Country Preacher

Sep 032013
 

Eli  ManningGhost Rat’s note: So now we have a vote for the other forehead…

Actually, this is another case where I have to ask the Preacher to slowly step away from the crack pipe. Seriously, I understand the romance of rooting for the Giants to win as a home team in the Super Bowl, but the only way this prediction could get any crazier is if he predicted an undrafted rookie free agent linebacker from Iowa State to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. Oh wait…

Seriously, we love our Preacher, because he can always be counted on for fun stuff like this. But predicting Eli Manning to be league MVP? That must be some pipe. :-)

Here are the Preacher’s picks:

AFC EAST
New England106
Miami97
Buffalo511
New York Jets412
AFC NORTH
Cincinnati106
Pittsburgh97
Baltimore88
Cleveland79
AFC SOUTH
Houston115
Indianapolis106
Tennessee610
Jacksonville412
AFC WEST
Denver124
Kansas City88
San Diego79
Oakland412
NFC EAST
New York Giants115
Dallas97
Washington88
Philadelphia511
NFC NORTH
Green Bay115
Chicago106
Detroit97
Minnesota79
NFC SOUTH
Atlanta115
New Orleans106
Carolina97
Tampa Bay88
NFC WEST
Seattle124
San Francisco115
St. Louis97
Arizona511
AFC PLAYOFFS- Wildcard Round
Indianapolis over New England
Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
Divisional Round
Denver over Pittsburgh
Cincinnati over Indianapolis
AFC Championship
Cincinnati over Denver
NFC PLAYOFFS- Wildcard Round
San Francisco over New Orleans
Chicago over Green Bay
Divisional Round
Seattle over Chicago
New York Giants over San Francisco
NFC Championship
New York Giants over Seattle
SUPER BOWL
New York Giants over Cincinnati
NFL POST SEASON AWARDS
Most Valuable Player -Eli Manning
Offensive Player of the YearMatt Forte
Defensive Player of the YearLuke Kuechly
Offensive Rookie of the YearTyler Eifert
Defensive Rookie of the YearJake Knott
Comeback Player of the YearMaurice Jones Drew
Coach of the YearMarc Trestman
Oct 082012
 

For those of you who have somehow managed to avoid watching the Green Bay Packers this season consider yourselves fortunate. The television commercials starring individual Packer players are much more fun to watch, and they are also much more indicative of what this 2012 Packer team is all about. I am sure you have seen some of these commercials, right?

This Packer team is a team of individual stars both on and off the field. Gone is the unified team that took the National Football League by storm in January and February 2011. There seems to be no hunger, desire, togetherness, or accountability on this outfit. This is in stark contrast to the 2010 team that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in Dallas.
I pointed out two weeks ago that the Packers, and not the officials, were responsible for the loss in Seattle. Yet, you still saw starters from an offensive line unit that was manhandled throughout much of the game in Seattle jump on their Twitter accounts and point the finger at the replacement officials as opposed to looking in the mirror. You heard no references made, as good teams would have done, that the Seattle game was not lost by virtue of the replacement officials. The good teams would have, as opposed to blaming the officiating, stated that they have to go back to work and make improvements so that games of this nature in the future can be won going away as opposed to losing on the last play of the game.

The million dollar question, though, is, do the Packers even care? Some of them seem to be happy by virtue of receiving the individual accolades. The Packers held a 21-3 lead at halftime yesterday. Good enough, right? Well apparently some in the Packer locker room must have felt this way? The offense had performed well in the first half, and the defense had held the Colts to three points. It certainly appeared that some of the Packers must have thought that they had put in a good days work at that juncture of the game.

In stark contrast to the 2012 Packers are the 2012 Indianapolis Colts. The second half turned out to be a wonderful, beautiful story of perseverance, character and teamwork as the less talented Colts won one for their ailing coach by outscoring the Packers 27-6 in the second half.

