Monday, January 29, 2007

Colts to Win

Who prevails when a great offense goes up against a great defense? This classic sports argument of strength versus strength will take center stage come Super Bowl XLI this Sunday in Miami. The AFC’s best offense in the Indianapolis Colts will take on the NFC’s best defense in the Chicago Bears. The last time these two teams met was 2004 in Chicago, when Colts’ quarterback and future hall of famer Peyton Manning threw four touchdowns in a 41-10 rout. Most believe that Bears’ erratic and streaky quarterback Rex Grossman stands no chance up against Manning while others point to Trent Dilfer, a similarly mediocre quarterback who led the Baltimore Ravens to a title in 2000.

Normally, Grossman’s performance is dictated by his first two drives. If Manning strikes early, Grossman will be forced to throw the ball from behind, something that normally has resulted in costly turnovers throughout the regular season, instantly crushing his confidence. The Colts want Grossman to pass, but this means Bob Saunders and the Colts defense must do what Seattle and New Orleans could not do in Chicago’s two playoff wins, stop the run in order to force Grossman to try to make plays with his arm. Considering all the fuss about the Colts’ soft run defense in the regular season, Indy has held its three playoff opponents to a solid 73.3 yards a game, shutting down the likes of Larry Johnson, Jamal Lewis, and Corey Dillon late in games. When Peyton Manning scores early and the renewed Colts defense slows down running backs Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, look for Grossman to start to press and turn the ball over.

On the other side of the ball, Chicago’s 6’3” 300-pound defensive tackle Tommy Harris is no longer clogging the middle to stop the running game while the secondary has not been the same since the loss of Pro Bowl safety Mike Brown. The Bears defense was tremendously successful in shutting down Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints’ high octane offense in the NFC championship game, 39-14, but that was in the slippery grass field of Soldier Field in Chicago, when it was 28 degrees and snowing. While Manning and the Colts are also not going to be in the comfort of his own dome, sunny Dolphin Stadium in Miami should provide for as neutral as a field as possible.

Peyton Manning threw for 349 yards while storming back from a 21-3 deficit against the Patriots defense that supposedly had his number for the past several years. Before the AFC championship game, the Colts won on the road against the Baltimore Ravens, a team built similarly to the Bears in that they both rely on stingy defenses and turnovers to win games. Tom Moore’s pass heavy offense has seen Peyton Manning become more efficient in checking down and dumping off to his running backs, picking up short yardage and sustaining long drives. This tires out the Bears hard hitting linebackers, who will have to contend with running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes, who are constantly keeping fresh by substituting for each other. Chicago is known for using the Tampa 2 defense, but will need to throw more blitzes and disguises at Manning who, with time, can easily pick apart a Cover 2 with wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. The Tampa 2 defense also relies heavily upon the middle linebacker to drop back into coverage, so look for Peyton Manning to do his signature play actions and pump fakes to get Brian Urlacher off balance, and hit tight end Dallas Clark up the middle for big completions several times as he did against the Patriots.

The Colts, coming from the clearly superior conference, have had to go through much tougher competition than the Bears have in the weaker NFC. The Colts played eight different playoff teams this year, including two wins against the Patriots, who beat the Bears earlier in the season. Throw in the fact that the AFC team has won seven of the past nine Super Bowls, and it is easy to see why Vegas has the more seasoned and experienced Indianapolis Colts as a rather large seven point favorite.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

41 things to watch for at Super Bowl XLI

Hilarious article by MSNBC's Michael Ventry, especially for those who follow NFL news closely.
Some of his witty lines include:
  • CBS is televising the Super Bowl. Millions of casual sports fans will tune in late because they mistakenly turned on Fox, saw a promo for “Prison Break” and assumed the Bengals were playing.
  • Terrell Owens, in Florida for the week for a photo shoot, will accidentally get too close to a lagoon and will get swallowed by a crocodile. The crocodile will spit him out, then die.
  • During a critical point in the fourth quarter, Peyton Manning will call a timeout so he can go make another commercial.
  • The Indianapolis Colts are the visiting team, which means they’ll have to stay in a hotel and bus to the game. The Chicago Bears are the home team, meaning they get to stay at Shaq’s house.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Championship Sunday

