Tag Archives: Monday Night Football

“Jon Gruden: Living the Good Life”

Former NFL Head Coach Jon Gruden (pictured on the far right) has become a key member to the ESPN Monday Night Football Crew and the ESPN NFL Team in general. He is already rising to the pinnacle of the NFL Analyst Game.

After watching the second year, of the extremely entertaining ESPN Special, entitled, “QB Camp,” I got to give the former NFL Head Coach and current ESPN analyst some major props.  Jon Gruden is a great football analyst and a real asset to the ESPN/ABC Team.  So what if the guy does not look particularly comfortable in the flashy ESPN suit attire.  The man knows football inside and out.  He is vastly entertaining.  Plus, he does not cross the line by being inappropriate, yet he also also does not cross the line by being too boring either (maybe he should teach Charles Barkley how to do this). Continue reading

“NFL Week 15 Predictions”

Amid many major matchups this weekend, the Jacksonville Jaguars, led by running back Maurice Jones-Drew (pictured above), have a chance to all but shut the door on the Indianapolis Colt's playoff hopes. Can the Jags complete the season sweep on their divisional rival?

After this weekend, there are just 2 more fun-filled Sundays with a full slate of NFL games.  Where did the season go?  This week is full of big time matchups and boy is the NFL different at this point than it was at Week 15 last year.

The Colts with a loss and a little help could be eliminated from postseason play entirely.  Peyton not in the playoffs?  In the words of Shannon Sharpe, “Cmon Man.”  The Eagles and Giants have a royal rumble for NFC East supremacy.  Who foresaw the Cowboys not being in the thick of these race?  Instead, they are in the cellar.  Though everybody knew the NFC West was weak, did anybody expect there to be 0 teams with a 500 or better record?  Could a sub 500 team make the playoffs?  In addition, the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that many thought were a Super Bowl contender, are now in the cellar and in contention for the Andrew Luck/Cam Newton sweepstakes.  Lastly, Rex Grossman will be starting for the Redskins due to the benching of starter Donovan McNabb.  Could it be “Grossmania” in Washington?

Lets take a look at the Pick’em Scoreboard.

TheSportsKraze:   123                          CV3: 126

So I made up a game.  Sadly I got this week, and the next two to catch the NFL Expert that is CV3.  Hopefully this week I can continue on the upward climb back to picking supremacy.

TheSportsKraze Picks:

Lions at Buccaneers:  Detroit is coming off of a big win, but their year is over.  They are already looking ahead to next season.  Tampa on the other hand has a shot to nab a Wild Card.  This is a must win for them if they want a prayer at making the postseason.  When teams are playing for something, they tend to choke.  But I do not see Tampa choking this week.  They will find a way to win another close one as they have done all year.  The Bucs choke job will happen in their final game against New Orleans.  Bucs at home by 6.

Eagles at Giants:  This may very well be the game of the week.  Michael Vick and the Eagles have been rolling behind an electric offensive unit.  Behind an extremely balanced offensive attack, the Eagles are one of the major feel good stories in the NFL this year.  The Giants on the other hand finally seem to be righting their ship.  They have won 3 games in a row since falling to Philly in mid November.  The Giants started the trend of teams really getting at Michael Vick.  Expect them to show a perfected craft in this home contest.  I expect both of these teams to make the playoffs.  But I have the Giants winning this one in a thrilling fashion by 1 in front of a hostile home crowd.

Saints at Ravens:  This is another outstanding matchup.  Fire vs fire.  The Saints high-powered aerial attack versus the Ravens stout defense.  Lately though, the Ravens D has not looked so stout.  The Texans moved the ball at will vs Baltimore in the 4th quarter last Monday and really showed the age of Baltimore’s D.  Can the Ravens regain their swagger?  I think so.  The Saints are playing great football and have won 6 straight.  But this game is in Baltimore.  The conditions should play in the Ravens favor as they sneak by with a 1 point victory.

Cardinals at Panthers:  These are both pitiful teams.  Luckily for Arizona, no matter how bad they have looked at times, they are not nearly as bad as Carolina.  Besides, Arizona showed some offensive life last week in laying a butt whooping on Denver.  The Panthers are playing for Andrew Luck.  They have the inside track to the number 1 pick and what reason do they have to give it up.  There is no motivation for the Panthers to win.  They won’t throw the game by any means.  But there will be no fire to help lead them to their 2nd win of the season.  Cardinals by 7 on the road.

Chiefs at Rams:  Both of these teams are tied for first in their respective divisions.  They both have a lot on the line.  The Chiefs live on an outstanding rushing attack while the Rams live on a balanced offensive unit.  Can Sam Bradford take care of business in the biggest game of his NFL career?  I think so.  I am taking the home team to shock the Chiefs.  Sorry KC.  The Chargers will take over the division from here.  Rams by 3 at home.

