Lions beat the Redskins to finally end their losing streak

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Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and the Lions got their first win of the season against the Redskins and ended their 19-game losing streak

For the first time since Dec. 23, 2007, the Detroit Lions can finally call themselves winners. In an upset special the Lions led by rookie QB Matthew Stafford (21/36, 241 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INTs) scored a 19-14 victory over the Washington Redskins.  The win ended their 19-game losing streak and hopefully ended any reference to their NFL record low of a 0-16 season in 2008. The Lions (1-2) no longer to worry about catching the infamous Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976-1977 who lost an NFL record 26 games in a row.

The poor Redskins who now will be the answer to every punchline fought valiantly in the end, but they were too sloppy and did not play with the urgency needed.  The Skins also lost high-priced offseason DT Albert Haynesworth, who was carted off with an injured hip.  Lions points came via a Stafford 21-yard touchdown pass to Bryant Johnson – had a big day with four catches for 73 yards and 1 TD — in the first quarter.  And a short touchdown run by reserve RB Maurice Morris in the fourth quarter after a huge pass interference penalty was called on Redskins S Chris Horton in the endzone.

After the score by Morris, the Lions defense rose to the occasion by stopping the Redskins when it mattered most including a severely botched hook-and-lateral on the last play of the game.  The Lions held the ball for over 36 minutes, allowed the Skins to convert only 2 of 10 first downs, and forced one interception.

Now all the negative attention will turn Redskins head coach Jim Zorn, whose team had 9 penalties and continued having problems jelling on offense.  After an 8-8 season, Zorn in his second season already has a loss to the formerly winless Lions and a near miss last week to the lackluster Rams.

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2009 NFL Week 3 Preview

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In Week 3’s Featured Game, the SF 49ers and RB Frank Gore will travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings and All-World RB Adrian Peterson

As summer has moved out the door this week and autumn has returned, it is time for “Separation Sunday” around the NFL.  Teams are either trying to legitimize their standing as a “contender”, stay with the pack in the NFL’s increasing middle (14 teams are 1-1), get back in the race, or just plain survive as the NFL inches closer to the first quarter pole of the 2009 NFL season. 

The main theme that I will continue to pound at this time of year is that an NFL season is a marathon and should be taken increments.  Being on top this early in the NFL season is a good thing, but teams can’t get caught up in thinking things are going to be biscuits and gravy throughout the entire season.  The main thing right now is for teams to focus week-in and week-out on the team they are facing, because things can change very quickly in the topsy-turvy NFL.  “We’re not satisfied with being 2-0,” said 49ers head coach Mike Singletary.  “We want to be a team that really makes a difference.  That’s what we want to be and that’s what we’re going for.”

One thing is for certain, “parity” is all over America’s game as a breakdown of the teams’ records after two weeks of NFL action shows.  In the current NFL standings, there are 9 teams at (2-0) i.e. “The Haves” – Ravens, Jets, Giants, Falcons, Niners, Vikings, Colts, Saints and Broncos; 14 teams at (1-1) i.e. “Stuck in the Middle”  – Texans, Packers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bengals, Bills, Patriots, Redskins, Steelers, Chargers, Raiders, Cardinals, Bears, and Seahawks; and 9 teams at (0-2) i.e. “The Have Nots” – Browns, Rams, Chiefs, Lions, Jaguars, Panthers, Titans, Dolphins and Rams.  The biggest surprises of the currently nine(0-2) teams is that three 2008 divisional champs are at that mark — Tennessee Titans ( AFC South),  Miami Dolphins ( AFC East) and the Carolina Panthers ( NFC South).  These three teams had a combined record of 36-12 in 2008, but now they are tied with teams like the Detroit Lions (losers of 19-straight games).  However no matter where a team currently sits in the standings, they all still have a legitimate chance at making the playoffs heading into crucial “Separation Sunday”… Did you hear that St. Louis Rams’ fans. 

Don’t give the ship just yet.  Since realignment in 2002, 48 of the 84 playoff teams (57.1 percent) began the year at either 1-1 or 0-2.  Four of the past eight Super Bowl champions began their seasons with a 1-1 or 0-2 record.  History shows that 0-2 teams advance to the playoffs more often than people might think.  Since 1990, 22 teams have started 0-2 and still qualified for the postseason, including three teams in 2008 – Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers.  The best case scenarios for teams currently 0-2 are that three Super Bowl winning teams have started their respective championship seasons with that same record (2007 New York Giants, 2001 New England Patriots, and 1993 Dallas Cowboys).

