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Dallas Cowboy Fan Rehabilitation and “The Wire”

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

By: Nate Douglas

The Dallas Cowboys used to be a great franchise. They had Super Bowls to their name, and a rich history of all-time great games, coaches and players.  For my generation, young boys living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area grew up watching the triplets. Their fathers grew up with Landry and Staubach.  The Cowboys had an exciting product and an excellent reputation among what became a rabid fan base.

In week 17 of this past NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys were playing for a berth in the playoffs yet lost in a lackluster effort to their division rival, the New York Giants.  For most other NFL franchises, this defeat would have been one of those frozen sledgehammer-to-the-crotch defeats, but for Cowboy fans, despite the loss, they weren’t singing soprano.  Cowboy fans have been numbed to defeat during the last few weeks of the last sixteen seasons because the Dallas Cowboys hit the fans where it counts every year.

The television show, The Wire, takes place in the city of Baltimore, where the Baltimore Police Department wages a continual war with crime in the city, specifically—the drug war.  The Wire is a gripping series, hailed by many critics as the greatest television show in the last decade. One of the main characters is a drug dealer, Stringer Bell, played by the powerful Idris Elba. His drug product was very successful, sold well, and the West Side kept coming back for more. The drugs had an excellent reputation for giving people a buzz and mellowing out.  Eventually, BPD caught up to Stringer’s operations. In order to stay in front of the police, Stringer’s product quality suffers, and folks on the street stop buying. While all this is happening, in his spare time, Stringer went to business classes at the local college, and consulted the professor on what to do if you have a crummy “product” that people stop buying. The professor said, “Well, one way is you could change the name of the product.”

Change the name.

At the end of the annual crotch-kick, Cowboy fans sullenly sulk back to their homes and silently watch the playoffs without their favorite team.  But the exact same personnel on that Dallas Cowboys team won’t do for the upcoming season.  Something needs to change.  So over the course of the Cowboy’s last sixteen disappointing offseasons, Cowboys GM Jerry Jones fired six head coaches, numerous assistant coaches, built a sexy $1 billion stadium (with a screen so big that fans in the stands are hypnotized and don’t make much noise when the opposing team is on offense), and drafts absolutely horribly. In other words, Jerry keeps trying to change the name of his product.  But you know something is not right with this picture.

Among its several plot lines, The Wire also follows the story of a struggling addict who goes by the name “Bubbles”. Bubbles at different times tries to stop using; sometimes his season of abstinence lasts longer than other seasons, but eventually he reverts back to his old habits. When he notices Stringer’s product is getting worse and no longer packs the punch he needs, he starts freaking out but he won’t buy what Stringer sells, and most of West Baltimore follows suit.  Then something else hits the streets. It has a cool name, and the capsule colors are different.  Bubbles and his buddies load up, get all excited and starts using only to discover…it’s still the same crappy product.  Stringer’s reputation starts taking a hit, but he stubbornly holds on.

Just a few months after the Super Bowl, despite Cowboy fans vowing they will not be so emotionally tied up again with their team, fans start to get excited again.  The NFL draft approaches, then training in Oxnard.  Then, well, “damn the torpedoes!” Cowboy fans say, and rush towards Jerry Jones’ kool-aid-filled igloo likes cows to a fresh bale of coastal hay. Unlike most NFL teams, it doesn’t matter how bad the Cowboys product on the field is, the fans will still show up to games and buy merchandise and go crazy for “America’s Team”. Oh, if only Stringer Bell’s customers were this gullible. See, Cowboy fans are shmucks.  Now I don’t mean to insult anyone, but I see the “addiction”, and I see how crummy the product is, and I look at the axiom (well, more like a poorly constructed theorem) propping up the whole mess and can’t help but shake my head. Cowboy fans are getting played, and it won’t stop until the fans decide to do something.  Jerry Jones takes full advantage of the fact that Cowboy fans keep coming back for more, that’s why he keeps changing the name of the game, but he won’t get rid of the foundation of sand holding the whole thing up—himself. Nobody questions that Jerry doesn’t want to win, he does, but only if he’s in the limelight and he gets all the credit, something he’s never truly received because the Cowboys’ only Super Bowl victories under Jerry’s tenure were achieved by Jimmy Johnson’s football roster craftsmanship. Jerry Jones is an egomaniac, the Dallas Cowboys are his toy, and when it comes down to it, he’ll never give it up, even if it means no more Super Bowls for the Cowboys and their fans. Do you think he’d fire the GM of a team that had sixteen disappointing seasons? He fired six coaches during that time span. He can keep his ownership, but give the reins to someone with brains and a vision, and stay out of their way! Don’t make any trips to figurative (and literal) sideline and interfere. The problem is not coaching, injuries or Tony Romo. As a result from awful drafting and trades, the team just plain sucks, and it’s only one man’s fault.