Bills at Dolphins:  Both of these teams surprised many with victories last week, including me.  The Bills have a decent rushing attack, but they struggle at stopping the run.  Well, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams should be ready to pound the rock come Sunday.  These two are a solid combination that should take advantage of a very weak Buffalo defensive front.  Also, they do not have to go to Buffalo and deal with the cold weather elements.  Buffalo will at least get to spend a few days out of the cold in Miami.  But they will go home with a cold feeling after losing a close one.  Dolphins by 3 at home.

Texans at Titans:  The Texans have ripped out the heart of Houston again.  Tennessee is also in the midst of a horrible year.  After a solid start, the Titans have now lost 6 straight games.  Expect it to be 7 after this week.  Sure Houston does not really have much to play for.  But Tennessee cannot stop the pass. Houston has an outstanding receiving corps and an elite QB.  Matt Schaub will have a field day come Sunday.  Texans by 10 on the road.

Jaguars at Colts:  The biggest game of the year for both of these squads.  I will admit I had the Jaguars coming in last in the AFC South back in September.  Boy was I wrong.  But Indianapolis has owned this division for over a decade for a reason.  Jacksonville will have to take on Peyton in his Indianapolis sanctuary. Good luck Jacksonville.  Look for Peyton to put on an MVP like performance in keeping his team alive.  Indianapolis does not miss out on the playoffs.  Colts by 7 at home.

Redskins at Cowboys:  The two bottom dwellers of the NFC East link up in Dallas.  America’s team has had a very odd season.  As have the boys out of the nation’s capital.  Rex Grossman gets the pleasure of taking on a Dallas team that has played much better football since the firing of former coach, Wade Phillips. The Skins were in the thick of things until their recent 3 game skid.  Dallas on the other hand has had nothing to play for since October.  Teams that have nothing to play for tend to play well.  Dallas has been no exception to this.  Cowboys by 6 at home.

Browns at Bengals:  The Battle of Ohio.  Sure neither of these teams are in contention.  Sure the Bengals will be blacked out on television again.  But this game is always a big one for both franchises.  Cincinnati can at least split with the Brownies with a home victory in this one.  Sure Cleveland has played very good football for the past couple of months.  But they showed some vulnerability in a loss to the Bills last weekend.  And for some reason, I still think the Bengals can win one more game this year.  What game would be better than a matchup against the rival Brownies, a team that is not “that much” better than them. Besides the Bengals have never lost more than 10 games in a row in franchise history.  The bleeding stops at 10 yet again.  Bengals by 3 at home.

Falcons at Seahawks:  The Falcons are arguably the best team in football.  And without question the top dog in the NFC.  Seattle on the other hand still finds themselves in the hunt in the NFC West.  Sadly for the Seahawks, the Falcons are still looking to clinch down their division.  With the Saints playing great football, the Falcons are highly motivated to continue their winning ways.  Expect Roddy White to have a field day against a depleted Seahawk’s secondary. Falcons by 10 at home.

Jets at Steelers:  Another stellar matchup.  Can Mark Sanchez and the Jets get it together?  Not exactly the ideal game for a struggling Jets offense that has not scored a touchdown in their past 2 games.  Great teams thrive under adversity though.  The Jets play like the old school Steeler’s teams.  They run the ball well.  And their defense is tenacious in every way.  The Steelers on the other hand sit atop the AFC North and are riding a 4 game winning streak.  In addition, they stop the run better than any team in the League.  Though I think the Jets are a great team who I picked to win the Super Bowl, I do not see them figuring things out in a must win game at Heinz Field.  The Steelers will be just too tough and win at home in a brutal battle by 3.

Broncos at Raiders:  An old school rivalry in the AFC West.  Denver has lost 4 in a row and cannot stop the run.  Oakland on the other hand can really run the rock.  Too much Darren McFadden in this one.  Raiders by 7 at home.

Packers at Patriots:  The Packers are fighting for their playoff lives while the Patriots are on cruise control, looking to lock up home field advantage.  If I were the rest of the AFC, I would pray that the Patriots do not clinch home field advantage throughout the duration of the playoffs.  Nobody wants to play in a cold Foxborough Stadium in a playoff atmosphere.  Sadly for the AFC, Rodgers suffered a concussion last week and is the motor that makes this lethal Green Bay offense go.  Whether he plays or not, he will not be full strength.  Though Green Bay defends against the pass at a high level, can anybody stop Brady and the Pats aerial attack?  Look for the Patriots to make it 6 in a row in Foxborough.  NE by 9 at home.

Bears at Vikings:  A Monday Night Affair that many had circled before the season even started.  Much has changed since September.  The Vikings are out of playoff contention and have been for some time now.  Brett Favre’s mythical streak has ended.  And the Bears are in first place.  Did anybody envision any of this 3 months ago?  Either way, when these teams take the field at the University of Minnesota’s field, god knows who will be playing QB for the Vikings.  But it will not matter.  Bears by 6 on the road.