I was listening to the Colts radio crew broadcast the game yesterday. Right before halftime, the crew was discussing how you do not have to be mean in order to succeed in football, just tough. The Colts radio crew pointed out that this is what Andrew Luck is all about, that he is one of the nicest, yet the toughest players in the game. Apparently, Luck is also a team player because this “toughness” was embodied by the Colts during that second half.

I discussed back in August that football is won with both a solid defense and running game. I cautioned everyone that the Packers had neither of these essential qualities in 2012. Compounding this problem is apparently the lack of a team concept, accountability, and an overall toughness. The Colts wanted it much more than the Packers did yesterday. Besides beating their arch rivals back in Week 2, have the Packers wanted anything this year besides individual accomplishments? If this does not change soon the Packers are going to find themselves in last place of the North Division come early January.

Sep 252012
 

I grew up watching a variety of sporting events. One of the things I always appreciated was listening to the post game radio interview after a basketball game, and hearing a basketball coach refuse to blame the loss on an official’s call, or a missed free throw, shot or lay-up that had occurred at the end of the game. The coach on these occasions would point out that the failure to make plays at key moments throughout the game was the cause of the loss as opposed to an official’s call, a missed free throw, or a missed shot at the end of the game. Thus, potentially one of the most frustrating and disappointing things to come out of last night’s game is the opinion that this game was stolen from the Packers. I disagree with this popular sentiment.

The Seattle Seahawks are a gritty, tough, team, and they are a lot of fun to watch. The Seahawks are a play or two away from being 3-0. Who was not impressed by the inspired play of the Seahawk defense, and their plucky quarterback, rookie Russell Wilson? In addition, Marshawn Lynch and Golden Tate were nearly equally as impressive. Consequently, the Seahawks collectively won this game, and let’s give credit where it is due.

In contrast, can the same thing be said about the play of the Green Bay Packers? Giving up eight sacks in one half of play is inexcusable. Yes, Mike McCarthy and his staff made some much needed adjustments at halftime. Further, the much maligned Packer defense has suddenly become a bright spot for the team. The Packers played winning defense, and Aaron Rodgers rendered the type of second half performance that we are used to seeing from him.

However, where was the Packer offensive line in the first half? The tackles were consistently abused and exposed throughout the first half, and the offensive line as a unit delivered a miserable performance. The unit improved its play in the second half, but was the damage already done? In the aftermath of the game, though, rather than some of the Packer linemen acknowledging that they could have played better, these players opted to blame the replacement officials and the NFL for the loss.

I will acknowledge that I am highly critical of Roger Goodell’s handling of this matter. It is my opinion that there has been a lack of leadership on his part in addressing and ultimately resolving this matter. The game and its reputation are being damaged given that it is apparent to all that the lack of quality officiating is damaging the brand of football that we have grown accustomed to watching.
This point is reinforced by what happened last night. Rather than acknowledging the fact that the best team last night won the game, we are blaming the officiating for the Packer loss. Based upon what I witnessed, the Seahawks were the better team and they won the game by virtue of being the better team last night. When it comes down to it, the Packers have no one to blame but themselves for the loss. If the Packers had made more plays throughout the game, the Packers would have won that game going away.

Yes, the failure of the officials union and the NFL to reach an agreement is ruining the game we love. This issue needs to be resolved today. As opposed to discussing what was a great football game last night, played by two pretty good to potentially really good teams, we are blaming the officials for a loss. This is not fair to the Seattle Seahawks, the Green Bay Packers and football fans as a whole.

Sep 052012
 

Is it the Irish Catholic background? The fact that both guys played along the offensive line? Is Mike Golic a fan of Gridiron Rats and the Country Preacher? Who knows? But if you tuned into ESPN’s Mike and Mike this morning you learned that Golic has faith in what the Country Preacher has preached.

Golic picked the Phildelphia Eagles to win the NFC, and the Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC. Golic then proceeded to match the Country Preacher’s prediction that the Ravens would emerge as the Super Bowl champs. Golic also projected, like the Country Preacher, that Michael Vick would capture MVP honors on offense this season.

