Miami Thrice Title Quest Diary November 28, 2011

Welcome back, LeBron and co.! 

We lost you there for a while and it seemed like we would be denied an “in your primes” season of the Miami Thrice 2011 Runner Ups!  Yet, in the 11th hour everyone came through after realizing that a half season of basketball is better than no season at all.  The Heat actually come out looking very good as they will be able to dump someone with no implications (thanks for coming out Mike Miller) and possibly track down a centre with their mid-level exception. 

The season will kick off with a Christmas Day slate that will feature the Heat and Lakers in some capacity (possibly playing each other?) and will go a long way towards winning back the casual fans lost during the lockout.  Just a week ago I wondered what I was going to watch on Christmas Day, now I know I will be able to sit back and enjoy some post-lockout ball. 

The biggest of all questions: Can the Heat win the 2012 Title?  I believe that post-lockout ball will favor young teams with good core’s that have already jelled.  The only three I can think of: Miami, OKC and Chicago.  One of those teams will probably rise above the rest and seize the NBA Title from the Dallas Mavericks who have little chance of repeating their 2011 magic.  Miami seems to be poised and ready, but also should have the fire from the previous year’s loss.  LeBron will have (hopefully) hardened his heart and be ready to take his game to the next level (hopefully). 

The good news: we will get another season of basketball. 

The bad news: we have to wait for Christmas for the season to kick off.


NFL Week 12 Quick Hits

1) Suh should be fined and suspended – For his actions on Thanksgiving Day, the Lions extremely talented DT should be suspended at least two games and fined.  More importantly though, he needs to become more accountable for what he does on the field.  Every time he is fined or suspended he is hurting his team, and with the Lions having a legitimate chance to make the playoffs this season they need him.  I am not shocked at his actions but more so at his response; given that his team sat him down and talked to him it is not unreasonable to expect a small change in him from this point on.  Finding the balance between intensity and control will be very difficult but Suh must accomplish it in order for the Lions to play on Wild Card Weekend.

2) Thanks for coming Matt Leinart – The former USC prospect was playing decently when he was injured and probably could have steered the Texans to a playoff berth in the coming weeks.  Now?  He joins Matt Shaub on the sidelines and the Texans are in real trouble of giving up the division to the suddenly resurgent Titans.

3) Should we even be surprised anymore? – Another week, another come from behind victory by Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.  As long as the game is close, Tebow will give his squad a shot to win.  Amazing, absolutely amazing.  The D is playing out of their minds but the team truly believes in their young, enigmatic QB. 

4) Green Bay and the Pats look to be the class of their respective divisions – The Pack is obvious but the Pats have come on lately, even though their D is horrible.  Can two defensively weak teams make it the most offensively entertaining Super Bowl ever?

Lost Gem: Youngblood!

A quick preface to this post: when you are writing a book about Hockey, you have to do a lot of research.  Since July I have read at least one book a week on the subject, literally everything I can get my hands on.  I have scoured Youtube and the NHL Channel for videos.  Yet, occasionally you still stumble across a hidden gem that blows your mind and changes everything you once believed.  My order of Greatest Hockey Movies was shaken up, now and forever.  Please enjoy this exclusive exerpt from my forthcoming book, Hockey: A History of All Things Puck. 

Best hockey movie ever?  Too easy: Slap Shot.  2nd Best?  Mighty Ducks.  3rd? D2 the Mighty Ducks[1] are back! 

However, the fourth place spot is a highly coveted battle for supremacy between D3, Miracle and, the top hockey movie of the 80’s, 1986’s Youngblood.  Why does the Rob Lowe / Patrick Swayze movie get the nod over the other two – for ten reasons[2]:

