Tag Archives: Cedric Benson

NFL Week 11 Predictions

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Ray Lewis (pictured above) is always excited to meet rookie quarterbacks. On Sunday, he will get his first introductions to Cincinnati rookie QB Andy Dalton.

By Josh Kramer

Everyone is more than aware that football is a rough sport and that the NFL is the pinnacle of physicality.  But last week was flat-out bad.  I cannot think of a week in recent memory where more guys went down.  Despite all of the injuries though, there were some great games.  San Francisco found a way to beat a tough Giants team in New York.  The Pittsburgh Steelers ripped the hearts out of their rivals in Cincinnati, ending the Who Dey’s first five-game winning streak since 1988.  And the Green Bay Packers continued their march towards perfection with a phenomenal showing on Monday Night Football.

As has become the tradition, we are once again having “TheSportsKraze Pick’em Challenge.”

The participants this season are as follows:

TheSportsKraze (TSK) (defending champion)-Josh Kramer-Founder/Editor-In-Chief of “TheSportsKraze” and former ESPN intern.

CV3-Chad Vordenberge-An elite high school wide receiver and a very successful business owner.

CB-Craig Baker-A former collegiate baseball player and current special education teacher.

DC-David Clark-A dedicated sports fan who was coached by TheSportsKraze on his fraternity flag football team.  After playing for TheSportsKraze, he has developed a slow but steady motivation to show his coach who the real pick’em champion is.

After Week 10, here is the scoreboard.

CB-94

TSK-97

CV3-92

DC-90

Week 11 Slate: Continue reading

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“NFL Week 5 Predictions”

All eyes will be on Number 4, Brett Favre (pictured above), for a change on Monday Night Football. Can he come up big with his new star target Randy Moss?

The NFL regular season is already a quarter of the way complete.  Hard to believe, but true.  Teams are starting to flash their true colors and people are starting to separate the contenders from the pretenders (sort of).

In the pick’em challenge, the scoreboard reads as follows:

TheSportsKraze:  38                CV3:  37

TheSportsKraze Picks:

Jaguars at Bills:  The Jaguars are coming off an amazing win in which they hit a 59 yard field goal as time expired to shock the Indianapolis Colts.  I will admit I am still shocked that the Jaguars won this game.  The Bills continue to struggle with stopping the run and are in search of their first win.  Well this is their week.  Home field advantage means a lot in the NFL and I expect Jacksonville to fall hard after such a great high they experienced last week.  Bills will surprise the Jags by 3 at home behind a big day for CJ Spiller.

Buccaneers at Bengals:  The Who Deys are coming off of a disastrous loss at in state rival Cleveland.  The Buccaneers looked solid in their first two games, but were absolutely molly whopped by the Steelers in their last game.  The physical nature of the AFC North proved to be too much.  Though the Bengals have struggled all year, I do expect them to take care of business at home.  Maybe Chad and TO can each play well on the same day?  Also this looks to be a day where Cedric Benson can get back on track with some smash mouth running against a Tampa team that struggles to stop the run.  Bengals by 7 at home.

Falcons at Browns:  Atlanta will fly into the Pound on a 3 game winning streak. The Brownies may still be excited about their big win in the Battle of Ohio, but sadly this week, the Falcons are going to shred them apart.  Look for Atlanta’s extremely balanced offense, led by Matt Ryan, to have a field day both passing and running the ball.  I got the Falcons by 9 on the road.

Rams at Lions:  The Rams are 2 and 2.  Yes, 2 and 2.  I will admit that I have picked against them every week.  And sadly, I am going to pick against them for a 5th straight week.  The Lions are a team that has been very close to winning in 3 of it’s 4 contests.  Well this is the week where they notch one up in the win column.  Look for Calvin Johnson to reel in a couple of TDs and for the Lions to win a shootout by 6 at home.

Chiefs at Colts:  Do you know who the lone undefeated team in the National Football League is?  I will give you a hint.  Their home field is in Kansas City and they once had a star running back by the name of Priest.  But this is a team that has lived on a smash mouth rushing attack offensively, and a great defense against the run.  They have not been too good at passing the ball or defending against the pass.  But their rushing attack, led by the 2 headed monster that is Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones has been simply outstanding.  The Colts on the other hand have struggled to stop the run all year, as they are off to their worst start in recent memory.  So all directions would say to pick the Chiefs monster rushing attack to run over the weak Colt’s defense right?  Wrong.  Do not expect a Peyton Manning team to fall under 500.  I got the Colts by 6 at home.