Golic was correct in basing his selection of the Eagles as NFC Champs on the assumption that this will finally be the season that the Eagles remain healthy. The key will be for Vick to miraculously avoid the bumps and bruises that have slowed him down in seasons past. I use the term “miraculously” because this will be no small feat for a guy who plays the quarterback position like Michael Vick does. However, if Vick does manage to stay healthy this will be the season that he earns the MVP honor and leads his team to the reception of the Halas Trophy come January.

The Ravens may have their best offense ever this season. Combining a solid offense with one of the better defenses in the NFL should cause all teams in the NFL to shudder at this prospect. The Ravens will likely be this kind of a team this season, and they will wind up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February.

Aug 132012
 

Yes, it’s the first game of the pre-season, but…

…I did not realize how much I missed football until I tuned into ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown this past Thursday and felt myself not only hanging on every word that was uttered by Boomer, Ditka, Keyshawn, Cris Carter and Tom Jackson, but almost wishing I could kiss each one of the lips of the guys uttering those words. Then, an hour later the game started and I had a completely different reaction to the team that many think may be one of the best, if not the best, teams in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers.

During Countdown I listened to Aaron Rodgers talk about how this year’s version of the Packers will prepare themselves better for the task at hand, and how the team, given that there is not quite as much hoopla surrounding them this year, prefers to be more of the “hunter” as opposed to the “hunted”.  This may indeed be correct.  However, what became immediately apparent to me on Thursday night was that this will only go as far as a defense and a running game, or lack thereof, will take them.

The Packers trotted out James Starks at running back. James Starks is not the type of running back that a team aspiring to win the Division, the Halas Trophy and ultimately the Lombardi Trophy starts at this crucial position. Yes, he has shown flashes of solid play at times. However, Starks is not the every- down/big-play type of back that is going to strike terror in hearts of opposing defenses and their coordinators.

Yes, but the Packers have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and a bevy of big-time receiving targets for him. Who needs a star running back when you have this feature in your offense? To answer this question one needs to only go back eight or so months ago to a cold day in Kansas City when Romeo Crennell showed everyone how tight coverage, a solid pass rush, and limiting the amount of possessions the Packers have in a game can serve to slow down an offense that lacks a premier player at running back.

There has been discussion of second-year running back out of the University of Hawaii, Alex Green, filling some of the void at this position. However, Green has been limited by injuries thus far, and is it enough to pin the hopes of a rushing attack on a second-year player who has yet to play significant minutes in his brief NFL career?

I still have similar concerns with the defense. Yes, I liked the play of Nick Perry. His first sack was especially encouraging. The penalty administered in the aftermath of the play attests to the fact that Roger Goodell needs to immediately resolve the ongoing dispute with the NFL officials, but I digress.

Desmond Bishop got hurt early in the game. This is especially concerning for a team that will try to compensate for the loss of Nick Collins by starting an aging Charles Woodson at safety. Woodson was on the sideline dressed in civilian attire, and with Bishop out of the game early it seemed like I was watching the 2011 Packer defense make an appearance in the first preseason game of 2012.

Although, Nick Perry may provide some needed pass rush, I see a defense that will again struggle stopping the run and ultimately getting off the field in the aftermath of third down. Yes, it was the first game of the preseason, yet the glaring weaknesses of the 2011 defense were on display throughout the game.

A few weeks ago I picked the Packers to win a heated divisional battle over the Bears and advance to the NFC Championship. However, based upon what I witnessed on Thursday evening, I believe that this is going to be a third place team in the NFC North that will struggle mightily to win 10 games and earn the Wildcard.

Football is still a simple game. Winning football is played by teams with a strong defense and a running game. It looks like the Packers will have neither one of these essential qualities in 2012. Consequently, it could be a disappointing year for the Pack.