New Orleans Saints 14
Chicago Bears 39

  • The New Orleans Saints' Cinderella season came to a abrupt halt Sunday, largely impart to the conditions at Solider Field. The Saints, whose home games take place in the controlled confines of the Louisiana Superdome on artificial turf, and whose road games mostly take place in the warm south, were obviously uncomfortable in snowy 28 degree Chicago. If this game took place in New Orleans, or even on a neutral field, the Saints would have probably blown out the Bears. However, Chicago, aided by a soft schedule, earned the homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs during the regular season and cannot be faulted.
  • Chicago had 196 yards rushing to New Orleans 56. In the playoffs, especially in such weather and field conditions, football games are won running the ball.
  • Similar to the win against the Seahawks, Rex Grossman was aided by defense and special teams and simply had to not make mistakes. Having never trailed, Rex went a mediocre 11/26 for 144 yards, but ZERO turnovers is a rare feat that practically guarantees a Chicago victory.
  • The Saints defensive coaching staff is being criticized for not being aggressive enough, and rightly so. They should have sent more blitzes and pressured Grossman into making some of his signature mistakes.
  • Down 16-0, Drew Brees and the Saints offense finally got going, culminating in a dump off lob to Reggie Bush which he took to the house 88 yards later to make it 16-14. About ten yards from scoring, Bush proudly waved and taunted at the chasing Bears defenders before making his trademark somersault into the endzone. Note that the Chicago defense never let the Saints score after Bush's showy taunt and dance.

New England Patriots 34
Indianapolis Colts 38

  • Football games rarely live up to the hype like this instant classic did. Brady vs Manning is this generation's Montana vs Aikman and Magic vs Bird.
  • Halftime: Pats 21, Colts 6. Peyton has been picked off for a touchdown, and the Colts defense is looking soft again. The Monday mourning discussions and newspaper headlines are already being developed - Manning loses the big game...again.
  • Instead, the Colts storm back quickly in the second half, with a Manning sneak into the endzone and a touchdown strike to Dan Klecko (the THIRD lineman to score a touchdown in this game!), capped off with a two point conversion to, who else, Marvin Harrison. Just like that, we are all tied up at 21. Game on.
  • Brady and Manning keep on firing back at each other, trading a pair of touchdowns and field goals, until Peyton's potentially career defining 7-play 80-yard drive for the go ahead score with a minute left. Brady looks like he is poised for another comeback drive of his own before being picked off at midfield.
  • Let there be no doubt Manning won this game, and he needed all 349 of his passing yards to do it. But he finally got help come championship time. Throughout this season and into the playoffs, the knocks on the Colts were 1) run defense and 2) run offense. In the second half, the Colts held the Pats to 5 carries for 8 yards. The Colts, on the other hand, had Rhodes and Addai evenly share 28 carries for 125 yards, a solid 4.5 yards/carry. In such a close game, this is an enormous difference.
  • Thankfully, the game did not come down to a Vinatieri or Gostkowski missed field goal, which would have completely changed the outcome of the game and playoffs, a la 2005, and created one of the saddest storylines ever.
  • Speaking of great storylines, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, two good friends and former colleagues, will now face off each other as the first two African-American head coaches in the Super Bowl. Throw in Peyton Manning's first shot at a Super Bowl title, strength versus strength in a great offense versus a great defense, and Rex Grossman and the Bears coming in as 7-point underdogs, and we are in for one heck of a game in Miami come Super Bowl XLI.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


