Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NFL Week 1: The Aftermath

Welcome one and all to the blog that keeps on going despite being weighed down by the sickness known as the Texas Crud. I've been under the weather the last couple of days, but I feel good enough to throw a few lines together and give you my thoughts on what's going on in today's world of sports. Today, we'll discuss week one of the NFL. Plenty to talk about, so let's dive right in.

Hail Storm

1. What a game between Michigan and Notre Dame. I did pick Michigan to win so I wasn't surprised that they won, but I was surprised with how it happened. Remember, these are 18, 19, 20, and 21 year old kids and it is really a shame that someone had to lose. Now we see how The Irish rebound and go from here. 

2. Novak Djokovic won the U.S. Open as I guessed he would. No surprise there. Serena Williams suffered another emotional meltdown in her finals match. Also no surprise. Serena is the best women's tennis player in the world, but anyone else notice that when things don't go her way she throws a fit like a three year old? 

3. If I'm the Boston Red Sox I don't panic. They will be in the playoffs just like the Yankees will and the Rays will be sitting at home. Red Sox have just enough offense to get in to the final round. Now making it to the World Series? Well, that's a totally different story. 

4. Looks like the NBA will not start the season on time. The league is shooting themselves in the foot. Wake me up when they get their act together. 

The Wait Was Well Worth It

Remember how scared we all were that there will be no football this year? Well, that seems like light years ago as the first week of the NFL season provided no shortage of exciting plays and action. Some teams are looking good, others are looking bad, and others appeared to not realize that the preseason is only four games and not five. Some of the intriguing story lines coming out of week one:

1. The Ravens destroying the Steelers is not as big of a surprise as you might think it is if you actually think about it. The Ravens started looking at this game as soon as last season ended. The entire organization knows that the Steelers are their version of "The Evil Empire" and in order to go anywhere and win anything of any significance, they must go through their evil step-brothers in Pittsburgh. Baltimore was so jacked up for this game that of course they were going to come out like a ball of fire. Pittsburgh on the other hand knows that they are in Baltimore's head. This game did not mean as much to them as it did the Ravens. In the Steelers' view, Baltimore still has not won anything because Pittsburgh measures their success in the playoffs. In my opinion, while I predicted Baltimore to win this game, it will mean absolutely nothing if they do not make strides in the playoffs. Yes, that does include going through Pittsburgh in January.

2. Man, who would have known that the team most affected by the lockout would be the Indianapolis Colts. Peyton Manning could not meet with the team's trainers until the lockout was over, which slowed his recovery from off-season neck surgery. That resulted in the nerves in his neck not fully regenerating and having to have another surgery to try and stimulate the growth. Not only did this end Manning's consecutive games streak but it also essentially ended the Colts' season. Kerry Collins is a capable backup, but he needs one thing to be successful. A stable and secure pocket to throw from. Without that, he's useless. The Colts will win games with Collins, because they have plenty of talent at the other positions. However, the playoffs are out of the question with old man Collins under center. Paging Brett Favre anyone?

3. In my NFL division previews I wrote that the Buffalo Bills would have an improved season. That their offense would be much improved, but that their biggest strides would be made on defense. So count me amongst those as not surprised at the beating that they put on the defending AFC West champion, Kansas City Chiefs. What surprised me the most? That so many people were surprised that Buffalo dominated the Chiefs for all four quarters. Did anyone see Buffalo last year? Did anyone notice the talent that they have assembled? If they did, they should not have been surprised. I still do not think Buffalo will have a winning season, as I have them going 7-9. But believe me when I say, that they will be a force to reckon with each and every week.

4. Another week, another Tony Romo story. Let's get something straight. There are a majority of teams in the NFL (San Fran, Washington, Miami, Seattle, just to name a few) that would trade a good number of draft picks for Romo to be their starting QB. However, he does seem to be plagued by making bone-headed decisions at the absolute wrong times. I'm not sure if he can lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl, but until he learns to play within himself for all four quarters, he will continue to receive the criticism that he rightfully deserves.

Week 1 Duds

These are the players who are asking for a redo of week one:

Donovan McNabb: Really? Really? I mean, really? 7-15 for 39 yards. How in the world does a quarterback play for all four quarters and only have 39 yards? McNabb is doing nothing to disprove that he is done as a starting quarterback. Keep this up and Christian Ponder will be the one handing the ball to Adrian Peterson in a couple of weeks.