So I want to use this as a wake-up call for Cowboy fans, because I love many of you, but I see that you’re being taken for a ride. Some of you are just now seeing the light, have yet to see the light, or are past the point of caring. If you want to see your beloved team succeed, then wipe that pink kool aid mustache off your face, knock the igloo over and demand from Jerry Jones that you’re tired of drinking his garbage. Hit him where it hurts—his wallet. It’s time for Cowboy fans to organize in some manner and start boycotting Jerry Jones.  Not the Cowboys. You can still tune in and root for your team.  But abstain from tickets and anything with the Cowboy logo. Use the power of social media, get some #OccupyDallasCowboys action going on Facebook or Twitter. This is rehab, Cowboy fans. If you’re frugal and vocal enough…maybe…hopefully…Jerry will really change.

Nate Douglas lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife and son (whom he is 17-0 against in living-room wrestling…never mind if his son is a toddlerweight).  While his day job is sorting through the dirty legal details of the oil and gas industry, his night job is a sports Jack Bauer.  He has yet to come off his Dallas Mavericks championship-high, and he prays daily for those last couple World Series wins for his beloved Rangers, and that his children will never know a day where they weren’t fans of his favorite teams.  You can follow him on Twitter- @NateDouglas34.  

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Making Sense of Tebowmania

December 19, 2011 Leave a comment

By: Aaron Watson

Here is what Tim Tebow isn’t: a polished passer capable of making quick decisions or reading a defense like Brady or Brees.

Here is what Tim Tebow is: an incredible leader, runner and motivator who doesn’t make costly mistakes and is growing as a passer each week.

He didn’t ask for the hype. He doesn’t write the hundreds of stories each week about his heroics. He’s just trying to win football games for a team that, if we’re being honest, is mediocre at best. Yet for some reason the publicity he has generated just “trying his hardest to win” has made him a target for voracious criticism and overzealous praise that no other young player in the league seems to see.

But I guess it is fitting to have the Mile High Messiah being crucified for being different.

Nevermind that he is outplaying the oft injured Sam Bradford, last year’s #1 overall pick. Or former high picks Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco, Blaine Gabbert, Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen and Christian Ponder. While those players continue to struggle week after week, it is Tebow who gets blasted by the pundits who seem to forget he is young, winning, and surrounded by a cast of players no one else wanted. And did I mention this is the same team that won 2 games last year?

I guess having too many fans is a cardinal sin in the NFL.

Does he get too much credit for his last minute heroics that have caused his team to move from 1-4 to first place in the AFC West? Sure. Has the defense made some great plays? Absolutely. But to say his 7-2 record is simply due to the defense and kicker is to forget how awful this team was in the first 5 games with Kyle Orton. And when Brady and Stafford carve up that defense with ease it should serve a reminder that this is simply an average team.

I honestly believe that if Tebow wasn’t so popular, he wouldn’t be as vilified. But as his ardent fans base continues to grow, his detractors feel the need to knock him down as many notches as they possibly can, regardless of how fair and honest their criticism. They see Tebowmaniacs going overboard in their support and thus feel the need to go overboard in their condemnation. There is no middle ground.

No one seems to accept the obvious. The team is average. The quarterback is young and has a steep learning curve. And the team is overachieving.

If the criticism was fair then Tebow’s detractors should be vilifying Sam Bradford for stumbling through an atrocious season. And if the support was fair then people would be lining up to receive Andy Dalton’s autograph and talking about how God must be a Bengals fan (that would be ironic).

But they are not. Because this isn’t about football anymore. It’s about him. It’s about a young man’s aura attracting a fan based that is simply unwarranted based on his production. And that just pisses off armchair quarterbacks who know he can’t be successful… ever. They’ve played enough Madden and fantasy football to know what a good quarterback looks like.

So to you pissed off armchair quarterbacks, I have a brief message:

Let the fans in Denver have their moment. If he can’t play, as you seem convinced, then the madness will end after 2 or 3 seasons like it does with all other young QB’s and you will have your moment of glory. And if you can’t do that, then at least be fair in your criticism instead of being just as irrational as the fans who think he deserves all the credit.  You don’t need to buy in, and you can be critical. Just give him the same deference you seem inclined to give every young quarterback not named Tebow.

And then when his legend fades off into the sunset one inaccurate pass after another, you can smile and look the rest of us in the eye and say, “I told you so.”

Or maybe, just maybe, he proves you wrong.

Aaron Watson saw his NFL career cut short when his pee wee coaches informed him he wasn’t very good. So he turned his attention to writing, studying journalism in college while blogging for several sporting blogs since 2005. He and his wife currently live in Richmond, VA, one of the worst sports towns in America despite the short lived hype during the Final Four. When he is not at the local sports bar pursuading the owners to put the Buccaneer or Gator game on the big screen, Aaron serves as the Director of Staff Development for TeenPact Leadership Schools, a non-profit training teens to impact their nation through government, business and ultimate frisbee. He has also stayed in Tim Tebow’s house.

