Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. The often criticized Alex Smith (pictured above) has finally turned the corner and had a Montana-like moment on Saturday. Can he lead San Francisco past the Giants and into the Super Bowl?
By Wesley Kaminsky
After a Wild-Card weekend that featured Tim Tebow shocking the Steelers in overtime, nobody thought the divisional weekend could top the one prior. Everybody was wrong.
The divisional playoffs started off with a bang Saturday afternoon, when the 49ers and Saints combined for 28 points in the final four minutes of the game, with Alex Smith hitting Vernon Davis for the winning touchdown with nine seconds left. That game was just more proof of the amazing job Jim Harbaugh has done this season in San Francisco, and it’s not over yet. Harbaugh transformed Alex Smith from Ryan Leaf to Joe Montana. (Okay, at least for one game). He inherited an almost identical 49ers team that struggled in 2010 and made them a contender. There is something about that Harbaugh family. Continue reading
Posted in NFL
Tagged Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Eli Manning, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Jim Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, Joe Montana, John Kuhn, New England Patriots, New Orlean's Saints, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Rob Gronkowski, Ryan Grant, Ryan Leaf, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl, T.J. Yates, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady, Vernon Davis
Photo courtesy of latimesblogs.latimes.com. Kobe Bryant (pictured above) has shown no signs of aging after putting up 40+ points for a fourth consecutive game on Saturday. Can he lead the Lakers to a victory in Miami on Thursday?
By Josh Kramer
The clock finally struck midnight on “Tebow Time,” or at least for the time being, and the globe is still spinning. “Lob City” staked their claim to Los Angeles. And the 49ers won against an outstanding Saints team in a game that will go down as one of the all-time greats. The past week, or even the past day for that matter, was classic. This week should be pretty fun in its own right though. Here are the events to keep an eye on.
5. Pitchers and catchers start reporting in 33 days (February 18th for a lot of teams). MLB baseball is just around the corner. And the Yankees finally broke their silence on Friday in a big way. Who else is already very excited for the 2012 baseball season? Keep an eye this week on what happens with marquee available players such as Prince Fielder, Rick Ankiel, and many more. Will your favorite team pick up the piece they need to make a deep run in October?
4. Kobe Bryant has now put up 40 or more points four straight games. So much for the 33-year-old wearing now. Any chance he will eclipse his nine-straight games of 40 or more points back in 2002/2003? Continue reading
Posted in Miscellaneous
Tagged Aaron Hernandez, ATP, Australian Open, Baylor Bears, Big 12, Boston Celtics, Cleveland State Vikings, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Graham, Justin Smith, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Mike Brown, MLB, NBA, NCAA Basketball, New England Patriots, New York Yankees, NFL, Norris Cole, North Carolina Tar Heels, Novak Djokovic, Prince Fielder, Rick Ankiel, Rob Gronkowski, Roger Federer, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl, Texas Longhorns, Tim Tebow, Tony Gonzalez, UNLV Runnin' Rebels, Vernon Davis, Virginia Tech Hokies, WTA
Arian Foster stole the show in Week 1 rushing for 233 yards and helping the Texans shock the Colts (Foster is now number 23).
The first Sunday of the NFL season is always unpredictable, wacky, fun all in one. It is always a weekend filled with excitement. Full of mysteriousness. And most of all, full of people sitting on their couches all day. Following this enigmatic day, the scoreboard reads:
TheSportsKraze: 8 CV3: 8
There were few storylines that really caught my eye on the weekend.
-Who is Arian Foster?
