Tag Archives: Marvin Lewis

Week 9 NFL Power Rankings: Eagles take flight

Photo courtesy of blog.pennlive.com. LeSean McCoy (pictured above) has been simply sensational this year for Philadelphia. If this team finds a way into the postseason, much of it will be due to the featured running back.

By Wesley Kaminsky

It took seven games, a fourth quarter collapse against the 49ers, but the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles have finally arrived. In their 34-7 domination of the Cowboys on Sunday Night, every thing was clicking, and the self-proclaimed “Dream Team” looks as though they are finally figuring it all out. That wasn’t all that happened this weekend, though.

The Ravens needed an 18-3 second half effort to beat the Cardinals, 30-27, while the Saints got shocked in St. Louis 31-21. The wild season that is taking place this season just continues to get more unpredictable. Who had the Chiefs winning four straight games after their miserable 0-3 start? Seriously, did anybody have the 49ers, Bills, and Bengals with a combined 17-5 record at this point in the season?

I didn’t think so. Continue reading

Five NFL Coaches on the Hot Seat in 2011

Photo courtesy of franklinstripfanatics.com. According to our very own Wesley Kaminsky, Marvin Lewis (pictured above) is one of five coaches on the hot seat as we get ready for the NFL season.

By Wesley Kaminsky

It’s almost that time of the year again, and yes I’m talking about the NFL season. With the lockout nearly over, it is time to start thinking about the 2011 NFL season, and forget about all the nonsense that went on this off-season.

Every year, at some point, there are head coaches fired during the season. It simply is something that always happens every season, and this season I expect nothing less.

There will be teams that exceed expectations, and teams that disappoint. If a team is struggling badly, the scrutiny is put right to the head coach. Here we go. Continue reading

“Food for Thought 1-5-2011”

Marvin Lewis (pictured above) will remain the Head Coach of the Cincinnati Bengals after a woeful 4 and 12 season that began with very high hopes in Cincinnati. Was this a good decision to bring Lewis back?

I apologize for my recent hiatus from the blogging world.  Over the past week and a half I had the pleasure of serving on the Orange Bowl Junior Host Committee.  In this position, I had the opportunity to stay with the Stanford Football Team at the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami and enjoy a week full of festivities and hard work with the team, their families, the coaches, and illustrious alumni.  It was truly a phenomenal experience and something that I will not soon forget.

Boy has the sporting world been busy over these past couple of days though.  Here are my thoughts on some of the major headlines taking the sporting world by storm.

It was fun while it lasted Rich..

-Okay that is a false statement.  It was not fun while it lasted.  Rich Rodriguez had one of the most tumultuous and lackluster tenures ever in the history of the storied program out of Ann Arbor.  Coach Rodriguez, after a highly successful stay in Morgantown brought his talents to Michigan 3 years ago.  Boy did things go downhill from there.  Rich went a combined 15 and 22 during his time on the Wolverine sidelines, sporting a record of 6 and 18 in Big Ten play.  The most eye-popping statistic of all is that he went just 11 and 11 at home, in the “Big House.”  How is this possible to go just 500 playing in a stadium that seats over 112,000 people?  In my eyes, there is no excuse to go just 500 leading arguably College Football’s most storied program in front of over 112,000 screaming fans on Saturdays.  So who will be the next man to take over this once coveted position?  Could it be Jim Harbaugh?  Could it be Les Miles?  Who knows.  All I do know is that whomver the next coach is better win more games than they lose at the Big House.  Or they will be leaving the House in a hurry.

Buckeye Troublemakers escape in NOLA

-Generally Bourbon Street is not the best place to go when you have a team that is full of guys that have broken the rules and have an uneasy future.  Surprisingly though, for Ohio State, Bourbon Street provided just the medicine that their “Bad Boys” were looking for.  All 5 of the “troublemakers” contributed significantly to Ohio State’s first ever win versus an SEC opponent in a Bowl Game.  Now I know many of you out there are thinking that none of the 5 guys who broke the rules should have been suited up for this one.  And I fully agree with you.  But I will state that the 5 game suspension for next year is unreasonable and should most definitely be reduced.  I understand that these guys broke the rules, but I feel that what they did in no way garners a 5 game suspension.  Believe me, Arkansas was happy that the 5 Ohio State stars were not suspended for this Sugar Bowl duel.  They wanted to take on a Ohio State team at full strength. Mallett and the Razorbacks nearly pulled off an improbable comeback too.  The main storyline from this game in my eyes other than the Buckeyes saving face for the Big Ten, in what has been a horrific Bowl Season, should be Jim Tressel’s conservativeness.  The man with the sweater vest is the most conservative coach I have ever watched.  And I understand that he is a football genius and has won a lot of ballgames while on the sidelines in Buckeye Nation.  But his lack of imagination and “play not to lose” mentality is sickening.  I in a way wish Arkansas would have completed the comeback in this game.  It would have demonstrated how ridiculous Tressel’s boring and risk free play truly is.  The first step in loosening up Coach Tressel could be altering his wardrobe.  It would be a start.

Wild Wild West?