CV3 Picks:

Bengals over browns by 7
Dallas over washington by 13
Houston over Titans by 3
Jags over Colts by 3
Chiefs over Rams by 7
Bills over Dolphins by 10
Giants over Eagles by 6
Bucs over Lions by 1
Cards over Panthers by 6
Saints over Ravens by 6
Falcons over Seahawks by 14
Raiders over Broncos by 14
Steelers over Jets by 10
Pats over Packers by 21
Bears over Vikings by 3

So there you have a look at this week’s NFL slate.  Some great matchups that hold heavy playoff implications.  Can the Colts and Jets stay alive?  Will Baltimore make a statement against the Saints?  And who will reign supreme in the NFC East (Eagles or Giants)?  We will know a lot more after Week 15 concludes.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Food for Thought on 12-1-10”

Here are a few of my top thoughts on this Wednesday morning:

Would Jon Gruden (pictured above on the far right) really leave the booth to get back into coaching at the U?

Will Derek Jeter wake up and return to the Yankees?

I honestly believe that Derek Jeter and his agent will come to their senses.  The 3 year, 45 million dollar offer is a more than fair deal for the Yankee Captain.  I know it is hard for anyone to take a pay cut, but in the MLB, players age.  Derek is aging, which was demonstrated threw his .270 batting average this past season (34 points below his career average) and his career lows in On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage.  But the Yankee shortstop does not feel that he is done yet.  Besides, he will still be the highest paid shortstop in all of baseball (Hanley Ramirez next highest paid shortstop at 11 million).  Also, do you really think another team will offer him more than 15 million dollars a year?

So I do think Derek Jeter will be wearing the Pinstripes come next April..

Will James Harrison need to alter the way he plays?

Coach Tomlin has mentioned that Harrison may need to alter some elements of his style of play.  But lets be entirely honest.  James Harrison is going to be James Harrison.  He has made a living off of his aggressive play.  Do you really think a guy like Harrison is going to bow down to the man?

Coach Tomlin was quoted as saying, “Man life isn’t fair.  I’m not concerned about fairness. I’m really not. I’m concerned about preparing for the Baltimore Ravens.” 

Harrison is also concerned about preparing for Baltimore.  But you better believe his style will not be altered when two of the League’s most physical teams go head to head for AFC North supremacy.  Football can be a brutal game.

Can the Lakers return to dominance even in the midst of a tough 3 game slide?

So the Lakers have dropped 3 games in a row.  Do you really think Kobe, Phil, and the LakeShow are panicking?  Give me a break.  Even with the recent skid, they still sit atop the Pacific Division by 4.5 games.  This team has won the Western Conference 3 consecutive years and is looking for a 3rd straight NBA Championship.  Great teams know when they have to get it together.

Also realize that the Lakers now go on a 4 game stretch where they play the Rockets, the Kings, the Wizards, and the Clippers.  Realize that none of these teams have won more than 5 games thus far.  The 4 bottom feeders have a total of 17 wins between them on the season.

 Look for the Lakers to reel off 4 straight wins and hush the critics.

You better believe that this Laker team is still the best team in the League.

Is the Big Ten now the supreme conference in College Basketball?

After being dominated by the ACC for over a decade, the Big Ten finally won the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge last season.  They are currently ahead 4 to 2 this year, and look to be bringing home the hardware again.  Currently, the mighty Big Ten has 5 teams ranked in the top 25.  Two of these squads are in the top 10.

The perennial top basketball conference, the Big East, has 6 teams in the AP top 25.  With 3 in the top 10.  I will admit that preseason I had the Big Ten as the top conference and the Big East as a very close number 2.  I still stand by this pick even with the Big East currently sporting 1 more top 25 team.

The difference is at the top.  I do not think the Big East’s top teams are as strong as the Big Ten’s top squads.  Do you really think that Pittsburgh, Nova, or UConn for that matter are better than Ohio State or Michigan State?  It is still early though.

A lot of this depends on what you define as the criteria for the best conference though.  Most Final Four Contenders?  Most overall tournament teams?  Most overall depth?  The best teams at the top?

But please note that the Big Ten has only 11 teams, while the Big East has 16.  I give the nod to the Big Ten at this time, but barely.

Will Lebron survive his visit to Cleveland on Thursday?

The NBA has provided heightened security for the Miami Heat wherever they have traveled all season.  They better up the ante in Cleveland big time though.  People in Northern Ohio are still extremely bitter towards their former “King.”  They will do all in the power to make sure that LBJ has a horrible stay in his former home state.

I do not see anything tragic happening.  But do expect this game to sport a playoff atmosphere.  The Cleveland team will play inspired basketball and do all in their power to please the crowd in probably the biggest game of the season for this Cavs team.  Miami on the other hand will also come out and play with a tenacity that we have not seen yet.  Lebron wants this game.  He left Cleveland to win titles.  You better believe that he will be highly disappointed if he gets beaten by his former squad.

Is Jon Gruden actually considering going to Coach at the U?

