Archive for November, 2009

Aaron Rodgers will have extra turkey on his plate tonight

I might spend some of my time moaning about the lack of Monday Night Football on tv here in England, but at least Sky TV get one American tradition spot on.

 
THREE live Thanksgiving Day NFL games here in England is special, even if it does include the Detroit Lions and the Oakland Raiders.
 
I missed the first two touchdowns of the Green Bay Packers versus the Detroit Lions game this evening as I was coming home from work, but even though I joined the game at 7-7 it was always gonna be a Pack ‘W’.
 
Charles Woodson looked incredible blanketing the hobbling Calvin Johnson, and his two INTs pretty much guarantees his place in the 2010 Pro Bowl.
 
Matthew Stafford had three picks, but one thing you cannot deny is that this baby-face is one tough kid. He had his back bent backwards only to bounce straight up.
 
With an extra WR and a quality 3rd down/utility back to support Kevin Smith the Lions have an offense that can put up some decent yards. Lets just forget about their defense, that is one sorry ass bunch of chumps.
 
Time to settled down now for the Cowgirls against the Oakland Raiders, with a Raiders squad in that much trouble that they think starting Bruce Gradkowski is some sort of positive move? Call me old-fashioned but I’d rather have Todd Marinovich at the helm of the Silver and Black than Crudkowski.
 
Someone pass the cranberry sauce………….Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
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My god is that Leo Sayer in a Pitt uniform or is it the guy who passed for 5084 yards in 1984? (Pic from SI)

It’s the NFL equivalent of the Holy Grail, it’s a record that has not been touched until last season, and it’s a record owned by a guy who never won a Superbowl.

Yes the annual pilgrimage by 32 NFL quarterbacks to eclipse former Miami Dolphins qb Dan Marino’s single season passing yards record of 5084 (in 1984) has begun in earnest.

The 2009 NFL season has seen passers come out of the blocks faster than Usaine Bolt realising he needs the toilet after some dodgy jerk chicken.

So who are the contenders to Sayers…oops…Marino’s title?

1) Matt Schaub – Houston Texans (9 games played so far, 2653 yards)

Schaub is on pace for 4716 yards, so he is 369 yards of pace to break the record. This means he needs to improve production per game by 52 yards a game.

2) Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts (8 games played so far, 2545 yards)

Manning is on pace for 5090 yards, so he is on pace to beat the record by 6 yards.

3) Tom Brady – New England Patriots (8 games played so far, 2364 yards)

Brady is on pace for 4728 yards, so he is 357 yards of pace to break the record. This means he needs to improve production per game by 45 yards a game.

4) Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints (8 games played so far, 2336 yards)

Brees is on pace for 4672 yards, so he is 412 yards of pace to break the record. This means he needs to improve production by 52 yards a game.

Elsewhere Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo and Kurt Warner are on pace for over 4000 yards but I think they are not going to be able to drastically improve production to get over the 5000 hump.

So coming into Week 10 the only person who is on pace is Colts Superbowl winning qb Peyton Manning. Miracle Manning has thrown for over 300 yards in 7 out of his 8 contests so far, and to top it off he has won every single encounter.

The Colts have a mega tough second half schedule, with games against the Patriots, Baltimore, Denver and the Jets.

Can Manning do it? Ill say yes. I said Brees could get the record last year, and whilst Brees had the bra off and the skirt hitched up, I see Manning breaking the seal on his pack of extra-large Trojans.

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He may look like the rabbit out of Donnie Darko but you gotta love some Reali

I swore to my wife that I would do some more exercise and spend more time away from a tv screen (unless I was sweating profusely doing some Wii boxing).

 
That all changed a few weeks ago when yet another piece of junk mail from Sky Television landed in my porch. I have to say I normally bin the reams of coloured crap that Sky send, but this one had ESPN on it so being a huge American sports fan (apart from Ice Bore Hockey) I opened the envelope.
 
The offer was £4.50 a month for three months for ESPN (which in the UK is NOT the USA version of ESPN instead it shows round ball football including some exclusive Premier League games and UFC), ESPN Classic (which shows old World Cup videos and some great archive boxing like when Mike Tyson was the best brawling boxer on the planet) and ESPN America (live College Football, live NBA basketball, live NHL bore hockey, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption and other USA ESPN shows).
 
