Archive for January, 2011

The sun never shines for opponents on Revis Island

Some say the conference championship games are better than the Super Bowl itself, and I tend to agree.

This season we have a couple of classics to look forward to, minus Tom Brady, Brett Favre or Peyton Manning.

With the exception of Ben Roethlisberger we are looking at the possibility of two quarterbacks facing each other in their inaugural Vince Lombardi trophy contest.

I have even booked the Monday off work so I can stay up until the early hours to watch every play of both games.

I have always loved NFC and AFC championship day, and I have many many fond memories of some outstanding contests at the semi-final stage. Games like the 49ers v Giants when Joe Montana was knocked into another world, the Bills murdering the Oakland Raiders 51-3 (if I recall) and the Redskins reaching Super Bowl XXII on the back of a Darrell Green end zone deflection.

NFC Championship – Packers @ Bears

Back in September 2010 I predicted that the Green Bay Packers would make the NFC Championship – as the home team. Aaron Rodgers looked good in 2009 and it was inevitable that he was on the career path travelling in an ascending pattern.

In no way did I see the Chicago Bears as the team that would be the highest seed remaining in the NFC. The knock on the Bears was the rather hotchpotch wide receiver corps, the immaturity of Jay Cutler and the fact Brian Urlacher was coming of a major injury.

As it turned out the bitter divisional rivals have both had extremely productive seasons, with the Packers playing the better playoff football, and here we are with two 12 win teams playing for the right to represent the NFC in Dallas.

Gotta love the fact that the Bears only previous Super Bowl winning MVP is gonna be at Soldier Field tonight as an honorary captain. This sure is one game where the Bears could use the punch packed by their 85 compatriots.

Keys to the game

  • Can the Bears establish the run? For the Bears to keep this one close they are going to have to keep the pigskin away from the red-hot Aaron Rodgers, and this means a large dose of Matt Forte and a decent cameo from former Viking Chester Taylor.
  • Can the Bears use the speed of Johnny Knox and Devin Hester? Speed kills, and the Bears combo of Knox and Hester are hard to outrun in an open field. The pair lack consistency and that is their big downfall. You would not want to start either in your fantasy team, but one slip or one missed tackle and they could be blazing up the field for an 80 yard score.
  • Can the Packers get pressure on Jay Cutler? We all know about the Giants nailing Cutler more times than a carpenter on double-time, but the Bears learnt from that game and the offensive line is now much improved, if not by personnel but definitely by technique. The Packers love blitzing safeties or even Charles Woodson, but this will no longer be a surprise. It comes down to the likes of B.J. Raji getting pressure or not.
  • Can the Packers play balanced offensive football? The Packers went out and whipped the Falcons last week. The game turned on the late second quarter pick six, or we would likely be talking about Matty Ice right now. The Pack love to pass pass pass, but they need to run the ball 25 times to win this game.

Prediction – A lot lower scoring than many will anticipate, both defenses will outplay their offensive counterparts, and this will result in a tense contest that will come down to a Robbie Gould field goal for the late win – Packers 19-20 Bears – Game MVP Matt Forte – 125 combined yards and a TD.

To buy an Aaron Rodgers Reebok shirt direct from England click here

AFC Championship Jets @ Steelers

The only team to return to the conference championship game this season is the New York Jets, a team that has made more enemies this year than Darth Vader on a Sunday morning with a hangover. The Jets have the spirit of Namath with them, having turned old-fashioned confidence into 21st century swagger.

The Steelers have been there, done that, got the t-shirt and can sit there admiring each of their six Vince Lombardi trophies, two of which they earned under the leadership of big Ben Roethlisberger and the Peter Pan of the NFL Hines ‘the smiler’ Ward. The Steelers have stepped into the AFC Championship game thanks to some fantastic adjustments executed to perfection in the second half of their game against the team I thought would win it all, the Baltimore Ravens.

Heinz Meanz Beanz Field will be full of raucous Steelers fans waving their yellow terrible towels, and for all NFL fans in England we will have to suffer the biased presenting of Steelers fan and presenter Nick Halling, who will no doubt be wearing the same stinky old black suit, black shirt and yellow tie.