Gruden claims he loves his job as a Monday Night Football Analyst.  And can you really blame the guy?  He has every man’s dream job.  Sure the Head Coaching job at the University of Miami is one of the most sought after positions in College Football.  Yet they have not made a BCS Bowl Game since 2004. And, over the years, high-profile coaches moving from the NFL to College and vice versa has not been the most successful business venture.

I do admit that I think Gruden has a hint of interest.  But at this time, I do not see him leaving. 

So there is my food for thought on the days hottest topics in sports.  Let me hear your thoughts.

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

“Weekly Nickel”

LSU Quarterback, Jordan Jefferson (pictured above), has played a major role in LSU's surprising 7 and 0 start. Can the Tigers keep rolling against fellow SEC undefeated foe Auburn next Saturday?

Most people love lists.  Our culture is one that thrives and tends to listen better to information that is put into lists.  It is just more visually appealing and easier to follow.  When people watch SportsCenter, the favorite part of the show tends to be the “Daily Top 10.”  Or sometimes, the “Not Top 10.”  So due to popular request and advice from our very own CV3,  I am going to try to post a Weekly Top 5 highlighting some events for the upcoming week every Monday.

So here is the first annual “TheSportsKraze” Weekly Nickel:

5.  NBA Preseason basketball continues.  The opener is drawing ever closer and set for Tuesday, October 26th.  Can the Lakers give Phil Jackson his 4th version of the mythical 3-peat (AKA the Phil Jackson Peat.)

4.  NCAA Basketball is nearing as most of the big schools have had some sort of version of their “Midnight Madness.”  Very sad story about Robbie Hummel going down with another ACL tear. Purdue will still be tought, but no longer is a National Title Contender. Steve Lavin continues to make big moves at St. Johns.  Can you say sleeper team?

3.  The NFL is entering Week 7.  Hard to believe, but who doesn’t love watching football on Sunday and Monday Night?  There are two marquee matchups.  First Brett Favre and the Vikings will head to Lambeau to take on a reeling Cheeseheads team.  Second, the Giants and Cowboys continue one of football’s best rivalries in front of the Monday Night Bright Lights.

2.  4 Major College Football Showdowns

Wisconsin vs Iowa, Nebraska vs Oklahoma State, Oklahoma vs Missouri, and LSU  vs Auburn.  Talk about games with National Championship implications.  The 2nd version of the BCS Rankings will come out Sunday.

1.  League Championship Series continue in the MLB.  As if there was any doubt on what the top event in town is.  Can the Yankees and Phillies make a rematch happen in the Fall Classic?  Seems to be the matchup that most of America would like to see.

So there you have the first edition of the “Weekly Nickel.”  Let me hear your thoughts.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Too Good to Be True?”

Joe Flacco (pictured above) and the Ravens gutted out a major Week 1 victory on the road against the highly touted New York Jets. Will Flacco play better next week against AFC North rival, Cincinnati?

  At the end of  Week 1 the Pick’em challenge scoreboard reads: 

TheSportsKraze:   8                      CV3:  9 (realize Chad picked the Ravens to win by 1 last night) 

The marquee matchup of this Week 1 of football was the Monday Night Showdown in New York between two big time contenders in the AFC, the Jets and the Ravens.  Both of these teams are considered favorites not only within their respective divisions, but in the conference as a whole.  Each team had outstanding off seasons, bringing in key acquisitions to squads that already made the playoffs last year.  The Jets picked up Antonio Cromartie, LT, and Jason Taylor.  While the Ravens brought in two big time receivers in TJ Houshmandzadeh and Anquan Boldin.  There is one major concern though in my eyes that could hold both of these teams back from Super Bowl glory…  

Isn’t there a show called Monday NFL Quarterback?  Last night was not an example.  

Mark Sanchez was absolutely horrific last evening.  Now I realize the Jets are generally a run first team.  A team that likes to play old school, smash mouth football.  Winning games with a strong rushing attack and superb defense.  And that is fine, even though the League is in the midst of the pass happy era.  A team could still win with an average passing game if they had a superb defense and rushing attack.  Well the Jets without question have the tools defensively.  I mean wow did they put on a show last night.  But how about the former USC Trojan in the pocket?  

Sanchez went 10 for 21 for 74 yards.  This is not pee wee football.  This is the NFL.  A quarterback should be throwing for nearly 74 yards a quarter.  Now I realize that he was playing against the vaunted Ravens defense and all of jazz.  But Mr. GQ was playing in front of a big time home crowd with many weapons at his disposal such as Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Shonn Greene.  He also has former Steelers number 1 receiver, Santonio Holmes at his disposal (hopefully soon).  Also, I realize that Mark is still just in his 2nd year.  Maybe he could be entering the Sophomore slump?  Well not really, considering he did not have a big time rookie year, so it would not be considered a slump.  My one major suggestion for Sanchez is to start throwing to his tight ends more.  I realize that Dustin Keller let him down on last night’s big 4th down play late in the 4th quarter in one of the most bonehead plays I have ever seen.  But give the guy a break.  He had just been summoned by Ray Lewis, the ultimate hitmaker.  A reliable tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend.  Sanchez better improve fast, or this team will not have a prayer at making a run deep into the playoffs.  They will be able to survive on their defense in most games, but against tough contenders like the Ravens, Sanchez will have to perform better than last night.  