-Mark Cuban is making headlines again.  This time though, it is not for jawing at the refs or working to bring a playoff system to College Football.  On this occasion, it pertains to a war of words with current Los Angeles Laker’s Head Coach Phil Jackson.  The Dallas Mavericks just took a heavy blow to their roster in losing Caron Butler for an extended period of time due to a knee injury.  Butler is the Maverick’s third leading scoring at 15 points a game, and a real spark plug for Dallas on both ends of the floor.  Phil Jackson when asked about the subject said that the loss of Butler could be a devastating loss for the Mavericks.  Cuban responded calling Jackson Jeanie Buss’ “Boy Toy.”  Who doesn’t love a war of words between two of the biggest names that are not players the League has to offer?  So it is a bit childish.  Either way it makes for some entertainment.  Could this lead to a heated rivalry between Dallas and LA?  We will have to wait and see.  In the meantime, Jackson has work to do with his LA squad.  Though they are in first place sitting at 24 and 11, they recently suffered a 3 game losing streak at the end of December, and then began the new year with an embarrassing loss to Memphis.  I smell playoff drama come April/May.

Why Marvin?

-The Bengals decided to rehire their head coach of the past 8 years, Marvin Lewis.  I will state that I feel this is a poor decision not only for the Bengals, but for Coach Lewis as well.  This team has never developed a consistency level or gotten over the hump.  0 playoff wins in 8 years means no job in my eyes.  Now sure, Marvin has taken the woeful Who Deys to 2 AFC North Titles in 8 years, which is highly impressive for a franchise that had not participated in postseason ball in 15 years.  But the NFL is a what have you done for me lately League.  And what he has done lately has not been impressive.  A 4 and 12 mark with a team that featured the talent and depth that Cincy had this year is unacceptable.  I also realize that not all the blame should be pinned on Coach Lewis.  But in the NFL, regardless of if it is the Coach’s fault or not, they are normally the first guy to exit when a team is not winning.  When I look at things from Marvin’s perspective.  I do not understand why he would return.  Maybe he saw no other jobs out there that were of interest to him (though there are plenty of jobs on the market)?  Mike Brown will never let him have the control that he, and any other coach in the NFL desires.  Until Mike Brown goes, no Coach will ever see sustained success in Cincinnati.  So I guess as a Bengal’s fan, whether Marvin is on the sideline or not does not make a major difference.

There are my thoughts on some of the major topics going on in the sporting world today.  I am also game to talk about Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven being voted into the Hall of Fame and the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes.  Shoot me an email with your thoughts and questions at contact@thesportskraze.com or post a comment below.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Food for Thought on 12-8-10”

Kansas Junior, Marcus Morris (pictured above), has turned into one of the most talented forwards in the country. Could he lead Kansas to a Big 12 Championship and a run to the Final Four?

Due to popular demand, I am going to bring back the “Food for Thought” concept and make this more of a weekly type of ordeal.  People want to hear my thoughts on the various topics going on in the always busy, wide world of sports, and this is a way for me to do that on a weekly basis.

So here are some of the main topics making headlines and my incite on them:

-The “Old School” Texas basketball squads are not looking so old.

Is anybody else amazed by the red-hot starts of both the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks?  Both of these teams that many called “too old” at the beginning of the season sport the League’s two best records.  The Spurs  are a formidable squad that has 5 players averaging 11 or more points a game.  This team is full of experience, deep, and led by one of the best coaches in the NBA.  And then you have the Mark Cuban squad out of Dallas.  The Mavs have now won 10 straight games and are just blowing away the competition.  Dallas also plays a great brand of team basketball and is being led by arguably the game’s greatest shooting 7 footer ever, in Dirk Nowitzki.  Nobody talked about either of these team’s as contenders in the Western Conference.  It appears the Wild Wild West will have to go through Texas come playoff time.

-“Pistol” Pete Sampras has lost his bling.

Pete Sampras was possibly the most consistent player ever to play on the men’s professional tennis tour and arguably the greatest of all time.  He was an amazing champion who sported the greatest 2nd serve of all time and had the innate ability to stay cool during even the most pressure filled situations.  Well this situation is something he is not accustomed too.  Between moving houses, he stored many of his tennis trophies and memorabilia at a Los Angeles Public Storage Facility.  Pete always was good at taking care of business on his own during his phenomenal career.  He was not only a great player on the court, but he was a great person off of it.  This incident demonstrates to Pete why he played an individual sport where he only needed to depend on himself.  It is hard to trust in others for anybody, but I am sure Sampras will have a very hard time after this unfortunate occurrence to trust anybody.  I really hope his trophies and various memorabilia are found in the near future.

-Dave Wannstedt bids adieu to Panther Nation.

Can anybody really say that they did not see this coming?  The man with maybe the best mustache in College Football spent 6 years in Panther Nation.  And nearly every year started with high expectations and ended with some sort of downer.  This was supposed to be the year for Pittsburgh.  The Big East was way down.  Their rival Cincinnati was going through a major coaching transition.  And  the Panthers were extremely talented with the likes of Dion Lewis, Jon Baldwin, and Greg Romeus.  Instead, Pitt opened up the year with a very disappointing loss to Utah. And never really got it all together, finishing at 7 and 5. Plus they failed to nab the Big East’s automatic BCS Bowl bid.  So although Pitt finally won a share of the Big East Championship this year, it was not good enough to get into the BCS Bowl.  Wannstedt seems like a good guy.  But boy does he struggle to win big games.  And in the highly competitive and intense atmosphere that is College Football, the difference between a good coach and a great coach is the ability to win big games.  Some guys have it.  Some guys do not.  Here is a final though on this topic.  Could anybody see Bengal’s current coach Marvin Lewis on the Pitt sidelines next September?  Weirder things have happened.

-It is Rock Chalk Time as the beat goes on in Lawrence.

