Sunday, October 28, 2007

Clash of the "Titans"

The Titans may be in Tennessee, but the true titans of the NFL will lock up next Sunday in Indianapolis as both the Colts and Patriots had easy wins to remain unbeaten and set up last season's rematch of the AFC title game.
I wrote on back in the spring as soon as the Patriots acquired Randy Moss that they would win the Super Bowl. As they rip through their opponents each and every week, making it look like child's play, it seems like a pretty good prediction, but the Colts are steamrolling most of their challengers as well.
Like the title game, this will be a home game for Indy and is probably the biggest reason they were able to advance to the Super Bowl. Right now New England looks invincible and everything is clicking unbelievably well. I still am not ready to say that Tom Brady (30 TD's at the half way point) and his comrades will match the '72 Dolphins undefeated season, but I think they will keep it going at least this coming Sunday. They are playing with motivation to prove that the cheating scandal didn't have much to do with how good they really are and that will be enough in this regular season matchup to get the W.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How about Vinny?

Tom Brady is being Tom Brady and Peyton is being Peyton, which is to say they are playing fabulously well as expected, but how about Vinny Testaverde? Vinny played a little bit in the preseason with the Patriots, but hadn't picked up a football since being released.
Vinny was my teammate in 1990 and 1991 with the Buccaneers. He was a great athlete then and is proving that he is still pretty great nearing his 44th birthday. Signing with a team he has never been on and starting the same week is amazing enough, but going out and winning the game handily is quite the feat. Congrats Mr. Testaverde!

Monday, October 15, 2007

USF Bulls #2 in the Nation

When I was in college in the mid and late 80’s, Boise State was a Divisoin I-AA school. Division I-AA doesn’t exist anymore. They challenged for a BCS bowl game last season and beat Oklahoma in the most exciting game of the bowl season. The University of South Florida Bulls didn’t exist in the 1980’s or for most of the 1990’s either for that matter. In fact, the BCS and the USF Bulls were born right about the same time, just a couple years before the 21st century began. In their 11th year in existence, they are currently ranked #2 in the country, even though many television talking heads still aren’t running with the Bulls. Those talking heads are behind the changing times of parity in college football. The good talent coming out of high school was spread mainly to those schools with the richest traditions, but now it is spread much more widely.

Brigham Young University won the national title in 1984 because they won all their games, even though I don’t think anyone thought they could survive and compete in any of the top conferences. The days of just winning all of your games making you the top in the nation are long gone. As technology has increased exponentially, so has the complexity of deciding the top teams that will ultimately play in the title game.

Florida has been the hotbed for football talent for decades and the USF Bulls have been the recipient of that talent that either didn’t get their shot at UF, FSU, Miami or all of the other bigger tradition schools trying to “steal” the Sunshine State’s talent. Some just wanted to play close to home. Tampa isn’t a bad place to call “home” and there isn’t a great need to leave if you don’t have to, so the St. Petersburg native Jim Leavitt, the Bulls one and only head coach, has been able to sell the benefits of staying home and building a legacy right here in front of your family. And he has the credibility for recruits to believe what he says, since he turned down big money for the big time in Tuscaloosa a couple years back when he was and his staff were still recruiting out of trailers.

A few weeks ago I was believing that they were possibly a top 20 team as they hit #18, but the crazy upsets all over the country that vaulted USF to #6 had me shaking my head a little bit. But USC, the continuously ranked #1 team in the nation (at least it seemed like it) lost to Stanford, who was only a 41 point underdog. And then LSU loses in triple overtime to an unranked team, while USF beat the tar out of the University of Central Florida 64-12 (UCF almost beat Texas a few weeks back). So when the first BCS rankings came out with the Bulls at #2 it wasn’t surprising and, in fact, feels very deserving. The Bulls can only beat the teams on its schedule, which included #5 West Virginia and a road win at Auburn, who has made their way back into the rankings.