This half-price offer was just perfect. I can justify to my wife that it is £1.50 per ESPN channel per month, and at the same time I get to watch all the USA sports journalists talk crap about the NFL right up until the Superbowl XLIV on Feb 7 2010 in Miami.
 
Yes PTI presenters Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon were battered with the ugly stick at birth, and yes Around the Horn presenter Tony Reali looks the spitting image of the nightmarish rabbit in Donnie Darko but they sure know how to entertain me.
 
Anyone in the UK that is a Sky Sports subscriber and a fan of American sports need to get some ESPN action in their lives.
 
If you don’t have Sky you can still pick up the audio only version of PTI and Around the Horn for FREE through iTunes. This audio file version is splendid for free, but its much more fun to see the expression on people’s faces and what Around the Horn guest Woody Paige has written on his chalk board behind him each day. Woody’s most recent chalkboard was ‘Don’t eat clowns, they taste funny’. Classic Paige.
 
This weekend has three great live College football games on ESPN America here in England – Tennessee at Mississippi, Iowa at Ohio State and Notre Dame at Pittsburgh.
 
All three NCAA games will have some great storylines, crazy painted fans in the stands, student bands, wacky mascots and pumped up commentators.
 
Only problem now is trying to get to see any of this Saturday evening – my wife deservedly dominates the remote control tonight and will be watching Strictly Come Dancing, the X Factor (big up Jedward!!!) and Casualty (a drama show based in a hospital).
 
Thank god for Sky+ so I can record me some College football.
 
Gotta love some ESPN (as long as you can afford it).
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The Iggles WRs Jackson and Macklin will be geared up for a huge Week 9 output

It has been a while I admit but it’s time to get back to the crystal ball gazing lark and give some NFL predictions.

Plenty of juicy matchups for week 9 in the 2009 NFL season, but my personal favourite is the Philadelphia Eagles against the Dallas Cowboys.
 
Everyone loves a bruising NFL East battle, and this one looks set to be a humdinger.
 
My prediction for the top performers in Week 9 goes to the Iggles WR pairing of Jeremy Macklin and DeSean Jackson.
 
I am going for Macklin and Jackson combining for 200 yards and two touchdowns in a monster win.
 
Not so long ago the Eagles had strength pretty much everywhere apart from WR. They went and got TO and got all the way to the Superbowl.
 
Now they have invested big in two remarkably similar types of players on the outside, but ones that could dominate for many years and become the new Fitzgerald and Boldin or Stallworth or Swann (providing they pick up some Vince Lombardi trophies in the next five years).
 
After three weeks of predicting I was 28-20. Now for the business of the day…. 
 
Redskins @ Falcons – The Redskins officially suck. Yes this is a technical sporting term for teams who cannot reach 3 touchdowns against the Chiefs or Lions. Matt Ryan looks to have a big day, along with Michael Turner the Falcons low gravity work mule. I will be shocked if the Skins get 2 touchdowns, even though I expect Fred Davis the TE to have over 70 yards receiving – Falcons to win 37-13
 
Cardinals @ Bears – “They are who we thought they were.” The immortal words from former Cardinals head coach Dennis Green after a meltdown against Da Bearz a few years ago. This time I see the Cardinals stepping up and Kurt Warner atoning for his debacle last week. Look for both teams failing to establish the run, and the game becoming a shootout. Arizona to hang on with some Fitzgerald heroics – Cardinals to win 27-24
 
Ravens @ Bengals – Gotta love this game. The Ravens want revenge from the upset earlier in the season. Ray Lewis will be all over Bengals RB Cedric Benson so look for Carson Palmer to find seams in the passing game, as long has he throws to the polar opposite end of the field as Ravens All-Pro safety Ed Reed. I’ll take a bit of magic from Cincy WR Chris Henry – Bengals with the upset 24-20
 
Texans @ Colts – This is the opportunity for Houston to show that they are finally ‘for real’. If they can win this game they become contenders for the AFC. Peyton Manning will be aware that the Texans will be playing like men possessed and will try to exploit the aggression of the Houston D. Monster game from Reggie Wayne AGAIN I suspect – Colts win a close one 33-27
 