And the beat goes on for the Jayhawks.  Sure this team started out the year ranked in the Top 10.  But last year was “the year” in Lawrence.  And with the departures of Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, and Xavier Henry, nobody was expecting this team to be a Final Four Contender.   This team looks to have the potential to be the real deal.  Sure they have only played one real quality opponent.  Sure they struggled to victories over UCLA and Arizona.  But the Jayhawks are now 8 and 0, with a great opportunity to start conference play undefeated.  Plus they dominated a solid Memphis team on national television last evening.  This team plays phenomenally disciplined on the offensive end of the court.  They lead the country in assists per game and field goal percentage.  You know Bill Self has to be happy at the high percentage his team shoots from the floor and the way that they share the ball.  Marcus Morris has developed into one of the best forwards in the country and is extremely versatile.  The Morris twins remind me of the Lopez twins out of Stanford.  Could this team make some noise come March?  That is yet to be determined, but you better believe that these guys will contend with Kansas State for the Big 12 Title.

So there you have my “Food for Thought” on this Wednesday afternoon.  There is so much going on and I was only able to touch on a few things here.  If you want to hear my thoughts on anything else going on in the sporting world, please comment below and I will be sure to reply.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Cardiac Cats?”

After last night's heartbreaking loss to the rival Steelers, many are calling for an end to the Marvin Lewis/Carson Palmer era. And I cannot say that I disagree at this point.

Initial Outlook
Last year the Bengals were known nationally as the “Cardiac Cats.”  A team that continuously won close games.  In Weeks 3 through 5 last season, the Bengals gave most Cincinnatians heart attacks in winning three straight games by 3 points.  Each of these games were capped off by a Carson Palmer version of the 2 minute drill.  The Bengals were a team that played old school smash mouth football and won ugly.  This was supposed to be the year where they continued to win, but also regained the 2005 swagger offensively.  With the arrival of TO and the drafting of Jermaine Gresham, this offense was supposed to provide fireworks every week.

Things have not panned out that way.

This year’s team has lost 4 times by a TD or less.  They cannot win a close game.  Tonight, they gave the Steelers a free 10 point spot due to special teams blunders.  That has been the story of the year for this group.  Mistake after mistake.  A lack of discipline in all facets.  The MNF Crew stated it best.  The Bengals are a team with a boat load of “potential.”  The Steelers are a team that “produces.”  What would you prefer?

Recap of Tonight’s Blunder

Tonight the team showed some life in the 4th and almost put on a performance reminiscent of last season’s “Cardiac Cats,” but with style.  It didn’t happen.  Chad Ochocinco whimpered and wilted under the pressure.  Our most sure handed receiver, Jordan Shipley dropped a pass in the numbers on the last play.  Cedric Benson only accounted for 54 yards on the ground.  Leon Hall, one of the top cornerbacks not only on the team, but arguably in the entire League, fell asleep at the wheel on a 39 yard TD pass to Mike “Flash” Wallace at the start of the 4th Quarter.  And I could go on.

The sad thing is they really pushed the Steelers to the limit tonight.  The Who Deys were down 20 points in the 4th Quarter to arguably the best team in the AFC and had a chance to win down the stretch.  The aerial attack started clicking.  The defense played lock down football for the majority of the 4th quarter.  But it just wasn’t in the cards tonight.  The ending of this game was a prime demonstration of why the Steelers are 6 and 2 and the Bengals are 2 and 6.  These are two teams heading in very different directions.

A Makeover is Needed

This team has provided some flash and glamour the past couple of weeks.  It has not amounted to wins.  The Bengals are currently on a 5 game losing streak and are inhabiting the cellar of the AFC North. Better yet, this team has lost 10 of their last 13 games dating back to last season. Should Marvin be on the hot seat? 

You better believe it.  This is by far the most talented and deep team of the Marvin Lewis era.  Yet they are in last place.  As Wade Phillips learned yesterday in Dallas, if you have a talented squad and you don’t produce W’s, the Coach is the first guy to go.  Marvin may be a good guy, but his time has come.  The  Lewis/Palmer era needs to come to a close.

Both Marvin and Carson are great guys.  But they have not been able to get over the hump.  Lewis is running an extremely undisciplined ship which continually gets ripped on by every NFL analyst across America (rightfully so).  And watching Carson can just be super frustrating at times in that all of Cincinnati knows what he is capable of.  Sadly for the city, he never reached that potential, which seems to be a common theme for this squad, and really this franchise.

Lastly, Bob Bratkowski, the Bengal’s Offensive Coordinator must go.  He runs the most bland and vanilla offense I have ever watched.  Even with a team that features the likes of Owens, Ochocinco, Shipley, and Gresham.  Now I know many of you are thinking that his play calling in the 4th was okay last night.  And it was.  But the only time Bratkowski lets Carson utilize his weapons is when the team is down by 14 or more in the 4th Quarter.  Give me a break.  Why can’t the offensive playbook be open from the 1st Quarter on.  What does this team has to lose at this point?

This Bengal’s team is tough to watch.  There were high expectations coming into the season even before the Who Deys picked up one of the all time great receivers in Terrell Owens.  The arrival of the TO Show instantly made the Cincy boys a contender.  Well that has not been the case.

Overall Thoughts

-Though Carson showed glimpses tonight, he is not a shell of what he was in 2005. 

-This team is horrible all around on special teams even including the sure footed Mike Nugent tonight. Quan Cosby may be the worst punt returner in the entire NFL.  Why would you have a guy returning punts that is 0 threat to ever take one back?  

-The O-line cannot protect.  Carson seemed to be rushed on every play the entire 2nd half even when the comeback was being amounted. 

-Chad Ochocinco is not Chad Johnson.  His head is “Dancing With the Stars.” 

-Cedric Benson has shown big play ability on the ground, but he does not get much opportunity since this team is always fighting for dear life to come back late in games. 

