Posted on: September 17, 2008 2:53 am

Weeks one and two in review.

Well, we've completed two weeks in the NFL's regular season already.  It seems hard to believe we're 1/8th of the way through the season, but we are.  It's already been a VERY strange season, and it only seems like it will get stranger.  Let's look at some things I said in the previous entry and see what's unfolded.

First of all, Colts fans and fellow Pats fans have nothing to worry about.  Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are the two best quarterbacks in the league.  Minor injuries that kept them out of preseason will not change that.  They will both start Week One.  Brady should have a field day with the Chiefs, including Brandon Flowers, the only rookie cornerback starting to begin the season.  Peyton Manning figures to have a slightly tougher game, playing the Bears, who generally offer a tough defense.  Thankfully for fans of both teams, both quarterbacks will be playing on their home fields (Manning makes his first start in the new dome...how will that come into play?).

Well, in case you haven't heard it, neither one of those games went very well.  Peyton Manning looked lost and confused against the Bears, and he also struggled against the Vikings.  They began the season with a loss for the first time in...well, a while.  Brady was unable to lead his team to a score.  Both of the Patriots first two drives ended with a wide receiver fumbling the catch away.  Oh, and if you didn't hear it, my buddy tore his ACL and MCL.  I don't think he'll be coming back for a few weeks.  A speedy recovery, Brady.  In the mean time, we turn to Matt Cassel.

So um, I guess I was dead wrong there.

Next question.  It's Brett Favre.  Look up every career passing record in existence.  Brett Favre owns it.  He'll make it work.
He nearly lost to the Dolphins, who managed exactly ONE win last year.  He lost his home opener as a Jet to the Patriots, with a rookie quarterback.  Isn't Brett Favre supposed to be the rookie killer?  He still has a while to make it work, but so far, I'm not impressed (throwing a floater up on fourth and a million, only to have a wideout make a leaping catch for a touchdown is NOT skill; it's luck).

Eli Manning has progressed as a quarterback, but don't expect him to be able to be called elite just yet.  He still has a lot of work to be on that top tier of quarterbacks (I put four guys there currently....Romo being the fourth, behind Brady, Big Manning, and Favre, of course).  I don't expect the Giants to return to the playoffs this year, but they do have the potential to do so.  Don't blame Eli though - blame the fact their two best defensive players are gone (and if there is any doubt how important those two guys were to the championship, you clearly didn't watch the Super Bowl).  For the second year in a row, the Giants open up with a loss.
I still do not think the Giants will return to the playoffs.  However, they certainly have proved my theory about the potential to do so was correct - they opened with a solid win over the Redskins (so much for THAT call) and then beat up the Rams (so did a middle school, I heard).  Eli has looked pretty good, but I'm still not ready to call him elite.  The Rams defense looks horrible, and honestly, I'm not convinced the Redskins have that great of a defense since their tragic lost to Sean Taylor.  I will say, he has certainly progressed and if he continues to play like he has against some tougher teams (such as Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or Denver) I'll say he's getting really damned close to that elite category.

Shawne Merriman will not be the dominant pass rusher he's used to being.  After totaling nearly 40 sacks in only three years in the league, I expect him to fail to reach double digit sacks for the first time in his career.

If I'm not mistaken, he's getting season-ending surgery.  At least I managed to get that right.

Chad Eight Five will be a solid receiver; however, he will not be the tops in any statistical category and his production should drop a bit.
He's on my fantasy team.  He's been downright disappointing (but he still has a lot of football to go...if he can get two or three outstanding games, and play solid the rest of the year, he can make All-Pro) so far.  I guess I've been right to this point, but I'd rather win my fantasy league than be right about a mediocre performance in a meaningless blog.

I expect Jason Taylor to return to his 2006 Defensive Player of the Year form, or at least close to it.
I doubt it.

