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Archive for November, 2010

TCU? Really Big East?

In an effort to quell the fear that they may get their BCS card revoked, the Big East has hastily invited Texas Christian University to join it’s bulging conference.  This attempt by the Big East to maintain their football relevance reeks of desperation and threatens to further fracture a union of schools that has a rich basketball history that was mortgaged some time ago.

This is not a criticism of TCU.  They have a very respectable football program that goes all the way back to 1896.  Since Gary Patterson took over the team in 2000 they are 97-28.  But let’s be realistic about this – what happens when Patterson leaves?  It could happen as soon as the end of this season.  If Georgia or Michigan were to call and invite him to interview for the head coaching position at their schools he’d have to take the call.  And if he leaves is the Big East left with just another mediocre program struggling for national relevance?  Goodness knows they’ve already got enough of those.

So the Big East is making a very short-term play and hitching their football future to a school that has been battling for respect in a conference that is a non-automatic BCS qualifier.  Is that a move that is supposed to get Big East fans excited?

And what about basketball?  I’ve thought in the past that the Big East’s best play may be to invest in roundball.  To pursue the title as the undeniable best basketball conference in the country.  They took a nice step toward that after the ACC grabbed three of their most competitive football schools in the early 2000s.  But now they take a step in the other direction without a major pay off.  And now the basketball conference has 17 teams.  How in the world are they going to manage 17 teams?

Finally there is the little issue of the money.  When the Big Ten was exploring expansion, money was a really big issue.  They were not going to add any schools that couldn’t bring in enough money to result in a revenue gain for all the members of the conference.  Where’s the big money gain here?  There is none. 

They can trumpet the fact that TCU resides in the fifth biggest market in the United States all they want but the reality is the Horned Frogs may not even be in the top 10 when you start ranking the franchises and universities that garner the most attention in Dallas/Ft. Worth.  And ultimately their addition could lead to a net loss because of the increase in travel costs.

So there you have it, that’s my take.  The Big East and TCU got together like two drunken Las Vegas club goers who could not keep their hands off each other and dashed off to the chapel to let Elvis seal the deal for their matrimony.  Let’s hope one of them doesn’t wake up wondering how big of a mistake they made last night.

Care to disagree?  Feel free to do so by posting a comment below.

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The Sunday portion of NFL week 12 has been thrilling.  Through the first 11 games of the day (with Chargers-Colts being played), eight games have ended with a score differential of a touchdown or less.  Five of the six early games are included in that total.  This is what the NFL is all about.  I guess it makes up for a rather ho-hum Thanksgiving slate.

With the Sunday and Monday night games still to be played, here are the Average Guy NFL Week 12 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Chicago Bears – 31-26 over the Philadelphia Eagles

Eli Manning Warming Up

Eli Manning and the Giants rallied for a critical win on Sunday

Most Important Win

New York Giants – 24-20 over the Jacksonville Jaguars

Worst Loss

Tennessee Titans – 20-0 at the Houston Texans

Biggest Surprise

St. Louis Rams

Biggest Disappointment

Oakland Raiders

Offensive MVP

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears – 14 completions 21 attempts 247 yards 4 TDs 146.2 QB rating 7 carries 17 yards

Defensive MVP

Terrell Thomas, New York Giants – 1 interception 1 sack 6 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Brad Smith, New York Jets – 89-yard kickoff return TD

Most Surprising Performance

Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins – 17 completions 30 attempts 307 yards 2 TDs 1 interception 100.3 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans – 7 carries 5 yards 2 receptions 2 yards

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 22 completions 37 attempts 308 yards 3 TDs 113.3 QB rating