-And Marvin Lewis’s squad is extremely undisciplined all around.  This team is highly penalized and makes a plethora of mental mistakes every game.  What was going through Leon Hall’s head on the deep ball to Mike Wallace at the beginning of the 4th Quarter tonight? 

-I mean this team has the 3rd ranked defense in the NFL in regards to yards given up a game.  Yet they are 2 and 6?

Final Thoughts

I am still a huge Bengal’s fan.  I am still pulling for this team to save face this year.  But this is definitely not the “Cardiac Cats” from a year ago.  People can still refer to this Bengal’s team as the “Cardiac Cats,” but not for the same reasons they were called this nickname in 2009. This team really needs a makeover in the offseason.  It will all start with getting a new head coach and a new quarterback sadly.

What are your thoughts?

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Weekly Nickel”

The saying goes, "Perception is a reality." Well Bengal's Head Coach, Marvin Lewis (pictured above), is in desperate need of a big time Monday Night Football win against the rival Steelers.

The 3rd edition of the Weekly Nickel is here.  And boy do we have another exciting week ahead of us in the sporting stratosphere.  All the major sports are overlapping at this point, and you got to love it.  Next week at this time, the baseball season will be in the books.

5.  The NBA is already a few games in.  The Heat could possibly be forreal after giving an execution to the Magic this weekend.  But my best matchup of the week takes place tonight.  My two sleeper teams match up in what should be a great game between two of the League’s top young teams.  Portland heads to the windy city to take on a very talented Chicago Bulls team.  Who you got?

4.  The NFL flys into Week 9.  Hard to believe this season is already halfway finished.  The Chiefs continue to shock the entire league as they remain in first place in the AFC West.  Also do not forget about Dallas and San Francisco dwindling in the cellars of their divisions.  The NFL is the most parity filled professional sport we have.

3.  The 10th week of NCAA Football.  The BCS picture is starting to become a bit clearer (if that is possible).  And there are some major matchups this weekend.  Two top five opponents, TCU and Utah are set to rumble.  A major SEC duel between Alabama and LSU, possibly the two best 1 loss teams in the country.  Plus there are a couple of other matchups between ranked foes.  Saturday will be a Gameday to remember.

2.  Could San Francisco be bringing home a World Series?  This franchise has not won a world title since 1954.  And that was a Willie Mays led Giant’s team that played in New York.  Could history be made this week in the bay area?

1.  Fine I am a homer.  But the biggest sporting event coming up this week is the Bengals Monday Night Football Showdown with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.  For most of America, this is just your typical Monday Night matchup, but for Cincinnati, this is a game that could make or break the season.  Sure the Who Deys have been highly disappointing and sit at just 2 and 5, but a win against the Steelers in front of a huge national audience could help save the season in a way.  It could also help save the job of Head Coach, Marvin Lewis.

So there you have the 3rd edition of the Weekly Nickel.  Let me hear your thoughts.  Do you agree with my top 5?

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

“NFL Week 4 Predictions”

Future Hall of Fame Linebacker, Ray Lewis (pictured above), looks to lead his Ravens to a big time road victory over bitter divisional rival, Pittsburgh.

 After this week, most teams will be done with a fourth of the games already.  Boy does time fly by.  But this is the time of year where many of the pretenders start to get weeded out and the contenders show that they are in fact the real deal.  

There are 3 teams that are currently still undefeated.  Those teams are the Chicago Bears, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I have none of these teams making the playoffs and they are truly demonstrating how amazing the parity in the NFL can be. 

After 3 weeks in the pick’em challenge, the scoreboard reads: 

TheSportsKraze:  30                                    CV3:  28 

TheSportsKraze Picks

49ers at Falcons:  An underachieving San Francisco team versus an Atlanta team that is flying high after a big win over the defending champs.  Conventional wisdon would say to pick the Falcons in this one.  The Falcons have ridden a phenomenal offense, that features one of the game’s best rushing attacks to first place in the NFC South.  The 49ers have been very Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde like, showing glimpses of a playoff caliber team at times.  If this game was on the west coast, I will give the 49ers a chance.  The 49ers were the “it” pick in the NFC West.  Sadly they will fall to 0 and 4 with a 10 point loss to the Falcons. 

Bengals at Browns:  The Battle of Ohio.  Always a fun game where the stats get thrown out the window.  The Cincinnati offense has looked anemic and many have been calling for a quarterback change, or at least, re-evaluation.  Fortunately for Cincinnati, they are taking on a Cleveland team that is winless for a reason.  They have not gotten the job done from an offensive or defensive standpoint.  Well the Who Deys have owned this series throughout the Marvin Lewis era and I expect a similar outcome on Sunday.  Look for the Bengals to move to 3 and 1 with a 13 point victory against an overmatched Cleveland squad. 

Jets at Bills:  I will admit the Bills surprised me with their effort against New England last week.  They showed some guts and even dare I say, moxy (whatever that is).  But it will not be enough against arguably the best team in the AFC.  The Jet’s stats are misleading due to a horrible offensive performance in Week 1.  Mark Sanchez is finally starting to look more comfortable out there as is the Jets rushing attack.  And good luck to Buffalo in putting up points against these outstanding Jet’s defense whether Revis plays or not.  Buffalo sports the worst overall offense in the League thus far for a reason.  Look for the Jets to run away with this one on the road by 13. 