McGahee should be able to rebound, but look for Ray Rice to make a big debut with Willis trying to heal some.
Ray Rice had a solid game in Week One.  Remember, their quarterback is a rookie.  Rice is a rookie.  Their head coach is a rookie.  The list goes on.  So while the win they got to open the season might not have been incredibly awe inspiring or a dominant performance, they'll gladly take the win.

I've already stated many times that Matt Ryan will get the Ravens to 6 - 10.  Not outstanding, but a big jump from where they were last year (when you take into consideration he's only played in four NFL games).
1 - 1.  He had an outstanding debut, throwing a 62 yard touchdown on his first pass.  That's a hell of a lot better than Tom Brady, Brett Favre, and Peyton Manning did when they made their first start.  Granted, they played a defense that also allowed a Falcons-record 220 rushing yards to Michael Turner (making his first start).  He then got picked apart and beat down by a tough Tampa defense.  Still, 1 - 1 is not a bad place for him to be.

Jonathan Stewart will haul in Rookie of the Year honors. So far, so good.  DeSean Jackson opened up with back to back 100 yard performances.  If I recall correctly, it was said he's the first guy to do that since 1940.  If Jackson can find the endzone (and not celebrate reaching the 1 yard line...) he should be able to push Stewart for the position.  As stated, Darren McFadden can make it interesting (he had a hell of a game against the Chiefs).  However, I'll take the guy who helped beat the Chargers and the Bears over getting blown out by the Broncos and beating the Chiefs....of course, there's 14 games left.  You never know who'll explode.

On a side note, how about Jerod Mayo?  He's quietly sitting in the middle of the Patriots defense, making solid tackles play after play.  He hasn't made any huge plays for the defense yet, but he's certainly adding speed, youth, and big play capability to the middle of a defense that many people had labeled as suspect.

As far as last year's guys, expect Peterson to challenge Tomlinson for the best back title - "All Day" has already stated his goal for every year, not just this year, is 2,000 yards and there's little reason to think it's not a realistic possibility to at least come close. Through two games, Peterson has around 250 rushing yards.  If he averages 125 yards per game the rest of the season, he should come literally within yards of the 2,000 barrier.  Meanwhile, LaDainian Tomlinson has a toe injury and didn't have much of a game at all against the Broncos last week.  Strangely, both running backs saw their teams open up 0 - 2....for two teams that were being talked about as Super Bowl candidates, that's not a strong first impression.  Of course, we didn't expect the Giants to make the playoffs after opening 0 - 2 last year and look how that turned out for them.

Oh, and that Patrick Willis kid should do well in San Francisco again.  Not enough to be Defensive Player of the Year (I actually am giving that to Champ Bailey), but someone might give him consideration.Patrick Willis ran back an interception for a touchdown last week.  Champ Bailey picked off Philip Rivers.  Last year's interception leader got destroyed for about 15 completions against Brandon Marshall last week...I'm inclined to think his 10 picks last year were more of a result from being incredibly athletic and being not so well known.  Now the secret's out, and he's forced to rely on pure coverage skills - something apparently lacking.  The current sack leader is John Abraham - who?!  In his ninth year (second with the Falcons, after a solid career with the Jets) he has four sacks.  Justin Tuck is a possible candidate, with three sacks and a pick six.