Packers at Redskins:  There is one major statistic in this game that will be the differentiating factor.  The Redskins are 31st in the League at defending against the pass.  Do you know who Green Bay’s quarterback is?  Look for a monster day for Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers as Green Bay takes one in the nation’s capital.  I got the Cheesesheads by 10 on the road.

Bears at Panthers:  Can the Bears redeem themselves after an embarrassing performance on Monday Night Football by their offensive line?  Honestly, I am not sure.  But I do know that the Bears defense against the run can be flat-out scary at times.  And with a young quarterback in place in Carolina, the Panthers will continue to rely heavily on their ground attack.  Sadly, they will not be able to muster up enough offense to beat Da Bears.  I got Chicago by 3 on the road in a very lackluster game.

Broncos at Ravens:  The Edgar Allen Poes are coming off their biggest win of the season in which they took care of business against the divisional rival Steelers.  Can the Ravens continue to fly against a 2 and 2 Denver team?  Well this matchup pits the number 1 passing team in the League (Denver), against the number 1 ranked defense against the pass in Baltimore.  Talk about an exciting scenario.  Great defenses normally prevail over great offenses.  The Broncos have still not really developed an identity as they play great one week, then awful the next. I got the Ravens winning by 9 at home.

Giants at Texans:  What a performance the Giant’s defense put on against the Bears on Monday Night.  It was quite the show and brought back memories of the Giant’s Super Bowl Team back in 2007.  Sadly for the Giants, they now take on a team that is one of the League’s elite in rushing and passing.  Matt Schaub can rely on the run if the Giant’s pass rush becomes too much.  Too many weapons offensively for the Texans.  I got Houston at home by 7.

Saints at Cardinals:  The defending Super Bowl Champs head to Arizona to take on the NFC West leading Cardinals.  The Saints are struggling offensively without Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas.  Luckily for the NOLA boys, they are taking on a Cardinal’s team that has not been able to stop any offense through the air or on the ground all season.  I got the Saints gutting out a tough road victory due to the amazing poise and intelligence of their quarterback, Drew Brees.  Expect a patented Bree’s two-minute drill to win this one.  Saints by 7.

Chargers at Raiders:  In an old school AFC West rivalry, San Diego heads to Oakland to take on a Raider’s team that has suffered two very tough losses in a row.  Believe me, San Diego will show no sympathy.  The Charger’s balance offensive attack will prove too much for the Raiders to handle as Rivers demonstrates a his great arm, and lets his tandem of running backs, Mike Tolbert and Ryan Matthews shred a weak Oakland defense against the run.  I got the Chargers by 10 on the road.

Titans at Cowboys:  Tennessee heads to Dallas for a rendezvous with Cowboy Nation.  The Titans have been extremely hard to understand this year with their lack of consistent play.  This is a very unusual for  Jeff Fisher led team.  The Cowboys are coming off of their bye week and looked revitalized the last time they took the field, when they smashed a formerly undefeated Texans team.  Expect more of the same in this one.  The Cowboys are just too talented not to make a run at the playoffs.  Look for Dallas to contain Chris Johnson on their way to a hard-fought 6 point victory at home.

Eagles at 49ers:  Philadelphia takes on a highly disappointing 49ers sqaud.  This was a San Francisco team that many picked to win the lowly NFC West and make a run in the playoffs.  Well that has not happened thus far.  Could this be the day where they finally leave the League’s “defeated” ranks?  I think it is.  Look for Frank Gore to make a statement in the Sunday Night Game and for Patrick Willis and the boys to take advantage of a Michael Vickless Eagle’s squad.  49ers by 3 at home. 

Vikings at Jets:  What a matchup this is.  You got the “Return of the Moss” in Minnesota.  And wouldn’t you know his first game with his former team is the Monday Night Game.  Other than last week, the MNF slate has been outstanding and hasn’t disappointed anybody.  Well expect another great one tonight.  Minnesota’s main weakness this year other than Favre’s inability to take care of the ball has been a weak passing attack in general.  Well Moss could be just the medicine the Vikes need.  Either way, I got the Jets winning this time on the bright lights by 3 at home.  Expect an awesome game.

CV3 Picks:

Jaguars over Bills by 3- The Bills are a struggling team and they are not very good at defending the run. MJD is averaging almost 4 yards a carry and if Jacksonville plans well this game belongs to them. They are the better team and should beat the Bills.

Falcons over Browns by 7- The Browns are on a high after a rare win. They will now be brought back down. The Falcons will not make the same mistakes that the Bengals did and will handle the Browns, no matter how much Hillis rushes for.

Rams over Lions by 1- The Rams are on the rise and are beginning to gel. They also have a very stingy defense. The Lions have been able to move the ball very well lately but they make more mistakes than anyone in the league. These mistakes should limit the Lions on offense and defense. 