Chiefs @ Jaguars – This is not exactly the game you would show if you wanted to introduce someone to the joys of the NFL. KC are pretty awful, but they may get a spark from recently promoted running back Jamal Charles. The Jags rb Maurice Jones-Drew simply HAS to get more carries. The man had under 10 carries last week but he got two rushing tds of over 75 yards a pop. Wat has he got to do to get the rock? – Jaguars to win 29-17
 
Dolphins @ Patriots – Wow – this is gonna be a barn burner. Wildcat v The Emperor. Sounds like a trendy DJ battle. I love me some AFC East action and whilst I would love to see the Dolphins get the second win against the Pats I just can’t see past Chad Henne, and his lack of explosiveness. Ricky Williams can have another big game if he comes in to keep Ronnie Brown fresh. It wont matter as the Pats will have too much class – Pats to win 31-24
 
Packers @ Buccaneers – Ouch, ouch, ouch, the words that will come out of the mouth of Josh Freeman after he picks himself up off the floor for the tenth time. This is gonna be a car wreck. Pack to win 34-9
 
Panthers @ Saints – Saints will be tested more than a lot of people think. Don’t be fooled by Jake Delhomme’s errant arm, he has a supporting cast that can run all over teams. Ok I’ll do it here and now, sound the alarm this is my UPSET SPECIAL. Panthers can run and keep Drew Brees off the field – Panthers to eek by 23-21  
 
Lions @ Seahawks – Two words – Matt Hasslebeck – ‘Hawks win 27-10
 
Chargers @ Giants – The Giants grasp on the 2009 playoffs is currently slippier than the plastic sheets covering the carpet in a pornographic cinema in Soho. The Chargers, like a 4 x 400m relay team, seem to put their worst performances first, and then just get better. If the Giants fail to get the W here their season could fall apart. I would love to predict a Giants loss, but I just can’t – Giants to win 19-17
 
Titans @ 49ers – One team has one win, and one team has faded after a false dawn. This again is not gonna be a beauty contest in terms of class, but I do like to see Frank Gore and Chris Johnson battling to see who is the better back on the day. Alex Smith – yuk! – Titans to keep rolling 23-20
 
Cowboys @ Eagles – My game of the week by a country mile. Romo v McNabb is worthy of being an NFC Championship matchup. I think the Vikings will have something to say about that, but it is possible. As you can see above I think the Eagles WRs are a classy young bunch that can do damage against the unfamiliar Cowboys secondary. Ill expect some turnovers and some hard hits, but the edge goes to the home team and the Eagles fans – Eagles to win 33-24
 
Steelers @ Broncos – Big fat balls – we don’t get to see MNF here in England so why should I waste my time predicting this game. I wont even see tv highlights until the Friday. This will be a great game. Josh McDaniels started the season looking like the men in white coats needed to cart him away. Now he is wearing a white coat, but it is as a scientist, who has found a formula for success. Steelers will bring the Broncos back to earth though – Steelers to win 31-21
 
Any thoughts ??
 
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Nick Halling (left) is the NFL presenter in the UK – Aren’t we lucky! (pic from http://www.cheddarheads.co.uk)

Only a year ago NFL fans in the United Kingdom were treated to so much live NFL football it was probably better to live in Birmingham, England than Birmingham, Alabama if you wanted non-stop live action in your living room.

 
We had the choice of two live games at the 1pm EST Sunday kickoff and two live games for the 4pm/4.15pm EST Sunday kickoff (all via satellite channel Sky Sports), live Sunday Night football and live Monday Night football (on terrestrial station Channel 5) and the likes of regular showings of NFL Network’s Total Access every few days and America’s Game each week (also both Sky Sports).
 
We also had live Saturday Night games, all the Thanksgiving  games and all the NFL playoffs live.
 
Now we have only one game 1pm EST Sunday and 1 game 4pm EST on Sunday (on Sky Sports), live Sunday Night football (on Channel 5), NFL Game Day (once a week) NFL Total Access a lot less frequently and a repeat of the America’s Game shows that everyone has seen twice over at least (also both Sky Sports).
 
UK fans have gained a new NFL magazine show, aired each Saturday morning. Despite the presenters being smug and just not my cup of tea, the highlights on the show are fantastic and succinct and the effort to get new fans to follow the NFL in the UK should be applauded.
 
