins.
  5. Steelers Running Back Isaac Redman May Be in Line for the Starting Job.  Although not quite as strong as Rashard Mendenhall, he has the agility to break tackles.  Mendenhall may be looking in the mirror pretty soon.
  6. Broncos Wideout Dimaryius Thomas is Dangerous.  He was the savior for Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.  Tebow would have benched for Brady Quinn if it wasn’t for Thomas’ awesome performance of 204 yards and a touchdown in his game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers Number One Defense Counted for Nothing. Having the best defense in the league counts for little if they can get burned for long yardage.
  8. Texans Quarterback T.J. Yates Did Satisfactory in the Playoff Environment. He’s no Matt Schaub, but he has a future with the Houston Texans as their future quarterback.  If not there, then definitely somewhere else.
  9. Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton Has Some Growing Pains. Dalton still needs some more experience in the NFL.  He has the talent and composure to succeed in the league, but he needs time.  He needs to learn that frustration does not breed success.  Ask Peyton Manning in his difficult games.
  10. Charles Barkley Shouldn’t Do NFL Halftime Shows. Ever. Seriously.  He shouldn’t.

Now Tom Brady and his New England Patriots will face the revived Tim Tebow and his Denver Broncos.  Can Tebow bring the magic or will he fall to the tactics of Bill Belichick?  Two potent running backs, Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice and Houston Texans Arian Foster, will face each other to decide who is the better running back.  Don’t underestimate the underdog in this match; as it won’t be the size of the dog in this fight as much as the sheer will.

NFL and the NFLPA Lockout Countdown: Unprecedented Two Lockouts in the NFL and the NBA

After five days worth of discussion between the NFL and the NFLPA concerning their collective bargaining agreement and their lockout, the progress has recently regressed.  With NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NLFPA head DeMaurice Smith and U.S. Judge Magistrate Arthur Boylan and a few team owners including New York Giants John Mara, Kansas City Chiefs Clark Hunt, Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones and New England Patriots Robert Kraft, it appears that the divisive issue of the annual revenue, with the players taking 45 percent, has fallen as some team owners have resisted against that amount.  It comes as no surprise really as $9 billion is a lot of money to part with and divide among the NFL players and team owners.  Greed is what greed does.

In the NBA, their negotiations have apparently stalled as well.  NBA Commissioner David Stern said a lockout will go into effect after their present collective bargaining agreement expires Thursday at midnight. It would be their first lockout since 1998-99 season.  With their union head Billy Hunter, it appears that the NBA players union will not decertify, but at this junction, anything can happen.

After doing some research, two lockouts in professional sports at the same time are unprecedented with the NFL and NBA collective bargaining agreements in limbo.  I believe this is sincerely disappointing to fans of professional football and basketball and sports in general.  With the U.S. economy still struggling, these lockouts could not have happened at a worst time.  Financially, either of these sports give the economy much-needed jolts with the selling of assorted merchandise, paraphernalia, tickets and foodstuffs.  In terms of morale, fans of these sports could enjoy cheering on their favorite teams and players, instead of dwelling on whether they’ll be able to pay their mortgage and utilities next week.  These are bitter times indeed…whether any sweetness will come out after the Fourth of July celebrations, it may be best to remain with tempered optimism as the issue of money isn’t so good right now for either professional sport.  Unfortunately, no amount of commotion of fans will speed up the process.

Philadelphia Eagles Pre-Season Schedule: Preview of Strong Defenses Coming For Michael Vick (and the Eagles)

With the release of the pre-season schedule, despite the non-resolution of the work stoppage between the team owners and the players, it appears that the Philadelphia Eagles will have their work cut out for them, even in the initial few games.  Although these aren’t regular season games, they will face teams with potentially threatening defenses during the upcoming season.  The mediocre offensive line last season could potentially face some replacements from this upcoming draft, whether it be held with Commissioner Roger Goodell or with DeMaurice Smith of the dissolved NFLPA.  Several mock drafts that I have seen the Eagles picking offensive linemen and cornerbacks within the first few rounds, and those selections would be quite reasonable in light of the Eagles many revealing deficiencies last season.

The Philadelphia Eagles first face the Pittsburgh Steelers, the loser of the Super Bowl against the reigning Super Bowl Champions Green Bay Packers.  Not only will they face a stout defense that will still undoubtedly pursue Michael Vick and test the offensive line during the regular season, should there be one, they will face the physical running of Rashard Mendenhall.  And Michael Vick will deal with Troy Polamalu who led third in interceptions with seven during the previous season.  Unfortunately, for Eagles fans, this will be held at the Steelers home at Heinz Field.

Next, the Baltimore Ravens will come to Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Park.  Joe Flacco matured quite well last season, at least producing second-tier quarterback numbers during the regular season.  The Philadelphia Eagles will face another potent and versatile running back in the name of Ray Rice.  Their defense, with Ed Reed leading in interceptions last season with eight, will still be fast and physical at times.

The Cleveland Browns come afterwards for their pre-season game at Lincoln Financial Field.  With Eric Mangini out and Pat Shurmur in, this will be the first view of the Browns new offense, led by young quarterback Colt McCoy and power running back Peyton Hillis.

And, finally, the Philadelphia Eagles will face the New York Jets and their stiff defense.  This is the same team that defeated in the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots with their elite quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady respectively in the playoffs.  This will be the Eagles final test of their offensive line before the regular season starts, if the collective bargaining agreement is finally resolved.

The Eagles will at least have the first few games to test out their offensive line and whether their defense can be anyway be considered elite during the regular season.  The opponents will also gather to see if Michael Vick learned any new tricks during the off-season.  However, if he hasn’t, Vick, his Eagles teammates and their fans could be in for a long season.