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Is Donovan McNabb NFL Hall Of Fame Worthy?

June 27, 2012 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

donovan mcnabbDonovan McNabb is currently a free agent.

The 35-year-old Syracuse grad, and six-time NFL Pro Bowler, has spent the offseason getting back into shape after a few years of piling on stifling girth and paunch. The once-elusive 240 pound scrambler, considered a proper heir to Randall Cunningham’s physical magic in Philadelphia, was relatively bloated in his disastrous runs through Washington and Minnesota. The Washington Post reported in May that McNabb has dropped fifteen to twenty pounds in the hopes of regaining his athletic prowess.

So far, there have been no takers.

Teams are filling their ninety man preseason rosters and gearing up for training camp. Barring an injury to a major starter, or a setback in the development process of a struggling youngster, it seems likely that McNabb may be waiting in vain for his next NFL opportunity. Asking the magic eight-ball if McNabb has played his last game, the glass circle would probably reveal “signs point to yes.”

If this is indeed the end for McNabb, the #2 overall pick in 1999 by Philadelphia, then 2017 would be the first opportunity for Canton’s Board of Selectors to decide the fate of his legacy.

The mental film reel of McNabb’s career is sure to produce some laughable embarrassments and indignation. Listing off just a few of the shortcomings, he didn’t understand that a game could end in a tie, and he admitted it. That was during his tenth season in the league. He vomited in the Super Bowl. He let Terrell Owens verbally berate him at a point in which McNabb was supposed to be the team leader. His end zone celebrations reeked of amateur hour. Andy Reid once benched him at halftime of a close game, and had an assistant inform McNabb personally. He received a huge mid-season contract extension in Washington early on a Monday, and then was trounced by the Eagles on national TV that night. He’s a proud mama’s boy in both soup commercials, and at games in which TV cameras focused on Wilma frequently (it could have been worse; it could have been Allen Iverson’s mother).

Does that about cover it?

Oh yeah, he also couldn’t win the big one.

Alright, that about covers the dark side of Donovan McNabb’s moon. Very few Hall of Fame quarterbacks have taken the lashings that McNabb’s endured over thirteen seasons, much less been led to the public gallows so many times.

But Canton doesn’t make their choices on spats with a mouthy wide receiver, or cornball commercials. On-field statistics and achievements are the measuring stick, so how does McNabb match up?

For one thing, McNabb has 234 touchdown passes in his thirteen-year career, good for 22nd all time. That marks him two ahead of a Hall of Fame inductee, Steve Young. Of the twenty-one men ahead of McNabb on the list, twelve of them are in the Hall of Fame. Of the remaining nine, three of them (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady) are active. Of the remaining six, Brett Favre is a shoo-in for induction. The others are Drew Bledsoe, Boomer Esiason, John Hadl, Vinny Testaverde, and Dave Krieg. And compared to those five, McNabb has a superior career quarterback rating of 85.6. The best of those five compared to McNabb is Krieg, at 81.5.

In fact, McNabb’s rated favorably in passer rating against many modern-era quarterbacks that happen to be Hall of Famers. Troy Aikman’s career rating is an 81.6. The pass-crazed Dan Fouts boasts an 80.2. TV-age icons in Joe Namath and Terry Bradshaw, with their five Super Bowl titles combined, post ratings of 65.5 and 70.9 respectively. McNabb, if he retired now, would finish less than a point behind the reliable Dan Marino at 86.4.

There are twenty quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame that played the majority of their careers from the 1950s onward. McNabb has a better career rating than all of them except Marino, Joe Montana, and Steve Young. He’s had more career efficiency than Roger Staubach, Bart Starr, Fran Tarkenton, and even John Elway.

But still, Tarkenton never lost his lunch during the big dance, right?

What attributes to McNabb’s above-average passer rating is his low amount of interceptions. Yeah, you can say he threw a lot of passes into the ground, or he chose to scramble in tough situations, but he didn’t turn the ball over as much as those in football’s penthouse. McNabb’s thrown 117 interceptions over thirteen years. Now let’s look at the rogue’s gallery: Elway 226, Bradshaw 210, Namath 220, Tarkenton 266, Marino 252, Johnny Unitas 253.

Of those twenty modern era HOFers I mentioned, only two of them have less picks than McNabb: Young with 107, and Staubach with 109. Even Joe Montana, “Joe Cool” as he may be, threw 139.

So we’ve established that McNabb maintained a modicum of efficiency over thirteen seasons, and put up numbers that are comparable to the current Hall of Fame list. In many cases, he has exceeded their output.

What’s next to prove?

Alright, let’s do yards. For all you know, based on the information given, McNabb’s efficiency may be tied to short dinks and dunks, right?

McNabb’s total passing yards: 37,276, good for seventeenth all time. He has seven Hall of Famers, and four surefire Hall of Famers (Favre, Manning, Brady, and Brees) ahead of him. Testaverde, Esiason, Krieg, Bledsoe, and Kerry Collins make up the rest. That’s an impressive 2,867 yards a season, or 223 yards per his 167 regular season games. Brady and Brees are the only players ranked higher than McNabb that have played less than thirteen seasons, which indicates a remarkable pace for McNabb to have reached his career numbers. Fouts has over 43,000 yards, but it’s over fifteen seasons. Could McNabb, with two more solid years, have hit that number?

But we’re not dealing with the hypothetical, otherwise Terrell Davis would have been voted into Canton on principle. In fact, let’s throw out most stats for a moment, and focus on Al Davis’ favorite stat, and the only one that matters: winning.

Was McNabb a winner? Factoring in playoff games (in which McNabb was 9-7 as a starter), McNabb’s career record is 107-69-1. That’s a 60.8% winning percentage over his career.

How does that stack up against some of his peers?

Joe Montana’s winning percentage is 71.1% (133-54). Bart Starr’s is 64% (103-58-6). Terry Bradshaw led his Hall of Fame-filled Steelers to a 68.4% clip (121-56). Truly, you were gifted with good odds having such legends calling your signals. McNabb does, admittedly, fall a bit below their totals.

But there are some in the Hall of Fame he DOES exceed. Troy Aikman’s winning percentage, counting his postseason glories, is 58.3% (105-75). Dan Fouts may have been master and commander of the Air Coryell offense, yet his percentage (50.3%, 89-88-1) undercuts him. Don’t look at his scrambling ancestor Fran Tarkenton; he mustered just 53.3% (130-114-6) while leading perennial Super Bowl also-rans. He even tops Dan Marino, albeit barely (60.1%, 155-103). Sonny Jurgensen finished his career below .500 as a starter. Namath broke even at 64-64-4, playoffs included.

McNabb is a better WINNER than many of those in the Hall of Fame.

And before you talk about how he “never won a Super Bowl”, you’re right. Neither did Marino, Tarkenton, Fouts (who never even MADE it to one), Jim Kelly or Warren Moon. You can find their busts pretty easily, I’m sure.

Lastly, let’s compare McNabb to a different kind of peer group: the quarterbacks that he played against in his career. For “Super Five” to really stand out enough to earn enshrinement, he should also stand out in his “class”, so to speak. After all, not just anybody can be a Hall of Famer.

In McNabb’s eleven years as the Eagles’ offensive leader, which yielded seven playoff berths (excluding 2006, when he was injured and Jeff Garcia took over), a number of other quarterbacks stood out on their own. Sure, we can establish that Brady, Brees, and the Mannings have had more spectacular careers, and will all likely go to the Hall of Fame, but let’s look at some other “at-large” stars from the 2000s.

For purposes of this experiment, I’ve chosen Kurt Warner, Daunte Culpepper, Matt Hasselbeck, Steve McNair, Jake Delhomme, Rich Gannon, Jeff Garcia, Kerry Collins, and Marc Bulger. All of them have had Pro Bowl accolades, or played in a Super Bowl, or at least had some spectacular years.

How do they compare to McNabb?

McNabb has more touchdowns than each of them; Warner and Collins are tied for first in the core group with 208 each (26 less than McNabb). McNabb tops all of them in yards except for Collins, who beats McNabb by about 3700 (40,922 to 37,276). Of course, Collins does have four more years of experience.

Garcia, Culpepper and Bulger get points for efficiency, being the only three quarterbacks with less interceptions (83, 107, and 93 respectively) than McNabb (117). Warner, Culpepper, and Garcia have better ratings (93.7, 87.5, 87.8) than McNabb’s 85.6.

But in career victories, McNabb stands atop the throne. With 107 wins, he makes McNair the runner up (96). Collins is third with 84, then Hasselbeck with 83. Warner, the only one of the core group I’d consider for the Hall of Fame, has but 76 wins, thanks to some benching during his unlikely successful career.

As for those guaranteed Hall of Famers in Manning, Brady, and Brees? Win totals, respectively: 150, 140, and 97. Yes, Brees has two less years of experience, and he’ll certainly pass McNabb by the end of 2013, but McNabb looks like he belongs, at the very least, to the most well-regarded quarterbacks.

And, it must be noted, McNabb didn’t always have the best help when compiling this great career. From 1999 to 2003, who was his best wide receiver? James Thrash, the overpromoted slot receiver? Todd Pinkston, the frail wonder? Torrance Small, the wandering journeyman?

Don’t even get me started on Freddie Mitchell.

McNabb somehow won four playoff berths, three division titles, secured homefield advantage twice, and won five playoff games with a receiving corps that a secondary of tortoises could adequately cover. McNabb made it work. And when he got Terrell Owens in 2004, that glorious 2004, McNabb hit the juvenation machine and put up his greatest statistical season ever (31 TD, 8 INT, 3875 yards, 104.7 rating).

You think about things like, what if McNabb had ALWAYS had a TO to throw to? What if the Eagles had drafted Reggie Wayne (yes, that was a possibility) in 2001 over Mitchell? McNabb did pretty well for himself with skillful dump-offs to Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook, but there could have been so much more, especially after Owens bitched his way out of Philly. Beyond him, McNabb got a touched-by-God year out of Kevin Curtis in 2007, and worked with a feisty DeSean Jackson in his formative years.

That’s it.

McNabb carried an unimpressive offense with trick plays, smart deference, and making big plays on his own. People laughed when McNabb accounted for 70-75% of the team’s offense in 2000. He was just dusting off Randall Cunningham’s “Ultimate Weapon” crown for his own use.

Ask Randall what it’s like to have to carry the offense.

And that is the case for McNabb to go the Hall of Fame. He went to five NFC Title games without a high-powered offense. He threw enough touchdowns, enough yards, and has an impressive-enough rating that his induction would look far less suspect than most. For thirteen seasons, through six Pro Bowl selections, through all of the pressure that a tough city and an unapologetic sports media heaped upon him, McNabb still shined bright, with more success than most players would have had under similar circumstances.

Donovan McNabb may never get his golden jacket on the steps of the Hall of Fame building, nor will his bust be engraved as an immortal visage. But damned if he doesn’t deserve those honors.

Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for Wrestlechat.net and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.

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Donovan McNabb Thinks He Is An NFL Hall Of Fame QB

April 18, 2012 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Donovan McNabbDonovan McNabb is quickly turning into one of the NFL’s best sound bites. In a matter of just a few months, McNabb has done a fantastic job of tarnishing whatever legacy he had with some of the most absurd comments you will ever read a player say about himself.

Philadelphia Eagles fans have always seen the good and bad of Donovan McNabb. Unfortunately for us, the NFL media painted us as unappreciative, only giving national fans the good, and ignoring the polarizing remarks that McNabb would make to the local media every season. Thanks to Donovan himself, NFL fans all over the nation are now experiencing the Donovan McNabb only Philly fans can truly appreciate.

I have to give credit to the Philadelphia Eagles and Andy Reid. Over the course of McNabb’s tenure with the Eagles, the franchise obviously did a fantastic job of managing McNabb’s public relations. I could only imagine what McNabb would have said if he was not filtered by the club. The more McNabb continues to speak post-Eagles, the more I understand why past teammates have questioned his leadership.

There isn’t a bigger Donovan McNabb anywhere than Donovan McNabb. After asking to be waived by the team when he was notified he was being demoted to the third QB, McNabb proudly claimed that 31 teams would pick him up. Nobody did. McNabb later claimed that the reason the Chicago Bears didn’t go to the Super Bowl was because they never signed him. McNabb also blamed his teammates for his failed career outside of Philadelphia proclaiming that he would play better if he was surrounded by better players. He recently told ESPN that he was the most criticized quarterback in the NFL. I could only imagine what the conversations were like between him and Terrell Owens at the height of their offensive greatness.

The NFL media know an idiot when they see one and they have been hot to give McNabb air time in recent months. Recently, Fox Sports’ Barfly series cashed in on the sound byte mogul and talked to McNabb about whether or not he was an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback. I’ll let you guess what his answer was.

McNabb the ever humble NFL quarterback responded with, “absolutely!” McNabb rationalized this by saying that the NFL Hall of Fame is a numbers game and he has great numbers. McNabb then saw fit to take shots at two current NFL Hall of Fame QBs to make his point. According to McNabb, he had a better career than Jim Kelly and Troy Aikman.

Come again?

Yep, McNabb used Aikman and Kelly as comparisons and said he was more qualified to get into the Hall of Fame than them. Imagine the ego of this guy telling Rich Eisen and Mark Kriegel with certainty that he had a better career than one QB who led his team to three Super Bowl games and one QB who WON three Super Bowls, under two different coaches! I always viewed Aikman as the enemy in his prime but I’ll be the first to tell you that the man was clutch. If winning three Super Bowls doesn’t make you one of the best of all-time, I don’t know what does.

Oh yeah, five NFC championship games! It gets better.

McNabb continued by telling Eisen and Kriegel that leading his team to five NFC title games makes him not only a Hall of Fame QB, but better than Aikman and Kelly’s six Super Bowl games. Because according to McNabb, “the NFC championship game is the real big game.” If I didn’t see it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it. According to old #5, getting to the NFC title game is a bigger accomplishment than playing in the Super Bowl. Mind you he went 1-4 in those NFC title games.

McNabb’s mindless ramblings have quickly turned him from one of the most respected quarterbacks among his peers into an obnoxious, egomaniac. As an Eagles fan I was a McNabb fan for many years. I tried to support him and back him as Philly’s QB. However, once he started pointing fingers, making excuses, and throwing other players under the bus, my opinion of him quickly changed.

My hunch is that so has yours.

Check out the entire interview here – http://msn.foxsports.com/video?videoid=b57c97a9-da4c-40d6-8f1a-c1fda42d5e01&src=v5:share:permalink:

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NFL Free Agent Frenzy 2012

February 28, 2012 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Arian FosterWell, it seems like only a day or so ago that the New York Giants finished their miracle run and won the Super Bowl over the New England Patriots. The NFL off-season moves really fast though, and it is time for owners and GMs to get ready for Free Agency in a few short days, and the NFL Draft in late April.

After last season’s delay with the lockout, some teams failed to lock up some of their big time players, which makes this a pretty good bunch of talent that can be had this season. Yes free agency is filled with tons of names, and today I will be showing you some of the top names and what fate may await them on the market.

Let’s face it, from 32-1 every team in the league could use better talent at certain spots, or lock up a key role player that may have eluded them this past season. Teams can even change their entire look with the types of players available at QB, RB and on defense.

So let’s get down to it and take a look at the 2012 NFL Free Agents!

Quarterback:

Drew Brees, Saints: The last time Brees was a free agent it came down to the Saints and the Dolphins. Miami had decided that they were not pleased with the results of his physical, and the rest is history. Brees brought life to a dying franchise, won a Super Bowl, broke NFL passing records and has become the face of the city of New Orleans. Yes, he will get paid heavily somewhere, but it would be hard to imagine him leaving the Saints. They have lots of signing to do with other free agents, but Brees should be top priority. If not New Orleans, there will be plenty of teams knocking at his door.

Alex Smith, 49ers: A former overall number 1 pick who seemed to be at the end of his line, Smith was the leader of a 49er team that made it to the conference championship last year. Yes, they did use a second-round pick last season on QB Colin Kaepernick, but after Smith’s season and playoff performances, we would think that head coach Jim Harbaugh would want him back, and given his past he may not be looking to break the bank.