1)      The Quintessential 80’s “Capitalize on What is Popular” Plot – The year this movie was released (1986) was right in the middle of the Oiler’s Dynasty.  Wayne Gretzky was at the peak of his popularity and was undisputedly the greatest athlete on the planet (Jordan had yet to peak; Bird Magic were rivals; Football is more of a team game) and a serious attempt to cash in was made.  1986 was of course the year that Gretzky graced the cover of Time Magazine, not to mention every other possible magazine, so it was only natural to attempt to translate his success onto the silver screen by making a movie about junior hockey.  A quick synopsis: Rob Lowe plays “Dean Youngblood” a talented (American) farm boy who joins a Canadian Junior Hockey team (the Mustangs) where he is challenged by his teammates to show grit and toughness.  Youngblood is a Gretzky-esque finesse player who wants a chance to go pro on his scoring talent alone.  He is taken under the wing of the team’s talented captain – Patrick Swayze – and a complete Gordie Howe-esque hockey player who can seemingly score at will but can also mix it up.  He falls in love with the daughter of his rugged, foul-mouthed coach and joins in on his team’s rivalry with their “Bruins”-esque opponent who are led by a dirty, bruising, Orr-esque defensemen.  What follows is the most incredible collection of on ice 80’s talent in history: heroics ensue. 

2)      Rob Lowe takes off his helmet every single chance he gets – Even when his character has scored a game winning goal, the first thing to go to the ice is his helmet.  When his teammate / best friend / mentor Patrick Swayze is injured by the dirty defensemen, Lowe throws his helmet away as he rushes to help his fallen comrade.  When wearing his helmet, he resembles[3] Gretzky with his skinny face and too large helmet combo, but being Rob Lowe, he never wears something that covers his hair for any length of time.  When he is sitting on the bench in the championship game he is not wearing his helmet.  Show me one other player on the bench not wearing his helmet.  There is not one, even better idea?  Show me a player who desperately wants to get into the Championship game who would sit on the bench not wearing his helmet – Jaromir Jagr does not count.  The movie even makes an unintentional joke out of the improbable no-helmet scenario by having heroic Youngblood forget his helmet when he finally escapes his temporary benching. 

3)      So many montages!  – There are montages of Youngblood training with his brother and Pa, and montages of the team being beaten in the game.  There is a questionable shirtless Rob Lowe working out montage as he attempts to stransform himself into a world class fighter within a week.  During the game there is a series of ridiculously easy saves montages in which the crowd loses their heads and cheer wildly for a simple glove save.  Additional bonus: the “it’s not worth it” Patrick Swayze scene after he finally realizes the futility of fighting[4] and attempting to win a game through taking out his rival – of course his character does not know that Rob Lowe has spent the past week learning to become a fighting machine[5] in order to avenge Racki’s dirty tricks. 

4)      The Canadian Factor – Usually, eighties American movies would try to shoehorn the junior hockey scenario into, well, America but Youngblood thankfully keeps true to Canadian Hockey traditions.  This may, in fact, be the best thing going for the Rob Lowe vehicle.  The Championship is even the real life Memorial Cup!  The movie also expertly captures small town hockey love and fandom[6].  The rink seems authentic – complete with Lobelaws and Tim Hortons advertisements – as does the feel of the game on the ice.  One thing not shied away from: horrible language; this movie is not for the faint of heart.  While I liked Miracle, the main issue I had with it was that it seemed too American – it lacked real heart.  So aside from the clearly not junior hockey player opponents like the 40 year old, fully bearded “Racki”, Youngblood nails it!

5)      The eighties hockey factor – Dean Youngblood scores a hat trick in the Championship game despite not playing at all in the first period or for 90% of the second period.  He scores on his first shot of the game before being knocked out on a deliberate cheap shot.  He returns in the third frame to tie the game on a double wraparound in which he goes around the net unchallenged twice.  I know it was easy to score in the 80’s but not this easy!  I am pretty confident that Gretzky never pulled off a double wraparound…or maybe not so confident since he did score from behind the net twice in one game.  Anyways, the most ridiculous moment aside from the fact that everyone who wins a faceoff, keeps the puck themself[7]?  Youngblood get a penalty shot with three seconds left on the clock, and scores to win the Memorial Cup on the following combo of dekes: double skate around the puck, kick start the puck through the legs, fake a shot from the blue line to get the goalie sprawling, hit the pucks from stick to outside of skate to stick and roof it as the net flies by, the puck hits the bar and drops an inch over the line.  Game over – it was the most exciting shootout moment in a hockey movie since (or before…) the thrilling Mighty Ducks finish.  I was genuinely entertained.  The 2nd most ridiculous thing?  Youngblood is billed as a left winger and yet takes every single faceoff in the Championship game.  His rough and tumble coach even sends him in as a left winger but he still takes every single faceoff.  What is happening here – does this team (from “Thunder Bay”[8]) not have a legitimate second center?  Another continuity problem arises from this since Lowe plays the entire game as if he is the center…even though he clearly went into the tilt as a left winger. 

