Here it is, 1/4 of the NFL is underway already! Time sure does fly when you’re having controversy. This week’s Fab 4 games of the week include Chicago at Dallas and the Giants at Eagles.
It’s amazing how time flies. We’re already beginning the 2nd half of our beloved NFL season, So of course, it’s time to see how your favorite team fared midway through the 2011 season. Only, instead of giving actual grades, I’m breaking them up in categories. Same analysis as ESPN, but better because it’s not so formal. So without further ado…. the midseason report cards.
The Packers deserve a column of their own. As far as NFL class goes, there’s the Packers and then there’s everyone else. No one is touching them right now and to be honest, I don’t know who will. Aaron Rodgers is playing like he’s possessed right about now. I like Green Bay but the little hater in me says they need to sit their bragging asses down somewhere. No reason why I feel that way, I’m just a little green and tired of seeing them win.
The Steelers started out old and slow, but they’ve finally got the ball rolling. They’ve been on fire the past few weeks, and have picked up from last season, thanks to the emergence of guys like Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders. The Patriots make this list because they’re still a team of concern if they’re on your schedule, but they can’t stop a nose bleed (Bart Scott voice) so unless they figure out to stop good teams, they may be in trouble….
Well I’ll Be John Brown (c/o @DragonflyJonez): Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills
I dedicate this category to my Twitter buddy, who always uses this term at the right time and better than anybody I know. Most of us looked at contenders for 2011 and didn’t think about any of these teams, for a lot of reasons. New players, lockout hangover, inconsistent or not good in years past…. for whatever reason, unless you were a fan of these teams, they simply weren’t on your radar. Well I’ll be John Brown if they aren’t now. The Bengals are 5-2 with a Top 5 defense and have shown success with Andy Dalton and AJ Green. The 49ers changed their coaching staff and brought in Jim Harbaugh and have only lost one game so far, even giving Alex Smith some life. And the Bills, who had every bounce against them in 2010 despite playing hard, are finally getting the ball in their court. The Lions are probably the least bit shocking, since they finished 2010 strong. But it’s the Lions…. you still haven’t forgotten about 0-16 and Matt Stafford gets hurt if you blow on him hard enough. Alas, no bad karma and all teams are doing big things
These teams have a winning record so they’re good based on record but we really have no idea what to expect for the 2nd half of the season. The Ravens have beaten quality opponents in Pittsburgh, Houston and the Jets, but have crapped the pot against teams they should have beaten in Tennessee and Jacksonville…… The Giants are decent, but their schedule the next 6 weeks is beyond brutal and one has to wonder will the injuries they have finally start to catch up….. The Chargers are actually starting out with a winning record for once, but QB Philip Rivers (my boo!) hasn’t looked like the Rivers of old, and fumbled control of the AFC West away last Monday night……. The Texans are good, but losing Mario Williams for the year and Andre Johnson for some time may hurt them in the long run…..The Jets have seemed to regress a little on defense, and Mark Sanchez not getting much help from his run game is an issue…..The Saints WERE in my “They are who we thought they were” column, but they lost to the Rams, The WINLESS ST. LOUIS RAMS, WITHOUT SAM BRADFORD! Yeah, they go down a notch after that one….. The Bucs have youth on their side, but their lopsided loss to San Francisco puts them in this category….. Atlanta always leaves me scratching my head at the end of their games. With all of the offensive weapons they have, I don’t see how they don’t put up 30 points easily, each week. They have some inexperience on defense that holds them to this category.
