Friday, November 24, 2006

I Told You There Would Be More Ramblings

"So that old lady, she was just a liar?"
"And a bit of a tramp if you ask me."

Ok, maybe saying the Bruins and Celts were "firing on all cylinders" was a bit presumptuous. The Bruins got massacred at home by the reiging champion Hartford...I mean, Carolina Hurricanes (is it Hurricane or Hurricanes?...yeah look that one up cause ya got me). Then, in the same night, the Celts, in the exact same TD North Garden, or whatever they call that monstrosity now, by the Knicks. Yes the Knicks. You know what team I'm talking about. And Rey-Rey didn't even factor into the decision. How is that possible? Unreal. Anyway, I have much more to talk about now that I am alive, awake, and alert...kind of.

Ok, of course I need to talk about Thursday football a little more. Thanksgiving games were horrendous for the most part. The really good game that happened, of course, was on a channel that less than half the American cable televisions were able to get. (By the way, if you have DirecTV, kudos. Cable sucks a big one.). First, the Kevin Jones-less Lions took on the somewhat upstart Dolphins, who have amazingly willed themselves into postseason contention (kind of) behind...Joey Harrington? Wow, did not see that one coming. Anyway, the defense was again outstanding, but again, the Dolphins fall under the same trap as the Bears do. This team depends so much on their front seven applying pressure that, unless they get to the QB early and often, they are screwed for the rest of the game. This secondary is downright awful. What happened to Will Allen? Everyone lights him up like a G.D. Christmas tree every time he has to go in single coverage. Kitna was able to get the ball out to Roy Williams for over a hundred yards, but Williams only ended with six catches, five being made in the first. The Lions had a non-existant running game, only coming up with 21 yards. Yeah, with Kevin Jones, a preliminary 1,000-yard runner every year, out of the game, that will happen. Also, Miami ran all over the Lions front, with Sammy Morris getting a large chunk of yardage as Ronnie Brown injured his hand in the 3rd quarter. Morris looked impressive, but against the Lions, I'm not sold yet. If Miami expects to have a one-loss or undefeated record down the stretch, they will need Brown to come back immediately to have any chance. He just had surgery on his broken left hand, and a timetable for his return has not been given. Stay tuned as that one will be a big story in the coming weeks. I just can't say enough about the play of the Dolphin D-line and Zach Thomas, who is one of the few linebackers (Urlacher, Bruschi, Brooks, Vilma, Lewis) that can literally alter the way any offense plans their attack. This guy is a tackle machine. Also, with Traylor stuffing the line, Vonnie Holiday and Jason Taylor are left to roam free on the outside, and, as seen in the Bears game and this last one, they can also change the outcome of the game.

In the second game, what was presumed to be a laugher ended up being, well, a laugher, as them Cowboys crushed the Bucs 38-10. Once again, the story is Tony Romo. Hint to other teams, if your season is going down the tubes, implement the Tom Brady strategy. Ok, that was a biased name choice, and he did come in after an injury, but it's not like Drew was hurt the whole year. Here's what you do. Take a quarterback who is way past his prime (Bledsoe, actually, this is the second time he's gone through this...damn. Also, Leftwich, and soon to be Mark Brunell), put in, now this is important, a QB with less than three starts in the NFL. I cannot stress how critical that is. How I got three? Your guess is as good as mine. Then, oversimplify the playbook. By the way, in doing this, not only does it help the QB, but don't you think the rest of the offense likes not having to worry about 3/4 of a 700-page playbook? Then, make sure you have some...any kind of running game. Brady had Antwoin Smith and hey, he ran for 1,000 yards that year. Go ahead, look it up, I'll be here. Romo and David Garrard are saddled with two-headed monster backfields. Jason Campbell will get that pleasure next year, as, after he goes over .500 down the stretch, he will undoubtedly be the opening day starter. Then, get nearly unknown, or players somewhat past their prime, to just play out of their minds. Brady had rookie Deion Branch, Romo has Terry Glenn, who Bledsoe also looked to this year. Garrard has Ernest Wilford. And Campbell has Santana, ok he's not exactly unknown or past his prime, bad example, but he does brace yourself for this one, Chris Cooley. That's right. Chris Cooley is going to be absolute dynamite down the strectch. Which brings me to #4 in the Tom Brady how to turn your season/franchise around, good tight end play. Tom was able to hook up with Jermaine Wiggins (from?...Louisville!...and South Boston mind you), this was especially apparent in the Tuck Rule game against the Raiders. A little side note, you cannot even imagine the amount of pleasure I had walking through LAX with a framed picture of Tommy spiking the ball in that game. That was one of the largest "F U's" I've pulled in a good long time. Oh, by the way, all you Panther fans, just got me my Pats flag, and it will be flying to no end once I get down there, starting at Charlotte Airport. Anyway, back to my original thought. Jason Witten has to be one of the top-10 most under-appreciated offensive skill players in all of the NFL. He is making it so that TO and Terry get a lot of single coverage, with the safeties preoccupied with Witten. The Jags have Matt Jones. Hey, he was listed as a TE in the draft when he came out, don't blame me...he's on the list! And of course, the previously mentioned Chris Cooley, who I am trying desperately to get on my fantasy team. H-Back, now that's good stuff. Brian Leonard coming out of Rutgers will most likely be the next one in a dying species. Old time football people. That's what will always win. Running and defense. Also, it never hurts to have a pretty good defense that will help the other team from not scoring as much as you do. You can also mark that on concepts of old time football...scoreboard. The 'Boys and Jags have already established themselves, with Roy Williams having a "vengeance" game against the Bucs. You have to love the vengeance game. Harrington had one against his former team the same day. I remember when Lawyer Milloy was released right before the 2003 season by the Pats. He ended up going to Buffalo, and guess who we played on opening day. Yeah, 31-0 later, you kind of had the sense Lawyer got a good bang for his buck. (By the way, he still plays amazing against us when he is healthy, but now Ko Simpson is starting, which is about the same horrible sensation...Gamecock...ok). Vengeance is what makes this league great. With people moving every offseason, there's always going to be someone who is a salary cap casuality, or is not re-signed because the team fears he is "washed up." (Is San Diego re-scheduling that Junior Seau retirement party? Or is that like a one-shot deal?). Anyway, teams following this agenda are going to be absolute spoilers and could even be contenders to a certain degree. This is especiall true for the Cowboys, who are seemingly getting red-hot at the exact right time, with a matchup next week against the Giants, who have put their ship in reverse (first reported right here) and are heading into the black hole. Speaking of which, you know it's bad when Tiki Barber comes out against the team. I mean Plaxico and Shockey, yeah I can see that, but Tiki? Goodness. This team is entering an abyss it seems, with Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning as their captains. Wowsers. And they were second favorite to make it to the Super Bowl from the NFC? Ouch.