What we in the UK have completely lost however is goddam MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL. We have also been fed some bullshit in the last two weeks from Sky Sports that they have had to significantly cut back the coverage of NFL Total Access (which is broadcast 24 hours AFTER its live in the US of A) because American advertisers are so aggressive with their sponsorship they are making the show uneditable for a UK audience.
 
Sky Sports NFL presenter Nick Halling was nervously smiling as his co-presenter Kevin ‘Monarkkks’ Cadle was forced to read out the ‘legal bit’ as to why Sky Sports were cutting the NFL Total Access airings Monday to Thursday.  
 
As a viewer and a Sky Sports subscriber I was not laughing. I am bitter about the coverage of LIVE NFL football being scaled back, as Monday Night Football this season (2009) seems to have been one classic match after the other as we reach the half-way point of the NFL regular season.
 
The guy in charge of the NFL in the UK Alistair Kirkwood should resign for his appalling handling of the live NFL coverage in the UK.
 
Mad? I’m hotter than the devil wearing five duffel coats chewing on a bag of Birds Eye chilli peppers whilst descending into the pits of hell on a fireball.
 
There are bigger things to worry about in the world I know, but depriving a UK audience from the joy of Monday Night Football is like taking the oxygen away from an ill patient in hospital. Eventually that patient will either get better and get on with their life, forgetting the past and looking for a new life, or they will wither and die, gasping for one last breath.
 
After such a great job was done to promote the NFL at Wembley just over a week ago, it seems a huge waste to keep cutting down the live NFL coverage in the UK.
 
Someone talk to the MNF people and get them to bring it back to this side of the pond. We love MNF and life is not the same without it.
 
What are YOUR thoughts on this? As a fan in the USA or in the rest of Europe what sort of coverage do you get?

It was a blowout when the New England Patriots beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium in London just over a week ago.

The Buccs looked ugly, and I tend to agree with the guy from the Florida Tuskers UFL team (the 4 team league set up this Autumn) that said they could beat Tampa Bay.

I imagine one guy who was sure glad to be part of the on-field mobbing was Patriots running back Laurence Maroney. Maroney spent 2008 injured and was not expected to be a huge ‘playa’ in 2009.

Maroney has defied his critics and is performing well in a crowded New England backfield. With Sammy Morris injured Maroney made sure he looked good in London, and his late touchdown was a just reward for his efforts.

I was lucky enough to capture his score into the Patriots painted end zone. He took two attempts to score but he looked very happy. I managed to catch his celebratory hip hit jump after the score as well as his walk back to the sideline.

Enjoy.

It wasn’t a close game, and in fact it never was going to be, as the New England Patriots bossed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from start to finish at Wembley Stadium in London, England.

Still, six total touchdowns, no rain, and a masterclass from Tom Brady was well worth the entrance fee, and the slick Patriots offense had all of the fans from across Europe hypnotised.

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It was fun to see #24 Cadillac Williams and #34 Earnest Graham warm up in front of me

I was sad not to see Randy Moss score a touchdown, but I did enjoy seeing the likes of Buccaneers RB Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams warming up in front of me, as well as witnessing Junior (oh the irony) Seau suit up and go after Josh Freeman as late as the fourth quarter.

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He may be in his 40s but #55 Junior Seau still knows how to play football

The big questions now being asked are Can London host MORE than just one NFL regular season game? and in the future could there be enough interest for England to have its very own NFL franchise?

Judging by the knowledgable fans (yes here in England we do know the difference between the Wishbone and the Wildcat, and we can spot someone who has just been found guilty of illegal motion) I think that it is possible to sustain an NFL franchise here.

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I can't wait to come back to London to see NFL football in 2010

84,000 fans made their pilgrimage to Wembley from across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and many countries across Europe. I saw people from Germany, Italy and Finland just as a start.

If Roger Goodell needs any more proof that there are dedicated and loyal NFL fans in England then I do not know what to suggest.

Thankyou Roger and thankyou to all of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organisation, including the fans in Florida. You sacrificed a home game to enable passionate NFL fans from Europe to witness real NFL football in the flesh, and we are forever grateful.

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We all went home happy after seeing Tom Brady strut his stuff at Wembley

Roll on 2010 – with maybe two NFL games in London. Can I put a bid in for the Redskins to come over please!