Jun 212013
 

Darrelle Revis13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Head Coach: Greg Schiano
2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Offense: 389 points scored, 13th in points, 9th in yards (10th passing, 15th rushing)
2012 Defense: 394 points allowed, 23rd in points, 29th in yards (32nd passing, 1st rushing)

Key Additions
CB Darrelle Revis, S Dashon Goldson, WR Kevin Ogletree, DT Derek Landri, LB Jonathan Casillas, T Gabe Carimi, RB Brian Leonard, RB Jeff Demps, TE Tom Crabtree, TE Zach Miller, DT Andre Neblett, CB Michael Adams, CB Jonathan Banks, QB Mike Glennon, T Akeem Spence, DE William Gholston

Key Losses
S Ronde Barber, TE Dallas Clark, G Derek Hardman, DT Michael Bennett, DT Corey Irvin, DT Roy Miller, CB EJ Biggers, DB Brandon McDonald, T Jeremy Trueblood, WR Arrelious Benn, RB LeGarrette Blount, LB Quincy Black, RB DJ Ware

Why 2013 will be better
Lavonte David and Mason Foster lead a talented front seven on defense. With the best run defense and the worst passing defense in the league last season, it wasn’t hard to figure out where the Bucs would spend their energies in the off-season. Enter Revis and Goldson, who immediately improve a porous secondary by a lot, and who will serve as anchors for Eric Wright and Mark Barron. Adding Banks brings in depth with a ball-hawking corner. Suddenly a defensive liability looks much improved as long as Revis is healthy, and the Bucs defense promises to be one of the better units in the league. On offense, the line was riddled with injuries in 2012, yet still performed as a top ten offense. With a healthy and deep offensive line, Josh Freeman should have plenty of time to find favorite weapons Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Adding Ogletree is a solid move. Doug Martin had a fantastic rookie season, rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, as well as catching 49 passes out of the backfield.

Why 2013 will be worse
Freeman has been a model of inconsistency so far in his NFL career, and this is a make or break season for him in Tampa. Glennon is arguably one of the best quarterbacks from a thin quarterback draft, but isn’t ready to take the team over just yet. So the Bucs will live and die this season on a signal-caller who is 11-20 as a starter over the past two seasons with 43 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions. With Dallas Clark gone, the Bucs are thin at tight end, where Luke Stocker is the best choice among few options. Otherwise, the Bucs have a deep roster and appear ready to compete.

Outlook
If we can assume that Josh Freeman simply serves as a neutral force, the Bucs appear prepared to challenge the Falcons and Saints in the NFC South. However, quarterback play is a significant predictor of team success, and the Bucs could go in either direction as a result. They ended 2012 losing five of their last six games, but have dramatically improved their pass defense, assuming Revis returns to a level close to what he played at with the Jets. If the offensive line stays healthy, this team should be in the hunt for a playoff spot. Their window appears to be anywhere from seven to ten wins, but I’ll set the over/under at nine.

Jun 182013
 

Nick CelliniAtlanta sports radio station 790 The Zone has fired hosts Stephen “Steak” Shapiro, Nick Cellini, and Chris Dimino for an unbelievably tasteless skit taking shots at former former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who is battling Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

During the skit, the hosts staged a fictitious guest appearance by Gleason (performed by Cellini), pretending that Gleason was using a voice synthesizer to sound like Stephen Hawking. “Gleason” then went on to say, “I wish I could play”, “I may not be here on Thursday”, “Smother me… do me a favor”, and “I’m going to Hell” in a short skit that wouldn’t be funny even if the material wasn’t outrageous. Pro Football Talk (PFT) and other sites have shared a link to the “bit”, and I have listened to it. I’m not going to bother to share the link; you can find it if you want to, but it’s really not worth listening to.

For it’s part, the station first suspended the trio, then followed up with this statement: “We deeply regret the offensive programming that aired this morning on ‘Mayhem In The AM’ on 790 The Zone, related to former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason and his battle with ALS. We suspended the three individuals involved immediately following their comments and have since terminated their employment. 790 The Zone, our owners, sponsors and partners in no way endorse or support this kind of content. We sincerely apologize to Mr. Gleason, his family and all those touched by ALS.”

