Posted on: February 17, 2009 2:16 pm

Season in recap + waiting for the blog

Wow, this thing still exists?  I thought if you didn't use it enough, it disappeared.  What?  That's Clovdyx's biceps?  Why didn't somebody tell me sooner?   I can't believe I dropped the ball on this, though.  I wanted to do a week-by-week (or at least, every two or three week) update on the NFL and my evaluation of it.  I guess I can just do it now, but man, September was such a long time ago.  Oh well, let's look back and reflect on some things from the 2008 season.


-League MVP goes down 15 minutes into the season.  Ouch.  Terrible for the NFL.  Terrible for their team.  Terrible for me, because it's our best player.  Hate it.

-Two rookie quarterbacks win for the first time on opening day since Archie Manning and Jim Plunkett.  Does this mean the future is set for more rookies to come in and make immediate impact?  Maybe, maybe not.  But for now, we've got two guys to keep our eyes on.  Like it.

-More gimicks on offense.  Miami started the thing with it's "Wildcat" formation.  Mixed feelings, really.  It's nice to see innovation, but at the same time, I hate the copy cats.  Tyler Thigpen catching a touchdown pass?  DeSean Jackson taking a direct snap and running it in for a touchdown?  The Jets playing Brett Favre as a wide receiver?  REALLY? 

-Emerging stars.  Matt Cassel made a name for himself.  Instead of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Marvin Harrison dominating, guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson were the top receivers this year.  Michael Turner was simply impressive down in Atlanta.  Jerod Mayo was Defensive Rookie of the Year.  Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers stepped up and led their teams well.  LaMar Woodley was a beast across from James Harrison.  Like it.

-Cinderella teams.  Because, really, the Arizona Cardinals were in the Super Bowl.  Like it.

-Great divisions and terrible divisions.  The NFC South and NFC East were monsters.  The AFC West was a joke.  Did anybody win the NFC North this year?  I'd rather have everybody pretty equal - not one or two dominant divisions and one or two pathetic divisions (see: AFC East, 2007).  Hate it.

-Midseason coach firings.  RaidersRams49ers.  Those kinds of things need to be done, but don't do it right after a game.  Hate it.

-Dumb arguments.  I realize the Patriots have "no running game" and their backs are "scrubs", but they finished 6th in rushing, so maybe they know what they're doing.

-Sudden death overtime.  Like it (and my Patriots were victims to the cointoss...)


All of that being said, it was certainly an interesting year.  No matter which of the two teams won the Super Bowl, we were guaranteed to make history - either Arizona won their first, or Pittsburgh won their 6th.  Wow.  Six trophies.  I'm confident New England has a team capable of getting there, but it'll be no easy task.  After all, it took Pittsburgh about forty years to make the playoffs.  Their six trophy was won about 35 years after their first.  It's impressive how consistent they can be (although, I still say the Dallas Cowboys are the best NFL franchise, but I digress).  We had teams come out of nowhere to contend, like the Dolphins and the Falcons.  How about those turnarounds?  We had teams drop (how about those unbeatable Giants?).  A team not named the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC Worst, er, West.  Really.  We had a team not named the New England Patriots win the AFC East, and the Titans won the AFC South. And I could finally get time away from battling Bong Show (anybody seen him around lately?) in the Brady vs Manning debate.  Now it's Kurt Warner vs Ben Roethlisberger (which I don't think is the same argument, despite people relating Roethlisberger to Brady in that he just wins while not necessarily doing much...)

Yes, it was certainly a roller coaster year, and I'm really looking forwards to seeing how 2009 pans out.  Unfortunately, I actually will not be able to watch most of the games, as I will be shipping out to San Diego in September for basic training (I guess that's what happens when you join the Marines these days - who knew?).  I fully expect some things to continue, such as Miami's trick formations, and I expect we'll probably see something we're not used to.  Maybe two running backs lining up in the back field as split backs, with another lined up under center for a strange option based run, pass, or pitch formation?  Ah, who knows.




Moving onto the draft, I'm REALLY excited to see how that plays out.  I don't think I've seen as many mock drafts this year or people predicting what their team's will do, but the combine hasn't even happened yet.  That should be starting any day now, though.  Me?  I'm looking forwards to watching only the linebackers and maybe the defensive backs.  I don't think the quarterback class is all that strong last year, and other than two or three guys, I can't see too many running backs having an immediate impact.  There should be a few tight ends and receivers that make their marks, though.  I'm looking at you, Crabtree (I hope you enjoy coffee, because you'll be drinking a lot up there in Seattle).


I have a few guys that interest me.  First of all, I'm really looking forwards to seeing how Rey Muauluga does.  From what I've seen, the guy is an absolute monster.  Originally, many expected him to be one of the first few picks in the draft, but lately, he seems to have dropped a bit.  I'm not sure why.  Another guy everybody is big on is Aaron Curry from Wake Forest.  Where is Wake Forest, and do they have deer in Wake Forest?  More importantly, who is Aaron Curry?  Ever since the regular season ended, I've been hearing his name left and right but I don't recall hearing much about him while college football was being played.  My main interests are in James Laurinaitis and Brian Cushing.  I think either one is capable of falling to #23, where New England picks.  I would prefer Cushing, because Jerod Mayo was very solid in the middle, and Gary Guyton proved to be capable of playing (and Tedy Bruschi is still there, too).  While I couldn't see him starting right away, I think he'd be able to learn a lot from Mike Vrabel and Adalius Thomas, and depending on how it goes, he might be able to replace Vrabel as the starter by the time the season ends (maybe throwing Mike back into the middle rotation?). 

I'm not as concerned with their secondary, right now.  Both Terrence Wheatley and Jon Wilhite impresse me when they were playing last year, and I'm sure Bill Belichick is putting them through hell this offseason to get them ready for next year.  Ellis Hobbs remains a starter, and that seems fair - I just think they need a bigger athlete to take care of the bigger receivers they face (no matter how good Hobbs is with coverage skills, he simply cannot match up with Terrell Owens or Larry Fitzgerald).  Is there a guy like that available this year?  Well, I think we can agree that Malcom Jenkins is out of the picture.  Vontae Davis probably won't be there.  Alphonso Smith is only 5'9" - if we wanted 5'9" corners, we'd play Ellis Hobbs (wait a minute...), Asante Samuel, Terrence Wheatley, or Jon Wilhite.  Hm.  I've always thought Victor Harris might be an option.  He played with Brandon Flowers at Virginia Tech.  If I recall correctly, he was a solid tackler.  Also, he's 6', so that's definitely an upgrade.  He runs about a middle 4.5, so he might be a step slow, but if he's covering the bigger guys, that shouldn't be much of an issue.  Free agent wise, the Ravens just released Chris McAllister because he was supposed to make $8 million this year.  If he would be willing to sign for maybe $3 or $4 million (what a horror!  how can he survive on that?), maybe he's make a nice solution for the year.

Oh well.  Nobody knows what goes on in any coach's head, and we all know that's especially true for Bill Belichick.  I guess only time will tell how it all unfolds. 


What about you guys?  Who are you hoping to see in your team's uniform next year, and who are you expecting (they're rarely the same, after all).


Category: NFL
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
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com