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.

Advertisements

Indianapolis Colts Franchised Quarterback Peyton Manning

With the advent of the franchise tag on Michael Vick for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Indianapolis Colts have dropped the franchise tag on their stellar and intelligent quarterback Peyton Manning.  Even though the Colts were contending with injuries much of this previous season, Peyton Manning still found ways to win with his tight end Dallas Clark and running back Joseph Addai for most of the season on the sidelines.  Financially, Manning is expected to be awarded $23 million under current guidelines.

Although the Indianapolis Colts lost to the New York Jets in the AFC Wild Card playoffs, Peyton Manning still found ways to win the last four games of the regular season against the Tennessee Titans, the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars.  This momentum nearly carried them against the New York Jets, but they lost 17-16 — a single, disheartening point.  With Peyton Manning at the helm, the Colts surprisingly ranked 1st in passing offense this past season still.  An amazing feat despite their roster of injuries.

Unfortunately, the writing may be on the wall for this intelligent quarterback unless he can find ways to rebound next season in his accuracy.  In 2004, he had a stunning 121.1 quarterback rating with 4,557 passing yards, 49 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.  However, since 2004, his quarterback rating has fallen from 121.1 to 91.9. This past season, with his 91.9 quarterback rating, Manning had 4,700 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He was ranked 10th in quarterback rating during the regular season compared to his 1st-place ranking in 2004.  He is still an elite quarterback, but Manning must realize that he must improve this upcoming season for his team to overcome the parity of the NFL.

The Indianapolis Colts made a brilliant decision in franchising their star quarterback Peyton Manning.  He is an invaluable player for the Colts and far more consistent and intelligent than the Philadelphia Eagles Michael Vick.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers: Super Bowl XLV Pre-Game Analysis

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers are meeting in Dallas Stadium for the Super Bowl in about a week.  In the meantime, their respective teams can get some rest and perhaps recover some of those who may have been injured in their conference playoff games.  The Pittsburgh Steelers against the New York Jets was a physical game, and the Green Bay Packers against the Chicago Bears was just as physical, if not more.  For the Steelers game, their defense and their running game with Rashard Mendenhall broke the Jets backs.  And for the Green Bay Packers team, their defense and the combination of Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings won their game.

Now to the pre-game analysis of the Super Bowl:

Quarterbacks

Neither quarterback was particularly impressive in their last conference championship game.  The Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger had 133 yards passing, 2 interceptions and a 35.5 quarterback rating against the New York Jets; and, the Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers had 244 yards, 2 interceptions and 55.4 quarterback rating against the Chicago Bears. However, in the post-season, Aaron Rodgers is currently ranked 1st in quarterback rating at 109.2 while Ben Roethlisberger is ranked 10th with an overall quarterback rating of 75.5. During the regular season, Aaron Rodgers was similarly more effective than Ben Roethlisberger. Aaron Rodgers had 3,922 yards passing, 28 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and overall quarterback rating of 101.2, which was 3rd overall rating during the regular season.  On the other side of the ball, Ben Roethlisberger had 3,200 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and an overall quarterback rating of 97.0, which was 5th overall during the regular season.  Given these statistics, the edge goes to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers by a moderate margin.  As of this time though, Rodgers is battling a sore shoulder during a hit that occurred during his game with the Chicago Bears. It shouldn’t change things though, unless he suffers another concussion.

Running Backs

Pittsburgh Steelers primary running back Rashard Mendenhall went on a tear against the New York Jets, rushing 121 yards, 2 touchdowns and 4.5 yards per carry.  Presently, in the post-season, Mendenhall is ranked 3rd in rushing yardage, has 3 touchdowns and averaging 3.6 yards per attempt.  Mendenhall was equally impressive during the regular season, as he was ranked 7th overall in rushing yardage. He had 1,273 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns and averaged 3.9 yards per carry. His reliever Isaac Redman contributed 247 yards during the regular season and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. On the opposite side of the ball, the previously third option James Starks of the Green Bay Packers has risen in the post-season.  He is currently ranked 1st overall in rushing yardage with 263 yards rushing, a touchdown and averaging 3.8 yards per attempt in the post-season.  During the regular season, however, he had a meager 101 yards rushing and averaged 3.5 yards per carry.  His reliever, now former starter Brandon Jackson, has only 28 yards during the post-season, but he’s become more of a wide receiver during these playoffs. During the regular season, Jackson had 703 yards rushing, 3 touchdowns, averaged 3.7 yards per attempt and ranked 33rd overall.  Rashard Mendenhall and the Pittsburgh Steelers get the edge on this one by a wide margin, if Steelers coach Mike Tomlin sticks with his present gameplan.

Wide Receivers

This is one interesting battle.  Starting with the Pittsburgh Steelers, their receiving duo consists of Mike Wallace and Hines Ward. Mike Wallace of the Steelers was impressive during the regular season, racking up 1,257 yards receiving, 1o touchdowns and averaged 21.0 yards per reception.  He was ranked 5th overall in receiving yardage overall during the regular season, but in the post-season, he hasn’t made an impact yet. Meanwhile, Hines Ward had 755 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns and averaged 12.8 yards per reception.  With the Green Bay Packers, the tandem of Greg Jennings and James Jones were originally the pair to be reckoned with during the regular season, but Jordy Nelson has replaced James Jones as the second wide receiver threat during the playoffs.  Greg Jennings, however, is currently ranked 1st overall in the post-season with 239 yards receiving and averaging 14.1 yards per reception. During the regular season, Jennings was equally impressive.  He had 1,265 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns, averaged 16.6 yards per reception and was ranked 4th overall in receiving yards during the regular season.  Comparatively, during the regular season, James Jones had 679 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns and averaged 13.6 yards per reception, and Jordy Nelson 582 yards, 2 touchdowns and averaged 12.9 yards per reception.  During the post-season, however, Jordy Nelson currently has 146 yards, a touchdown, averaging 12.2 yards per reception and is currently ranked 5th overall in receiving yardage.  Suffice it to say, the Green Bay Packers wide receiving corps is much more of a threat than the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Packers get the edge.

Tight Ends

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller has maintained himself as a consistent threat into the post-season, with 77 yards receiving, a touchdown and is currently ranked 19th overall in receiving yardage.  During the regular season, he had 512 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns and averaged 12.2 yards per reception. On the Green Bay side of the ball, Andrew Quarless or Donald Lee have not been much of a factor during the regular season or the post-season. During the regular season, Quarless had 238 yards receiving, a touchdown and averaged 11.3 yards per reception.  And Lee had 73 yards receiving, 3 touchdowns and averaged 6.6 yards per reception. Heath Miller and the Pittsburgh Steelers get the edge on this one by sufficient margin.

Defenses

Both of these defenses have been the difference maker during nearly all the post-season games that they have played.  During the regular season, the Steelers defense was ranked 12th against the pass, 1st against the run and 2nd overall in the league.  Their playmakers were many.  During the regular season, Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons recorded 135 tackles and was ranked 8th overall. Safety Troy Polamalu recorded 7 interceptions during the regular season and was ranked 3rd overall in the league. To date, Lawrence Timmons has 19 sacks and is 4th overall in the post-season. Linebacker James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers have contributed 3 sacks in the playoffs and is currently ranked 3rd overall. During the regular season, the Green Bay Packers defense was ranked 5th against the pass, 18th against the rush and 5th overall.  Linebacker Clay Matthews was ranked 3rd overall in sacks with 13.5 by the end of the regular season, and cornerback Tramon Williams had 6 interceptions and was ranked 5th overall in interceptions.  Both of these defensive backs have maintained their momentum into the playoffs.  Clay Matthews recorded 3.5 sacks to his name and is ranked 2nd overall currently in sacks.  And Tramon Williams is ranked 1st with 3 interceptions in the post-season with his fellow cornerback Sam Shields who is currently ranked 2nd with 2 interceptions.  In terms of numbers and playmakers, the edge goes to the Green Bay Packers, but should Mike Tomlin retain his gameplan previously, the edge should go the Pittsburgh Steelers in reality.

Coaches/Intangibles

Both of these head coaches have adapted and changed their gameplans accordingly in the playoffs.  Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Packers coach Mike McCarthy have both relied on the run and the pass when necessary.  The talent though still runs on the side of the Green Bay Packers, although Rashard Mendenhall could possibly be featured again against the Packers.  This remains a push, although the injury to Aaron Rodgers may be a concern in the Super Bowl itself.

The Edge

The edge goes to the Green Bay Packer2 24-20, but this score may be a conservative estimate.  In any case, Aaron Rodgers should find a way to squeak one past the Pittsburgh Steelers stifling defense in the last few minutes of the game.  This game will be hard-fought between these two teams though, and it should be a physical matchup and a mental one between the coaches.

The Philadelphia Eagles Without a Defensive Coordinator: Without a Heir on Andy Reid’s Head

Well, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid and his family have finished their week of vacation time, and the Philadelphia Eagles have run out of publicly known candidates for the defensive coordinator position.  Sean McDermott, the Eagles former defensive coordinator, was recently fired and just as quickly hired by new head coach Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers.  Although the Eagles defense hasn’t been the caliber it once has under the late Jim Johnson, the defense remained 12th overall from last season.  It wasn’t great, but it was respectable.

Now Dennis Allen, the former assistant defensive line coach of the New Orleans Saints since 2006, has chosen to go become defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos and passed on the Philadelphia Eagles position. He will be joining former Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox with John Elway as vice president of football operations. Professionally, these potential Eagles defensive coordinators have already been taken and were pursued aggressively by other teams.  But it’s not the Eagles lack of urgency that is really disturbing in hindsight.

The most important question remains why all of these potential candidates have turned down the open position.  Or to put it another way, why have these potential candidates not aggressively pursue the open position?  That remains some food for thought  — and maybe a bitter pill to swallow.  Now the Eagles may have to potentially choose candidates among perhaps the New York Jets, the Green Bay Packers or the Pittsburgh Steelers.  At this point, I don’t see these teams willing to part with their defensive coaches or coordinators so easily.  The loss of the late Jim Johnson has impacted this team a year and a half later and has left this team now without a heir to his throne.

What I Learned this Conference Playoff Weekend

This was one fantastic Sunday for football.  The Chicago Bears kept it close, despite using the third option quarterback of Caleb Hanie and the overpowering offense of the Green Bay Packers. Coach Lovie Smith and the Bears should be proud, and they should only have to make some minimal adjustments for next year. The Pittsburgh Steelers won over the New York Jets 24-19 in one tough game.  The Jets nearly made the comeback, but Mark Sanchez could not generate a two-minute offense and move his team down the field quicker. Ultimately, it was Pittsburgh Steelers rushing offense that controlled the clock and the scoreboard. Now Green Bay Packers will face the Pittsburgh Steelers in one heck of a Super Bowl.

Here’s what I learned this conference playoff weekend:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is a beast, considering he had 121 yards rushing against the stiff New York Jets defense.
  • Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings is a beast.  He had 13o receiving yards in his game against the Chicago Bears.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is stifling.  It contained the New York Jets offense to only 50 yards at the half, with 1 yard rushing.
  • The New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez needs to practice the two-minute drill more.  Hopefully, it’s not Donovan McNabb‘s two-minute drill. Sanchez should shoot for Peyton Manning’s two-minute drill.
  • The New York Jets running back LaDanian Tomlinson‘s tank isn’t quite empty, but he is no longer the threat he was when he was the San Diego Chargers.
  • Although Packers running back James Starks isn’t Ryan Grant, he has shown tremendous potential.  Whether the Packers win or lose in the Super Bowl, the starting position in their backfield may be up for grabs next season.
  • Both quarterbacks Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger are strong and mobile.  It will be interesting to see how they will fare in the Super Bowl.
  • However, both Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger performed miserably in their previous game. Rodgers had a 55.4 quarterback rating on 2 interceptions and Roethlisberger had a 35.5 quarterback rating on 2 interceptions. But their respective defenses stepped up at the right time and helped them win the game.
  • Good Caleb Hanie is much better than Bad Jay Cutler or Bad Todd Collins.  Good Caleb Hanie may even be better than Good Jay Cutler, but that will be determined next season.

Now, let’s get ready for the Super Bowl with pizzas, chips, sodas, assorted “adult beverages” and whatever else that might be cooking.  Although it shouldn’t be shootouts like the past Super Bowls, this game will be physical and could have as much drama as some hockey games.

New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: AFC Championship Post-Game Analysis

The New York Jets, with their quarterback, Mark Sanchez, defeated two tough opponents in their wake, the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. The New York Jets arrived at Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, for one of the most physically demanding challengers of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets and the Steelers battled each other tonight in one heck of a physical game after the one in Soldier Field.

Now to the post-game analysis of the AFC Championship:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers did a good job of establishing the run on their first drive  with their running back Rashard Mendenhall that ended with 28 yards rushing and a touchdown.
  • The Steelers kept on rushing with Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman with more than 100 yards pounded the Jets defense into the half.  Steelers coach Mike Tomlin kept his formula in past successful games by establishing  the run early with Rashard Mendenhall, rather than giving up on the run early like he has a tendency to do.
  • William Gay’s 19-yard fumble return for a touchdown sealed the half at 24-0 for the Steelers.
  • Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a mediocre quarterback rating of 42.6 into the half. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was not much better at 42.4.
  • The 45-yard pass from Mark Sanchez to Santonio Holmes was amazing to close the lead to 24-10. The bootleg by Sanchez against the pursuing Steelers defense opened up the pass. Obviously, Rex Ryan gave the offense a talk to wake them up.
  • The Jets defense finally woke up in the second half of the game.  With three negative plays near the end of the third quarter from the Steelers, it gave the Jets more time on offense.  Additionally, the Jets defense bottled up the rush from Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman.
  • The safety on Ben Roethlisberger mid-fourth quarter was disastrous for the Steelers to bring the score to 24-12.  It gave the Jets two points, the ball back and their continued momentum.  But the Jets wasted too much time to bring the score to 24-19.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won at Heinz Field to the score of 24-19 over the New York Jets.  Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets performed admirably at a 1o2.2 quarterback rating on 2 touchdowns and 233 yards passing.  Now the Pittsburgh Steelers will face the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl in Dallas.  It will be a battle of balanced offenses, and it will be interesting to see if the Steelers defense can contain Aaron Rodgers and the weapons at his disposal.

The Changing Faces of the Dallas Cowboys: How It Will Affect the NFC East

In the 2010 regular season for the Dallas Cowboys, it was first a season of downs as Wade Phillips and the Cowboys lost six straight games and subsequently fired by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones shortly thereafter.  Then in came the interim head coach Jason Garrett promoted from offensive coordinator mid-season to head the team.  The Dallas Cowboys offense woke up, and the defense did as well.  They proceeded to play spoilers afterwards, playing generally competitively, even without their quarterbacks Jon Kitna or Tony Romo in their last game against the Philadelphia Eagles.  In the past couple of weeks, quarterback Tony Romo is feeling better, and the coaching staff has new hires.  These new hires should change the complexion of the team and affect the rivals in the NFC East.

During the past five seasons, the Dallas Cowboys defense has always been either the 8th or 9th ranked overall defense, but this season they fell to 23rd overall, near the bottom of the league. Even when their offense was strong with Tony Romo at the helm, their offense has always found ways to implode at the most inopportune time under former head coach Wade Phillips.

Most importantly, Rob Ryan, Rex Ryan’s brother employed by the New York Jets, has become the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.  This should help at least restore the defense from this season’s dismal showing into the top 10 defenses overall.  If Rob Ryan is any reflection of Rex, this will become a troublesome defense for quarterbacks and opposing offensive lines to deal with.  According to Rob, “the more you hit the quarterback, the better you’re going to do.”  The New York Jets defense can uphold that remark.  With DeMarcus Ware, Bradie James and Terence Newman at his disposal, any configuration close to the current Jets defense will create havoc for offensive lines.

The promotion of Jason Garrett’s brother, John Garrett, as tight end coach/passing-game coordinator should be beneficial to tight ends Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett and assist quarterback Tony Romo for next season.  If Garrett can assist in development of the offense, it will be interesting to see what he comes up with.  If talent can be developed and the complex routes ensue, it will give the NFC East and the rest of the league fits.

But time is still early, and the next season has yet to begin.  Whether the collective bargaining agreement is resolved by March or not, Jason Garrett realizes he is on a short leash with owner Jerry Jones.  Garrett closed the season with a win over the formerly third-seeded, playoff-bound Philadelphia Eagles 14-13 with third option quarterback Stephen McGee.  Now that Tony Romo is healthy, Jason Garrett and the Cowboys are poised to be better in the upcoming season.  The changes in the offense and the defense could add many wrinkles in the NFC East and the rest of the league.

New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: AFC Championship Pre-Game Analysis

The New York Jets did the unexpected in the playoffs, and they won against the New England Patriots at Foxboro nonetheless.  However, they will face their own shadow in the shape of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Both of these defenses have been incredibly stiff in the post-season.  The Jets defense have conquered two elite quarterbacks, Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning and New England Patriots Tom Brady, in the playoffs.  The Steelers Ben Roethlisberger is below that caliber, but he is physically harder to bring down than either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.  Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense held its own against Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and their rival the Baltimore Ravens.

Now to the pre-game analysis:

Quarterbacks

In the post-season, so far, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had 226 yards passing, 2 touchdowns and a 101.8 quarterback rating.  He is currently ranked 5th overall in terms of quarterback rating in the post-season. During the regular season, Roethlisberger had 3,200 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 5 interceptions.  On the other side of the ball, in the post-season so far, the New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez currently has 383 yards passing, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception and a 91.6 quarterback rating.  During the regular season, Sanchez had 3,291 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 75.3 quarterback rating. Roethlisberger and the Steelers get the edge, but both quarterbacks should be harassed constantly in this game. 

Running Backs

The Pittsburgh Steelers Rashard Mendenhall was brutally effective during the regular season. During the regular season, he had 1,273 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns and averaged 3.9 yards per carry.  He was ranked 7th in terms of rushing yardage and 2nd in terms of touchdowns overall in league.  However, he has fallen in the playoffs, as Mendenhall is only ranked 11th in terms of overall rushing yardage at 46, but he currently tied with New York Jets running back LaDanian Tomlinson in terms of touchdowns at 2. The New York Jets tandem of LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene were not as powerful during the regular season.  During the regular season, LaDanian Tomlinson had 914 yards rushing, 6 touchdowns and averaged 4.2 yards per carry; and his partner Shonn Greene had 766 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. In the off-season, however, both Jets running backs have been surprisingly effective.  LaDanian Tomlinson currently has 125 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns and averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Shonn Greene meanwhile has 146 yards, 1 touchdown and averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Tomlinson is currently ranked 4th in rushing yardage in the post-season while Greene is ranked 2nd.  The New York Jets get the slight edge in this one, but all three running backs will have difficulties establishing themselves.

Wide Receivers

The New York Jets wide receiver tandem of Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery have exploded in the post-season.  Edwards is currently ranked 4th overall in the post-season in receiving yardage at 114, averaging 19.0 yards per reception and 2 touchdowns to his name.  Cotchery is currently ranked 5th overall at 113 receiving yards and 16.1 yards per reception.  During the regular season, Edwards had 904 yards receiving, 7 touchdowns and averaged 17.1 yards per reception; and, Cotchery had 433 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns and averaged 10.6 yards per reception.  On the other side of the ball, the Steelers duo of Mike Wallace and Hines Ward haven’t been making many waves this post-season yet.  During the regular season, however, Mike Wallace had 1,257 yards receiving, 1o touchdowns and averaged 21.0 yards per reception; and he was ranked 5th in terms of receiving yardage overall when the season ended.  His partner Hines Ward had 755 yards, 5 touchdowns and averaged 12.8 yards per reception.  The receiver corps of the Pittsburgh Steelers is a bit more effective ounce per ounce, and they get a slight edge. But the Jets have the more versatile group.

Tight Ends

The New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller has been slightly more effective in the post-season so far. In the post-season, Keller has 57 yards receiving and averaging 9.5 yards per reception. During the regular season, he had 687 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns and averaged 12.5 yards per reception.  On the opposite side of the ball, Steelers tight end Heath Miller currently has 39 receiving yards and averaging 7.8 yards per reception.  During the regular season, Miller had 512 yards, 2 touchdowns and averaged 12.2 yards per reception. Given these numbers, Dustin Keller and the New York Jets get the slight edge.

Defenses

This is the litmus test for both teams — and how they will test their opposing quarterbacks.  Both have had playmakers on their defenses throughout this season so far.  Now they will be put to the test…During the regular season, the stalwart New York Jets defense was 6th against the pass and 3rd against the run, and they were ranked 4th overall in the league. The Jets defense has found playmakers in the off-season.  The Jets David Harris and Eric Smith are both ranked 1st and 2nd at tackles in 21 and 20 respectively.  Jets linebacker Calvin Pace is currently ranked 4th in sacks at 2 in the post-season.  During the regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense was ranked 12th against the pass and 1st against the rush and was 2nd overall in the league.  In the post-season, linebacker James Harrison is 2nd in the league in interceptions at 3, and safety Ryan Clark has had one interception and is currently tied for second. The New York Jets gets the slight edge, as it has conquered two tough opponents in the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts successively.