Now speaking of young quarterbacks.  The Ravens have a young gun of their own at the helm in Joe Flacco.  Now I will admit, I was thoroughly disappointed by the former Delaware stud last evening.  When you look at Joe, you just feel like he has the look of a big time NFL quarterback.  He possesses that  big time NFL “swagger,” for lack of a better term, which is so hard to explain to somebody who is not a fan of the game.  Last night, Flacco went 20 of 38 (which isn’t horrible), for 248 yards.  He did throw an interception as well.  Now, by no means, was Flacco as bad as Sanchez.  But I along with most football fans hold higher expectations for Joe.  We expect him to do more out there each week than Sanchez.  Partially because he has to with an aging Ravens defensive core.  And in all seriousness, this guy has arguably the most weapons around him of any QB in the League.  He has 2 big play receivers in a Anquan Boldin (now a big play guy and no longer a possession) and Derrick Mason.  He has the 2nd best possession receiver in the game at his disposal in TJ Houshmandzadeh (after Wes Welker).  Todd Heap is a very seasoned tight end who has always been a major threat in the passing attack.  Plus he has a monster 3 headed rushing attack to fall back on in Rice, McGahee, and McClain.  The guy has no excuses.  And sure his team escaped last night against a very tough team on the road.  For this team to make a Super Bowl run, he will have to play much better.  I recommend Flacco develops a deep bond with his new possession guy in TJ Houshmandzadeh and continues to work on his chemistry with tight end Todd Heap.  

Both of these quarterbacks have the luxury of playing on teams with big time defenses and solid rushing attacks.  But in today’s game, you have to at least demonstrate a mediocre passing attack to advance deep into the playoffs.  Who would you rather have at QB, Flacco or Sanchez?  Which of these teams could make a run to the big game?  

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.  

-TheSportsKraze  

“NFL Week 1 Predictions”

In one of the top matchups of Week 1, Darrelle Revis and the vaunted Jet's defense look to contain an extremely talented Baltimore Raven's offense.

Are you ready for some football?..

Well the NFL is back in the flesh tonight baby.  So I am going to give you my Week 1 Prediction breakdown.  And for those of you who are College Football Fans, I will be picking the major games as well in the very near future.

But let’s get something straight about this pick’em scheme.  I am not a gambling man.  So I do not pay any attention to the spread.  I am going to pick straight up winners with a predicted margin of victory.  So take it as you will.

In addition, joining me on my NFL Predictions each week will be a lifelong friend, Chad Vordenberge, aka CV3.  Chad is an avid sports fan, who has innate expertise pertaining to the NFL.  We will be competing all year.  He has the honor of being the first official guest ever on “TheSportsKraze.” Here is a write up about him:

CV3 Bio: While I love just about every sport, even soccer, the NFL is my favorite and I pay very close attention to it all year long. With some football experience I look for more than the average fan when it comes to picking winners. I pay very close attention to offensive and defensive schemes and how they match up against one another among many other aspects of the game. I look forward to picking each weeks winners along with the knowledgeable Kraze this season. We are in for a treat this season with a lot of top and emerging teams that could make a run for the Super Bowl. There are some old faces in new places this season that might shake a few things up along with some talented rookies. This season should be an interesting one for NFL fans everywhere.

Week 1 (TheSportsKraze picks):

Vikings at Saints:  Saints by 7 in a shootout type of atmosphere.  Remember that the defending Super Bowl Champion has won their opening contest for 10 straight years running now.

Panthers at Giants:  G-Men by 7 in an old school smash mouth struggle that is won on the ground.  Look for some great running schemes and blocking during this affair.

Steelers at Falcons:  Falcons by 3 in a game where the Steelers really miss the lack of Big Ben on the field.  Dennis Dixon will have some “rookie” like struggles on the road (I know he is not a rookie).

Browns at Buccaneers: Buccaneers in a rumble of some pretty weak sides all around by 6.

Broncos at Jaguars: Broncos are always tough early in the year even if they may be in for a down season.  A very close 3 point escape.

Colts at Texans:  In perhaps the marquee matchup of Sunday’s games, I got the Colts  by 7.  Never sleep on Peyton Manning finding  a way to win on the home or on the road.  The Colts are not ready to give up their AFC South Crown yet.

Dolphins at Bills:  I got the Dolphins by 10 against a Bills team that lacks a passing attack.  Do not be surprised to see CJ Spiller break off a long run at some point though.  The kid is electric.

Lions at Bears:  Bears by 6 in a game that will demonstrate that the Lions are improving.  They just are not quite there yet.  But also enjoy getting to watch Peppers and Suh on the same field for the first time.