790 The Zone absolutely did the right thing in terminating these morons. And for anyone wishing to allege that this is political correctness run amuck, or that the hosts have the right of free speech, a couple of thoughts. First, some things aren’t funny; especially when they involve physical or mental ailments that a person cannot control. Whether it is Gleason’s ALS, or Rush Limbaugh shaking like a rag doll when making fun of Michael J. Fox, it’s just not funny. And sure, this is America and people can say what they want for the most part, but freedom of speech does not equate to freedom from responsibility. The radio station is a business driven by advertising, and the station was well aware of the fact that sponsors would likely walk (and should have) if the station did not take strong action. This was on company time, not personal time, and I am glad the station did the right thing. What remains to be seen now is whether or not these idiots get rewarded with a show on ESPN.

I hope I’m kidding.

Jan 202013
 

Kaepernick and GoreThe San Francisco 49ers fought back from an early 17-0 deficit, and shut out the Falcons 14-0 in the second half to earn a 28-24 victory and give the 49ers their first trip to the Super Bowl in eighteen years.

Colin Kaepernick played the part of the clutch pocket quarterback, throwing for 233 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for only 21 yards. Knowing that Kaepernick would not be able to carve up the Falcons’ defense the same way he did the Packers, San Francisco took a patient, conservative approach, relying on Frank Gore and good decision-making by Kaepernick, who was a highly efficient 16 for 21 in the game. Gore ran for 90 yards and two scores, including the game winner with 8:23 left in the game. LaMichael James also scored on a 15 yard touchdown run, while Vernon Davis added a touchdown reception for the 49ers, who now seek to join the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only franchises with six Super Bowl titles. The 49ers have won in each of their five previous trips to the Super Bowl. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh will now square off with his brother John in the Super Bowl.

After the Falcons jumped out to a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter on a pair of Julio Jones touchdowns and a Matt Bryant field goal, the 49ers struck back with two straight touchdowns to close the lead to 17-14. But Matt Ryan was able to connect with Tony Gonzalez for a score just before halftime, and it seemed that the Falcons entered the locker room with renewed momentum as they pushed the lead to 24-14. But San Francisco came out and opened the second half with a seven play scoring drive, and seemed to impose its will from that point forward.

GoreThe simple threat of Kaepernick’s legs seemed to help the 49ers on their second half scoring drives, as both second half touchdowns by Gore saw the running back go nearly untouched as the defense seemed to be hedging its bets. “I kind of figured that coming in and they showed that on film, so I assumed Frank and LaMichael were going to have a big day,” Kaepernick said.

Vernon Davis caught five passes for 106 yards and a score. Michael Crabtree, who has been under investigation this week for sexual assault, caught six passes for 57 yards. Randy Moss added three receptions for 46 yards.

RyanThe Falcons’ loss spoiled a terrific outing by Matt Ryan, who threw for a Falcons’ post-season record 396 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. But the interception and a fumble on a mishandled snap helped do in the Falcons, who are now 1-4 with Ryan at the helm in the post-season. The Falcons’ rushing attack, which found new life against the Seahawks last week, was suffocated by the 49ers’ defense. Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 32 yards and Michael Turner ran for 30 as the Falcons were held to only 81 yards on the ground. Julio Jones finished with eleven catches for 182 yards and two scores, while Roddy White caught seven passes for 100 yards. Gonzalez, likely playing in the last game of his soon to be Hall of Fame career, added eight catches for 78 yards and one touchdown.

The Falcons had opportunities in the second half, but couldn’t seem to make plays when they needed to. “We didn’t make the plays when we had the opportunity,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “There were five or six plays, like in most hard-fought games, that make a difference. There were ebbs and flows and changes in momentum, and they made more plays than we did.”

Jan 142013
 

Atlanta FalconsWe had one more great game on Sunday, as the Atlanta Falcons beat the Seattle Seahawks 30-28 after surging out to a 20-0 lead, then squandered the lead in the final minute, only to come back with a late field goal and emerge victorious. The later game was not nearly as dramatic, as the New England Patriots overpowered the Houston Texans 41-28 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score would indicate.

