Posts Tagged NFL

I Make the Call–Week 5 Edition

At the quarter pole, I am at 41-23 picking the results for NFL football games, including a 12-4 week 4. There were plenty of gimme games last week, the biggest was the World Champ Packers taking on my hometown anemic Denver Broncos. How bad was it, Packer fans were so bored they started chanting for Tim Tebow in the 4th quarter. Can I say I have given up all hope and faith of the Minnesota Vikings winning a game this season after choking to the KC Chefs?

Ok, on to this week. I was totally sober making all of these. Only 13 games as we start bye weeks. Here we go:

Philadelphia vs. Buffalo: I took Philadelphia. They’re 1-3 and can’t stop anyone. Their offense is a mess as they can’t keep Mike Vick upright. Buffalo has everything going its way so far outside of a freaky win by Cincinnati last week. Philly is desperate, though. I think that hole they’re in pushes them more than anything else, including Andy Reid can. They pull this out in the 4th as for one day, everything finally looks like it clicks for them. 23-16. Confidence: 5

Kansas City vs. Indianapolis: Until Peyton Manning is on the sidelines in something other than jeans and a polo shirt, the Colts are pretty much screwed. Their defense has been playing well enough to keep them in games so far, but KC looked last week like maybe they were starting to put things together. You saw a fire lit under Matt Cassel after he took on Coach Todd Haley in full view of a national TV audience last week in their win over Minnesota. KC wins 20-7. Confidence: 4

Arizona vs. Minnesota: Minnesota couldn’t even get the comfortable halftime lead they’ve enjoyed in past weeks against the formerly winless KC Chefs. Donovan McNabb looks lost, confused, old, befuddled, and a bunch of other things that I can use to say he can’t play anymore. He’s still their starter. Arizona has the guy he was once traded for. McNabb had a hissy-fit when Philly went with Kolb and exiled him to Washington. Kolb has something to prove. Did I mention he has Larry Fitzgerald to throw to? Arizona wins 24-14. Confidence: 3

Seattle vs. NY Giants: Seattle is incompetent at all areas of the game right now. They have a QB that Minnesota was more than happy to get rid of to allow McNabb to take over. If McNabb is an improvement….Tom Coughlin has been fairly satisfied with his team’s play so far. Their talent is far greater than anything Seattle can manage to control. NY 23-10. Confidence: 12

Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh is banged up. Ben Roethlisberger has spent the entire week in a walking boot; James Harrison has a fractured orbital bone; Rashard Mendenhall has a hamstring issue. Tennessee, on the other hand, has been cruising. They absolutely clocked the Browns and beat the same Ravens team that stuffed it down the Steelers’ throats. I got Tennessee 27-14. Confidence: 2

New Orleans vs. Carolina: This game has shoot out written all over it. Drew Brees and Cam Newton can and probably will exceed 400 yards passing. The problem is, the Saints have multiple play makers and Carolina has Steve Smith.  Most of Newton’s passing will come as he makes a furious comeback attempt in the 4th quarter to make the final score respectable. Brees and company show Cam how a high-powered offense operates 41-28. Confidence: 9

Cincinnati vs. Jacksonville: Last week Cincinnati didn’t allow a 17-3 halftime deficit to the previously unbeaten Buffalo Bills faze them. All they did was come back after the break and outscore them 20-3 including the game winning field goal as time expired. Andy Dalton has fans asking “Carson who?” AJ Green is as advertised. Jacksonville is a mess. At 1-3, they don’t have a winnable game on their schedule until after the bye when they face Indy—and that’s provided Jack Del Rio is still around. They have thrown rookie QB Blaine Gabbert into the fray after cutting incumbent David Garrard in favor of Luke McCown who quickly showed the nation he has no idea how to play the QB position in the NFL. Gabbert is learning the offense on the fly and that doesn’t bode well. Cinci has confidence, Jacksonville has questions—lots of them. Bengals win 20-10. Confidence: 6

Oakland vs. Houston: It’s too bad that Al Davis has passed. He would love to watch this year’s team play. It’s playing the kind of beat-the-hell outta the opponent football he loved, craved, and taught. Darren McFadden has 468 yards and three touchdowns on the season already. Jason Campbell was 25-39 and 344 yards with a touchdown against the vaunted Patriots last week in a loss. Matt Schaub will be without his favorite target as Andre Johnson sits with a hamstring that required what the team called a “minor procedure” during the week. Who’ll step up? Who knows. Arian Foster is still shaking off the rust following his own hamstring issues this season. I got the Raiders continuing to play Davis-ball and keeping Schaub in check 23-16. Confidence: 1

Tampa Bay vs. San Francisco:  Tampa has pulled as many escape acts this season as Harry Houdini did his entire career. Last week started by falling 10-0 behind winless Indy before coming back to win. They have also been sloppy committing 14 penalties. San Francisco is coming home with the confidence of winning back-to-back road games in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Alex Smith proved he can lead the team back from a deficit throwing for 201 yards and two touchdowns against Philly last week. Smith and the rest of his 49er teammates have confidence while Tampa seems to have a lot of luck on its side so far. Talent and confidence trump 20-13. Confidence:  7

San Diego vs. Denver: Denver is a mess. They’ve had injuries on defense, they’ve had issues running the ball, stopping the run, and most importantly there’s the Tim Tebow conundrum. They were blown, not just out of Lambeau Field last week, but out of the state of Wisconsin by the Packers. Tim didn’t see a second of action in garbage time and that further enraged his legions of followers. San Diego is where it usually is these days—on top of the AFC West at 3-1 and have very few issues other than not being consistent scoring touchdowns in the red zone. QB Phillip Rivers is as comfortable at Mile High as he is in his own living room. Other than doing some nice things defensively with Von Miller and a finally healthy Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey, the Broncos are destined for 1-5 and a near riot for Tebow after the bye. It was also telling that Bronco VP John Elway was personally on hand on the Stanford sidelines Saturday to witness Andrew Luck disembowel the Colorado Buffaloes. Chargers win 27-17. Confidence: 13

