Thursday, February 11, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The New Orleans Saints, after years of mediocrity, have finally won their first Super Bowl and did it in dramatic fashion against the well seasons Indianapolis Colts beating them 31-17 in the highest rated Super Bowl in the game’s history. Not too many people gave the Saints a chance against the powerful Colts offense led by perennial All-Pro and NFL MVP Peyton Manning but the Saints got it done and made everyone believe in the underdog.
The Colts got the first score of the game, in the first quarter when kicker Matt Stover booted a 38 yard field goal to put the Colts up by three. Indianapolis would make it 10-0 when Pierre Garcon caught a 19 yard touchdown pass from Manning towards the end of the first quarter. Things didn’t look so good for the Saints at that point. Was this going to be a blowout?
In the second quarter, Saint’s kicker Garrett Hartley booted a 46 yard field goal to put the Saints on the board and make it 10-3. The Saints would add another Hartley field goal (44 yards) to make it 10-6 going in at halftime.
The Saints started out the second half by kicking an onsides kick and recovering it to help swing momentum their way and it was very successful. Following that kick, the Saints made it 13-10 when Brees hit running back Pierre Thomas on a 16 yard touchdown pass. The Colts would go back on top 17-13 after running back Joseph Addai ran into the end zone four yards. The Saints would add a 47 yard field goal to end the third quarter and make it 17-16.
In the fourth quarter the Saints took the lead when Brees hit tight end Jeremy Shockey on a two yard touchdown pass to make it 24-17 (the Saints got a two point conversion). New Orleans iced the game when Manning was intercepted by Tracy Porter who ran it back 74 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-17. That is how the game would end.
Stud of the Game-Even though Brees won Super Bowl MVP honors this award is split between him and Porter. Brees threw the ball very well and had a lot of poise throwing the ball against what started out as a strong pass rush. Porter’s interception sealed the deal for the Saints and sent them onward to their first ever Super Bowl victory.
Dud of the Game-It’s hard to find anyone that failed at any point in this game but the Saint’s rushing defense did have some problems early in the game but tightened things up and didn’t allow too many yards in the second half. They don’t really deserve this honor but it has to go to someone.
Analysis: This was one of the best Super Bowl’s ever hands down. Early on, it looked like it could be a blowout as the Colts went up by ten and it seemed as if the Saints couldn’t stop Manning and the Colt’s potent offense but defensive coordinator Greg Williams had a plan and it worked very well. Putting pressure on Manning (even though they didn’t sack him) did have an effect on the outcome of this game as did changing up the defense. It was a masterful game (called by Williams) and should be considered to be one of the top defenses in Super Bowl history.
This was a great victory for team that had never played in the Super Bowl and for a city that has faced a lot of adversity in the past few years.
Friday, April 3, 2009
As the NFL free agency period is moving into the final stages it’s time to take a look at some of the best and worst moves that took place during the 2009 NFL season. This year’s free agency period was an interesting one that saw some big name players change teams and while some of these moves were solid and very good there were some moves that weren’t good fits and kind of puzzling.
Top Team in Free Agency
New York Giants-The Giants needed to get some help on the defensive line and at linebacker and they did just that. Signing former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Chris Canty was a huge step in the right direction as was getting former Seattle Seahawk defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, former Arizona Cardinals linebacker Michael Boley as well as former Baltimore Ravens defensive end Lee Vickers. Now they have stability in those two groups and can move some players around to help make their defense that much better. While they may have lost running back Derrick Ward (signed with Tampa Bay) and cut running back Ruben Droughns they still had the best go around in free agency and will benefit from all of the signings that they made.
Worst Team in Free Agency
Green Bay Packers-The Green Bay Packers have had the worst free agency period of any team in the NFL and really needed to do something not only because of their poor season last year but also because they are switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense so they will definitely need some additional personnel for this. They even managed to lose someone who might have been key in this transition, defensive tackle Colin Cole (to the Seattle Seahawks). The Packers had 30 million in cap space to use in free agency and came out with nothing to show for it. Now they will probably be either no better or even worse than they were in 2008.
Best Signing in Free Agency
Matt Cassel-Kansas City Chiefs-The trade of Matt Cassel to the Kansas City Chiefs (from New England) will help get the franchise moving in the right direction. This should be a much better team in a year or two.
Honorable Mention: Nnamdi Asomugha-Oakland-This is a resigning but the Raiders made the right choice by not letting Asomugha go and keeping one of their best players.
Worst Signing in Free Agency
Albert Haynesworth/DeAngelo Hall-Washington Redskins-Yes, despite the fact that they are getting a good player that can help the on the defensive line (with Haynesworth) they clearly overpaid for his services and may not get their money’s worth. Hall, a cornerback who has had his problems in the past, isn’t worth the kind of money that the Redskins paid. Once again, Washington overpaid for something that they may not get any return back for.
By Bryan Dietzler
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The 2009 NFL Free agency period is starting to come to an end as most of the bigger named talent has been signed and there are only just a few players out there looking for teams to play with and either waiting for a call or looking at retirement. While there was a lot of money thrown around in this year’s free agency period, some teams, teams that threw out the most money didn’t do as well as some might think. Others, those teams that only selected a few players out of the free agent pool without breaking the bank, may have done better than those that spent nearly all they had to acquire some of the talent that was available.