Matt Flynn, Packers: Can one game really make a star? Flynn played in the season finale for the Packers last year and well, threw only 6 TDs! We have seen similar success stories in the past with guys like Matt Hasselbeck and Matt Schaub (hmm, more guys named Matt), so it is very possible. If you want to get even more technical, Brett Favre was once a back-up QB in Atlanta. Flynn does have some skill, and a team like Washington could look to pin their hopes on him. The question is just how much does anyone trust him, and what can he be worth financially? Watching and learning behind Aaron Rodgers, much like Rodgers did with Favre can’t hurt either.

Kyle Orton, Chiefs: He went from a mere back-up in Chicago that nobody trusted to the starter, then off to Denver where he had a few decent seasons, then off to Kansas City. Orton may not be a Super Bowl QB, and his arm strength always raises questions, but he has shown the ability to be a good leader, and when healthy, can throw a ton every week. A team like Miami may look for his veteran leadership, and it would reunite him with WR Brandon Marshall.

David Garrard, Free Agent: Garrard passed on a chance to play in 2011 after being released from Jacksonville to have surgery and heal. Now in 2012 he finds himself in a busy market, and looking for another chance at a starting job. In the past he has shown great poise, leadership, and a nice touch on his passes in leading a Jaguar team limited in WR talent. Now he can look around and try to find a good home filled with more talent. It will be interesting to see what he has left, but outside of Brees and potentially Peyton Manning, Garrard may be the best choice on the free agent market if proven healthy.

Jason Campbell, Raiders: Washington was not the answer and apparently Oakland was not the answer either. So what is in store for Jason Campbell? It’s hard to imagine a team that is banking on Campbell to be the answer and from here on his career may be that of a good back-up instead of a starter. As we saw last year, a proven QB is big on a roster, and teams like Kansas City and Chicago certainly would have had a better chance with a QB like Campbell on their roster. How much he can get paid, and what role remains to be seen, but Campbell should realize he is clearly landing somewhere as a back-up.

Chad Henne, Dolphins: Miami as a whole was going nowhere fast last year until Henne went down with an injury and QB Mat Moore took over. Henne will make a good back up somewhere in the league, but his days as a starter could be gone. He is not a big arm, or a savvy scrambler, but he will get a job and be useful for sure.

Dan Orlovsky, Colts: It’s not saying much, but he was the best healthy QB on the Colts roster last year. After going winless behind Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter, Orlovsky made the most of his chance and got the Colts a win. He has always been trapped behind starters in which the team had a lot invested, so he rarely got a chance, but shows when he plays he can be a decent passer. He will once again be getting a back-up gig, but more teams should be looking his way.

Shaun Hill, Lions: Hard to think that the Lions will lose both of their back-ups this off-season given the injury history of Matthew Stafford. Hill has shown that he can air it out and deliver numbers similar to Stafford in this offense, and had some decent showings back when he was with the 49ers. He is loose with the ball however which had always prevented him from being a full time starter. Hill should be on many teams wish list though as he can fill in easily.

Other names: Donovan McNabb, Drew Stanton, Trent Edwards

Running Back:

Ray Rice, Ravens: If Rice signs elsewhere, it will easily be considered the best signing of the off-season. A back with great speed, strength, hands, and elusive moves, Rice is one of the very best backs in the NFL. He has shown that not only can he go over 1,000 yards, but also haul serious reception numbers and turn even a tiny screen pass into a huge play. Rice has expressed interest in returning to Baltimore, even if he has to sign a franchise tag contract, but many will come make offers, and those offers will be filled with big dollars. With QB Joe Flacco also looking for a huge deal, it will be interesting to see what the Ravens do with Rice.

Matt Forte, Bears: It was the talk of the off-season last year about Forte and the Bears working on a new deal. He had expressed his interest in getting a long-term contract and the Bears held off and waited. In the beginning it looked as if it was a mistake that would cost the Bears millions upon millions of dollars as Forte was the putting up career numbers. Late in the season it looked a bit smarter after he suffered a season-ending injury. Now it becomes an interesting story of wills and who will give in here. Forte has tremendous hands and route running skills for a RB, and also a strong bruising type style. He will be chased after by many teams, but it’s the Bears that need him the most.

Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks: He had a good rookie year in Buffalo, than some mistakes and injuries made way for others to take his job. However, to the surprise of many, Lynch found his way back to the top in Seattle. In the second half of 2011 Lynch was looking like the best back in the NFL. He was carrying defenders all over the filled, showing explosive burst of speed, and scoring at will. The Seahawks came to life behind Lynch and they should be the front-runner to sign him again. Lynch is young enough to merit a longer term deal, so Seattle will have their work cut out for them.

Peyton Hillis, Browns: In 2010 Hillis seemed unstoppable, and was the center of an improving Browns offense. In 2011 talks of a new contract, injuries, speaking badly about his team and the suspected “Madden Curse” led to a dreadful season for Hillis. So who is he? Is he the beast that ran for over 1,000 yards in Denver and Cleveland, or is he a complainer who will shy away from playing over small injuries and look out for number 1? You have to think the Browns would be happy to pony up the loot if they knew they would get the 2010 Hillis, as would many teams, but his work ethic will have to improve.

Mike Tolbert, Chargers: Tolbert started 2011 with a bang as he scored 3 TDs and was banging through defenders and catching passes. However in San Diego no offensive player is ever safe week to week, and the team went back to relying heavily on RB Ryan Mathews. Tolbert is built like a FB but runs like a RB, and is real good in the passing game. A leave from San Diego can prove to do similar things that it did for former teammate Darren Sproles who left for New Orleans. Tolbert deserves more playing time, and will find it. The only question is, where?

Michael Bush, Raiders: This may be Bush’s big break, finally. In his final year of college a leg injury kept him out all season and hurt his draft status. Then he was stuck behind the very talented Darren McFadden in Oakland. He showed this past season, after filling in for an injured McFadden, that he can be a lead back, catch passes and even be tough near the goal line. Bush should push hard to be a starter where ever he goes, and seems worth it. His story reminds me very much of Michael Turner, who has been an excellent back with the Atlanta Falcons after escaping San Diego.

Arian Foster, Texans: The only reason why less fuss is being made about Foster is because he is a restricted free agent who would cost a team at least a first-round pick should he sign elsewhere. However, there is a big situation in Houston where star DE Mario Williams is also up for free agency as is C Chris Myers. Foster may be the all around most talented back in the league and has been an essential part of this offense, but they do have youngster Ben Tate there and worked in Derrick Ward last year. No, I’m not saying Foster is expendable, but anything is possible. He is more than young enough to land a 6 or 7 year deal and is also good enough to earn big dollars. I doubt he is leaving, but it could be a huge signing if he does.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots: The man of many names had an excellent 2010, but fell off a bit in 2011. The Pats drafted 2 backs last year and still have the speedy Danny Woodhead on the roster as well, so many believe Green-Ellis could be on his way out. Is he a product of the system, or can Green-Ellis be a true lead back somewhere else? We will have to wait and see, but the Pats are well known for plugging in and staying successful.

Ryan Grant, Packers: He does get hurt often, but Grant is still a quality runner when healthy. He lost his lead role to James Starks who is much cheaper and they also have a youngster in the wings waiting for carries. Grant isn’t expected to come cheap enough for share-time, so the Packers may not look to resign him. He is not much for the passing game, but is a hard runner with good speed, and would be a good addition anywhere.

Wide Receiver:

Vincent Jackson, Chargers: It seems unlikely that Jackson will sign another franchise tag contract and the Chargers have been grooming players to fill his role. Yes he is tall and strong and can run fast enough to be a quality number 1 receiver in this league. His problem has become his lack of commitment, and he tends to disappear at times. Although his time in San Diego seems over, he will get looks, especially from a team like New England, who did wonders for Randy Moss’ career resurgence, and are badly in need of a deep threat. Jackson will have to prove to any team that he is ready to be the guy from a few years back and not the contract squabbling man of the last 2 seasons.

Wes Welker, Patriots: We need to forget about that tough non-catch in the Super Bowl and remember that we are talking about the guy with more receptions than anyone in the league over the last few seasons. Welker is the ultimate slot receiver, has great speed, and rarely misses time despite his lack of physical size. I can’t even imagine him in another uniform, and the Pats will certainly make the right offer, but keep in mind, this is a business, and at times some contracts can be too many dollars for any owner. Shall he move on they have his clone ready in Julian Edelman, but no one really is Welker.

Reggie Wayne, Colts: This is a real toughie! Should the Colts look to keep Wayne and have him help the probable new QB Andrew Luck? Will they keep him around in case they stick with Peyton Manning? All of this really comes down to Wayne. He still has the big play potential and is an excellent all-around receiver who can catch for possession, long balls, or in near the goal line for TDs. His age will keep him from multiple years, but he can certainly grab big cash if he decides to leave. Also keep in mind that the Colts also have youth at WR in Pierre Garcon also up for free agency. Indy will have a busy off-season, and Wayne may not benefit from it, well at least not in staying with Indy.

DeSean Jackson, Eagles: Explosive is a great way to describe Jackson for sure, but in 2011 it was more of an explosive personality than skills. After proving to be one of the most exciting players in the league the last few seasons, Jackson began a campaign for his new deal which included hiring mega-agent Drew Rosenhaus, showing uo late to team meetings which led to a suspension, and wandering alone on the sidelines to avoid talking to any teammates. Jackson seems best fit for the Eagles offense, but they don’t seem up for playing hardball with him after a 2011 season in which they missed the playoffs. Jackson can be mouthy and overly flashy, but when he’s on, he can be spectacular.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: A bit of an enigma, but packed with skills, Bowe could use a change of scenery. Former Chiefs coach Todd Haley tried to bury him early on during his stint in KC, but Bowe got down and dirty, worked hard and showed he is a formidable WR in the league. He needs to be on a winner now, and the Chiefs don’t seem to have those pieces in place yet. Last years rookie James Baldwin may make Bowe expendable, and many teams will come calling.

Marques Colston, Saints: When healthy he is one of the best, but that’s when. Colston was a 7th round pick turned overnight success turned injury-prone question mark, but is a great weapon to have. Now the Saints will have to get crafty as they have plenty of players up for free agency, and Colston may not get maximum dollars if he stays, however it has been kind to him, and he will benefit best staying.

Stevie Johnson, Bills: As an unknown in 2010 Johnson burst onto the scene, caught 80+ passes and became a well thought of up and comer. Fast forward to 2011, and he became a mouthy, poorly imitating loud mouth WR, the diva type that many in the NFL can’t stand. Now is the time for him to grow up and use his playmaking ability to trump his mouth. Johnson can get as high as a 7 year deal due to his youth and play, but teams will want to know more about his personality. Buffalo could certainly use a more mature Johnson, but will suffer badly from the immature Johnson. Will he be T.O. or will he prove to be more of an Andre Johnson?

Mario Manningham, Giants: His game saving Super Bowl catch could keep him in New York, but the Giants have a lot to do. Victor Cruz is in the last year of his deal, Hakeem Nicks’ contract is taking up plenty of space and they have guys on defense to sure up. Manningham is a good WR, but suffered through injuries and just flat out getting lost in the shuffle last year. Hard to imagine one catch being enough to earn long term deals, but somewhere out there, CB Larry Allen continues to chuckle.

Brandon Lloyd, Rams: Never playing for a winner, Lloyd’s name has never been thought of as elite, but he has great playmaking skills and has made many highlight reel catches in his career. His trade to St. Louis last year seemed to breathe life into him, and he has showed plenty of interest in returning. He also had said that former coach Josh McDaniels had made him better, so perhaps a campaign to be the big gun in New England? We shall see.

Mike Wallace, Steelers: Much like Arian Foster, Wallace is a restricted free agent, but also a guy who may be worth the pick. Wallace is arguably the fastest player in the NFL and is an excellent long ball threat. He has stepped up and gotten better each season so many teams can benefit from having him aboard. Want an interesting twist here? The Patriots, who have been bucking for a true deep threat, have multiple first-round picks, and no one they can grab in this draft can possibly compare to what they would get from Wallace, and playing with Tom Brady could have many calling him the leagues best WR. Just a thought, but interesting at least!

Offensive Line:

Carl Nicks, Saints: Last year the Saints dished out 56 million dollars for guard Jahri Evans, and will have to come up close this season with Nicks. Combined they are possibly the best 1-2 punch at Guard in the league, and the Saints have had excellent success due to the protection they provide. Nicks will be sought after for sure, but it is well believed that he will give the Saints every chance to keep him around.

Ben Grubbs, Ravens: The busy off-season for the Ravens continues with Grubbs, an excellent run-blocking Guard who pulls out nicely and brings great strength to a talented offensive line. A guy with Pro-Bowl caliper skills, Grubbs is essential to keep here as the team may be shelling out big bucks at RB with Ray Rice and QB with Joe Flacco.

Scott Wells, Packers: Not the flashy name and big time position player we are used to talking about in Green Bay, but he has been a steady performer and a Pro Bowl Center with the Packers. He is a solid run blocker and pass blocker as well and had become a quiet leader on this team loaded with talent. Center is always a tough position in this league, and the less your name is heard, the better it is believed you are, and Wells is a guy that could land a big deal, even if he stays in Green Bay.

Chris Myers, Texans: Head Coach Gary Kubiack and his zone-scheme running attack needs a great center in the middle of it all, and Myers is certainly one of the better ones in the league. The Texans problem is they have to lock up both Mario Williams and Arian Foster, so it is hard to know how much money they will be able to throw at Myers. If they can’t retain him, he will have no problems getting a job anywhere in the league.

Jared Gaither, Chargers: Once seen as a promising star, Gaither found himself oft-injured and out of work after being released by Kansas City. In a stroke of luck many injuries to the Tackles in San Diego got him another chance, and he was excellent, and very steady in protecting Philip Rivers. In fact Rivers numbers got much better after the signing of Gaither, and he had more time to look downfield. After spending a ton for Marcus McNeil, they now have to make a choice, keep Gaither at a discount and dump McNeil, or let Gaither walk. A tough choice either way, but Gaither will get a nice deal somewhere.

Jeff Backus, Lions: Forget all the big flashy names they are getting, and look at Backus. Here is a steady, hard-working, Tackle who lets his play do the talking rather than his mouth. He has seen the worst of times here and now is poised and deserving of the best of times. The Lions will not win many fans if they let this veteran walk away, and despite the needs and players they need to sign, they need to make Backus first. He is a great name to be free, and can create a buzz if left to go.

Defensive End:

Mario Williams, Texans: “Super” Mario was moved to outside linebacker in the teams new 3-4 scheme last year, and was playing real well until an injury cut his season short. Williams is an excellent pass rusher, and has done plenty to make the fans forget about the Texans choosing him over both Reggie Bush and Vince Young. Now the question burns: Do they franchise him or Arian Foster, and who gets the big deal? Williams has told ESPN he would like to stay in Houston and it is not about a huge contract, but he wants to get a good deal. Yes, the Texans played well without him after his injury, but he is still very hard to replace in the long run. Losing him may hurt this team and this city more than one may think.

Robert Mathis, Colts: For years well known as the guy on the other side of Dwight Freeney, this may finally be the time for Mathis to move on and also cash in at the same time. The Colts have lots of players to work on this off-season, and Mathis may be very expendable. It will be a real tough loss, but most likely a move they will have to make, so we can expect Mathis to be changing uniforms in 2012.

Calais Campbell, Cardinals: You just don’t find a guy like this every day. 6 foot, 7 inches and over 300 pounds, but still an excellent skilled pass rusher and can also play the run well. Campbell has improved every year, and the Cards defense is getting better as well, so it may be essential for these 2 to stay together. He is a guy that can line up anywhere up front and is a rising star.

Cliff Avril, Lions: One of the bigger talkers so far leading up to free agency has been Avril. He told the Lions he will not sign a franchise tag, as is looking for a long term deal. He had an excellent 2011 season, but the Lions have some holes to fill, and that may be too much for them to also lock in Avril long term. He is a bit smaller than your typical defensive lineman but he has a hard working motor, and proved to have a knack for the ball. The Lions are in a tight spot here, and Avril can benefit from an active market.