  • As they make news for retaining head coach Marty Schottenheimer, who declined a lowball contract extension past 2007, and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron takes the head coaching vacancy in Miami, I figured now would be a good time to address the San Diego Chargers...
  • As usual, there are many plays you can point to whenever a team loses double digit fourth quarter lead. The most obvious is Marlon McCree's fumble after a fourth down interception of Tom Brady's pass to Troy Brown. Instead of having the ball with an eight point lead with under seven minutes left, the reenergized Patriots were able to drive down the field for a touchdown and a two point conversion against the demoralized Chargers. This was one of those wacky plays that does seem to occur more often than one would think. Whenever its fourth down, defensive backs would be a lot better simply knocking down the ball.
  • Among the many reasons why Marty was close to being fired after Sunday's game: LT only touched the ball nine times in the second half, a failed attempt on fourth and eleven that should have been a 48-yard field goal attempt, a dumb challenge on McCree's fumble that cost a valuable timeout, not running a quick pass play to the sidelines with eight seconds lift before Nick Kaeding's missed 54-yard attempt, personal foul penalties showing lack of discipline, and, finally, Marty's cursed 5-13 playoff record.
  • Tom Brady may have been trailing the entire game, threw three interceptions in 51 attempts, but when it comes down to it, Captain Comeback is nothing but money in the fourth quarter. 12-1 in the playoffs and counting.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Northridge Earthquake

Exactly thirteen years ago, January 17, 1994, at 4:30am, an earthquake of 6.7 magnitude hit the San Fernando Valley, an area about twenty miles north of downtown Los Angeles. The earthquake ended up costing billions of dollars more than any other earthquake in American history, killing 51 and injuring 9000. Damage extended from as far north as the 5 and 14 freeway interchange all the way south to Orange County where the Anaheim Stadium partially collapsed.

Thirteen years later, most of us have forgotten the effects of the Northridge earthquake. The earthquake hurt and changed many peoples lives in Southern California. The economy took a dip as many moved away in fear of another large earthquake. Remember how prepared and used we all were to the aftershocks? Yet today, we have forgotten what occurred and are no longer prepared. As the rest of the country has had its share of its disasters, one cannot help but feel we are due...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Divisional Playoffs

  • For all the wondering and debating we all did throughout the entire season, for all the hype that the top two seeds in Chargers and Ravens generated, how funny is it that, at the end of the day, its going to come down to Brady vs Manning, the same two who it seemingly always comes down to. Then there is Stephen Gostkowski vs Adam Vinatieri. Bilchick vs Dungy. Pats vs Colts. This weekend is the Super Bowl folks. Could it get any better?
  • Despite the close loss, much props have to be given to the Philadelphia Eagles for stepping up and rallying behind Jeff Garcia when everyone thought their season was over when McNabb went down.
  • The Saints won a great game, in which Brees, Bush, and McAllister all excelled in the spotlight. Great story in a great city. Now can they go on the road in the cold weather, something they are not accustumed to at all, and beat Da Bears?
  • Alright, here we go finally. The Seahawks had several chances to win the game in Chicago, and I could easily go on for days pointing out certain instances in that game. I can even point to losses against San Francisco, Arizona, and Minnesota, which should have been wins resulting in Seattle earning a first-round bye and another home game instead. I can point to Hasselbeck's busted ribs, broken fingers, and knee injury, as he was far from 100%. I can point to Shaun Alexander's fractured foot. I can point to fullback Mack Strong's sprained ankle and couple of stingers. I can point to numerous injuries and shuffles amongst the offensive line; only Walter Jones started every game, and he had a strained shoulder. I can point to the lack of continuity with the wide receivers, as Bobby Engram, Darrell Jackson, and D.J. Hackett were banged up throughout the season all the way into the playoffs. Deion Branch and Nate Burleson were great, but will need an offseason to thoroughly absorb the complicated offense and develop chemistry with Hasselbeck.
  • I can keep on making excuses, but the Seahawks went 9-7 to win the NFC West, won a playoff game against the annointed Cowboys, and took Da Bears to overtime in Chicago, having two drives come to a halt at midfield when the game was tied, with only one big completion away from setting up Josh Brown for another clutch game winning boot. Ten of Seattle's 18 games came down to the final drive, contributing to plenty of stress, heartbreak, and sheer joy. Even after a Super Bowl run last year, considering what happened this season, 10-8 is damn good.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Best. Show. Ever. Watch it!