The following is a look at the four best teams in free agency and the four worst teams in free agency so far during this free agent period.
1. New York Giants-The New York Giants had a mission going into free agency and that was to shore up what ended up being a weak point last season and that was their defensive line. With some questions on the defensive line (thanks to some injury problems) getting some help there was absolutely necessary and they went out and took care of it. Their free agent signings there, to include defensive end Chris Canty (formerly of Dallas), defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (formerly of Seattle) as well as defensive end Lee Vickers (formerly of Baltimore). The linebacker position was also shored up a bit thanks to the signing of outside linebacker Michel Boley (formerly of Atlanta). However, they did lose a few players including running back Derrick Ward (who went to Tampa Bay) along with safety James Butler (who went to the St. Louis Rams). Overall, getting help on defense was a great move and if these players end up filling some of the holes that they have it could be one of the better group of free agent acquisitions in the NFL this season.
2. Kansas City Chiefs-Everyone should have known that with former New England Patriots general manager Scott Pioli at the helm the Chiefs would be making some moves in free agency and sure enough, they made enough to at least make their team competitive during the 2009 season. Their biggest acquisition, quarterback Matt Cassel (from the Patriots) should not only compete for the starting job but win it and help take this team and their offense to another level. The acquisition of linebacker Mike Vrabel (formerly of the Patriots) will provide them some veteran leadership on defense which is what they desperately need. Those two players alone will greatly help this team out next season and should help them win more games.
3. New York Jets-Not only has the hiring of Rex Ryan helped this team out a lot but the acquisition of some key defensive players will give the Jets a big boost and get them closer to making the playoffs which is a possibility for this team now. Getting linebacker Bart Scott (from the Baltimore Ravens) will help out a lot in giving them a player who understands Ryan’s defense after having played in it for the past several seasons. The Jets also re-signed Jay Feely to help compete for the quarterback position which is now open thanks to the retirement of Brett Favre. With a new system and a strong defense in the works, this could be a team to watch next season and a team that could be even better (on defense) in 2009.
4. Seattle Seahawks-Seattle still has a lot to do but getting some help at the wide receiver position (thanks to the acquisition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh from the Cincinnati Bengals) and also got a little help on defense thanks to the signing of former Green Bay Packer defensive tackle Colin Cole. They also helped out their tight end position by getting former Detroit Lions tight end John Owens. They will need to do some work in the 2009 NFL Draft but they appear to be on the right track for fixing what was broke in 2008 and looking much better in 2009.
5. Houston Texans-The Texans are a team that is just a few pieces away from being one of the better teams in the NFL and if they wanted to move forward in 2009, they had to do something positive in free agency. So, they did. They signed Dan Orlovsky (former backup quarterback of the Detroit Lions) to help back up Matt Schaub following the trade of Sage Rosenfels to the Minnesota Vikings. They also signed former Arizona Cardinals defensive end Antonio Smith and he could give them a big boost on defense. Cutting some of their dead weight, i.e. Ahman Green, will help open up more opportunities for Steve Slayton and may also allow them to draft someone to help spell Slayton from time to time. The Texans are a team that is posed to move on to bigger and better things and they are certainly looking like a team that’s ready to make a run for the playoffs.
1. Chicago Bears-The Bears have done very little in free agency except sign former Carolina Panther offensive tackle/guard Frank Omiyale and former New Orleans Saint free safety Josh Bullocks. They did resign running back Kevin Jones who figures to be in their plans at running back next season to help spell Matt Forte and this was a good move. But with needs at the quarterback and wide receiver position being the most troubling and most glaring, the Bears have done nothing to remedy those problems in free agency and will go into the 2009 NFL season with a lot of question marks on both sides of the ball.
2. Tennessee Titans-Just losing defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (to the Washington Redskins) is enough to put them on this list. However, the Titan’s also get a “failing” grade for allowing Chris Simms to walk and for their signing of Nate Washington who will probably be a less than stellar signing. The Titans should have done more to get a big name wide receiver and make sure that their defense was properly shored up after the loss of their best defensive player but they have done nothing to do that. Unless they have a spectacular draft, this team will take a tumble in 2009.
3. Green Bay Packers-Having to switch to a 3-4 defense should have prompted the Packers to be a little more active in free agency but the followed their norm and pretty much stayed out of the market and will now look to the draft to fill their needs. The only player that they have signed during the free agency period was free safety Anthony Smith (formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers) and he doesn’t help them out that much in the switch on defense. Green Bay needed to be active and they weren’t so they have easily taken a step back before the draft next month.
4. Washington Redskins-Sure, they got the biggest fish in free agency but they also paid a ton for him. They also paid a lot for cornerback DeAngelo Hall, much more than he was worth. The Redskins didn’t do much else to help shore up their team and once again went through free agency on a big spending spree and will probably watch these investments fail to pay the dividends that the Redskins thought that they would when the signed them.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars-The Jaguars are a team in need of help in several different areas but they really haven’t gotten themselves too much out of this year’s free agent crop and have probably lost much more than they have gained. Losing Khalif Barnes (to the Oakland Raiders) doesn’t help and neither does losing Fred Taylor (to the Patriots) even though Taylor was old and Maurice Jones Drew appears to be handling things quite well. They needed to do a lot more in free agency to help shore up the weak points on their team (especially on the offensive line) and they just didn’t do it. This team won’t be that great (again) in 2009.