The main thing is to not get in the almost impossible hole of 0-3, which could very well be a death sentence to a season. History has shown that exactly “zero” teams went from 0-3 to the Super Bowl.  And only three teams have made the playoffs after starting 0-3 since the NFL went to six playoff teams in each conference in 1990 — 1992 San Diego Chargers, 1998 Buffalo Bills, and 1998 Detroit Lions. Tennessee Titans QB Kerry Collins said of the urgency of not going 0-3, “It means you’ve got to turn up the level of urgency, because, no matter that it’s a 16-game season, you have to turn things around quickly.”

The 2009 “Own the Moment” season has been a great one so far and has been filled with a grab bag of some good and some not so good tidbits.

  • Exciting finishes There have been 15 games decided by six points or fewer through Week 2, the second-most such games through a season’s first two weeks in NFL history (record is 17 from 2000).
  • Rookies making their mark at a surprisingly early rate – Following in the footsteps of several 2008 rookie stars (Matt Ryan, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson and others) many rookies this season have stepped into the spotlight.  The outstanding freshman list includes Jets QB Mark Sanchez, Cardinals RB Chris “Beanie” Wells, Eagles FS Victor “Macho” Harris, Bears WR Johnny Knox, Bengals LB Rey Maualuga, Raiders WR Louis Murphy, Redskins LB/DE Brian Orakpo and others.  Speaking of Sanchez…with a Jets’ win this week over the Titans, the former USC stud can become the first rookie quarterback to start and win his team’s first three games of a season.
  • Coaches on the Hot Seat – With most of the coaches on our Hot Seat List starting with either a 1-1 or 0-2 record, the heat is on the Cowboys Wade Phillips, Bengals Marvin Lewis, Redskins Jim Zorn, Panthers John Fox,  Jaguars Jack Del Rio and some other coaches that probably don’t even know it yet.
  • Rookie O-linemen making a difference – Usually the transition from college ball to pro ball is very steep for offensive lineman.  But tthrough Week 2, NFL rookie offensive linemen have totaled 19 starts – the second-most through the first two weeks of a season since 1970.  On Kickoff Weekend, 10 rookie offensive linemen started – the most in a single season since 1970.  Some of the rookie standouts include Jacksonville Jaguars bookend offensive tackles Eben Britton (RT) and Eugene Monroe (LT).
  • A strong breeze is tearing through the NFL – Saints QB Drew Brees, now his fourth season with the team, has started all 50 regular-season games since 2006 and in that time leads the NFL with 14,579 passing yards, 97 touchdown passes and 25 300-yard games.  Brees’ 14,579 passing yards since 2006 are the most ever by a player in his first 50 games with a new team (rookies and veterans).  In Week 2, Brees tied St. Louis’ Charley Johnson (1965) for the most TD passes through the first two games of a season (9) and the Saints became the first team to score at least 45 points in each of the first two games of a season since the 1968 Oakland Raiders All I can say is lookout Buffalo as the Saints seem to have an offense that could challenge the 2007 New England Patriots (NFL record 582 points in one season). 
  • Bengals’ Odom looking for a record in his breakout season — Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom, who leads the league with seven sacks including a franchise-record five-sack output in Week 2 vs. Green Bay, needs 1.5 sacks to break former Jets DE Mark Gastineau’s NFL record of 8 sacks in the first three games of a season.  Odom already seems to be in great shape to break the Bengals franchise record for sacks in a season (13) by Eddie Edwards from 1983.

As is the case with most weeks in the NFL, this week’s slate of games features some great rivalries.  There are only four divisional games this week including the Steelers-Bengals, Browns-Ravens (annual Art Modell Bowl), and Raiders-Broncos.  The rivalry game that I will have my eye on this weekend will be the Bengals and Steelers.  The Bengals-Steelers rivalry has grown over the years with the Steelers usually coming away with the “W” – overall record versus Cincy of 47-30 including five straight wins.  But there will be extra incentive for the Bengals and Steelers WR Hines Ward (needs 60 yards this week for 10,000 career  receiving yards) better have his head on a swivel.  The last time the two teams met, Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers was “legally” blindsided by Ward, leaving the then rookie with a broken jaw. Since then the NFL rules committee created a rule specifically for open field blocks away from the ball.