First of all the Houston Texans monumental upset of the Indianapolis Colts. Going into the 17th matchup of these franchises, Houston was 1 and 15 all time against the defending AFC Champion Colts. When was the last time you can remember Peyton and the Indianapolis offensive juggernaut losing in Week 1? And how about the pass happy Texans getting the job done on the ground. When looking at some initial statistics you would be astonished. Matt Schaub, who threw for over 4700 yards last season threw for 107 today, not to mention he threw an interception. Peyton Manning threw for 433 yards and 3 TDs. But the real story of this game. How about Mr. Arian Foster? The guy just blew up rushing for 233 yards (2nd most all time in an opener behind OJ Simpson) and 3 TDs. Foster is a 2nd year running back out of Rocky Top (Tennessee) that rushed for 257 yards and 3 TDs all year in his rookie campaign. Well he just ripped the heart out of the defending AFC Champs on Day 1. Could the Texans be on the verge of breaking the Colts stranglehold on the AFC South this year?
-The Steelers take care of business without Big Ben.
Pittsburgh won their first of four games without their starting quarterback today over a very tough Falcons team. Rashard Mendenhall and Hines Ward came up big for the Terrible Towels and took care of Week 1. I will admit that I thought that the Steelers would lose this one without Roethlisberger. But with inspired play from Ward and Mendenhall on the offensive side of the ball, and Bryant McFadden leading the charge on the defensive side of the ball (15 tackles today, 12 solo), this team could survive this month-long stretch in decent shape.
-Welcome back Michael Vick?
This was the best Michael Vick has looked in years. The guy played inspired football and almost brought the Eagles back against a very tough Packers team. Starter Kevin Kolb went down with a concussion in the 2nd quarter, and the electric Michael Vick came to the rescue for the fighting city of Philadelphia. He rushed for over 100 yards and threw for 175. Should Vick start over a healthy Kolb next week? Coach Reid definitely has some thinking to do. It was nice to see the playmaker back in action bringing back some of the memories of the old glory days (in a weekend where his alma mater took their worst loss in school history).
-Are the 49ers a pretender?
Many, including myself picked the 49ers to win the ultra weak NFC West. Well today, they took a good old-fashioned butt whooping from a divisional rival. San Francisco came out smoking but then had a rough end to the first half and continued to get worse as the game progressed. Frank Gore’s rushing attack was non-existent. Alex Smith threw 2 interceptions. And I could go on. Vernon Davis was the only bright spot on the day for the 49ers. Where is that amazing defense we have been hearing about all off-season and theat newly improved offense? Are the 49ers contenders or pretenders?
-Blinded by the hype?
Another team that thoroughly disappointed was the Cincinnati Bengals. This team looked to still be playing a preseason game until the 3rd quarter of this one. And a Patriots team, that definitely has a chip on their shoulder due to the talk of the Jets being the favorite in the AFC East, steamrolled Cincinnati. The only bright spot for the Bengals on this day was Chad OchoCinco and glimpses of a big time aerial attack. Sure Carson threw for 345 yards. But what happened to the smash mouth, run first Bengals (now I realize they were behind so they needed to throw). Palmer threw the ball 50 times today. Cedric Benson only had 15 carries. The real show in this game was the reunited amazing connection of Wes Welker and Tom Brady. These guys picked up right where they left off following Welker’s knee injury. The best slot receiver in football had 8 catches and 2 TDs. Are the Patriots a Super Bowl contender?
-Is Chris Johnson Superman?
Chris Johnson picked up right where he left off at the end of last year. On this day, he led his Titans to an easy victory over an overmatched Raiders team. Johnson compiled 142 rushing yards and 2 TDs. And once again broke loose for a big time run of 70+ yards. The guy is outstanding and looks to only be getting better. The rest of the League needs to beware of Chris Johnson.
-Can Roy Williams catch a break in Dallas?
So in one of the most sloppy games I have ever seen in my life, the Redskins began the Mike Shanahan/Donovan McNabb era with a victory over the rival Cowboys. The Redskins went 0 and 6 in the vaunted NFC East last season and were ecstatic to get that monkey off their shoulders in Week 1. Since the arrival of Williams in Dallas, things have progressively gotten worse as he went from being a big time pick up to a guy that fans in Dallas booed consistently. Once again Roy had a modest evening, of 3 catches for 21 yards, but on the last play of the game, he had appeared to come up with the catch that probably would have won the game for the Cowboys (barring an extra point attempt). Roy’s heart had to be pounding. Then he and the rest of Cowboy nation saw a yellow flag on the field. Alex Barron, the Cowboys 6th year (1st with Cowboys) offensive tackle out of Florida State, had done the unthinkable. Against a weak, 3 man Washington rush, he blatantly held Redskin linebacker Brian Orakpo. So Roy’s heroics are already all but forgotten. Sorry Roy. Mine as well jump on the Miles Austin bandwagon with the rest of America.