Jul 312012
 

Well, we are back with more picks. These are from Country Preacher… interesting to say the least! I am not sure how a quarterback who played all season last year can win Comeback Player of the Year, but hey, I just print these things after they are sent to me.  :-)  I won’t even get into my thoughts on Michael Vick as MVP and Andy Reid as Coach of the Year. anyone think he is making these predictions just to play with me? (Ghost Rat)

 

NFL REGULAR SEASON
 
AFC EAST
New England

11

5

#4 Seed
Buffalo

9

7

#6 Seed
New York Jets

8

8

 
Miami Dolphins

4

12

 
AFC NORTH
Baltimore

13

3

#1 Seed
Pittsburgh

9

7

#5 Seed
Cincinnati

7

9

 
Cleveland

6

10

 
AFC SOUTH
Houston

12

4

#2 Seed
Tennessee

9

7

 
Jacksonville

4

12

 
Indianapolis

3

13

 
AFC WEST
Denver

11

5

#3 Seed
San Diego

9

7

 
Kansas City

7

9

 
Oakland

6

10

 
NFC EAST
Philadelphia

11

5

#2 Seed
New York Giants

9

7

#6 Seed
Dallas

8

8

 
Washington

5

11

 
NFC NORTH
Green Bay

12

4

#1 Seed
Chicago

11

5

#5 Seed
Detroit

7

9

 
Minnesota

4

12

 
NFC SOUTH
Atlanta

11

5

#4 Seed
Carolina

9

7

 
New Orleans

8

8

 
Tampa Bay

5

11

 
NFC WEST
San Francisco

11

5

#3 Seed
Seattle

7

9

 
Arizona

6

10

 
St. Louis

4

12

 
 
NFL POST-SEASON
 
AFC Wildcard Round

Buffalo over Denver

New England over Pittsburgh

 
NFC Wildcard Round

New York Giants over San Francisco

Atlanta over Chicago

 
AFC Divisional Round

Baltimore over Buffalo

New England over Houston

 
NFC Divisional Round

Green Bay over New York Giants

Philadelphia over Atlanta

 
AFC Championship

Baltimore over New England

 
NFC Championship

Philadelphia over Green Bay

 
Super Bowl

Baltimore over Philadelphia

 
POST-SEASON AWARDS
 
Most Valuable Player – Michael Vick, Philadelphia
Offensive Player of the Year – Michael Vick, Philadelphia
Defensive Player of the Year – Ray Lewis, Baltimore
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Brandon Weeden, Cleveland
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Courtney Upshaw, Baltimore
Comeback Player of the Year – Joe Flacco, Baltimore
Coach of the Year – Andy Reid, Philadelphia
Jun 052012
 

I am not a “Cheese Head”. I grew up in Central Iowa where college football reigns supreme, and college football fans on Sunday watch the Bears, Chiefs, Packers and Vikings. I liked the Packers, but I also liked the other three teams I referenced. Although I respected and appreciated how Brett Favre played the game, I would not have described myself as necessarily a “fan” of his.

I met my wife in 2003. She was both a big time Packer and Brett Favre fan, and maybe not even in that order? Her family has had Packer season tickets for years and I started attending Packer games on a regular basis that year. Consequently, I developed a greater allegiance to both the Packers and Brett Favre. I felt as though I was privileged to have the opportunity to personally witness a true Packer and NFL legend such as Favre lead the Packers, and I especially enjoyed the playoff runs of the ’03, ’04 and ’07 seasons.

I felt the pain of the playoff losses that ended those seasons and the opportunity for Brett Favre to earn another Super Bowl ring. I will particularly always remember yelling “No!” when Favre hurled what would turn out to be his final pass as a Packer in overtime of the NFC Championship. A few months later, I watched him tearfully say what I thought was goodbye to the sport he loved, in addition to the organization that I thought he loved, and I guess that I thought loved him.

Of course that was far from the end of the legend of Brett Favre. What ensued in the aftermath of March 2008 heightened tensions among both Packer and NFL fans alike. I was one of those fans who quickly turned against Favre for what I perceived to be his narcissistic shenanigans. Other Packer fans I knew remained loyal to Favre during the ’08 season when he played as a member of the New York Jets.