6)      Youngblood gets carried off…for fighting the most improbable fight ever – Despite being a Wayne Gretzky-esque skill player, Youngblood has to prove himself by fighting the man who knocked out most of his team, Racki.  He does this even though he has just scored on a ridiculous shootout goal and has essentially proved himself to everyone in the arena.  He fights against the advice of his mentor, Swayze.  The fisticuffs are somewhat unrealistic…and not really necessary.  Rob Lowe could have risen above the dark side of the game, as he had clearly shown he would do whatever it took to win.  Yet, despite the reservations of everyone save his bloodthirsty family, he had to fight and the throwdown features Racki beaten while a crowd of players (and referees!) look on.  Then Racki gets up without any referee interference and continues to fight.  Rob Lowe promptly knocks him out for a second time and is then, carried triumphantly off the ice.  In a sudden and shocking turn to realism, Lowe is unable to kiss his love interest due to the beating he took in the game. 

7)      The Family side – Youngblood’s family all wanted to play hockey; during Lowe’s training montage his brother forces him to learn to fight even though Dean seems to have given up his chance at stardom by walking away from his team “all the way to the farm”.  His “Pa” turns out to be a former player who challenges his own son to a fight in order to push him over the final hurdle – what this mysterious hurdle actually is or what he teaches his son remains a complete mystery; though his father does cheer loudly and demand more blood during the knockout.  Shades of Walter Gretzky perhaps?

8)      The Unstoppable Swayze / Lowe Line – After winning a faceoff and taking it himself (again, a major problem for the movie), Swayze feeds it to Lowe, who cuts through two defenders and then drops it off for Swayze who buries the puck.  The two score at will while on the ice and almost certainly would have led the team to the Memorial Cup.    Unfortunately for the entire team, Captain Swayze gives up a surefire victory (and scoring duo) to nail Racki with a clean open ice hit that results in his nemesis taking brutal and calculated revenge.  An ongoing question raised by the movie: When is part two coming out?  Racki would never stand for being beaten by Lowe in the flight: Youngblood 2: Racki’s Revenge will be a surefire hit.  Additionally: did Swayze make a comeback despite the plate installed in his head after Racki’s hit? 

9)      The Subtle Americanness – Youngblood’s team, the Mustangs (Red Wings) takes on Racki’s “Unnamed Team” (Bruins)[9] in a titanic clash.  Is it a coincidence that this Canadian set story features the two biggest market American team color schemes?  If I have learned anything from this movie it is this: there are no coincidences in Rob Lowe movies.  By playing up the Bruins / Wings connection, the movie attempted to help the NHL brand and American Hockey…while being set in Canada.  Devious

10)  Two stars at their absolute peaks – Swayze and Lowe were a couple of years from falling completely off the Hollywood Mountain, but at this time the whole world was in front of them.  Lowe is believable as his character and his frequent lack of helmet allows him to perfectly emote the vacant-eyed stare of a drugged out Hollywood…um, I mean a robot-like junior hockey player.  Top that, Miracle!


[1] How can you not love a movie about international hockey that posits the American team as number one – and features no real other hockey playing nations.  Iceland fills in for Russia and the USA fills in for Canada.  Yet neither is more preposterous than the inclusion of a Jamaican Hockey team, which is as ridiculous as a Jamaican Bobsled…Team…oh. 

[2] No idea this movie existed until I caught it on Yanksgiving 2011…on TSN (essentially the Canadian ESPN).  Until it was shown I am pretty sure everyone in the world had forgotten completely about it.  To Rob Lowe: You’re welcome. 

[3] Not looks wise.

[4] Also happened in the other Swayze / Lowe classic The Outsiders.