Times do change, but it looks like cellphones personal computers and the USF Bulls are here to stay!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Cowboys Miracle Win--Bills Meltdown

Did you stay up to see the most improbable win by the Cowboys Monday night? Always give credit to the team that won, they had to make a number of plays, including two 53 yard field goals to finally seal the deal, but I haven't seen a meltdown like that since the Cardinals gave the Bears that win last year and Denny Green gave us the now infamous, "They are who we thought they were" classic line.
With rookie QB Trent Edwards starting for the injured J.P. Losman, they could have put the game away with a simple field goal up 24-16. Instead, they put it in the hands of their rookie QB who throws it late outside and it gets tipped at the line and Terrance Newman almost took it about 90 yards. Evans showed how fast he really is chasing him down with plenty of field left to go.
After the Cowboys made it 24-22 and missed the two point conversion, they hustled better than the Bills on the onside kick to recover at the Bills 47. What I can't figure out after T.O. dropped the ball on review and it went back to the 47, was how the Buffalo defense gave up two sideline plays with time running out to even give Folk a chance at a long field goal to win. He nailed two in a row after the first one was waived off on the last second time-out by Dick Jauron. Cowboys win 25-24.
The first order of business for the NFL this off-season will be to change the time-out rule on those kicks. That cheap ploy has been used against the Raiders and others, even Urban Meyer used it against Auburn, but it didn't work for him or for Dick. That rule needs to be changed for all levels of football and make the time-out call at 5 seconds or not at all.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

1st Quarter QB Summary

NFC South

Tampa Bay (3-1)—Jeff Garcia continues his hot run that began in Philadelphia last year. He hasn’t thrown an interception this season, the only starting quarterback that can make that claim. He also has directed the Bucs offense into the endzone at a rate they have not seen in many years, even in the Super Bowl season of 2002. He has thrown caution to the wind with his body and almost went “lights out” in the season opener, missing two series to clear the cobwebs after getting hit in the back of the head. He dove head first near the endzone in the same game to get a first down and the hit looked like he might never get up. He is the biggest reason the Bucs finished the first quarter of the season at 3-1, giving the defense hope and a little help staying fresh for the whole game.

Carolina (1-3)—The Panthers have disappointed their fans in a big way so far and don’t look like they know what’s going on as they head into the 2nd quarter of the season. Jake Delhomme missed the last game and is still weighing surgery on his injured elbow. David Carr proved that his experience in Houston wasn’t a fluke or playing on a fledgling franchise, but he is not going to blossom into anything exciting. Carr is now dropping the ball down below his waist during his delivery (almost as far as Byron Leftwich and you see how that is working for him) and throwing with gloves on in beautiful weather. He better keep trying different gimmicks until he finds something that works. Steve Smith’s frustration will continue to grow, as evidenced by reading his lips on the sideline phone last week.

Atlanta (1-3)—Bobby Petrino finally got his first win as a pro head coach with Joey Harrington as his starting quarterback while Michael Vick was facing new state charges for dog fighting, gambling, etc. Byron Leftwich is in the fold in case Harrington can’t keep up, but don’t expect Leftwich to be effective in Petrino’s offense any time soon.

New Orleans (0-4)—Sean Payton was the NFL Coach of the Year last year and Drew Brees won some post season awards as well, but what a difference a year makes. Neither Brees, who leads the league in interceptions, nor Payton, who looks like a deer in the headlights, seem to have the slightest idea how to win their first game as they head into their fifth. The Saints are arguably the biggest disappointment thus far in 2007 and now Deuce McAllister is out for the season and Reggie Bush hasn’t been used in the best way suited for him to make the “splash” plays that made him famous.

NFC North

Green Bay (4-0)—Brett Favre has the world by the tail (or is it tale) again. He has been such a soap opera every off-season as to his retirement plans that he seemed to be an afterthought as far as competing for a championship or just playing to get the all-time passing records. I don’t know if even he knows what the overall motivation was, but with their 4-0 start and his stellar performance this season, the Brett Favre tale just gets bigger and better.

Minnesota—With Tarvaris Jackson starting the season as the starting quarterback, the Vikings may be just exactly where they are supposed to be…and if not for first round pick Adrian Peterson, they may be quite a bit worse off.
Detroit (2-2)—Jon Kitna has the Lion’s faithful believing. After getting drilled in Philadelphia in week 3, they came back to even their record with a good win against the defending NFC Champion Bears. Kitna has been a solid quarterback throughout his lengthy career and with the likes of Roy Williams and the newest superstar receiver on Detroit’s roster in Calvin Johnson, there is much to be excited about in Motown.