These fans believed the Packer organization had done the unthinkable in the aftermath of the NFC Championship in 2008 when the organization demanded that Favre make a decision about his future in short order. After all, Favre was a Packer legend and the rationale of many was that the organization should have afforded Favre the luxury of making the decision on his own time. Of course, this sentiment went out the window when Favre’s overtures with the Minnesota Vikings became more and more public. Just as the Packer organization had done the unthinkable by giving Favre a timetable to make his decision, Favre had done the unthinkable as a result of his willingness to play for a Packer archrival.

I recall listening to Steve Young on the Jim Rome Show back in the summer of 2008. Young was talking about what was then transpiring between Brett Favre and the Packer organization. Young explained that no matter on how good of terms a quarterback may be with his organization there is nothing that can prepare that quarterback for the feelings that will arise internally when that quarterback realizes that his organization is preparing for its future without him as quarterback. This is the cold hard fact of the business side of the NFL. Further, Favre’s situation was likely compounded by the fact that there is potentially no other general manager in the NFL who is colder when it comes to the business operations of the organization than Packer General Manager Ted Thompson.

On the other side of this issue was a fact that Fox NFL color analyst Troy Aikman brought up late in the 2009 Packer/Viking game in Green Bay. Aikman stated that he was not so sure that Favre wanted to stay in Green Bay given that Favre may have felt that his best chance to win another Super Bowl was as the quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings? Aikman said that he felt like this was a side of the Favre/Packer saga that was never really explored. I think Aikman was correct with this analysis.

Of course, like so many things in life, the truth of who was at fault probably lies in the middle. Further, now three years removed from this matter it has become clear to me that it was in the best interest of both the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre for Favre to end his career with the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV, and had it not been for a penalty for having too many players in the huddle Brett Favre likely would have won Super Bowl XLIV. Both the Packers and Favre are probably better off today as a result of that painful split that occurred back in 2008.

Back in 2008 and 2009, I was as critical of Brett Favre as anybody. However, the time has now arrived for the Packer organization to recognize all of the wonderful things that Favre did for the organization, the City of Green Bay, the State of Wisconsin, and the NFL and its fans. Likewise, it is also time for Brett Favre to acknowledge that he would not be where he is today without the Green Bay Packers.

I was in Wisconsin for Easter weekend. I heard on the local news that weekend that Brett and Deanna Favre had reached out to a soldier and his family who were from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I appreciated hearing this story.  About a month later it was reported that the president of the Packer organization, Mark Murphy, stated that the organization will likely retire Favre’s jersey sometime in the next couple of years. Murphy’s statement seemed to leave the decision up to Brett Favre as to when this will occur. No.

I say that it is time for one of both of these parties to rise above all of this and do what is right for the Green Bay Packers, for Brett Favre, and for Packer and NFL fans alike. Let’s accomplish this sooner, rather than later. How about this coming season?

Jun 052012
 

Last week Jim Harbaugh made some comments in regard to the courtship, or evaluation, or whatever you want to call it, of Peyton Manning by his San Francisco 49ers. The comments that Harbaugh made struck me as very un-Harbaugh like. I am as big of a fan of Jim Harbaugh’s coaching as anybody. Harbaugh and his team(s) are, and will continue to be, a force in the NFL. Maybe not in 2012, though?

Harbaugh’s recent comments to me signal that for Harbaugh and his Niners the 2011 season was quite possibly too much, too soon? I do expect the Niners to be formidable this season. However, they are not going to be formidable enough to win the NFC West. This distinction will go to the Seattle Seahawks.

Ironically, I expect the 2012 Seahawks’ season to progress very similarly to that of the 2011 Niners. The Seahawks, like the Niners did in ’11, will secure home field advantage, and this is significant when we are talking CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks playoff opponents will succumb to the CenturyLink environment, and the Seahawks and its fan base will ultimately find themselves celebrating on Bourbon Street in early February 2013.