NY Jets vs. New England: So far Rex Ryan’s bark has been far worse than his or his team’s bite. The vaunted defense from a year ago has been largely MIA this season. No one seems afraid of Darrell Revis or anyone else defensively. Last week against Baltimore, Mark Sanchez appeared lost as he turned the ball over four times which resulted in 21 Baltimore points. He will have a better day playing against one of the worst defenses in the league. Tom Brady, however, has been his usual surgical self in leading the league in passing yards and has amassed 13 touchdowns. Mark Sanchez is a mess; Tom Brady is playing like a man possessed. Pats win 35-20. Confidence: 10

Green Bay vs. Atlanta: This is a replay of last year’s divisional round playoff game down to it being in Atlanta. That game and the rest of the playoffs resulted in the Pack taking home the hardware. Green Bay is 4-0 after dismantling what was left of Denver’s confidence last week. Aaron Rodgers has Cheeseheads wondering why they hung on to Brett Favre as long as they did. Atlanta, to have a chance to win, has to clean up its defense, and Matt Ryan has to be nearly flawless to not allow Green Bay opportunities on a short field. Green Bay is just rocking everyone and I believe Atlanta may be too amped in its attempt to exact revenge for last year. Pack win 34-20. Confidence: 11

Chicago vs. Detroit: Nick Fairley looks like a go for Detroit to assist Ndamukong Suh wreak havoc on offenses across the NFL. It will take time for it all to blend together, but their first game will be Monday night against Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears. Detroit comes into this game with the confidence that they can come back from anything after coming back from 27-3 in the 3rd quarter to beat Dallas last week. QB Matt Stafford is playing with confidence and Calvin Johnson catches everything thrown in the same zip code. The Bears come in having beat Carolina, but also giving up 543 yards to Cam Newton and friends. The defense makes life difficult on Cutler who’ll never feel comfortable in this game. Lions go to 5-0 for the first time in forever winning 20-10. Confidence: 8

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Religion and Football Don’t Mix

After the messy loss to the Tennessee Titans, I almost gave in and supported the chants of “TE-BOW TE-BOW” that were resonating loudly throughout the greater metro-Denver area. Something happened, though. What happened was the game against the Green Bay Packers. Except for three interceptions against the world champion defense, Kyle Orton was able to move the ball well up and down the field. The Broncos scored three touchdowns on offense, and while his 273 yards are considered mediocre in today’s pass-happy NFL where 350 yards is more the norm than the super-star performance, he had a good day by his standards. Moreover, his coaches and teammates stood behind him even though the Broncos were blown out of the stadium.

In the 4th quarter with the game no longer in doubt, and it wasn’t much of a game after halftime, the fans of Lambeau began that familiar chant heard multiple times here at Mile High “TE-BOW, TE-BOW” and while it would have been the perfect time for John Fox to give in and play him, he chose to remain with his starters. His reasoning made a lot of sense when he said “We need our STARTING quarterback to get experience for us to improve. That’s the idea behind that. He needs to get better in our system.” He spent over a season in Josh McHoodie’s open style of game and now has to adjust back to Fox’s run first, more conservative offense. There were no OTAs, training camp was a joke or a circus depending on which word you more enjoy using, so using a blow out game as a learning experience is the next best thing.

Most Tebow fans are burnt orange with rage at Fox and Elway for not playing Tebow in garbage time. I wish people would understand this—Tebow couldn’t throw the ball in training camp, and outside of one decent pass in a sole pre-season game, he can’t throw it in game situations, either. The ball looks half drunk leaving his hand. He throws it to places his receivers can’t catch it unless they dive. He’d have better success throwing a javelin than a football at the moment. His defensive reads aren’t there. If his first option isn’t available, he either doesn’t know where his secondary and check down reads are or he doesn’t care and just wants to use his “god-given talents” to make the play, and his teammates be damned.

As I sat and amused myself at people calling Fox and Elway every name in the book and then some on ESPN and Facebook in the aftermath of the 49-23 blood bath, something else came apparent. Based on the comments I was reading, while some were indeed Denverites and true Bronco fans, a majority of them posted and acted as if they didn’t know the first thing about either football, the Denver Broncos, or the NFL in general. They talk blindly about leadership and heart and how he’s a champion. How many Super Bowl rings is he wearing? That’s what I thought. When he’s wearing two like his Team President, give me a call.

A few of those outlandish comments from the football illiterate said they learned all they needed to learn about Tebow’s talents entirely from the post-game speech he made following the University of Florida’s loss to Mississippi in 2008. After the game, a distraught Tebow met with the media and gave them the following gem:

To the fans and everybody in Gator nation, I’m sorry. I’m extremely sorry. We were hoping for an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Florida has never done here.

I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season.

You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God bless.

These amateurs who probably watch the Super Bowl for only the commercials have probably seen video of Tebow and seen the prayers in the eye-black and seen inspirational messages like the above (I have a few choice words for that; keep reading) and read about the missionary work he’s done and believe he walks on water. They know absolutely nothing about the game of football, but their religious zeal gives them absolute confidence that he is the man to lead the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl. They’ve accused the Bronco front office of keeping him out of games for disingenuous reasons—because they disagree with his religious beliefs. His faith and belief in god are all he needs to be one of, if not the greatest quarterback, in NFL history they falsely claim. Perhaps they haven’t picked up a Bible recently either, or they missed that part where it is taught that God does not care about personal glory or gratification. Just believing is enough for them. I saw too many of these kinds of posts on both ESPN and Facebook to ignore them.