Tebowing

November 20, 2011 1 comment

By: Nate Douglas

If Tim Tebow hadn’t already, as of last Thursday, he turned the NFL-world upside down.  Here was this quarterback—he of the sub-50% completion rate and who couldn’t hit sumo wrestlers between the numbers from 10 yards, wreaking havoc among the platonic NFL quarterback molds, causing former greats like John Elway to cringe-smile on national television.  The Denver Broncos are now 4-1 this year when Tebow starts, in stark contrast to the 5 games before where they went 1-4 with Kyle Orton under center.  This has led Tebow’s proponents (primarily Christian conservatives) to proclaim their “I told you so!  I’ve been saying this for the last year!” even louder (something we did not know was possible as of a week ago).  ESPN did a 180 on their Tebow position and LeBron James (the patron saint of bandwagon fans) sang their praises now that he was winning. “He just wins!” Tebow fans exclaimed.  That statement doesn’t smoke my brisket, however, and here’s why.

Just like Houston being undefeated isn’t doing much for the college football writers in their rankings, Tebow’s “he just wins” arguments aren’t doing much for me, either.  In the Kyle Orton days when the Broncos went 1-4, the overall record as of this morning of those teams was 29-16.  Translation: they were losing to really good teams.  Under Tebow’s tenure when the Broncos are 4-1, the overall record of the teams that Tebow beat was 10-18.  Translation: Tebow is good at beating cupcakes.  On the other hand, he gets annihilated by decent teams like the Detroit Lions.  To put it in college football terms (because we’re currently living in awesomely chaotic college football times), Tebow is beating the Northwest Arkansas State A&M’s of the world but he has yet to consistently beat the SEC-quality team.  When he does that, then I’ll say he’s a good quarterback.  Until then, he’s just a white, classy version of Vince Young.  And we know how he turned out…

Now, an important disclaimer—I’m rooting for Tebow.  We’re both born and raised Protestant Christians and we were both homeschooled.  I want him to succeed because he’s not floating down the river of “This is how NFL QB’s play”; he’s fighting his way upstream, and it drives NFL so-called gurus (I’m looking at you, Skip Bayless) crazy. It’s easy for them to bash somebody for weeks, quickly apologize for 15 seconds when it turned out they were wrong, and then move on to the next topic…though I still love watching that anyway.  Not only is Tim Tebow an outspoken Christian pro-athlete who doesn’t pay clichéd lip service to God after wins—he’s actually genuine…and he’s a badass on the field.  More Christians who openly share their faith are not only infiltrating the ranks of pro-sports, but they are actually really good (Josh Hamilton, Stephen Curry, et al.).  This is fantastic.   Tebow is a class act, he represents, and that’s why people like him so much.  Christians should watch him and observe the impact he’s making on secular culture, because it is truly amazing how transcendent sports can be in our world.  All of that said, I’m not ready to call Tebow a real deal studmuffin football player just yet, and would recommend his fans throttle down their enthusiasm just a little bit.

So the story is not over yet.  But let’s not act like an overly excited Cowboys fan in the preseason, proclaiming the ‘Boys are Super Bowl bound.  Let’s keep tabs on it.  Root for Tebow, but don’t say he’s one of the best QB’s going. You will appear like you don’t know much about football.   But Christians should definitely keep both eyes on this story.  Watch Tebow in his games, but most importantly, watch him in interviews, read what the pundits say and see how the social media world reacts.  Tebow’s story is very relevant in the culture wars right now and it should not go unnoticed.

Nate Douglas lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife, son and another in the on-deck circle.  While his day job is sorting through the dirty legal details of the oil and gas industry, his night job is a sports Jack Bauer.  He has yet to come off his Dallas Mavericks championship-high, he prays for that last strike in the World Series for his beloved Rangers, and that his children will never know a day where they weren’t fans of his favorite teams.  You can follow him on Twitter- @NateDouglas34.  

Back On Top…

September 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Sports Smithy Staff 2011-12 NFL Season Picks

 

Aaron Booth:

MVP – Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers

ROY – Mark Ingram, RB Saints

 

Team predictions

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots
  2. New York Jets
  3. Miami Dolphins
  4. Buffalo Bills

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans
  2. Indianapolis Colts y
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Tennessee Titans

AFC North

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Baltimore Ravens  y
  3. Cleveland Browns
  4. Cincinnati Bengals

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers
  2. Kansas City Chiefs
  3. Denver Broncos
  4. Oakland Raiders

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Dallas Cowboys y
  3. New York Giants
  4. Washington Redskins

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  4. Carolina Panthers

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers
  2. Chicago Bears
  3. Detroit Lions
  4. Minnesota Vikings

NFC West

  1. Arizona Cardinals
  2. St. Louis Rams
  3. San Francisco 49ers
  4. Seattle Seahawks

(y – wildcard playoff spot)

Playoff prediction

Byes – Packers, Eagles, Patriots, Steelers

Round 1 – Cowboys over Falcons, Saints over Cardinals, Colts over Chargers, Texans over Ravens

Round 2 – Cowboys over Eagles, Packers over Saints, Patriots over Colts, Steelers over Texans

Round 3 – Packers over Cowboys, Patriots over Steelers

Superbowl Prediction

Final:     Patriots over Packers

 

 

Aaron Watson:

MVP – Tom Brady, QB Patriots

Last years unanimous winner dominated teams with weapons like Deon Branch, Danny Woodhead and two rookie tight ends. This year the team adds Ochocinco, the rookies are a year older and more experienced and Danny Woodhead is back and raring to go. Oh, they also win a ton of games every year and look much improved on defense.