Third game on the agenda was a barn-burner, with the Chiefs holding off the Broncos in an AFC West showdown 19-10. I'll be completely honest right now. I had the Chiefs at 13-3. I know it is impossible for that to happen, but still, they have four losses. "They play to win the games." Yes! It's Herm! Come on now. This guy may not do it for the long-term, but in the extreme short-run, this team will win...a lot. In the playoffs, with Trent Green back, and Grandma-ma running wild, this team is going to be a force. This team is actually better for the playoffs right now than the Colts are, and I'll tell you why. The Chiefs' defense is real bad, but the Colts are that much worse. If Bob Sanders does not get healthy, the Colts will not win a game in the playoffs. You saw it last year and you've seen it every year under the Manning regime. They need a playmaker on defense, and with Dwight Freeney basically useless this year, they have no one who could really step up and make an impact. Now you're saying to yourselves, "yeah, no s*it, but the Chiefs have no one either, right?" Wrong. They have three playmakers who have yet to make themselves be known. Derrick Johnson, Jared Allen, and Greg Wesley. Johnson made himself famous at Texas for his ability to force fumbles, and don't think that will not be called upon in playoff time. Allen has been a menace all season long with his insatious pressure on the quarterback. And last but not least, Greg Wesley is already a playmaker, but yet no one seems to give him much respect around the league. This guy is clutch, I've seen it first hand. With these three on defense, and the offense, which is getting back some of its offensive line in the coming weeks, and just got their 4,000-yard quarterback starting again, this is the most dangerous team in football. Not the Pats, not the Colts, not the Bears, the Chiefs. I am hoping they get knocked out before we have to play them, or else, we could be in some serious trouble. Along with this game came the undoing of Jake Plummer, which the entire city of Denver was waiting, and some seemingly praying, for to happen. The Jay Cutler era could very well be upon the Broncos (see the Tom Brady strategy). The Broncos need a spark, they need the fans, they need Cutler. Now although none of Cutler's previous work at Vandy really impressed me very much. I have to say, his senior year was helped greatly by the emergence of then-freshman Earl Bennett. Cutler does have good attributes however, and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the speed of the pro game. But back to Jake the, well, you know. As I sit here writing about how Cutler should take over, I honestly feel bad for Jake Plummer. He seemingly had to live up to larger-than-life expectations throughout his entire career. As a rookie, he was labelled the "savior" of the Cardinals and was expected to giude them to the promise land. And in some ways, he fit the billing, as he was able to guide the Cardinals to their first playoff win in franchise history, over the Cowboys. And this was in the Aikman-Smith-Irvin era. That's some good stuff. The remainder of his stint in Phoenix saw him getting lit up and having no running game to take any of the pressure off of him. So, he moved on to Denver, to replace...John Elway. John Elway! #7! (If you can name a guy based on number...that's pretty good...actually that may not fly around these parts...Phil Esposito, Bruins baby! Wooooo!...sorry, had to). Actually, now that I mention good ol' Phil, I am forced to reminice on Phil Esposito night at the old Garden. One of the greatest moments in Boston sports and sports history in general I think. When Raymond Bourque skated up to Phil, with Ray adorned in his #7, then taking off the old jersey to reveal #77, to which he will always be known by, then handing his old jersey to Phil, and then there is a classic man-hug. I am getting teary-eyed just thinking about it, but I digress. Jake was brought in to replace an absolute legend of the game, and a God-like figure in Denver. Plummer, for the most part, had a good run in the regular seasons, but the pressure of winning another title simply always gets to him in the playoffs, as time after time, he made "the mistake" (it's almost like "the big one" at Talladega) and the Broncos were out just like that. I hope Jake gets a fresh start, maybe with an underachiever, and perhaps can rebuild what was once a shining, brilliant career.