[5] If only real hockey players could discover these abilities in a single week.  I would like to sign up both Sedin brothers immediately. 

[6] Or, someone actually did their job in the 80’s!  Ridiculous!

[7] Impossible in any era and a severe problem that cannot be overlooked during viewing. 

[8] Could they pick a more cool sounding place in Canada?  Could they pick a worse place in Canada?  Let’s review Thunder Bay’s record: routinely voted 2nd worst place in Canada (behind Winnipeg) and was where Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope ended…yes, Thunder Bay killed hope. 

[9] I just wrote more than a thousand words on one of the worst movies I have ever seen, please skip the rest of this section right now.  See you on the next page!

The 2011 Sporties!

Welcome to the first annual Sportie Awards!

The Sporties cover the entire world of sports in a variety of catagories.  Get ready to be amazed…

Ready?  Okay, here we go, without further ado, your 2011 Sportie Winners:

Game of the Year – World Series Game 6

Given that some are calling this the best baseball game of the past 50 years, it definitely gets this year’s Sportie.  The twists and turns in this game had your stomach in knots and it was impossible to move for the duration.  Probably the most entertaining baseball game I have ever seen. 

Best Sports Moment – Aaron Rodgers putting on the belt after winning the Superbowl.

Not only did Rodgers completely erase all doubt and blow away the last Favre lovers (given that he is better) he did it with a team of vets and youngsters who played harder than anyone else.  Every now and again the right guy takes one. 

Sports Books of the Year

Net Worth by David Cruise and Allison Griffiths – Imagine a world where the entire system of Government is corrupt and run by a brutal dictator.  This is not about the USSR but rather the illustrious history of the NHL detailed brilliantly in Net Worth.  The best thing the authors do is provide indelible portraits of former (and future) greats / horrible people such as Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe, Eddie Shore and Eric Lindros.  Their takes are unique, insightful and at times, utterly devestating.  Easily one of the most infuriating sports books ever written. 

Loose Balls by Terry Pluto – The 2nd funniest basketball book ever written (behind Bill Simmons epic tome) is an oral history of the wild ABA years featuring so many hilarious anecdotes that it becomes impossible to put down.  The characters are  outrageously larger than life and rendered brilliantly human.  My favorite story: Marvin “Bad News” Barnes on a morning plane that took off at 8AM and landed at 7:59AM – “I ain’t flying on no time machine.  I ain’t taking no plane that goes back in time.”

Diving into Darkness by Phillip Finch / Blind Descent by James Tabor – What sort of person can reach the pinnacle of sport diving?  What sort of person could push themselves to not only dive as deep as possible but into a cave?  Finch takes on the likes of two men who make an epic cave dive…and the one who must fight to survive.  So vivid are his descriptions that the reader is transported along into the abyss.  Tabor tackles an even more harrowing quest to discover the deepest place on Earth.  He follows the Bird / Magic of the caving world through their harsh journeys fraught with danger.  Both books are claustrophobic reading experiences that challenge as well as entertain. 

Most Devestating Moment – Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals

Not only did we have to suffer defeat, but we also had to deal with all of Surrey rioting and looting Vancouver stores.  Thanks once again for improving our Post-Olympic Image Surrey. 

Pod of the Year – Men in Blazers

I had essentially planned on giving this to Bill Simmons BS Report forever, but the Men in Blazers stole my heart.  Easy to do with an informative and hilarious look into the world of futbal.  How can one not burst out laughing when each week they are treating us “Great Friends of the Pod” to exchanges like the following:

Michael Davies: “If you could have dinner with Gregori Rasputin or John Terry who would it be?”

Roger Bennett: “You’re asking me to choose between a man who is a serial rapist, cult leader, who once raped a nun…and Gregori Rasputin?” 

Michael Davies: “Just so we are clear, Rasputin was actually the nun raper.”

Roger Bennett: “I would take Rasputin since he is dead – the conversation would be better.”

Sportie Man of the Year – Lebron James

Everyone just stopped reading, but hear me out: who else garnered more ink or attention this year than LBJ?  Be it for his epic collapse or his epic play, he was the man.  Period.  We could not get enough of him when he was dominating and we could not get enough when he was disappearing.  Ultimately the choice is clear. 