Atlanta Falcons 30 Seattle Seahawks 28
Pete Carroll’s attempts to freeze the kicker backfired as Matt Bryant’s first attempt was wide right, but then he connected on his second try as the Falcons came back in the game’s final seconds to beat the Seahawks.

The Atlanta Falcons wasted no time taking control of the game, racing out to an early 10-0 lead en route to a 20-0 halftime advantage. The Seahawks missed an opportunity to score at the end of the first half when Russell Wilson was sacked and the Seahawks, with no timeouts remaining, failed to get another play off. The teams then traded touchdowns in the third quarter before Seattle scored three straight touchdowns in twelve and a half minutes to take a 28-27 lead.

But starting on their own 28 yard line, the Falcons needed just two plays to cover 41 yards in 18 seconds, setting up Matt Bryant for the game winning 49 yard field goal. The ensuing kickoff was botched and the Seahawks recovered the ball at their own 46 yard line, but were unable to get in field goal range. A desperation pass by Wilson was intercepted in the end zone by Jacoby Jones to end the game.

Matt Ryan had a mixed day at quarterback, but was successful in getting the playoff monkey off of his back. Ryan was 24/35 for 250 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Michael Turner rushed for 98 yards as the Falcons were able to effectively pound the ball on the Seahawks, and Jacquizz Rodgers added 64 yards.

For the Seahawks, Wilson ended his rookie season with a 24/36 performance for 385 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, as well as 60 rushing yards on seven carries, including a touchdown. The Seahawks were never able to get Marshawn Lynch integrated into the game, and Lynch was limited to just 46 yards on 16 carries. Zach Miller had a big receiving day for the Seahawks, catching eight passes for 142 yards and a score, while Golden Tate added six catches for 103 yards and one touchdown.

Atlanta will host the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship on Sunday.

New England Patriots 41 Houston Texans 28
Tom Brady threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns as the Patriots once again overwhelmed the Texans at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski and Danny Woodhead to injuries, but didn’t miss a beat as Shane Vereen ran for once score and caught two more playing out of Woodhead’s spot. Stevan Ridley rushed for 82 yards on 15 carries, while Vereen added 41 yards. Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez teamed up for fourteen receptions for a combined 216 yards.

With the victory, Tom Brady became the winningest starting quarterback in NFL playoff history, passing Joe Montana with his 17th post-season win. Brady currently has a 17-6 post-season record.

Arian Foster led the Texans’ offense with 90 yards and a score on 22 carries, but Matt Schaub suffered through an inconsistent and inaccurate day as the Patriots’ secondary was once again up to the task of playing tight man to man coverage on the Texans’ receivers and tight ends. Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels caught eight and nine passes respectively for 95 and 81 yards, but were limited in yards after the catch and were unable to produce big plays. The most effective receiver was Foster himself, as he caught seven passes for 63 yards and a score.

Rob Ninkovich once again came up big for the Patriots on defense. The linebacker had four tackles, two passes defended, one quarterback hit, an interception, an onside kick recovery and a tackle for a loss. Aqib Talib and Steve Gregory both had active days with ten tackles each, and Devin McCourty had another solid day at safety and in special teams, where he prevented the game’s opening kickoff from being returned for a touchdown. Danieal Manning had a fantastic day returning kickoffs, averaging 54 yards on four returns, including the 90 yard return to open the game.

The Patriots, who held a 17-13 halftime advantage, scored the first 21 points of the second half to take a 38-13 lead. The Texans were able to add 15 points in the fourth quarter to close the gap, but the context was never seriously in doubt after Vereen scored his third touchdown with 13:07 remaining.

The Patriots will host the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday in the AFC Championship.

Jan 092013
 

Falcons - SeahawksThe Atlanta Falcons enter the divisional round of the NFC playoffs with a 13-3 record and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, yet find themselves a two and a half point underdog to the upstart fifth seed Seattle Seahawks when the two teams square off this Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome. (*** see update below)

So much for earning the top seed.

