North of the 400

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Posts Tagged ‘Green Bay Packers

Feet Puns of the World Unite – Divisional Playoff Weekend

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Some loose, disconnected thoughts on each of the weekend’s NFL playoff games.

Pittsburgh Steelers over Baltimore Ravens

I’m glad I got home late on Saturday and missed the first half of this one, since it looked ugly. The main clip I saw of the first half was this bizzare fumble where everybody thought the ball was dead until somebody picked it up and ran it into the end zone. Shades of that Monday night game from a few years ago, where somebody (A Packer, I think) made a similar play – he was down, but nobody touched him, so he got up and ran the ball for a score or something and now, in every practice, coaches drill touching into players head with a variety of hot irons, backwards messages and a lot of screaming.

And when I tuned in, the Steelers were down big. It wasn’t a total surprise (thank god for The Score’s mobile phone app, which kept me somewhat in touch with the game). On the whole, it seemed like the Steelers brought both sides of their game to the table: their offensive line was not good early on, and while they did improve later, I still feel iffy about them and especially in their protection of Roethlisberger, who was getting nailed harder than even he’d find appropriate on a first date.

It wasn’t an especially convincing win, I thought, but the Steelers came out in the end. Yes, there was a tremendous comeback by the Steelers, but there was a big collapse by the Ravens offence. Their lead was built on turnovers and making the most of what they were given and they blew it by playing  just okay. Flacco is taking, and will continue to take, a lot of grief, but I’m not completely holding him to blame – he was under a lot of defensive pressure on  Saturday and did deliver some tight passes: one to TJ Houshmandzadeh and another to Anquan Boldin, both of which were dropped – Boldin’s cost them a touchdown and Housh’s killed a fourth-quarter rally. There was a punt-return touchdown, called back on a penalty and eventually turned into a field goal.

You know how in Techmo Bowl, turnovers seem to even out? If you get a fumble early, it’s almost certain you’ll fumble or get picked off later? I know it sounds Simmons-y, but that’s what I was thinking when Flacco fumbled in the third. I think that example held up throughout the game. The Steelers played odd in the first half and the Ravens looked odder in the second. Part of me wonders if it was the ball – the Ravens had a hard time hanging onto it – or if it had something to do with a blood-thirsty crowd, but I can’t find any real answers so I want to fall back on cliche: Pittsburgh wanted it more or something. I guess it comes down to something like this: Baltimore played better than they were in the first, worse than they are in the second and, combined, finished as the team everybody thought they were – defensively talented but with question marks on offence. The Steelers were the same; the first half went all wrong, the second all right and they look great for the comeback win, even if it wasn’t really all their fault.

Green Bay Packers over Atlanta Falcons

The must crushing thing about this game came right before halftime, when Tramon Williams ran an interception all the way for a score as the clock expired – and, most interestingly to me, right before the Packers would get the ball back on a kickoff. When that happens to me in Madden or Techmo or whatever, it’s always a huge boost – it’s all the psychological gain of a safety and more points on the board, too. I don’t think I called the game right then and there, but I started seeing it on Twitter and, looking back, they were right.

I’m not sure what this loss means to Matt “Ice” Ryan. In two playoff games, he’s underwhelmed, but that’s way too small a sample size to judge him as a heir apparent to Dan Marino or whatever. Marino was a singular talent who was saddled on some poor teams (and had the misfortune to play at the same time as Joe Montana, who had much better teams around him) for the bulk of his career; Ryan seems like an above-average QB who’s still young enough to make mistakes. It’s fun and it’s easy to draw a line connecting him to other QBs throughout history who never won much, but it’s disingenuous: he’s barely been in the league long enough to make playoff appearances.

As for the Packers, they looked amazing. Both their offence and defence were clicking as they rolled through the Falcons. I’ve been saying for a while they’re a lot better than people give them credit for – they lead the NFC in SRS, as I recall. I was thinking about that this morning when listening to a Simmons podcast, where him and noted NFL expert Adam Carolla used how close the Packers/Eagles game was to boost the Falcons – their logic was something like “Well, Green Bay nearly lost to Philadelphia and the Eagles are out of the playoffs, so that means the Packers are nearly out of the playoffs also,” which is fine except for the parts which don’t make sense (most of it). Green Bay is good, Philadelphia was nearly as good and both, I’d wager, were better than the Falcons.