Colts over Chiefs by 7- The Colts are at home and are not happy coming off of a division loss. Peyton should stop the Chiefs surprising run of 3 straight victories. I don’t think the Colts will be shocked again. 

Packers over Redskins by 6- With the Packers having a better defense than the Redskins and both having pretty even offenses, I go with the Pack. Aaron Rodgers will outperform the elder McNabb who has nothing special to play for this week after beating the Eagles last week.

Bears over Panthers by 10- The Panthers have a lot more to build before they can win a game this season, especially against the high powered Bears. The Bears new offense will be too much for the Panthers to handle.

Saints over Cardinals by 10- The Saints have not completely gelled yet this season but they have too many weapons for the Cards to handle. The Cards have won two games against lower level teams and been dominated by good teams. The Saints are a good team that will roll.

Texans over Giants by 3- This should be a close game but the Texans are a good team, solid on offense but they give yards through the air. This could be a shootout but the game will end close.

Cowboys over Titans by 7- The Boys are fresh coming off of a bye and have had two full weeks to prepare for this game. They will get to .500 after this week and begin a roll towards making the playoffs. They have all of the right pieces and once they put them all together they will be dangerous.

Raiders upset Chargers by 3- The Raiders have not beat the Chargers in their last 13 games. However, the Raiders can now run the ball and stop the pass. This is my upset pick for the week.

Ravens over Broncos by 3- While the Broncos seem to be passing at will and the Ravens cannot get anything going on offense, you would expect the Broncos to just outscore the Ravens. However, the Ravens can run the ball and the Broncos cannot. The Ravens will also have a good defensive game plan to stop the pass. The Ravens are at home and remind me of the 2006 Steelers. Just barely getting by, but getting by.

49ers over Eagles by 6- With Vick gone it will be tough for the Eagles to win the game. San Fran should get their first victory in this by limiting Kolb in Vick’s absence. 

Jets over Vikings by 6- Randy Moss will not go off against the Jets this time. They will be prepared for the Vikings passing game. If they can hold AP they should be able to limit the Vikings in this one.

Bengals over Bucs by 6- Bengals will limit mistakes and be able to outscore the Bucs bruising run game. I don’t know the exact statistic but when Benson gets the ball 25+ times they are hard to beat. Go back to the run Bengals and make some big plays in the passing game.

So there you have the picks for Week 5.  It should definitely be a dandy capped off by an awesome Monday Night matchup.  You got to love the NFL.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Who Dey Disaster?”

Terrell Owens (pictured above), a star receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals was on the receiving end of over 220 yards today and a Touchdown. But it was not enough to lead his team to victory over their interstate rival, the Cleveland Browns.

If you are a Cincinnati Bengal’s fan, you are probably not having the best of Sunday’s.  Any loss for the home town team hurts.  But a lost to the abysmal Brownies, who were 0 and 3 coming into the 1st edition of this year’s “Battle of Ohio” Throwdown?  Things just went from bad, to real bad.

The Bengals today once again demonstrated why they appear to not quite be ready to join the League’s upper tier.  Now, I am by no means saying this team will not make the playoffs.  I would be crazy to say that with the talent this squad possesses.  But at 2 and 2, things have not looked good for a team surrounded by much hype.

Lets take a quick look at what transpired today in Cleveland.

The Bengals took on a less than flattering Brown’s team led by long time backup, Seneca Wallace.  In this game, the Who Deys had over 115 more total yards than our opponent.  Cincinnati was also more efficient than their opponent both rushing and passing. Cincy’s big time receiver, TO, had over 220 yards receiving on 10 catches. Yet the Bengals took an L, and had their faces smashed in by former Arkansas Razorback, 3rd string RB, Peyton Hillis.  This guy, who defines what it means to be a bruiser, really hurt the Who Deys late in the game, really solidifying the Browns first win of the season.  The difference in this one though, a blocked field goal.  And it was not Cincinnati’s “quarter season MVP,” Mike Nugent’s fault.  A Brown’s defender came in untouched to block Nugent’s field goal attempt.

So are the Bengals in big trouble standing at 2 and 2?  Currently, we are ranked 15th in the League in overall offense and passing offense.  We are only 18th in the League in rushing.  Last year, we were 24th in the League in overall offense, 26th in the passing game, and 9th overall rushing.  So though I would like to see Cedric and the gang get it going more on the ground, there is no reason to panic offensively.  Defensively, we currently rank 9th overall in the League,  with the 11th ranked defense against the pass, and 13th against the run.  Last year, the AFC North Champion Bengals ranked 4th in the NFL in overall defense.  With a passing defense that was ranked 6th, and a ground stopping attack that ranked 7th.  So the defense has fallen a little, but not much.