So these are just a few stories from an amazing opening Sunday. The NFL is back in the flesh baby.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.
Posted in NFL
Tagged AFC, AFC East, AFC South, Alex Barron, Alex Smith, Andy Reid, Arian Foster, Ben Roethlisberger, Brian Orakpu, Bryant McFadden, Carson Palmer, Cedric Benson, Chad Ochocinco, Chris Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Donovan McNabb, Football, Frank Gore, Green Bay Packers, Hines Ward, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Kevin Kolb, Matt Schaub, Mendenhall, Michael Vick, Mike Shanahan, Miles Austin, New England Patriots, NFC East, NFL, Oakland Raiders, OJ Simpson, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Roy Williams, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl, Tennessee, Tennessee Titans, Tom Brady, Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins, Wes Welker
See any resemblance to Joe Montana or Steve Young? Well Alex Smith is ready to lead the 49ers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
The NFC’s version of the Wild Wild West has not been the most glamorous conference in recent memory. In fact, they have not sent 2 teams to the playoffs since 2003. They also have not had more than one team with an above 500 record since 2003. So generally, you have one team do solid, another team do around 500, and the other 2 just finish absolutely abysmal. This year appeared like it could be different. It appeared that there could possibly be 2 teams with a fighting chance to make their way into the playoffs. That was until Arizona lost their quarterback to retirement and one of the best receivers to the Ravens (Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin).
NFC West: Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks, 49ers (alphabetical order)
St. Louis Rams (4th place): The Rams had a nightmarish season last year. And though I think they will do better than one win this season, I do not see them finding themselves out of the division cellar just yet. Sure they drafted a very talented quarterback in Sam Bradford. And sure they have an outstanding running back in Stephen Jackson. But really what else is there? I mean Albert Pujols cannot suit up for this squad. This squad featured one of the worst passing games I have ever seen in recent memory. And to think, we are only 10 years removed from the “Greatest Show on Turf.” Guys like Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson must step up and provide the rookie Bradford with some targets. Sure Stephen Jackson is a great guy to have for rookie Sam Bradford to hand the ball off too. But the NFL has become a pass first League. You cannot win without some sort of passing attack. The Rams, unfortunately, are going to struggle in this department all year. The Rams defense is not to amazing either. In fact, it looks to be on its way to a horrific year. I guess a team that goes 1 and 15 generally is not too strong in many areas. James Laurinaitis will have a ton of weight put on his shoulder to anchor the defense. He is no longer a rookie and will be expected to be the engine that makes the defense go. But other than that, there is not a whole lot of promising prospects on this defense. I do think they will finish better than 1 and 15, but not much.
Seattle Seahawks (3rd place): Rainy Seattle will once again fail to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007. This team features both a sub par offense and defense. Matt Hasselbeck is a very savvy veteran that really just does not have much to work with. Sure TJ Houshmandzadeh is a great possession receiver, but the loss of Nate Burleson hurts. Golden Tate, the outstanding receiver out of Notre Dame will be expected to produce from Day 1. He will be expected to be a big play guy similar to a Steve Smith type of mold (lots of pressure on the little guy). This team cannot survive simply with Houshmandzadeh. I mean this team does not have much of a rushing attack. Justin Forsett and Leon Washington are not necessarily gamebreakers. Maybe Washington will surprise some people and start to really produce, but I wouldn’t count on it. Then you look at the Seahawks on the other side of the ball. And there really isn’t a whole lot of star power to look at. Who will step up? Nobody really knows. The main thing Seattle has going for them is the arrival of former USC Head Coach, Pete Carroll. Now normally coaches do not do so hot going back and forth between the League and College in any sport. But this guy has been running a professional program for years now. Plus he had 15 years of “official” professional coaching experience before he arrived in Trojanville. Just ask USC what they think about it. Maybe he could get this team to come somewhere near 8 and 8? I would say it is highly doubtful they win 8 games, but who knows, it could happen.