Tony Romo: He had a good game for 3 quarters. But that fumble at the goal line and the ill-timed interception earn him a spot on this infamous list.

Steelers, Colts, Falcons, Chiefs: No explanation needed.

Week 1 Studs

Tom Brady: God bless you if you had this man on your fantasy team(s). 32-48 for 517 yards and 4 TDs. Was Brady playing a video game? He reminded me of Bo Jackson in those old Tecmo Bowl video games. Simply unstoppable.

Drew Brees: In a losing effort Drew Brees put the NFC South on notice that the Saints are planning on making me look like a genius for picking them to win the division. 32-49, 419 yards, and 3 TDs.

Aaron Rodgers: The Super Bowl winning QB picked up right where he left off after last season in opening up the season right. 27-35, 312 yards, 3 TDs.

Ted Ginn Jr: He basically iced and won the game for the San Fransisco 49ers. A 102 yard kickoff return for a TD. 59 seconds later, a 55 yard punt return for a TD. Not a bad opening week.

Teams With The Best Chance to Go 0-2

Atlanta Falcons: Some people have this team going to the Super Bowl. Not this guy. This team has talent, but I think they will start 0-2. The man, the myth, and the Atlanta legend known as Michael Vick is returning to the Georgia Dome. Think he'll be jacked up for this game? Both teams want to win for their respective QBs. The Falcons want to prove that Vick is long forgotten and Matt Ryan is the man to lead them to the promise land. The Eagles want to prove that Vick is not only a changed man, but the QB that is one of the best in the league and is going to lead them to the Super Bowl this year. Should be intriguing.

Kansas City Chiefs: Sorry Chiefs fans, but not only will Kansas City fall short in their quest to repeat as AFC West champs, but I will not be surprised to see this team go 6-10. You heard it here first. Look for Matthew Stafford and MegaTron to have a field day against that secondary that will be minus Eric Berry, who is lost for the season with a torn ACL.

Carolina: Cam Newton did not arrive on the scene, he BLASTED on the scene. The man had the best debut of any rookie NFL QB in history. However, that feel good story is going to meet a harsh reality when the Packers come to town. Mr. Newton, meet Mr. Clay Matthews. He'll be your chaperone for the evening.

Predictions for Week 2

Last week, I went 11-5. Not bad. Here are my picks for week 2.

Arizona vs Washington - Arizona

Oakland vs Buffalo - Buffalo 

Cleveland vs Indy - Indy 

Tampa Bay vs Minnesota - Minnesota 

Baltimore vs Tennessee - Baltimore

Green Bay vs Carolina - Green Bay 

Seattle vs Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh

Jacksonville vs N.Y. Jets - J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!!! (I had to)

Kansas City vs Detroit - Detroit

Chicago vs New Orleans - New Orleans

Dallas vs San Fran - Dallas 

San Diego vs New England - New England 

Houston vs Miami - Houston 

Cincy vs Denver - Denver

Philadelphia vs Atlanta - Philadelphia

St. Louis vs N.Y. Giants - Giants 

So, there you go. I guess we will see how many I get right.

End of the Storm

Well, that's it for this edition of Tha Weatha Storm. Next time I will take a look at the world of college football. Hopefully everyone had at least a decent week in the world of fantasy football as my four teams went 2-2. Share the page with your friends, go and "Like" the Facebook page, "Tha Weatha Report", and keep reading and sharing your opinions. Until next time fellow sports fans...

Monday, September 5, 2011

NFL Division Previews: AFC North

Welcome again to Tha Weatha Report. Our NFL division by division previews continue with a look at one of the brutal divisions in football. No one questions anyone's toughness in this division as the boys from the AFC North bring the lumber each and every Sunday. The king of the division looks to continue to make one team look like their court jesters. Another team is trying to finally be the David to their own personal Goliath. One team appears to be on the rise after impressive play in the preseason from their second year quarterback. The other team in the division had a quarterback apparently retire rather than play with them, and add that to the fact that they are breaking in a rookie quarterback and a rookie offensive coordinator. Might be a long season in that city and locker room. Before we break down these teams and this division let's hit the Hail Storm.