Chicago (0-4)—The Bears are the other team up for the award of most disappointing to open the season. The Saints and Bears met up for the NFC Championship and neither has a win thus far. Lovie Smith finally had to give up on Rex Grossman before the season was completely gone, but turning to Brian Griese did not help as he threw three picks against the Lions and kept Chicago winless. Now even the backup in the windy city isn’t popular.

NFC East

Dallas (4-0)—Many thought the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the better teams in the NFC this year, but they are blowing people away so far, even with Wade Phillips as coach. The reason doesn’t look like coaching, but mostly the right arm and both legs of Tony Romo. He is playing like a young Brett Favre (or today’s Brett Favre). Laughing and smiling all the way through the game makes it fun to watch the Cowboys and Terrell Owens is almost as happy as Randy Moss is in New England.

New York (2-2)—Tiki Barber started the season by criticizing the leadership skills and style of Eli Manning from behind the broadcast desk. Eli has had his up’s and down’s, but did lead his team to a big win against Washington late in the game. And with last week’s destruction of the Eagles, the Giants are off to a solid start in the East, at least until they see the Cowboys.

Washington (2-2)—Jason Campbell is managing Joe Gibb’s offense relatively well this year. Don’t know if there is enough talent for the Redskins to make a run or if the Cowboys and other NFC teams will just be better as season moves into next phase.

Philadelphia (1-3)—Donovan McNabb is trying to recover from last year’s knee injury while playing, something Daunte Culpepper could tell him is not an easy task. The Giants laid 12 sacks on him the other night, a problem for the quarterback and the coach calling the plays. Putting your franchise player in a situation to get hurt again because of an overmatched left tackle is not smart.

NFC West
Seattle (3-1)—Matt Hasselbeck continues to lead the Seahawks as the favorite in this weak division. The strong running game is a nice compliment to Hasselbeck’s solid passing and Holmgren’s offensive style. Shaun Alexander is off to a much slower start than usual, but he will get it cranked up sooner or later.

Arizona (2-2)—Ken Whisenhut is playing the two-headed quarterback with Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner. He hasn’t had much choice as Leinart is under performing and not leading this talented offense. Warner seems like the perfect choice to be the relief guy and sling it around after Leinart falters. Leinart’s work habits and focus have been questioned in his short career and he already sounds like he won’t take this switching to the hot hand scenario with closed lips, but what’s a new coach that actually wants to win now supposed to do when your “franchise quarterback” is playing like a flake?

St. Louis (0-4)—Whatever happened to “The Greatest Show on Turf”? Mark Bulger was a good replacement to keep the timing offense rolling, but their window of opportunity closed significantly with the retirement of Marshall Faulk (one of the greatest all-around backs in history) and the aging of the receiving corps. Steven Jackson is a great back, but doesn’t fit the old style. Bulger is now nursing broken ribs and will miss some time, so things don’t look good for their 2nd quarter either.

San Fransisco (2-2)—Alex Smith has a solid future in the Bay area with Frank Gore keeping the defenses honest, but Smith is also going to miss time with a separated shoulder, although it looks like he will avoid surgery which is great news for him and 49ers fans. Trent Dilfer as Smith’s replacement will have those fans praying for some miraculous healing.

AFC South
Indianapolis (4-0)—Peyton Manning has the defending Super Bowl champions chugging along once again, making the Colts one of only a handful of teams to start 3 seasons in a row 4-0. Injuries in week 4 to Joseph Addai and Marvin Harrison will probably slow them a bit, but they have avoided the season ending injuries that have already hit a number of teams.

Tennessee (2-2)—Vince Young still throws too low on the shoulder, but so does Tony Romo and as long as both keep making great plays with their arms and legs, no one will make much of it.

Houston (2-2)—Matt Schaub looks like the off-season move of the year by Texans brass. Rich McKay didn’t look deep enough into his crystal ball to know that Mike Vick’s career was going to be sidelined, maybe forever.