“He’s a good kid”, “He’s always saying the right things” and “He’s got the heart of a champion” are all the same thing. I have nothing against religion. My family comes from the birthplace of the world’s three predominant religions on the planet. I DO have a problem with people using it to push their own personal agendas, even if it goes against the greater good. When people from Kentucky, who have likely never seen a professional football game spend $10,000 to buy the use of a digital billboard to demand Tim be the starting quarterback, it’s no longer for football reasons. It can’t be. Something beyond common sense and sanity are in full force.

Football players since the beginning of the game have knelt in prayer after scoring a touchdown. Players have given grace to God after a great or game-winning performance. I have no issue with these practices. They’re usually personal and don’t aim at pushing an agenda.

Tim Tebow, to these fake believers represents all their hopes and dreams in one 6’3”, 245 pound package; a man not afraid to speak about his faith, not afraid to tell you its importance in his life, and not afraid to attempt to push people into his beliefs. You need to look no further than some of the commercials he has appeared in since turning pro. He has been open about his beliefs about abstinence, about marriage, his missionary work where it is a given he is attempting to convert non-believers. He is 24 years old and has already published his memoirs which delve further into his faith and how it has shaped the person he is today. That, above his athletic talents is why a majority of people posting want him in the game. He is one of them. Or, I should say, they see themselves in him; he has become their false idol. Again, I think there’s something pretty close to the beginning of the Bible that tells people to beware of these.

He is free to have his opinion. He is free to be as devoutly religious as he wants. His supporters enjoy the same right. This is America after all. They even have the right to yell and scream and type their disapproval about his lack of playing time. The issue is, those that are responsible for the other 52 players in the locker room that is Tim’s office, have to do what is in the best interests of the entire team. Those 52 other players are just as important as Tim Tebow to those that run the Denver Broncos and to their true fans. Based on the points that football players are actually judged by, religious beliefs not among them, he is not the best option for the team to win. John Elway and John Fox’s opinions are the only two in the room that matter on that point.

Whatever these football novices may think and want, their words come across as an adult in a  Peanuts special—“wah wah wah wah wah wah” and nothing more. Running back Willis McGahee says it best telling the media after the Green Bay game “Kyle’s our guy. That’s who we’re rolling with. Whoever doesn’t like it, it is what it is. He’s leading the Denver Broncos. He’s running the show. So, I mean, I think everybody just needs to get over it.” He’s right. Kyle Orton is the best quarterback on the roster, period. He has the best statistics. He has the best mechanics. Everything he does on the football field gives the team the best chance of winning every game. They may not be close to beating the World Champions, but the Packers are in a different class than 3/4 of the league right now.

The game is a team effort. Everyone has to do their part to win games. Kyle Orton is doing his. Everyone else has to step up at the same time and do theirs for success to be found. It came together in the win over Cincinnati and was almost there in the close losses to the Raiders and the Titans. It takes the defense not allowing the opposing quarterback to throw for over 400 yards and the offense not turning the ball over four times to a team that good without the extra help. Tim Tebow can’t play corner back, he can’t play defensive line, and he can’t play offensive line to allow Orton time to pass. Until he can do those things or learn to actually play the quarterback position better than Kyle, he and the rest of Tebow-land are going to have to get used to him standing all alone on the sideline with his helmet on like that one kid that the coach won’t play because he stinks. He hasn’t done enough to show his coaches or teammates he’s ready for the big time. He hasn’t shown himself to be the team player they can trust.

He can believe what he wants. He can say what he wants. He has said some right things about the circus he is partly responsible for creating. You’ve probably heard the saying “there’s no ‘I’ in team”. Look back at the quote from the Mississippi game. How many times does he talk about himself? His goal was an undefeated season. Wouldn’t the rest of the team want to go undefeated? It seems the easiest path back to the BCS Championship game. He’s the only player that would work harder the remainder of the season? As much as Urban Meyer may have loved having him, I know there were other guys on that roster. He talks now about improving himself as a quarterback each week. If he is the leader that everyone makes him out to be, even as a backup, he needs to also be working on improving his teammates. He needs to work gaining the respect of that locker room. There’s a reason that every man is behind Kyle Orton. Kyle is all about the team. Look at all the other outside distractions that Tim has from his memoirs to his foundation (by the way, isn’t it a little bit pompous of him to ask the guys renting the billboard to donate that money to his foundation? Last I checked, the Denver Broncos have their own foundation that works with Denver area youth and other charities. If he were a team first guy, he’d have asked the donation to go there instead) to his appearance on The Biggest Loser. When guys were gathering for their training while locked out, Tim was barely present. How do you expect me or any other Bronco fan, or more importantly your teammates, to take you wanting to be the leader and starting quarterback seriously if you’re not willing to put in the extra work, even if it isn’t team-sanctioned?

There are numerous reasons why Tim Tebow is not the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos. His religious beliefs aren’t one of them. To do so is to make a mockery of both the NFL and the religion that Tim and many others hold dear.

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I Make the Call–Week 1

Are you ready for some football? Are you ready for some fantasy football? After watching lawyers and other assorted blowhards on both sides try to steal the game we all love this last summer, it’s time to play real football. More than enough ink has been spent writing about them. Thankfully they can go crawl back into the cesspools they came from for the next decade. On with the show!

So, while the guys on the field prepare to beat the hell out of each other, starting with the last two Super Bowl champions meeting in Green Bay Thursday night and stretching through a double-header for Monday Night Football , I have sat and thought hard about who was going to win this weekend. Some of them just jumped out at me as no brainers. Others required more thought than that. The last few were gut shot picks. It’s a little more scientific than taping the games to a wall and throwing darts. So, without further ado, I present my Week 1 selections. Please don’t laugh too hard.