Seattle’s status as favorite in this game is deserved, but the game promises to be perhaps the most exciting game of the divisional round. It also marks the only divisional round contest that is not a rematch of a regular season contest. Plus it pairs two teams with very different styles of football. Brace yourselves in for a fun ride this Sunday.

Here’s how I see the game breaking down.

When Seattle runs
Marshawn Lynch ran for 1,590 yards this season and 11 touchdowns, and racked up another 132 yards and a score in last week’s wildcard win over Washington. Lynch’s running prowess and ability to break tackles may force the Falcons to load the box rather than play a Cover 2, making Atlanta susceptible to Seattle’s passing attack. It doesn’t help that Atlanta has given up 4.8 yards per rush this season, and ranks 21st against the run at 123.2 yards per game. Russell Wilson is an effective manager of the Read Option and his athleticism may give the Falcons fits, and Robert Turbin also serves as an efficient back. Atanta’s Stephen Nicholas and Akeem Dent are solid linebackers, but will need to wrap up Lynch rather than try to bring him down with arm tackles or big hits. This match-up favors the Seahawks, and I would expect Lynch to again rush for more than 100 yards, while Wilson and Turbin tack on another 40 or 50. One thing to watch is Lynch’s ball protection. He fumbled five times during the season (losing two) and lost a fumble last weekend in the wildcard game.

When Seattle passes
Seattle does not possess a prolific passing offense (27th in the NFL, 189.4 ypg), so they are simply hoping for a “good enough” effort against the Falcons. Wilson has a 64.1 completion percentage this season, outstanding for a rookie quarterback. But the running game will be the key to the passing game’s success, as it will be far easier for Wilson to connect with targets downfield if the Falcons are forced to bring up safeties in run defense. Once again, Atlanta is vulnerable because they suffer in applying pressure to the quarterback, and managed only 29 sacks on the season. Wilson’s mobility further negates what little pass rush the Falcons will bring. Neither Sidney Rice nor Golden Tate is a true number one receiver, but both are reliable targets. Tate is a speedster who is capable of acrobatic catches and making big plays downfield, while Rice is a durable possession receiver. On the other side, Daunta Robinson and Asante Samuel are capable corners, with Samuel being known as a gambler in coverage. Thomas DeCoud and Chris Hope are among the best safety tandems in the league, but the Falcons still ranked only 23rd in pass defense this season. Sean Witherspoon will need to confuse Wilson and try to force him to make mistakes, and John Abraham and Kroy Biermann will need to get pressure on Wilson to take him out of his comfort zone. Look for Wilson to only pass for around 200 yards, but it may be more than enough to keep the chains moving and keep the Atlanta defense off balance.

When Atlanta runs
Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers are dynamic and complementary backs, and coupled with Jason Snelling the Falcons should be capable of establishing a running game against the Seahawks, particularly off of both tackles. What is troubling for the Falcons however, is that despite the talent they possess at running back, they have not exhibited a dynamic running game this season. The Falcons come in ranked 29th, totaling only 1,397 yards this season. The Falcons possess a solid offensive line, with their only obvious weakness being at the right guard spot where Robert Kunz will need to step up his game this week. For the Falcons to have any real chance of winning this game, they must establish the run and take the pressure off of Matt Ryan, who will be facing a fierce secondary this week.