Seahawks at Rams:  Two teams that each pulled off surprise victories in Week 3.  Seattle has looked very solid in 2 of their 3 games, while St. Louis appeared to finally awake from a preseason hangover against the Redskins.  Do I think either of these teams are serious playoff contenders?  Not really.  But anybody has a shot in the very weak NFC West, that the Seahawks are currently leading.  Neither of these teams rank too well offensively or defensively from a stats standpoint.  But I see the Seahawks demonstrating some poise down the stretch and following the lead of their veteran Matt Hassleback to their 3rd victory of the season.  It will be close, but a costly Bradford interception down the stretch will help Seattle prevail by 3 on the road. 

Broncos at Titans:  An underachieving Broncos team heads to the music city to take on a Tennessee team that has had 2 awesome games, and one against Pittsburgh that they would like to forget.  Though Denver has been solid against the run this year, it will not be enough to stop Chris Johnson and Co.  Look for CJ to be the difference in this game as Tennessee saves face at  home with a 7 points victory. 

Lions at Packers:  The Try’n Lions head to Lambeau to take on the Cheeseheads.  The Packers are coming off of a heartbreaking Monday Night loss to their bitter rival, Chicago.  I feel bad for Detroit is all I have to say.  I would not want to play arguably the most talented team in the League, coming off of a loss on the road.  Though Detroit has had a legitimate chance to win 2 of their 3 games, they have not faced off with a team that has an offense like Green Bay.  The Lions have one of the worst defenses in the League and struggle to stop the run or pass.  Look for Aaron Rodgers to light up the scoreboard as the Packers come out with a vengeance.  This one will be a laugher with the Packers coming out on top by 17. 

Ravens at Steelers:  One of the best rivalries in football here.  The Edgar Allen Poes head to Heinz Field looking to gain back a throne that many expected them to hold atop the AFC North.  The Steelers have shocked everyone, including myself, by starting out 3 and 0 without Big Ben.  This Steelers’s team has looked solid, living on their phenomenal defensive unit.  Pittsburgh’s offensive unit may be ranked dead last in the NFL, but they are also 1 of only 3 undefeated teams heading into Week 4.  The big question mark for a Baltimore team that many expect to possibly win the AFC was their cornerback position.  Well the Ravens are the top rated team against the pass in the NFL.  So they are doing something right.  I see Joe Flacco continuing to demonstrate his ability to make big plays with Anquan Boldin, as the Ravens steal a very close one on the road.  The Ravens will have just a little bit more offensive firepower in this matchup of two of the game’s best defensive units.  I got the Ravens by 1. 

Panthers at Saints:  Sorry Carolina.  Things are about to get worst as you head to Bourbon Street.  This is a similar scenario to which the Lions find themselves in this week.  Playing a very talented team coming off of their first loss of the season on the road.  Good luck.  Drew Brees and the Saints, even though their offense is ReggieBushless, will put up some numbers.  And their defense will feast on whatever young quarterback Carolina puts out there.  New Orleans may not possess a running game, but their aerial attack is one of the best in the game.  Carolina corners better make plays when opportunities are presented to them, unlike they did last week, or this game will be over fast.  I got the Saints by 14 at home. 

Colts at Jaguars:  Peyton Manning heads down to Jacksonville.  The Jags have looked terrible since Week 1.  And they have a major issue in this matchup.  They do not stop the pass.  And they are going up against Peyton Manning, possibly the greatest pocket passer of all time.  Pick your poison in this one.  All directions put to the Jaguars losing a game that shouldn’t even be close to Indy.  I got the Colts by 10 in this one. 

Texans at Raiders:  Houston finally got their wake up call.  The Cowboys took Houston “Back to life, back to reality.”  Well this week, they come back to a good reality.  As they match up with a pretty abysmal Oakland team.  Now I will admit Oakland’s D has been pretty solid so far.  But they also have not faced top-tier offenses like Houston has.  If Oakland clogs the run, look for Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub to hook up early and often.  If Oakland decides to not stack 8 in the box, look for Arian Foster to have a field day.  Either way, Oakland does not possess the horses to score enough points to keep up with the Texans exciting offensive attack.  I got Houston by 13 on the road. 

Redskins at Eagles:  This is quite possibly the most exciting matchup of the week.  Mentor vs Mentee.  Speed vs speed.  Righty vs Lefty.  You name it, the VickNabb show will be fun to watch.  Sadly for Washington though, they do not possess the overall team yet to compete with an Eagles squad that has gelled very quickly.  Now when these two teams match up again on Monday Night Football in November, it will be a completely different story.  But Donovan and this offense have not clicked in any way yet, and will not be able to put up enough points to support a defense that will struggle all day to contain the most athletic player in football.  It will be close, but I got the Eagles by 6 at home. 

Cardinals at Chargers:  Two teams that have surprised for different reasons are matchup up in San Diego.  The Cardinals are an unexpected 2 and 1, while the Chargers have surprised many with a rough 1 and 2 start.  Well the Chargers always start off the year slow.  This is a pick me up game where they get the ball going.  Look for Phillip Rivers to put up some big numbers and lead San Diego to a much-needed victory at home. This will begin a winning streak for the Chargers as they head into a very easy stretch on their schedule. Chargers by 7  in this one. 

Bears at Giants:  Da Bears looked awesome Monday Night.  The Giants on the other hand continued to disappoint and show their lack of consistency.  I got the Bears behind their phenomenal run defense taking care of business on the road and moving to 4 and 0.  Eli will have to have a big day in the air for the Giants to have any prayer.  And I just do not see it happening this week.  Bears by 6 on the road. 