John Abraham, Falcons: It seems like decades since he left the Jets for the Falcons and big free agent dollars. He has been a good pass rusher for years, but the Falcons have younger guys to sign, and it may be a new team for Abraham. He is aging so may not get a lot of years, but the time may be here for him to look for a new destination. The Falcons however may try and get him back on the cheap, if he chooses to go that way.

Jovan Haye, Bucs: This way the guy that was being labeled as the “Next Freak” in Tennessee a few years back, then he became an injury-plagued forgotten guy. Haye may still have a little something left and could be a steal to a team in need of a rotation guy on the defensive line. Yes, he may very well be a once was, but he is worth a chance on the cheap. His size at 6 foot 2 inches and 277 pounds is nice for a pass rushing end, so maybe a rebirth? We shall see.

Defensive Tackle:

Sione Pouha, Jets: In a position rarely filled with big names or lusty free agents, this guy is the best of the bunch. A good run stuffer in a 3-4 scheme, he can wreck havoc to opponents running attack. The Jets looked very human late last year against the run, so this hole-plugger is a must sign for them. The 3-4 is becoming a popular scheme again, so his talents will be gobbled up if he is not kept in New York.

Shaun Rogers, Saints: The big man is still around, and still one of the more agile big men in the league. He may not be the superstar that he was expected to be, but he is still a good front-line stuff for the run and a decent pass rusher too. Not sure how much a team will be willing to shell out, but the Saints have so much signing to do, he is most likely to slip through the cracks, yes even Rogers can slip through this kind of crack.

Amobi Okoye, Bears: One of the youngest guys to ever enter the league, he is still young enough to make a comeback. A former first-round pick of the Texans, Okoye never hit that star level, but in a league starving for big men up the middle, he may be worth a decent look and a half decent deal.

Jason Jones, Titans: Albert Haynesworth, “The Freak”, and Jovan Haye are all long gone, but Jones has been a steady front line guy before his injury last season. The Titans decided to move him to end, which seemed to hurt his game, and it is expected that if he stays, or chooses to sign elsewhere, it’ll be back at D-tackle, where his skills are best used.

Linebacker:

Curtis Lofton, Falcons: A tough hitter, and a good guy in pursuit of the ball, Lofton started to step up and be a big leader on this Falcons defense. In 2011 he was one of the top tacklers in the league by the numbers, but may fall victim of a team strapped in having to sign too many players this off-season. Lofton can play the middle in a 4-3 defense, so he is worth a good contract, and in the right defense can only improve.

Stephen Tulloch, Lions: Yet another Lion on the fence here. Tulloch left the Titans and found instant success in Detroit, where he became a leader on a much improved defense. At just 5’11” he is short, but it makes for him to decoy and hide himself nicely behind a big line and sneak up on QBs and RBs. Tulloch may not take huge dollars to keep, but he will be looking for long terms.

London Fletcher, Redskins: One of the very best, and unsung heroes of the NFL over the years, Fletcher, even at 37 years old, is worth a look. He is an excellent leader, a big tackle guy and makes the big plays in the clutch. He is also very valuable if he finds himself going to a team with a younger bunch that can learn plenty from him. He may not be near as fast as he once was, but he is a solid asset worth signing for 2 years.

E.J. Henderson, Vikings: The Vikings once excellent defense is getting old, and was not all that spectacular last year, so it may be time to move on with some names. Henderson has suffered some tough injuries, but he is a great ball player in pursuit and is a good tackler. He may not be an every down guy, but a guy that is an excellent compliment on any team. Remains to be seen what he can gather on the open market.

Brady Poppinga, Rams: Poppinga has improved, and is a solid linebacker in the league. He won’t get huge dollars, but in this market which is light on LBs he will be looked at by a few teams.

Cornerback:

Carlos Rogers, 49ers: After being a high draft pick of the Redskins, Rogers found himself being very mediocre, until a move to the 49ers proved profitable and Rogers became a Pro Bowl caliper player in 2011. As it seems to be with many corners, a change of scene usually does them good, but Rogers has expressed how much he’d love to stay in San Fran. He can get a big contract somewhere for sure, as corners are always in demand, but San Fran will try hard to keep him.

Brent Grimes, Falcons: Grimes had a good season in 2011, but the problem is the fact that Atlanta just got done last year shelling out huge dollars for then free agent Dunta Robinson. Grimes will be 29 so he has some game left in him, but the Falcons have lots of guys to try and lock up this off-season. Grimes will get a good deal in 2012, that is for sure and plenty of teams would love his services.

Cortland Finnegan, Titans: A hard-nosed, and often seen as a dirty player, Finnegan certainly does bring it every week. Not too many players will go punch for punch with Andre Johnson and chase him around and call him out all game long, but Finnegan has done such. He is a good cover corner, but also has the pop of a safety. Her plays the run well for a corner, which is a big plus to many defensive coordinators. Finnegan could probably benefit from a change of scene and the hunt for him will involve quite a few teams.

Brandon Carr, Chiefs: Carr, still just 25 years old, can very well be this year’s James Joseph. Joseph walked away from a good secondary with the Bengals and landed a big deal with the Texans, and had an excellent season. Carr, much like Joseph, was teamed with a good partner in Brandon Flowers, but lacked a bit this past season. A new team could do Carr some good, and use his good speed and cover skills better. The Chiefs have built a good defense, and need to keep as many keep key pieces as possible.

Rashean Mathis, Jaguars: One of the better cover corners over the last few years, he was struck by injury last year. He may be a step slower, but if he is brought in as a number 2 corner he can still be a great asset. The Jags have said they would like to see how he can move and pivot etc. before locking him into a new deal, but in today’s game you rarely get that chance before someone else swoops in.

Terrell Thomas, Giants: An injury forced him to miss most of the 2011 season, and the Giants found talent around them that could make him expendable. Thomas brings great pop to the corner position and is becoming a better cover corner. It remains to be seen how well he comes back from his injury, but he is a young talent, and could be a solid number 2 corner in most schemes. The Giants have plenty to do this off-season, so unless Thomas comes very cheap, he will move on.

Safety:

Dashon Goldson, 49ers: It will come down to whether he or Carlos Rogers most likely for the 49ers and who they will resign. Goldson had a Pro Bowl type season, and is an excellent hitter as well as cover guy for a safety. He became one of the unsung leaders of an excellent 49ers defense, and is expected to only get better. San Francisco will most likely sign him, and do it quickly.

LaRon Landry, Redskins: A top 10 pick a few years ago, Landry was moving along nicely until suffering an injury last season. The Redskins have had some tough luck with safeties over the last few years, but should still make the effort to sign him and see how he can progress. Landry, much like Goldson can hit and also cover, and has good coverage speed downfield. A well rounded player that can get many offers if Washington does not bring him back.

Michael Griffin, Titans: An enigma who at times looks lost, and at others looks excellent, Griffin is one of many Titans secondary players who are free in 2012. He runs well, and covers despite not being a huge hitter, and once again, could use the change of scene. Griffin is tall, and can cover ground, and is a guy who can be locked up for 5 years.

Chris Hope, Titans: Another Titan that could be on the move, Hope had been a tackling machine in years past. A good safety and a decent leader, he can be a good plug in guy in many schemes. The Titans may choose to clean house, so throwing heavy dollars at a guy like Hope would make very little sense for them.

Jim Leonhard, Jets: A punt returner and a guy who can hit with big force, Leonhard is a bit of an under-rated talent that the Jets may not be able to afford to part with. He does not have great covering speed, but plays the position well, and is a nice asset in the running game for the Jets defense. An injury to him last year was a big hit to the Jets, but Rex Ryan’s defense seems to be a nice fit for him.

So here is some names worth looking at. No, I didn’t bring up a Randy Moss, or a T.O. but these are the guys that will be movers and shakers this off-season. A lot of excitement is yet to come, so stay tuned NFL fans! As always, thanks for reading!

If you’d like to hear anything else from me on topics or ideas I can be reached at [email protected]

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NFL Moves & Shakes We Could See In 2012

February 09, 2012 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

With Super Bowl XLVI in the books and not much on the NFL plate otherwise, I wanted to take time out to look into some potential things we could see in the 2012 NFL season. On this list you obviously won’t see Tom Brady or Eli Manning, but there could be some other interesting names moving, retiring, or just taking on a different role in 2012.

Now obviously this is an opinion-based story, but also some knowledge of the NFL goes into it. Some of these moves make great sense, some of it well just pure wishful thinking. In other words, don’t sweat it out fans if you see the name of one of your favorite players here. Also if you have anything to add, please feel free to comment at the end of this article. As always, thanks for reading!

Peyton Manning, QB, Colts: He missed the entire 2011 season with a neck injury, but the work ethic of Manning, and pure desire to play will have him back in 2012. Now the burning question is, where? With the Colts owning the number 1 pick in this year’s draft, it is believed they will choose the coveted QB Andrew Luck out of Stanford. The buzz is that the Colts would consider releasing Manning before having to pay him huge dollars and also have Luck sit the bench. So with that being said, if Manning is released, the list of teams after him can be a big one.

So far he has been linked to the Jets, Dolphins, Cardinals and the Redskins. It would make good sense to think that Manning would look to stay in a better climate, and possibly even a dome. Despite the name not coming up as of yet, my firm belief is the Dallas Cowboys.

Owner Jerry Jones would love the draw of a big time QB, and he has a great arsenal of weapons in Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Laurent Robinson and Jason Witten. What about Tony Romo you may ask? Well let’s face it, he isn’t getting to the playoffs let alone winning division titles or making it to any Super Bowls. The move makes sense on many levels. As for other suitors, the Dolphins would seem the next logical choice, and maybe the Cardinals. The Jets and Redskins are most likely out.

David Garrard, QB, Free Agent: With the shock of his release right before the 2011 season behind him, and his rehab work from surgery going well, Garrard will also be back in 2012, and is the second best option at QB besides Manning. Opting to have surgery this season did cost him some potential good jobs, but it also opens the door for him to be healthier and a starter in 2012. With the list of teams looking, the Dolphins seem a nice fit. They have an improved running game and a big time WR in Brandon Marshall. However, Garrard does not have the same clout as Manning as far as being too picky, so teams like the Redskins are very much in the mix.

Terrell Owens, WR, Free Agent: Another player that missed all of 2011, and at times totally forgotten, yet Owens swears he will be back in the NFL in 2012. Still very much the physical specimen, Owens can fill in nicely with a pass-happy offense. The question is, does he still have enough speed to go up against young corners? Also, can he be a good teammate and keep his mouth quiet? There are certainly teams that could use his service, and he will at least get a look this off-season.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Jets: There was some talk of L.T. retiring after this season, but nothing has been set in stone yet. However, after his sound off on Showtime Networks “Inside The NFL”, Tomlinson could be looking for a new home. Calling QB Mark Sanchez “pampered” and saying that head coach Rex Ryan spoke to much about opponents each week isn’t going to have him back welcomed with open arms. He can still be serviceable as a 3rd down back with good hands and some power running. A team like Bengals could use a guy like him to catch some passes out of the backfield. Tomlinson would probably want to consider a team with a chance of winning it all, so knowing where he could go is tough at this time.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, Patriots: Here is one guy who probably wishes he missed all of 2011. Not being able to catch passes with Tom Brady at QB is not the best career move, and many teams may be pretty sour on him at this point. His attitude has never been a key asset either, so would any team really want a loud mouth WR with diminished skills? Possibly not, but in pro sports, where many athletes get third and fourth chances, Ochocinco could show up somewhere again next season. In my opinion I’d rather see Chad Johnson return, the name change seems to have ruined his career.

Ray Lewis, MLB, Ravens: He instantly squashed rumors of retiring the day after his teams loss in the AFC Championship game, and so far kicker Billy Cundiff lives on. Lewis is the type of player that may have to be carted off the field with a gruesome injury before he ever openly decides to retire. In reality with all his heart, and ability, are we really ready for life in the NFL without Ray Lewis? He will be in yet another Pro Bowl this season and most surely on the field in 2012, with the Ravens.

Randy Moss, WR, Free Agent: When the 2011 season started, and no team showing any interest in Moss, he decided to retire. After missing an entire season, and most likely not working out, it may be safe to say Moss will stay retired. He did revive his career with some good seasons in New England, and he can hang his hat on that at least.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Free Agent: The skills are pretty much gone as he showed during a rough half-season in Minnesota in 2011. After being released by the Vikings, teams like the Texans and the Bears who were desperate for a veteran QB, did not go after McNabb, which shows how little interest there is in him. Unless the plan for him is to be a back-up and carry a clipboard, we may not see McNabb in 2012.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles: After not getting his new contract last season, and also being benched by his team at points during the season many feel his time in Philly is over. Jackson is still an explosive play-maker and has great speed and good hands. The problem lies within his small frame, and he his not the ultimate possession receiver. Jackson is full out homerun hitting or not much at all, and that does not get a lot of teams excited about paying him 10+ million dollars per year. His skills and style is best set for Philly, but it remains to be seen what they will do about a deal.

Stevie Johnson, WR, Bills: Over the course of 1 season he went from being an up-and-coming big game WR, to a trouble-making, bad taste celebrating cancer to a struggling Bills team. Costing his team penalties for tasteless impressions of Jets WR’s Santonio Holes and Plaxico Burress, then showing up late for team meetings, and mouthing off have easily made him a target. The Bills are a team that needs to move forward, and Johnson’s mouth is quickly out-playing his skill, but he does have enough talent to draw some trade interest.

Shawne Merriman, LB, Bills: After leaving San Diego, and fearing for his career about to be over, Merriman caught on with the Bills, only to suffer another season-ending injury. In his time he was truly a force at LB, but now with these injuries continuing to slow him down, he seems more of a shell of himself. If the Bills do not bring him back, it will be difficult for him to find a team who will take a chance for any kind of real money or serious playing time.

Drew Brees, QB, Saints: We are all very confident that he will get the contract he is searching for, in fact the Saints should already be drawing it up.He has become the face of a team and a city, and has become one of the true elite QBs in the NFL. He also brought a Super Bowl to New Orleans, and that will earn him plenty of love for years to come. The chance of him being elsewhere in 2012 is about the same as me being the next QB in New Orleans.

Jon Gruden, Analyst, ESPN: With every off-season comes the name of the popular Gruden. The former Super Bowl winning coach has spent the last few seasons as a color analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football, and just signed a long-term, big-money deal to stay with the network. Here is the one point that has many curious though: He can opt out of the ESPN deal, and there is a very lusty job open in Indianapolis with the Colts. The chance to coach the young QB Andrew Luck, veteran WR Reggie Wayne, and that beautiful dome can be attractive to many, no matter how much Gruden seems to like the booth. If this job is not for Gruden, than we can expect to hear the Bill Cowher chants next.

Carlos Rogers, CB, 49ers: After a great 2011 season all around for the 49ers, it is expected that they will try hard to keep Rogers. He finally showed the form that had him as a high draft choice, and will be in the Pro Bowl this season. He has showed interest in returning to San Fran, but just how much will he cost?

Vince Young, QB, Eagles: Sure his pre-season hype of calling the Eagles the “Dream Team” made them a true target and they came up short this past season, but Young can still play in this league. His ability to run and manage a game could be serviceable to a team looking for a jump-start at QB. The Redskins and Dolphins both seem like good chances for him to play, unless they go with the other options available.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: One of the games very best can still produce, but is he ready for a change of scene? Fitz went over 1,000 yards again this season, but his catches have dropped, and during the season expressed frustration with the Cardinals situation at QB. If they were to somehow get Peyton Manning, we would have to say 100 percent that he would stay, but outside of that, we can’t be too sure. The Cardinals would make it really tough for a team to grab him, and he would not come cheap, but crazier things have happen. Hey, Carson Palmer retired himself into a new gig, and Fitz could always do the same.

The City Of Los Angeles: Well we know for sure they will not have a team in 2012, but when will they? Does the passing of Al Davis spark a possible move of the Raiders back out of Oakland? Not likely. Los Angeles is a media Mecca, and to think of them being out of the NFL sounds crazy, but so far we have all survived just fine. As of now we are not hearing about anymore NFL expansion, so only a team relocating can bring LA back, if anyone at all is interested.