When Atlanta passes
The Atlanta Falcons would have the edge in this area of the game against nearly any team in the NFL, but the Seattle Seahawks offer the stiffest test that Matt Ryan and his talented receivers are likely to face this season. Ryan has had an outstanding season (4,719 yards, 32 TD, 14 INT, 68.6 completion percentage) and is usually a clutch performer. Roddy White and Julio Jones are as dynamic as any receiver pair in the league. White caught 92 passes for 1,351 yards and seven scores, while Jones caught 79 passes for 1,198 yards and ten touchdowns. Throw in Tony Gonzalez (93 receptions, 930 yards, 8 TD), Harry Douglas (38 receptions, 396 yards, 1 TD), and Rodgers (53 receptions, 402 yards, 1 TD) and it’s easy to see how the Atlanta passing attack could strike fear into the hearts of nearly any opposing defense. Anyone but Seattle’s, that is. Richard Sherman (6’3″, 200#) and Brandon Browner (6’3, 220#) offer a physical match-up to the 6’1″, 210# White and 6’3″, 220# Jones that the Falcons are not used to contending with. Both are excellent corners that can play their receivers in man coverage, freeing up the safety tandem of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas to play Cover 2, Cover 1 robber, or to step up in run defense if the Falcons should have early success running the ball. Cornerback Marcus Trufant is still decent, but is a shadow of his former self, likely to be targeted whenever he is on the field Sunday. Rookie Bruce Irvin, who had eight sacks this season but only 17 total tackles, must step in to replace the injured Chris Clemons and apply pressure to Ryan. Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and Red Bryant form a solid wall against the run, but struggle in applying consistent pressure to the passer. Seattle only recorded 33 sacks this season (20th in NFL), so they will need to be creative in blitzes to try to rattle Matty Ice. Ryan will need to throw for over 250 yards for the Falcons to have a realistic chance to win, and will need to amass more than 300 yards and make some big plays downfield in the absence of a solid running game this weekend. Look for Gonzalez to get a heavy dose of targets, and for Rodgers to be used as a receiver out of the backfield.

Special teams
The special teams match-up offers a very slight edge to the Falcons. Matt Bryant is a clutch and reliable kicker for the Falcons, and Matt Bosher is a steady punted who excels in changing field position. Rodgers is a decent kick returner, while Dominique Franks and Harry Douglas have struggled to do much with punt returns. The Seahawks were forced to sign Ryan Longwell to replace an injured Steven Hauschka, while John Ryan is an above average punter. Leon Washington is a solid kick and punt returner who has a knack for positive yardage and absorbing hits.

Intangibles
Mike Smith is 2-0 in head to head match-ups with Pete Carroll, but is 0-3 in the post-season. Atlanta is second in the league in 3rd down conversions (45.1%), while Seattle is ranked 12th (40.2%). Seattle went 4-1 against playoff teams this season, beating Green Bay (sort of), New England, Minnesota and San Francisco while losing their first meeting with the 49ers. The Falcons are 2-0 against playoff teams this season, having beaten the Broncos and Redskins.

Atlanta is 7-1 at home this season, while the Seahawks are a mere 4-5 on the road, plus have the burden of traveling across the country for a second straight week to play an East Coast team. 8 of Russell Wilson’s 10 interceptions this season came on the road.

Atlanta and Seattle are tied at +13 in turnover differential this season, with both teams taking the ball away 31 times against 18 of their own turnovers.

Seattle wins if…  Marshawn Lynch runs for over 100 yards and protects the ball, if Russell Wilson can make some plays with passes downfield and with his legs while avoiding mistakes, they hold the Falcons under 100 yards rushing while stopping big plays to White and Jones.

Atlanta wins if… they tackle Marshawn Lynch on first contact and confuse the rookie Wilson, if they can force two or more Seattle turnovers, they establish a strong ground game and rush for more than 125 yards, and connect on several big plays to White, Jones, and Gonzalez.

Prediction
This game has the potential to go either way, and I would be genuinely surprised if this game turned into a rout one way or the other. Atlanta’s offense will be reliant on Matt Ryan makings some big plays downfield, something he has shown a knack for doing. But the Seattle secondary is going to make that a tall order. The Falcons have not shown that they consistently run the ball, something that could come back to haunt them this week. On the flip side, Seattle’s rushing attack poses problems for the Falcon’s front seven, while the passing attack is capable enough to make key plays. As long as Russell Wilson doesn’t choose this week to start making rookie mistakes, this match-up also seems to favor the Seahawks.

Look for the travel and the home crowd to give the Falcons the early edge and probably en early lead. But just as we saw last weekend against the Redskins, expect the Seahawks to slowly assert control over the game. Provided Marshawn Lynch can hold on to the ball and Russell Wilson can avoid making key mistakes, the Seahawks will pound the ball in the second half and advance to the NFC Championship.