So sure the Bengals took a very bad loss today.  But there is no reason to give up on this team yet.  Their numbers are not really any worse than last year’s playoff team.  People just have to accept that Marvin’s team plays down to the level of their competition every week and win in somewhat of an ugly fashion.  Either way a win is a win.  But I will state that this year’s schedule is much tougher than last years.

So what are your thoughts?  Maybe Carson is the problem?  Or maybe it is the play calling from Bob Bratkowski? Can this team bounce back and compete for the AFC North Title or are we on the way to a Who Dey Disaster?

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Bengals vs Panthers In Game”

Bengal's kicker, Mike Nugent (pictured above), has arguably been the Team's MVP through their first 3 games.

The 1 and 1 Bengals travel to Carolina today to take on a struggling Panthers team with a rookie QB making his debut start today in Jimmy Clausen.  Bengal’s D coordinator, Mike Zimmer is looking to feast and should confuse the rookie early and often with a plethora of different defensive schemes.  Look for the Bengal’s offense to wake up as well in a big way today.

My esteemed guests this week are Mr. David Huber, or “Hubes,” Mr. Chris Nesbitt, or “Nez,” and Mr. Grift Krehnbrink,  or “Queen City Kid.”  They will provide their thoughts at the end of each quarter.

1st Quarter:

Weird is the best way to describe this quarter.  The Bengals throw an INT on their first drive only to have Jimmy Clausen mishandle a snap and give it right back.   Late in the quarter, Carson tosses up a horribly underthrown ball to TO that gets picked.  The rookie, Clausen, on the next play, makes a horrible throw to Steve Smith to give the ball right back to Cincy.  Talk about an erratic, back and forth 1st quarter.  The quarterback play has been god awful.     The only adjective I have for this quarter is “weird.”  I feel like I am watching a lower tier high school football game.  Nonetheless, Cincy leads 7 to 0 and has the ball.  In addition, it was nice to see Brian Leonard back out there running hard.

Hubes:  “Carson’s best days are behind him.  Long behind him.”

Nez:  “Despite a lot of sloppy play, the Bengals are in a good spot, as long as Clausen is under center for the Panthers.”

Queen City Kid: “Carson just looks abysmal.  He has not been the same for years now.”

2nd Quarter:

I am absolutely speechless.  Carson has a 22.2 QB Rating with two horrendous interceptions.  Minus the play of Maualuga, Gresham, and Shipley, I am not sure what team I am watching.  The offense is horrendous in every facet.  Thank god we have reliable special teams play in our punter Kevin Huber and kicker Mike Nugent.  Not to mention we are lucky that Jimmy Clausen is the starter for the Panthers on this day.  Also, the clock management for the last 45 seconds was absolutely unacceptable.  Dennis Roland should be ashamed of himself.  I am happy to be up 10 to 0, but just because a team is winning does not mean they are playing well.  This Bengal’s team better play smarter and better in the 2nd half, or they could be on their way to blowing a very winnable game on the road.

Hubes: “Kevin Huber, MVP of the first half.”

Nez: “This is not quality football.”

Queen City Kid: “To the Carolina Panthers, get me a new quarterback, or get me a cheddarwurst.”

3rd Quarter:

Boring and dry.  Other than one extended touchdown drive from Carolina, not too much to say.  The Bengals continue to dominate time of possession and are doing all they can to hold on.  Cedric is carrying the load as Carson’s struggles mount.  Will Carson ever live up the hype?

Hubes: “Bengals better cover the spread.”

Nez:  “This game is too close for comfort.”

Queen City Kid:  “Clausen is showing signs of life.  Probably had a nice halftime.”

4th Quarter:

They did what they had to do.  Got crucial stops.  Nugent continues to make both short and long field goals.  And Cedric Benson came up with some big plays offensively.  Kudos to the defense on a great game even though they were going up against an overmatched rookie QB.

Hubes: “Boring game.”

Nez: “I will take the W.  But it was not pretty.”

Queen City Kid: “I got nothing.  I am speechless.”

Recap:

My MVPs in this one are Mike Nugent, Kevin Huber, and Cedric Benson.  Though the Bengal’s D as a whole played great, they were not exactly going up against a juggernaut of an offense.  Still, a very solid game though, holding the Panthers to under 270 total yards.  The Bengals have now won 5 of their last 6 against the NFC.  The NFL is not about looking good or winning pretty.  And today was a prime example of winning ugly.

