Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thoughts on the Superbowl

-This is the first Superbowl in awhile where I actually like both teams involved and have no rooting interests. It's a bit weird, and it actually takes away from it a little bit for me, and is a complete 180 from last season where I rooted for the Giants like my life and well being depended on it. I do, have a little bias towards Kurt Warner for knocking Donovan McNabb out of the postseason, but I also like the Steelers so it cancels out.

-I've never seen so many people carrying stuff around in preparation for the game (ie food, televisions). It seems like every single person is stocking up for the game. Hell, my mother even came in with a lot of food the other day. I jokingly asked, 'What's the occasion?'. 'Superbowl Sunday', then I asked 'Who's playing?' She stammered then said 'New York and Cleveland?'.

Some thoughts about the game itself:

- Ken Whisenhunt/Tom Haley vs the Grandfather of the Zone Blitz, Dick Lebeau- This is a very interesting matchup. With the weapons that Arizona has on offense and the stable of talent that Pittsburgh has on defense, this is pretty much where the game will be decided. If I had a dollar for every time I heard 'If AZ protects Warner.......' Not to beat a dead horse but that will be the key to the game.

-Ben Roethlisberger- He shows up the biggest when the stakes are at its highest. Time will tell if he does it again. He has all but vowed to make amends for his poor game the last time Pittsburgh was here. We'll see if it happens. I do like the matchup of their pass offense against the Arizona secondary.

-Anquan Boldin- With all the suffocating Fitzgerald hype, as he has become the flavor of the month (hasn't he been this good for half a decade now?), Boldin is being overlooked by the pundits as having an impact on this game for the most part. I think with the two weeks to rest and get healthy, he will be able to put forth a good enough effort to give the Steelers problems in the secondary. If the Cardinals can protect Warner, Boldin will have a major impact. (Beating the dead horse I know).

-The Cards defense- After their showing against the Eagles, I am not really sold on this unit putting forth a good display in the Superbowl. They left WRs open the entire game against Philly, and for the most part McNabb missed them, or the receivers had to make some sort of acrobatic catch which minimized what they could do after the catch. While Pittsburgh is a run first team, if Arizona gives them those type of opportunities in the passing game, Roethlisberger will certainly take advantage.

- I personally think the Cardinals should spread the Steelers out, and attack them that way. That will give them more to worry about in the passing game, and then free up things like draw plays and screens. I think playing a traditional offense is playing right into their hands. I say you spread them out, and dare them to bring the kitchen sink.

As far as my prediction goes, I have been waffling all week. I don't really know who to pick. I've thought about several scenarios, and thought about comparisons to different teams but I'll stick with my initial thought on the game:

Pittsburgh 27
Arizona 20

Ultimately though, I just hope for a game that comes down to the ball being in Ben Roethlisberger's hands with a chance to win it. I love watching him play with the game on the line.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Jets coach Rex Ryan

The Jets history has been, for the most part, a turbulent one, filled with failure and tough times. Most recently, he Jets suffered through a 1-4 dry spell at the end of a season that looked so promising when the team was 8-3 and flying high. That dry spell ultimately cost former Jets coach Eric Mangini his job, as he really didn't have any answers down the stretch of the season.

Today, Rex Ryan was introduced as the Jets coach. During the interview process, he wowed the Jets hierarchy with his personality and detailed power point presentation. Today he made an impression very quickly. Within two minutes he was already speaking about the team meeting newly minted President Barack Obama, saying, "With all these cameras here I was looking around for the new President. Oh well, I think we will get to meet him within the next few years anyway." Those are big words there by the new coach. He showed his affable side, delivering many funny one-liners. He talked about how he wants his team to be stating, 'If you take a swipe at our guys, we take two at yours." He also spoke about the effort he expects from his players saying, "I expect us to not only play to the whistle but through the whistle. " He certainly made a good first impression today, as he spoke glowingly about some of the players, he preached aggressiveness on the defensive side of the ball, and really sounded like a true leader.

As far as my opinion on the hire goes, I'm fine with the hire. Rarely do I ever get excited about anything Jets related, and it works out, so I have taken more of a 'wait and see' approach regarding anything with the Jets. Compared to the rest of the candidates, I did like Rex Ryan the most and I hope he can bring an attacking style of defense that he alluded to on several occasions in his opening PC. Most of all, I would love for the Jets to be a team that can beat up the other team physically en route to a victory.

I know it's too much to expect this team to line up and be physical like the Ravens defenses over the years, but over time maybe the defense can develop the attitude and nastiness those guys have. I'm sick and tired of the Jets having to trick and confuse people to win. I understand the nuances of the game of football. I understand that you have to scheme to win, and I am well aware that you can't line up in predictable defenses and expect to win. All I am asking is that the team be able to impose sheer physicality on the other team, and play with an attitude and a little emotion for once.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thoughts on Championship Weekend

- I could talk about Larry Fitzgerald, I could talk about Kurt Warner, I could even talk about Adrian Wilson and the game that he played. But firstly I will give Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley a lot of credit. He called an excellent game. All of the screens, all of the misdirection plays, the "flea flicker" play that went for a TD. He did a good job of using Philadelphia's aggressive ways against them. The Phliadelphia defense definitely had its hands full and didn't rise to the occasion.