Hail Storm

1. I find it interesting that so many people are calling for Georgia to fire Mark Richt. The man is 96-35 in 10+ seasons as the Bulldogs' head coach. His main goal is to win the SEC East. If Georgia beats South Carolina on Saturday then they are on target. How about everyone calm down and let's see how the season plays out before you want to fire a winning coach. 

2. I'm going to guess that no one sent LSU the memo that Oregon was supposed to run them ragged inside of the Cowboys' Stadium. Never bet against the Mad Hatter. Les Miles has a knack for pulling victories out of his hat. 

3. Also seems like the Pac-12 didn't realize that the season was starting. USC looked sluggish, Oregon State lost to Sacramento State, Oregon loss, UCLA was handled by Houston. We won't even talk about how Eastern Michigan almost beat Washington. Those schools out West need to get it together. 

4. Basketball? Remember that sport? Do you think that they actually plan on attempting to end the lockout? Nah, me neither. 

5. An unfortunate goodbye to Lee Roy Selmon. NFL Hall of Famer formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers passed away on Sunday after having suffering a stroke on Friday. He was 56. 

AFC North: No Guts, No Glory

It seems that if you want to play and thrive in the AFC North, that you have to have your big boy pads on. These teams hit, hit, and then hit some more. This division is not for the weak at heart, that's for sure. However, it seems that this division is very top heavy with Pittsburgh and Baltimore battling it out for supremacy with Cleveland improving and Cincinnati doing what only Cincinnati can do. Let's take a look at each time and how I think they'll finish. 

Baltimore: You have to figure that the window for the great Ravens' defense is closing right? Ray Lewis cannot possibly play forever...right? Ed Reed's body seems to be breaking down. Count me in as one of those individuals that believes this could be the year that Baltimore overtakes Pittsburgh and actually wins the division. I believe that Baltimore has the talent on defense to actually match Pittsburgh. Ed Reed has at least one more good year in him, Ray Lewis has never really slowed down, and I look for big things from the Ravens' first round pick Jimmy Smith. The rookie from Colorado is expected to inject new blood and life into a defense that has no plans on slowing down. Haloti Ngata is still a dominating interior defensive lineman, and the Ravens' hope that last year's second round pick, Terrence Cody, can live up to the potential he showed at the University of Alabama. Terrell Suggs is another familiar face that will help the Ravens field another dominating defensive group. 

The story with Baltimore used to be one that consisted of a great defense and an offense that did just enough to not lose a game. Now the page has been turned and another chapter has begun to unfold in Charm City. Joe Flacco has proved to be a more than capable quarterback since being drafted in 2008. He's started every game since entering the league and his numbers have improved every year. This year should be no different. Complete with weapons such as Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice. The weapon that I am most excited about in Baltimore is Lee Evans. Acquired from Buffalo, Evans provides Baltimore with a deep threat that they have not had in recent seasons. Ricky Williams has been brought in to relieve Ray Rice from time to time which is also a good pickup. I'm expecting a good season from Baltimore. 

Cincinnati: Then you have the Bengals. A team that just a couple of years ago won the division, and even swept the division. Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, and (apparently) Carson Palmer are all gone. Rookies AJ Green and Andy Dalton are now in. The Bengals have decided to rebuild and are hoping that Dalton and Green will grow together over the next few years. 1000 yard rusher Cedric Benson is still there, hopefully for Cincy fans he can manage to avoid the off the field issues that have clouded his career. A rookie quarterback, rookie starting wide receiver, and a rookie offensive coordinator in Jay Gruden. Needless to say, I feel that it will be a long season on the offensive front for the Bengals. Hopefully Marvin Lewis has perfected the art of patience. 

On the defensive side of the ball the Bengals won't be much better. They do have a few talented individuals on that side of the ball. Leon Hall, Taylor Mays, Rey Maualuga, and Carlos Dunlap are players that have talent and high ceilings of potential. The majority of the defensive side of the ball has the same issues as the offensive side of the ball for the Bengals. Youth. Cincinnati is a very young team. In the NFL, a youthful team equals a rebuilding team. A rebuilding team equals a not so very good team. Look for the Bengals to struggle mightily. 