The Bengals get to head to Cleveland next week.  Hopefully they can move to 3 and 1 before a Week 5 showdown against the formerly undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Carson if you are out there, please get it together.  This team will live and die on Palmer, especially against quality opponents.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Bengals vs Ravens In Game”

Mike Nugent (pictured above), the former Ohio State Buckeye star, came up big today for the Bengals with 5 field goals on the afternoon.

So today I have decided to try something a little different.  I am going to give you an “in-game” look at the marquee matchup of Week 2 in my eyes, the AFC North battle, between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals.  These are two teams that had very different types of opening games.  The Bengals got blown out by an upstart New England Patriot’s team.  While the Ravens came up with an outstanding defensive effort and took care of a business against a favored Jets team on the road. 

Marvin Lewis is 9 and 5 all time against his former team, the Baltimore Ravens.  And has a Bengals team, that went 6 and 0 against the rugged AFC North last season and is looking to win their 8th consecutive divisional matchup.  Can the Bengals rebound today?  Can Joe Flacco learn how to throw an accurate pass?  We will find out in less than 5 minutes, as the Ravens travel to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the Who Deys in Cincinnati.

Today I will also have some esteemed guests contributing with their in-game thoughts.  We will have “DC,” David Clark and  Mr. “Beezy,” Chris O’Brien.  Let the games begin.

1st Quarter:

The Bengals have looked solid overall in the first quarter.  Carson is looking more and more comfortable as his offensive line is giving him ample time to get the ball out to his receiving weapons.  Minus a few inaccurate throws to TO, he seems to be looking like a big time quarterback.  In addition, Cedric Benson and Jordan Shipley have looked very solid.  Benson has made some crucial 3rd down conversions and Shipley continues to catch everything thrown at him.  I just wish Chad could resist talking trash at his opponents.

Joe Flacco continues to struggle and the Ravens offense looks in shambles.  0 of 4 for 0 yards sums it up for the former Delaware star.  Their defense is still laying out the big hits, but are beginning to not get the push that they got last week.  Could the short week be hurting them?

Mr. Breezy:  “The offensive line (for the Bengals) is day and night compared to last week.”

DC:  “My biggest surprise of this game is Joe Flacco’s inability to pass.”

2nd Quarter:

The only way to describe this one so far is, “Ugly.” Both quarterbacks are under 100 yards passing. Both teams are under 150 total yards (the Ravens are under 80).  It has been a defensive struggle.  The Bengals have blown some key Red Zone opportunities and only go into the half up 6 to 0.  But I will state this 1st half has been night and day compared to last weeks for Cincinnati. 

The Who Deys must cut down on the penalties.  6 is entirely too many and will come back to bite them if it continues.  Palmer also continues to struggle with his accuracy, though he has not been nearly as bad as Joe Flacco.  Should be a down to the wire finish in the 2nd half though with these two bitter rivals.

Mr. Breezy: “The Bengals would be winning by a lot more if they didn’t shoot themselves in the foot with penalties.”

DC: “Ravens are lucky to only be down 6 to 0.  If the Bengals keep shooting themselves in the feet with penalties, then they cannot expect to win this game.”

3rd Quarter:

Joe Flacco has woken up folks (somewhat).  Not good news for the Bengals.  The Bengal’s offense has looked like they are struggling with communication.  This is a major problem especially against a team with a defense like the Ravens.  TO continues to struggle with the physicality of the AFC North.  Palmer is continuing to be inconsistent.  Plus the Bengals lucked out with a tripping penalty on Ray Lewis to save this crucial drive.  I have a hunch this game  will come down to the final drive.

Mr. Breezy:  “The Bengals are just far too inconsistent.”

DC: “Bengals need to capitalize on a Joe Flacco interception.  This drive at the end of the 3rd quarter will decide the outcome of the game.”

4th Quarter:

Really just a back and forth battle between two teams that really wanted this one.  Neither team could really muster up any offensive fluidity.  Possession and field goal kicking were the name of the game.  And the Bengals took care of the ball, and hit their field goal chances.

Mr. Breezy: “This was a big time win for the Bengals.  Though it was ugly, a win is a win.”

DC:  “I will take the W, but Bratkowski has to develop a new game plan offensively.

Post Game Recap:

So there you have it.  It was not pretty by any means.  But the Bengals continued to exude AFC North dominance with a major victory in Week 2 over the rival Ravens.  Mike Nugent and the Bengal’s defense are Co-MVP’s in this game in my eyes.  Really, Joe Flacco could be considered the LVP (Least Valuable Player). 

The man had 0 passing yards in the entire first quarter.  Threw 4 picks.  And had a quarterback rating of 23.8.  Could it be time to consider giving Marc Bulger a go under center?  And though the Bengals got the win, Carson completed just 16 of 35 passes, and missed open receivers time and time again.  Can Palmer still play like the guy that we saw in 2005?