Runner up – Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers

OPOY – Darren McFadden, RB Raiders

The often injured burner finally showed what he is capable of last year, averaging 5.2 ypc and leading the league in rushes of forty yards or more. If he stays healthy (obviously a huge if), he could be primed for a monster season. He is explosive both between the tackles, on the perimeter and in the passing game.

Runner up – Arian Foster, RB Texans

DPOY – DeMarcus Ware, OLB Cowboys

The league is obsessed with sack totals, and Ware is one of the premier players at getting to the quarterback. Rob Ryan will move him all over the field to get him good matchups, so expect his numbers to be fantastic for a team that should be better on defense.

Runner up – Ndamukong Suh, DT Lions

OROY – Mark Ingram, RB Saints

High profile player on a high profile team, he will split carries but will look good doing so. He also will rack up great TD totals as he acts as the goal line back. His ability as a receiver and blocker will help him see the field than a lot of other rookies might.

Runner up – Cam Newton, QB Panthers

DROY – Von Miller, OLB Broncos

I know being the highest defensive player drafted almost assures he will not win this award (although Suh did it last year), I still think he has the talent to be a difference maker in his first season. Early reports have him dominating in practice and he appears to have a great feel for rushing the passer as well as dropping into coverage, especially for such a young player.

Runner up – Jimmy Smith, CB Ravens

Team predictions

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots – 13-3
  2. New York Jets – 10-6 y
  3. Buffalo Bills – 6-10
  4. Miami Dolphins – 3-13

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans – 10-6
  2. Indianapolis Colts – 9-7
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – 6-10
  4. Tennessee Titans – 5-11

AFC North

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers – 12-4
  2. Baltimore Ravens – 11-5 y
  3. Cleveland Browns – 7-9
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – 2-14

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers – 12-4
  2. Oakland Raiders – 9-7
  3. Kansas City Chiefs – 8-8
  4. Denver Broncos – 4-12

NFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys – 10-6
  2. Philadelphia Eagles – 10-6 y
  3. New York Giants – 8-8
  4. Washington Redskins – 5-11

NFC South

  1. New Orleans Saints – 11-5
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 10-6 y
  3. Atlanta Falcons – 10-6
  4. Carolina Panthers – 4-12

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers – 12-4
  2. Detroit Lions – 9-7
  3. Chicago Bears –  7-9
  4. Minnesota Vikings – 6-10

NFC West

  1. St. Louis Rams – 9-7
  2. Arizona Cardinals – 7-9
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 6-10
  4. Seattle Seahawks – 5-11

(y – wildcard playoff spot)

Playoff prediction

Byes – Chargers, Patriots, Saints, Packers

Round 1 – Bucs over Cowboys, Eagles over Rams, Jets over Texans, Ravens over Steelers

Round 2 – Packers over Bucs, Eagles over Saints, Patriots over Ravens, Chargers over Jets

Round 3 – Patriots over Chargers, Packers over Eagles

Superbowl Prediction

After defeating the Chargers in the Championship round, the Patriots will play the defending Champion Green Bay Packers in the Superbowl.

Final:     Green Bay – 24                  New England – 31

 

 

Britton Norris:

MVP – Tony Romo, QB Dallas

He’s in the prime of his prime.  He was an MVP candidate in 2009, but Peyton Manning was carrying the Colts on his shoulders.  Romo has matured.  Last year was a disaster and his season was cut far too short when Giants linebacker Michael Boley came charging through the line unblocked.  This year, Romo has the benefit of a head coach that has been his offensive coordinator the past four seasons.  While the concern will be the Dallas O-line and their inexperience, Tony Romo will have a field day throwing downfield to targets like Witten, Bryant, Austin and Murray.

Runner up – Drew Brees, QB New Orleans

OPOY – Andre Johnson, WR Houston

Johnson has a classy persona, but he’ll never back down from a fight – check out his beat-down of Cortland Finnegan a year ago if you want to see NFL attitude at its best. Johnson puts on a clinic every year.  He’s a big powerful receiver that wants to win.  In fact, he’s on record this year declaring that he’s tired of watching the NFL playoffs from his sofa and is determined to get the Texans into the postseason for the first time in franchise history.  A fantasy superstar every year, expect Andre Johnson to make a bid for OPOY.