Patriots at Dolphins:  What a great Monday Night Game folks.  Two bitter divisional rivals, looking to make an early statement.  These are two very different teams.  New England lives and dies on their vaunted aerial attack which features Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker.  The Dolphins really survive on a very solid defense led by Jason Allen and Yeremiah Bell.  Monday Night Football Games are very tough to predict in that the underdog commonly walks away the victor.  But for some reason, I expect Brady, who always performs well on the big stage, to lead the Patriots to a huge divisional victory by 1 on the road.  Patriots by 1. 

CV3’s Picks:

There is a distinct possibility that there could be 5 winless teams left in the NFL after week 4. Will those teams fight for a win to avoid the embarrassment of being winless? Also, there are some upset opportunities with the Raiders and Bills looking to shock some teams that are considered on their way to the elite class. Should be an interesting week to watch.

 Falcons over 49ers by 3- If we are following a trend here it is time for San Fran to play well this week. Even if they do, they will still have to overcome a good-looking Atlanta team at home. I take the chances of the Falcons playing well over the chance of San Fran coming out like they did against the Saints.

Packers over Lions by 10- Green Bay should trample the Lions at Lambeau. The Pack has proved that their D is strong and they will eliminate the mistakes made last week against Da Bears. Best should be in the line-up this week but he will be limited by the backers in green and yellow.

Jets over Bills by 8- I want to say the Bills are going to upset the Jets after competing with the Pats last week but I don’t think it is going to happen. The one way it could happen is if the Bills can pressure Sanchize. Again, I don’t think this will happen but I would love to see the J E T S go down this week to a 0-3 team.

Rams over Seahawks by 5- Seahawks have lost the last 16 of 19 on the road. Rams are energized this year with Bradford running the show. Look for them to impress the home crowd.

Titans over Broncos by 3- Chris Johnson is scary but so is Denver’s #1 passing offense. Kyle Orton can have a big day against the Titan’s secondary starting a rookie in place of an injured corner. I still have to go with the Titans because in the NFL you still have to be able to run the ball and the Broncos have too much trouble on the ground. 

Steelers over Ravens by 1- Everyone knows that this will be a low scoring SLUGFEST. If you do not like defense, do not watch this game but you will see some of the hardest hits all season during this game. Steelers take this round at home in this fight.

Saints over Panthers by 14- Notre Dame sucks, so does Jimmy Clausen. Saints win! (Take that BK) 

Colts over Jags by 7- These two seem to play each other tough. In their last 5 match-ups the winning team has won by 7 points or less. This one swings in favor of the Colts with Peyton’s boys clicking. 

Texans over Raiders by 10- The Raiders will prove to be a big match-up problem for Houston. With the Best corner in the league limiting Andre the Giant to 5 catches and 94 yards in their last three meetings, the Texans will need to find another way to get the job done. Either Houston clicks and blows through Oakland or they lose in an upset caused by one the NFL’s top defenses.

Chargers over Cardinals by 7- Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates. As long as these two are still on the field Sunday, San Diego will win the game.

Eagles over Redskins by 6- Michael Vick. 

Bears over Gmen by 9- The Bears offense is catching up to its D. The Giants lost last week at home, look for it to happen again with a pass happy Bears team rolling into town. Don’t kick it to Devin Hester, Gmen. Then maybe you have a chance.

Patriots over Dolphins by 3- Another Monday night thriller is ahead of us with an emerging team taking on the perennial Goliath in the division. The Patriots offense will be too difficult to stop and they will disappoint Miami fans who think they can hang in the division. Sorry Dolphins, you’re number 3, the first two spots are taken.

Bengals over Brownies by 8- D’Natti is making a trip to Cleveland, who will not win a championship in any sport in the foreseeable future. Zimmer will smother the Browns on offense and the Cleveland fans will still remain without hope for their Browns, Cavs and Indians. Hopefully Cincinnati fans get to see some life from Carson Palmer who hasn’t clicked with his new weapons at tight end and receiver yet. WHO DEY

So there you have both my and CV3’s picks.  A lot of very good matchups mixed in with some very lopsided looking affairs.  But the NFL is always unpredictable and fun.  Upsets are inevitable. It is very hard to pick which ones they will be. 

Enjoy the games folks. 

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze. 

-TheSportsKraze 

“NFL Week 2 Predictions”

It appears Michael Vick (pictured above), may be starting his first game since 2006 on Sunday. Does he still have the amazing athleticism that once made him the real "Human Highlight Reel?"

One week of the 17 week grind that is the NFL Regular Season has been completed.  Now we enter Week 2.  There is a little bit less mysteriousness to each squad.  There is a bit more familiarity and film to see what lays ahead.  But still, there are a ton of question marks.  A ton of teams looking to prove that Week 1 was a fluke, or for those teams that played well, that Week 1 was not a fluke.  Once again I go head to head with CV3 on picks.

Week 1 Results:  TheSportsKraze: 8             CV3:  9

TheSportsKraze Picks:

Steelers at Titans:  The Steelers proved me wrong last week.  But this week they are on the road with their young 3rd string quarterback in Dennis Dixon.  Not to mention they go up against the most dangerous running back in the NFL Chris Johnson.  Look for this to be a very competitive game, but expect CJ to be the game’s determining factor.  Titans by 3.

Dolphins at Vikings:  You think that Brett Favre and the Vikings like losing?  Now the Dolphins are a solid team, but you have to like Minnesota in their home opener.  The Vikings are a great all around team, that even though they played pretty awful in their opener, they were still in a position to beat the defending champs on the road.  Chad Henne, the former Wolverine, will struggle on the road against the outstanding pass rush of the very tough Viking’s defensive line.  Brandon Marshall, will have to make a couple of highlight reel plays to keep the boys from Miami in the game.  Though I think this game will be competitive most of the way, I got the Vikings by 10 at home.