Taking care of the difference in this one.  4 interceptions to 0 gave the Bengals a big time win today.

Hope you enjoyed the first annual “In game” analysis.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“NFL Week 1 Fun”

Arian Foster stole the show in Week 1 rushing for 233 yards and helping the Texans shock the Colts (Foster is now number 23).

The first Sunday of the NFL season is always unpredictable, wacky, fun all in one.  It is always a weekend filled with excitement.  Full of mysteriousness.  And most of all, full of people sitting on their couches all day.  Following this enigmatic day, the scoreboard reads: 

TheSportsKraze:  8               CV3:  8 

There were few storylines that really caught my eye on the weekend.  

-Who is Arian Foster?  

First of all the Houston Texans monumental upset of the Indianapolis Colts.  Going into the 17th matchup of these franchises, Houston was 1 and 15 all time against the defending AFC Champion Colts.  When was the last time you can remember Peyton and the Indianapolis offensive juggernaut losing in Week 1?  And how about the pass happy Texans getting the job done on the ground.  When looking at some initial statistics you would be astonished.  Matt Schaub, who threw for over 4700 yards last season threw for 107 today, not to mention he threw an interception.  Peyton Manning threw for 433 yards and 3 TDs.  But the real story of this game.  How about Mr. Arian Foster?  The guy just blew up rushing for 233 yards (2nd most all time in an opener behind OJ Simpson) and 3 TDs.  Foster is a 2nd year running back out of Rocky Top (Tennessee) that rushed for 257 yards and 3 TDs all year in his rookie campaign.  Well he just ripped the heart out of the defending AFC Champs on Day 1.  Could the Texans be on the verge of breaking the Colts stranglehold on the AFC South this year? 

-The Steelers take care of business without Big Ben. 

Pittsburgh won their first of four games without their starting quarterback today over a very tough Falcons team.  Rashard Mendenhall and Hines Ward came up big for the Terrible Towels and took care of Week 1.  I will admit that I thought that the Steelers would lose this one without Roethlisberger.  But with inspired play from Ward and Mendenhall on the offensive side of the ball, and Bryant McFadden leading the charge on the defensive side of the ball (15 tackles today, 12 solo), this team could survive this month-long stretch in decent shape. 

-Welcome back Michael Vick? 

This was the best Michael Vick has looked in years.  The guy played inspired football and almost brought the Eagles back against a very tough Packers team.  Starter Kevin Kolb went down with a concussion in the 2nd quarter, and the electric Michael Vick came to the rescue for the fighting city of Philadelphia.  He rushed for over 100 yards and threw for 175.  Should Vick start over a healthy Kolb next week?  Coach Reid definitely has some thinking to do.  It was nice to see the playmaker back in action bringing back some of the memories of the old glory days (in a weekend where his alma mater took their worst loss in school history). 

-Are the 49ers a pretender? 

Many, including myself picked the 49ers to win the ultra weak NFC West.  Well today, they took a good old-fashioned butt whooping from a divisional rival.  San Francisco came out smoking but then had a rough end to the first half and continued to get worse as the game progressed.  Frank Gore’s rushing attack was non-existent.  Alex Smith threw 2 interceptions.  And I could go on.  Vernon Davis was the only bright spot on the day for the 49ers.  Where is that amazing defense we have been hearing about all off-season and theat newly improved offense?  Are the 49ers contenders or pretenders? 

-Blinded by the hype? 

Another team that thoroughly disappointed was the Cincinnati Bengals.  This team looked to still be playing a preseason game until the 3rd quarter of this one.  And a Patriots team, that definitely has a chip on their shoulder due to the talk of the Jets being the favorite in the AFC East, steamrolled Cincinnati.  The only bright spot for the Bengals on this day was Chad OchoCinco and glimpses of a big time aerial attack.  Sure Carson threw for 345 yards.  But what happened to the smash mouth, run first Bengals (now I realize they were behind so they needed to throw).  Palmer threw the ball 50 times today.  Cedric Benson only had 15 carries.  The real show in this game was the reunited amazing connection of Wes Welker and Tom Brady.  These guys picked up right where they left off following Welker’s knee injury.  The best slot receiver in football had 8 catches and 2 TDs.  Are the Patriots a Super Bowl contender? 

-Is Chris Johnson Superman? 

Chris Johnson picked up right where he left off at the end of last year.  On this day, he led his Titans to an easy victory over an overmatched Raiders team.  Johnson compiled 142 rushing yards and 2 TDs.  And once again broke loose for a big time run of 70+ yards.  The guy is outstanding and looks to only be getting better.  The rest of the League needs to beware of Chris Johnson. 