Chicago Bears over Seattle Seahawks

A long while ago, I wrote a really long story on the Arizona Cardinals and the dangerous effects of hype. It was right before that Super Bowl where they came out of nowhere and put together a great run to the Super Bowl, mostly thanks to Kurt Warner lobbing touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald (which indirectly led to my favorite Slate article of all time).Essentially, it was about how everybody was buying into the team because it was a feel-good story and they possessed that rare sports element – momentum. They demolished teams in the playoffs, especially Carolina, and then tested the Steelers in the Super Bowl, but fell short of actually winning.

Anyway, the Seahawks began reminding me of them on Friday, when hype surrounding them began to hit critical mass – I think it was when Ron Jaworski said the Bears lead the NFL in negative-yardage-plays – and I started feeling iffy about picking them. It’s nice to call an upset, sure, but to ride that bandwagon? Yeah, I got ahead of myself.

The Seahawks played like they have all season on Sunday, which is to say not especially good. Their defence was lackluster, their offence sputtered like my first car and I don’t think anybody should have been surprised a 7-9 team lost to a team good enough to get a bye week. Chicago did look impressive, but I still don’t trust them – they’ve improved throughout the season, but I still feel like they haven’t been tested by a really good team yet. The Packers will be that test, but I’ll save that breakdown for another day…


NY Jets over New England Patriots

Forget Seattle over New Orleans, this is the upset of the playoffs. The Patriots were good this year and, if I’m remembering my advanced stats right, went into the postseason more highly rated than any of their previous seasons – including that one which finished 16-0. Brady was lights out, throwing everywhere to everybody (especially Branch, but also Welker) and they steamrolled teams.

But their defence? Well, it had problems. Third-most passing yards allowed, for one. It’s let teams hang in this season – Buffalo stands out in my mind – but was just good enough for their offence to make a few big plays here and there and push the game out of reach. So, on one side of the ball – Jets offence/Pats defence – I can’t profess to be totally surprised. But the other end – where the Jets stymied the Patriots offence – that was really cool.

Brady finished with a decent game – two scored and nearly 300 yards – but he had to throw the ball 45 times to get those numbers. Their running game was held to about 100 yards and neither running back really stood out, I thought. The Jets kept pressure on Brady and while he threw a lot, and had time to throw, just the idea of throwing that many passes makes me nervous. Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Roethlisberger all threw less times, but threw more efficiently: more yards, more scores and wins in all the games. Hasselbeck threw as much as Brady in his loss, too.

I don’t know if there’s an exact number I can point to, but I think there’s gotta be some kind of margin where it’s dangerous. First off, there’s the whole incomplete-passes-stop-the-clock angle, but there’s also the idea that it’s taxing on the entire team to run routes all day. For each of those passes Brady threw, he had two (at least) recievers running full tilt into the backfield. That’s gotta add up over time, doesn’t it?

Anyway, based on how well the Jets looked, they’ve gotta be seriously looked at to get past the Steelers. They’ve shown they can shut down explosive offenses (two thus far), but haven’t done much against a tremendous defence – but the Steelers defence looked shaky, too.  I’ll probably address this in further detail when I do my picks in a couple days.

One final thought: Enough with the Rex Ryan feet jokes already. They’re played out and really, isn’t it kind of cute that he likes his wife that much? I’d much rather have to deal with him than a player who sexually assaults women.

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These NFL WIld Card Weekend Picks are Superbad

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I had a discussion the other day with a friend on the best movies of the decade. We threw around a lot of titles but didn’t really come to any conclusions: was it No Country for Old Men? Almost Famous? Inglorious Basterds?

Anyway, a couple nights later, I caught Superbad on Showcase. I hadn’t seen that movie since it came out a few years ago and frankly didn’t want to; I got really tired of people making McLovin jokes.

But as I watched it, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Two years later, it still felt fresh. It felt fresh the next day when I watched it again. And it felt fresh yesterday when I shelled out five bucks for a used copy.

Is it the best movie of the decade? Maybe. But without a doubt, it’s the most quotable. And with a nod to Bill Simmons, it inspired me and my buddy Bernard to hand out quotes for my NFL Playoff picks.

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Broncos pull out a win with help – NFL Notebook

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With the score 38-31 against them, and the clock under 90 seconds, the Broncos could see their game slip away.