The last comment I will make about football yesterday was in the BC-Miami game last night. That had to have been one of the worst halfs of football I may have ever seen. BC basically owned the 'Canes in the first quarter, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. They then were able to get an interception return for a touchdown (By the way, Dejuan Tribble, guy took it back, wow, did he make some great plays, 3 INT's, very impressive). BC let the lead get to four on a late Miami touchdown to go into the half leading 14-10. And then...I don't know. They had some very effective run plays with Andre Callendar in the first half, including their lone offensive TD, but in the second half, it seemed like they were playing down around 21 points. Just a passing barage by Matt Ryan, who clearly was off his game last night, no matter what the announcers said to try and persuade you. God were they kissing his ass last night. Anyway, the Eagles sucked it up big time. Going for it on numerous fourth downs inside the 40? I don't get it. Why not punt and back them up inside their own 15? Instead, they attempted to make 4th and 11's on at least two different occasions...while they were leading! You can't be serious?! Johnnie Mac, help me out here. Unbelievable. But the no running thing absolutely befuddled me. First of all, when they did run, it was completely unaffective because BC attempted off-tackle runs against a very fast Miami front. This is not going to work in basically every instance. Just a horrible game offensively. Defense was actually pretty solid, only allowing the one TD in the second half, but the thing is, when points are at a premium, one TD could swing the game completely around, which is exactly what happened. I think this is almost like a conspiracy. It seems that when BC is given a chance to play in a mega-huge game, they choke at the very end, lose one they should have had, then wind up in a Liberty/Emerald/Continential Tire Bowl game. This could explain why they've reeled off five consecutive bowl wins, a feat that has never been accomplished...ever. But that's the thing. You would probably never realize that unless I told you, because BC is always playing in such inconsequential games that no one really cares what they do. Wouldn't it be better to at least go to a big game and just say you were there? So what if you lose, you were there. That's $15 million for the school instead of just 5. I mean I hat to be cynical like that and say it would be better to lose than to win. In most situations, it has been decided that winning is better than losing, and I am fully aware of this concept, but you at least want to taste the big time once right? You owe it to the students, the players, and the fans (this guy) of that school to coach a better gane than the crap they pulled last night. That's just frustrating.

Three SEC teams deserve to go to BCS games. This will not happen. But after watching the LSU-Arkansas game today, how can you take either of them out of a big bowl game. Florida, though somewhat overrated, is still a hell of a team. We gave them all they could handle a couple of weeks ago, but I think that may have been the kick in the butt the Gators needed, as they head into their once-storied rivalry with Florida St. tomorrow. I think the Gators will be pretty pumped going into this one. I expect a romp at the Swamp. You have to respect the Razorbacks though, with a 10-game winning streak being ended today at home by the Bayou Bengals. Mitch Mustain was inexplicably absent from the game, as apparently they felt that Casey Dick would give them a better chance. He did pull out wins against South Carolina and Tennessee on the road, but it was clear that Mustain was the right guy for the job. Perhaps Houston Nutt wanted more experience, but considering Dick is only a sophmore, you have to wonder about that move. Final line: 3/17, 29 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. Wow. But give JeMarcus Russell and the rest of the Tigers credit. They didn't have the prettiest win, but they pulled it out. I'll tell ya, Russell looked absolutely oustanding today, as I think he will be a steal in the upcoming draft, probably with a 3rd to 4th round grade being attached to him. The Hogs did have plenty to come away from in this game, and that plenty is highlighted by the play of Heisman hopeful Bryant McFadden and the scorching Felix Jones. What a show they both put on today. Have you ever seen a running back get more snaps than the actual starting quarterback? McFadden threw for more yards than Dick did! (33 vs. 29...but still...that's sad). What a performance. Troy Smith is going to win the thing, and rightfully so, he had a hell of a season, but McFadden will be second, and he will get his fair share of votes. This kid is going to be something else next year and for years after that.

Wow guys, that was five single spaced pages in Word. Huh. Maybe this is what I should have been doing all along? I don't know, maybe not? Anyway, if you were somehow able to make it through these shenanegans, please give some feedback and tell me what you think. I mean I'm going to keep writing, but it never hurts to hear some constructive criticism. Actually, any sort of criticism will be accepted at this time. Alright, time to take a deep breath and say farewell to the Commonwealth. I'll be back in Carolina tomorrow. Go Cocks! I'm off the mic. And my music is that loud, so they are probably gonna catch me. Peace.


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