Archive for August, 2013

Time for my annual guess at a Super Bowl winner - this time the luck winner is the Atlanta Falcons

Time for my annual guess at a Super Bowl winner – this time the luck winner is the Atlanta Falcons

Forget the calls for a three-peat or for ‘one for the thumb’, there is always something special about an NFL franchise winning its first ever Super Bowl.

In my lifetime I have seen (live on tv in England in the early hours of the morning that is) seven teams with their inaugural Vince Lombardi Trophy;

  • New York Giants (1987) – first of four
  • Denver Broncos (1998) – first of two
  • St Louis Rams (2000) – only title
  • Baltimore Ravens (2001) – first of two
  • New England Patriots (2002) – first of three
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2003) – only title
  • New Orleans Saints (2010) – only title

Now I am not including the 2007 Indianapolis Colts in this list as they were the Baltimore Colts who were winners back in 1971.

So why the lengthy reminiscence? Well I am convinced we are going to add another new team to the first-time trophy club this upcoming season.

NFL FAN IN ENGLAND’s 2013 NFL 2013-14 SEASON PREDICTIONS

NFC East – Washington Redskins

NFC West – San Francisco 49ers

NFC South – Atlanta Falcons

NFC North – Detroit Lions

NFC Wild Cards – Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks

NFC Championship – Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons

NFC Representative – Atlanta Falcons

AFC East – New England Patriots

AFC West – Denver Broncos

AFC South – Houston Texans

AFC North – Cincinnati Bengals

AFC Wild Cards – Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs

AFC Championship – Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans

AFC Representative – Cincinnati Bengals

Super Bowl XLVIII winner – Atlanta Falcons

Super Bowl MVP – Matty Ice Ryan – QB Atlanta Falcons

Offensive Player of the Year – Colin Kaepernick QB San Francisco 49ers

Defensive Player of the Year – Luke Kuechely LB Carolina Panthers

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Eddie Lacy RB Green Bay Packers

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Jon Bostic ILB Chicago Bears

NFL MVP – Aaron Rodgers QB Green Bay Packers

Comeback Player of the Year – Darelle Revis CB Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Coach of the Year – Marvin Lewis – Cincinnati Bengals

Most Improved Team – Kansas City Chiefs

Biggest Disappointment Team – Toss up between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers

The Atlanta Falcons were so close last season to reaching their second Super Bowl last season that they could almost taste the promised land. This was with a starting running back that was slower than a snail without an agenda.

Now the Falcons have Steven Jackson in the backfield, admittedly no rocket launcher, but certainly a huge upgrade with soft hands and a ‘win it all now’ attitude following a decade in St Louis that many consider wasted.

Future Hall of Fame tight-end Tony Gonzales is back for a Balboa-esque ‘one last shot’ at a title, having finally shaken the playoff win monkey off his back last season.

I know that defense wins championships and the Falcons defense is certainly no ’85 Bears vintage, but they have the playoff experience, the hunger and a nice blend of veteran experience (DE Osi Umenyiora and CB Asante Samuel) youth (rookie starting CB Desmond Trufant) and those with experience who are not household names but play hard (LB Akeem Dent and DE Kroy Biermann).

It’s hard to equal the talent of Atlanta’s number one and two wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White.

The biggest problem for the Falcons is quality of depth. If one ore more of the big names goes down with injury then this will have a huge effect on the team being able to get a 13-3 regular season record. If they remain fully fit and can get a bit of luck, then the likes of the 49ers and Seahawks will be beatable.

The trend for multi-dimensional quarterbacks will not go away this year, and studs like Russell Wilson, RG3 and Colin Kaepernick will make lots of headlines, but you don’t win conference championships with wideouts like Golden Tate, Josh Morgan or Jon Baldwin.

Joe Flacco went from lukewarm to boiling hot in the playoffs last year, I think that Matt Ryan can do the same, and having the feeling of being a touchdown away from a Super Bowl will have been on his mind for the last nine months.

I raise my glass of  (Matty) Iced (Georgia) Peach to my Super Bowl XLVIII paper champions the Atlanta Falcons.

Cue the ridicule…………………..

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dawsonI would like to think I am quite a knowledgable NFL fan, one who knows his Red Grange from his Green Bay Packers.

I pride myself in knowing some facts and figures about the history of the game, and I love to read about previous NFL drafts and then track who made it to the Hall of Fame and who crashed and burned once they turned pro.

I also pride myself in being born and bred (up to the age of 18) in the town of Dorking in Surrey. Famous for its antique shops, for Box Hill (where the 2012 Olympic cycling road race came through) and even a five-toed cockerel, Dorking has a rich history that dates back to the Domesday book.

I was in fact named Lawrence, in part, due to another Dorking born namesake, classic actor Laurence Olivier.

Now having loved american football since I was 11 (in 1985) I am ashamed to say that it took until August 2013 to realise that a first round NFL draft pick was actually born in Dorking on October 15 1953.

Just yesterday I was at my local retail park and I popped into the newsagent WHSmiths with my usual blind optimism that I would find an NFL publication on the sports shelf, something that has not materialised for many many years for me. So when I spotted an american football preview magazine hidden amongst Carp World and WWE magazine I was stunned to say the least.