-Can Roy Williams catch a break in Dallas? 

So in one of the most sloppy games I have ever seen in my life, the Redskins began the Mike Shanahan/Donovan McNabb era with a victory over the rival Cowboys.  The Redskins went 0 and 6 in the vaunted NFC East last season and were ecstatic to get that monkey off their shoulders in Week 1.  Since the arrival of Williams in Dallas, things have progressively gotten worse as he went from being a big time pick up to a guy that fans in Dallas booed consistently.  Once again Roy had a modest evening, of 3 catches for 21 yards, but on the last play of the game, he had appeared to come up with the catch that probably would have won the game for the Cowboys (barring an extra point attempt).  Roy’s heart had to be pounding.  Then he and the rest of Cowboy nation saw a yellow flag on the field.  Alex Barron, the Cowboys 6th year (1st with Cowboys) offensive tackle out of Florida State, had done the unthinkable.  Against a weak, 3 man Washington rush, he blatantly held Redskin linebacker Brian Orakpo.  So Roy’s heroics are already all but forgotten.  Sorry Roy.  Mine as well jump on the Miles Austin bandwagon with the rest of America. 

So these are just a few stories from an amazing opening Sunday.  The NFL is back in the flesh baby. 

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze. 

-TheSportsKraze 

“AFC North Preview”

How will the arrival of Anquan Boldin in Baltimore and another number 81 in Cincinnati affect the AFC North this year?

Welcome to perhaps the most brutal conference in the NFL.  Or at least the most physical.  These teams are generally tough both on and off the field.  Most off-seasons, you hear a lot of press about what these players are doing with their spare time and normally it is not good news.  You ever hear the saying, “No news is good news?”  Well the AFC North does not believe in that saying.  This is a division with great rivalries, great players, and great fans.  Many say Pittsburgh, or “Shitsburgh” as many Cincinnatians like to say, possesses the best fan base in American sports.  All I have to say is, there is no love lost in the rivalries of this very unpredictable and talented division.

AFC North: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers (alphabetical order)

Cleveland Browns (4th place):  It seems like the Browns have been inhabiting the cellar for some time now.  In actuality, they have resided in this position every year but 2 since the year 2002.  So there is quite a familiarity with always looking up at their rivals in the standings.  And this year will be no different for a town where things continue to get worse.  The Indians have been god awful the past few years.  Their “King” and savior Lebron James, just jumped ship and added insult to the wounds by having a 1 hour special to make the “Decision,”  and the Browns continue to struggle.  Also lets not forget that winters in Cleveland are awful.  But this team truly does not have much to bring to the table.  They had the worst offense in the League last year for a reason.  They had a passing attack that reminded me of watching a high school team (averaging 129 yards per game).  This year they will have a new QB in Jake Delhomme, who can hopefully rekindle the fire a little bit.  Also their rushing attack will rely squarely on the shoulders of Jerome Harrison and the rookie out of Tennessee, Montario Hardesty.  Now Harrison is not terrible, nor was Cleveland’s rushing attack last year.  But this was partly because they ran the ball so much.  Also on the offensive side of the ball, much will be expected of Mohamed Massaquoi and Joshua Cribbs.  Massaquoi had a few big games last year, and has the talent to be a big play receiver.  But does this really sound like an offense that will be able to score against the likes of the Ravens, Bengals, or Steelers?  On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns are nearly just a bad.  This unit will depend heavily on a hopefully healthy Shaun Rogers, a hopefully healthy D’Qwell Jackson, and the always fun to watch Eric Wright in the secondary.  With the arrival of TO in Cincy and Boldin in Baltimore, Wright along with his buddies in the Cleveland secondary may actually need some Pepto Bismal.  Lastly, realize the best play the Browns have is on their special teams.  No team in the League possesses a threat like Joshua Cribbs in the return game.  This may be the Brown’s only hope to steal some games in the brutal AFC North.  As many in Cincinnati say, “If it is Brown flush it down.”  Well the Browns sadly are going to be down, and are in for another long season.