Some opinions on different things around the league.
  • Sorry about the call, Chargers.  It's part of the game though.  You have plenty of opportunities, so don't blame the refs for the loss.  Instead, blame the fact you allowed 39 points.
  • The Seahawks should NOT win their division this year.  How do you lose a game 33 - 30 after holding a team to 13 in the first half (while scoring 20), notching eight sacks, recovering a fumble for a touchdown, holding the other team's star running back to three yards per carry, and holding them to field goals on four drives...while being at home (with your twelfth man?!).  Simple - throw two interceptions, including a pick six, get a terrible PI call, and refuse to make tackles the last half of the game.
  • Yes, they lost.  Yes, they allowed a lot of points.  Yes, they got some big sacks at the end of the game when they needed to march down the field for a touchdown.  Even still, I am more impressed with the Philadelphia Eagles following their Monday Night Game than the Cowboys.  Don't get me wrong - the Cowboys were clearly the better team.  However, many said Dallas would have little competition on their way to the Super Bowl.  They said they would dominate teams like the Patriots of last year.  The Eagles were expected to roll over, like last year's 6 - 10 squad.  Instead, the Eagles came out swinging, netting almost nearly the same yardage as Dallas.  Donovan McNabb threw for 281 yards, while Brian Westbrook manged to find the end zone twice (including a dive over the entire offensive and defensive lines).  They held Terrell Owens to three catches (although two were for scores).  Despite a game featuring Owens, Jason Witten, and Patrick Crayton I actually think the rookie Jackson looked like the best receiver out there (catching six passes for 110 yards).  Former Patriot, turned Super Bowl sealing-interception dropper, Asante Samuel came up with his first pick as an Eagle.  If I was an Eagles fan, my only concern would be the last drive, where the Eagles were dominated when needing a score.
  • Why can't a team close a damned game?  Vikings.  Seahawks.  Saints.  Broncos.  Chargers.   Bears.  You're never going to win if you can't prevent big plays and long drives near the end of the game when you're nursing slight leads.
  • These Patriots might be a better unit than the 2007 squad.  Before you think I'm insane, calm down.  I said they're a better unit.  I didn't say they're going to win more games, because they won't.   I didn't say they're going to score more points, because that's pretty much out of the picture after netting 36 the first two weeks combined (last year, they opened up with three straight games scoring 38).  However, the defense is only allowing 10 points a game.  They beat the Jets, in New York, when many people thought the Jets would pound the Patriots on their way to a division title.  Brett Favre looked lost, getting tied up with Nate Washington for a twenty yard sack.  They've got a lot of young guys on the field to make plays, complimenting the veterans in the middle.  The defensive line remains one of the best in football.  Some call out the offensive line - they had a solid day on the ground, and while Cassel took a beating, it was his first start.  Let him figure out how to move around that pocket and get some downfield throws and he won't have that issue.
To be continued.
Category: NFL
Tags: 2007, colts, NFL, pats, recap
Posted on: August 25, 2008 11:49 pm

Red Sox/Yankees - Israelis/Palestinians?

IMDb offers this summary for Green Street Hooligans, a 2005 movie starring Elijah Wood.

Unjustly expelled from Harvard when a stash of cocaine is found in his possession, Matt moves to London to live with his sister and her husband Steve (Marc Warren.) He is quickly introduced to Steve's chirpy, cock-sure younger brother Pete (Charlie Hunnam.) Initially, Pete is reluctant to get acquainted with Matt and allow him to tread around the capital city with him because he may be seen by others as an 'outsider', but after a heavy drinking session with him and his mates he quickly changes his opinion of him. On the way back from a football match, Matt is viciously accosted by a gang of Birmingham City thugs, until Pete and his friends step in and save him. It is from here that Matt learns the truth about Pete and his friends- they are football hooligans, operating the GSE (Green Street Elite) 'firm.' Initially afraid of the violence, Matt soon ends up becoming as desensitized to it as his new found friends- but as events roll on, suspicion, shocking revelations and unsettled scores combine to a devastating climax where London's most fierce football rivals- Millwall and West Ham United- are set to go head to head.

During a talk about the Millwall/West Ham rivalry, Matt (an avid Red Sox fan) relates their hatred for each other to that of the Sox and the Yankees. Pete, with vast knowledge of the violence between firms, explains it's more like the fighting between Israel and Palestine.

For those unfamiliar, the two have been fighting for over sixty years. Thousands are injured each year, resulting in hundreds of deaths annually.

Obviously, a sports rivalry in baseball doesn't generate those kind of atrocities. Not even the hatred between one firm and its rivalry could cause hundreds of deaths a year. However, why do games have to provoke any sort of hatred or violence? Maybe I'm being a bit naive here, but dammit, can't we all just get along?