Keys to the game

  • Can the Jets offensive line limit the damage caused by the Steelers pass rush? Its not a case of the Big Apple offensive line completely preventing the likes of Woodley and Harrison from getting to Mark Sanchez, it’s a case of damage limitation. Jets will not stop the attack, but they can slow the pressure down. That and the fact Tony Richardson will take on and block anyone – even Andre the Giant with Troy Polamalu on his shoulders.
  • Can the Jets shut down the explosive Mike Wallace? Simple answer is yes. Revis Island is a destination that no one wants to visit but wide outs end up arriving at the same destination week after week. Revis will blanket his side of the field and this will leave a huge battle between Antonio Cromartie and his own demons.
  • Can the Steelers get the ball to Heath Miller? The tight end will be one of the keys to this game, as he always seems to show up for Big Ben when it matters the most. Hines Ward is slowing down and Randle El as a slot back scares nobody. Miller is one of the top red-zone threats and whilst he may disappear in games, he knows the fundamentals of blocking and catching and most importantly how to win football games.
  • Can the rookie Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey show his team mates how to block? Pouncey has played like an All Pro all season long, but that cannot be said of Pittsburgh’s entire offensive line who have either been inconsistent or injured. Pouncey is looking to become the new Jeff Saturday, an indestructible force that makes his somewhat average ranked team mates play better. The weaknesses at guard and tackle for the Steelers could be fatal today.

Prediction – The Jets simply want this game more, and like wolves needing to feed to survive, they will hunt down Big Ben and the Steelers until they have had their full feed. There to stop the Jets will be the one man Tasmanian devil Troy Polamalu, with all his hair and his hitting. The Jets simply have the bodies that can match up to the Steelers, and providing Mark Sanchez stays cool then we will witness the birth of swagger. Jets 23-19 Steelers – MVP Shonn Greene with over 100 yards rushing (including breaking one for over 30 yards).

To buy a Mark Sanchez Reebok shirt direct from England click here

So I have a New York Jets v Chicago Bears Super Bowl – the two underdogs today.

What do you think of my prediction and who are you rooting for?

Advertisements

 

Alex Smith now has a big offseason advantage

 

I have heard of some NFL teams buying themselves success, I should know all about it as a lifelong Redskins fan.

Spending ridiculous amounts on veterans who are past their prime used to be the way owners would try to move from 2-14 to 14-2 in a year.

It seems though that things have drastically changed, and one NFL team has decided that they would acquire some help from above.

The San Francisco 49ers, fresh from removing former Super Bowl winning linebacker turned coach, Mike Singletary, have hired none other than Chryst the Lord.

Yes the five times world champions have gone and scooped the signature of Geep Chryst, as their new quarterbacks coach.

According to the 49ers news release Chryst enters is 19th season in the NFL, having recently served as the tight ends/offensive quality control coach with the Carolina Panthers. That’s the 2-14 Panthers, the only team in the NFL to finish the 2010 regular season having scored UNDER 200 points in 16 games (196).

It doesn’t end there.

I couldn’t make the next fact about Chryst up if I drunk a gallon of Vodka and Red Bull and was asked to write something truly bizarre.  In 1992 Chryst, a former Princetown linebacker,  who hadn’t played a down of football for eight years, made one of the bizarrest cameos in sports history, serving as the long snapper for the former World League of American Football’s Orlando Thunder franchise.

Through Chryst’s  divine intervention (lasting a full 15 days) in 1992 the Thunder reached World Bowl (World Bowl II) that season, losing out to the Sacramento Surge 21-17.

Chryst then retired and was reborn as a coach, and seven years later (in 1999) he was working for the San Diego Chargers, coaching a quarterback by the name of Jim Harbaugh.

Yes that’s the SAME Jim Harbaugh that is now the head coach of the 49ers.

Man it’s a small world – and now Chryst is here to teach QB Alex Smith to walk on water. Let’s hope he does a better job than he did in Carolina, or the fans will dead unhappy and be very cross.

 

Posted: January 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

free counters

The road to Super Bowl XLV gets extremely interesting this weekend as we will be whittling down from eight to a fantastic four – with no Thing or man with rubber arms in sight.

Gone are the current AFC and NFC champions, both knocked out in the Wild Card round last week.

Ready to make their 2011 playoff debut are the Patriots, Steelers, Falcons and Bears – the top four seeds in the NFL this season.

Joining them are the survivors from last week, the Packers, the miracle 8-9 Seahawks (still with a losing record despite a playoff win), the J-E-T-S and the Baltimore Ravens.