Pete Carroll’s teams have shown flashes of brilliance in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons. However, the teams have also been inconsistent at times. I expect Carroll’s team to put it all together in 2012. The catalyst for this transformation will be Matt Flynn.

Matt Flynn, in my opinion, has the potential to become one of the top quarterbacks in the League, and I expect him to thrive in Darrell Bevell’s offense. I will go so far as to say that the Seahawk offense will resemble the offense that you saw from the 2009 Minnesota Vikings. I am not trying to compare Matt Flynn to Brett Favre. However, my point is that like he had with the ’09 Vikings, Bevell will have a more than capable quarterback to lead his offense.

Similarly, although Bevell will not have Adrian Peterson in the backfield, and Flynn will not have targets such as Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe, Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawk receiving corps will serve as an adequate supporting cast for budding superstar Matt Flynn. In fact, I like the consistent and balanced attack that receivers Ben Obamanu, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin will provide, in addition to tight ends Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow. Consequently, I will maintain that it is not far-fetched to compare the personnel at the skill positions that Bevell had to work with in 2009 to what he has today in Seattle. I am not as keen on the offensive line, but under the tutelage of Tom Cable I expect the unit to improve consistently as the year progresses.

The Seahawks defense is, in my opinion, capable, but it is not going to be recognized as one of the top defenses in the NFC. Be that as it may, we are still talking about a Pete Carroll coached team. Consequently, I do not see this Seahawks defensive unit being a liability to the overall success of the team. Further, I am one of those in the minority who liked the First Round pick of Bruce Irvin to the extent that I can see Irvin being an immediate factor. I expect Irvin to provide with his speed and athleticism some much needed pass rush for the nickel defense this fall. Irvin will be a difference maker as early as this season.

Irrespective of my opinions, I recognize there are many out there who on paper do not, and will not, recognize the Seattle Seahawks as a legitimate threat to win the Halas and Lombardi trophies. How many of you foresaw at this point last year the San Francisco 49ers as coming up a few plays short of winning those trophies? I raise this point because I see this year’s Seahawk team as being in a similar position to last year’s 49er team. The Seahawks have the advantage of being the “hunter” this season and the schedule sets up well for them in this regard.

The Seahawks open the season with a road game against divisional foe Arizona. A win in Glendale to start the season would be monumental for this team, especially given that Dallas and Green Bay come into CenturyLink on consecutive weeks including a big Monday night showdown against the Packers. If the Seahawks can pick up that crucial win in Glendale, do not be surprised if Seattle finishes the month of September with a 4-0 record given that the Seahawks wrap up the month on the road in St. Louis.

A 4-0 start is just what this team may need given that the October schedule is treacherous with Carolina on the road, New England at home, followed by road games against San Francisco and Detroit. Achieving a .500 record for the month of October would be a major accomplishment. Fortunately, the schedule in November and December is much more favorable. The Seahawks travel to Chicago in early December, a venue they have fared reasonably well as of late. Other non-divisional foes in November and December are home games against the Vikings and Jets, and road games at Miami and Buffalo.

The key for this team will be wins in the NFC West. I think it is realistic for this Seattle team to sweep the Rams and Cardinals, and split with the 49ers. If the Seahawks can accomplish these tasks within the division it will not be out of the realm of possibilities for this team to win 12 or 13 games in the regular season. That number of wins will go a long way toward securing the home field for a portion or all of the Playoffs, and we all know that CenturyLink is one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.

I have had a good feeling about this Seattle Seahawk team since their acquisition of Matt Flynn. Harbaugh’s comments last week led me to further conclude that San Francisco is not going to be the same team it was last year, and this is all the better for the 2012 Seahawks. Pete Carroll, Matt Flynn, and a 49er decline could mean some good things will be coming out of Seattle this fall. It seems like there is always a team that rises up out of nowhere every year exceeding all expectations. The Seattle Seahawks will be that team in 2012.