Seeing as I promoted Friday Night Lights last week, I might as well continue the television suggestions with 24. If I was forced to choose to watch one television series only, it would be this one. Simply put, 24 is the best show ever. Watch it!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Random Thoughts

random thoughts...
  • Soccer star and icon David Beckham has decided to leave Real Madrid for the MLS's Los Angeles Galaxy for a deal thought to be worth over a whopping $250 million including commercial endorsements. If true, it would be the most in sports history. Beckham is already worth about $169 million making about $32 million per year in salary and endorements before coming to America. The Galaxy kicks off their season in April, and it will be interesting to see how much of an impact Beckham has in popularizing the sport that is a distant number four behind football, basketball, and baseball.
  • The Philadelphia 76ers and Chris Webber have agreed on a buyout for the final two years of his contract, worth $21 and $22 million respectively. Webber was the No.1 pick in the 1993 draft and has career averages of 21 points and 10 rebounds. However, his performance and health have declined recently, and many question his attitude. Because Webber is still going to be paid by Philly, look for him to sign with a contender in the next week as he could very well be a veteran role player that proves to be the missing piece in route to a playoff run. (Lakers...!?)
  • I will not quit repeating myself - the Lakers will only become a championship contender when Phil Jackson starts young studs Jordan Farmar and Andrew Bynum.
  • Now that they have Allen Iverson, the Denver Nuggets shipped tiny fan favorite Earl Boykins to the Milwaukee Bucks for Julius Hodge and Steve Blake. Denver is currently hovering around .500, but even with Melo and A.I. the division leader Utah Jazz will be tough to catch. Look for Denver to end up as one of those tough underdogs that gives a top seed a heck of a first round series.
  • Yes, the Atlantic Division stinks with all five teams below .500, but the Central has four of its five above .500.
  • Of course, none of this all matters as its going to come down to San Antonio and Dallas in the west with Shaq and Riley returning for Miami to spark a playoff run...again.
  • Greg Oden Sweeptakes Status: Philly, Memphis, Charlotte, Atlanta, Boston, New Orleans, and Seattle (!) are in the running.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Seattle 21, Dallas 20

My heart hurts. It is not quite the typical heartache, as it is due to sheer stress of the thrilling rollercoaster ride that took place at Quest Field in Seattle on Saturday night, overshadowing all the other games on NFL Wild Card Weekend.