By Bryan Dietzler
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
The much anticipated Super Bowl has come and gone and many writers and experts, including this writer, feel that this Super Bowl was one of the best, if not “the best” of my generation. So many people had predicted that the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to win this game but as the two week break before the Super Bowl wore on you could see popular opinion sway towards the Cardinals being a favorite to win the game.
But that was not meant be. The Cardinals clearly broke down in this game and ended up losing a close one 27-23. There were several factors in the game that contributed to the Cardinals collapse as well as the Steeler’s rise to prominence as one of the best teams in NFL history.
The first argument one could create on this would be that the Cardinals started out pretty slow. Arizona had a lot of success starting out quick in their last three games and needed to do so because of the way that their defense plays. Getting the quick lead most certainly led to them winning their playoff games and they had to get an early lead in this game in order to win. However, contrary to the way that they had started out before, the Cardinals began the game sluggish, making an attempt to run the ball as opposed to throwing it which, as we saw, didn’t work. Had Arizona come out throwing the ball and got wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald more involved in the offense, the Cardinals might be singing a different tune right now.
Penalties also didn’t help the Cardinals out in this game but they weren’t as detrimental as they could have been because, despite the fact they committed some serious penalties. Granted, the penalties that they did commit (personal fouls for the most part on the one drive) helped to keep the drive alive for the Steelers, it could have been much worse. But the Cardinals shouldn’t have put themselves in that position to begin with. There were also a few key penalties at other points in the game but overall, had the Cardinals curbed the penalties the outcome might have been different.
If you want to find the “backbreaker” so to speak in this game, you would have to look at the last play of the first half when Kurt Warner threw the pass that was intercepted by James Harrison and run back 100 yards for a touchdown. The Cardinals were set up in prime position to take the lead as well as all the momentum going into halftime but that interception, which basically amounted to a 14 point swing in the game, may have been the nail in the coffin for the Cardinals.
This writer didn’t expect Steeler’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to have such a big game and it was because Big Ben was able throw the ball down the field and stay upright, that the Steelers were able to win this one. They had some early success running the football but when that was taken away, they went to the air and that worked out well for them.
You have to give some credit to the Cardinal’s defense, a defense which was much maligned for a majority of the 2008 campaign. Even though they started out this game a little bit slow, they still managed to keep Pittsburgh’s running game in check and get pass pressure at some critical times during the game. They didn’t, however, get Roethlisberger on the ground as much as they should have. They really needed to sack him more often.
So I give a ton of credit to the Steelers for not only playing a good game but also being one of the best franchises (if not the best) in the NFL and in NFL history. You have to marvel at what Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin was able to do in just a couple seasons with the Steelers and it’s not out of the question to think that the Steelers won’t be able to do this again next season. Give them a few tweaks and they could be going to another Super Bowl next season.
By Bryan Dietzler
Monday, February 2, 2009
After spending two weeks talking about how the Cardinals would end up beating the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, Pittsburgh ended up surprising me a little bit and won the biggest game of the year 27-23 against the Cardinals. Here are a few observations from this, the most exciting Super Bowl in the history of the NFL.
1. Arizona’s Slow Start-The Cardinals got started off a little slow in this game after having been fast starters in all of their previous playoff games. Some of the indications of this are staggering. The hottest receiver in the playoffs, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, only had one catch for 12 yards on the first half leaving many to wonder why the Cardinals didn’t look his way early and often. It seemed like the Cardinals offense was pretty tentative to start out the game, not wanting to take a “risk” by going down the field a lot. Instead, they started out with the run and with the short passing game and this didn’t serve them right at all. They should have got thing going a lot sooner than they did because had they picked things up earlier, they might have won this game.
2. Penalties-In the second half, the Cardinals committed three key penalties that cost them the game. The first penalty came when cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie committed a facemask penalty when running Santonio Holmes out of bounds after a catch. The next one came just a few plays afterwards when Karlos Dansby was flagged for a questionable roughing the passer penalty. The third and final penalty came when safety Adrian Wilson bowled over holder Matt Berger giving the Steelers new life. However, the Steelers still only managed a field goal despite all of the freebies being given to them by the Cardinals. Had the Cardinals not given them so many chances the outcome of this game might have been different.
3. Ben Roethlisberger-The Steelers offense came out throwing the ball very well to start out the game and later on in the game the Cardinals could not bring Roethlisberger down and he continued to make plays including the touchdown pass to Holmes to seal the game. There were times when the Cardinals did generate a strong pass rush but still couldn’t bring Roethlisberger down as fans watched him escape the rush and get himself and the Steelers. Not getting more pressure on Roethlisberger really helped contribute to the Steelers winning this game.
4. Arizona’s Play Calling-Going along with number one, the Cardinals play calling was absolutely confusing in the first half of the game leaving a lot of people scratching their heads wondering why the Cardinals did what they did especially in the first half. The Cardinals didn’t call as aggressive a game as they had called against all three teams that they have played in the playoffs most likely thinking that staying conservative would help them win the game. They were wrong and should have played their usual “aggressive” style of passing game early because had they done that, they may just be world champions right now.