Other match-ups to watch are Falcons- Patriots (Young Captain America vs. Old Captain America), Cardinals-Colts on SNF (MVP match-up), Titans-Jets (revenge game from last year where the Titans lost their winning streak), and Dolphins-Chargers (Wildcat goes against one of the NFL’s worst rush defenses.

NFL Week 3 – Featured Game

SF 49ers (2-0) at Minnesota Vikings (2-0), 1:00 PM ET (FOX)

Broadcast Team: Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan

“Somebody’s ‘0’ has to go” this week as two of the NFL’s nine undefeated teams will square off in the Metrodome.  I am sure when the NFL schedule came out way back in April that everyone didn’t think much of this game.  Well a lot has changed since April as veteran QB Brett Favre has joined the Vikings and the Niners look like a potential breakout squad after two dominating NFC West wins in consecutive weeks (Cardinals and Seahawks).

The Vikings, led by formerly on the hot seat head coach Brad Childress, have fattened up on the NFL’s underbelly playing the Browns and Lions to open their season.  But this week they are facing a young hungry Niners squad that wants to prove they are on the road back to respectability.  Any story with the Niners has to begin and end with their tough energetic head Mike Singletary.  The Niners have won 6 of their past 7 games under Singletary and players are buying into his “Preparation = Success” attitude.  Iron Mike II is not at all content with his 2-0 start and he wants more for his team than being a good early season story.

Surprising the Niners decided to go with efficient quarterback Shaun Hill (37-57, 353 yards, 1TD, and 0 INTs) to start the season and the team has responded.  The Hill, a former Vikings undrafted free agent back in 2002, has posted a respectable 9-3 (.750) record as a starter and has kept his team in the game by not turning the ball over.  If Minnesota is to continue their success in home openers (won 17 of its past 22 home openers), veteran QB Brett Favre will need to do more than his first two starts – has not really thrown the ball over 20 yards yet.  Favre (37-48, league-high 77.1%, 265 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs and a rating of 110.2 ) has had success in Purple, but Singletary’s defense led by SS Michael Lewis, DE Justin Smith, and LB Patrick Willis will be coming after the almost 40-year old passer.  If Favre does have something to lean on against the Niners is his lifetime record against them (11-2 including the playoffs).

Of course everyone will talk about Favre vs. Singletary’s defense (+2 in turnovers), but the story will be the two team’s Pro Bowl running backs.  Through the first two weeks, Peterson (272 yds) and Gore (237 yds) are the top two rushers in the NFC.  Last week against the Seahawks, 49ers RB Frank Gore showed the NFL he was back after an injury ravaged 2008 season.  Following the smash-mouth play calling of Niners offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, Gore rushed for 207 yards and had a career-high 246 scrimmage yards.  The former University of Miami star has 4,070 rush yards since the start of the 2006 season, which is the most in the NFL.  Gore is nursing an ankle injury (more of a tweak than a sprain) and the Williams Wall (DTs Pat and Kevin Williams) and LB Chad Greenway (2 INTs) will be waiting.   But expect the former Pro Bowl to attack a Vikings defense that has allowed an average of 4.0 YPC (15th in the NFL).

Even as great as Gore has been for the Niners, he cannot touch Vikings RB Adrian Peterson… of course who can in the NFL.  You know Peterson is hungry to wash away his rookie-year game against the Niners, where he only gained three yards on 14 carries.  Peterson leads the league with 3,373 rushing yards since entering the NFL in 2007 and has won the NFC rushing crown in each of his first two seasons.  For the Niners’ sake they better hope that Peterson is still nursing a back injury as the NFL saw his MVP type play in Week 1 vs. the Browns.  Peterson rushed for 180 yards on 25 carries and 3 TDs and was spectacular a 64-yard touchdown rumble down the sideline – broke at least five tackle attempts and swatted away defenders like Super Man.