  • Firstly, wide receivers Darrell Jackson, the team leader in touchdowns, and D.J. Hackett (from...CSUN!?), both went down with injuries. Both starting cornerbacks in Marcus Trufant and Kelly Herndon were also out, along with center Robbie Tobeck. So before anyone even thinks to compare this team to last, know that you simply cannot.
  • Michael Boulware has been through a tough season, but had a forced fumble and later a potentially huge recovery for a touchdown that was reversed. This guy has been my favorite player since his rookie year.
  • 6:48 remaining: Dallas 20, Seattle 13. After a pass interference penalty in the end zone, the Seahawks have the ball with first and goal at the one yard line. They fail to punch in on all four opportunities and turn it over on downs.
  • 6:42: Cowboys first play of the possession at their own one yard line. Tony Romo throws a quick completion to Terry Glenn who slips to the turf in trying to make a move. Rookie cornerback Kelly Jennings strips the ball into the endzone. A number of Seahawks make a run for it, Lofa Tatupu makes an amazing athletic dive to toss the ball back into the field for Michael Boulware to recover for a touchdown. After a lenghty review, Tatupu had his toe out of bounds as he tosses the ball and it is ruled a safety. This is one of those wacky plays that must be seen to understand.
  • 4:31: Here is why the safety turned out to be better than the touchdown. A touchdown would have tied it at 20 but given the ball back to the Cowboys. Instead, the safety made it 20-15 but gave the Seahawks the ball and good field position at midfield after a free kick and Nate Burleson return. Hasselbeck hits Jerramy Stevens for a 37-yard strike for his second touchdown. Here is another guy who has been through a tough season but steps up big here. A failed two point conversion attempt leaves us at 21-20.
  • 1:19: Cowboys driving down the field, aided by a long Julius Jones run up the middle. Seahawks burn their timeouts hoping the stop the clock and get the ball back. Tony Romo's pass to tight end Jason Witten is complete at the one yard line for a first down. This meant that Dallas could knee it a couple of times, run down the clock, and kick the game winning field goal as time experies. However, upon the officials' review, Lofa Tatupu's tackle is found to have been made just short of the first down making it fourth and half a yard. The Cowboys line up to kick the go-ahead field goal only to have starting quarterback Tony Romo fumble the snap, make a run for the goal line before being tackled by Jordan Barbineaux.
  • Sports Illustrated's Don Banks eloquently summed it up, writing, "Twenty years from now -- no, make it 30 or maybe 40 -- we'll still be asking each other, 'Where were you when Romo dropped the ball?'' Saturday night's instant classic in Seattle gave us that kind of unforgettable sports moment. The stakes and the stage were that large. The drama that exquisite."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Wild Weekend

For football fans, this is always the best weekend of the year...


Kansas City Chiefs (9-7) @ Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
1:30pm NBC
The story: Thanks to a 49ers upset in Denver, the Chiefs snuck into the playoffs. If Trent Green struggles early, look for Herman Edwards to pull the trigger and put Damon Huard back in.
The hype: The hyped matchup here is Larry Johnson versus the soft Colts run defense.
The prediction: The Chiefs only won three road games all season, two of those being at lowly Oakland and Arizona. Look for Peyton Manning to score early and often at home in the comfort of his dome.

Dallas Cowboys (9-7) @ Seattle Seahawks (9-7)
5:00pm NBC
The story: Each team entered the season as favorites to win the NFC, largely because head coaches Mike Holmgren and Bill Parcells are two living legends. Fast forward through several big injuries, a quarterback change, and a whole mess of T.O. stories, and you have each team backing into the playoffs losing three of their final four.
The hype: The story line here is THREE injured Seahawk cornerbacks, including both starters. Most expect Owens and Terry Glenn to burn the makeshift Seattle secondary, but the Cowboys may be better off running Julius Jones and Marion Barber on the road.
The prediction: Look for the 12th Man and homefield advantage to play a huge roll in another Seahawk victory at Quest Field.


New York Jets (10-6) at New England Patriots (12-4)
10:00am CBS
The story: No one saw the Jets coming close to making the playoffs, but comeback player of the year Chad Pennington and a solid defense have managed to take advantage of a soft schedule. Each team enters the playoffs on a roll winning three in a row.
The hype: Eric Mangini comes off of Bill Bilichick's New England staff, and has shown it in two close games this year, including one win at Foxboro. The media has had a ball tracking the rocky relationship between the two.
The prediction: Even though Mangini has spent years coaching defensive practices against him, it is hard to go against Tom Brady against the playoffs.

New York Giants (8-8) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
1:30 FOX
The story: Anyone could have come out from the NFC East in any fashion and it would not have been a surprise. But no one saw Jeff Garcia rallying the Eagles to the division title. The Giants started off 6-2 but tallied off, largely because of Eli Manning's supposed regression.
The hype: Tom Coughlin's job is on the line in this game while Donovon McNabb and his mother wonder how he will be treated come next season.
The prediction: No one is giving the Giants a chance in this one, and that makes them dangerous. Garcia is more consistent than Manning though, so Philly gets the edge.