5. Fans-Yes, fans do help make a difference and it was clearly obvious that the Steelers had many more fans there in Tampa than the Cardinals did and with that kind of backing, the Steelers surely felt comfortable playing there. They also had a lot more inspiration and played with a lot more zeal than perhaps the Cardinals did.
6. Flat Tire-The Cardinals running game seemed to be hot at times and cold at times but starting out the game running the ball so much was yet another problem that the Cardinals had in this game. Had they come out throwing the ball a lot in the first half, they probably would have won the game.
My congratulations go out to the Steelers who deserved to win this game and came in much more prepared and ready to play than the Cardinals were. Granted, many of the Steelers players had a lot of experience which really helped but Pittsburgh’s coaching staff seemed to be on the ball and really well prepared for the game. Arizona started out the game confused and didn’t look like they were quite into the game early. That most likely cost the Cardinals the game this Sunday.
By Bryan Dietzler
Friday, January 30, 2009
If you looked at the lines and listened to the experts following the wins by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals in their respective conference championship games, many picked the Steelers instantly as the obvious winner in this year’s Super Bowl. However, as we break down the matchups and look at this game it appears that the Cardinals have the edge in this one. Here is why:
1. Kurt Warner-Sure, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has Super Bowl experience but Warner is a cagey veteran who understands how to play the game and knows what to do in pressure situations. Warner also has the tools around him (i.e. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin) to make big plays and score a lot of points. He also has the ability to make big plays which gives Warner and the Cardinals and edge in this one.
2. Larry Fitzgerald-You can’t deny that Fitzgerald has not only been one of the best receivers in the playoffs but also one of the best receivers this season. He seems to be in the right place at the right time all of the time and makes big plays. He has become Warner’s go to guy and is poised to have a big game. The Steelers will attempt to shut him down but if that happens, that leaves other receivers open allow Warner to just throw the ball downfield to another reliable receiver. Keeping Fitzgerald contained is going to be a difficult task and one the Steelers will have to do if they want to win.
3. Edgerrin James-The Cardinals discovered a running game during the playoffs and will need to get it going again if they want to win this game. However, the Steelers are tough against the run and may not allow James and the other running backs much running room. However, if the Cardinals can find their running game (or the Steelers fail and don’t stop the run) it could be a long day for Pittsburgh. If James can find his wheels, he could have a big game.
4. Adrian Wilson-Wilson is known for his hard hits and intense play and he will have to ratchet it up a bit in this one. His intensity will be the tell tale sign of how the defense plays because, like his counterpart on the Steeler’s defense (Troy Polamalu) the defense plays well when he is playing well. Wilson will be a big part of making sure that the Cardinals don’t allow Willie Parker to get loose in the backfield or allow Roethlisberger to get too many long passes down the field.
5. Darnell Docket-If there has been one the steadiest defensive lineman on the Cardinals defense and should have a big game against a weakened Steelers offensive line. Getting pressure on Roethlisberger will be a big key to the Cardinals winning this game.
6. Explosive Offense-We all know that the Cardinals have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL and the Steelers haven’t faced too many explosive offense this season. If the Cardinals can build a good lead and then maintain reasonable control of the ball and the clock, Pittsburgh, whose offense isn’t geared to handle playing a high scoring game won’t be able to keep pace.
Conclusion: This game looks more and more like a Cardinals win. The Steelers defense will have to play the best game of the season, perhaps the best game of several seasons in order to stop Warner and their high flying offense. Even if they shut down Fitzgerald, there are other receivers that can step up and play well enough to cover for what they would lose if Fitzgerald were to get shut down. The big key in this game will be the running game for both teams. We all know that running the ball keeps the ball in the offense’s hands and controls the clock so this might come down to which team holds onto the ball longest.
Final Prediction: Arizona 24 Pittsburgh 13
By Bryan Dietzler
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
This year’s Super Bowl features a match up with one team possessing a high powered offense and the other team possessing a strong defense and when these to things come together, most anything can happen. Seeing this, this makes this year’s Super Bowl one of the most difficult to predict as both teams as these are two teams that are somewhat unpredictable.
The Steelers had the best defense in the NFL in 2008 and will face one of the more explosive offenses from the 2008 season with the Arizona Cardinals. The question is, can the Steelers defense stop the Cardinals high flying offense? Will the Cardinals be able to overcome the onslaught of defensive blitzes that they will surely see from the Steelers?
Pittsburgh will need to stop the Cardinal’s running game, which really didn’t get going until the start of the playoffs, if they want to control the tempo of this game as well as the ball and the clock. This should be fairly easy for the Steelers to do since it is well known that they are fully capable of stopping the run in most instances. If they can do that against the Cardinals, they have a good chance of winning this game.
But it’s not the Cardinal’s running that should worry the Steelers so much as the Cardinals passing game should. We all know, as do the Steelers, what Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin can do and so the Steelers will have their hands full defending against this potent passing game. The Steelers can defend against the pass however and they need to do this if they want to win.