Pittsburgh Steelers (3rd place):  Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the best run franchises in professional sports will go a second consecutive year without tasting the postseason.  It is not that the Steelers are even so bad, it’s that the Bengals and Ravens will be very tough this year.  When talking about Steeler football, defense always comes to mind right away.  And this team does have a rough a tough defensive unit.  They are one of the top run stopping teams in the League, but do struggle with defending against the aerial attack at times.  James Farrior and James Harrison continue to get better with age it seems like.  Troy Polamalu, when healthy is one of the League’s best.  And Ryan Clark is becoming more and more well-known around the League for his bone shattering hits.  But the flash of the secondary cannot hide its inability at times to defend against the pass.  Big hits only can get you so far in this League.  Guys like Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark, Troy Polamalu, and all the recently drafted rookies in the secondary could make or break this team down the stretch.  Can Pittsburgh prevent the big play?  Offensively this team has a major issue before the season even starts.  Big Ben Roethlisberger, their quarterback and leader, will miss at least the first 4 games, and possibly more.  This will hurt.  It would not have been as big of a blow in the past, since the Steelers were always a smash mouth running team.  But they have turned into a pass first offense along with most of the NFL.  Can Dennis Dixon make sure the Steelers do not dig themselves another early season whole this year?  Because believe me, the Ravens and Bengals will be too tough to allow Pittsburgh to dig out of a massive early year deficit.  Is Rashard Mendenhall ready to carry the load as the featured back?  How many more solid years does Hines Ward have left?  The loss of their top receiver Santonio Holmes hurts, and it will be interesting to see if young guns Mike Wallace and Limas Sweed are ready to step up.  Pittsburgh will be a good team this year and win probably 6 to 8 games, but they will not be good enough to make the playoffs.  There are just too many question marks on both sides of the ball.

Baltimore Ravens (2nd place):  The bad boys out of Baltimore will make the playoffs for a 3rd consecutive year.  And though they would prefer to win the division, they will still be a tough out as a Wild Card.  This team has had a fantastic off-season and finally look to have the tools of a top-notch offensive squad.  So the Ravens will finally have a very tough offense to compliment their always tough defense.  Defensively, it is the same story it has been for the better part of a decade.  They stop the run better than anybody, rarely ever giving up 100 rushing yards in a game.  Ray Lewis, the future Hall of Famer, and possibly the best linebacker of all time continues to perform even at the ripe age of 35.  They also feature a very strong safety tandem in Dawan Landry and Ed Reed.  Plus Terrell Suggs, along with Ray Lewis may be the best linebacking duo in the League (even though Ray is 35).  But the corners have been a question the past couple of years, and may be the only minor flaw on this otherwise awesome team.  Can Domonique Foxworth, Fabian Washington, and David Carr defend the likes of the Bengal’s outstanding trio of big play receivers?  These matchups will probably determine who wins the AFC North.  So strap in for some excitement there.  There is also the Ravens now revamped offensive side of the ball.  Joe Flacco, looks to be a quarterback that will continue to win in this League for some time.  And now he has some great weapons to throw to in Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, and Donte Stallworth.  He also still has the former ASU standout, Todd Heap to throw too.  Also the Ravens possess one of the best rushing attacks in the entire League.  Between the up and coming Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and big boy Le’ron McClain, defenses beware.  These guys are no fun to deal with.  And with the look of a team that should really be able to throw the ball downfield, teams will not simply be able to just key on the vaunted Raven’s rushing attack.  Look out for the Ravens in 2010, as they look to go deep into the playoffs.

Cincinnati Bengals (1st place):  Who Dey Nation has been celebrating for the past couple of days.  The TO Show has arrived in Cincinnati to add to an already solid receiving corps.  This team, which was one of the League’s best in running the ball last year should now be able to throw deep with authority.  They have 3 big play receivers in Owens, Ochocinco, and Bryant.  Not to mention the surehanded Andre Caldwell to act as a possession guy, and Jermaine Gresham at tight end.  Also they have one of the League’s best running backs in Cedric Benson.  Carson Palmer has a heck of a team to work with offensively.  Be ready to witness the Carson Palmer of 2005 all over again. Redemption will be so sweet for the former USC standout.  The Bengals on the defensive side of the ball last year, behind the tutelage of Mike Zimmer, became one of the League’s elite.  Do not expect that to change this season as guys continue to get healthy.  The Bengals were extremely efficient at stopping both the run and the pass.  The cornerback tandem of Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph is now known around the football stratosphere as one of the League’s elite.  Really for the Bengals, there are two question marks.  First of all is Carson ready to start playing like an elite quarterback again(which I think he is)?  And secondly, can the Bengals get healthy at safety and defend against a team like the Ravens, who have so many weapons?  With the Bengals, as with any team around the League, the big challenge is to stay healthy.  But this is by far the deepest and most talented team Marvin Lewis has ever had in Cincinnati.  Look for this team to have a big time year and play deep into the postseason.

So there you have.  The AFC North will be brutal as usual and will be represented in the playoffs by both the Bengals and Ravens like last year.  The only real question in this division is can the opposing secondaries handle the deep threats of the Bengals and Ravens?  We will begin to find out come September.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze