Archive for August, 2008

Lights Out is heading to Wembley - Pic by Doug Pensinger, Getty Images North America

Lights Out is heading to Wembley - Pic by Doug Pensinger, Getty Images North America

The San Diego Chargers have officially announced this afternoon that Shawne ‘Lights Out’ Merriman, their outstanding linebacker will ‘forego surgery on his knee’ to play in the 2008 NFL season.

This is fantastic news for all the NFL fans in England (and other parts of the UK and in Europe) who will make the annual pilgrimage to Wembley Stadium to see the Chargers take on the New Orleans Saints in London on October 26, in only the second NFL regular season game to take place in Europe.

Lights Out is a beast, a human wrecking machine, and 39.5 sacks in 42 career games is proof that he is a true superstar.

Only Merriman will know if he is kidding himself by saying that he will play through the pain. He does risk blowing his entire career, but with the 2008 NFL season just over a week away, its just too appetising for Shawne to not want to taste success.

The Chargers have a realistic shot at the Superbowl this season, and Merriman is one of the keys to victory, with his high adrenaline play and his ability to frighten the heck out of opposing teams.

It’s no coincidence that Merriman wears #56 after the Hall of Fame stud and former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. It was Taylor who redefined the game, making left offensive tackles get much bigger salaries.

Look at the #1 pick in the NFL draft this year – offensive lineman Jake Long. He was drafted to protect the quarterback from the likes of Merriman, as much as to clear the lanes for Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown.

Having the NFL circus come to England in 2008 will again be special, waving a torch because Merriman will be looking to turn Drew Brees lights out makes it just that bit more special.

Merriman you are a brave man and NFLFANINENGLAND salutes your decision.

Good or bad idea – let me know……

Rivers is my first fantasy draft pick in the BBFL

Rivers is my first fantasy draft pick in the BBFL

For anyone who owns a fantasy NFL team that enables you to draft NFL rookies you will already know that it is a lottery, just like it is for real NFL owners.

Everyone thinks they are a genius GM, and with the added spice of getting a free ‘try before you buy’ sneak preview of NFL rookies in the NFL pre-season it is truly a case of wandering round the world’s biggest candy store with deep pockets full of loose change.

In my league the BBFL (www.freewebs.com/britballfootball) we are in the closing stages of a five round rookie draft, selecting at total of 100 NFL rookies who were drafted for real in the 2008 NFL Draft.

There are 20 teams, so each team starts a season with 5 picks each, but following furious trading and in some cases daylight robbing, we get to rookie draft week with picks locked and unable to be traded during the BBFL rookie draft. We also have a policy of the rookies not playing for a year, so those 2008 rookies drafted in the NFL will play in the 2009 BBFL season.

So after all the explanation where have I decided to go with the picks I have got ? Cue the screams of ‘you did whaaat?’ ‘you passed on whooo?’ ‘you drafted that clown?’

My 1st pick – Overall #8 in Rd One – Keith Rivers, LB, USC Trojans (drafted by #9 Bengals in NFL)

My 2nd pick – Overall #19 in Rd One – Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas Razorbacks (drafted # 22 by Cowboys NFL)

My 3rd pick – Overall # 59 in Rd 3 – Jason Jones, DT, Eastern Michigan Eagles (drafted # 54 by Titans in NFL)

My 4th pick – Overall #81 in Rd 5 – Donnie Avery, WR, Houston Cougars (drafted # 33 by Rams in NFL)

My 5th pick – Overall #88 in Rd 5 – Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville Cardinals (drafted # 56 by Packers in NFL)

My 6th pick – Overall #94 in Rd 5 – Terrell Thomas, CB, USC Trojans (drafted # 63 by Giants in NFL)

My 7th pick – Overall #99 in Rd 5 – Anthony Collins, OT, Kansas Jayhawks (drafted # 112 by Bengals in NFL)

Well here is my justification behind the picks !

I chose Rivers over the available Jerod Mayo because I think that Rivers will become a tackling machine and make an immediate impact as a Bengal, also coming from USC he will be used to the standards demanded by an NFL team.

As a Redskins fan I learnt many moons ago that cutting your nose of to spite your face is not a good NFL fantasy tactic, so I went for a Cowboy in the form of Fexix Jones. Firstly my league was seeing a run of running backs, secondly Jones has not been worn down at college because he was the support act to #4 overall pick Darren McFadden, thirdly Jones has an insane 7.6 yards a carry college career average, andfinally Jones will support Marion Barber III who will pound teams into submission, leaving Jones to become what I hope will be the Maurice Jones-Drew of 2008.

Grabbing Jones was what I would call a disciplined pick – there were a lot more sexy players out there including some wideouts that had slipped from round 2 in the NFL – I however needed a good young DT. Jones can play DT or DE and has already impressed King Headstomper Albert Haynesworth.

Avery for some bizarre reason slipped an incredible 48 places from where he was picked in the NFL draft for real, so I had to triple check my eyes were not decieving me. Yes indeed he is small, but he is already showing some of his talent after grabbing 5 balls for 65 yards in his first NFL pre-season game.

Again Brohm slipped down the BBFL draft ladder. With Aaron Rogers taking the helm at Green Bay, Brohm could be one ugly tackle from taking to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in his rookie season. Brohm was projected by many to be a first round pick, but being drafted in the second gives him a bit more breathing room to develop. I was chuffed to get Brohm, and despite his less than stellar pre-season outings I feel Brohm can be a winner at the next level.

Terell Thomas is going to potentially be the nickel back for the world champion Giants, and is another Trojan star, yet again he was available so I snagged him. He could get 30-40 tackles and maybe even an interception or two.

As for Collins, I don’t feel good if I dont get an offensive lineman prospect in a draft, and the Bengals need all the help they can get. Collins is highly regarded and can make an impact in 2008. I am a big fan of Andrew Whitworth, so I hope Collins learns from him, as he could be the eventual replacement for the legendary Willie Andrews.

Anyone please give me your opinion on the draft – any compliments ? Criticisms? let me know…….

Randy Lerner signing autographs today at the Aston Villa v Manchester City game in Birmingham, August 17 2008

Randy Lerner signing autographs today at the Aston Villa v Manchester City game in Birmingham, August 17 2008

I had to work today in my day job as a media officer supporting people in my organisation at an English Premier League Football (or for USA readers Soccer) match as Aston Villa beat Manchester City 4-2, with local Birmingham lad Gabby Agbonlahor scoring an incredible three goals in just seven second half minutes.

Some of you will by now know what links this particular game has to the NFL, some may not.

Well its a certain billionaire (if you are calculating worth in $ not £) sports team owner – Mr Randy Lerner, the owner of the Cleveland Browns and Aston Villa FC.

After watching a terrific game I was leaving Villa Park stadium when I happened to catch Mr Lerner in a stairwell.

Bemused he looked at me and I looked at him, all that came to mind was to say “Good luck with the Browns!” to which he simply replied “Thank you”.

And with that I went into the lift and he went down the stairs with his people.

Small and insignificant as it was in terms of an exchange of words, it was never the less the first, and hopefully not the last time I get to speak to an NFL owner.

With the likes of Malcolm Glazer owning Manchester United and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Buccs could play the Browns in an NFL International Series regular season game in Great Britain in 2009 or 2010.

It would tick lots of boxes, as it would be intra-conference, between two exciting teams, both of whom are potential playoff teams in 2008.

Above all its not every day you get to meet an NFL owner, in England of all places !

What do you think of a Buccs v Browns regular season game in England ?

Alex Higgins was a two time World Snooker champ - now he is a kicker on the Ottowa Black Dragons !!! (in fantasy land)

Alex Higgins was a two time World Snooker champ - now he is a kicker on the Ottowa Black Dragons !!! (in fantasy land)

A few months ago I stumbled upon a web-based american football game called Goal Line Blitz. I am now what can only be described as an addict.

Goal Line Blitzis a great little package as you get to create as many players as you want and give them crazy names such as Slinging Sammy Baugh the Touchdown Machine, or names of heroes of your own from any walk of life.

The game is addictive as you play an entire season in just 40 real days, with each game being simulated every other day at the same time. You get to build up individual skills of each of your players, and you can even purchase credits (with real cash via Paypal) to add customised equipment or create even more players.

I have 9 different players that I own the rights to (a TE, a G, 2 x T, a C, a WR, a RB, a SS, a QB, A DE and a K).

My kicker is called Alex Higgins, named after the legendary Irish snooker player and two time World Snooker Champion Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, and he is the current starting kicker on the Ottowa Black Dragons.

Higgins the Dragon has made 7 of 8 field goals this season, and 13 of 15 extra points, so he does need to improve if he is to keep his job in Ottawa.

Last season in Goal Line Blitz Higgins hit 30-41 field goals and 30 of 31 extra points in his first season as a starter for the Congo Cripplers, he was however cut after failing to make an impact in the championship game.

Higgins was picked up in the offseason by the Ottawa Black Dragons, and so far the team are 3-2, and looking like they can make a wild card. I just hope Higgins does not cost the team any wins !

Goal Line Blitz is thoroughly enjoyable and as it costs nothing to set yourself up with between 2 and 4 players.

Why not give it a try – its an alternative to www.NFL.comtype fantasy games, as you are effectively a player agent, without having to look as greasy, and sound as cocky as someone like Drew Rosenhaus.

Register for free and then tell me your opinion on here please………………………

Best wishes to Charlie Batch recovering from a broken collar bone

Best wishes to Charlie Batch recovering from a broken collar bone

Every year there is the age old debate about NFL athletes getting injured in pre-season, meaningless games to some, but a valuable opportunity for rookies and those not guaranteed a roster spot to go and prove they should make the final cut.

This time we have seen Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch break his collar bone (ouch) on a broken play (no pun intended).

Ben Roethlisberger is without doubt the Steelers starter but as we all know injuries can happen at any time.  Batch is a solid backup, a veteran, one who does not rock the boat, basically all that you can ask for in a backup. Losing him is not like losing a starter, but seeing your reliable backup go down is a big blow.

There is an argument to have less pre-season games and maybe 17 or even 18 regular season games.

As a fantasy NFL fan I would like to of course see less pre-season and more regular season games, ones that count. But I’m not an NFL owner, an NFL coach or an NFL player.

Lets hope that the injuries in the pre-season are kept to a minimum, regardless if athletes will not even make the final rosters.

Injuries are part of the game – just look at Kurt Warner, a Superbowl winner and a previous NFL MVP when with the St Louis Rams. If Trent Green had not been injured in a pre-season game against the San Diego Chargers (by Rodney Harrison) in 1999 then we may have never witnessed the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ – just some food for thought.

PS – A big congratulations to Nicole Cooke – winner of Great Britain’s 200th Olympic Gold Medal – after she won the Women’s Cycling Road Race – Team GB’s first Gold of the Beijing Olympics.

Favre gets used to his new colours - Pic by Steve Coleman Associated Press

Favre gets used to his new colours - Pic by Steve Coleman Associated Press

The whole Brett Favre Green Bay Packers saga during this off-season has had more yawns than an intercontinental sleeping championships, so it with some degree of relief that number #4 has left Wisconsin for the sleepy town of New ‘goddam’ York.

Gulp!

This means the Favre saga – a bit like Mr Balboa in Rocky VI – will go a few rounds too many in the ring.

The New York media will no doubt waste a small rain forest in paper analysing Brett’s move to the Big Apple, calling him names ranging from the ‘ressurection’ to ‘a grey haired over the hill dreamer’, but face it the New York Jets are NOT a Superbowl ready team like the Green Bay Packers.

The Jets have simply not got the defensive talent or the offensive line to make it into the post-season.

Thomas Jones is an average starter at best, a non glamorous starter that neither scares opposing teams nor exites home fans. Laverneus Coles is coming off an injury at wide-out, and Jerricho Cotchery is consistent but he is not the man to get you to the final dance.

Green Bay was the team Brett should have stayed at if he wanted a shot at the next Superbowl, now he will end his career in some kind of ugly kelly green and white mess on the AstroTurf of Giants Stadium.

I will say in here and now on NFLFANINENGLAND that Brett Favre will NOT make the playoffs with the New York Jets. He will potentially throw 3,000 yards in 2008, he may even extend his outstanding consecutive starts record, but Brett will not be tasting the rarefied air of the playoffs let alone the Superbowl.

The fact the Jets and Packers agreed a deal that means the Packers get a 1st round pick if Brett makes the Superbowl is not optimistic, it’s downright bonkers.

The hype for the Jets v Patriots game in week 2 of the 2008 season will be out of control. The Pats are a team on a mission, and also incredibly the same team that Favre beat in his only ever Superbowl win.

I think one man that has been given an incredibly raw deal is unemployed quarterback Chad Pennington, who must have a sore back after being shoved out with one hefty push towards the exit part of the New York Jets practice facility.

Yes Pennington did not have an incredible 2007, but he was the NFL comeback player of the year in 2006, and has the NFL record – YES THE NFL RECORD for completion % for all NFL quarterbacks who have attempted a minimum of 1,500 passes – better than Tom Brady, even better than Joe Montana or Steve Young.

Anyone out there think that the Jets can go better than my 2008 prediction of 6-10 ??? Please post a response

Now at least we get to see if former Cal quarterback Aaron Rogers is the real deal – thank goodness !

Chris Horton (right) had an impressive NFL debut - photo by Greg Burmann

Chris Horton (right) had an impressive NFL debut - photo by Greg Burmann

OK its only the pre-season, with the likelihood of Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison or Dwight Freeney even suiting up for the Hall of Fame Game the same as Elvis Presley doing the half-time show at the next Superbowl.

It doesn’t matter however as we have seen our first collective glimpse of the 2008 season, albeit an artificial one, with undrafted free agents, obscure rookies and third string quarterbacks steering their ships. 

I for one will eat my own Art Monk Hall of Fame commemorative hat (ordered directly from Canton) if Jared Lorenzen gets as many regular season snaps as an Indianapolis Colt as he did on Sunday.  

It may surprise all you non UK based blog readers that in England (and Scotland) we actually get to see about 7 or 8 NFL pre-season games live over here on satellite television (Sky Sports). Its only the second year that Sky Sports have shown these games, but to all UK fans it is a big bonus getting to see the rookies that were drafted in April try to prove themselves in what are essentially games that you want to get through without injury more than you actually want to win.

So what were my impressions of the Hall of Fame game between the Washington Redskins and the Indianapolis Colts….

1) Redskins rookie free safety Chris Horton managed to recover a fumbled onside kick, get two sacks on Jared ‘the human barrell’ Lorenzen and even register 5 tackles. The 23 year old from UCLA is fighting for a roster spot and in my eyes played his heart out. With Stuart Schweigert cut from the team today and Reed Doughty just not good enough to become a pro-bowler it is up to Horton to prove that this game was no fluke.

2) Redskins quarterbacks only managed two incompletions in the game, up until they bought on 4th stringer Derek Devine, who went 0-1. Skins head coach Jim Zorn must like Devine as he was a Seahawk in 2007, but with Jason Campbell looking confident tossing an early to to Antuwan Randl El, Todd Collins looking like a prototypical veteran backup and Colt Brennan and his bizarre side slinging action looking mightily impressive against the Colts backup db’s Devine may not be seeing a lot of action very soon.

3) The Colts are true poker players, like most of the NFL teams in the early pre-season they will not reveal their hand at such an early point in August. It was good to see Dominic Rhodes back in the blue and white uniform of Indy, and judging by his cameo appearance he will play an important role in 2008. As for any real analysis it’s bloody hard as 8 different Colts ran the ball and 13 Colts caught passes.

Above all we have NFL football back on our tv screens in England and America, and aside from the Brett Favre nonsense, I’m enjoying every minute of NFL pre-season action, even though it does not in any way reflect the potential of any of the 32 NFL teams.

Coach Zorn knows that this game means nothing, but he will have a small smile on his face this week knowing that the season is a month away and his team are already clicking.