Cardinals at Falcons:  Arizona is flying high after a big week one win at St. Louis.  Well not really.  They struggled against one of football’s worst teams and looked out of sorts for much of the game.  Other than a great 2nd quarter, and the phenomenal play of Steve Breaston, this team did not look like a team ready to make the playoffs for a 3rd consecutive year.  The Falcons on the other hand, nearly came away with a victory in Pittsburgh on Sunday.  And though their offense only mustered up 9 points, they were going against a whole different animal in the Steeler’s defense.  Look for Matt Ryan to connect with Roddy White early and often, and look for Michael Turner to have a big day on the ground.  I got the Falcons running away with this one by 13.

Ravens at Bengals:  This may be the marquee matchup of the weekend.  Two major AFC contenders and divisional rivals going head to head.  The Ravens surprised many with a major Monday Night win in New York.  While the Bengals shot their load in a bad loss to the New England Patriots.  This is a whole new week.  And expect to see a different Bengals defense, plus more of the offense you witnessed in the 2nd half of last week’s contest.  In the Marvin Lewis/Carson Palmer era, the Bengals are 9 and 5 against the Edgar Allen Poe Bad Boy Ravens.  I will state this though.  If the Bengals play like they did in the first half of last week’s game even for a quarter, the Ravens will throw the knockout punch early.  But I expect Mike Zimmer’s defense to play big time smash mouth defense, and Palmer’s offense to have a big day.  I got the Bengals by 3 in a nail biter.

Chiefs at Browns:  Can you say Jamaal Charles?  Teams have a history of big days on the ground versus the Browns over the years.  Well this game will be no different.  And though the Browns sport the best return man in football, Josh Cribbs, the Chiefs are not too shabby themselves with rookie Dexter McCluster.  The Chiefs were a team that I said would surprise people this year and sneak their way to a pretty solid season. They definitely turned some heads last week with a major upset victory over San Diego.  Look for the Chiefs to be 2 and 0 at the end of Sunday.  I got KC by 9 over Cleveland.

Bears at Cowboys:  Da Bears verse America’s team.  No big deal right?  Wrong.  Both of these teams have a lot to prove after weak performances in Week 1.  The Bears escaped against the Lions on a very controversial call.  I will state that I thought it was a completed pass to Calvin Johnson.  And the Cowboys helped the Redskins shock the world.  By beating themselves.  This week will be different.  Jerry Jones, will not let another team full of big time talent, choke away the season already.  Look for the Cowboys to come out with a vengeance and expect Miles Austin to have another big day.  Cowboys by 13 running away with this one.

Eagles at Lions:  Michael Vick to start again?  I feel like it is 2006 all over again.  Talk about a time warp.  Well both of these teams surprised many with their Week 1 performances.  Though the Lions have weapons with guys like Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best.  Without their former number 1 draft pick, quarterback Matt Stafford (injured), the Tryin Lions will not get to taste victory for the first time this season.  I got Michael Vick leading the Eagles to a 3 point victory in Detroit.

Bills at Packers:  Buffalo heads to Cheesehead Country.  Well it will not be a pleasant visit.  This is the game that I feel could end up with the most lopsided outcome of this week’s batch of contests.  The Bills are one of the worst teams in football in my eyes, while the Packers are perhaps the most well-rounded.  Look for Aaron Rodgers to make up for last week’s 2 interceptions with a 4 TD performance.  Green Bay get excited, as your boys begin the year 2 and 0.  I got Green Bay by 17. 

Buccaneers at Panthers:  Neither of these teams looked great in their openers.  Tampa escaped against a weak Cleveland team, while the Panthers were torched by the G Men.  This game will be close from the start, with two teams that are towards the bottom tier of the League.  At least we may get to see former Notre Dame big shot, Jimmy Clausen, start his first game in the NFL.  Believe me, it won’t matter.  Buccaneers by 6 in a matchup of two bottom feeders.

Seahawks at Broncos:  Seattle may have pulled off the biggest surprise of Week 1.  They absolutely killed the hot pick in the NFC West, the 49ers, relentlessly.  Matt Hassleback demonstrated great management skills at the QB position, while defensive back, Marcus Trufant, led the D to an outstanding performance.  The Broncos on the other hand, surprised many including myself, with a tough loss to the Jaguars.  2 key turnovers killed them last week, and could once again hurt them this week.  Kyle Orton threw for nearly 300 yards, going to Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royals with a great frequency.  Well the Seattle defense is much tougher than Jacksonville’s, or at least they looked like it last week.  I got the Seahawks continuing to surprise and moving to 2 and 0 with a 6 point victory in Denver.

Rams at Raiders:  This is a matchup that I could never tune into unless forced.  Two of the worst teams in the NFL going head to head.  There is really nothing appealing about this one in any way unless you are a Rams or Raiders fan.  I think the difference in this one will be Jason Campbell’s mediocre, yet steady play at quarterback.  I got the Raiders by 3 at home in a game that I do not recommend watching unless you are a fan of either squad.

Texans at Redskins:  Arian Foster, the story of Week 1, takes the Texan’s show to Washington.  The way Houston was able to run the ball last week, and the passing attack we know they posses could cause major problems for Washington (or anybody for that matter).  Though Washington pulled off perhaps the 2nd biggest upset of Week 1 over America’s team, the Texans destroyed a very tough Colts team.  Look for Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, and Andre Johnson to stay hot in this one.  Texans by 10 in D.C.