Pittsburgh will need to get some pressure on Warner and force him to make mistakes which they will then need to take full advantage of and the Steelers are very good at taking advantage of another team’s mistakes as has been the case in the past (see Troy Polamalu). If the Cardinals make any mistakes, it could be very costly for the Cardinals.
The Steelers will win this game if they can keep consistent pressure on Warner, which they can do, and force him to make mistakes. They can easily get pressure on his with the defense that they currently have so that shouldn’t be an issue. Shutting down the Cardinals running game and forcing them to pass should also be high on their list of things to do as well.
On offense, the Steelers need to get their running game going. If they can utilize the talents of Willie Parker and keep the ball moving with him, on the ground, they will keep the ball out of Warner and Company’s hands and keep the score low. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has to keep control of the all and work the Steelers passing game well if the Cardinals manage to shut down the Steeler’s running game which may not be that difficult. The offensive line also needs to make sure that they give Roethlisberger enough protection to keep him upright and not get injured.
If the Steelers can keep the Cardinals to fewer than ten points or less, they will win this game. It would take a massive effort by the defense but nothing is impossible. If they allow the Cardinals to get ahead, it could be all over for their hopes another championship.
Prediction (for a Steelers victory) Pittsburgh 16 Arizona 10
By Bryan Dietzler
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The upcoming Super Bowl promises to be one of the best in history as it pits a team that has a strong defense against a team that has a powerful scoring offense. The Steelers will certainly have their hands full when it comes to defending against the Cardinals potent passing attack and will have to put pressure on quarterback Kurt Warner if they want to win this game.
However, just this past Sunday, we saw the Cardinals keep one of the best blitzing defenses at bay (the Eagles) and this allowed Warner and his wide receivers, in particular Larry Fitzgerald, to connect on several scoring passes. Will Arizona be able to withstand the onslaught of pressure that they will most surely get from the NFL’s best defense? The answer is maybe. The key is in their running game. In the playoffs, the Cardinals got their running game going and that helped them out immensely and was probably the difference in them winning out through the playoffs and losing their first game against the Atlanta Falcons. Adding this other dimension has really helped the Cardinals out.
Going against a defense like the Steelers isn’t going to be easy and Pittsburgh will more than likely shut down the Cardinals running game and force them to throw the ball which leaves them wide open for the various blitzes that the Steelers will throw at them. Arizona’s offensive line will have to be on the ball if they want to keep Pittsburgh’s pass rushers at bay and they have kept Warner pretty well protected during the playoffs but they haven’t faced a pass rush like this in the playoffs. It’s going to be hairy.
If any team gets up by more than two scores in this game, that team will probably win the game and the team with the most explosive offense will probably be the one to get ahead first and that explosive offense belongs to the Cardinals. Even if they can get a quick lead before the Steelers shut them down, Pittsburgh doesn’t have the tools to play catch up or win in a shootout and if the Cardinals pile on the points, Pittsburgh isn’t going to be matching them score for score.
Look for Arizona to jump out to a quick lead in this game, by 10 to 14 points, and then watch as the Steelers clamp down on them and slow things down a little bit. It should be a fast and furious first half with the second half being slow and arduous second half with little scoring. If the Cardinals get out to a sizeable lead, they should win this game.
For the Cardinals, I predict Arizona 24 Pittsburgh 13
Next Up: Why the Steelers will win the Super Bowl
by Bryan Dietzler
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
You can’t give all of the credit for this to Warner however. He is just one part of a big puzzle that was put together by current head coach Ken Wisenhunt when he first came to the Cardinals just a few short years ago. Using players already drafted and brought to the team (through free agency) as well as a few newcomers, Wisenhunt put together the team that we see now poised to become world champions.
But he couldn’t have done it without having the kind of quarterback at the helm that he had in Warner. Someone had to take the reins of this high powered offense. Someone had to be able to hit the open receiver 20, 30 even 40 yards down the field. Someone had to be smart enough to see the play develop and find the open receiver for the big gain. They tried this with USC alum Matt Leinart but he just wasn’t able to get it right for some reason. So, they turned to a proven seasoned veteran to help them win games and hopefully, with a little bit of luck, they could quite possibly make the playoffs.
For Warner, this won’t be his first trip to the Super Bowl. Warner took the St. Louis Rams and their high flying “Greatest Show on Turf” offense to the Super Bowl back in the 1999-2000 season and won that game then took them back again, in a losing effort during the 2001-2002 season. He has been here before and knows what it takes to win. Granted, his counterpart Ben Roethlisberger has also been to the big game before as well but Warner has a certain flair about him and a style that inspires his teammates to do better and want to win. And he knows what it takes to win.
There were many experts who didn’t think that Warner and the Cardinals would be able to withstand the onslaught that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson would bring against Warner and the rest of the offense. If things had went the way that everyone had thought, we would be reading about how Eagles quarterback Donavan McNabb overcame a benching and sub par play to lead his team to the Super Bowl. But this was not the case. The Cardinals offense, one of the most explosive in the NFL yet one of the most underrated, got the best of one of the better playoff defenses in the NFL and helped to give way to the Cardinal’s first Super Bowl appearance.