So, my fantasy football league is a pick’em confidence game. One (1) is the game I had the hardest time picking and 16 represents the gimme game of the week in my opinion. Home team is in CAPS.

GREEN BAY vs. New Orleans:  This game represents a matchup of the last two teams to take home the Lombardi Trophy. It also has two teams that can light up the scoreboard like a pinball machine. Aaron Rodgers, the up and coming super star who finally stepped out of the shadows of Brett Favre against Drew Brees, the man who resurrected the Saints after Hurricane Katrina and brought a Championship to a city desperate for anything to cheer about. Scoring points isn’t going to be an issue. This game will come down to defense vs. defense. In the end, I went with the hometown Cheese heads. These two will likely see each other again in the Playoffs. That game could be a different result, but I saw what the D did to people last year. Pack 28, Saints 17. Confidence: 10

Atlanta vs. CHICAGO: Matty Ice returns to the field with his cadre of weapons to throw or hand the ball off to. He received a new toy in this draft, and though had a much shorter off-season, seems to have connected well with Julio Jones formerly of Alabama. As if opponents didn’t have enough problems keeping up with their receivers last season. They face an aging, decrepit, and disgruntled Bears defense that I’m not quite sure is even the third best in the division. Lance Briggs wants to get paid like he was part of the ’85 Bears D or get traded and the other cornerstone, Brian Urlacher is about as fragile as a Faberge egg. Oh, did I mention the Bears still have Jay Cutler as their QB. Remember him? He quit on them at the end of last season. Yeah, him. Atlanta easy 34-10. Confidence: 6

CLEVELAND vs. Cinci: Can we just anoint this the “Toilet Bowl” and get it over with? These two teams, even in week one are probably playing for the 2nd and 3rd picks in the draft behind Buffalo. This is one of those games that I’m not even sure Sunday Ticket will bother to air. Cleveland has a couple pieces in McCoy, Hillis, and Cribbs (though with the new kickoff rules, his effectiveness in putting points on the board have pretty much been negated). The Bengals, who are a complete mess thanks to their inept, dumbass of an owner, have a QB that so wants out he’s willing to leave $11 million on the table. Lemme repeat that. Carson Palmer so wants to be traded, he’s willing to retire/hold out and leave $11 million unclaimed. Chad Ochocinco is gone. TO is gone. Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski get to battle it out for which one of them gets to get sacked most this season. There are still receivers in Cinci (they weren’t lucky enough to follow Ochocinco out-of-town), but without a competent QB, it’s gonna be rough. Cleveland 17-14. Confidence: 11

KANSAS CITY vs. Buffalo: May god have mercy on the Bills’ souls. Matt Cassel and company come back reloaded after a season where they won the AFC West. The Bills get to take on the best team running the football from last season with over 160 yards a game. Try and stop that and you get to deal with Dwayne Bowe. There’s not much in Buffalo to get excited about this season. It’s a no brainer. KC big 34-7. Confidence: 16

Philadelphia vs. ST LOUIS: I think this will be a fun, offense-filled game between Mike Vick and Sam Bradford. Vick has his receivers and his legs, and last year Bradford showed that he was going to be the next really good to great QB in the league nearly taking the Rams from last place to the playoffs as a rookie. He is the real deal and I expect tons of improvement under his new coordinator Josh McDaniels (great OC/QB developer, shitty head coach). It just won’t happen in week 1. Too many weapons and a great D in Philly. Eagles 27-17. Confidence: 14

Detroit vs. TAMPA BAY: Detroit’s D is gonna be fun to watch this year, especially when Nick Fairley gets back into action. Between he and Ndamukong Suh, good luck. Even without Fairley, keeping Suh off your QB was tough work and Tampa is gonna have issues keeping Josh Freeman upright. If he can, they have a good shot to win. Detroit 21-17. Confidence: 2

Tennessee vs. JACKSONVILLE: Jacksonville decided to cut their starting QB, David Garrard, just a few days from the start of the season. That’s gonna go over well. On that alone, and the veteran presence of Matt Hasselback at QB in Tennessee to help mentor Jake Locker, Tennessee wins and wins easily 24-6. Confidence: 5

Pittsburgh vs. BALTIMORE: This was the hardest pick of the week. These teams just love beating the hell out of each other. Joe Flacco has shown he is a great QB. The Baltimore D is still, well, the Baltimore D. Their sole mission—make the opposing QB think about retirement. Big Ben is back and feeling good. He got married, which means for once his off-season, lockout included, was quiet. Not the same for James Harrison. I don’t think he’ll be getting a Christmas card for Roger Goodell this year. At the same time, his issues last season with the league and his talk this off-season, I believe a BIG season is to come from him. By a hair from Polamalu, I am taking the Steelers 17-14. Confidence: 1

HOUSTON vs. Indianapolis: No Peyton Manning, no chance in hell the Colts are going to be very good this season. After the news of his third neck surgery, second since the NFL draft hit, this team will be lucky to win 6 games this season. That isn’t a knock of Kerry Collins. It’s more on the fact that the entire offensive system is built around Manning. Houston has always been loaded offensively and they bring in one of the best defensive coordinators in Wade Phillips. Collins will be able to do a few things, but not close to enough. Texans make an early statement that the division is now theirs and win 30-10. Confidence: 9