Seahawks 27 Falcons 20

*** UPDATE: I swear I read a site where the Hawks were listed as the favorite. Of course it could be the medication talking, as I have not been able to find that site again and have continually seen the Falcons listed as a one to two and a half point favorite. So I thought I read this, but it’s equally possible that I can’t tell a “+” sign from a “-” sign. Correction noted. In any event, the basic premise is that by record the Falcons should be favored, but the Seahawks feel like the favorite. If in fact the Falcons are favored by a mere two and a half points with home field advantage, and that home field normally counts for two to three points, the Seahawks would appear to be the team to beat in this game.

Dec 112012
 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was dealt a serious blow today when former Commissioner and current arbiter Paul Tagliabue determined that, while the New Orleans Saints were clearly operating a bounty program that was in violation of league rules, the case against the players was “contaminated” by Saints’ coaches and others, suggesting that any discipline beyond fines was unfair, and all discipline against individual players was vacated.

“Unlike Saints’ broad organizational misconduct, player appeals involve sharply focused issues of alleged individual player misconduct in several different aspects,” Tagliabue said in a statement released by the league. “My affirmation of Commissioner Goodell’s findings could certainly justify the issuance of fines. However, this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.”

In response, the NFL issued a statement which said:

“We respect Mr. Tagliabue’s decision, which underscores the due process afforded players in NFL disciplinary matters. This matter has now been reviewed by Commissioner (Roger) Goodell, two CBA grievance arbitrators, the CBA Appeals Panel, and Mr. (Tagliabue) as Commissioner Goodell’s designated appeals officer.

“… The decisions have made clear that the Saints operated a bounty program in violation of league rules for three years, that the program endangered player safety, and that the commissioner has the authority under the CBA to impose discipline for those actions as conduct detrimental to the league. Strong action was taken in this matter to protect player safety and ensure that bounties would be eliminated from football.”

Predictably, the NFLPA also issued a statement claiming victory, which rings closer to the truth than the NFL’s statement.

“We believe that when a fair due process takes place, a fair outcome is the result,” the statement said. “We are pleased that Paul Tagliabue, as the appointed hearings officer, agreed with the NFL Players Association that previously issued discipline was inappropriate in the matter of the alleged New Orleans Saints bounty program. Vacating all discipline affirms the players’ unwavering position that all allegations the League made about their alleged ‘intent-to-injure’ were utterly and completely false. We are happy for our members.”

While the NFL is seeking to put a face of victory on this news, Goodell knows that this is a blow to his status as Commissioner. Tagliabue seems to try and let Goodell off the hook, while also trying not to help Jonathen Vilma’s defamation case against Goodell, by blaming those within the Saints’ organization for corrupting the case, but in truth the “we were just following orders” defense rings hollow; the reason that player discipline had to be vacated was because the Commissioner’s office botched the case, and Goodell himself acted as though he was accountable to no one.

In the end, it seems fair to conclude that a strong message has still been sent to all 32 teams that bounties will result in serious disciplinary action against the organization and its staff. It also seems fair to conclude that Roger Goodell will not be allowed to act as the tyrant that he has been trying to be. If the owners are smart, they will force the Commissioner’s office to develop better systems for the conduct of investigations and disciplinary proceedings, while looking for a successor to a flawed and damaged Commissioner.

Nov 302012
 

Last night the New Orleans Saints fell to the Atlanta Falcons 23-13 in a hard fought contest. Brees had one of the worst (if not worst) performances of his career, throwing five interceptions in the loss. Brees also failed to throw a touchdown pass, the first time that has happened dating back to 2010, a span of 54 consecutive games, which broke the record held by Johnny Unitas. Last night Brees had one touchdown pass to Darren Sproles wiped out due to offensive pass interference by Jimmy Graham. Another toss for a touchdown was dropped in the end zone by Lance Moore.

The longest active streak for consecutive games with a touchdown pass now rests with Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, who has connected for touchdowns in each of his last 43 games, and Brady is set to pass Unitas’ mark in Week 17 if his streak continues. He could pass Brees’ record in Week 7 of the 2013 season. Brady already holds the record of 10 straight games with at least ten touchdown passes, a mark he set in 2007. No doubt Brady could care less about the record as long as the Patriots are winning games, but it certainly something that Patriots’ fans are taking note of.