BCS Championship: Florida (2) versus Ohio State (1)
5:15pm FOX
The story: UCLA knocked USC out of the title picture while Florida barely edged Michigan in the BCS calculations.
The hype: Buckeye quarterback Troy Smith, perhaps the next Vince Young, is up against the tough Florida defense.
The prediction: Troy Smith makes a case for the NFL and runs all over Florida.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Friday Night Lights

It will get you pumped, make you angry, laugh, and yes, even cry. Friday Night Lights. Wednesdays 8pm on NBC. Watch it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 Year in Review

I am not one who loves to dwell over the past, but I do enjoy recalling some big stories...

January 22, 2006
NFL Championship Sunday features the Seahawks and Steelers winning their respective conferences.
Sonics 152, Suns 149 (2ot) - Ray Allen's three pointer at the buzzer wins a high scoring double overtime thriller
Lakers 122, Raptors 104 - Kobe Bryant: 81 points in 42 minutes, shooting 28 for 46 including 7 of 13 three pointers, and 18 for 20 from the free throw line, along with a whopping two assists.

Super Bowl XL - Refere-uh, I mean, Steelers 21, Seahawks 10.
Rose Bowl - Vince Young runs all over the Trojans snapping USC's 34-game winning streak in route to a national championship

Germany wins 29 medals at the Winter games in Italy, which are largely overshadowed by a series of illegal substance scandals.

Madness ensues as George Mason rides a Cinderalla season into the Final Four. Florida handily beats UCLA to win the national championship.

The NFL Draft makes big news as the Houston Texans pick Mario Williams first allowing New Orleans to pick Reggie Bush. Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Devin Hester, and Maurice Jones-Drew cap out a star-studded draft.

Perhaps the greatest NBA Playoffs of all time featured four seven game series': Raja Bell and Kobe go at it in the first round, Lebron James takes the Detroit Pistons to seven, Dallas Mavericks upset the banged up San Antonio Spurs in a series that came down to the final minute, and the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers provide another set of seven entertaining games.

NHL Stanley Cup - Carolina Hurricanes defeat the Edmonton Oilers in seven. No one cares.
NBA Finals - Down 0-2 to the Dallas Mavericks, the Miami Heat decide to turn it on winning four in a row as Dwyane Wade cements his name as a superstar.

The FIFA World Cup in Germany is considered a grand success but will always be remembered for Zinedine Zidane's heatbutt.

The excitement and anticipation for another NFL season peaks during training camp. How will Big Ben, Culpepper, Brees, and Pennington return from injuries? When will the rookie quarterbacks step in and which will be the best? Just how good are the Manning brothers? Who is not sick and tired of the T.O. circus? Will the Curses strike the Seahawks?

NFL kickoffs with the best moment being the Saints emotional homecoming to the New Orleans Superdome on Monday Night beating the Atlanta Falcons 23-3 in route to a surprising 10-6 season.

St. Louis Cardinals upset the Detroit Tigers in five games to win the World Series

NBA - The Utah Jazz emerge as the surprise team of the season, joining the ranks of San Antonio, Dallas, and Phoenix and reinforcing the western conference's superiority.

NBA - Allen Iverson is traded to the Denver Nuggets days after a New York and Denver brawl.
NFL - L.T. wins the rushing title and sets the touchdown record with 31.

The Bible Experience

It has taken me a while, but I am finally reaping the benefits of a great Christmas gift, The Bible Experience, a collection of 18 CDs featuring dramatic readings of the New Testament. While driving around in my car, I normally love to have ESPN radio or KFWB news rambling on, and I will even put up with the garbage that we call our generation's music. But I have found a new favorite in listening to the New Testament. While nothing compares to reading the good book itself, this audio blends celebrities' voices and music to bring the gospel to life in a vivid and powerful manner.