I whipped it off the shelf and immediately saw that the three cover stars of the Lindy’s Sports Pro Football Preview 2013 magazine were Ben Roethlisberger, Adrian Petersen and Colin Kaepernick, the three biggest named superstars heading to play in London in September and October this year in some NFL games that actually count.

Eager to get tucked into the team previews I spotted a feature article about Brits who had played in the NFL. Now I knew about some of the names already, the likes of two-time Super Bowl winners Lawrence Tynes (from Scotland) and Osi Umenyora (born to a military family in England), former lily-white kickers John Smith (Patriots) and Mick Luckhurst (Falcons) and Scott McCready who was a former Patriots wideout and the first British born player to win a Super Bowl ring (with the Patriots).

I also knew about the current Brits in the NFL from Jack Crawford and Menelik Watson (both Oakland Raiders) to undrafted free agent Lawrence Okoye (49ers).

What stunned me was that 36 British born players have started in the NFL, and many of them I did not recognise by name. What blew me off my chair was that one of these English born NFL players was born in my home town of Dorking, Surrey and I had no idea.

That person was former Arizona University defensive lineman Mike Dawson, drafted 22nd overall in the 1976 NFL draft by the St Louis Cardinals. Dawson played nine seasons in the NFL, including stints for the Detroit Lions and the Kansas City Chiefs, making 91 starts in 113 games.  As sacks were only officially recorded from 1982 Dawson is only accredited with 5.5 in his career but I am pretty confident he had many more.

I am sad to report that Dawson died in 2008 aged just 54, passing away from a suspected heart attack. Turns out he was a highly decorated player, having won two state championships for Tuscon High School in Arizona (1971-2) and gaining Parade All-American status. He also is in the University of Arizona Hall of Fame and was a second Team All-American during his college career in the mid 70s.

Dawson played in one post-season game for the Cardinals in January 1983, a 41-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers in chilly Lambeau Field. Dawson’s team-mate on the day was running back Ottis Anderson, who went on to become a Super Bowl MVP in 1991 for the New York Giants.

Crazy fact about Dawson – he is listed at the 10th most popular person born in Dorking on the IMDB website, for his appearances as ‘himself’ in Monday Might Football contests in the 70s.

I am proud to say that my birth town is the same one as an NFL veteran, now I need to find out more about how he went from Dorking to Arizona. Not your typical bus ride in the leafy suburban world of sleepy Surrey.

My pre-season performer of the day Dolphins UFA WR Keenan Davis

My pre-season performer of the day Dolphins UFA WR Keenan Davis

Praise the lord, in fact praise all people in all religions you are supposed to priase as we are finally back to some real NFL action ON the field. Off the field it has been another period of arrests, season-ending injuries and roster moves, but the stuff that happens away from the gridiron can finally play second fiddle to the action on it. Thanks to my wife, mother in law and brother in law I am now the proud owner of a one year subscription to NFL Game Pass, so this morning, before work I was able to have a coffee and watch a delightful 30 minute condensed video package of the first pre-season NFL game of 2013. Sipping a cappucino that was not as hot as I wanted I viewed the Miami Dolphins take on the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game. The jury is still out on the Dolphins new glow in the dark uniform, as it is with Miami’s second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who looked very average in his first quarter cameo. One player that did catch my eye was touchdown scorer rookie undrafted free agent wide receiver Keenan Davis. Davis was originally picked up by the Cleveland Browns as a free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft before being cut in late July. He was only signed by the Dolphins last week, but he made a good impression on me with his three catches (for 47 yards).   Another very interesting prospect playing in the game was another WR, this time a Dallas Cowboys player named Jared Green. Green had a great 4th quarter 32 yard catch to surprisingly lead all Dallas receivers by yards on the day. Nothing remarkable to report, but Jared is the son of Hall of Fame enshrinee Darrell Green, the former Washington Redskins cornerback. It does not rest easily for me as a Redskins fan to see Green wearing a silver helmet with a star on it, but if he manages to stay on the team beyond the Pre-Season I will be pleased as punch for him. Green let me interview him last season when he was picked up by the Carolina Panthers, so I am very happy he has resurfaced with another opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps. As I swigged down my coffee it struck me that I must not take for granted that I can sit in the basement of a well known hot drinks establishment in the middle of England watching extensive highlights of the first pre-season game of the season. If we go back 20 years there was no way of finding out NFL pre-season scored without waiting a week for First Down magazine to publish results when it was put on news stands on a Thursday morning. We go back ten years and whilst there was decent internet coverage, we did not have smart phones with the ability to stream NFL games wirelessly on an HD screen no bigger than a pack of playing cards. Now I can watch the game live, watch the full game the next day, watch highlights or even watch the game shot in the way that real NFL coaches use to evaluate talent. Face it NFL fans are spolit for choice. Before you say it no this post is not sponsored by NFL Game Pass, I figure I am just in the honeymoon period of my new online relationship with the NFL, plus we are finally back to some real football, and nothing apart from spending time with my wife and daughter makes me happier.