Raiders at Titans:  Titans by 3 in a down to the wire type of atmosphere.  The Raiders have the makings of a team that could sneak out 6 wins.  Ultimately though, in this game, as will happen in many, their lack of a big time receiving threat will come back to bite them.

Bengals at Patriots:  Welcome to a first place schedule Cincinnati fans.  I guess things could be worse, and you could have to go up to Gillette Stadium during the bitter cold of November, December, or dare I say January.  But my brain is telling me Patriots, but my heart has the Bengals winning this one by 3.

Cardinals at Rams:  Cardinals by 10 in a matchup of a declining Arizona squad and a woeful Rams team.  If only the Rams could have Albert Pujols suit up.  At least there would be excitement for football in St. Louis again.

49ers at Seahawks:  49ers by 6 in a back and forth affair.  Many are declaring San Francisco the favorite to win the NFC West.  And I will admit, I have jumped on the bandwagon.  A very solid defense led by the stud Patrick Willis, and a capable offense led by Alex Smith, Frank Gore, and Vernon Davis will be too much for Seattle.

Packers at Eagles: The post Donovan McNabb era will start with a loss sadly for the fighting city of Philadelphia.  I got the Packers running away with this one in perhaps the most lopsided affair of the week.

Cowboys at Redskins:  I know the Redskins made a great off-season pick up in acquiring Donovan McNabb.  And we are all very excited to see what he can do.  But the Cowboys have been aware of all he can do and more now for years.  I got the Boys by 10 as the Redskins inner turmoil proves to be too much of a distraction against the much more talented team out of Dallas.

Ravens at Jets:  I know the Ravens are becoming a very popular Super Bowl pick with the newly acquired TJ Houshmandzadeh out of Seattle.  And I will admit, they have as good of a chance as anyone.  But my pick to win the Super Bowl this year is the Jets.  And I got Rex Ryan and the Jets by 3 at home in a fantastic Monday Night Opener.

Chargers at Chiefs:  Chargers by 7 in the first game of the post LT era.  Though the Chargers have many issues with resigning players, holdouts, etc, they are still a little bit too tough for an improving team out of Kansas City.

Week 1 (CV3 Picks):

There are a lot of good match-ups on the schedule for this opening weekend in the NFL. There may be a few surprises this season with some top teams struggling and some young teams flourishing. I am excited to see how things play out over these very important first couple weeks of the season. Here are my picks for semana uno.

Saints over Vikings by 3- Will be tough to beat the Saints in what is possibly the loudest stadium now that the RCA dome is gone. Vikings are the better team if AP holds on to the football. Its hard to pick against Favre even at his age but the atmosphere will make the difference in this high scoring matchup.

Bills over Dolphins by 3 (Buffalo will make the field goal)- Buffalo’s defense will play better than Miami’s. Plus, C.J. Spiller will sniff out the endzone, maybe multiple times.

Titans over Raiders by 9- Chris Johnson is already a star, Michael Bush will establish himself as a better version of Brandon Jacobs (although he may not play week 1, look out for him). Raiders have more promise now that Jamarcus is gone but not enough to hold Chris Johnson to under 100 yards.

Bengals over Pats by 3- I’m waffling back and forth on this one. Both quarterbacks have shown that they are capable of last minute drives to win games, this will be close. If the Bengals O-line holds, the Defenses will be the difference in this game. 

Bears over Lions by 6- Lions have a lot of fire-power with Pettigrew, Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Jahvid Best, and Matthew Stafford but the defense is now the question. Can Suh help the Lions get back on track? Probably not, they need more than just one stud on D to help their team.

Giants over Panthers by 10- Quarterbacks will make the difference in this game. 

Falcons – Steelers TIE! Not this time. Steelers over Falcons by 6. Dennis Dixon will be a pleasant surprise. Also, the Steelers will not be run all over and Polamalu is back healthy. Plus, the Steelers are at home.

Browns over Bucs- Battle of who can make fewer mistakes. Having Holmgren as president will start a turn around in Cleveland, but not a complete turn around.

Broncos over Jags by 3- Bronco’s defense is missing a lot with Elvis out of the building but Dawkins and Bailey are capable of making the plays to keep them in the game. Orton is looking good and Tebow might show up in a few wildcat plays. If MJD has a great performance the Jags can win. 

Colts over Texans by 3- Look for this be a tight one. In their last four games the Colts have outscored the Texans by only 14 points, total. Schaub had more yards than Manning last year and the Colts have to deal with a beast in Andre Johnson. Houston is more than capable of hanging with the big dogs, however, I still have to go with the Colts on this one because of the experience in the organization and, Peyton Manning.

Cards over Rams by 10- Cards on the decline and Rams on the incline, should meet somewhere in the middle. With an even running game, only because Stephen Jackson doesn’t have an O-line to block for him yet, the Cards will win out with a better passing game and stronger defense.