Unitas held the record for an amazing 52 years before Brees broke it earlier this season. That is quite a testament to one of the all time great quarterbacks of the NFL.

Oct 092012
 

Commissioner Goodell has reaffirmed the suspension of four players for their connection to the bounty scandal in New Orleans. As noted on the NFL website, the decision is carefully crafted to focus on “conduct detrimental to football” and avoid any jurisdictional challenge from the players or from the NFL Player’s Association.

The complete release can be viewed here. Here is the shorter release, taken from the NFL website:

Discipline Reaffirmed for Four Players Suspended for Participation in Saints’ Bounty Program
DECISION BASED ON CONDUCT DETRIMENTAL TO FOOTBALL

Commissioner Roger Goodell reaffirmed the discipline for four players in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty matter today, but adjusted certain aspects of it following recent meetings with each of the players, the first time those players had agreed to speak directly to the NFL to give their side of the story.

In letters to each player and a memorandum to the clubs, Commissioner Goodell clarified that his decision was based entirely on his finding that the bounty program represented conduct detrimental to the league and professional football. The Saints’ bounty program operated over a three-year period and offered incentives to players for plays including “cart-offs” and “knock-outs,” which were plays that caused injuries to opponents.

The decision was made in response to the CBA Appeals Panel that asked Commissioner Goodell to make a redetermination of the discipline previously imposed on those players and clarify whether any of it was related to salary cap violations.
For decades, the commissioner of the NFL has been empowered, including in the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players, to impose discipline on any individual employed by the NFL or its clubs that engages in specific conduct that he determines with due process to be conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL. This responsibility was most recently affirmed in the 2011 CBA.

“The quality, specificity and scope of the evidence supporting the findings of conduct detrimental are far greater and more extensive than ordinarily available in such cases,” Goodell noted in a memorandum to the clubs.

“In my recent meetings with the players and their counsel, the players addressed the allegations and had an opportunity to tell their side of the story,” Goodell also wrote. “In those meetings, the players confirmed many of the key facts disclosed in our investigation, most particularly that the program offered cash rewards for ‘cart-offs,’ that players were encouraged to ‘crank up the John Deere tractor’ and have their opponents carted off the field, and that rewards were offered and paid for plays that resulted in opposing players having to leave the field of play.”

The NFL PA, of course, has already issued its response, stating “For more than six months, the NFL has ignored the facts, abused the process outlined in our collective bargaining agreement and failed to produce evidence that the players intended to injure anyone, ever. The only evidence that exists is the League’s gross violation of fair due process, transparency and impartiality during this process. Truth and fairness have been the casualties of the league’s refusal to admit that it might have made a mistake… We will review this decision thoroughly and review all options to protect our players’ rights with vigilance.”

Thus, here we go again. I have a distinct feeling this case will be dragging on even longer, and will get even uglier in a hurry.

Oct 012012
 

Last week we asked how many wins you expect the New Orleans Saints to tally this year. Most of those who voted (62%) thought the Saints would have an impressive recovery and bounce back to win as many as 9 games, but not make the playoffs. Personally, I’m with the contingent that thinks that the Saints will only pick up between 4-6 wins, given a porous defense and a less than adequate offensive line. The Saints are now down to 0-4, with a tough game coming up against the Chargers next Sunday night. One person thought the Saints would rebound to win at least 10 games and make the playoffs, and we’d like to thank Mr. Brees for taking our poll. :-)

Poll #7: How many games will the New Orleans Saints win this season?
7-9; they’ll recover, but not enough to make the post-season (62%, 13 Votes)
4-6; too many problems to be a competitive team (24%, 5 Votes)
0-3; this team is a mess (10%, 2 Votes)
10-13; Drew’s right – they are fine and will storm through the rest of the regular season (4%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 21

Poll #8: What is the biggest cause of the Jets’ current woes?
This week’s poll focuses back on the AFC East and the New York Jets. After scoring 48 points in Week One, the Jets have scored only 33 points in the subsequent three games for 81 total points. Their showing against the 49ers was abysmal, and they are without Darrelle Revis for the season and Santonio Holmes for the moment, while Mark Sanchez has looked every bit of the “yet another failed USC starter” in two ugly losses, and even in their win over the Dolphins. It’s no wonder Rex Ryan wants his team to stay away for a couple of days while he polishes up his resume…er… works with his coaches to correct the problems. So this week’s question is… what is the biggest cause for the Jets’ current woes?