Jacksonville (2-2)—I thought the move away from Byron Leftwich and the to David Garrard was a season or two overdue. Garrard has the quick release and mobility to make the Jags competitive in every game and the defense has always been a strength.

AFC North
Pittsburgh (3-1)—The Steelers quickly became a conference favorite, dismantling their early opponents and putting new coach Mike Tomlin on a very high pedestal. Big Ben is back to running the Steeler’s offense with precision. He is reading defenses and hitting the open receiver and keeping Pittsburgh in the win column on a very, very regular basis.

Baltimore (2-2)—Steve McNair has been hanging in their physically for the last few years, trying to get the Ravens back to where Trent Dilfer took them in 2000. Kyle Boller will get plenty of playing time as McNair plays through a series of nagging injuries just like every year. The defense is still formidable enough to keep things close on a regular basis.

Cleveland (1-3)—No team has ever traded their opening day starter before the second week of the season and that does not bode well for the rest of the season. Needless to say, everyone is waiting for “Golden Domer Boy” Brady Quinn to get the nod, but Derek Anderson is doing an admirable job in his first few starts.

Cincinnati (1-3)—Does Carson Palmer have what it takes to get the Bengals back in the fight for the playoffs? His top target is Chad Johnson and even though some of his antics with touchdowns is entertaining, it is distracting as well. The Future Hall of Famer sportcoat was in really bad taste. Palmer needs to lead on and off the field and a good, strong talk about letting your play do the talking would be appropriate right about now.

AFC East
New England (4-0)—The Patriots are playing like they have the biggest chip on their shoulders and are out to beat the crap out of everyone on their schedule. When they signed Randy Moss in the off-season, I blogged about them just sealing the deal for this year’s Super Bowl. Well, after a quarter of the season, they look like they are right on track.

New York (0-4)—The other rookie coach from last year that was lauded for his success was Mangenius. But, like the Saints and Sean Payton, things have gone terribly wrong to start 2007 and it doesn’t look like Chad Pennington has the athletic ability and arm strength to make the big things that are going to be necessary to get over on many of their division or conference foes.

Miami (0-4)—The Dolphins get a new coach in Cam Cameron and dispatch of Daunte Culpepper before he can recover from his surgically repaired knee. The worst part is that to replace a physically gifted player like Culpepper, they find a 37 year old Trent Green, who was coming off a season ending concussion. Not a good bet, but a good bet is that the Dolphins will be bringing up the rear of the division race.

Buffalo (2-2)—The Bills were hoping that J.P. Losman would be able to lift them to the old heights of the Jim Kelly era, but without Willis McGahee who has moved on to Baltimore. Things weren’t going all that great anyway, but then someone dove into Losman’s left knee after a throw and now it looks like a freezing winter in upper New York.
AFC West
Kansas City (1-3)—I was glad the Chiefs went with Damon Huard as their starter, partly because of how he did in relief of Green last year, and partly because the Chiefs need some veteran leadership. Brodie Croyle will probably get plenty of action throughout the season as the Chiefs are likely to go back and forth since they will struggle simply because they just aren’t that good on either side of the ball.

San Diego (1-3)—You fire your coach who took you to 14-2 last year and replace him with a coach that has a losing record in the regular season and has one game (a loss) of post-season head coaching experience. Don’t blame it all on Norv Turner, but Ladainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers have had some heated words for the world to see and that isn’t good for the long haul.

Denver (2-2)—Jay Cutler looks like a solid guy to lead Mike Shanahan’s offense for the foreseeable future, but they are going to have to play defense and special teams as well. Cutler is a quiet leader that won’t run around like a Brett Favre and wear his emotion on his sleeve, but he will put the ball on the money more often than not.

Oakland (1-3)—Just as the JaMarcus Russell watch was going into hyperdrive, the Raiders ran into the Dolphins with dispatched QB Daunte Culpepper as Oakland’s starter. All he did was account for 5 scores, including 3 running touchdowns and let all the Dolphin’s fans that his knee was A-OK. I think Lane Kiffin will get it going in the future, once Russell takes over and gets some seasoning.

Blogger : America's Best Quarterback TM :: Configure Video Bar

Blogger : America's Best Quarterback TM :: Configure Video Bar