Defensive Rookie

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants – 2 sacks, 8 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – 26 completions 35 attempts 344 yards 1 TD 114.5 QB rating 12 carries 51 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • The local FOX affiliate had to show the Panthers-Browns game so there was no watching the Packers-Falcons matchup.  So instead I tuned in for the whole Jaguars-Giants game and it was a good one.
  • Jacksonville had complete control in the first half.  David Garrard excelled and the Jaguars O-line opened up hole after hole for the backs while the New York defense seemed to have missed their wake up call.  Jacksonville piled up 145 yards on the ground through the first two quarters.
  • The second half was a different story.  The Giants defense caught a lucky break early with the Terrell Thomas interception and showed a much greater sense of urgency.  They blitzed quite a bit and it was particularly successful in the last few minutes of the game as they repeatedly hit Garrard.
  • One Jacksonville player I was really impressed with who doesn’t get much PT was the running back Rashad Jennings.  He has the patience to let the blocking develop and then explode.  That is a skill that is not often seen at that level in such a young ball carrier.
  • The absolute key to the Giants win? Zero turnovers.
  • Of course I’m very excited that the Rams beat the Broncos in Denver, but boy it was nerve racking. I was following the game online as the Rams let the Broncos get closer and closer and closer.  I was sure they were going to fold like they did in San Francisco.  Then FOX switched to live coverage after the Eagles-Bears game was over.  I was thrilled to see the defense finally get the stop they needed.  Now the Rams are back in first place in the NFC West.
  • Miami really stopped Oakland’s running game.  If you take away Jacoby Ford’s 13-yard run the Dolphins held the Raiders to just three yards on 11 carries…hard to believe.
  • I predicted the Chiefs would fall in Seattle.  I was clearly wrong.  What a game for Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe.

One BIG Question

Which game is bigger next week – Steelers at Ravens on Sunday night or Jets at Patriots on Monday night?  Let me know which one you are looking forward to more.

Photo source: Marianne O’Leary

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With the three Thanksgiving games behind us, it’s time to start getting fired up for week 12’s 12 Sunday matchups.  I’ve already individually previewed the two games I think are the most important, the Packers visiting Atlanta to play the Falcons and the Eagles taking on the Bears in Chicago.  As the playoff picture is becoming clearer there are a number of games that have important implications.  Instead of just tackling one more in-depth, I’m going to take the approach of asking one big question and providing an answer that I think will determine the result.

Air Force Honor Guard

It's almost time for NFL Week 12 to begin

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Giants

Q: Will the Giants and Jags set an NFL record for most combined turnovers in a game?

A: No.  While Jacksonville is currently ranked 28th in the NFL in turnovers and New York is dead last, I think the Giants will finally right the ship, cut down the turnovers and get a much needed win.

Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins

Q: Will the brand new head coach phenomenon propel the Vikings to victory in Washington?

A: Yes.  The Redskins really should have lost last week to the Titans but Rusty Smith was completely imcompetent.  With Leslie Frazier now at the helm, a steady dose of Adrian Peterson should be enough for the Vikings to get the W.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Seattle Seahawks

Q: Can the Chiefs steal a win in one of the toughest places to play in the NFL?

A: No.  Kansas City is 1-4 on the road while the Seahawks are 3-1 at home.  Seattle needs this game to stay on top of the NFC West and I believe the 12th man will help them get it.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Baltimore Ravens

Q: Are the Bucs legitimate contenders?

A: No, and the Ravens will handle them easily.  Tampa Bay has built up its 7-3 record against the eighth easiest schedule in the NFL.

San Diego Chargers @ Indianapolis Colts

Q: Will Philip Rivers further solidify his MVP candidacy with a win in Indianapolis on Sunday night?

A: Yes.  It surprises even me to say this but I’m taking the Chargers to beat the Colts.  San Diego is making its late season run and Rivers has been incredible with a receiving unit made up of castoffs.  With Vincent Jackson back and Ryan Mathews healthy the Chargers are very well positioned.

What are your thoughts on these five games?  Do you agree with my answers?  Am I asking the right question?  Let me know what you think by posting a comment below.

Photo source: NYCMarines

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Earlier in the week I mentioned the two big NFC matchups in the NFL’s week twelve and previewed the Packers-Falcons game.  The second of those two battles for NFC supremacy features the Philadelphia Eagles visiting the Chicago Bears.  Like the first game, this one features two teams on winning streaks.

Philadelphia Eagles mascot Swoop

How will the Eagles respond in enemy territory on Sunday?

Led by dynamic MVP candidate Michael Vick, the Eagles have won three straight.  Most recently they beat the New York Giants in a critical NFC East matchup.  After a ridiculously outstanding performance against the Redskins two weeks ago, last week Vick managed the game well.  The key was the defense, which forced the Giants into five turnovers.  The Eagles are becoming a multiple threat team that always has one unit that carries it to the win.

The last time we saw the Bears was when they scored a strong statement win in Miami for their third straight victory.  Because of the perception that they have a weak schedule and a less than efficient offense, Chicago has not been taken seriously as a contender.  But after their domination of the Dolphins it may be time to reconsider.