Without further ado it’s prediction time……

Jets @ Patriots – Following the absolute slaughter of the Jets by the Bellicheck machine known simply as the Pats this should be deemed as a New England walkover. Brady is fresh from a week off, spent combing his hair and applying expensive Hollywood folicle product. Sanchez on the other hand tried his best to lose the game last week according to many NFL hacks, and he was rescued from oblivion by a late Antonio Cromartie kickoff return and some kicking heroics. This game will, I have no doubt, see the Jets madder than hell because they wont take it anymore, and despite all the smoke being blow up the Patriots asses, I have this as a Jets win. Why you may ask? Well firstly the Jets have a quality running game blending the shifty Shonn Greene and the veteran, but so far Super Bowl ring-less Ladanian Tomlinson. IN one of the Pats losses this season Peyton Hillis ran for a devastating 184 yards as the Browns cruised to an upset win. Sanchez has a 3-1 record in the playoffs in only his second NFL season – a remarkable achievement considering he is perceived as inaccurate and lacking big play dynamism. Brady has a lot of weapons, more than the host of a terrorist gun amnesty convention, but he can be rattled. The Pats may have a quality team but I just feel that this is not their time, and for the Jets this is part of the stars aligning. I also cant help but see a vision of Brad Smith, the modern day slash (not the Guns ‘n’ Roses guitarist), doing something special.

Prediction – Jets 23-20 Patriots – MVP the Jets offensive line helping the team rush for 180 yards.

Ravens @ Steelers – If this was a few thousand years ago it would be a prize gladiatorial fight between Spartapolamalu and Spartalewis in the amphitheatre of your nightmares. As it is the 2011 version wont be much different, with blood, sweat, tears and likely some body parts being left on the field at the end of this battle. The Steelers have the experience and the QB with two hand-crafted rings full of Pittsburgh shaped jewels. The Ravens have a mixture of youth (QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice) along with some grizzled veteran wideouts and TE in Anquan Boldin (who faced the Steelers in the Super Bowl two seasons ago) TJ Houshmananzadddehhhahahahaaaahahahahah and the second coming of Todd Heap. The Steelers have in my humble opinion the most underrated starting running back in the NFL Rashard Mendenhall, and possibly the best deep threat wide receiver to play in the league in the last 5 years in the form of Mike Wallace. It’s not rocket science but this game will come down to turnovers – if any team makes three they will not make it past this weekend. Yes I expect a close game, and this time I’ll go with the Ravens in the second AFC upset of the weekend. Providing Ray Rice can chew up the clock, Willis McGahee can vulture two red zone scores and Baltimore can end up with a ground shaking win and a matchup for Rex Ryan’s former team versus his current team in the AFC Championship.

Prediction – Ravens 24-19 Steelers – MVP Willis McGahee two short scores – one late to seal the win.

Packers @ Falcons – There is a lot of love out there for the Green Bay Packers, and a distinct lack of respect for the 13-3 Falcons, who boast a 7-1 home record. Matty Ice has shown he can lead a team to a division crown and the best record in the NFC conference, but still they seem to be underestimated. The Pack have lost 5 games already away from the chilly tundra of Wisconsin, and whilst the Georgia Dome turf may suit them as a pass first team, they will be playing the house of the Clean Birds with no facility to Lambeau Leap. Packers RB James Starks came from nowhere to post gaudy figures against the Eagles, but a repeat performance will be much harder. This will be a big game for Falcons DE John Abraham, who will be sniffing out Aaron Rodgers like a fox after some chicken bones in a bin bag. This will also be time for former Chargers #2 rb to show the world why he is a #1 RB and a quality one at that. The Falcons have the ability to stretch the field with future Canton enshrinee TE Tony Gonzales, and the league’s top wideout Roddy White, but it will be Turner’s ability to keep the Packers honest that will be the biggest factor in this game. The Packers love to use defensive back blitz packages, but the towering Matt Ryan should be able to see them coming and use Gonzales as a perfect outlet en-route to a second consecutive home playoff game next week.

Prediction – Falcons 31-27 Packers – MVP Matt Ryan 255 yards and three touchdown passes.

Seahawks @ Bears – Two division winners facing each other for the second time this season in the Windy City, one with a quarterback who has played in a Super Bowl, and one who’s gun-slinger looks like he has a man’s body with a petulant child’s head on top. The Seahawks are capable of going back to Chicago and taking away a victory, but I am predicting a grizzly bear mauling by Peppers Idonoje and Urlacher come the weekend match-up. This could finally be the game Devin Hester shows up as a starting wide receiver, but we are more likely to see Charlie Whitehurst get a military buzz cut first. The key to the Bears moving up and down the field will be the big play capability of Johnny Knox and the ability for Mike Martz to swallow his pride and give the rock to Matt Forte. The Seahawks will be able to match the Bears offensively, but they will not be able to prevent the Bears D from menacing Hasslebeck all day long. I predicted a Hawks win last week, but this time they will come unstuck, the Bears will be ready with a honey trap. Kick to Hester at your own peril.

Prediction – Bears 27 – 10 Seahawks – MVP Matt Forte – 160 combined yards and 2 touchdowns.