Earl Bennett’s orange cleats: The hoopla he tried to create with wearing these awful things were nothing more than a fine-fest for him. Yes, his work with QB Jay Cutler is breathing some life into his play, but there is no need for crazy colored shoes to try and make a statement. Let’s win some games and make noise in the playoffs before we try fashion statements shall we Bears?

Well here are just some of the stories we can look forward to in 2012. For now let’s get ready for the Pro Bowl and of course the Super Bowl. We can save all this other speculation for the off-season.

If you’d like to hear anything else from me on topics or ideas I can be reached at [email protected]

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NFL America’s Game Super Bowl I-XL on DVD

The Top 10 Best NFL Super Bowls

February 02, 2012 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Super Bowl XXXIV Kevin DysonIt seems hard to believe that this will be the 46th time that the NFL will be bringing us a Super Bowl. 45 other games have been played and through the years we’ve seen a lot of stuff to make us salivate and wonder, “What can possibly top that?”

In the spirit of the big game coming up this Sunday between the AFC’s New England Patriots and the NFC’s New York Giants, I have decided to take us all down memory lane and look back at my top 10 best Super Bowls and look back at some other stuff that makes Super Sunday great.

Yes friends step right up and bring your Doritos, your buffalo wings, subs, and all the other great foods we like to feast on during the big game to the table. Don’t forget to bring lots of beer, and other beverages. Yes so much makes this event great, and most of America will all have some kind of favorite story. From Aerosmith and Britney Spears rocking to “Walk This Way” to Justin Timberlake exposing Janet Jackson’s breast in the infamous “Wardrobe Malfunction” scandal.

Don’t forget about the best of commercials, with birds forming an army to try and splatter a freshly cleaned car with “bird poo”, all the great beer commercials, and who could forget the gorgeous “Go-Daddy” girl, and the beautiful Ally Landry doing acrobatic stunts while eating puffed Doritos, forcing every man in America to laundro-mats near and far. Not to mention great half-time shows away from the game, like Howard Sterns’ half-time raunchy fest, MTV’s Celebrity Death Match, and the first ever Lingerie Bowl, which has now led to the Lingerie Football League.

Okay enough about all that, it’s time for the best of the best that led us up to here. For all of you who follow me regularly, you will remember my top Thanksgiving day games, which got rave reviews, and for that I thank you. I’m pretty sure this list will spark debates, but hey its “my” personal top 10. This is why we offer a comment section, so you can feel free to express your views. Okay so here we are starting at my number 10:

Super Bowl XIII, January 21, 1979, The Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida – Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31

Two of the very best teams of the 70’s met in a rematch of the Steelers victory a few years before. The Steelers came into the game having won back to back bowls a few years ago and boasted that amazing “Steel Curtain” defense. Terry Bradshaw was the games MVP throwing for 318 yards and a record 4 touchdowns. Bradshaw’s effort spoiled a good outing by Cowboy QB Roger Staubach who tallied 3 TDs. The Steelers big 2 receivers, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth each went over 100 yards receiving, with Stallworth collecting 2 TDs, and 1 for Swann. After the Steelers scored twice in a 22 second span to start the 4th quarter, Dallas had closed out with 2 scores in the final 2 minutes. However an onside kick attempt failed, locking up the win for the Steelers. It had been the highest scoring game of its time, as Super Bowls past were mostly lower scoring affairs, or lop-sided blow outs. It marked Pittsburgh’s fourth victory in the last 6 Super Bowls.

Super Bowl XXXII, January 25th, 1998, Qualcomm Stadium San Diego, California – Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24

Two of the games most heroic, and reckless sharp shooting QB’s, Brett Favre and John Elway met on center stage in a battle of 2 very different teams. The Packers were Super Bowl winners the previous year and boasted a high flying passing attack with a stellar defense, while the Broncos were a smash-mouth, ground game offense with a decent defense. The Broncos were able to control the pace of the game led by game MVP, running back Terrel Davis, who rushed for 157 yards and 3 TDs, which is a record for running backs. They were able to out-do Favres good day of 256 yards and 2TDs. Davis’ final TD was a 2 yard walk with 1:46 left in the game after the Broncos were able to consume most of the clock in the 2nd half. Elway only contributed 125 passing yards and rushed for 1 TD, but it was enough on this day, as he managed a perfect offensive attack.

Super Bowl XXXIX, February 6th, 2005, Alltel Stadium Jacksonville, Florida – New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21

After three straight spoiled attempts in NFC Championship games, Andy Reid finally got his team to the big game where they would face the defending champs from New England. Despite striking first the Eagles could not contain Tom Brady and game MVP Deion Branch enough to pull a win out. The Pats defense collected 4 Eagles turnovers, and spoiled the return of Terrell Owens, who came back from an ankle injury to collect 9 catches for 122 yards. Donovan McNabb did manage 357 yards and 3 TDs for the Eagles, but will more be remembered for an alleged “vomiting” incident during the 4th quarter. Brady finished with 236 yards and 2 TDs, and Branch had 11 catches for 133 yards. The Eagles managed to score with 3 minutes left, then stopped the Pats on the next series, but could only muster 3 plays after that from their own 4 yard line.

Super Bowl III, January 12th, 1969, The Orange Bowl Miami, Florida – New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7

We all know by now that a cocky young QB named Joe Namath came out on the Thursday before the game and boldly predicted that the Jets would upset the Colts. What we did not expect was how well the Jets would control the game. Star QB Johnny Unitas did not start for the Colts do to an injury and the Jets defense was able to intercept QB Earl Morrel 3 times. The Jets also did big things in the running game and controlled the pace throughout. Namath was the MVP, throwing for 208 yards. The Colts coming in had dominated all year losing just once in 16 games. The win was the first for the AFL, now known as the AFC, and a win that put Namath on the map. Meanwhile a weakend Unitas played the 4th quarter and managed a TD pass.

Super Bowl XXXVI, February 3rd, 2002, The Superdome New Orleans, Louisiana – New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17

The Patriots came into this game riding high behind the arm of a young unproven kid named Tom Brady, who took over earlier in the season for the much famed QB Drew Bledsoe, who was lost to an injury. The Rams brought in their “greatest show on turf” offense,led by Kurt Warner, who came from nowhere to lead them to victory just 2 years earlier. It was the first time we would see the masterful defensive mind of Bill Belichick truly befuddle a high scoring offense. The Rams could muster just 267 total yards and turned the ball over 3 times, while MVP Brady worked his magic and the Pats collected 427 yards of offense while committing no turnovers. The game was capped with Brady leading the Pats down field and placing Adam Vinatieri in position for a 48 yard field goal as time expired,marking the first time in history a Super Bowl was decided on the last play. The win began the great legacy of Brady, who was the MVP, Vinatieri who became known as “Mr Clutch” and Belichick, and ended the reign of the mighty Rams. The vision of a stunned Brady, hands on head and shaking his head as if to say “I can’t believe it” is still an iconic piece shown in many Super Bowl history videos.

Super Bowl XXXVIII, February 1st, 2004, Reliant Stadium Houston, Texas – New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29

Seen by many as a potential mismatch, Panthers head coach John Fox brought in his unlikely cast of winners led by Jake Delhomme, a former Saints back up and Louisiana guy. Delhomme was very Brady-like in his outing recording 322 yards and 3 TD’s, while game MVP Brady threw for 354 yards and 3 TD’s. The Panthers fought it tooth and nail and gave the now mighty Patriots more then they could handle. Delhomme connected on bombs of 55 and 85 yards to keep his team in the game. However the downfall came after the Panthers last score. Delhomme had thrown a 14 yard TD pass to receiver Ricky Proehl to tie the game up, but kicker John Kasay sent the following kick off out of bounds, giving it to New England at the 40 yard line. Brady just needed 3 plays to set up Adam Vinatieri for his 2nd consecutive Super Bowl winning kick with just 4 seconds left. It would be the 2nd of 3 Super Bowls for the Patriots.

Super Bowl XXV, January 22nd, 1991, Joe Robbie Stadium Miami, Florida – New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19

A fully loaded Bills team with loads of talent came in to face a banged up Giants team who was playing without star QB Phil Simms. What happened was back up Jeff Hostetler playing an excellent game of management and game MVP Ottis Anderson working his battering ram running style into a Super Bowl record 41 minutes of time possession and controlled the game through out. Anderson ended with 102 yards and a TD, and Hostetler also had a TD. Thurman Thomas was the main guy for the Bills as he collected 190 yards of total offense. The Bills did get a last chance to win this game however, despite only seeing the ball for 7 minutes in the second half. After Giants kicker Matt Bahr gave the Giants a 20-19 lead, the Bills marched the ball downfield and got kicker Scott Norwood into position for a game winning 47 yard field goal. The rest, well quite simple, a historic miss known as “wide right” that haunts the fans of Buffalo and Norwood to this day. It was the Giants 2nd Super Bowl win in 5 years, and the beginning of a run that would see the Bills make 4 straight Super Bowls only to lose them all.

Super Bowl XLIII, February 1st, 2009, Raymond James Stadium Tampa, Florida – Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23

Last years game became an instant classic. Many had felt that the Cardinals, seen as much the lesser team, would be blown out of the building by the mighty Steelers led by coach Mike Tomlin and a very ferocious defense. What they got instead was a great game filled with great plays and lots of offensive fireworks. It marked the coming out party of Cardinals superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who collected 9 catches for 131 yards and 2 TDs. One of those being a long gain in which Fitzgerald was seen infamously watching the jumbo-tron to see the location of Steelers defenders behind him. The second was thought by many as the game winner with a minute remaining. Of course we all remember QB Ben Roethlisberger leading that final drive and game MVP Santonio Holmes becoming a miracle worker as well. Another big highlight was linebacker James Harrison scoring the longest TD in history taking a Cardinals turnover 99 yards right as the first half ended. The game however will always be remembered for Holmes and his skin of his toes 10 yard TD catch in the very back corner of the end zone with just 35 seconds left to play. It was the 2nd straight year a Super Bowl had been decided by a corner end zone catch with 35 seconds left and gave the Steelers the franchises 6th Super Bowl win, most in the league today.

Super Bowl XXIII, January 22, 1989, Joe Robbie Stadium Miami, Florida – San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16

In a rematch of a game played some 7 Super Bowls before, the Bengals were out to stop the legendary Joe Montana and take revenge for a loss years back. The 49ers escaped the previous meeting with a 26-21 win, and many of the experts saw this as a better Niners team. The Bengals managed to stay tight through the whole game and at the half it was just 3-3, the lowest half-time score in Super Bowl history. The Bengals started the 3rd quarter with a 93 yard kick return TD by Stanley Pritchard, only to see Montana strike back and connect with the games MVP Jerry Rice to tie it up. Rice had ended the day with 11 catches for a Super Bowl record 215 yards and a TD. The Bengals were able to get the next 2 scores on field goals and held a 16-13 lead with just under 3 minutes left. 3 minutes? Perhaps they never heard of Mr. Montana. The 49ers got the football back on their own 4 yard line, then Montana went to work. He gently dissected the Bengals secondary, picking it apart and doing brilliant time management as well as a perfect display of field leadership. In what is my rendition of “the drive”, Montana completed the comeback with a 10 yard TD pass to John Taylor with just 34 seconds remaining and sealing another Super Bowl for the 49ers, making them the first NFC team to win 3 Super Bowls.

Super Bowl XXXIV, January 30th, 2000, Georgia Dome Atlanta, Georgia – St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16

A new century was upon us and a new era of football had come forth. In the pre-season the Rams had lost starting QB Trent Green, and with tears in his eyes at a press conference soon after, head coach Dick Vermeil had announced that an untested and unknown QB by the name of Kurt Warner would try and get them through this season. Warner had been an Arena football player, cut from several NFL teams and was working at a grocery store before the season. Through some miracle, the Rams had discovered the legendary “Greatest Show On Turf” led by Warner and loaded with talents like Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Marshall Faulk. “The Show’ jumped out early and held a 16-0 halftime lead over the Titans, led by QB Steve McNair. The Titans were out gained 280 to 98 in the first half but managed to keep it close. Over the next quarter the Titans managed to climb back in it, and became the first team in Super Bowl history to overcome a 16-0 deficit. McNair’s passing was near flawless as he completed 22 out of 26 passes for 214 yards, and RB Eddie George got the score tied at 16 with a 1 yard TD rush. Warner, not to be denied led the Rams down field on the next series and managed to drive them to a TD and got them on top 23-16. McNair and his team then took their turn on the field. McNair, playing with a fearless demeanor connected on passes of 23 and 16 yards, working his team down the field. After getting inside the 10 yard line, McNair failed on his next 2 attempts. His last effort seemed to be a Super Bowl miracle, as he danced around pass rushers and found receiver Kevin Dyson opened on a slant. Dyson caught the ball at the 7 yard line and broke for pay dirt, only to be met by Rams linebacker Mike Jones. After being hit Dyson stretched with all his might and reached for the goal line, only to have the ball stop 1 yard short and they watched time expire. Clearly the best finish in Super Bowl history, the Rams won their first and only of that era and the Titans can only wonder what may have been, ending just 1 yard short.

So what do we expect this year? Well 2 great QBs with 2 great offenses and good ball hawking defenses. It’s tough to know if we will have a top 10 game on our hands, but one can always dream. Hey if not, can we please have a replay of Ally Landry at the laundro-mat? “Hey, pass the Doritos”

If you’d like to hear anything else from me on topics or ideas I can be reached at [email protected].

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Donovan McNabb Thinks The Chicago Bears Would’ve Won With him

January 23, 2012 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Donovan McNabb in a recent interview claims that not only should the Chicago Bears have signed him, but they would have won with him. A pretty bold statement coming from a guy that has been exiled by three teams in two years coming off of a 1-5 record as a starter.

As a Philadelphia Eagles fan I welcome the continued delusional ranting of Donovan McNabb. For years, Philadelphia fans were told how unappreciative we were to have such a great team player lead our football team. In the last two years McNabb has done a fantastic job of exposing himself to the national media and audience as one of the biggest frauds in recent memory.

What always bugged me is how the national media always had his back. No matter how bad of a game he played or how dumb of a thing he said in Philadelphia, Donovan was always the good guy. It was always about how lucky the Eagles were to have Donovan, rather than calling McNabb on his failures as a team leader. Luckily for us Philly fans all too familiar with the real #5, he has gone to two different teams, thrown numerous players and coaches under the bus, and has done a tremendous job of giving disgruntled Eagles fans a little bit of vindication.

McNabb’s latest moment of brilliance came last week in a radio interview. McNabb told ESPN 1000 in Chicago, “I thought the Bears would call, so many people continuously talked about the Mike Martz offense and things of that nature. I personally didn’t care about that. If you want to win and win now, you go out and get a better quarterback and you cater your offense to his strengths, and obviously the strengths of your team. Obviously it didn’t work out well for them. It’s unfortunate. I wish things would have worked out, but it didn’t. We will see what happens from now on.

Wow! I don’t think it gets any more classless than an NFL quarterback coming out in the media and throwing another starting NFL QB (& an entire team) under the bus. Have you ever noticed that when former NFL head coaches are asked about potential jobs that they never comment on a job that isn’t open? That is because the classy thing to do is not to throw anyone under the bus (although Jimmy Johnson’s sneaky pandering for the Miami Dolphins job when Don Shula was still there may be the exception) who is already in place in coach. It is classless, it is tasteless, and it says a lot about your character. For Donovan McNabb, none of that matters.

The irony here is that this is coming from a guy that has been shipped out of three teams in two years! This is coming from a guy that is 6-13 in his two seasons, 1-5 this season. This is a guy that is having a hard time living outside of the protective Philadelphia Eagles bubble. Donovan McNabb is a man that can’t take criticism and has made every excuse in the book for his last two seasons except taking any personal responsibility for his failures. Only a self-absorbed egomaniac would have the gall to tell someone in the media that he after a 1-5 record could have taken another NFL team into the postseason.

Newsflash! You had your shot the last two seasons and you didn’t even finish the season as a starter. And now you think you can come in with a handful of games to go and play better than the team’s current starting QB? Talk about a man that is living in another world.

I said it once and I said it again. This is a man that quit on his football team this season. He was demoted after six games to being a backup in Minnesota. Rumor has it that when the team wanted to demote him to third behind Joe Webb, he asked for his release. Now why would a team suddenly wish to promote Joe Webb ahead of McNabb? That is easy to figure out and instead of looking into the mirror, McNabb quit on the team. There is your team player.