The Return of the King

Ten long months, ten long months – exactly how long the NHL waited for its Alpha Dog, Sidney Crosby, to return. 

He returned two nights ago and erased any doubts as to exactly who he is (FYI One of the greatest all time) and how fantastic he is.  On his first shot he roasted the Isles rookie tender top shelf.  What continued from there was not simply a dismantling as much as a dismemberment of the Islanders.  Crosby put on a clinic, singlehandedly dispatching an entire squad (2 goals and 2 assists).  He was couped up for so long that unleashing him on the hapless Islanders was a little like letting a wolf run free in a chicken coup for the blind. 

At the end he erased all of the images of Malkin or Ovechkin leading the league into a new era: Crosby is the man.  No one in the NHL has the ability to seize the moment like he does.  I am so glad he is Canadian because if he were from any other country I would fear for my squad for the next couple of Olympics.  Crosby has always willingly shouldered the heaviest of burdens for his team and nation – leading both to Championships.  From the first moment he stepped onto the ice he has been fast tracked for the Pantheon.  What else does he have to accomplish?  Hart trophy?  Check.  Olympic heroics? Check.  Stanley Cup?  Check. 

In returning after his concussion he has brought an intensity and desire previously unmatched.  Did you forget me?  He seems to be asking and how could we possibly do so?  Crosby wants to vanquish his rivals as thoroughly as he has Alex Ovechkin.  With Crosby the Pens are near certain to compete for the Cup every single year.  He is one of a handful of players in NHL history who can completely swing the fortunes of a team over the top.  Hopefully we get the showdown we deserve to see this season and witness a showdown between Chicago and Pittsburgh for the Cup.  Neither Crosby or Jonathon Toews will be able to let their team lose.  Now that would be something to see: two competitors slugging it out and refusing to go down long after both are bloodied and bruised. 

The King is Back. Long live the King.

NFL Quick Hits Week 11

1) The Lions had to win in a short week – In a thrilling shootout with the Panthers, the Lions pulled out a victory due to very impressive play by Matthew Stafford.  The Detroit starter, playing with a broken hand, tossed five touchdowns and helped rally his team to victory.  Detroit’s D played a big part as well, pushing the young Newton into four picks.  The Lions can now look ahead to their Thursday showdown with Green Bay at home.  This could be the game that helps determine whether or not they will be playing into January.

2) The 49ers are on cruise control – The 2nd Best??? team in the league won big again against the hapless Cards who may be wishing they had held onto Matt Leinart.  No one is going to challenge them the rest of the way.  Thanks for coming out, NFC West, but this thing is officially over…before Thanksgiving. 

3) Tony Romo is playing inspired football – Tony Romo has quietly spent the last four weeks playing the best overall football of his career.  He wants to win, he has to win and his Superbowl or bust attitude seems to be paying off.  His teammates are galvanized and rallying around him.  In the past three games he has 8 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.  Other than Aaron Rodgers, is anyone else in the league playing better?  A more interesting question: could Romo be a dark horse MVP candidate?

4) Could Matt Barkley surpass Andrew Luck? – The short answer = no…and yes.  Barkley is riding a tremendous wave of hype in the wake of his incredible performances against Stanford and Oregon.  He is throwing the ball extremely well and is running USC’s offense as well as Palmer, Sanchez or Leinart.  If he come out this year (he is a junior) he could have a shot at being the number two player drafted, and certainly the second quarterback.  However, if the hype machine continues to roll he could possibly gain enough momentum to at least make it more of a debate than a certainty that Luck will go number one.

5) The Raiders!  The Broncos!  – Who could have predicted before the year began that a Raiders / Broncos game would actually mean something?  No one sane but with “The Football Jesus” and a refreshed Carson Palmer this could actually be an interesting contenst…with playoff implications. 

Wow…not even Yanksgiving yet…

The Football Jesus Cometh…

The time has come to discuss the legend of the Tebow.

Did I want / expect to write this post?  Absolutely not, especially when it seemed that the mediocre Thursday night game was going to end in a Jets victory.  Then with 95 yards in front of him, Football Jesus arrived…spectacularly. 