Patriots at Jets:  This is a great matchup.  The AFC East favorites locking horns already?  Can the Jets recover from last week’s embarrassing offensive performance on Monday Night?  Can the Patriots continue to play outstanding?  My brain is telling me to pick the Pats in this one, but I got the Jets.  Sanchez must wake up to give his team a chance though.  The Jets tenacious defense will force Randy Moss onto Revis Island, and the Jets will win this thriller by 1 point.

Jaguars at Chargers: Both of these teams surprised in Week 1.  The Jaguars surprised with a win, while the Chargers surprised with a loss.  Well, do not expect San Diego to fall to 0 and 2.  Especially since they are at home in this game.  Norv Turner has led this team to the playoffs every year he has been with them for a reason.  They have a tradition of starting slow, having started under 500 through their first 5 games for 3 straight years.  But they will take care of business this week.  I got SD by 7 at home.

Giants at Colts:  I feel bad for the G Men coming off a big time performance last week.  They are now facing an angry Colt’s team.  And you know what that means?  An angry and motivated Peyton Manning.  Not what you want to hear as an opponent.  Though the Giants are a very good team, good luck in going into Lucas Oil and knocking off Peyton’s Colts coming off of a loss.  I got the Colts by 10 in this one.

Saints at 49ers:  Two popular picks to bring home their respective divisions.  Though I believe the 49ers are much better than what they showed last week, they are playing the defending champs on Prime Time now.  Drew Brees, fresh off his debut appearance on the hit television show “Entourage” thrives on the big stage.  Sorry San Fran.  An 0 and 2 start will not be the end to your season in a weak NFC West by any means.  Saints by 9 in this one.

CV3’s Picks:

FALCONS over Cardinals by 6- Look for the Falcons offense to have a much better week after facing off with the Steelers. Both teams are playing at a similar level but the home field advantage and Falcon D should be enough to edge the Falcons over the Cardinals.

EAGLES  over Lions by 14- No Stafford, no win.

PACKERS over Bills by 10- Packers will roll at home with their offense, even without Ryan Grant. Look for the back-up Brandon Jackson to have a good day. Packers will be one of the teams with an early season winning streak.

Browns over Chiefs by 3- The Chiefs didn’t produce a whole lot when you look at the stats last week. The Browns can match the Chiefs on special teams and defense so I think the Browns have the edge if Delhomme plays. If not it is up in the air with two similar teams.

Cowboys over Bears by 10- The Boys should be embarrassed by their performance against the Skins last week. Jerry Jones will not let that happen in Jerry World. Look for the Cowboys to gel on offense and win a shootout against Jay Cutler and Mike Martz. 

Vikings over Dolphins by 6- Vikings are hungry for the W after a repeat loss to the Saints. They are playing at home and they will most likely stick to the run, as opposed to last week. AP should have a decent day with at least 2 TD’s in this one.

Titans over Steelers by 3- The Steeler’s D will not allow Chris Johnson to run all over them. I believe he will get to 100 yards but it will take about 25 carries. This should be another low scoring one with a good Steeler’s D and a stagnant Steeler’s offense. Unless for some reason DD comes alive the Titans offense will prevail.

Broncos over Seahawks by 8- The Broncos will have a good offensive showing in this one. Last week the Seahawks shut down a poor offense that has trouble throwing the ball. This week Orton will pick through their D with a lot of short “West-Coast” style passes. The Seahawks are on the rise but will take a loss in this one.

Panthers over Buccos by 6- I don’t believe either team will be close to the playoffs but I give the advantage to the Panthers in this one solely on the home field advantage. Last week the home teams won 75% of the games.

Raiders over Rams by 1- These two are pretty evenly matched but again I give it to the home team. I think Bradford will show flashes of a future star but he will fall short again in this one. The Raiders offense should get a boost if Michael Bush is able to play this week. He is a big bruiser that will open up the game for McFadden. Plus if the Raiders are going to win a few games this season you would think St. Louis would one of the few they will beat.

Patriots over Jets by 10- This one will not be very close. The Jets coaching staff showed that Mark Sanchez clearly isn’t ready for the big time game yet. They had no confidence in him and limited him to the short game. The short game is what the Patriots are best at. The Jets D has taken a big hit looking Jenkins and I don’t think they will be able to hang with the Patriot’s high-flying offense that resembles 2007 already.

Jags over Chargers by 3- Last week the Chargers showed that something is clearly off in their organization. I doubt it is a quick fix. The Jags just saw the mighty Colts go down and have some extra motivation now that they realize the Colts can be beat. Unless Rivers can rally his team, the Chargers will struggle again.

Texans over Redskins by 9- WOW… This Texans team is scary! I wouldn’t want to play ‘em.

Colts over Giants by 7- Big brother will show why he is still big brother in this one. Peyton is at home and they are angry. He will not miss a beat in this one. Look for a three or four touchdown performance by him in this one. Little Eli will have to wait another year before he gets to take down big bro.

Saints over 49ers by a lot- Hmm… the tough 49er’s D was not so tough against the Seahawks. I think we know what will happen in this one. The defending champs will show why they are the defending champs.

Bengals over Ravens by 5- I do not have much faith in Bratkowski but if he comes out flat (not using the no huddle) then he should be fired. He should have been gone a while ago but Mr. Brown won’t let that happen. If he cannot recognize how effective that offense was last week (in the no huddle) then he deserves no spot in the NFL. Everyone knows what the Raven’s D is capable of but their offense is not very productive. The Bengals are angry and ready to react (not think) on defense. Playing at home against a division rival, I’m taking the Bengals in this one.

Can I begin to catch up to CV3 this week?  Feel free to post your picks in the comments and see how you stack up.

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