It’s not that I don’t think these teams are good or can’t be good… it’s just that I couldn’t add them in the “They’re good but” category because they’ve done something not worthy of that category. The Bears’ offensive line blocks like Cutler stole their girl……The Eagles started out slow, and with the “Dream Team” talk prior to the season, expectations were above normal so their 3-4 record is underachieving at best… The Cowboys need a TV time out with the way they’ve played football lately. I thought they’d be better than this at this point. I haven;t totally written them off, tho. They have talent….. The Chiefs started off rough (remember Matt Cassel’s blow up with HC Todd Haley on the sidelines??), but they’ve rebounded well. It’s the AFC West so it’s hard to be impressed just yet…..The Raiders looked like they were gonna have a good season before Jason Campbell went down. Oakland traded their 2012 #1 pick and a conditional pick to Cincy for Carson Palmer, but all Palmer did was stink it up in his debut. He’s not the same QB he was before 2005 and quite frankly, I wonder if Al Davis came back from the dead to make one last WTF personnel decision… Despite Carolina’s record, I’m gonna put them in this column because I seriously believe they try hard each and every week, yet fall short. This team reminds me a lot of Buffalo’s team last season. They hang in there, but can’t get the “W” in the end. I can’t be mad at that. They should be added in my next group but I love their resilience. The Titans are here by default, because they have a good record. But Chris Johnson got paid and told the Titans, “Fcuk your couch”. He’s still holding out but we didn’t know until now. With Kenny Britt going down, that hurt big time for Tennessee. Good thing is, the AFC South could be a 2-man race, and they’re still in it.
Face it- these teams’ style of play are boring and uninspiring more times than not (minus the Vikings the past 2 weeks. But that’s because Ponder now has the keys). Put yourself in my shoes…. What could you possibly say about any of these teams individually that doesn’t sound like the others in this group? Can’t figure it out? Me neither. So feel free to insert your own comment here.
I guess this group could be called the “Suck For Luck” lottery, but that’s unoriginal and overused at this point. These 4 teams stink and I’d bet my money on LSU or Alabama if they played any of these teams at this point. Probably the worst team of them all is Indy. Never have I seen a franchise fall so fast from one key player going down. That’s a direct reflection of the GM and ownership and it’s inexcusable. The Rams have some good pieces and aren’t AS bad as Indy (not saying much), but their defense isn’t that good, particularly their secondary (although they did hold NO to one offensive TD in Sunday’s win) and there isn’t a true #1 WR on the team. The Dolphins need a new makeover, period. Not only did you celebrate the FLORIDA GATORS championship in MIAMI HURRICANES-land, you let Tim Tebow beat you in the Final 5 minutes of the same game. Yeah, you suck, Miami…….. Speaking of Tebow, he is getting KILT in the media (yeah, I said it… not killed, but KILT!) on what most of us already knew: Great college player, lots of heart and passion, not going to translate into the NFL. It’s been a while since I’ve seen so much attention lay on one guy like this. Denver officially came into the Top 5 pick race as of Sunday.
Former Bears great and Hall-Of-Famer Mike Ditka has finally opened up about his thoughts on the NFL Lockout. The league is worth a blazing $9.5 million dollars a year, yet rumor has it that the owners may possibly close business if the lockout is lifted. In a call to Denverpost.com, Ditka talked about his thoughts on why it’s gotten to this point, NFL “slaves” and even Jay Cutler.
On what’s the root behind current NFL situation:
“I think to a degree, it’s a power struggle, I really do. Egos have gotten in the way of reason. I think common sense would be much better served if people would just think about the situation, think about where they’re at as players and owners in life, and try to make this thing work.”
On the “slave” parallel used by a couple of players recently:
“Some of the younger players, the comments they make don’t make any sense. Somebody saying they make $12 million a year, and they’re saying people call them a slave? I mean, I’m not sure I really understand any of this. There’s nowhere in society where you can go out and make $12 million. Nowhere! If you’re a rocket scientist, you can’t do it. You just can’t do it!”
On Mendenhall’s recent Twitter rant about Osama Bin Laden’s death:
“Football is not an end in itself, but it is a means to an end. I heard Mendenhall’s comments, and I’m shocked. As an American, I’m shocked. But he’s entitled to his own opinion.”
On Bears QB Jay Cutler:
“Jay Cutler is a talent. Nobody will argue that. I think part of playing quarterback is talent. The most important part of playing quarterback is leadership. And the way you act and the way you conduct yourself around your teammates on the sideline, with the media, all those things.