Obviously, there's always going to be rivalries. I'll be honest - they make good games great, and great games legendary. The Red Sox and the Yankees met the first time back in 1901. They've played each other 1,771 times. The Yankees own the lead 993 - 778 (are my Sox really that far behind?!), thanks to what Red Sox fans have dubbed "The Curse". Year in and year out, it always seems like one of the two is a shoe - in to take the AL East and both are popular picks to make playoff runs the past few years.

How about the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears? Two of the most historic teams in the NFL, and they always produce great games. Last year, the Packers lost three games - two of the losses coming against Chicago (who only manged five other wins).

New England and the Colts? It's almost always the biggest regular season game in the NFL, with the two powerhouses colliding. Last year was one of the best meetings between the two, with the 2006 AFC Championship game being perhaps the best game of football I've ever seen.

How about the Lakers and the Celtics? The rivalry was revisited this past year, when the Celtics went from one of the worst teams in NBA to the best. The Lakers had the league's best player in Kobe Bryant. A legendary player vs a legendary team. It's almost as good as the games between the two teams from the 80s.

In college, how about Alabama and Auburn? Duke and North Carolina? One of the most famous rivalries ever between Michigan and Ohio State?

Obviously, we can't eliminate the rivalries. Even if we broke up the current competitions, new ones would form between the powerhouses that fans empty their wallets to see and the teams that just play frequently. Plus, why would we want to remove that history? We wouldn't, of course. It'd be madness.

However, why can't we get rid of the anger? The hatred? That sour feeling you get when you see a guy walk into the restaurant wearing a jersey from the other team? In 2000, Lakers fans started bonfires and then riots following a victory over the Pacers. They destroyed people's vehicles and other possessions. There was a brawl in 2004 between Pistons and Pacers fans. How about the competitors? Tonya Harding had her significant other assault Nancy Kerrigan to prevent her from competing. This year, a Taekwando Champion kicked a referee in the head.

Those are bad. Stupid. No reason for that.

There's a video on Youtube of a Raiders fan punching a Chargers fan just because the Chargers were winning and their fans were celebrating. Sure, it's a big stupid to taunt Raiders fans in the Black Hole, but perhaps beating him is a bit extreme. Later in the video, you see the Raiders fan pull out what appears to be a small pocket knife and stab the Chargers fan in the shoulder area. That's despicable.

It's inexcusable.

It's inhumane.

There's simply no reason for that kind of behavior. Obviously, that's not a common occurrence. I don't need to worry if I'm going to be killed when I go to a football game at Purdue. However, why should there be any conflict between me and fans of the other teams? Should I yell insults at them for wearing an Indiana University jersey? Should they throw their beer cups at me, because I like black and gold instead of red and white? Should I be unable to have a conversation or debate, without insulting them or attacking their opinion, with someone, just because my team eliminates their team from the playoffs or their quarterback throws more touchdowns than mine?

We're supposed to be adults. We're supposed to be good examples. We're supposed to be people who make good decisions and are able to live with the results. We're supposed to do the right thing. We're not supposed to beat, bruise, insult, attack, assault, humiliate, haze, torment, taunt, disrespect, or disgrace other people or teams.

It doesn't change the outcome of a game - beating someone into submission isn't going to make your team the winner.
It doesn't change statistics - calling your point guard an ass or making fun of your running back's appearance isn't going to take away a touchdown or a three pointer.
It doesn't change champions - your beef with me doesn't change the fact I like the guys with a trophy.

All it does it diminish something great, something we love. It takes away the best part of what we have.

There's enough hatred and violence and impurities in the world. We're fighting a war in the Middle East on terror. Russia invaded Georgia. Israel and Palestine continue to fight. There's enough atrocities going on in the world right now.

Let's keep the game pure so we have something we can be proud of.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com