I feel like a broken record when it comes to McNabb but people need to be reminded about what a cancer this guy has become in the last few years to his teams. In Philadelphia he blamed the youth of the team after getting blown out in Dallas. He blamed the defense for losing the NFL championship game in Arizona. In Washington he and his agent waged a public relations war with the coaching staff in mid-season. In Minnesota he quit on his team. The night after he was released from the Vikings he went on ESPN radio and told the host that in order to turn his play around that he needed better players, throwing his entire Minnesota offense under the bus. So according to McNabb, he would have been played better handing the ball off to Marion Barber and throwing to Roy Williams than playing in an offense with arguably the best running back in the NFL and one of the most explosive weapons at wide receiver currently in the game. For God’s sakes he was playing Adrian freaking Peterson! Does that make any sense to you?

Well it didn’t make any sense to the Chicago Bears or 30 other teams that had the opportunity to pick McNabb up after he was released. It was both funny and sad that you had McNabb telling Kurt Warner on the NFL Network that he expected 31 teams to call and in the end, he stayed at home. This is a man that is living in another universe! Shockingly not one NFL team felt that the great team leader would be an asset to their team. Shocking!

Thanks to my blogging I have gotten to know some NFL insiders over the last couple of years. The buzz is that McNabb has been lazy and uninspired in the last three years. According to many sources he was out of shape and did his best to stay that way. Remember when Mike Shanahan pulled him in overtime last year because Mike Shanahan said McNabb was not in good enough shape to run a two-minute drill? This is nothing new, yet Shanahan was the first coach that McNabb had to call him out on it. Remember when word broke from Washington that McNabb still had not learned the team’s playbook?

The reason why Donovan McNabb is not in Washington right now is because he was lazy,” reported a former NFL player. “He didn’t spend the time. Mike Shanahan likes guys who will work really hard. I narrow it down to two things. He’s either lazy, or he’s not very bright to pick up the offense. One or the other. I think he’s bright enough, I just think he was lazy.”

There were similar reports in Minnesota that he didn’t know the playbook and was late for practices (which he disputes of course). The man was spotted after all hanging out a Lingerie Football League game prior to his last start with the Vikings. Is that how you prep for a start when you are struggling to learn the offense? Do you see a trend here? This is not just some random story that popped up online from an unnamed blogger. This is a man with a history of being lazy and selfish.

Keep talking Donovan. You have lost the respect of a lot of fans, media, and former teammates in recent years (Anyone read what DeSean Jackson has had to say about his former QB? He only called him out on national television). Now he may have gone a step too far and lost the respect of your NFL peers. Good luck to any NFL team willing to take a shot on this guy next season. My hunch is that he will be doing more with his Communications degree than his NFL acumen from here on out.

But hey, at least Kurt Warner still has your back.

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NFL Week 4 Thoughts – Inside The Wheelhouse

October 04, 2011 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Matt ForteLet’s take a look back at some of the things that stood out from Week 4 in the National Football League!

– The Chicago Bears barely beat the Carolina Panthers in Week 4 as a game that look appeared to be getting away from their opponents suddenly got close (reoccurring theme in Week 4). Jay Cutler threw for 102 yards and the Bears got the victory basically on the feet of Matt Forte who ran for 205 yards on 25 carries. The Bears may be the worst 2-2 team in the NFL after having a rough time with the Panthers.

– Carolina is looking like a team who could be a year to more likely two years away from being competitive again in the NFL. As much as I hate to say it, Cam Newton is the real deal.

– Buffalo looked poised to starting the season 4-0 but that won’t be happening as they fall to the Bengals in a huge disappointment game. Coming off of a huge high like beating the Patriots seemed to maybe be too costly for the Bills who couldn’t beat a team led by a rookie quarterback & rookie wide receiver.

- Speaking of “real deals” in the NFL right now, I’d like to also put Andy Dalton on that list as he had a very good game against a pretty good team in the Buffalo Bills in Week 4. Maybe there is life in Cincinnati after all.

– Tennessee improves to 3-1 on the season after beating Cleveland. While the box score certainly doesn’t show it, the Titans really didn’t impress all that much with the exception of the NFL return of Chris Johnson who broke free of running for 50 yards or less. It will be intriguing to see if the Chris Johnson of old is back into form.

– Keeping with the trend in Week 4, the Detroit Lions come all the way back to cap off an amazing come from behind rally, yet again, and defeating the Dallas Cowboys this week. Dallas is a team that easily could have been 4-0 right now but instead that give up a huge loss to Detroit who improves to 4-0 on the year.

– It appears that the “experts” were right after all about the Detroit Lions being for real. While we shouldn’t hold our breath yet, the Lions are looking like they will be a very dangerous team this season.

– Kansas City gets its first win of the Vikings in a battle of unbeatens and for another week, the biological playing clock of Donovan McNabb seems to be reaching zero. I cannot wait to see which NFL Sunday Morning pre-game show he will be doing next year.

– The Washington Redskins are still atop the NFC East after defeating St. Louis in Week 4 and improving to 3-1 on the year. Similar to the Titans victory, nothing extremely impressive stands out for the Redskins except for the fact that Ryan Torain runs for 135 yards on the Rams defense.

– St. Louis may be the best and most disappointing 0-4 team and like I say week-after-week, they are still in contention in the NFC West but not for much longer if they keep losing like the way they do. This was another surprise team that many people, including myself, liked this season, appears they aren’t as close as we thought they were.

– “The Dream Team” improves to 1-3 on the season and still has not won at home in the 2011 campaign. This is a team who is definitely getting it done on offense but clearly not on defense. They are one more loss away from going into full-on crisis mode in Philly.

– San Francisco is one of the most surprising teams in the NFL so far this year as they improve to 3-1 under their rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh. Had it not been for a great Tony Romo comeback this would be a 4-0 team and weeks away from clinching the NFC West the way that division is. 49ers appear to be back as a good NFL team.

– The Saints beat the Jaguars but not as convincingly as we would think, which isn’t a bad thing for Saints fans. It appears that the Saints may have looked at this one as the way it should be since Jacksonville won’t be contending anytime soon. Anyone who thought they would blow the Jaguars out of the water was wrong as it was only a 13 point loss. Saints still look to be the 2nd best team in the NFC right now.

– Pittsburgh appears to be in trouble after a loss to the Texans in Week 4 and potentially losing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for an amount of time. The Steelers are showing their age a bit and the great run of years for the Black & Yellow may be reaching it’s mark finally as they look slow on both sides of the ball.

– Houston is an early favorite still for the first-round bye in the AFC side of the playoffs. Another win for Houston who is off to one of their best starts in their franchise history. I’ll be interested to watch if Tennessee proves to be a tough match for the Texans in the AFC South.

– The New York Football Giants are the most surprising 3-1 team in the NFL right now. This is a team who was depleted by injuries and is currently overcoming adversity to be a good team right now. I’m continually surprised by this team’s success this season.

– Kevin Kolb looks like lost in Arizona, appears Philadelphia knew what they were doing when they traded the quarterback in the off-season.

– Atlanta continues to not impress all that much this season. They barely defeat the Seattle Seahawks and improve to 2-2. They take on Green Bay in a primetime game next week and it will be interesting to watch which Falcons team we get in Week 5. Will it be the 2010 version or the 2011 version?

– New England returns to form after beating Oakland in a game that many thought would be a Raiders victory. Nothing surprising here as New England plays like the Patriots do and they put up another “W.” Looks like people in Raider Nation may have to pull it in a bit as many thought the Raiders were back.

– Green Bay gets a pretty easy victory over the Broncos and showcases their offense in the process. Six total TD’s for Aaron Rodgers was extremely impressive and their offense is the most explosive offense so far this season. There are still concerns regarding the Green Bay defense but if they put up numbers like that on a week-to-week basis then they won’t have to worry about the numbers they give up at all.

– Tim Tebow plays a little bit for the Broncos, as does Brady Quinn. Sadly Kyle Orton’s time in Denver is getting closer to completion.

– Tony Sparano needs to actively start looking for new jobs soon because he will be out of one. The Dolphins are my choice right now as the worst 0-4 team in Football. “Suck for Luck” appears the moniker down in South Beach.

– San Diego wins and now leads the AFC West outright. Week 4 may prove to be the week that they start pulling away from the rest of their division rivals. Like Houston, this is a team that can easily slide into first-round bye due to the lack of competition they will be facing.

– Baltimore showcased why I picked them to be the AFC representation in the Super Bowl this season as they defeat the Jets convincingly in primetime on Sunday night. The Ravens never looked like they had an issue with the Jets in this one and the defense really put it to Mark Sanchez all night long. I wonder if there are growing concerns yet for “gang green?”

- The Bucs improve the 3-1 and continue to surprise some in the fact that they are ahead of the Atlanta Falcons I the standings even at this point in the season. I’m beginning to think that may stay the case.

– For those out there that compared Curtis Painter to Tom Brady…stop.

Join Bower, “The Sweet Nasty” Chris Cause & myself every Sunday for more NFL & Fantasy Football talk over at www.wheelhouseradio.com!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at www.wheelhouseradio.com.

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site.

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at www.twitter.com/thewheelhouse and you can e-mail them @ [email protected]

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NFL Week 3 Thoughts – Inside The Wheelhouse

September 27, 2011 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Buffalo Bills New England PatriotsLet’s take a look back at some of the things that stood out from Week 2 in the National Football League!

– In last week’s blog I thought the Bills would give New England a run for their money but not get the “W” at the end of the day. I was partially as Buffalo did give them a run for their money but they ended up getting the “W” at the end of the game. Good win for Buffalo, happy they are 3-0 and atop the AFC East but I’m not a believer yet.

– Despite the loss New England is still one of the best teams in the AFC. The Patriots need setbacks like this to bring them back to earth from time to time.

- The 49ers are one Tony Romo comeback failure away from being a 3-0 team right now. They beat the Bengals who once again look competitively impressive and now the Niners are sitting alone in the NFC West. Maybe the “glory days” are back in San Francisco after all?

– Cleveland is one of the surprising 2-1 teams out there right now while the Dolphins may be one of the best 0-3 teams in Football. Not a lot of good things coming out of Miami right now, maybe a bad season and a good draft position can lead them to the Quarterback their fan base so desires.

– Matt Hasselbeck once again impresses as he throws for over 300 yards and leads the Titans to victory. Tennessee is 2-1 and this is without Chris Johnson making any kind of impact at all this season. Kyle Orton loses once again and the Tebow chants will certainly be ringing throughout Denver all week. I can’t recall ever a time when a 3rd stringer has been so popular…

– Minnesota had Detroit right where they wanted them and they let the game slip away after leading 20-0. The Christian Ponder clock in Minnesota is getting closer to zero as the final days of Donovan McNabb being an NFL Quarterback appears to be ending soon. Detroit is 3-0 but still hasn’t been battle tested yet; hold off on the Lions love until they get a big win against a consistently good team.

– Drew Brees will lead the Saints to try and outscore your offense by any means necessary. The Saints improve to 2-1 and are still the #2 team in the NFC if the season ended today in my opinion. No matter how many points their opponent scores they are coming to beat you.

– If Houston won this game then I would start to pencil them in as early favorites for that first-round bye in the AFC Playoffs. When you are in a division with no real strong competition and start off 3-0 you are in pretty good shape, that wasn’t the case today and maybe the Texans aren’t the AFC South favorites after all.

– The Philadelphia “Dream Team” once again had a let down loss this week as they were defeated by a depleted New York Giants team in their own home stadium. If the Eagles ever needed a bounce back win it would be this week against the team they like to knock around in “Big Blue.” Vick keeps getting knocked around and getting more injuries piled up week after week. Trouble could be brewing in Philadelphia.

– Cam Newton comes back to earth this week after throwing for just 158 yards but gets his first NFL win. I still don’t understand what is going with the Carolina running game but it isn’t good for Fantasy owners. If the Panthers don’t plan on running the ball then why pay D’Angelo Williams the amount of money you did in the offseason?

– I’d like to personally apologize to Maurice Jones-Drew as I didn’t see him making any type of fantasy impact this season and thus far he has. MJD talks a big game and backs it up. Doesn’t appear any injuries are bothering him at this point.

– The high powered offense of the Oakland Raiders took it to the New York Jets in Week 3 in another wacky NFL matchup. The Jets couldn’t stop Darren McFadden at all and that is why “Gang Green” is sitting with New England & looking up at the Bills in the AFC East standings currently. Run DMC may be an early favorite for NFL MVP so far this season.

– “Mr. Inconsistent” Joe Flacco looks great in Week 3 as he throws for 389 yards and 3 touchdowns leading the Ravens to victory. Ravens need to keep playing this way if they want to prove they are a force in the AFC. A victory against the Jets will help prove that point in Week 4.

– St. Louis may be the let down team of the year as they start off 0-3. Bradford doesn’t have many weapons and the Rams are just plain struggling. Despite all that you cannot write them off in the horrible NFC West.

– San Diego barely beats possibly the worst team in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3. I’m sure Chargers fans are now questioning their team after back-to-back games where the Chargers weren’t dominant at all despite being 2-1 on the season. I’m starting to think that maybe the Oakland Raiders could take over the AFC West from the favored San Diego Chargers.

– Talk about disappointing teams thus far this season; the Arizona Cardinals looked like they were returning to promise at the start of the year only to struggle throughout most of the season thus far. A loss to Seattle proves that point and now people in Arizona have to be questioning the Kevin Kolb deal after just three weeks.

– The self proclaimed “greatest show on turf II” Atlanta Falcons maybe the best 1-2 team in Football and the most underwhelming team in the NFL after Week 3. A legit NFC favorite and they are a 1-2 team who could have been 0-3 if the Michael Vick didn’t get hurt last Sunday night; Atlanta is clearing a disappointment so far in 2011.

– Green Bay improves to 3-0 after defeating the Chicago Bears and they have officially introduced Jermichael Finley to the American Football audience after he caught all three of Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes on Sunday. Despite some early defensive troubles the Packers haven’t lost a step since their streak to end last season all the way to the Super Bowl.

– The Chicago Bears fans let Jay Cutler know how much they appreciated him after they booed him for most of the game. Cutler struggled greatly against a depleted Green Bay secondary and may not be the quarterback that fans were hoping he’d be in Chicago. It’s too early to tell but Bears fans have not let him forget his NFC Championship Game performance.

– Pittsburgh maybe the best inconsistent team in Football as they barely defeated Kerry Collins and the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night. Winning by a field goal against a horrible Colts team does not make you an AFC beast.

– I really wanted the Washington Redskins to win this past Monday Night against the Dallas Cowboys. Not because you want to see the Dallas Cowboys lose but more importantly the fact that the Redskins would be 3-0 and leading the NFC East after Week 3 would be astonishing. Had Washington won that game I’d seriously start considering them to be this year’s NFC playoff team that no one saw coming. Sadly that wasn’t the case and the NFC East has tightened back up a bit.

– Jerry Jones look like he made the right call by publically backing Tony Romo after Week 2 as the QB looked pretty good on Monday night against an impressive Redskins defense. He made the throws when needed and I’m sure he wasn’t feeling a 100% with some broken ribs bothering him. He proved to me he is a tough QB, for now, because there is no telling when or if the Cowboys will need to rest Romo.

- Dallas is now 2-1 on the season after another game where they could have ended up 0-3 on the year or even 3-0; this team is so inconsistent that it might be bad for their fans heart. Either way they are 2-1 after 3 weeks and have a better record now then they did last year at this time.

– Week 3 proved to be the wackiest of weeks thus far in the NFL season as we saw some results we did not see coming, some major comebacks and some surprising teams pulling away a bit. I can not wait to see what’s in store for Week 4 in the NFL!

Join Bower, “The Sweet Nasty” Chris Cause & myself every Sunday for more NFL & Fantasy Football talk over at www.wheelhouseradio.com!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at www.wheelhouseradio.com.

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site.