“Now, I can’t speak for Jay in the sense of, I don’t know what being a diabetic does to you. I have no idea, so I can’t really speak to that. But I’m just saying that he needs to improve his body language, and I think everybody would admit that.
“But as far as the game of football and the ability to throw the football, he does that very well. And I think the other quality we got to get to is the leadership thing. You’ve got to be able to lead as a quarterback.”
We all know the NFL Lockout is alive and kicking. Lately, we’ve heard nothing but negative stories regarding NFL players and what they’re doing with their down time. Anytime you hear Mike Vrabel getting arrested, you know there’s a problem. But there are players who have done good things for their communities, organizations and/or the world with their time. Here are a few guys who’ve been in a charitable mood and in the news for good this offseason.
Ravens S Haruki Nakamura
The backup safety of Japanese descent organized an event at Ripken Stadium in MD, which helped raised money for the relief efforts of the recent earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan. Nakamura, along with Ed Reed, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Chris Carr, Brandon McKinney and former Raven Qadry Ismail raised $60,000 that went to the Red Cross International Relief Fund.
Bears QB Jay Cutler
I’ve never been a fan of Cutler on-the-field or from a personality perspective. But Cutler has a good reputation of helping others and this offseason is no different. Cutler along with girlfriend Kristen Cavallari traveled to Kenya on a two-week trip last month with a non-profit group called OneKid, OneWorld. The town of Wamba had been without water for over 2 months. Cutler indicated that $300 lasts a few months for the town.
Redskins’ Lorenzo Alexander
The multi tasking Redskins player will lead Ride to Provide which Alexander’s ACES Foundation sponsors to primarily benefit orphans and impoverished women and children in Africa. This is the second year he’s hosted this event. The first year raised nearly $10,000.
“It takes more than just one person to make positive changes. That’s why it’s all about bringing the community together to help people, which is very important to me.”
Free agent CB Nnamdi Asomugha
The Raiders former first round draft pick and free agent held his 5th Annual Asomugha Foundation Gala in Los Angeles last month.
Cowboys LB Bradie James
The handsome starter for the Dallas Cowboys created Foundation 56, which was started in honor of his mother who died of breast cancer in 2001. The foundation has raised more than $100,000 in the fight against the disease. Free mammograms and other screenings are the focus of the foundation.
There was a time when Kansas City Chiefs kick returner Dante Hall was one of the most exciting players in the NFL. A guy known for his playmaking ability on special teams, Hall was the, “X-Factor” for the Chiefs every time he touched the field. Some say that Hall paved the way for guys like Joshua Cribbs and Devin Hester. Guys who weren’t known for doing a great deal on offense until they excelled with their special teams duty. Careers like Hall, Hester and Cribbs are all in jeopardy, thanks to the NFL Competition Committee’s new proposal.
Although the NFL is currently going through the lockout, business is being handled as usual. Last week, the competition committee submitted a proposal that will change the advantage in kickoffs, moving the kickoff up to the 35-yard line and allowing touchbacks to start at the 25-yard line. The reason they are asking for the changes are to limit the injuries during kickoffs. While I understand the idea of trying to protect the players on the field, I think this is an awful change for many reasons.
It’s no secret the NFL is an offense-driven league. Rules have been implemented and enforced over the years to give offenses the advantage on the field. But giving them 5 more yards closer to the end zone shouldn’t be one more gift. Last year, the NFL enforced helmet hits from defenders and fined them at all-time high amounts. This is yet another swipe against teams who rely heavily on their defenses, such as the Steelers, Ravens, Packers and Giants. Now, giving them 5 more yards they already don’t need could cause a firestorm amongst defenders. With a current lockout going on, adding insult to injury is something the NFL should think about at this point. AT some point you have to wonder what’s the point of having a defense on the field at all. The Peyton Manning’s, Tom Brady’s and Drew Brees’ of the league don’t need 5 spotted yards. So why should other QBs not work hard to get it?