Packers over Eagles by 8- The Packers had a great defense last year and their offense is borderline scary to any opposing defense. Rodgers has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders and I believe he is ready to handle that responsibility. The Eagles are not a scrub team but there has to be some transition from McNabb and Westbrook to Kolb and McCoy.

49ers over Seahawks by 14- Mike Singletary has a terrific defense this year with P Willis continuing to lead the league in tackles. Expect Seattle to have trouble getting any type of offense going in this one.

Cowboys over Redskins by 10- The Cowboys have not lived up to their Superbowl expectations in recent years but with a healthy backfield and a solid defense they will go a long way this year.

Chargers over Chiefs by 9- I do not like the guy but Rivers knows how to lead that offense, even without Vincent Jackson. The Chargers, another team with high expectations, should control the Chiefs in this game. The one positive side for Chiefs fans is their rushing game with Jamaal Charles in the backfield who finished last year strong. 

Ravens over Jets by 1- Wow, football fans are going to be treated to an amazing game to  kickoff Monday night football. Two top teams with a lot of expectations. These two are very similar in the way they approach a game with a stingy D and tough rushing attack. Look for Sanchez to be the deciding factor in this game. It’s now time for him to take control of a game rather than manage it. Between Sanchez and Flacco, look for Cool Joe to lead his Ravens to a victory.

So there you have my picks along with CV3’s.  I will keep a running tally of my accuracy versus CV3 for the year.  Please provide your picks in the comments and we can compete and see who is the most accurate picker over the course of the season.

Get ready for Week 1 of the 2010-2011 NFL season folks.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Ravens Could Fly High”

As a Bengal, TJ Houshmandzadeh was a bitter rival of the Baltimore Ravens. Now could he be the final piece in helping the Ravens capture their first Super Bowl Title since January of 2001?

 In breaking NFL News yesterday, the Ravens made another major acquisition at the wide receiver spot.  They picked up one of the best possession receivers the League has to offer.  One of the toughest wide outs in the League.  A guy who has a distinct familiarity with the AFC North.  A man who has a very recognizable pony tail.  The man with the longest last name in the game (tied with Big Ben).  None other than the former Oregon State, Cincinnati Bengal, and Seattle Seahawk’s star, TJ  Houshmandzadeh (14 letters). 

And boy was this a major pick up for Baltimore, who recently saw off-season acquisition, Donte Stallworth, go down with a broken foot.  It is truly amazing to me how much the look of a team can change during the course of a decade.  In the year 2000, Baltimore not only sported the well-known and highly acclaimed drug wire, but they also sported quite possibly the meanest, baddest, and best all around defense of all time.  Records were set, and the reputation of this unit was just flat-out scary.  And even though the Ravens over the past few years have developed a better and more reliable offense each year, they have still always been known as a defense first team.  Well that is all about to change.  Talk a about an off-season makeover.  

The Ravens possibly sport the most dangerous offense in the AFC North now, and maybe even the League (hard to say until we see them in action).  They have the prototypical NFL Pocket Passer in Joe Flacco.  They have an outstanding 3 headed (not your normal 2 headed) attack in the back field, made up of Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and big boy, Le’Ron McClain.  And now they have quite possibly the best receiving unit in the League with the newly acquired vet, in TJ Houshmandzadeh.    They have Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, and TJ.  Plus they have when healthy, one of the League’s most consistent tight ends over the past 10 years in Todd Heap.  Can the offensive line hold up?  Michael Oher, Mr. Blindside himself, continues to show great progress.  Ben Grubbs has progressed at guard.  And Matt Birk is a very savvy and dare I say intelligent (Harvard grad) Center.   The offensive line is always the real question when discussing the fate of most offensive units in the NFL.  But there are not too many teams that can say they sport the weapons at the skill positions on offense that the Ravens have.  Lastly, offensively, they have a very solid back up quarterback in Marc Bulger.  If Flacco were to go down with an injury, they have a QB who has been in the League for 10 years and a starter for 7 of them.  A guy who though he has declined over the past few years, provides the Ravens with an opportunity to still make the playoffs if their starter goes down.  Now how many teams can confidently say that if their starting quarterback were to go down early in the year, that they could ride their backup to a playoff appearance?  I will give you a hint, not many. 

Now defensively, the Ravens are not what they once were.  And out of the teams that appear to be contenders, they probably have the most glaring weakness of anyone.  They have no proven cornerbacks!  And in a division that has teams like the Bengals, with some major big play receivers, this could hurt.  But they do still have a great linebacking unit led by future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.  They have a solid D line, and of course Ed Reed (who will be back by Week 6 or 7), holding down the safety spot. 