They couldn’t have done this without Warner at the helm. His ability to play in the system as well as make big plays like he has been able to do since coming into the NFL. As we saw on Sunday, Warner was able to make those critical throws that helped them win the game and stay ahead of the Eagles. It is this kind of ability that will help the Cardinals gain their first world championship. Of course, the Steelers will have a lot to say about that but it’s clear, Warner and his team have the edge in this one.
NEXT UP: Who will win this game and why
Written by Bryan Dietzler
Monday, January 12, 2009
Conference championship games are set and there have been a lot of surprises in this year’s NFL playoffs. Only one home team won this weekend and all the top seeds in the playoffs lost except for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The matchups that did come out of this weekend’s games are all going to be very good and should be hard fought battles which will decide who will go the Super Bowl.
The following is a look the remaining playoff teams still in the hunt for the Super Bowl and where they rank in my weekly playoff power poll. There is also a prediction on who will win each game this weekend.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (LW 3)-The Steelers are the only top seed remaining in the playoffs now and have a tough road ahead of them in having to meet the Baltimore Ravens once again for the third time this season. It promises to be a bloody battle but the Steelers, with their stellar defense and ball control offense, should be able to win and move on ahead to the Super Bowl. As long as they can move the ball against a tough Raven’s defense, there shouldn’t be any problems with them winning this game.
2. Arizona Cardinals (LW 8)-Yes, believe it or not, the Cardinals, playing at home and playing the kind of offensive football that they are the Eagles might be overwhelmed by their ability to move the ball down the field quickly through the air.
3. Baltimore Ravens (LW 5)-With a few breaks and a tough defense, the Ravens were able to topple the AFC’s most powerful team and meet their arch rivals, the Steelers in the AFC Championship game. It promises to be a big defensive battle but the Steelers have the edge thanks to their tough defense. I think that this game will be won by the team that turns the ball over the least because both defenses are very opportunistic. Also, with the Raven’s offensive woes, they don’t have the kind of power offense that’s going to score points in bunches. If the Ravens get behind, they will probably stay behind.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (LW 6)-The Eagles played pretty well against their arch rivals and are poised to get into the Super Bowl with a win over the Cardinals. They have to travel to
The Steelers defense will be too much for the Ravens to overcome and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco’s magical run will end: Pittsburgh 24 Baltimore 13
Sunday, January 11, 2009
I thought that I would throw my hat in the ring and give out a few 2008 NFL season awards as well as show everyone who I think should be on the NFL’s All Pro Team.
The Super Bowl winner may be the best team in the NFL but I think that the best team in the NFL this season was the Indianapolis Colts. Sure, the Colts started out a little bit rough as some injury issues caused the team some trouble but they finished the season strong and had they been able to get past the Chargers. If this team stays healthy next season, they could be Super Bowl trip in their future.
Most Disappointing Team
No, I am not going to say that the Detroit Lions are the most disappointing team because no one expected them to do well anyway. The Dallas Cowboys, with all of that talent and all of those expectations failed to make the playoffs this season raising some serious questions about their coaching and the talent on the team. There could be some changes in a lot of places during the offseason.
Top Head Coach
Sure, the Dolphin’s turn around was one of the best stories to come out of the NFL in a long time but I think that the top head coach in the NFL this season was the Atlanta Falcon’s Mike Smith. After seeing what he did with the Falcons after what happened to them last season, Smith is a near miracle worker and my clear cut winner for the top coach this season.
Comeback Player of the Year
Chad Pennington was cast off from the Jets after they acquired Brett Favre. He was quickly signed by the Dolphins and led them to the playoffs after a terrible 1-15 season the year before. It’s clear that without him, the Dolphins wouldn’t have gone anywhere.
Here are my All-NFL team awards:
Quarterback-Drew Brees-New Orleans-While he may not have the wins that Peyton Manning had this season, no one means more their team than Brees does. And with the kind of numbers that he put up this year it’s hard not to give him this honor.
Running Back-DeAngelo Williams-Carolina-Williams was a monster running the ball this season and was the most reliable back in the NFL in 2008.
Fullback-Le’Ron McClain-Baltimore-If you look at his numbers and what he meant to the Ravens, he’s the best in the league.
Wide Receiver (1)-Andre Johnson-Houston-Johnson sits a little under radar despite the fact he put up some huge numbers on a consistent basis.
Wide Receiver (2)-Roddy White-Atlanta-Matt Ryan’s go to guy had a big season and meant a lot to the Falcons.
Tight End-Tony Gonzalez-Kansas City-Gonzalez was a great player on a very bad team this season. Too bad he plays on such a bad team.
Offensive Tackle (1)-Joe Thomas-Cleveland-Despite the fact his team was horrid, Thomas is playing like seasoned pro.
Offensive Tackle (2)-Jordan Gross-Carolina-Gross helped pave the way for the Panther’s awesome rushing attack and deserves a lot of credit.
Offensive Guard (1)-Travelle Wharton-Carolina-Along with Gross and the rest of the Panther’s line helped to make their running game great.
Offensive Guard (2)-Steve Hutchinson-Minnesota-Hutchinson is a monster and helps lead a monster Vikings running game.
Center-Kevin Mawae-Tennessee-Although he may be nearing the end of his career, Mawae is a force on and off the field.
Defensive End (1)-Jared Allen-Minnesota-Allen was incredible this season and is, right now, the best defensive end in the NFL.