ARIZONA vs. Carolina: Cam Newton can play the QB position and will be a hell of a player in this league. It just will take some time. Newton does have the likes of Steve Smith around to throw the ball to, so it isn’t like they’re totally bare.  Arizona is a couple of seasons removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Many of those pieces are still there and they may have finally found the right QB to lead them in Kevin Kolb. He is out from the shadows of Donovan McNabb and Mike Vick in Philly. He still has Larry Fitzgerald to throw to and he now has to start living up to that monster contract he signed. A little more experience and speed in AZ. Birds over Cats 24-14. Confidence: 8

SAN DIEGO vs. Minnesota: Philip Rivers vs. Donovan McNabb. Sounds pretty good right there. Then you look under the marquee. There are actual supporting actors in San Diego in the likes of Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson. Hopefully Rivers’ shoulder will survive throwing it 50 times a game without a running game. McNabb has his own cast including Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and Bernard Berrian. McNabb is also looking to regain that form that took him to multiple NFC Championship games while in Philadelphia. He’ll get there, but I have to go with the team that’s been together forever, or so it seems to a guy living in Denver. Bolts 27-21. Confidence: 7

Seattle vs. SAN FRANCISCO: The best part of this game may be the renewal of a rivalry brought to the NFL from the Pac-10. No, not the players; the head coaches. Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh plain don’t like each other. It goes back to Harbaugh taking over at Stanford and not kowtowing to Carroll’s Trojans as had been the norm for the rest of the conference.  Instead, Harbaugh lead Stanford to victories in two of their three meetings. Neither team is really all that awesome. Alex Smith is still the QB in the Bay Area. I swear he’s got naked photos of someone in the 49ers hierarchy to still have a job. Seattle has Tavaris Jackson who never got a fair shake in Minneapolis, but now is the clear starter and has a familiar face to throw the ball to in Sidney Rice. He has a pretty good receiving core otherwise and a running game. He should fare well. Seattle wins 24-14. Confidence: 4

NY Giants vs. WASHINGTON:  The circus that was the Redskins last season has more than convinced me that it wasn’t the coach who made the QB when Mike Shanahan and John Elway won back-to-back Super Bowls here in Denver. He doesn’t have a starting QB. He made a disgrace of himself last year with his fight with Albert Haynesworth in the media. He is on the hot seat. His owner spends money like toilet paper. It’s time to do something with it. Every year we’re told that Tom Coughlin is on the hot seat. Every year he comes prepared to play. No difference this season. He’s still got Eli Manning and he’s still got that defense. Giants in a laugher 28-6. Confidence: 12

New England vs. MIAMI: Bill Belichick hates losing. He also hates being embarrassed when he does. This was the case in New England’s loss at Detroit in the pre-season. You can expect that he will be looking to take out the frustration on that loss on someone. Sadly for the Dolphins, they’re first up on the schedule. Miami has a QB no one likes, not the fans, not the GM apparently since he did everything but take the Bronco training facility hostage to get Kyle Orton. If Chad Henne can get the ball to Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush, they might make some games interesting. NE 31-7. Confidence: 15

DENVER vs. Oakland: The last time the Raiders came into Mile High Stadium (you can shove your corporate sponsorship), they bitch slapped the Broncos to the tune of 59-14. While there are new players in that locker room, the key players from that game for Denver are back. And don’t think they’ve forgotten. They quit and quit convincingly on Josh McDaniels last year. From all indications, they’ve taken very well to John Fox and John Elway is clearly putting his stamp all over this roster. They have shored up the poorest
defenses in the league from a year ago. The Tim Tebow debate has been dispensed with after the pre-season in which he played like he’d never played football before. The Raiders fired the most consistent coach they’ve had since John Gruden lead them to the Super Bowl almost a decade ago. Can Jason Campbell keep up the run he had last season and go undefeated in the division? He’s got the running game with McFadden and Heyward-Bay to pass to. If they buy into the new coach Hue Jackson’s game, they may be ok. They LOVED playing for Tom Cable. Going homer here. Broncos win 31-14. Confidence: 13

Wish me luck!

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Orton or Tebow? The Answer is Easy

I am having a hard time understanding why there is a so-called “controversy” here in Denver regarding who will be the starting quarterback for the Broncos this season. There’s a question? Really? No there isn’t. Who gives the Broncos the best shot at winning football games? That would be Kyle Orton. Emotions aside, Orton is the answer, always was the answer, and unless he gets hurt, will be the answer for this season. Veterans win games

Denver Broncos QB Kyle Orton

in the NFL. They’ve been there, they’ve seen it, they’ve done it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not adding to the bon fire Merril Hoge began via his Twitter account and SportsCenter appearance last week. Tim Tebow doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment. He is an intelligent, hard-working, athletic leader who will enjoy success in the NFL if he continues to put in the work. What other 23-year-old has published his memoirs? He’s got it all together. He’ll be fine. Right now, however, the Broncos best chance of winning games and seeing the playoffs is with Kyle Orton under center.

The idea of the NFL is to put the best players on the field who give the team the best chance of winning football games, unless you’re the Oakland Raiders and then you just place an ad on Craigslist and hope for the best. That is what training camp is about. It’s about evaluating talent and skill. With that in mind, Tim Tebow has work to do. Work that Kyle Orton has already put in. Some of that’s due to Orton just being older, wiser, and being in the league longer, some on the lockout that kept Tim from being able to work with the coaches who are in the best position to teach him and help him excel at the things he needs to, and some of it being to how Tim played at the University of Florida. It is his success at Florida and his work ethic that will make him a good quarterback in the years to come.