Your choices:
– The Jets’ lack of a starting quarterback
– The offensive line
– The defensive line
– Poor coaching
– All of it; it’s a mess
– What are you talking about? The Jets are 2-2 and will be just fine

Please note that if you vote for Option #6 that we will assume your first name is either Mark, Tim, Rex, or Bart.

Sep 182012
 

I watched the Falcons beat the Broncos 27-21 last night and marveled at the defensive game plan put together by the Falcons’ defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. They confused Peyton early and often to stake the Falcons to an early lead and then held off the late Manning surge to escape with a hard fought victory last night. I noted that running back Michael Turner didn’t exactly have a great game last night, rushing for 42 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown.

What I didn’t know was that Turner’s night was about to get a whole lot worse.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Falcon’s running back was arrested early this morning for driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding. Turner was allegedly driving his Audi R8 97 mph in a 65 mph zone on I-85 northbound near Indian Trail Road just after 4 a.m.

Turner of course is now entitled to his legal process and presumption of innocence, and this article isn’t just about Michael Turner. Rather, the purpose of this post is to raise a simple question: what the hell are NFL players thinking when they choose to drink and then get behind the wheel of a car?

This has been quite a year for NFL players and DUI arrests. Since the end of the 2011 regular season, here is a list of the players arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence:

July 20 – Titans WR Kenny Britt (DUI)
July 19 – Chiefs CB Donald Washington (Possession, Driving under influence of drugs, Speeding)
July 14 – Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (DUI)
July 10 – Rams DE Robert Quinn (DUI)
July 2 – Buccaneers CB Eric Wright (DUI)
June 23 – Lions CB Aaron Berry (DUI)
June 10 – Giants OT David Diehl (DUI)
June 3 – Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon (aggravated DUI)
June 2 – Vikings FB Jerome Felton (DUI)
May 27 – Lions DT Nick Fairley (DUI, Eluding police)
May 9 – Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (DUI)
April 26 – Redskins S Brandon Meriweather (CUI)
February 1 – Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno (DUI)
January 27 – 49ers LB Aldon Smith (DUI)

You get the point… I could essentially put together a football team with the number of players arrested. So why are NFL players not getting the point? And what is the league going to do about it? This is the same NFL that has partnered with MADD to create a game-day designated driver program for fans but couldn’t get players to use a Safe Ride program set up by the league for players, which was ultimately shut down because it wasn’t used. So what gives?

Yes, the league regularly takes disciplinary action against players for various acts of misconduct, and no doubt Turner will face a penalty once the facts come out. But that is a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out. The past several seasons have been full of tales about the NFL’s increased focus on good citizenship and personal responsibility, yet it is still a cause for celebration whenever PFT’s meter for days without an arrest hits double digits. I get that these are young adults that think they are invincible. What they seem to fail to get is that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, and that privilege can (and should) be compromised when a player cannot meet basic behavioral expectations. Unfortunately, the coddling of athletes from high school through college and into the pros has too many of these young men thinking that there will always be someone else to fix the problems that they create and they can therefore avoid responsibility for their actions. The old argument raised by Charles Barkley that he wasn’t a role model isn’t even a question to many players anymore, and this is extremely disheartening, especially to a parent who attempts to be a role model to his own children and who is disappointed when athletes that his children idolize fall far short of being good citizens (thank you, Michael Vick).

I am not throwing the baby out with the bath water. There are many, many NFL players that “get it”, but as we all know if takes many pieces of good publicity to make up for just one bad one. And 15 DUI arrests of NFL players in 2012 is giving the NFL a black eye that no amount of positive news is going to overwhelm.

Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones received some criticism for creating a personal code of conduct for Dez Bryant as a result of Bryant’s off-field issues. The plan was complete with a 24 hour security detail to protect Bryant from himself. Maybe Jones is on to something.