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at www.twitter.com/thewheelhouse and you can e-mail them @ [email protected]

Fantasy Football Almanac 2011: The Essential Fantasy Football Refererence Guide

NFL Jerseys on Amazon.com

Madden 12 video game

NFL America’s Game Super Bowl I-XL on DVD

Couch Groove Football NFL Week 3 Picks & Predictions

September 23, 2011 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Calvin JohnsonWell, I bounced back, as promised! After going 7-9 in week one, yours truly was 12-4 in week two, with my effort buttressed by last minute wins by Tampa Bay and Buffalo. Cheers!

The NFL picture is finally beginning to take some shape, as we see the contenders (Green Bay, New England, New York Jets), pretenders (Kansas City, St. Louis, Minnesota), and surprises, both good (Detroit and Buffalo) and bad (Indianapolis). Of course, there’s still fifteen weeks to be played before we get to the post-season, so as Kevin Garnett once offered, “annnnneh-theeeng’s possssssaaaa-bbuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh”

And so, here are my rapid-fire picks. Feel free to, in honor of the New York Giants, flop to the ground and clutch your knee if the picks are coming too quickly.

Last week: 12-4
For the year: 19-13

16. Pittsburgh Steelers over Indianapolis Colts
Here’s a preview for Sunday night’s game on the commentary end of things, ripped directly from Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth’s format: Q1) Can Kerry Collins and the Colts offense turn the tide against the odds? Q2) Will Kerry Collins set a new record for combined turnovers and sacks in a half? Q3) How different would this game be if Peyton Manning was healthy? Q4) Two items: will Manning be mentoring Andrew Luck in 2012, and will NBC institute flex scheduling before November, starting next season? After back to back 300 yard passing games from opponents (one being the shaky Colt McCoy), that streak may actually end this week for the Colts. Of course, that’s because Ben Roethlisberger will throw all of fourteen passes as the defense decides the game early.
SCORE: Steelers 38, Colts 3

15. San Diego Chargers over Kansas City Chiefs
Part of me is surprised the NFL didn’t fine Ndamukong Suh for Roary the Lion injuring Jamaal Charles. Without Charles, the worst total offense in the NFL (10 pts, 9 turnovers, 511 total yards over two games) is facing the Chargers, who are giving up five yards a run. Honestly, if Charles had been healthy, I’d have taken KC in the upset in this one, and there’s still a tiny voice in my head that says Dexter McCluster and Thomas Jones are going to have stunning fantasy days on the foldable Chargers defense. In spite of that, Philip Rivers is generally good at padding his statistics, and at 71% in completions, with over 350 yards a game, the Chiefs (allowing 41 and 48 points in each of their first two games) are going to be flooded out again. Todd Haley “Coors Light” press conference audition in three….two…..
SCORE: Chargers 41, Chiefs 13

14. New England Patriots over Buffalo Bills
Call me a cynic, but given Buffalo’s track record over the last decade, especially in comparison to New England’s reign of dominance, I just don’t see this one being close. For the sake of seeing something different, I hope I’m wrong. The fact is that Buffalo has failed to generate a decent pass rush in their first two games against a hopeless Kansas City and a hot-and-cold Oakland, garnering just two sacks and one interception. Jason Campbell had all day to throw with a line that isn’t exactly Honolulu-bound from year to year, and it’s not his fault that Buffalo made an unlikely comeback. Against Tom Brady and his offense of Odyssey of the Mind alums, the Bills will be playing catch-up all day.
SCORE: Patriots 38, Bills 17

13. New York Jets over Oakland Raiders
One entry ago, I mentioned Jason Campbell having ample time to make his reads against Buffalo. Different story here, as the Jets are coming off virtually ending Luke McCown’s season, picking him off four times, sacking him twice, and holding him to below 33% passing, which has sparked the announcement of Blaine Gabbert getting his first start this week. The Jets, though, are not without flaws. As a team, they average a paltry three yards a carry, and Mark Sanchez is still making mistakes in crucial situations. Oakland can win if they leverage the game into a free for all (like they did with Denver opening week), but I see the Jets defense more than crushing Campbell to make it easier on Sanchez.
SCORE: Jets 24, Raiders 13

12. Baltimore Ravens over St. Louis Rams
The vast majority picked the Rams to win the NFC West, simply because “Sam Bradford makes the leap” was a more plausible prediction than “Seattle, San Francisco or Arizona win the division”. In two games against tough pass rushes (Philadelphia and the Giants), Bradford’s been sacked six times, and is barely throwing above fifty percent (39 of 76 with one touchdown and no picks). Baltimore, despite the hiccup game against Tennesse, is still the same Baltimore that marauded AFC Champion Pittsburgh in week one, stymieing Ben Roethlisberger. The Ravens have sixteen defensed passes in the first two games (four alone from Ed Reed), and will likely be aware of the Rams’ lack of a true playmaking receiver. I don’t think Bradford’s gonna be throwing 65% in this one.
SCORE: Ravens 27, Rams 10

11. Detroit Lions over Minnesota Vikings
One of the most underrated free agent pick-ups this offseason has been Stephen Tulloch, the consistent linebacker that quietly complimented, and later supplanted, Keith Bulluck as the Titans’ middleman, and is somebody Jim Schwartz has a world of faith in. Yards are deceiving, and the 2-0 Lions allowed over 400 yards each to the Buccaneers and Chiefs, with a lot of those yards coming in relief efforts. LeGarrette Blount put up only 15 yards on the Lions, while Dexter McCluster (subbing in for Jamaal Charles) had 51 yards on 8 carries, but subtract a 24 yard burst, and he was held to 27 yards on 7 carries, much of it reflective upon Tulloch’s leadership in the middle. If the Lions hem Adrian Peterson in, they’ll easily break Donovan McNabb down (throwing just 55%) and go to a once-improbable 3-0.
SCORE: Lions 26, Vikings 9

10. New Orleans Saints over Houston Texans
I’m not buying Houston as the “team to beat” in the AFC South, especially as the league’s #1 defense, believe it or not, until they can handle an offense as diverse and deadly as that of the Saints. Thus far, the Texans have brutalized a muddled Colts team and did enough to hold off an in-flux Dolphins team, but the real test is Sunday. The Saints put up 34 on the World Champion Packers (with the impenetrable zone blitz of Dom Capers), and then hung 30 points on a nearly-as-aggressive Bears. Drew Brees’ new favorite toy is Darren Sproles’ speed on the dump-off, something the Chargers surely miss by now. Sproles is averaging 8 yards over the middle and in the flat per catch, and it keeps defenses guessing, especially when Brees still has his downfield threats. I don’t think Houston’s passing this test.
SCORE: Saints 34, Texans 20

9. Philadelphia Eagles over New York Giants
Signs point to Michael Vick likely playing, despite getting his brains scrambled by Todd Herremans (and really, I’m surprised the league didn’t fine Big Todd). Call me a homer, but those unfortunate fumbles on Sunday night (one was just a heads up play by Peria Jerry when Vick needlessly stalled) don’t reflect the nature of the team’s offense. For the most part, the Eagles offense is still quite efficient, with even Mike Kafka nearly leading the team to victory in the closing minutes. The Giants remain good run-stoppers, hemming in Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood on Monday, but their troubles with Vick’s scrambling last season will be uncovered. The Giants haven’t dealt with many dump-offs to running backs yet this year, something LeSean McCoy thrives on.
SCORE: Eagles 30, Giants 17

8. Carolina Panthers over Jacksonville Jaguars
Sixteen years ago, it was Kerry Collins vs. Mark Brunell, who are both still in the league. Now it’s Cam Newton vs. Blaine Gabbert, who were barely in grade school when the aforementioned quarterbacks were in their primes. No receiver on the Jaguars has over 100 receiving yards yet this season (Mike Thomas is closest with 84 on 11 grabs), and Luke McCown was quick to lose his job after posting a 30.6 rating. Meanwhile, Newton has been a surprise to many naysayers, despite being 0-2 and making a few costly mistakes. Still, Newton put up 23 points on Green Bay, and was handling that zone blitz early. With Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams averaging less than 2.5 yards a carry combined, it’s time they jump start on a defense that will see the field many, many times.
SCORE: Panthers 34, Jaguars 19

7. Dallas Cowboys over Washington Redskins
I’m a little iffy on this, based on DeAngelo Hall’s threat to target Tony Romo’s ribcage, should Romo play. Despite the injury, I think Romo might be spurred on by the week one loss, as evidenced by his well placed throw to win in overtime Sunday, and it’s driven him to shed all loser labels. As it stands, the Redskins allows less than 100 yards a game, but opponents have only tried to run 15 times (Arizona) and 20 times (New York Giants), so the mettle of the run defense hasn’t been tested. Felix Jones and Tashard Choice have had slow starts to the year running the ball, but the unreality of the Redskins being 2-0 means something drastic has to happen for balance to be restored. Felix Jones, over 100 yards on the ground, book it.
SCORE: Cowboys 21, Redskins 14

6. Green Bay Packers over Chicago Bears
Saints with Olin Kreutz as a starter: four sacks allowed. Bears since excising Kreutz: eleven sacks allowed. Jay Cutler even came out and said he’s not sure how much more he can physically take, which isn’t quite a ringing endorsement from the Bears’ field general. This is the same Cutler that, in the NFC Title game last year against Green Bay, was rattled in the first half by the onslaught of the zone blitz, and had his toughness questioned when he was allegedly too hurt to play in the second half, bringing Caleb Hanie in. The running game of Chicago hasn’t suffered any, so it looks like the pass blocking assignments just aren’t effective. Hey, you know who’s good at exploiting shaky pass blocking schemes? Dom Capers!
SCORE: Packers 24, Bears 14

5. Denver Broncos over Tennessee Titans
Despite Tennessee stunning the Ravens on Sunday, thanks more to Ravens’ inability to overcome ill-timed turnovers than anything else, I don’t see the Titans being a powerhouse team. The Denver Broncos, who have struggled with inferior competition, I think are due for a game in which everything goes right. Orton played a wise, conservative game in the win over Cincinnati, which hopefully regains him the confidence he lost in the week one washout vs. the Raiders. With Brandon Lloyd healthy and back in the line-up this week (remember, he’s 2010’s receiving champion), I think Orton opens the playbook more and throws more successful deep balls, just to counteract a possible late comeback like Cincinnati nearly had.
SCORE: Broncos 30, Titans 20

4. Cleveland Browns over Miami Dolphins
Well, somebody has to win, right? Fortunately for the Browns, the Dolphins are allowing 4.2 yards on the ground per carry, and Peyton Hillis is aching to get his first 100 yard game of the season, I’m sure. The Dolphins’ defense, still trying to shake the cobwebs after Tom Brady and Wes Welker incinerated them in week one, let Ben Tate post 100 yards on them in week two. The run defense is very suspect, especially without Channing Crowder around anymore to provide a sense of play recognition. The Browns offense may not be any great shakes, but I can see them bruising their way to victory behind Hillis. Unless the Madden Curse shows up, of course.
SCORE: Browns 20, Dolphins 13

3. Cincinnati Bengals over San Francisco 49ers
Well, lookie here, Andy Dalton is a competent quarterback. Grant you, he’s played two incompetent defenses in Cleveland and Denver, but San Francisco’s no great shakes, and they’re next on Dalton’s hit list. I like the Bengals chances here, not just because of Dalton’s eased style of play, but for two other reasons: Cedric Benson’s hot-cold career path is currently “hot”, as he’s built a head of steam against the aforementioned opponents (180 yards on 41 carries), and San Francisco is dealing with injuries to Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards. When Josh Morgan has become your go-to guy, it’s looking like a long season.
SCORE: Bengals 23, 49ers 14

2. Arizona Cardinals over Seattle Seahawks
I’m in full “pick anyone and everyone” over Seattle mode, because a) there’s no rational reason to choose them to win and b) watching Pete Carroll suffer after avoiding punishment at USC is delicious. Beanie Wells has been a machine, averaging 5.7 yards a carry on just 32 carries. After Seattle couldn’t stop Pittsburgh from racking up yards and eating the clock on Sunday, Wells should be able to continue his bruising ways. On top of that, Seattle’s allowed ten sacks this season, and since the Cardinals defense has enough playmakers to deflect passes, if not pick them off, you’d think Tarvaris Jackson will be hemmed in by a number of complicated blitzes on Sunday. And you’re probably right.
SCORE: Cardinals 20, Seahawks 13

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Atlanta Falcons
LeGarrette Blount, after an invisible week one, racked up over five yards a carry against the solid Vikings defense on Sunday, including a 27 yard touchdown run, and the clinching touchdown in the final minute. Atlanta’s weakness, one that Philadelphia was exploiting before the turnovers and Michael Vick’s injury doomed them, is that the secondary fails in key situations. Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, Matt Forte, and Jeremy Maclin all put up sixty or more receiving yards on Atlanta this season. For Tampa Bay, which is getting mileage out of Arrelious Benn and surprising second-year player Preston Parker (remember that name), avoiding turnovers will allow them to do what the Eagles couldn’t against the Falcons: win.
SCORE: Buccaneers 24, Falcons 20

Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for WrestlingNewsSource.com and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.

Fantasy Football Almanac 2011: The Essential Fantasy Football Refererence Guide

NFL Jerseys on Amazon.com

Madden 12 video game

NFL America’s Game Super Bowl I-XL on DVD

Couch Groove Football NFL Week 2 Picks & Predictions

September 16, 2011 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Mike TomlinFor seventeen weeks last year, I did not have a losing week. Sure, there were some 8-8’s in there, but I generally performed well in my prognostications.

In 2011, I stumbled out of the gate.

Thanks to ineptitude by Pittsburgh, the Giants, Kansas City, and others, I found myself at 7-9, which is still good enough to win the NFC West. But that’s still not good enough for the rigorous standards that I hold for myself. Eric Gargiulo deserves better than 7-9, so I made sure to hit the stat lines and box scores harder this week to gain an edge. I vow that if I finish worse than 8-8 this week, I will bob for apples in a kiddie pool that Rex and Rob Ryan spent an hour wading naked in.

Okay, maybe I won’t go THAT far, but I do promise to improve my picks considerably. I owe it to you, the reader, and to the gambling cartels that rely on my usually razor sharp information.

As wiseman Dennis Green once said, “They are who we THOUGHT they were.” This time, with my copious research, I DO know who they are. However, I am NOT letting them off the hook.

The comeback begins now.