Emotions have been running high here in Denver since the lock out ended. Most Bronco fans want Tebow. Tim has a lot going for him; things that fans are clamoring for and have been since one John Elwaytook his Lomardi Trophy and rode off into the sunset more than a decade ago. Tim displays leadership, intelligence, work ethic, athletic ability, decent arm, and quick legs that make him hard to catch once he takes off down the

Fan favorite Tim Tebow

field. He did have six rushing touchdowns last season.He’s at practice before the coaches, and we all know NFL coaches live in their offices once training camp kicks off. Everyone who meets him is drawn to him. Think back to that now famous speech he gave following a loss to Mississippi in September 2008. He took that pledge to two BCS National Championships. He came into the NFL fully entrenched in that pledge. It is who he is. It is what he believes in. It will be what propels him to success. It’s the creed he lives by and will push his Bronco teammates to live and play by. More so, he gets the game. He understands that a hell of a lot is expected out of the quarterback position in the NFL. That very speech at Florida makes the case. He’s just not quite there yet. He showed glimpses of it in his three game audition last season, but it also showed that work remains and that’s why Orton is the answer right now.

I am watching two completely opposite forces in action at play here–the fans’ emotional attachment to Tebow vs. the Broncos’ coaching and management staffs’ need to do their jobs of putting the best team on the field. Fans love a winner. Fans love a sports star who does things the right way–works hard, stays out of trouble, grew up with the life lessons that Tebow has had. It’s a hard thing for management to overcome. I applaud John Elway and John Fox for not letting any of that cloud their judgement. If the entire debate came down to leadership, likability, discipline, and work ethic, the Broncos should just go right on ahead and cut Orton today. The fans can’t see past their current ass-kissing to see that there is far more involved than that. Tebow’s mechanics need work, especially from under center. He needs work making the reads down field as well as getting the ball there with accuracy. He was less than a 50% passer last year while Orton was nearly a 60% one. In college, Tebow worked mainly from shot-gun formations and if the pass wasn’t there immediately, he took off. NFL offenses don’t run that way. They are far too complex and intricate and take more than the 3.5 seconds Tebow let pass before he took off. It takes making the reads down the field and trusting that your offensive line will hold up long enough to make them and get rid of the ball. It takes learning to quickly read defenses and potentially changing the play before the snap if necessary. These are all things that Kyle Orton can do and do very well. Tim will get it in time, but not before week 1 of this season.

If people are still not convinced, and I doubt the ardent Tebow fans aren’t. For you, I am sorry and I still hope that you will be Broncos fans when they win games with Orton at the helm. In fact I will guarantee that you will be the first ones standing up and cheering when they win. I am a numbers guy. I don’t hold a business degree for nothing, you know. For one thing, they don’t lie. Orton played 13 games last season while Tebow started the final three following the “don’t let the door hit ya in the ass” firing of Josh McDaniels. Stretching each’s stats to a full 16 game season, I rest my case:

Orton:

2010: 361 comps    613 att  (58.8%)    4496 yards    25 TDs    11 INTs    87.5 rating

Tebow:

2010: 213 comps    432 att  (49.4%)    3472 yards    21 TDs    16 INTs    77.7 rating

A shade under 4500 yards and close to 60% passing with a better than 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio is far superior to less than 50% passing with less than 3500 yards and nearly equal numbers when it comes to touchdown to interception ratio. Case closed. Once Tebow fixes those things in his game that need to be fixed, those numbers will improve. Again, the NFL is “win now”. The numbers clearly indicate who’ll do that more consistently.

Like I said, this isn’t even a controversy. The bigger problem the Broncos have to answer are on the other side of the ball. It isn’t who will be throwing it for them, but who’ll be stopping the other guy from throwing it. The Broncos could put up points last season. That wasn’t the big deal. The big deal was they couldn’t stop anyone else from scoring on them. Some weeks looked like an arena league score. They have addressed their needs defensively taking Von Miller with the #2 overall pick in the draft and have a key piece returning healthy to the lineup in QB killer Elvis Dumervil. Word from camp is that both have been virtually unblockable. The Broncos didn’t need to make a splashy play in free agency, and they didn’t other than addressing a need in bringing in Willis McGahee.

One thing I will give Tim credit for is his handling of all the criticism heaped on him recently, notably the harsh and unwarranted words of ESPN analyst Merril Hoge. Merril went to his Twitter account and said “It’s embarrassing to think the broncos could win with tebow.” He continued and expanded on his post later on SportsCenter adding “He is awful as far as his accuracy goes and what’s kind of even more disturbing, he’s probably worse moving and running around with the football and throwing than he is from the pocket.” First of all, Hoge admits his analysis (I thought analysis was supposed to be built on fact and not fiction) is based on video from last season. While Tim admittedly has taken a little bit of a step backwards this season, much of that can be attributed to not being there working with the coaches best trained to get him NFL ready. What did he expect from a rookie–Joe Montana? John Elway? Noe Namath? You played running back, dude. Go grade them and leave the quarterbacks to the guys that actually played the position. Tebow won’t be a bust. He needs time to develop the rest of the skillset he needs. He has the tools to get there and do it, now he has the people around him to finish the job.

Rational thought will always beat out emotion. Emotion pushes people to be rash and not think thinks through. It doesn’t take statistics or talent into account. People don’t want to think about the NFL being a business first. People want wins and they want the guys they like. I’m sorry, but you sometimes don’t get what you want, fans. Yes, they relate to Tebow more than they do Orton. Tebow is there front and center. Kyle goes about his work in relative obscurity, but gets results. John Elway is a hall of fame quarterback. John Fox is a long time coach in the league. They understand that the fans want Tim Tebow. They also understand is that their only concern is to produce wins. I will put money that if they were to start Tim Tebow right now, before he is totally polished, and the team goes 3-13 or 4-12, those same fans clamoring for Tim will be the same ones demanding Elway and Fox’s heads on platters. In other words, the fans need to leave the choices to those in the best position to make them.