Another reason is the value of having a good place kicker, which no longer becomes a viable need. As a Ravens fan, I am totally against this, mainly because the value that Billy Cundiff adds to my team. In 2010, he tied the league record for touchbacks, but the new changes means there is nothing special about his 2010 fete, because it allows average and subpar kickers to have that same success. Giving kickoffs 5 extra yards means Billy Cundiff is no different the others, which means having a durable kicker is being diluted to simply a guy that can put points on the board.
And lastly, the players that I mentioned in the beginning of my post. Without their special teams play, guys like Cribbs, Hall and Hester may not have been able to get other opportunities on the field, which they have been able to do. All three have been Pro Bowlers due to their great special teams play, but if most kickers have the option of kicking touchbacks to those said guys, you that’s exactly what they will do to keep the ball out of their possession.
People tend tend to look past special teams and the importance of a good one. Plays on special teams are just as important, if not more, than what players on the offense and defense can do. Special teams generate field position, something both the offense and defense rely heavily on once they hit the field. To eliminate players from giving their team that added advantage because touchbacks would be 5 yards easier takes away from great plays, something that the game needs.
I realize the NFL is always looking to make the game better and safer. But there are some things that shouldn’t be touched. The old adage of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind. This is one of them. Taking away a special teamer’s ability to give his team an advantage means the Dante Halls of the world no longer make the cover of magazines. Hopefully the committee shoots this one down. Devin Hester, Joshua Cribbs and others who have used special teams to make a mark surely would agree.
The first week of March is a grim one around the league. Teams start to trim the salary cap fat by releasing players. Usually, it’s either to get down to a decent salary cap number or to make room for other roster move. With the upcoming expiration of the CBA this week, however, it makes things harder for teams to upgrade their current rosters.
In any event, cuts still need to be made, and we’ve sen a few of them already. Here’s a few of the higher profile cuts we’ve seen so far:
Washington Redskins- RB Clinton Portis released
New York Jets- NT Kris Jenkins, LB, Vernon Gholston, LB Jason Taylor and OL Damien Woody released (although the Jets may be interested in bringing Jenkins back, who has missed 2 consecutive seasons with knee injuries)
Chicago Bears- DT Tommie Harris, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer and OL Kevin Shaffer released
New England Patriots- Expects to cut RT Nick Kaczur this week.
I’m sure we’ll hear about more cuts as the week goes on.
Fifty thousand Packers fans filled Lambeau Field yesterday to welcome and thank their Super Bowl champions in bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to its original place. Despite the fact the it was 5 degrees with a negative windchill factor, fans paid the $5 and weathered the cold to get a glimpse of the team, the trophy and to celebrate.
I love my Ravens and I’ve been out in the cold many a times to see them play. But I’ll be damned if I can hang out in weather with a -14 wind chill factor. Packers fans are probably used to it, and I’m sure it was well worth the wait. I would surely watch that at home, though…
Even my new NFL crush Aaron Rodgers looked frigid out there in the cold….
Don’t worry, Aaron. I’m here to warm you up! (if you missed my new professed love for ARodg, check it out here)
Former Bears player William “Refrigerator” Perry is dealing with a major decline in health as he battles alcoholism. Perry is currently topping off at 400 lbs, doesn’t exercise and is dealing with the overwhelming need to have a drink every single day.
We hear about most former players battling pain killer addiction and other drugs, but never really alcoholism. Most of us know someone that’s battling this awful disease, so Perry’s struggles are too familiar to a lot of folks. Hopefully he can get the help he needs before it’s too late.
And finally, I found this pretty awesome video via courant.com. UConn QB Johnny McEntee did a video with a bunch of trick plays while throwing the pigskin around. The redshirt junior doesn’t have any stats to quote, which is probably why he made this video. Looks to me like he’s vying for some playing time for 2011. If he’s as accurate with blitzing LBs on him as he is in this video, I say give the boy a chance!