Last week: 7-9
For the year: 7-9

16. Pittsburgh over Seattle
Fortunately for Pittsburgh, ESPN.com and NFL.com still have them in the top ten in the power rankings despite their complete core meltdown against Baltimore. Why? Because Sunday’s game was merely a “Murphy’s Law” game, and Seattle isn’t Baltimore. In other words, those sites are secure in the knowledge that the Steelers will make up for that loss. Seattle couldn’t muster a single sack, forced fumble, or interception on an offensive headed by the woeful Alex Smith, so shouldn’t they do the same against a Steelers team that doesn’t take humiliation lightly? Besides, if Smith can go 75% passing on the Seahawks D, you’d think Ben Roethlisberger would capitalize on such tentativeness. Whatever Hell that coach Mike Tomlin has put the Steelers through this week to erase that stench of failure, if they don’t win by at least 21 this week, I’ll be stunned.
SCORE: Steelers 47, Seahawks 10

15. Tampa Bay over Minnesota
When you run the ball a mere 16 times (5 being quarterback scrambles) on the Detroit Lions, of course you’re going to struggle against a Lions team that may or may not make that “leap” this season. It’s too early to shovel dirt on any 0-1 team, as there are sixteen of them and the previous pick highlights one primed to bounce back. I think Tampa will do the same, provided they remember to balance their offensive ticket. Despite the Vikings’ defense and special teams keeping Donovan McNabb’s horrid performance alive (7/15, 39 yards with a TD and a pick), Minnesota ultimately caved to a well balanced offense that showcased Mike Tolbert making the most of the flat. Get LeGarrette Blount in open space on dumps and swings, and Minnesota won’t stand a chance.
SCORE: Buccaneers 27, Vikings 10

14. Baltimore over Tennessee
Jacksonville had questionable faith in Luke McCown, which explains why the Jaguars ran the ball 47 times against the Titans on Sunday. While it was only for a 3.5 yards-per-carry average, Jacksonville still saw fit to give 14 carries to the backup, Deji Karim, and 24 to Maurice Jones-Drew, the resident bruiser, and it still packed enough punch to give the Jags a narrow win. Baltimore has a little more firepower, thanks to Ray Rice approaching his peak of production (5.6 yards a carry on Pittsburgh!), and a still-capable Ricky Williams to compliment him. As long as the Ravens can keep Kenny Britt from making his circus catches to bail out Matt Hasselbeck (leaving an anonymous police tip before the game helps), I see no reason for them to lose this one.
SCORE: Ravens 31, Titans 14

13. Houston over Miami
Alright, I’m convinced. It may have been against a Manning-less Colts team, but the Houston Texans are finally adding defensive bluster to the high powered offense. If they can’t win the AFC South this year, or at least snare a wild card ticket, then Gary Kubiak will likely be drawn and quarted. Even if Arian Foster sits again this week, with no concrete indication of his status as of Wednesday afternoon, Ben Tate and Derrick Ward still combined for 155 yards on 35 carries. If Foster does go, he’ll likely split duties with Tate to prevent an injury reoccurrence, which is still trouble for the Dolphins. As good as Chad Henne looked Monday night, Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has seemingly rejuvenated his corps, and they won’t take Henne lightly.
SCORE: Texans 27, Dolphins 10

12. Green Bay over Carolina
There’s a tiny voice in my head that’s saying, “The Packers have never seen Cam Newton before. There’s a chance that the complex zone blitz won’t know how to handle him early on, and the Panthers can build enough of a buffer lead to where they sneak out an upset.” Then that same voice declares, “But it’s Aaron Rodgers vs. Carolina’s defense….” Indeed, I expect the Packers to have a couple of blips and stumbles here and there as far as corralling Newton is concerned, but it won’t be anywhere near the dissection and evisceration of the Panthers’ defense that Rodgers brings to the table. Concerning stat: DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart had only 56 yards on 19 carries against Arizona. Looks like Newton’s gotta shoulder the load here.
SCORE: Packers 41, Panthers 17

11. Philadelphia over Atlanta
A tale of two teams: the Eagles pulled themselves out of an early rut against St. Louis on Sunday, while the Falcons let misfortunes snowball against the Bears, resulting in defeat. Granted, the Eagles don’t have Chicago’s linebacking corps, and are prone to flooding too early on slow developing run plays, but Atlanta’s problem on defense lies in buckling down. The Bears had sixteen third down opportunities, converted six of them, and hit field goals on three that went to fourth down. The Eagles were eight of eleven on third down Sunday, with a scrambling Michael Vick running roughshod, or sharply throwing, to convert. If the Falcons can’t hunker down and keep Vick at bay, it’s going to be a nice homecoming for their first overall pick of a decade ago.
SCORE: Eagles 31, Falcons 17

10. Detroit over Kansas City
Everybody on the Lions’ bandwagon, there’s plenty of open spaces. Matthew Stafford finally played like a first overall pick (not named JaMarcus Russell) against a promising Buccaneers team (73% completions, 305 yards, 3 TD), while the defense was quick to capitalize on a slew of Buccaneer mistakes. Meanwhile, the Chiefs were absolutely lit up by an efficient Bills offense, which boasts nowhere near Stafford’s and Calvin Johnson’s ceiling. Matt Cassel was either bothered by his ribs or lost his confidence somewhere, because he was held to five yards a completion, which indicates a pressuring zone defense is his kryptonite. If the Lions get pressure on Cassel, it’ll be over early.
SCORE: Lions 24, Chiefs 9

9. New York Jets over Jacksonville
The Jaguars played conservatively against the Jets, as Luke McCown slowly worked his way into the starting quarterback role. 47 times spent running the ball wasn’t exactly because they were hauling for big gains, but they were effective clock-eaters on a Tennessee offense that had little chance to come back. While the Jets struggled early against Dallas, particularly Darrelle Revis (early) and Antonio Cromartie, they were getting beaten by an offense that played aggressively. The Jaguars I don’t think have that capacity to play as strong, especially against a Jets team that knows how close they were to defeat. Jacksonville’s run defense is underrated, but the Jets are a more dimensional offense, and Mark Sanchez, without the microscope of playing in New York on 9/11, will be more relaxed and poised.
SCORE: Jets 24, Jaguars 13

8. Buffalo over Oakland
Just think, one of these teams will be 2-0 before Sunday ends. There’s actually an interesting clash in this one, as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s calm efficiency (never thought I’d ever utter THAT remark) faces a Raiders defense that’s heavy on penalties, but also high on rattling an offense. Flip around the circumstances and put Jason Campbell against Buffalo’s defense. The Bills hemmed Matt Cassel in on Sunday, forcing him to throw short, despite plenty of weapons around him. Raiders like Darius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford are renowned for their speed, which can be nullified with Buffalo’s surprisingly good man coverage. If the Bills can contain Darren McFadden beyond that, they can keep Fitzpatrick serene and make for a convincing win.
SCORE: Bills 21, Raiders 13

7. New England over San Diego
The Patriots can’t play any better than they did Monday, unless they run back four or five kickoffs for touchdowns against the Chargers’ anemic special teams. I wouldn’t even rule out that happening. Mike Tolbert, who had three touchdowns Sunday against Minnesota, is uncertain to play with his late-game leg injury, which gives Philip Rivers one less versatile weapon against the questionable Patriots defense. Tolbert or no Tolbert, when the Patriots get on a roll, they roll like a flood, and Tom Brady certainly won’t throw for 39 yards like Donovan McNabb did against the Chargers. Much of the Chargers success Sunday was in forcing three-and-outs, and New England simply has too many weapons to let that happen consistently.
SCORE: Patriots 31, Chargers 20

6. New York Giants over St. Louis
Just what needs to be broadcast on Monday night: the offense of a million injuries vs. the defense of a million injuries. If Sam Bradford can’t pick apart an ailing Giants defense, then there isn’t much else he can do to assure victory, even without Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola. Justin Tuck’s vowing to play Monday night, and that can only help a pass rush that was the one effective weapon against Rex Grossman on opening day. The Rams have a decent pass rush of their own, but Eli Manning has a varied offense and, like Michael Vick, will play better as the game goes on. Especially if the G-Men’s defense can avoid giving up the big plays like Sunday.
SCORE: Giants 20, Rams 10

5. Dallas over San Francisco
Put it this way: if Dallas loses this game, I’m considering them eliminated from playoff contention. No quarterback has lost games in such a variety of ways as Tony Romo has, and that loss to the Jets was enough comic fodder to be chicken soup for the Cowboy hater’s soul. That said, San Francisco only won Sunday because a) Seattle sucks, b) Ted Ginn had a career day returning the ball, and c) Seattle sucks. I fail to see a way in which Romo has back-to-back embarrassing weeks (usually his humiliations are spread out to maximize the enjoyment), so I think Dallas picks on a San Fran offense that wasn’t exactly moving downfield with the greatest of ease. The 49ers only real chance at winning is to force Romo mistakes, thanks to their underrated pass rush facing a shaky Dallas offensive line.
SCORE: Cowboys 21, 49ers 10

4. Denver over Cincinnati
The rematch of the Stokley Bowl from 2009 (which prompted Gus Johnson’s rendezvous with destiny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fPamV6LsV8) and both teams are in need of a tune-up. I still like Denver, in spite of Kyle Orton gift-wrapping Monday’s game for the Raiders. For a quarterback that had an unheralded yet good 2010, Orton’s more than capable of dissecting the Bengals’ defense, which surprisingly had their way with Colt McCoy on Sunday. Near as I can tell, neither weather nor a penalty-collecting Raiders defense will be a factor on Sunday, and Orton, after hearing the “TE-BOW” chants Monday night, I think will be psyched up to put the loss in the past. Besides, the Broncos only ran 13 times vs. the Raiders, so I look for John Fox to open up that part of the game more in order to take the pressure off of Orton.
SCORE: Broncos 24, Bengals 16

3. New Orleans over Chicago
Because I can’t see Drew Brees starting off 0-2. It’s New Orleans’ home opener, and if you think the fans of an 0-1 team, one that they take pride in, is going to be silent on every Jay Cutler throw, you’re crazy. Cutler benefitted from his defense, as well as a collapsible Falcons defense, on Sunday, while the Saints’ points and stats would have been enough to destroy most other opponents this week. It’s just a shame that they drew Green Bay first. Michael Turner was able to put up 100 yards on a defense that was mostly shutdown through the day. I visualize Darren Sproles darting in and out of Bears tacklers in between Brees’ attempts to spread the field. With a varied attack like that, not to mention the home crowd rattling a very irritable Cutler, the Saints should be able to even their record.
SCORE: Saints 27, Bears 20

2. Arizona over Washington
Either Kevin Kolb or Rex Grossman will be 2-0. Let that sink in for a moment. The Cardinals allowed 422 yards through the air against Carolina, largely because rookie Patrick Peterson was rope-a-doped by Steve Smith and Cam Newton. Arizona’s secondary will be a liability if Grossman decides to “unleash the dragon”. Then again, Kevin Kolb was good at answering back when the situation called for it, completing 2/3 of his passes for over 300 yards, and the Redskins can be prone to give up the big play, as the Giants were able to garner early on. If the Redskins rely too much on Tim Hightower again (26 rushes by the Skins, 25 by him), the Cardinals will be able to pick up on patterns and thus figure out Washington’s game plan early. Force Grossman to make mistakes, and that’s your difference maker.
SCORE: Cardinals 17, Redskins 13

1. Indianapolis over Cleveland
Give Peyton Manning a healthy neck and this might be my top pick. As it is, this is a gamble, because I’m banking on Kerry Collins and the offensive line coming up with a new way of communicating this week. The Bengals were able to capitalize on the Browns’ inability to get third down stops, so Indy may be better off letting the running game bruise Cleveland for the first two quarters. In the second half, with Cleveland effectively worn down, the Colts can take over on Sheldon Brown, who may be the slowest corner in the game today. Joe Haden will most assuredly match up with Reggie Wayne, so if Collins can hit Pierre Garcon or Austin Collie on the other side of the field, he can easily erase the opening week nightmare.
SCORE: Colts 20, Browns 14

Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for WrestlingNewsSource.com and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.

Fantasy Football Almanac 2011: The Essential Fantasy Football Refererence Guide

NFL Jerseys on Amazon.com

Madden 12 video game

NFL America’s Game Super Bowl I-XL on DVD

Couch Groove Football NFL Week 1 2011 Picks & Predictions

September 08, 2011 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Steelers vs. RavensFor those of you new to Camel Clutch Blog, or are merely blissfully unaware of the individuals who inhabit this very handsome blog, my name is Justin Henry, and I am the resident picker of games at this here establishment.

Last season, in 256 regular season games, I went 165-91, giving me a healthy 64% winning advantage. 64% is pretty good, to be honest. Hell, by modern Oakland Raider standards, it’s enough to warrant drool. A 64% approval rating is something Barack Obama can only achieve in this day and age by ordering Rush Limbaugh and Al Sharpton to play Russian Roulette.

But I’m not trying to brag or anything; I’m just merely stating my qualifications for bringing back my weekly picks presentation. After all, here at camelclutchblog.com, not only are we a healthy source of scantily clad lasses in the side banner ads, but also serve as home to accurate football picks as well.

Who says we don’t cater to varied tastes?

The format of my column is simple: I pick a winner for each game, and then I rank my winners from the one I’m most confident in, to the one I’m least confident in, making my final pick either a startling upset, or a decisive selection in a game between two true heavyweights. If it were stated any more easily and arcanely, I’d hire Dan Dierdorf to grunt it.

And so, as Roger Goodell and his PR staff have diligently bashed into our collective consciousness since the end of July, football is BACK! And so are my picks of the week. Enjoy!

Current 2011 Record: 0-0

16. New England over Miami
The loss of Channing Crowder means there’s a chance play recognition diminishes on the Dolphins defense. Of course, against a Bill Belichick and Tom Brady-approved offense, play recognition is spotty at best. I look for the Patriots to run the same offense from last year, a week-to-week playbook change that you need to be an MIT graduate to master. And the players on New England’s offense are smart enough.
SCORE: Patriots 34, Dolphins 10

15. Kansas City over Buffalo
I’m not quite sure how to take the Bills, who saw Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson emerge as surprise stars last year. They should improve on their 4-12 from last season, but they come out of the chute against an upgraded Kansas City Chiefs. Not only does Buffalo have to deal with Romeo Crennel’s simple-but-effective defense, but they boast new offensive firepower in Steve Breaston, Le’Ron McClain, and Todd Heap. Todd Haley loves his gadgets, and I think he opens up shooting off every one of them.
SCORE: Chiefs 31, Bills 13

14. Denver over Oakland
Why is everybody laughing at the Broncos? They got Elvis Dumervil back and, paired with Von Miller, stands a chance of being one of the most dominant linebacker combos in football today. Of course, John Fox is an upgrade over Josh McDaniels that understands defenses, so that alone is an improvement. Kyle Orton doesn’t have Nnamdi Asomugha to worry about twice a year anymore, especially on Monday night. If Denver didn’t have a recently spotty rep, they’d be my top pick this week.
SCORE: Broncos 38, Raiders 16

13. New York Giants over Washington
Football takes a back seat in this game to America’s resolve, as the two cities primarily effected by the September 11 attacks meet on the tenth anniversary. The game won’t mean a hill of beans in comparison to the meaning of the date, but since this is a picks’ column, I’ll keep this simple: the Redskins needlessly struggle with their identity, and thus the Giants will swing their defensive line at (Grossman/Beck) like a wooden club. It doesn’t matter who starts, because New York will finish.
SCORE: Giants 27, Redskins 10

12. Cleveland over Cincinnati
Colt McCoy’s got a year more experience under his belt, which definitely puts him in better positioning than Andy Dalton, who’ll kiss the fire on Sunday thanks to Mike Brown’s stubbornness. The Bengals have added some attractive pieces on defense, like Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard, but how long can they last with Dalton likely turning the ball over many times? Their endurance will be tested when Peyton Hillis comes lumbering at them with intent of breaking the Madden Curse.
SCORE: Browns 27, Bengals 10

11. Arizona over Carolina
In some ways, picking a winner here is not an endorsement of greatness, but rather choosing the winner of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey between two meth addicts. Carolina’s best hope is to let DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Goodson run over an inconsistent Cardinals defense, but on the other side, Kevin Kolb can play ‘jump ball’ with Larry Fitzgerald, who’s just happy to have a quarterback capable of winning once in a while. If the Cardinals defense can hold any, just take them.
SCORE: Cardinals 20, Panthers 10

10. New York Jets over Dallas
Just because Tony Romo’s healthy doesn’t mean that the Cowboys are going to become ravenous world beaters again. The Cowboys have ten of their eleven starters back, including DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears, and everybody forgets that they gave up about 27 points a game last season. Addition of Rob Ryan or not, the Jets remain a smart and aggressive team, and it’s Rex Ryan that’ll take advantage of any Cowboy shortcomings. If Tony Romo’s comeback starts slow, it could be a long night.
SCORE: Jets 27, Cowboys 13

9. San Diego over Minnesota
As much as I’d like to see Donovan McNabb succeed just to crack Kyle Shanahan in the mouth, he’s going to find it hard to outduel Philip Rivers, who has a healthier offensive line at his disposal. While the Chargers are notorious slow starters, in a four quarter game, Rivers is more apt to attack Minnesota’s questionable secondary (Antoine Winfield is now 34) than McNabb is to take advantage of San Diego’s fourth quarter ineptitude on defense. It may take time for McNabb to master the Minnesota offense.
SCORE: Chargers 23, Vikings 14

8. Philadelphia over St. Louis
Much was made of the Eagles’ “Dream Team”, but the Rams boast the better offensive line, as well as a tight end package (Michael Hoomanawanui and rookie Lance Kendricks) that is primed to batter the Eagles’ shaky linebackers. The Rams defense, however, has weaknesses, and the Eagles’ speed offense, led by Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy, will lead chases all afternoon. On top of that, Sam Bradford can be a little heavy on the picks, and the Eagles secondary is a veritable hornets’ nest for turnovers.
SCORE: Eagles 27, Rams 14