Runner up – Ray Rice, RB Baltimore

DPOY – Ndamukong Suh, DT Detroit

This guy is a stud.  If I’m lining up as an offensive center or guard I’m shaking in my boots.  “There are two types of intimidation,” Suh said. “There is dirty intimidation, which people have accused me of. And there is the intimidation of always being in somebody’s face, doing the right thing, causing them problems, not allowing them to run their offense. I think that’s what I have consistently done. That’s what my job is. That’s what I want to do. We do that as a front four. Quarterbacks are aware at every single point, that all four or eight of us can come in and cause you a problem.”  Enough said Mr. Suh.

Runner up – Brian Orakpo, OLB Washington

OROY – Mark Ingram, RB Saints

The Saints already have an offensive machine and rookie running backs are notorious for picking up an NFL offense fast due to the position’s reliance on instincts.  This is one of those picks that seem to be pretty popular.  In Head Coach Sean Peyton’s mind, Ingram will be everything Reggie Bush wasn’t.  He has hefty expectations, but I can see him excelling in this offense.

Runner up – Julio Jones, WR Atlanta

DROY – J. J. Watt, DE Houston

This is a shot in the dark.  I do think that Houston will have a much improved defense with new coordinator Wade Phillips.  This defense has several high profile draft picks and just hasn’t gotten it done year after year.  The buzz about Watt is strong and he’s won the starting job… who knows.

Runner up – Patrick Peterson, CB Arizona

Team predictions

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots – 11-5
  2. New York Jets – 9-7
  3. Miami Dolphins – 6-10
  4. Buffalo Bills – 3-13

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans – 11-5
  2. Indianapolis Colts – 6-10
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – 6-10
  4. Tennessee Titans – 4-12

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens – 13-3
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers – 10-6 y
  3. Cleveland Browns – 5-11
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – 1-15

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers – 12-4
  2. Kansas City Chiefs – 9-7 y
  3. Denver Broncos – 7-9
  4. Oakland Raiders – 4-12

NFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys – 11-5
  2. Philadelphia Eagles – 9-7
  3. New York Giants – 7-9
  4. Washington Redskins – 4-12

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons – 12-4
  2. New Orleans Saints – 11-5 y
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 8-8
  4. Carolina Panthers – 4-12

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers – 12-4
  2. Detroit Lions – 10-6 y
  3. Chicago Bears –  5-11
  4. Minnesota Vikings – 5-11

NFC West

  1. Arizona Cardinals – 9-7
  2. St. Louis Rams – 8-8
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 4-12
  4. Seattle Seahawks – 3-13

(y – wildcard playoff spot)

Playoff prediction

Byes – Baltimore, San Diego, Green Bay, Atlanta

Round 1 – Dallas over Detroit, New Orleans over Arizona, Houston over Kansas City, Steelers over Patriots

Round 2 – Atlanta over New Orleans, Green Bay over Dallas, Baltimore over Pittsburgh, Houston over San Diego

Round 3 – Atlanta over Green Bay, Houston over Baltimore

Superbowl Prediction

Final:    Atlanta – 30          Houston – 28

 

 

By: Nate Douglas

MVP – Tom Brady, QB Patriots

I must concur with my colleague, Mr. Watson.  Brady made a gourmet meal of steak, potatoes, asparagus and a good cabernet out of a McDonald’s happy meal last year, and it’ll only get better this year.

Runner up – Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers

OPOY – Jamaal Charles, RB Chiefs

Last year’s leader in yards per carry will finally get the touches he deserves, and will run away with this award.

Runner up – Roddy White, WR Falcons

DPOY – Ndamukong Suh, DT Lions

Adding Nick Fairley to the mix will give opposing o-lines fits, and Suh will get even more opportunities this year to eat QB’s.

Runner up – Eric Berry, CB Chiefs

OROY – Julio Jones, WR Falcons

Julio will be targeted frequently, has good hands and great speed.  He will make an immediate impact at the WR position as Roddy White draws the tougher assignments.

Runner up – Mark Ingram, RB Saints

DROY – Patrick Peterson, CB Arizona

If you’re considered a part of the Heisman conversation as a cornerback, you’re good.   Peterson will rack up interceptions, many returned for TDs for the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Runner up – Von Miller, LB Broncos

Team predictions

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots – 12-4
  2. New York Jets – 10-6 y
  3. Buffalo Bills – 4-12
  4. Miami Dolphins – 3-13

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans – 11-5
  2. Indianapolis Colts – 10-6 y
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – 6-10
  4. Tennessee Titans – 5-11

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens – 12-4
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers– 9-7
  3. Cleveland Browns – 7-9
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – 3-13

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers – 10-6
  2. Oakland Raiders – 9-7
  3. Kansas City Chiefs – 9-7
  4. Denver Broncos – 5-11

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – 11-5
  2. New York Giants – 9-7
  3. Dallas Cowboys – 8-8
  4. Washington Redskins – 4-12

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons – 11-5
  2. New Orlenas Saints  – 10-6 y
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 8-8
  4. Carolina Panthers – 4-12

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers – 13-3
  2. Detroit Lions – 9-7 y
  3. Chicago Bears –  6-10
  4. Minnesota Vikings – 4-12