Defensive End (2)-Julius Peppers-Carolina-After a bad 2007 season, Peppers had a great season this year and showed just how much he means to the Panthers.
Defensive Tackle (1)-Kevin and Pat Williams-I am putting both of these guys on here because of their ability to shut down opponent’s running games.
Defensive Tackle (2)-Albert Haynesworth-Tennessee-Haynesworth is a force to be reckoned with and could be the best at his position right now in the NFL.
Outside Linebacker (1)-DeMarcus Ware-Dallas-You have to admit, this guy is good and is the heart and soul of the Dallas defense.
Outside Linebacker (2)-James Harrison-Pittsburgh-This guy is good and he got what he deserved, the Defensive Player of the Year honor.
Middle Linebacker-Ray Lewis-Baltimore-Perhaps there are other players that might be more deserving of this but he is the heart and soul of one of the best defenses in the NFL this season and is a future hall of famer.
Cornerback (1)-Nnamdi Asomugha-Oakland-One of the few true shut down corners in the NFL.
Cornerback (2)-Asante Samuel-Philadelphia-Moving to Philly didn’t hurt Samuel who has had a great season.
Strong Safety-Troy Polamalu-Pittsburgh-There is no one better at the position than Polamalu.
Free Safety-Ed Reed-Baltimore-Reed is a game changer and a future hall of famer.
Kicker-Robbie Gould-Chicago-No one does it better than Gould when it comes to kicking in harsh weather or winning a game in overtime.
Punter-Brad Maynard-Chicago-Maynard quietly had the best season that any punter had in the NFL.
Kick Returner-Leon Washington-New York Jets-Washington had a great season and deserves a lot of recognition.
Punt Returner-Jonnie Lee Higgins-Oakland-The numbers speak for themselves.
Monday, January 5, 2009
The following is a look at how the remaining teams are ranked heading into this weekend’s divisional playoff round.
1. Tennessee Titans (LW 1)-Still the class of the playoffs, the Titans will have a very tough test going against the Baltimore Ravens who have played some of the toughest football of the season so far and this could be a match up for the ages. Both teams boast a strong defense and good ball control offenses with strong running games. The Titans could have the upper hand in this one though because of their week of rest and better running offense.
2. New York Giants (LW 3)-The Giants will face the toughest possible opponent that they could face in the playoffs in the Eagles. This will be their third meeting this season and the Eagles are playing very good football and have the momentum heading into this one. Being that these two teams have met twice already this season, it promises to be a good game with the winner possibly the one to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (LW 4)-The Steelers will host the Chargers in a game that promises to be one of best games of the weekend. With their stingy defense the Steelers should give the Chargers fits and the weather also promises to sit in Pittsburgh’s favor as well. On offense, the Steelers need to get their ground game going so that they can control the ball and the clock. The Steelers should come out victorious.
4. Carolina Panthers (LW 5)-Hosting the Cardinals should give the Panthers a great shot at getting into the NFC Championship game providing that they don’t give up too much to the Cardinals. Arizona has not done well on the East coast this season but the Panther’s defense hasn’t done too well during the latter half of the season but a good dose of their running game should cure all ills and make the Panthers a winner.
5. Baltimore Ravens (LW 6)-It was no surprise that the Ravens beat the Dolphins and ended up advancing in the playoffs. This team has a strong and opportunistic defense with a great ball control offense and this might be the formula that takes down the Titans this weekend. If they do win it’s possible this could be the team to represent the AFC in the playoffs.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (LW 10)-The Eagles move up a few spots due to their convincing win against a tough Minnesota team with a solid defense and now this team is poised to make a possible Cinderella run to the Super Bowl. Fans couldn’t have asked for a better match up (Giants versus the Eagles) and the Eagles, with the momentum that they have from their end of the season victories as well as their victory over the Vikings, this could be a team of destiny. Stay tuned as this team could be the one to go to the Super Bowl for the NFC this season.
7. San Diego Chargers (LW 9)-The Chargers pulled off a pretty good upset on Saturday night against the Colts and now have to face a tough Steelers defense. If LaDanlian Tomlinson is unable to go, they have Darren Sproles who has now proven himself to be a very capable replacement as well Phillip Rivers who has had a pretty good season despite the Charger’s record. Don’t be surprised if the Chargers hold their own against the Steelers but playing in Pittsburgh gives the Steelers a clear advantage.
8. Arizona Cardinals (LW 12)-It wasn’t too big of a surprise that the Cardinals outlasted the Falcons but it would be an even bigger surprise if they beat the Panthers. The Cardinals have the weapons on offense but don’t have them on defense and it’s pretty much certain that Carolina’s running game will rule the day in this one. This should be the Cardinal’s final playoff game.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Tom Brandstater, Fresno St: Lacks polish and is a major developmental prospect but has been on scouts’ radar thanks to his size and arm strength. A three-year starter who has produced good numbers in a spread offense. Arm strength is king come draft time and Brandstater has that in spades. Improving in all facets of quarterbacking but has some ways to go yet.