Coaches/Intangibles

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan had played mind games through talking trash.  When he first performed this tactic against the New England Patriots, his team was destroyed in week 13.  However, in the past divisional game against the New England Patriots, he defeated the New England Patriots with his defense.  Rex Ryan has demonstrated flexibility in using his resources. This past week against the New England Patriots, he used his defense to win the game, and the previous game against the Indianapolis Colts, he used his two running backs LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene to win the game for him.  On the opposite side of the ball, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin tends to rely on Ben Roethlisberger’s arm more often than not.  He tends to give up on the run easier than Rex Ryan does.  The edge goes to Rex Ryan and the New York Jets because he has faced two elite opponents of past seasons in the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots.  More importantly, he defeated his rival Bill Belichick, and the Patriots defeat has given his team a boost in morale. 

The Edge

The edge goes to the New York Jets 27-24.  The New York Jets balanced approach has paid off in the playoffs, and it should give them the time for the last field goal to win the game.

Terrell Owens Wants to Join the New England Patriots: The Twitterland Shuffle

In the land of Twitter, Terrell Owens has suggested that he wants to become a New England Patriot.  Well, after the New England Patriots loss to the New York Jets, this may not be the time to push his idea.  The compounding of the loss to the New York Jets currently and with Terrell Owens reminding them of their past mistake with now Tennessee Titans Randy Moss, this idea won’t pass by coach Bill Belichick.

However, he still has talent.  This season, Owens had 983 yards receiving, 9 touchdowns and 13.7 yards per reception. He was also ranked 18th overall in receiving yardage, in the company of Philadelphia Eagles Jeremy Maclin and Chicago Bears Johnny Knox.

But his outlandish and rowdy behavior won’t sit well with either the Patriots locker room or especially, head coach Bill Belichick.  Since Owens has pissed the likes of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals, this won’t go well on his resume either.  Terrell Owens can pipedream all he wants for now, but he may and should become nothing more than Randy Moss II in the future — a quiet decoy on the team.

Sean McDermott Joins Ron Rivera With the Carolina Panthers: Birds of a Feather Defend Together

The Carolina Panthers released John Fox a while back, and he has joined the Denver Broncos as their head coach.  But it is even more impressive who they replaced in return.  First, they replaced John Fox with Ron Rivera, former defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers.  Then, they took on Sean McDermott, recently fired from the Philadelphia Eagles, as their defensive coordinator. With these two together nonetheless, the Carolina Panthers could be a defensive monster, rivaling the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets in their defenses.

Ron Rivera is the second Latino head coach in NFL history, and he brings to the Panthers an aggressive defensive mindset.  In 1999, he was linebacker coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, and his potent defense led the Eagles to three consecutive NFC Championships.  Additionally, he was formerly a defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears in 2006, and the Bears won the NFC Championship that year as well as competed in the Super Bowl. Recently, since 2008, he was the defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers, taking them from 25th-ranked total defense to recently 1st in total defense in the entire league.  That is simply remarkable. He had learned his system under the likes of Buddy Ryan, Lovie Smith and the late Jim Johnson, and can adapt to change from a 4-3 system to a 3-4 system.

With Sean McDermott now, they both share similar backgrounds.  They both were with the Philadelphia Eagles, both were defensive coordinators (or still are), and most importantly, both learned their system of defense and its complexities under the late Jim Johnson.  Sean McDermott, although criticized within the locker room by the players for some of his moves during the regular season,  attempted  to innovate the Eagles defense.  However, the results produced were less than successful.  Now that he has been given a second chance and a clean slate essentially under the guidance of Ron Rivera, the Panthers defense could potentially become one of the most formidable in the league in the next few years.

Both can lend creativity on their complex and blitz-heavy defensive schemes that could be troublesome for most teams. These birds of a feather who have legacies in the Philadelphia Eagles and the late Jim Johnson can now defend it together.