NFC West

  1. St. Louis Rams – 9-7
  2. Arizona Cardinals –8-8
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 5-11
  4. Seattle Seahawks – 3-13

(y – wildcard playoff spot)

Playoff prediction

Byes – Patriots, Ravens, Falcons, Packers

Round 1 – Texans over Jets, Colts over Chargers, Eagles over Rams, Lions over Saints

Round 2 – Patriots over Texans, Ravens over Colts, Falcons over Eagles, Packers over Lions

Round 3 – Patriots over Ravens, Packers over Falcons

Superbowl Prediction

Final:     Green Bay – 35                  New England -21

The Sampler Platter: Texas A&M, Jim Thome, and the Dallas Cowboys

August 26, 2011 1 comment

By: Nate Douglas

He who gets embarrassed last…
If Texas A&M’s color wasn’t already maroon, it would be, as they were embarrassed after the events from a week ago.  After publicly claiming they wanted to join the SEC, they were rejected like Dwight Howard swatting a teardrop floater.  Longhorn fans got a good kick out of it, I’m sure.  But when all is said and done, Texas A&M will get the last laugh.

The “Big 12” is falling apart like the little piggy’s house of straw.  Nebraska and Colorado have already jumped ship, and nobody would put it past Missouri or Baylor to join them over the next year or so.  Texas, sporting their new $400 million Longhorn Network deal with ESPN, tightened its grip as the top dog in the conference.   Texas was already without a doubt a sexier school than A&M, and had a  significant edge in  recruiting.  So Texas A&M  finally said, “We don’t have to play with  them.  We  can go get some money and players elsewhere!” So  where  else, but the SEC (also known as the middle-  class man’s NFL)?  The SEC  has the largest major  network television deals and attracts the best    recruits.  Now that’s a peach cobbler that Texas  A&M would do well to  take a large piece of.  Yes,  A&M will most likely be eaten alive the first  few  years in the SEC.  But now Texas recruits have the  choice to chose  between the school with their own  television network (attractive) or a  school in the  best conference against the best teams with the  best  players (more attractive).  The decision just  got a lot harder.  Texas  A&M will eventually  become competitive in the SEC as they attract    more players.

Not many writers, however, are questioning the  Longhorn’s future in this story.  The Aggies will  inevitably join the SEC, few experts doubt that.    This leaves ESPN in a difficult spot, as their  product would become less valuable.  If Texas  A&M, and potentially Oklahoma, leave the party,  the Longhorns will have nobody to dance with, and  they will be the ones looking embarrassed with a  darker shade of maroon.

The Wrong Wardrobe
This year in baseball, we have witnessed two major career feats in Derek Jeter and Jim Thome.  Derek Jeter reached 3,000 hits, and Jim Thome slugged his 600th home run, both quite impressive and hall of fame worthy.  Jeter, however, undoubtedly benefited from more publicity, which is a shame, as Thome’s accomplishment is much more impressive.  Thome’s crime?  He doesn’t wear pinstripes.  Derek Jeter was the 28th player in MLB to reach 3,000 hits.  Jim Thome was just the 8th to crack the 600 home run threshold (including known steroid users such as McGwire and Sosa).  You would not have known this watching SportsCenter.  Instead, writers said Thome’s accomplishment is somewhat tainted by steroids.  Excuse me, but Jeter hits home runs, and line drives into the gaps and alleys  Steroids would be just as beneficial for his game.  But nobody would dare mention steroids when Jeter hit 3,000.  Now nobody thinks Jeter or Thome were shooting PEDs.  As far as we know, they’re as clean as the Downy teddy bear. The credit, however, should go where it’s due; Thome should get more airtime and accolades than Jeter.  It’s a shame the sports media, led by ESPN, would rather make the news than report it.

Easy Does It
I have a friendly exhortation for my Cowboy friends, most of whom not only aspire for the playoffs and Super Bowl this year, but think they are very achievable and realistic goals.  I just wanted to stay, “Woah, partner.  Let’s pull the reins in a little bit.”  Here’s why:

1) Jerry Jones has only won one playoff game in the last 15 years.  That’s a bad precedent to think would all of a sudden disappear.  The Cowboys haven’t proved anything, so it would be unreasonable to expect they would prove much this year.  The Dallas Mavericks had a much more consistent and successful track record over the last decade, yet few expected them to win the championship even after the first round of the playoffs this year.  To think the Cowboys will clean house when they can’t even regularly make the playoffs is over the top.

2) The Dallas Cowboys defense was the worst in Cowboy history last year.  That says a lot.  What says more is the fact that all of the same players are back.  There is no massive defensive team overhaul.  In fact, there was no massive team overhaul at all.  There were no major impact acquisitions during the offseason.  To think only swapping out the defensive coordinator will be the miracle cure is wishful thinking.