This is only a controversy in the minds of the fans who aren’t getting what they want. That’s life; we don’t always get what we want. Tim Tebow has come to accept that in being pushed to the back up role and now it’s the fans’ turn to learn this valuable life lesson.The NFL can be a harsh place. It’s a privileged place to be. The fans need to take their emotions and direct them in a way that will be helpful to the team they support. They need to show up at games and cheer and be loud and make things as miserable as possible for the opposition. They need to leave the business side of the game to the leaders who get paid to make the tough and right calls. The sooner the fans come to realize this, the sooner they’ll also see that there was never a controversy and the answer is just as easy as I do.

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Fans Are Only Losers in NFL Deal

I am, like most people, happy to see the NFL owners and players come around and figure things out and make a deal to end the lockout. I didn’t want to spend the next four months watching the World Domino Championships or synchronized swimming. It’s hard to build fantasy lineups for those events. It was good to see everyone hugging it out at the end and saying all the right things and acting like this was truly the work of all sides willing to work together for the better good. They said they did it because they all care about us, the fans.

Roger Goodell
NFL Commish Roger Goodell

(Cue the screeching car brakes) Wait, what? I had to go back and listen to the press conference between Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith and everyone else who spoke. “Football is back!” Goodell exclaimed. The sport is back, people are flocking to buy tickets and go watch training camp to see who signed where. It’s everything that the NFL could have asked for. That includes getting the fans back hook, line, and sinker. With everyone looking so happy, the NFL has made it appear as if everything is normal again. It hardly feels that way to me. I must be in the minority, but as a fan, I’m not feeling any better. I don’t feel the same excitement I did before. I’m not as enthusiastic as I was before. I don’t think any fan should be. The rich got richer and the fans got nothing. Eagles fans have special permission to party a little bit after hitting the free agency jackpot, but just a little bit.

The players got their money. The owners got their money. The networks that air the NFL got their games and money back. The golden goose is alive and well. What exactly did the fans get? A sack of deflated footballs.  Sure we get to watch the games, go to the games, and spend money at the games. When this deal was put together and the fans put through hell, we were beyond the last thing on their minds. A couple of teams lowered ticket prices and a total of half at least left prices alone. Those two teams, Tampa and San Diego, had a combined 11 TV blackouts last year for failing to sell out their home games. I doubt the drop was out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re still forcing us to pay high prices. Remember, 18 teams raised prices going into last season. Since 2005, the average ticket price is up 30% since 2005 to $76.47 a ticket. Wow, they’re really thinking about us. On the bright side, DirecTV is now including its NFL Sunday Ticket “free”, but that’s only if you pay them for any package not called “basic”. A great deal—for DirecTV.

Fans were interviewed throughout this mess and they all said they were disgusted; disgusted with the players, disgusted with the owners. Fans were angry that millionaires and billionaires couldn’t agree over money, something both sides already have way too much of. The fans weren’t in the debate when the sides were sitting at the table arguing or in the media hurling insults at one another. It was all greed. The players wanted half the money. The owners wanted more than half the money. The players wanted this. The owners wanted that. It’s too bad that disgust hasn’t manifested itself into any action now that the lockout is over. It would be nice to see these people going to watch training camps protesting. It would be nice if season ticket holders renewing their packages argued for discounts. The league has $9 billion to split. The fans should get something out of it.

Teams have been offering things like free parking and free admission to training camps. Are you kidding me?! “We’re talkin’ about practice!.”

Cowboys Stadium
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, TX

That’s not what packs stadiums, sports bars, and gets people all excited about fantasy football and whatever else they do. Practices aren’t what people care about. They care about the games. Where are the deals for those, Mr. Goodell? Where are the lower ticket prices in all markets? Where are the concessions to the fans? You made them with the players to get this deal done. Remember, no matter how much the networks and the sponsors and everyone else pay you, if not for the fans, you would all have nothing. The fans made the league into the behemoth it is. It wasn’t the stars, or any owner or the commissioner. It was the fans. We were the ones that paid the prices you charged for tickets even when you raised them year after year after year. We were the ones buying the hats, the jerseys, and the t-shirts. We were the ones that voted to increase our taxes to help pay for your new stadiums; stadiums you said would make the game experience even better for us, bring additional revenue to the market you play in, and make the team more competitive because the great players would want to come play for you in your state-of-the-art facilities. We, the fans, have given you everything you wanted. In the end, all we have gotten is screwed.

We deserve better than just a “Football is back” cheer. We have bent over backwards to help the league succeed. Anymore and we’d be human Slinkys. I wish more fans would be angry. I wish they would show their anger and not buy tickets, not buy souvenirs, not play fantasy football, not watch games on TV. I know I am asking too much. People are just happy the games are back. Their falls and winters revolve around a game they love too much to quit. People are hurting for jobs just to make ends meet and these already richer than imaginable crybabies are worried about how to split $9 billion among themselves. Why aren’t more people screaming about this? I feel like people should be more upset, yet ticket sales were up something like 22% in the secondary buying markets such as stubhub.com as soon as the lockout ended. They’ve done nothing to help the fan.

If one executive or player came out and said it was always about the money, admits the truth, I can live with that. I wrote in another piece that fans aren’t stupid; they’re savvier than most people make them out to be. We roll our eyes and laugh when Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith, or Kevin Mawae stand before a microphone and state that they had to figure these things out to make the game bigger and stronger for the fans. We know better. We know it is all built on greed. I’d like for one of them to come forward and at least be honest about it. We’ve given them so much, we deserve at least that much back.

Love it? Hate it? Got a question, statement, or just want to yell and scream at me. Feel free to leave me a message at sports-letters@comcast.net or on my Facebook page.