For most of the game, Tebow was shackled in a shockingly conservative offense (except of course for his bomb on the opening play that not even the great Revis was ready for) that ran the ball and limited him to around 50 yards passing per half.  For the record, Tom Brady often puts that sort of number up in the first five minutes.   Yet when the final five minutes hit, Tebow was ready – in my opinion no current NFL player has a better understanding of “the moment” than Tim Tebow.  He took his team 95 yards through sheer grit and determination.  He was fearless, he hit every pass, he got all the lucky breaks, he was transcendent, he did whatever he had to do to score. 

The final touchdown perfectly illustrates what Tebow is capable of: he spotted eight men in the box, but recognized weak containment.  The NFL Network showed a great sequence of the flickering of his eyes back and forth as he gauged whether or not he could beat the contain man to the outside.  He went for it and the result was spectacular.  Tebow ran right around the contain man, shook off a couple of tackles and took it to the house.  He was unstoppable – the Jets may as well have fired bazookas at him, Tebow was getting into the endzone. 

Tim Tebow wins football games.  While he is not statistically superior to virtually any other quarterback, he does his job without mistakes  and when the game is on the line who else would you want to have the ball in his hands?  After the game I genuinely wondered if I would rather have Tebow or Mark Sanchez as my QB.  It should be noted of course that Tebow has found himself the perfect situation to compliment his unique skill set: a great defense, passable running game, and Eddie Royale (a decent deep threat).  Tebow is winning games without his top running back and he is winning games the old fashioned way.  He is setting offensive football back decades but he continues to come up with different ways to win. 

The real question: can you doubt him now?  This was “the drive” for Tebow and he came through in nail-biting fashion with the game on the line.  What else can you possibly ask for?  Perhaps the Broncos will eventually take the shackles off for the entire game…maybe they will just let him loose in the last five minutes.  Perhaps all that matters is this:

Tim Tebow wins football games. 

A Two-Point Beginning and End

In case you already forgot, this is how it all began:

Last weekend Boise State’s incredible run ended with a missed 39 yard field goal – unfortunately for the second straight year – and it has sure been a roller coaster of a ride.  All along, one thing has been clear: they wanted a shot at the National Title.  Year after year they turned away anyone who challenged them: Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia Tech.  Eventually teams stopped coming down since they knew they would be turned aside in ridiculous fashion.  Boise won games big and they won games ugly and they won close games too.  For their entire run in the top 10 they never backed down from a challenge and the biggest reason they never got to number one was their strength of schedule.  Pollsters tend to forget that by the time they were going 11-0 no top ten team wanted to take the chance in playing them.  Hard to have a tough schedule when teams like Michigan and Texas are running the other way. 

Next year Boise may be starting over – their longtime QB / frequent Heisman candidate / winningest QB in Div 1 History Kellan Moore is leaving the school.  If nothing else, Boise’s winning ways have finally attracted legitimate recruits to the program and they should be deep and competetive for years to come.  It hurt to watch them lose to TCU though, very very much.  No team in recent memory has been as entertaining as consistently entertaining as Boise and their 2007 Fiesta Bowl Game is the most exciting game I have ever watched.  I remember happening to turn on the game and being unable to leave the couch for an hour.  My roommates joined me and we spent the entire 4th quarter / overtime screaming in disbelief.  You cannot make up how that game went nor could you make up all their subsequent success.  All they ever wanted was a shot at the best, and when they got it, you had to believe they would make the most of it.  The Statue of Liberty two point conversion may be the gutiest player in college football history and deservedly so.  In the annals of football history the NCAA denying Boise State the opportunity to play in the National Championship should go down as outright larceny.   

Thus it is only fitting that their reign seemingly ends on a two point conversion.  Boise will not get their shot this year or next, but they definitely deserved one.

NFL Week 10 Quick Hits

Another week of NFL football, another round of Quick Hits!