Quarterback Jay Cutler dropped back, rolled to his right and – horror of quarterback horrors – whiffed on the pass. He didn’t fumble the ball; it slipped out of his hands, fell to the ground and was scooped up by linebacker Tim Dobbins. The Chargers get the ball back, run out the clock, win the game.

But wait – the referee, prematurely blew his whistle, which means the ball is dead at the Charger 10-yard line.

It also means that Denver gets a second chance. It should have been a fumble, perhaps, but that’s how it sometimes goes.

Two quick passes later, it’s a one-point game. And even more prematurely then the offical’s whistle, Dick Enberg yells the game is tied and headed to overtime. Both Jay Cutler and head coach Mike Shanahan disagreed and went for two. The Broncos nailed it, on a short pass to Eddie Royal, the same man who caught the touchdown.

It’s a shame that this game will likely me better remembered for botched call then for San Diego’s comebacks from being down 21-3 early on – and 31-17 at the half.

All in all, both quarterbacks were firing on all cylinders. Cutler passed for 350 yards and for four touchdowns; Phillip Rivers for 377 and three majors. However, LeDainian Tomlinson toe was a constant bother, and he only had ten rushes, just 26 yards.

A great game, yes, but only the tip of the weekend’s matches. An overtime finish in Seattle. Aaron Rogers leads the Packers to his first comeback win. Matt Cassel wins his first pro start since high school. The Colts come back after looking dead in the water. An overall great weekend of matches.

And as the afternoon comes to a close, it raises a series of questions: What happened to Detroit? Is Aaron Rogers better then Farve? And what teams are for real – and what teams are faking?

Let’s go to Detroit first, where the Lions seem to be in self-destruct mode. At this point last season, the Lions were 2-0, Kitna had passed for 3 touchdowns and over 500 yards. Granted, they were on their way to a season where they finished 7-9, but at least they seemed like a good team at the time.

Now, they seems like a team that can’t do anything right. Not only are they 0-2, but also they’ve already allowed 82 points firmly showing that they have the worst defence in the NFL thus far. Keep in mind, only one team has allowed over 70 points and none have scored more then Green Bay’s 72 (more on that later).

This isn’t an area where they show many signs of improvement. Their defence is letting other teams dominate the clock – against Green Bay, for example, they gave up an eight-minute drive in the first quarter and had less then 25 minutes of their own.

Looking at game charts on ESPN, the Lions offense seems to have a tendency to run plays out of the shotgun set, which to my mind speaks of a lack of faith in the offensive line. I suppose the 62 total rushing yards also does, too. Remember – you need a running game, and thusly a good offensive line, to control the clock. For a team to be successful in the NFL, they must control the clock.

Granted, teams have been successful without one in the past. The Oilers of the early 1990s were one. Their Run-N-Gun offense emphasized the pass, thanks to the arm of quarterback Warren Moon. But they were a team who fell apart in the playoffs year after year: in 1991 to the Broncos, in 1992 to the Bills in a memorable collapse and finally in 1993 to the Kansas City Chiefs.

So take from that what you will – you can get to the playoffs with passing, but that’s about all.

On the other side of the game, the Packers are finding themselves in the best case scenario. Aaron Rogers, for all the talk that surrounded him, has played exceptionally well this year and is leading the team that could be the best in the conference.

Granted, they haven’t beaten anybody of substance yet – just Minnesota and Detroit, two teams that missed the playoffs last year. The big game is next week, then they play Dallas in a game already scheduled in prime time. But right now, they are the favourites for their division. Rogers looks better then Farve did all last season, and has already had a monster, 300+ yard, three touchdown game against the Lions.

It’s early – too early for me to make this call, really – but he’s looking like he can take the Packers to the playoffs. Granted, he’s in a weak division (Detroit is soft and I’m not sold on Chicago) so it’s not a really outlandish statement, but there you go.

It’s early in the season, which means that time is ripe for trickery and fakery in the standings. The Giants and Cardinals are 2-0, while Seattle is winless.

Of all these teams, the Giants are looking the most like a contender. Their defence, which has allowed just 20 points against so far, looks like the best in the NFC – even without Michael Strahan. Granted, they’ve played two fairly weak teams, the Rams and Redskins. And the bulk of the schedule is daunting: two games against Philadelphia and Dallas, an away game in Cleveland and an early bye week could all prove to be problems. But they’ve got a good opening slate, and could end up 4-0: next up for them are the freefalling Bengals and the collapsing Seahawks.