-It's crazy how good Larry Fitzgerald is. And now the entire world has had the privilege of seeing him go crazy throughout the playoffs. Besides Andre Johnson, is there a WR on Larry's level right now?

- I've been saying this for a long time and I'll say it once again. Donovan McNabb isn't a Superbowl Caliber quarterback. He showed as much yesterday, once again coming up small in a big game. Yes his statistics showed that he played a wonderful game, but sometimes you have to look past the face value of the statistics and look at the game to make fair evaluations. McNabb was off for a good portion of the football game, and when the chips were down, he failed once again. Yes, people can speak on the Curtis "drop" or missed penalty, but if McNabb makes a good throw on any of the first three downs it doesn't come down to that.

- Kurt Warner has now brought two franchises out of exile to the promised land. The man has had a nice career numbers wise, but he brought the St Louis Rams from the dead, and now has brought another listless franchise from the dead. More than his numbers, his impact on those two franchises is what will ultimately get him into the Hall of Fame. What was St Louis before Warner arrived? Then what were they when he left? What was Arizona before he arrived? What are they now? A Super Bowl participant. That is a hell of a change.

- I wonder if this is Brian Dawkins last shot at getting to the big dance. Hearing him after the game, he sounded as dejected as can be. I think he realizes he had an excellent shot, and the team blew it. He is an unrestricted free agent after the season so it will be interesting to see what contract he comes to an agreement with in Philly.

- As much as Arizona won the football game and are now the great story, they did everything in their power to keep Philadelphia in that game yesterday. The sack on McNabb on a 3rd and 1 being called back due to an absolutely idiotic holding penalty as someone just tackled Westbrook even though he had absolutely nothing to do with the play. The 3rd and 19, in the middle of the 3rd quarter, up 18, when they let Kevin Curtis get behind them. Arizona did everything they could to make the game an exciting one! That's for sure.

- I've heard a lot about Anquan Boldin since the game ended. We all saw the spat him and the offensive coordinator were having on the sideline, apparently about the playing time Boldin was receiving. I mean, honestly, what else could Boldin have been yelling about with 5 minutes left in the biggest game (to this point), in Arizona Cardinals franchise history, while Haley is trying to direct the Cardinals to a potential winning drive. Then supposedly, he left the locker room early during the team's celebration. In my opinion, Boldin is showing his selfish side, and is clearly jealous of the success Fitzgerald is having, along with being ticked off about his contract. The team just made the Superbowl, this isn't a distraction that they need right now

- I thought the moment when Pam Oliver interviewed Adrian Wilson and he was crying tears of joy, was a great moment. It was just pure emotion. Not to sound sappy, but moments like this make sports great.

- The Pittsburgh defense is absolutely awesome. They are all over the place, and put intense pressure on the Quarterback. Is it crazy to talk about them among the all time great defenses in the NFL? After all they were near tops in the league in every defensive category, and they didn't allow an offense to gain 300 yards in ANY game ALL SEASON. That defense is scary. We'll see if they are up to the task of stopping the Cinderella Cardinals in SB XLIII.

- I like Ben Roethlisberger's game. His numbers were not impressive yesterday, but the man is a playmaker. When a play needs to be made it's Ben usually makes it on offense for Pittsburgh. And Ben is absolutely ridiculous when it comes to avoiding sacks. If I had a dollar for every time I've seen Ben shrug off a tackler, I'd be on a yacht in France somewhere. Now it may not always be pretty with Ben, as sometimes he takes unnecessary sacks and sometimes he holds onto the ball but when you need him, he usually comes through when needed. I swear, it feels like the Steelers convert 10 3rd and 7s a game.

- Props to Troy Polamalu on a big game yesterday. The stop on Flacco on the QB sneak was incredible, and his pick 6 iced the game. He played a big game yesterday, as he was all over the field from beginning to end. On a side note, something completely unrelated to football, is it me or is that guy's voice VERY soft? It rivals Cole Hamels voice.

-That hit on Willis McGahee was absolutely brutal. Ryan Clark has been a part of probably the two most memorable hits of the season (on McGahee yesterday, on Welker earlier in the season). It was just something that in the heat of the battle, happens. I don't think Clark had any intent. I hope Willis is alright and is able to be fully functional.

- I think Terrell Suggs is a stud. He is going to get himself some serious $$$$ in the offseason. Yesterday he had 2 sacks, and a couple other hurries playing with basically one arm. I wonder which team will give him the big money. That should be an interesting case to follow in the offseason.

- Hopefully Pittsburgh-Baltimore rivalry continues to the point where they frequently play meaningful games. Watching those two defenses is truly a treat. Two well coached, smashmouth, hard hitting football teams getting together for games as intense as these two teams play is something I'd like to see more over the course of the next few years. Here's to more Pitt/Baltimore battles.