Arizona Cardinals (2nd place): This is a team that probably lost the most of any team in this division. They lost a big time number 2 receiver in Anquan Boldin. They lost a big time quarterback in Kurt Warner. And with Kurt and Anquan, goes a major part of the high-flying attack that has carried the Cardinals for the past couple of years. This is a team that has lived and died on the pass reminiscent of the way many college teams play today. They had a rushing attack that did not even average 100 yards a game. Yet they advanced to the playoffs? Go figure. Times have really changed. Offenses have slowly but surely turned into pass first teams all around the League. I mean the Cardinals do have 2 decent running backs in the massive Chris “Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower. But neither of these guys get many opportunities in this pass happy Cardinal’s offensive scheme. If Steve Breaston does not emerge as a big time number 2, Arizona’s offense could collapse in that teams will double on Fitzgerald and the passing attack will die. And this does not even get me started on Matt Leinart. The man came into the League with so much upside but has vastly underachieved. This year will be his chance. There is also a defensive side of the ball. And the Cardinals are not too good at defending. They like to play shootout style games where they score a ton of points, and give up lots of points. A way that you can tell this team has struggled defensively is players like Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle are 2 of the top 4 tacklers on the team. These guys both play in the secondary. So I feel like this team will probably win 6 to 8 games. But there have been too many losses on the offensive side of the ball for them to outscore all of their opponents and their defense does not appear too promising on paper.
San Francisco 49ers (1st place): Yes, this is the year we have all been waiting for. The 49ers long awaited return to the playoffs. There were the Joe Montana days. Then the Steve Young days. Now there are the..Alex Smith days? You better believe it. This team has not gone over .500 since 2002. Well that all changes this year. There will be a changing of the guard, or at least a retro look in the West. With the 49ers back on top. This team has been knocking on the door for a few years now and is ready to come inside. The 49ers have a solid defense that is led by in my eyes the best linebacker in the game, Patrick Willis. You should have heard of this guy already, but if you have not, he is here to stay. They also have the veteran leadership of a linebacker that has been around the block in Takeo Spikes. This team boasts arguably the best linebacking core in the League. They also have a solid secondary led by former Pro Bowler Nate Clements, and the veteran Mark Roman. So expect this team to be ranked among the League’s elite on the defensive side of the ball. And on offense, this team looks to improve from a dismal showing last year. They will be led by a young group in Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Josh Morgan. These guys are all young, but ready to show that they are entering the primes of their careers. Also do not forget about the always dangerous Ted Ginn Jr. This team will not be one of the League’s elite offensively, but you better believe that they will put on a much better performance than last year as they begin to gel and enter the primes of their careers. Hopefully the 49ers can keep this core group on the offensive side of the ball together for years to come. San Francisco will return to the playoffs for the first time in 8 years.
So there you have it, a changing of the guard in the NFC West. A return to the old. The 49ers are back and look poised to be solid for the next few years with a relatively young group.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.
Posted in NFL
Tagged Adrian Wilson, Alex Smith, Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals, Chris Wells, Donnie Avery, Frank Gore, Golden Tate, Joe Montana, Justin Forsett, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Laurent Robinson, Leon Washington, Matt Leinart, Michael Crabtree, Nate Burleson, Nate Clement, NFC West, NFL, Patrick Willis, Pete Carroll, Sam Bradford, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Stephen Jackson, Steve Breaston, Steve Young, Takeo Spikes, Ted Ginn Jr., Tim Hightower, TJ Houshmandzadeh, USC, Vernon Davis