3) Having a “healthy” squad this year after last year’s injuries won’t make that much of a difference.  The Cowboys were in the doldrums before Tony Romo was hurt.  On the other hand, the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers were bit by the injury bug worse than anyone, yet that didn’t faze them and they didn’t make excuses. Injuries will happen again this year, but the Cowboys are not well-equipped to deal with them.  Yes, Dez Bryant is a beast.  But with his injury history, one would not be surprised if he had to miss a few games, which would be devastating for the offense.  As it stands, the Cowboys don’t even know who their third receiver is, much less who the second would be if the terror of the NorthPark Mall got hurt.   The Cowboys have the star power that is not questioned.  But they’re top-heavy.

4) In order to make the playoffs, you have to be better than the other teams in your division.  The Eagles improved drastically and the Giants have the majority of a squad returning that won 10 games last year.  The Cowboys also have teams like the Packers, Bears, Lions, Falcons, Saints, and Bucs to compete with for the wild card.  I’m sorry, but I’m going with the field.

Not to be a gloomy cloud over the Dallas picnic, but Cowboy fans, please, let’s tamper expectations here.  Players may step up, and good coaching is was what this team needed.  But until that happens, you’re not helping your national reputation as fans when you publicly exude Super Bowl-bound confidence (but don’t worry, you’re still not as bad as Eagles fans).

Nate Douglas lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife and son (whom he is 17-0 against in living-room wrestling…never mind if his son is a toddlerweight).  While his day job is sorting through the dirty legal details of the oil and gas industry, his night job is a sports Jack Bauer.  He has yet to come off his Dallas Mavericks championship-high, and he prays daily for those last couple World Series wins for his beloved Rangers, and that his children will never know a day where they weren’t fans of his favorite teams.  You can follow him on Twitter- @NateDouglas34.  

Everybody play nice!

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment

How rule changes are hurting the game of football

By: Aaron Watson

The NFL is at it again this season. To protect the health of players the NFL has fundamentally changed the way the game is played on the field. Rules adopted to protect defenseless players, to define acceptable contact, and to limit collisions on kickoff returns have all been enacted to preserve the health of players. And mainly to protect offensive skill players. You know, the ones who are the face of the league. The cash cows, as it were.

The question is no longer whether or not the NFL is trying to make the game softer. They are, even if they don’t phrase it  that way in a nationwide press release. We already have quarterbacks  treated differently than any other players on the field. You can’t tackle  them low. You can’t tackle them high. And if you’re Ndamukong Suh,  you can’t push them down from behind either.

Receivers were added to the fold last year as protected players, with  defenders no longer able to touch them above the shoulders until they  can defend themselves (and even then you better not get close to their  helmet when making the tackle, even as they lower their heads to brace  for impact or dive head first towards the endzone!).

Returners and members of the kickoff and return team are the newest  group added to the “protected” group, although they are being  protected against their will. Due to gruesome injuries sustained over the  last few years both in college and the NFL, league officials have moved  the kicking team up 5 yards and made touchback percentages shoot  higher than Tom Brady’s completion percentage.

No, the question isn’t whether or not the NFL is going soft, the question is whether or not it is worth it. And in my mind, the answer should be a resounding no.

The fact is you can’t legislate injuries out of a collision sport without changing the sport. And little by little, that is what the NFL is doing.

Let’s be clear, I think spearing and launching your body head first at a receiver is a bad idea, and should be eliminated from the game. Deliberate helmet to helmet contact like that has no place in football. But having a defender penalized and fined for hitting a receiver with his shoulder pad is just ridiculous, no matter where he hits them.

Take this hit by James Harrison. In the replay the receiver is hit in the helmet with the shoulder of the defender, dislodging the ball and creating a positive play for the defense. The receiver also can be seen lowering his head to brace for the hit, which in essence leads to the contact to the head to begin with. As ferocious as this hit is, it shouldn’t be illegal.

In this instance, another problem can be found with the new set of rules. On the play, RB Willis McGahee appears to lower and turn his head after safety Ryan Clark has already turned his body low for the hit. Their helmets collide, but it is the action of McGahee that causes that contact, not the hitting position of Clark. Luckily the NFL got this one right and didn’t fine Clark, but that is a rarity.

Or this hit once again by NFL bad boy James Harrison. Josh Cribbs is clearly a runner and hasn’t been tackled when the Steelers linebacker plows through him with his helmet. Now before I continue, please understand that the head is connected to the shoulders via the neck, and there is no human way to eliminate the head from potentially making contact with a player. Proper tackling form is to put your head on the ball or on one side of the ball carriers body while driving through him with your shoulder pad. This works great when the running back doesn’t move! Unfortunately for Harrison, Cribbs is spun around and has his head lowered as the tackle is being made.

A similar play occurs in this video. The difference being that the back is 260 pounds and the defender just bounces off him. But apparently we need not protect defenders, only skill position players who get lit up or quarterbacks who make all the money.

In essence, the NFL seems content to change the nature of the game to protect their investment by keeping players healthy, even at the expense of the competitive nature of the game. Kickoffs have essentially been rendered useless and will soon be seen as comparable in boringness to the riveting extra point attempt. It turns out watching a player take a knee isn’t compelling entertainment.