Cleveland: On the other side of the youth movement you have the Browns. A team that seems to now have a bright future with the way Colt McCoy has played this preseason. Taking a look at the offensive side of the ball gives a clear picture that the youth movement is not only in full swing in Cleveland, but that the youth is starting to catch on and is prime to produce. Colt McCoy is in his 2nd year and as mentioned earlier, has played extremely well this preseason. Peyton Hillis is in his fourth season and is coming off of a season where he rushed for almost 1200 yards. Josh Cribbs is the old man on offense in his seventh season and is one of the most dynamic players in football. The Browns have already said that they will make a concerted effort to put the ball in his hands on more occassions this season. The offensive line is strong with Alex Mack and Joe Thomas as the anchors. In all, the offense seems to be heading in the right direction. 

The defense does not have the play makers that the offense does. However it is also a young group that is improving season by season. Work still needs to be done through the draft and free agency to acquire play makers, but the defense will be better than anticipated. Led by defensive back Joe Haden, the Browns defense will be looking to just take the next step forward in their growing process. Look for an above average season from this unit. 

Pittsburgh: The current kings of the division reside in the Steel City. An organization that is run as well, if not better, than any organization in all of sports. Led by a more mature (it appears) Ben Roethlisberger, James Harrison, and Troy Polamalu the Steelers look to keep their stranglehold on the AFC North. The offensive will be just as good, if not better than last year when they averaged almost 25 points a game. A finally healthy Big Ben, Rashard Mendenhall, Hines Ward, Antonio Brown (who has had a great preseason), and Mike Wallace will come together to be apart of a good unit that will score and move the ball well. Mendenhall has to continue his maturation as a running back which should continue under the coaching of Mike Tomlin. The concerns about his fumbling are unfounded as he only had two fumbles the entire 2010 regular season. The offense will be good. 

The defense will also be good. Pro Bowlers litter position after position on that side of the ball for the Steelers. Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, and on and on and on. I have heard rumblings concerning will age be a downfall of this unit. If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn or an ocean front property in Montana to sell you. This unit will be good. 

So Who Wins It?

Here is how I see the records playing out: 

Baltimore: 12-4

Cincinnati: 3-13

Cleveland: 7-9

Pittsburgh: 12-4

As you can see I have Baltimore and Pittsburgh ending with the same record, but I'm going to say that Baltimore wins the tiebreaker and takes the division. No fear Steelers' fans they will still take one of the Wild Card spots. The Browns will continue their improvement, and Cincinnati will be preparing for the draft by mid-November. Just my opinions. 

End of the Storm

That's it for today's edition. Next time we will continue our NFL preview. See you next time.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

NFL Division Previews: NFC North

NFL Division Previews: NFC North

 Welcome once again, to Tha Weatha Report. So far we have examined a couple of the NFL divisions, and now it is time for us to take a look at the NFC North. This division has some intrigue, and a team that is considered one of the up and coming teams in the league. Before we take a look, we will hit up the Hail Storm.

Hail Storm

 1. Watched the Andre Berto fight Saturday night. I honestly was not impressed. I think he takes too much punishment to stand in front of some of the heavy hitters of the division. I would like to see him improve his defense. However, a knockout is a knockout.

2. I think the NASCAR controversy over some of the drivers going to see President Obama and others turning the opportunity down has been blown out of proportions. Some of the drivers are turning down the White House visit due to scheduling conflicts. This is a busy time for NASCAR, having conflicts shouldn't be surprising. 
3. Usain Bolt is a freak of nature. He is simple unbeatable. Plain and simple. 

4. I'm predicting Novak Djokovic to take the U.S. Open tennis tournament. He's been on a roll all year, and this is his favorite tournament. All of that adds up to a victory for The Joker. 

5. Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in Major League Baseball. I have not seen a man in a zone like this since Pedro Martinez's hey day. Amazing. 

NFC North

The NFC North is the division that produced the Super Bowl champs from last season, however most people forget that the Green Bay Packers did not win the division. That honor went to the Chicago Bears. The same Bears that were just a few plays from going to the Super Bowl themselves. While you have these two teams at the top, there is a young team in the Motor City that is coming on strong and fast with a defensive line that most teams would kill for. Anchored by young studs, the Detroit Lions are trying to erase the recent years of futility by building from the lines out. At the same time there is a team in Minnesota that is trying to pull a playoff run out of an aging quarterback. Seems to be deja vu in Minnesota.