Your thoughts…………………………………….

 

It’s day two of the 2011 NFL wild card playoffs and two mouthwatering games. As we only have 30 mins until the first kickoff I’ll get straight to it. I have the two teams with wings ready to take flight into the second round of the playoffs.

I predict
Eagles 27-24 Packers – MVP Vick with 250 passing and 50 rushing
Ravens 19-10 Chiefs – MVP Ray Rice 115 rushing yards 1 td

Big Mike is due a big day - why not in the playoffs!

Some say Christmas begins 25 December, not true if you ask me, the real winter festivities begin today with the NFL 2011 Wild Card playoff games.

Having the two Super Bowl finalists from last season playing this weekend simply adds to the fun, and a 7-9 team in the mix makes this 4 games full of intrigue, mystery and intensity.

Saturday 8 Jan 2011

Saints @ Seahawks – This should simply be a no contest, a 7-9 team with two underwhelming quarterbacks against the current Super Bowl holders. Only problem is once you reach the NFL playoffs everyone is equal. That’s right the Seattle Seahawks must be respected and for some godforsaken reason I cant shake the idea that the Saints will come into this one thinking they have to do no more than turn up to take away the prize known as victory. For that reason I am going to test my own sanity and call a Seahawks win, on the back of some miracle catches from Mike Williams. After being out of the NFL in 2008 and 2009 Big Mike has had a great season, with 65 catches for 751 yards. Almost 2 in 3 of his catches have resulted in First Downs. With the Saints heading into the contest without their two best running backs (no I’m not forgetting Reggie Bush but I see him as a wide-back and not a running back) and with a lack of form, this could be an upset for the ages. The ‘Hawks are at home and whilst that means little for some games it is damm noisy in the chilly quarters of Washington State.

NFL Fan in England prediction – Seahawks 23-20 Saints – Game MVP Matt Hasselbeck 235 yards and 2 tds

Jets @ Colts – I don’t think ill make it much past the kickoff in term of watching this live (thanks Sky+ for rescucing my playoff experience) but this looks like a mouthwatering game between two bitter rivals. The Jets and the Colts have been divisional rivals in the past, and they met in the AFC championship game just over a year ago. The form books have shown that Peyton Manning looks like he is finally slowing down, finishing the 2010 season with his lowest rating in 8 seasons. Not that finishing with a 91.9 rating is acceptable for any mortal – but Peyton is no human being, he is a human CPU with a helluva arm. The Jets thought they were Super Bowl champions before the opening kickoff this season, but after their humiliating loss to the Pats they have proven they are not ready to be a champion yet.

NFL Fan in England prediction – Colts 33-16 Jets – Game MVP Jospeh Addai 101 rushing yards and 2 tds

 

Charlie and all his excess hair have taken a 7-9 team to the playoffs

 

 

It was with a sense of morbid curiosity that I sat at home this morning watching the Seattle Seahawks take on the St Louis Rams for the right to punch their ticket to the dance.

Could a team going into week 17 with 6 wins and a backup quarterback and the worst rushing offense in the entire NFL make it into the playoffs? YES

Was it all a bad dream? NO

Hirsute Charlie Whitehurst fought off Sam Bradford and all of his rookie passing records (attempts and completions) to beat the St Louis Rams in an ugly ugly game.

This was always going to come down to the field goal units making the difference and lo and behold Olindo Mare came up with the goods – 10 points worth of goods, the eventual winning margin.

The reward for this scrappy victory is a home playoff game against the current Super Bowl champions the New Orleans Saints.

Yes we are in very strange times indeed. In fact I’m still not sure that I’m used to the Saints as the holders of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, so it is only fitting that their long road to retaining their shiny silver trophy starts in a wet and cold Seattle, Washington State.

All the Saints fans better stock up on coffee as I have a very odd feeling that the 7-9 Seahawks could do some serious damage at home, despite their how do I say it poor record.

We knew in September 2010 that we were in for the possibility of a team with a losing record making the playoffs, and now this has become a reality.

Teams like the 10-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 10-6 New York Giants will be spitting in their off-season spittoons knowing they won three more games each than the ‘Hawks, yet they will be watching the playoffs from the comfort of their living rooms.

No-one thought the Arizona Cardinals would reach the Super Bowl a few years ago, and god no I’m not predicting the Seahawks to make the Super Bowl in 2011, but it seems stranger things have happened.

Being at home in the playoffs and going in on the back of a hard-fought and emotional victory is always better than limping in on the back of a loss.

Maybe Charlie will continue to take the glass elevator upwards – I’m sure of one thing, the game on Saturday will be a giant peach of a contest !