Chase Clement, Rice: Must admit, I haven’t seen enough of him to make a full evaluation but so far, Clement is coming off as a sleeper. One of Rice’s all-time players as he holds all of the teams records in passing and total offense as well as 6 C-USA records. Extremely athletic but has average size and arm strength. Accuracy is decent but not elite. Has tools to work with but may have to take the long route to NFL success.
Devin Moore, Wyoming- Moore is small (5’9, 190lbs) by all measure of the word but few senior backs will match his elite speed. Moore answered questions about his ability to handle a full workload by rushing for 1,301 yards as Wyoming’s featured back. Took to a leadership role in 08. Returns kicks and punts and has decent hands out of the backfield with a good understanding of the route tree. Versatile, home-run hitter.
Shannon Woods, Texas Tech: Bounced back from a tough 2007 season with an All-Big 12 2nd Team selection in 08. Will need to explain his 2007 benching and dismissal prior to Gator Bowl. Has a nose for the end zone and can catch passes out of the backfield. Not a tough inside runner, lacks size (5’11, 195) and speed is questionable. Has to test well but has potential to develop into a player in the NFL.
Darrell Mack, Utah: A bruiser with great size at 5’11, 220lbs. Rushed for 1,204 yards as featured back in 2007 but split time in 2008 with shiftier Matt Asiata and took on more of a blocking role. Handled quasi-full back duties very well. Not a true fullback but could survive in that role. Lacks great acceleration but has enough top end speed to be a RB. The unselfish type who could succeed strictly on character and carve out a long career.
Fui Vakapuna, BYU: A very intriguing prospect with an interesting history. Spent two years on a church mission in Carlsbad, California before returning to football. Has potential as a short yardage back and scored 8 rushing TD in 2006. Injuries have limited his effectiveness over the last two seasons and he has taken on more of a FB role. Enjoys contact is a true FB prospect.
Brian Robiskie, Ohio St: Tough, smooth athlete with great hands and body control. Has prototype size, build and wingspan. Will high-point the ball and make plays across the middle. Has deceptive speed but lacks elite burst and quickness. Inconsistent throughout career and had a down senior year.
Sammi Stroughter, Oregon St: Resilient player who has overcome a lot of off-field adversity in his life. Tough with good speed and quickness. Started off his college career in spectacular fashion, culminating in a Pac-10 2nd team selection in 2006. Short and lacks bulk and has suffered major injuries in past. Has bounced back from tough 07 with Pac-10 1st team selection. Currently very underrated after injury and problems of 07.
Greg Carr, Florida St: Incredible wing span, arms look like Stretch Armstrong doll arms. Tall (6’6”) and lanky (215) but has good definition and is a TD machine. Overlooked as a prospect. Speed is questionable and not a great route runner but is a sleeper thanks his basketball style frame and ability to out jump opponents. Should be dangerous on fade routes and jump balls.
Dicky Lyons Jr., Kentucky: Hurt knee in Oct 08 but flashed big play potential in 06 and 07. Tough kid who fights for everything and expects nothing. Small at 5’11, 185lbs but is shifty and has great open field moves, burst and acceleration. An exciting player to watch because of his determination.
Eron Riley, Duke: 2008 preseason arrest hurts stock as does playing for a basketball school. On the field, Riley has been the Blue Devils best prospect for some time and has been productive despite poor production from Duke passers. Has been the teams MVP and the player opponents key on. Has good size (6’3, 205) but lacks speed and polish. Good developmental prospect with a history of success.
Dan Gronkowski, Maryland: Not a factor in the passing game outside of dump offs but a great, physical blocker. Three-year starter who had a breakout 2008 campaign with 29 catches for 287 yards and 3 TD. Imposing at 6’6, 260lbs and can add another 5-10 pounds to his frame.
Garrett Reynolds, North Carolina: OT is loaded this year but there are still a few guys flying under the radar, Reynolds being one of them. The main reason being that he is a right tackle for the Tar Heels and that, well, he plays for the Tar Heels. Stands 6’7, 310lbs with room to carry more weight. Needs to add strength and improve his punch but he’s tenacious, a three-year starter and consistently was the Tar Heels best lineman.
Roland Martin, Michigan St: With 34 career starts under his belt, Roland Martin is a lunch pail prospect who brings great size (6’5, 330) to the RG position. He possesses decent athleticism for his size and works hard but he doesn’t play with enough intensity every play.
Jeff Niedermier, Buffalo: Doesn’t get much pub playing for Buffalo but Niedermayer is one of the most consistent and intense lineman in college football. Has great athleticism and is good at getting to the second level of a defense. Doesn’t have the size or strength you would hope for but could have a future as a zone blocker.
Juan Garcia, Washington: Under the radar due to a serious foot injury suffered in April 2008 but recovered sufficiently enough to earn All-Pac 10 Honorable Mention. Injuries also nearly ruined his career and caused him to miss the entire 2004 and 2005 seasons. Looking past the injuries, Garcia has great size at 6’3”, 310lbs and is quite intelligent. Potential to be a serious player if he proves injuries are behind him.
Ryan Succop, South Carolina: Succop didn’t have the greatest 2008 as he battled an abdominal injury but he has LB size at 6’2” 220lbs and can hit from 50+. Accurate from 40-49 yards and can boom kick-offs. Also has experience as a punter for SC. Needs to speed up his motions as he has had problems with blocked kicks in the past.