Who are themselves in a state of flux. A heartbreaking loss at home to San Francisco, where they lead 14-3 after the first but couldn’t stop a newly-high powered Niner offence, is only the latest of their woes: Hasselbeck is battling a bad back; Julius Jones is struggling to fill the hole left by Shaun Alexander; a porous secondary that allowed nearly 300 yards of passing on Sunday.

Even their vaunted home-field advantage wasn’t much help – maybe it rattled the Niners at then end of regulation, but it sure didn’t in overtime when Joe Nedney nailed his third kick of the day (he had missed only one) to win the game.

This is new for the Seahawks, who have feasted on a weak division for the last several years. Their defence, which was seventh in the NFC last year in total yards, eighth in passing yards, and second in points allowed, feasted on the weak offences of San Franscisco and St. Louis. But this year, with Arizona and the Niners looking better then they have this decade, they’re slowing down – giving the Cards a chance to catch up.

Which they finally should be doing. After a couple seasons as a trendy sleeper pick that never panned out, the Cards were an afterthought after the preseason, when Matt Lienart lost his starting job to an ancient Kurt Warner. But they’ve snuck up on unsuspecting teams – granted, two easy ones in San Franscico and Miami. But with Anquan Boldin set to build on a nine-touchdown, 850+ yard 2007 and Edgerrin James as a solid, grinding running back that can help them control the clock, they appear set to make a solid run. Finally.

Of course, all of this is barring injuries.

Written by M.

September 15, 2008 at 10:35 pm

Is Farve to the jets nothing more then a PR move?

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The temptation to keep playing is a strong one for some athletes, who linger on well past their time. Perhaps it derives from the same drive that propelled them to stardom; sometimes it comes from a need to make money.

If the athlete is lucky, his final years can be overlooked as people remember the glory days. Bobby Orr retired as a Blackhawk. Joe Namath as a Ram. Michael Jordan as a Wizard. They are almost never remembered as playing for these teams, but they are the lucky ones.

For every Jordan-like comeback, there is a shambling Ricky Williams in an Argos jersey or an Ali getting battered by Larry Holmes.

And now, since it looks like Brett Farve will retire as a New York Jet, I find myself wondering what the legacy will look like.

Now that Farve has found a home, replacing Chad Pennington, Farve seems to have jumped from the cheese pan into the fire.

IF he thought the media in Milwaukee was tough, he’s got another thing coming. If he found the Vikings or the Bears tough, he’ll have a hard time on weeks two and 13, when they play the Patriots? Or San Diego on week 3?

It’s not like he’s going to a contender, either. Offensively, the Jets are in the basement: 26th in total yards. 25th in passing yards and points scored. The Jets main back, Thomas Jones, didn’t score a rushing touchdown until week 13 last season. There was even a six game losing streak for the boys in green last year to boot.

Had it not been for the Miami Dolphins, a team that redefined the term “cataclysmically awful”, the Jets would have been the stinkers of the AFC.

Look, I’m not knocking the guy. He wants to play another season, fine, okay, go do it. It’s just that there had to have been a better, less played-out way to do this. There had to have been a better team that wanted him – The Vikings? Tampa Bay?

It just looks more and more like Farve will be heading into a no-win scenario. He’s going from a good team that was a score away from going to the Super Bowl, to a team that lost to Buffalo twice last year. He’s going to a team that needs his leadership, yes, but to a team that needs his publicity even more.

After all, the Giants won the Super Bowl last season. They’re not only riding on top of the NFL, but on the city of New York as well. And by bringing in a legend, the Jets can take back some of the Giants press. But is that all the Farve deal is? A PR move to siphon attention away from the Giants?

Look at what happened in the other comebacks: Jordan, for example, helped put the Wizards in the collective consciousness, something their NBA title couldn’t do in the 1970s.

Hopefully, Farve will help the Jets to a decent finish this year.

Hopefully this is more then just a PR move by New York’s second-place football team.

Hopefully our last memory of Farve won’t be him overwhelmed by a bad team.

Written by M.

August 8, 2008 at 4:45 am

Posted in football, NFL

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