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James Harrison Misses the Mark

James Harrison delivered both barrels, reloaded, and delivered them again at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and a slew of other people in the August issue of Men’s Journal.  Goodell, the main target of his ranting, hasn’t done himself any favors with his treatment of players on the field playing the game the way they’ve played it since they were in Kindergarten. Harrison’s words weren’t even all that inflammatory. I mean who hasn’t thought their boss is the devil and a crook at least once in their working life? Even saying he wouldn’t piss on Goodell if the Commish were on fire wasn’t that bad. Was it in bad taste? Maybe. Does it make Goodell any weaker or less respected in the eyes of the other players? Probably not. His handling of the lockout is doing a better job of that. What his delivery did do is totally crush any potential good that could have come from his argument regarding Goodell’s handling of player punishment.

If he had concentrated his thoughts on the fact that football is a violent sport with a history of injury as well as how the Commish seemed to hand out punishments arbitrarily with what he and other black players perceived to be a racist slant, it would have hit a lot harder than either of the two handguns he was pictured with. “I slammed Vince Young on his head and paid five grand, but just touched Drew Brees and that was twenty. You don’t think black players don’t see this shit and lose all respect for Goodell?” That statement on its own is a cannon blast across the bow of the league’s player conduct policy. On its own, it would have made everyone; player, coach, owner, and NFL exec stand up and take notice. There would have been no way Goodell could have or would have remained silent on the issue. Changes in the conduct policy and its application may have even gained traction within the NFLPA in the collective bargaining negotiations. Too bad the way the diatribe was delivered ruined the good that could have come from it.

Harrison was the best candidate to deliver something so scathing in regards to how Goodell treats and punishes players who are flagged for “illegal hits”. Remember, he was fined $100,000 last season for illegal hits. Some of these hits aren’t even flagrant. These plays happen in less than the blink of an eye. It’s football. There is an inherent danger in playing the game. People are going to get hurt. The players have chosen to play the game. No one put a gun to their heads, no pun intended. They’re there on the field voluntarily. The risks have been explained. These men make millions of dollars. The players are more than compensated enough to take care of themselves.

Had the Steerlers won the Super Bowl in February against the Packers, Harrison was ready to tell Goodell “Why don’t you quit and do something else, like start your own league in flag football?” Yet another great way to deliver the message that football is a league of hard hits and physical play performed by highly trained, highly skilled athletes who are in the absolute best shape of any athlete in any sport. Goodell’s crackdown on defensive players hitting receivers and especially the rules towards quarterbacks has made the game akin to flag football. Again, this was a place where Harrison would have been the best person in the league to make such a bold statement.

James Harrison, August 2011 Men’s Journal

Harrison had absolutely valid points to make but he screwed the presentation. His first mistake was the photo. The league, and sports in general, are still recovering from such issues as Pac-Man Jones, Tank Johnson, Plaxico Burress, and Gilbert Arenas just to name a few. The league’s trying to get rid of the gun culture and here is Harrison looking like a video game character. Stupid. Dumb. Asinine. Those are the first thoughts to cross my mind when I saw the photo. Whether Harrison wants to admit it or not, he is a guy on the field that others look up to and measure their game by. Whether he wants to admit it or not, he is a role model for younger players. He can say what he wants; that is his right. What he cannot do because of his celebrity and notoriety is pose in a photo that all but says it is ok to brandish multiple handguns. Does he really think kids won’t see that pic? Wake up!

The picture, however, was only his first mistake. He needed to leave his comments to Goodell. Had he done so, I think the picture could have eventually been overlooked and the larger issue of his words would have been the bigger story. The language is just too strong to ignore. The message is too important to ignore. Maybe something good could have come from this interview. Instead, Harrison made it a joke. Not just around the league and to fans everywhere, but in his locker room as well. You can’t put the cross-hairs on your own teammates and not expect repercussions. He took a shot at his running back, Rashard Mendenhall, who Harrison called “a fumble machine” since he had a fumble that lead to a Green Bay touchdown in the Super Bowl. Mendenhall also scored a touchdown and was the game’s leading rusher. He also had all of two fumbles in the entire regular season.

Worse yet, he pointed the larger barrel at his two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. “Hey, at least throw a pick on their side of the field instead of asking the D to bail you out again. Or hand the ball off (writer’s note: To whom should he hand it off to? Remember you just called your running back a ‘fumble machine’) and stop trying to act like Peyton Manning. You ain’t that and you know it, man; you just get paid like he does.” Note to Harrison: Your QB has one more ring than Peyton does. He also has lead your team to one more Super Bowl appearance than Peyton has. Go ahead and try and defend that. I’d pay money to be in the room when you do.

Harrison’s line from the Super Bowl: One sack of QB Aaron Rodgers for a loss of 6 yards. Outside of that hit, Rodgers tore your defense, a defense Harrison supposedly leads, to shreds. Rogers was 24 of 39  for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. He had all the time in the world to take a look around and admire Jerryworld before deciding where to throw the ball. It was up to Harrison to make life miserable for Rodgers and he couldn’t do it. Harrison’s teammates on offense did more to win that game than he did.

James Harrison is a very intelligent individual. He has a lot of good things to say about the game he loves and is so passionate about. He has commented on the Commissioner’s seemingly arbitrary decisions when it comes to levying punishments against players for various infractions. This interview could have been a fantastic chance to push that message again. There was no filter here, no editing, and no one from the league or the Steelers there to fine him or suspend him. If he had stuck to his guns and attacked Goodell for what he and others saw as a blatantly racist policy on punishing players and how these fines and suspensions in general have made it far more difficult for he and other defensive players to do their jobs, he’d have hit a home run. Instead, he shot himself in the foot.

 

Love it? Hate it? Got a question, statement, or just want to yell and scream at me. Feel free to leave me a message at sports-letters@comcast.net or on my Facebook page.

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