The Eagles win if: They can manufacture yardage on the ground.  Whether it is Vick, LeSean McCoy or reverses to DeSean Jackson, the Eagles need to get a running game going.  The Bears have given up more than 100 yards rushing in each of their three losses and have held their opponent under 100 yards on the ground in each of their seven wins.

The Bears win if: They don’t turn the ball over.  Chicago is at their best with a ball control approach that depends on the defense.  Chances are there will be a substantial amount of pressure on Jay Cutler.  He has to take care of the ball and throw it away when necessary.

Who do I like: Eagles 20-13

Why: Two weeks ago Philadelphia went into Washington and destroyed the Redskins.  This shows that they can go into hostile territory and win.  Now clearly the Bears have a much better defense than the Redskins, but I like the Eagles to find enough ways to move the ball to get multiple scores.  I also like the Philadelphia defense in their matchup against Chicago’s offense.  The Eagles lead the NFL in interceptions with 19 and they have also found a lot of ways to get to the quarterback.  The Bears offensive line has improved but I’m betting the Eagles pass rush is still able to exploit their deficiencies.

How do you see this game playing out?  Do you agree with me that the Eagles will win?  Or do you see the Bears defending their home turf?  Let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Photo source: SoCalSuperEagle

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There are two huge battles in the NFC on Sunday, Green Bay at Atlanta and Philadelphia at Chicago.  I’m going to start my week 12 NFL previews by evaluating the Packers-Falcons game – a matchup that I think could go a long way toward determining who has home field advantage in the NFC Playoffs.

At 7-3 the Packers are a tiebreaker behind the also 7-3 Bears in the NFC North.  After starting the season at 3-3 they’ve settled in and won four in a row.  That streak includes an extremely impressive 9-0 shutout of the Jets in New York (New Jersey).  In their last two wins Green Bay has absolutely throttled their opponent, leading to the firing of that opponent’s head coach.

Atlanta Falcons in the Shotgun

Will the Packers pass rush get to Matty Ice?

Atlanta brings a four game winning streak to the Georgia Dome on Sunday as well.  If you look even further down their schedule they’ve won eight of their last nine.  I was not buying the Falcons until I watched them play the Ravens.  During that game they convinced me that they have everything it takes to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

The Packers win if: Their pass rush can bring down Matt Ryan.  This matchup is strength versus strength.  The Packers are fourth in the NFL with 29 sacks while the Falcons are tied for fifth in the NFL having allowed only 15 sacks.  Clay Matthews is going to have to introduce himself to Ryan early.

The Falcons win if: They contain the Packers passing game.  Atlanta’s secondary is less than stellar and they are currently ranked 24th in the NFL against the pass.  Aaron Rodgers has thrown seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in the last two games.  The Falcons have to keep the Green Bay receivers out of the end zone.

Who do I like: Falcons 31-27

Why: This is a spectacular matchup.  I think both teams will rack up the yardage.  Rodgers will exploit the Falcons secondary but I think the Atlanta defense will hold up a little better in the red zone than the Green Bay defense.  To me the difference is that the Falcons have a much more dangerous running game that they can employ inside the 20.  However, I will say that I don’t think the Falcons can rely on their home field advantage as much as they can against other teams.  With wins at Philadelphia, New York and Minnesota the Packers have proven they can win on the road.

Do you think the Packers can upset the Falcons?  Let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Photo source: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

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With all the byes behind us, all 32 NFL teams are playing in week 11.  It got off to a surprising start, at least to me, with the Bears dominating the Dolphins in Miami.  With a packed slate, the action on Sunday was happening fast and furiously. There were some big matchups and some telling results.