But back to the addition of TJ.  Joe Flacco is now entering his 3rd year in the NFL, and his 3rd year as a full-time starter.  What are the 3 keys to any quarterback’s success in this League?  An offensive line that can protect him and give him time to get the ball out.  A strong rushing attack that keeps the defense honest.  And a sure handed possession receiver.  Well with the addition of TJ, at least of two of those keys to success are taken care of (O-Line appears solid, but is always a question with any team).  Flacco has been able to work with solid receivers such as Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, but he has never had a guy who is as tough and sure handed as TJ.  This guy has had 70 or more catches for 6 consecutive seasons.  He has a total of 5 fumbles in his 9 year career (as a receiver).  The guy gets you yards flat-out.  Come 3rd down, the Ravens are going to be very happy they signed this guy.  The real question is can TJ fit in with Ray Lewis and the boys in the locker room? 

It has been somewhat undocumented, but there have always been rumors of TJ not being the most well liked guy behind the scenes in the locker room.  Honestly, I do not see this being a problem in that the guy appears to be in a win now mode, as are the Ravens.  Not to mention the Ravens have Ray Lewis patrolling the locker room and making sure all the guys are on the same page.  With this major acquisition yesterday, the Ravens could be flying high this season.  The magic for Baltimore starts next Monday in a date with the New York Jets. 

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze. 

-TheSportsKraze 

“Monday Night Football?”

Virginia Tech boasts arguably the best rushing attack in the country led by the two headed monster that is Darren Evans (left #32) and Ryan Williams (right #34).

One of the most well-known events in American sports is “NFL Monday Night Football.”  It is always the most viewed game of the week and something that whether you care about the teams or not, you watch.  And with the NFL starting later this week, College Football has taken note, and will have their marquee game of the opening weekend played on “Monday Night.”  Honestly, I am not sure how I feel about this in the long run.  But obviously, I am ecstatic to get to see a big time matchup tonight, in that there is no NFL game anyways.  Do I think it is fair to make the College kids to play on a Monday and have to be ready to go by the next Saturday?  Not a chance.  But as a fan, now I have something to watch tonight.

Now for Boise State, who we will refer to as the “Weekday Warriors” for the rest of this year, have next weekend off and do not play again until September 18th at Wyoming (12 day break).  This is their Super Bowl though.  In all honesty, if they win this game, they have a very solid shot at running the table for the 2nd consecutive year.  On September 25th, they play a tough Oregon State team at home.  Realize that TCU beat Oregon State on Saturday though.  Then their only other tough game appears to be against Fresno State on November 19th.  Fresno State knocked off a very good team out of the Big East in Cincinnati late Saturday night.  Fresno’s defensive front looked very strong and gave UC their first regular season loss since an October game in 2008.  But as I said, people are going to have to start referring to Boise State as the “Weekday Warriors.”  On the year, they play 7 games on the tradition College Football Saturday.  They have a Monday game tonight.  A Tuesday game later this year.  And 3 Friday games all in a row in November.  So they have 5 of their 12 games being played on days other than Saturday!  The interesting fact is that all 5 of their games played on weekdays are being aired on an ESPN of some sort.  So I guess the exposure is worth it for the team that plays on the blue field.

Now Virginia Tech.  Sadly, they do not get next weekend off.  They will be back on the gridiron come Saturday against James Madison.  Though James Madison appears to be a powder puff opponent for the Hokies, it is never easy to play on a Monday night and come ready to play again on Saturday.  Virginia Tech has a much more traditional schedule than Boise.  They play 10 times on Saturdays this season.  Then of course they have the Monday game tonight, and then a Thursday night date against the defending ACC Champs Georgia Tech, on November 4th.  Ironically, Virginia Tech only has 4 games this year on the ESPN networks.  With the rich tradition of Frank Beamer’s Hokies, did you ever think you would see the day where Boise State had more games on ESPN than Virginia Tech?

But anyways, back to the business at hand.  Boise and VTech are both outstanding football teams.  Many are picking both of them to appear in BCS Bowl Games come January.  And I will state that this would not surprise me.  Many are saying that this is the year where Boise ends the streak and puts a team from a non BCS conference into the BCS Title Game.  And though I think Boise is an outstanding team that returns all but one starter from their undefeated team of a year ago, this is not the year.  The dream ends tonight in the nation’s capital.  Frank Beamer’s boys are going to run all over the Broncos, and win a very close contest.

Between Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, the amazing Ryan Williams at running back, and the return of junior Darren Evans in the backfield, this team is the real deal.  Boise will have no answer for a bigger and stronger team out of a power conference that has won 10 or more games, 6 straight years.  Not to mention, Frank Beamer is arguably one of the best coaches College Football has to offer, and has been a mar of consistency in his 22 year stint with the Hokies.  The team has made 17 consecutive bowl games and has their most talented team in recent memory.  Lastly, this game is a makeshift home game for VTech, who routinely boasts one of the best defenses in the country and now has a great offense to complement it.

Kellen Moore and his main weapons, receivers Austin Pettis, Titus Young, and running back Jeremy Avery are deadly and will put up big numbers all year. But tonight, they will lose the battle in the trenches.  Look for Virginia Tech to win by 7 in front of a pro Virginia Tech crowd.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.
-TheSportsKraze