1) “Tim Tebow wins football games” – The quote, from my brother Just Ross perfectly illustrates what Tim Tebow does well.  He is not a great passer, he is not a great quarterback but he wins games.  The ugly stats (2 for 8 for 69 yards and a td) do not fully explain how far back the Broncos are setting offensive football: but they are winning.  Tim Tebow is a heck of a leader and when the game is on the line do you want the ball in anyone else’s hands?  As I have written before, the thing I find most impressive about Tebow is how much his teammates genuinely believe in him to carry them to victory.  While his stats may end up being unimpressive, no one runs the wishbone quite like the Tebow.

2) San Fran will lock up the #2 seed in the NFC shortly – Earlier this year, I was horrified at how pat my beloved 49er’s stood during the off season.  My friend, Whisper Winnett and I wished they would at least have tried to upgrade themselves at the Quarterback position by making a play for Matt Hasselback.  Jim Harbaugh trusted in Alex Smith (even if I mistakenly believed  he was angling for Andrew Luck) and has helped him develop into an efficient game manager.  The team took down the Giants and are now heading into the playoffs looking like a number two seed with a couple of home games and a bye. 

3) The Pats put down Rex Ryan and the Jets – The NFC East has been a battle of a division but the Pats seized control with a great performance by Tom Brady.  Against man coverage, which has stymied Brady the past couple of weeks, he finally broke out by using his tight ends to control the middle and finally bust out of his “mini-slump”.  The Pats had to have this game and they found a way to win – proving that if you give Bill Belichek enough time he can come up with a scheme to kill any defense.

4) Atlanta / New Orleans cannot settle things in regulation – A classic performance by Drew Brees and a great one from Matt Ryan, forget Tampa Bay when instant classics like this can continue to play out.  Tampa did nothing in the offseason and that is definitely showing now.

5) Luck to Indy more likely – Now that Indy has a legit shot at going 0-16, it seems increasingly likely they will wind up with the rights to draft Andrew Luck.  How this will affect Peyton and the team remains to be seen.  Best case scenario: Luck sits behind Manning for a couple years and ends up being the second coming of Aaron Rodgers.

6) Let downs abound – Philly, San Diego and Baltimore had let down weeks (with Philly probably now done), but the beating the Ravens took was more surprising.  They got too emotionally invested in the Steelers game and could not get back into it this week.  Seattle continues to play mediocre football in a bad division.  Meanwhile San Diego continues to cry Rivers of tears as they appear headed home come playoff time. 


NFL Week 9 Quick Hits

Week 9 has nearly come and gone…

1) The 9ers gut one out – Tough win against a subpar Redskins team, but the 9ers held on.  Thankfully.  Frank Gore is a patient, powerful back and he is the heart and soul of the team.  Without him they are nowhere near clinching their division and Alex Smith would never have had the opportunity to develop as much as he has.  The Niners have shown the ability to win big (their blowout of the Bucks), win tough (their takedown of the Skins) and win divisionally (Seattle).  How will they do with the number 2 seed in the NFC?

2) What will Indy do? – Chatting last week with my old friend, Whisper Winnett and we debated what the Colts will do if they win the right to draft Luck.  My point: they would be the luckiest team in the universe and would be able to continue dominating their division for another decade…after Luck learns behind Manning for 3 or so years.  The Whisper’s point: Luck is too good to sit for any amount of time; they either have to trade Manning or the pick.  Great points – what should the Colts do?  If they find themselves in the situation they absolutely have to draft Luck, and then decide what to do with a 36 year old QB coming back from neck surgery.

3) Philip Rivers takes the heat – Veteran NFL QB’s cannnot do what Rivers did.  It was a “must win” game, and they had the chance to win…and did not.  This week, they found themselves in a shootout with NFL juggernaut Green Bay which, as of this writing they were not on the good side of. 

4) Julio Jones comes alive – 3 catches for 131 yards and 2 TDs including an 80 yarder.  His field stretching abilities were sorely missed by the one dimensional offense of Alabama (the reason they lost of LSU). 

5) The Bucs are overrated – They took a beating at the hands of the Niners and a beating at the hands of the Saints in the Superdome.  Why are we giving them so much credit when all they have done is beat bad teams and lose to good ones?  Freeman is a good player but he is nowhere near elite yet.  There will be a turnover in the division once Brees falls by the wayside (TB / Atl) but not yet. 

Until next week.