Devin Hester

The Bears are finding more ways to make their opponents worry

With the very important Giants-Eagles game currently being played, here are the Average Guy NFL Week 11 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Green Bay Packers – 31-3 at the Minnesota Vikings

Most Important Win

Chicago Bears – 16-0 at the Miami Dolphins

Worst Loss

Cincinnati Bengals – 31-49 to the Buffalo Bills

Biggest Surprise

Washington Redskins

Biggest Disappointment

San Francisco 49ers

Offensive MVP

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers – 22 completions 31 attempts 301 yards 4 TDs 141.3 QB rating 3 carries 21 yards

Defensive MVP

Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears – 3 sacks 6 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Bryan McCann, Dallas Cowboys – 97-yard punt return TD, 2 kickoff returns for 55 yards

Most Surprising Performance

Jacksonville Jaguars Defense – held Browns to 88 yards on 27 carries

Most Disappointing Performance

Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins – 3 receptions 41 yards (+ penalties and dropped passes)

Offensive Rookie

Chris Ivory, New Orleans Saints – 23 carries 99 yards 1 TD

Defensive Rookie

T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns – 2 interceptions, 5 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks – 32 completions 44 attempts 366 yards 1 TD 104.9 QB rating

Welcome Back Mike Williams

Mike Williams, Seattle Seahawks – 6 receptions 109 yards

Quick Takes

  • I watched the bulk of the Redskins-Titans game.  I was really impressed with the play of the Redskins offensive line, especially because injuries led to a patchwork group.  They did a very good job of protecting Donovan McNabb and opening up holes for the running backs.  Kyle Shanahan clearly put together an excellent offensive game plan.
  • It was a real shame that Vince Young got hurt.  He was throwing a good ball before the injury.  I don’t know what the heck happend after that though.
  • Rusty Smith is not ready for primetime.  Not even close.
  • Of course, a stat that I always like to look at is third down conversions.  Coming into the game in Tennessee, Washington was last in the NFL on third down conversions at 22%.  In today’s win they converted 50% and it made a big difference in the game.
  • On the topic of third down conversions – they were definitely a factor in the Falcons-Rams game.  Atlanta converted nine of 17, while St. Louis was only one of 10.
  • I was glad to hear some NFL pundits considering a pick of the Rams.  It shows the progress the franchise has made this season.  But the Falcons are just too good to lose that game.
  • The Steelers showed that they truly do have one of the best defenses in the NFL, holding the recently explosive Raiders to just 182 total yards.
  • I was definitely impressed by the Bears and Bucs this week who showed that they are for real by posting shutouts on somebody else’s turf.
  • The Chiefs, Jaguars and Redskins all sent a message not to count them out yet.
  • Shovel the dirt on the Bengals and Vikings.  They are done.

One BIG Question

Can the Dolphins and Titans climb back into the playoff race?  Or are they done now too?

Let me know your week 11 thoughts by posting a comment below.

Photo source: Monica’s Dad

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At 6-3 the Giants and Eagles are tied atop the NFC East, but after last weekend they seem to be going in completely opposite directions.

After winning five in a row the Giants crashed and burned against a left-for-dead Dallas Cowboys team.  The Cowboys had a number of big plays and forced the Giants into three turnovers.  The game changed on a red zone interception Eli Manning threw that was returned 101 yards for a touchdown.  The Giants defense, which has been very dependable while ranking fourth in the NFL against the pass and third against the rush, gave up more than 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing.

Eli Manning Throwing vs. Texans

Will Eli Manning have enough time to exploit a weak Eagles secondary?

Led by Michael Vick, the Eagles had a phenomenal Monday night performance, beating the Redskins 59-28.  Vick was 20 of 28 for 333 yards and four touchdowns.  He also ran for 80 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.  With Vick at the helm Philadelphia has proven to be one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. 

The Giants win if:  They can stop the Eagles early.  In their last four wins Philadelphia has scored in at least their first two possessions.  Against Indianapolis they scored on their first three possessions.  Last week against the Redskins they scored touchdowns on their first five possessions.  New York must do whatever it takes to prevent the Eagles from scoring early.

The Eagles win if:  They win the battle of the trenches, especially on offense.  They’ve used a lot of max protect schemes to give Vick time and/or holes to find for the run.  They must continue to provide that time for Vick and to open up running lanes for LaSean McCoy.

Who do I like: Giants 27-24

Why: Mostly because of this – every time this season seems to start making sense, something crazy happens.  Everything points to the Eagles winning this game.  Yet, just two weeks ago, many were considering whether the Giants were the best team in the NFL.  Now, the same is being said of the Eagles.  I think the Giants D-line can force some chaos that slows Vick down.  When the Giants have the ball I expect the offensive line to give Manning just enough time to take advantage of a poor Philadelphia secondary.

Let me know who you think is going to win this huge NFC East matchup and why by posting a comment below.

Photo source: AJ Guel Photography

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