More specifically, the rule changes seem to indicate that the NFL is simply asking players to play nice; to respect one another enough to not hit as hard or be as violent. And while that might reduce injuries as players are fined and suspended until they change their nature, it destroys the purity of the game by reducing the competitive fire and fearsome antics that makes certain players great.

Defenders like Ronnie Lott, Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, Dick Butkis and Mike Singletary used fear and intimidation to impact the psyche of players even considering getting in front of them. It helped make them great and it helped make the game great.

And now to baby quarterbacks and receivers like the NFL does is slowly destroying how the game is respected. It’s not destroying interest, mind you, and that is why fans can and should expect a watered down product that caters to health more than competition.

And before you start telling me I sound obsessed with violence, please remember I didn’t invent the sport where the goal is to separate player from ball. But if you are going to create a sport where players are rewarded for knocking the ball out of the hands of the other player, then you should understand when fans get upset when their team is penalized for hitting hard. This isn’t ultimate Frisbee.

Aaron Watson saw his NFL career cut short when his pee wee coaches informed him he wasn’t very good. So he turned his attention to writing, studying journalism in college while blogging for several sporting blogs since 2005. He and his wife currently live in Richmond, VA, one of the worst sports towns in America despite the short lived hype during the Final Four. When he is not at the local sports bar pursuading the owners to put the Buccaneer or Gator game on the big screen, Aaron serves as the Director of Staff Development for TeenPact Leadership Schools, a non-profit training teens to impact their nation through government, business and ultimate frisbee. He has also stayed in Tim Tebow’s house.

The Superstar Backup: Should Kyle Orton start over Tim Tebow?

August 13, 2011 1 comment

By: Aaron Watson

 

The Denver Broncos have a bit of a problem on their hands. Tim Tebow isn’t practicing well. Or playing well in team scrimmages. And not just compared to starter Kyle Orton, who according to team sources has been light years ahead of the former Heisman trophy winner in training camp. No, Tebow seems to be in a legitimate battle with former first round pick Brady Quinn for the #2 spot on the roster.

But don’t tell that to the fans, who are clamoring to see the legend of Tebow grow as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos. And therein lies the problem.

 

Team owners and new coach John Fox just don’t seem convinced that Tebow can be an effective quarterback in this league. But the fans aren’t interested in another losing season with Kyle Orton at the helm throwing for tons of yardage in the fourth quarter when the game is already out of reach. They want a franchise player who can bring back the glory days of John Elway.

 

And they think Tebow is that player.

 

And if the Broncos don’t let him prove that, they are making a huge mistake.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not convinced Superman is an elite QB prospect. Coming out of college I questioned his anticipation, accuracy and timing, and I’ve seen nothing in the last year that leads me to believe he has corrected those weaknesses. However, by leaving an icon on the bench in favor of a journeyman who just hasn’t won games, the team is hijacking their long-term future by not letting the Tebow experiment play out. Allow me to explain.

 

Either Tebow can play or he can’t. But you don’t find that out by having him ride the pine. And I guarantee you the fans, who have bought hook line and sinker into Tebowmania, won’t be satisfied with having their Savior on the bench. Even if Orton wins 8 games, the guys in the stands will say Timmy would have won 12. And news flash to those in the front office: those are the folks who pay the bills. Those are the folks who made a rookie’s jersey the most popular item the NFL store carried. Who made a preseason debut one of the most watched games in NFL preseason history. And who seem willing to fill the stands to watch him play regardless of the scoreboard.

 

Make no mistake about it; if the guy can’t play, then cut him or trade him. A franchise should never play a guy who keeps losing just because the fans like him. But this franchise is being hijacked by the hype, and that needs to stop. Putting Tebow on the field and letting him sink or swim is the only way to satisfy a fan base starving for excitement.

 

Let’s face it, Kyle Orton may be a more polished player, but does anyone really think he is a franchise QB? The Bears didn’t, so they let him leave after four years. And after two futile years in Denver, it is apparent that he is simply an average player. So why hitch your future to that wagon? The last team to win a Superbowl with an average QB was Tampa Bay in 2003, who had one of the greatest defenses of the decade, and who fell apart the following seven years. This is a passing league that demands great QB play for a team to be successful.

 

And who knows… maybe Tebow will reinvent the way the game is played. Or maybe he will put the Broncos in the driver’s seat for superprospect Andrew Luck.

 

Neither of those options sound bad to me.

Aaron Watson saw his NFL career cut short when his pee wee coaches informed him he wasn’t very good. So he turned his attention to writing, studying journalism in college while blogging for several sporting blogs since 2005. He and his wife currently live in Richmond, VA, one of the worst sports towns in America despite the short lived hype during the Final Four. When he is not at the local sports bar pursuading the owners to put the Buccaneer or Gator game on the big screen, Aaron serves as the Director of Staff Development for TeenPact Leadership Schools, a non-profit training teens to impact their nation through government, business and ultimate frisbee. He has also stayed in Tim Tebow’s house.