7. Tampa Bay over Detroit
I like where the Lions are going, especially in terms of Jim Schwartz sculpting a defensive monster. Stephen Tulloch, Justin Durant, and Eric Wright are all solid signings, and juxtaposing Nick Fairley next to Ndamukong Suh (when Fairley is healthy) is a running back’s nightmare. However, it’ll be a little bit before the Lions become cohesive, in spite of their impressive preseason win over the Patriots. I see Josh Freeman leading a concerted effort on the Lions’ D as the once-joke team finds itself.
SCORE: Buccaneers 17, Lions 10

6. Seattle over San Francisco
Well, somebody has to win. Either Tarvaris Jackson or Alex Smith will technically be undefeated at the start of week two, which would be humorous if it weren’t true. When it comes down to it, Seattle’s offense, even with Jackson, should see a marked improvement, thanks to Darrell Bevell’s hiring as offensive coordinator. Jackson has targets in Mike Williams and Sidney Rice, as well as a rejuvenated Marshawn Lynch. If Jackson can avoid mistakes in San Fran’s secondary, they’ll pull this out.
SCORE: Seahawks 16, 49ers 14

5. Chicago over Atlanta
I see both teams sinking this year in something of a post-good year hangover. Jay Cutler has to account for his mistakes more this season after his alleged “backing down” in the NFC Title game, whereas Matt Ryan was completely exposed in Atlanta’s divisional round loss to Green Bay. Both teams also have injury prone running backs in Matt Forte and Michael Turner respectively. For Sunday, however, I’ll take the Bears, because when you find yourself in doubt, you just take the home team.
SCORE: Bears 20, Falcons 14

4. Indianapolis over Houston
Peyton Manning’s neck vs. Arian Foster’s leg. This isn’t exactly what you’d call a gambler’s delight, since both offenses have a wider range of performance possibilities than usual. Houston has done everything imaginable to fix up their shoddy defense, including rearrange Mario Williams to linebacker and draft heavy on D in the first few rounds in April, but the Colts have enough offense that’s established in order to win, regardless of who throws the ball. I look for Dallas Clark to have a monster day in this one.
SCORE: Colts 24, Texans 20

3. Tennessee over Jacksonville
I originally submitted this on Sunday evening with Jacksonville winning, and they were very high on this list. My faith in the Jags’ new look defense, complete with Paul Posluszny and Clint Session as precisely the run stuffers needed in the AFC South, had me thinking “division title” for Jacksonville. But now with Luke McCown, he of the 74.8 career passer rating, inserted over David Garrard in a startling Tuesday cut, well…..that Jags D is going to be busy stopping Chris Johnson after McCown starts turning the ball over.
SCORE: Titans 17, Jaguars 13

2. Green Bay over New Orleans
So yeah, football is officially back when the two most recent champions hit the airwaves on Thursday night. The World Champions are undefeated since the concept of Thursday openers began a few years back, and that’s pretty much my only reason for taking Green Bay here. The Saints have added some nice pieces to the offense, particularly with Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles, but the Packers have retained most of their defensive clockwork, sans Cullen Jenkins. Should be a good one.
SCORE: Packers 17, Saints 14

1. Pittsburgh over Baltimore
After Hines Ward’s DUI arrest, Ray Rice and Ryan Clark set the stage for the week one clash with Twitter jabs back and forth. Of course, this rivalry didn’t need any more fire, but the taunts have proven why Twitter is an effective tool for making an interesting game even more so. After the way Pittsburgh has proven that they haven’t lost a step in preseason, I don’t see them losing to start the year. And after Rice let his “140 characters or less” fuel the fire, he may bear the brunt of the Steelers’ assault.
SCORE: Steelers 20, Ravens 17

Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for WrestlingNewsSource.com and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.

Fantasy Football Almanac 2011: The Essential Fantasy Football Refererence Guide

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Madden 12 video game

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NFC Predictions For The NFL 2011-12 Season – Inside The Wheelhouse

September 08, 2011 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

Drew BreesThis blog is Part 2 my 3-part series here at the Camel Clutch Blog where I preview the upcoming 2011-2012 NFL Season. In the first blog I looked at the AFC, in Part 2 we will look at the NFC and finally, in Part 3, we will look at the NFL Playoffs. Lets get too it and preview the NFC.

NFC East:

1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)

The Eagles had a tremendous offseason, so tremendous that their backup quarterback Vince Young deemed them the “dream team.” While I certainly agree that they look much better then they did last season, they are no “dream team.” The moniker as given by their backup quarterback could put a huge target on their back in the NFC East.

The NFC East is possibly the most competitive division in all of football right now. If the Eagles were in the NFC West they could easily go 16-0. But since they have to play the Cowboys, Giants and Redskins six times this season I have to think they won’t be as good on paper, as some may think they are right now. The Eagles will be very good this year but to me, the biggest question mark for them this season will be whether or not Michael Vick will be able to repeat last season’s amazing performance or if he can even stay healthy. Vick has only played one NFL season healthy, his health & performance will determine how far this team will go this year.

2. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)

I am all in on the Dallas Cowboys this season. They were everyone’s “sexy pick” last season but we knew how that ended as they went 6-10 and highly underperformed. They have a new coach in Jason Garrett (finally) and Tony Romo appears to be healthy after missing the rest of last season. It also helps that Dez Bryant has a season under his belt and is poised to potentially break out this year.

The Cowboys are a playoff team and are motivated to prove to everyone that they are as good as advertised. This team has a ton of talent and one piece of talent that is going under the radar right now that I believe could have a huge season is running back Felix Jones. This is his team now and could very well run close to 1200 yards. I expect things from Felix Jones this year as the starter in Big D.

3. New York Giants (7-9)

The New York Football Giants broke down towards the end of last season, missing the playoffs, despite looking poised to being a playoff lock towards the stretch. They made no offseason moves; they lost some key players and have some of their most important players on defense on the sidelines with injuries, some season ending injuries. It does not appear to be a good season ahead for the New York Giants.

Eli Manning is having a horrible preseason which very well could shift over to the regular season. It appears Tom Coughlin could no longer be the head coach of the Giants by season’s end and maybe giving the 7 wins for this year is being too kind. I fully expect this not to be a good season for the New York Giants.

4. Washington Redskins (4-12)

They won’t be any good this season, they won’t make the playoffs (sorry Rex Grossman), but they are going to be a pesky football team. I like what I see in Washington heading into this season. They aren’t going to be a team that wins, but they will be competitive. They will be what the Lions were two years ago and the Browns from last season, a horrible team based off of their record, but a team that doesn’t roll over because they aren’t supposed to be any good.

McNabb and Haynesworth are gone, the running game isn’t solidified and the quarterbacks they have, wouldn’t be backups for most teams in the NFL. Like I said before, they will be competitive, yet still horrible. I do believe we are seeing the beginning stages of a rebuild in Washington as long as the Redskins ownership doesn’t screw it up.

NFC North:

1. Green Bay Packers (14-2)

The defending Super Bowl Champions enter the 2011-2012 season coming off of a six game winning streak that includes the entire playoffs and a roster that is 100% healthy for the first time since Week 1 of last season. The Green Bay Packers were left for dead many times last season and were not expected to make the playoffs nor reach or win the Super Bowl. They did despite the adversity and it made Aaron Rodgers one of the best players in the NFL.

The Packers were destroyed by injuries throughout last season as their starting running back, tight end and middle linebacker would miss the entire season. Aaron Rodgers would miss time towards the end of the year and they even lost Charles Woodson & Donald Driver during the Super Bowl. Talk about a team that does not have quit in their vocabulary. They are at full strength and have a Super Bowl ring on their fingers now, this team will be extremely dangerous come January into February.

2. Detroit Lions (9-7)

Last season it was the Houston Texans, this season it’s the Detroit Lions. It’s everyone’s favorite pick for teams to surprise us all and make the playoffs this season. I just don’t see it happening, no matter how much the football fan in me would love to see it take place. The Detroit Lions aren’t a playoff team this season, next season is a whole different story, but they won’t be a team to compete in the playoffs this year.

We are closer & closer to the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers becoming a rivalry at the top of the NFC North & we may see shades of it this season. But before we dream and prosper for what could be, we have to look at what we have first. Matthew Stafford, if healthy (there is that key word) is a top ten quarterback in the NFL. He has the weapons in Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew but you also don’t know if Javid Best will even be healthy. If all the healthy concerns go out the window then this team is an above .500 caliber team that will make the playoffs next year, until that happens they won’t be playing for keeps in January. Oh and the Detroit is pretty awesome too.

3. Chicago Bears (7-9)

All last season I spoke about how lucky the Chicago Bears were last season. They were probably the luckiest team in the NFL last season. They got the breaks, had the right schedule and continued to win. That luck got them as far as the NFC Championship Game last season but that slipper they wore throughout the year finally needed to be returned back to its owner.

I don’t think the Bears will repeat as the NFC North Division Champions or as a playoff team this season and I think we could see something brewing between Lovie Smith & Jay Cutler this year. Jay Cutler is not a leader on or off the field as we saw in the NFC Championship Game and sadly I would have to say that the Bears franchise will side with their quarterback & let Lovie Smith go as head coach. This is a team, similar to the Vikings of last season that are continuing to slide down rather then going up.

4. Minnesota Vikings (3-13)

Remember the last two seasons in the NFL when people would predict who would be the Super Bowl Champion? I guarantee that you read some blogs or predictions that had this Vikings franchise winning it all. While I could agree with them being a top NFC team in 2009, I did not see it happening again in 2010. Brad Childress was fired (as I predicted) and Brett Favre started to finally show his age (as I predicted) as the Vikings went 6-10 the season after making the NFC Championship game.

Don’t expect the Vikings to improve off of last despite their move to bring Donovan McNabb to Minnesota. McNabb is a shell of what he used to be in Philadelphia and is only keeping the quarterback seat warm for when Christian Ponder gets a chance towards season’s end. I also foresee this potentially being the last impactful year before Adrian Peterson’s decline and for Percy Harvin to become a top-ten WR in the NFL, if he is of course, healthy.

NFC South:

1. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

Up until the Philadelphia Eagles snatched up every veteran on the market to put together a pretty good team, it appeared that the Atlanta Falcons made the best offseason moves of any of the NFL teams. That offseason move, and it was only one, was picking Julio Jones in the 2011 NFL Draft and making the already amazing Falcons defense that more dynamic then it already was. It made the Falcons look like they were the 2nd coming of “the greatest show on turf II.”

Matt Ryan is a future Super Bowl Champion Quarterback, let’s already get that out of the way. He is a great playmaker, a great leader on the field and is continuing to grow season after season in the NFL. He is one of my choices for NFL MVP this season and could very well be that household name that he is destined to be this season. I expect big things from Matty Ice in Atlanta that offense is going to be just incredible.

2. New Orleans Saints (11-5)

Despite the Atlanta Falcons making moves and improving their offense, the same could be said for the New Orleans Saints improving their offense a season removed from losing to the below .500 Seattle Seahawks in disappointing fashion in the playoffs last year. The former Super Bowl Champions are a year removed now from defending their title last year and no longer have that Super Bowl Champion target on their back. They, like Atlanta made moves during the offseason and most notably at the draft as the picked up Mark Ingram, the best running back in the draft.

Drew Brees is a fantastic quarterback who makes everyone around him better. There offense spreads the ball out a lot more then Atlanta does and will continue to put up the big numbers we expect them to put up every season. They will be very good in the NFC South but not as good as Atlanta is but despite that all, this is still a playoff caliber team.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the most surprising team in the NFL last season as they went 10-6 and just barely missed the playoffs. I still like this team but I think they will be coming back to earth a bit this year. It’ll be a bump in road for the longevity of the Tampa Bay Bucs but one that should see them bounce back from next season.

Josh Freeman is starting to become a top quarterback in the NFL and making everyone believers in his ability to be such for the Tampa Bay Bucs. The biggest downfall for the Tampa Bay Bucs is their division. If the Bucs were in the NFC West, it would be a completely different story. But don’t fear Bucs fans, they need to be brought back down to earth to be competitive again, I really like where this team is heading.

4. Carolina Panthers (2-14)

Sorry Panthers fans & Cam Newtown defenders of the world, Cam Newton does not wear a cape, is not named superman and is not going to save your franchise this season. Despite my initial thoughts of him being the next JaMarcus Russell, it appears that he may be a decent NFL quarterback after all. He has the tools to be good but has the personality to be another #1 pick tragic story.

Be prepared for yet another bad season for the Panthers this year. It doesn’t help that they are in the NFC South and have to play the Falcons, Saints & Bucs six times this season, which out of all those six games I don’t see them winning once. Carolina could very well hold the #1 pick again going into next year’s draft or at least a top-3 pick at best. This is a franchise that is no where near being competitive again.

NFC West:

1. St. Louis Rams (9-7)

The St. Louis Rams, up until Week 17, were every NFL fan’s favorite story last year. They have been bottom feeders for quite sometime and with a rookie quarterback at the helm, they appeared to be heading to the playoffs in mediocre fashion. They lost to the Seahawks in Week 17, missed the playoffs, but proved to the NFL that they can be taken seriously.

One of the best things for this Rams team is their division, in the NFC West even the worst of teams can make the playoffs and what that does for a young team is make them believe in themselves & be motivated to be successful. That’s what the Rams will do this season in the NFC West. I predict that Sam Bradford will showcase his talent and prove to people that he is destined to be a future elite QB in the NFL this season, the kid is extremely good & being in this division will help him continue to mature as a great leader for the Rams.

2. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

Out of all the teams in the NFL the Arizona Cardinals have the easiest schedule in the league. I actually flip flopped them and the St. Louis Rams as the winners of the NFC West multiple times but I figured the Rams will be motivated enough after last season’s disappointment to win the Division this season. It also doesn’t help that the Cards are a team with a new starting quarterback who couldn’t learn the playbook or practice thanks to the NFL Lockout.

Kevin Kolb is getting what some may call his 2nd and final chance to prove he can be a quarterback in the NFL. He was supposed to be the future in Philly & that failed and now he has a change of scenery in Arizona, if he lives up to the hype he once had he could be a great QB for this team for years to come. Oh and expect Larry Fitzgerald to be Larry Fitzgerald & then some this season.

3. Seattle Seahawks (5-11)

They are the defending NFC West Division Champions despite going 7-9 and even advanced as far as the NFC Divisional playoffs where they were stopped by the Chicago Bears. This is a team that made a lot of offseason moves, some good (the o-line improving, Zach Miller & Sidney Rice) and some bad (Tarvaris Jackson). But to me the bad moves will still out weigh all the good moves due to the impact Jackson will have on this team.

The Seahawks won’t repeat their playoff appearance from last season but the one shining bright spot may be the reemergence of Marshawn Lynch as an NFL running back. The offensive line looks great and Lynch should make a comeback as a pretty decent running back. Besides that, good luck Seattle. Until you get yourselves a QB this is what you will be dealing with.

4. San Francisco 49ers (3-13)

I’ve mentioned in multiple drafts about people’s “sexy picks” from last season. Add the San Francisco 49ers to that list from last year. Most people, including me, had this team as the NFC West Division Champions and I even had Mike Singletary as a potential NFL Head Coach of the Year candidate. The 49ers didn’t win the Division despite being 6-10 & one game back in the standings and Mike Singletary was fired, it was not good on the predictions front for the Niners.

They have a new head coach in Jim Harbaugh who come April of 2012 will also be looking at Andrew Luck (there is that name again) as a player to draft to this team. Alex Smith is not the guy in San Francisco and is looking like he is more prone to being a #1 pick bust rather soon. Michael Crabtree needs a big year this season as he was always poised to be a great NFL WR but hasn’t lived up to the same level as other recent draftees like a Calvin Johnson.

NFC Playoffs:

First round bye: Green Bay Packers & Atlanta Falcons

Division winners: Philadelphia Eagles & St. Louis Rams

Wild card teams: New Orleans Saints & Dallas Cowboys

Join Bower, “The Sweet Nasty” Chris Cause & myself every Sunday for more NFL & Fantasy Football talk over at www.wheelhouseradio.com!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at www.wheelhouseradio.com.

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site.

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Fantasy Football Almanac 2011: The Essential Fantasy Football Refererence Guide

NFL Jerseys on Amazon.com

Madden 12 video game

NFL America’s Game Super Bowl I-XL on DVD