Chicago: The Bears were on their way to the Super Bowl before they ran into the buzz saw known as the Green Bay Packers. The playoffs also produced a controversy when Jay Cutler suffered a new injury that had fans and players around the league questioning his toughness and dedication. I'm not going to get into all that. In my opinion, Cutler is tough. He plays the most violent sport and the toughest position in that sport. If he isn't tough then he's fooled a ton of people over the years. 

Chicago needs to worry about preventing a similar injury to Cutler. That offensive line is leaky, and that's being generous. Keeping the quarterback upright is the key. If they can protect Jay Cutler then the Bears might have a shot. Roy Williams is a new edition that needs to step up his game. Right now Williams is going down as a waste of talent and a bust. He needs to rehab his image by having a big year in Chicago. I'm not counting on it. Marion Barber has been brought in to provide an option when those short yardage situations present themselves. Together they will try to execute Mike Martz's offense and produce a playoff team. 

Lance Briggs wants out of Chicago, but he isn't going to get his wish. Chicago's defense will be good once again, but if the offense struggles and sputters along how much pressure can the defense take before it cannot protect the team? It will be up to the defense to keep the team in games. If the defense fails, then the team will fail. 

Detroit: The Lions are building something special up in Michigan. The defense is continuing to be built up with young studs on the line. Ndamukong Suh is destroying quarterbacks one week at a time. Nick Fairley will be healthy soon and should team up with Suh to produce a dominate Defensive Tackle pair. The secondary should be continue to improve, but I think it will still be the weak link of the defense. It will be up to Suh and friends to put plenty of pressure on the QB to prevent the secondary from getting burned. 

The offense is what really has fans of the Lions excited. Most people expect that if Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, then the Lions are poised for a breakout season. As Lee Corso would say, not say fast my friends. Matthew Stafford has indeed shown flashes of brilliance. However, due to injuries Stafford has yet to play 16 games combined in his career. He has thrown more interceptions (21) than touchdowns (19) in his career. I am convinced that Stafford will be a good NFL quarterback. I just need to see evidence before I anoint Detroit as the next playoff team. The loss of rookie RB Mikel Leshoure to a season ending injury will be a devastating blow to this team. Calvin Johnson aka MegaTron is still there, and as long as you have him you have an impact player. The team has the young talent and is improving, but the key is that they are young. 

Green Bay: The defending Super Bowl champs made improvements to their team, but not by necessarily going out and signing free agents and through trades. The team improved just by getting their players healthy. That is the story of the off season for Green Bay. Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews are both healthy and will anchor a defense that has the potential to be dominating. I am looking for B.J. Raji, the third year nose tackle, to continue his improvement. He went from one to 6.5 sacks in years one and two. 

Green Bay's offense is ran by Aaron Rodgers who finally made it out of Brett Farve's shadow by bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Lambeau Field. Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley are healthy and will provide Rodgers with a healthy running back and tight end. The running game will be the key to the offense for the Packers. If Grant can stay healthy and return to his 2008 and 2009 forms where he rushed for over 1000 yards in back to back seasons, then Green Bay's offense could be one of the most potent ones in the league. 

Minnesota: The Vikings are one of those enigmas that you can't really read. Stop me if you've heard this before. The Minnesota Vikings are relying on an aging quarterback to have one last bullet in his pistol and to lead the team to the playoffs and hopefully beyond. Instead of it being Brett Favre, this year it is Donovan McNabb. The Vikings are hoping that McNabb's year in Washington was an aberration and that McNabb still has one more good year in him. McNabb has plenty of talent around him with Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, and Adrian Peterson as key personnel. However, the offensive line is overrated and that will hinder the Vikings' firepower. 

The defense is average at best and is also aging. The Vikings essentially have the same personnel that they've had the previous two seasons, and this team might have hit their ceiling already. It is clear that this team is in transition and will become Christian Ponder's team sooner rather than later. 

So Who Wins It?

This is my predictions for the teams records: 

Chicago: 9-7

Detroit: 7-9

Green Bay: 12-4

Minnesota: 9-7

As you can see, I have Green Bay taking the division easily. I have Detroit making a one game improvement which is on par with the progress I think Detroit is making. Chicago and Minnesota will both finish above .500 but clearly not the records that they would like to have. 

End of the Storm

Thanks for reading and taking the time to digest what I think about the NFC North. Next time we will take a look at the AFC North which has, arguably, the NFL's most intense rivalry. Until next time, stay blessed.