LV’s Pick:  The conditions inside the Metrodome will be ideal for a track meet between Gore and Peterson.  But I believe with both running backs fighting through injuries that each team’s quarterback will have to step forward.  Hill has been efficient, even without first-round draft pick Michael Crabtree, and should look for targets WR Isaac Bruce, WR Jason Hill, WR Josh Morgan, and TE Vernon Davis. Conversely Favre has not been asked to do much and he has managed the Vikings offense well.  But I have a feeling Singletary and his defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will make Favre throw the ball past his 20-yard or less comfort zone.  Look for a late turnover by Favre to turn this game as the Niners even this series (currently 19-18-1 in favor of Minnesota) — Niners 27, Vikings 24

Week 3

SUN, SEP 27 

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati 1:00 PM (CBS) 

Washington at Detroit 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Kansas City at Philadelphia 1:00 PM (CBS)  

Green Bay at St. Louis 1:00 PM (FOX) 

San Francisco at Minnesota 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Atlanta at New England 1:00 PM (FOX)

NY Giants at Tampa Bay 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Cleveland at Baltimore 1:00 PM (CBS) 

Jacksonville at Houston 1:00 PM (CBS) 

Chicago at Seattle 4:05 PM (FOX)  

New Orleans at Buffalo 4:05 PM (FOX)

Denver at Oakland 4:15 PM (CBS) 

Tennessee at NY Jets 4:15 PM (CBS) 

Miami at San Diego 4:15 PM (CBS) 

Indianapolis at Arizona 8:20 PM (NBC)

MON, SEP 28 

Carolina at Dallas 8:30 PM (ESPN) 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Power Rankings – Week 2

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Jaguars QB David Garrard and his team will look to move up the Power Ranking this week as they take on the Houston Texans

Though early the 2009 NFL Season is starting to take shape with some interesting results.  The NFL continues to be a parity driven league as there are 14 teams at (1-1) – Texans, Packers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bengals, Bills, Patriots, Redskins, Steelers, Chargers, Raiders, Cardinals, Bears, and Seahawks.  Then there are 9 “Have” teams at (2-0) – Ravens, Jets, Giants, Falcons, Niners, Vikings, Colts, Saints and Bronco.  And 9 “Have Not” teams at (0-2) – Browns, Rams, Chiefs, Lions, Jaguars, Panthers, Titans, Dolphins and Rams.

For the 23 teams that are either 1-1 or 0-2, there is still good news as since 2002, 48 of 84 (57.1%) teams made the playoffs after starting at those marks.  Last year, the Chargers and Dolphins started 0-2 and still made the playoffs as each won their respective division.

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1. Giants (1-0) – The G-Men helped by Cowboys QB Tony Romo’s blunders overcame a sloppy day running and stopping the run.  Quarterback Eli Manning and his receivers, namely Steve Smith and Mario Manningham seemed to mature in front of our eyes as the Giants claimed the top spot.  Tom Coughlin will need his team to run the ball to avoid a letdown at Tampa.

2.  Colts (2-0) – Peyton Manning continues to amaze as the Colts made the most of the little time that they had the ball in their big MNF win over the host Dolphins.  The future hall of famer passed Colts great John Unitas in franchise career wins (119) in the victory.  Expect an aerial show in the desert as the Manning, Wayne, Clark, and now Garcon travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals on NBC Sunday Night Football.

3.  Jets (2-0) – The J-E-T-S, QB Mark “Cool Hand Luke” Sanchez, and their brash head coach Rex Ryan backed up their big talk with a potential “Changing of the Guard” win over the Patriots.  Next up for Ryan’s crew is another big test as the tougher than their record Tennessee Titans come to the Big Apple in search of their first win of the season.

4.  Vikings (2-0)  – Brett Favre and the Vikings put in a yeoman effort in taking care of business against the hapless Detroit Lions.  Brad Childress’ team will finally get a real challenge this week as the Vikings host Mike Singletary’s rising Niners in FOX’s game of the week.

5.  Ravens (2-0) – The Chargers put up the aerial numbers, but in the end LB Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco and Ravens laid the wood at the right times in a big road victory.   Though the Cleveland Browns are now one of the NFL’s most downtrodden teams, they are a dangerous team in coming to Baltimore for “Art Modell” bowl.

 6.  Saints (2-0)  – Led by record setting QB Drew Brees, Sean Payton’s offense is looking like the 1999 St. Louis Rams “Greatest Show on Turf” group. The Saints clobbered the Eagles in Philly via another offensive explosion.  Expect more aerial fireworks as the Saints coming to Buffalo looking for a win over T.O and the Bills.

7. Steelers (1-1) – The 2008 Super Bowl Champions fell from their perch atop the rankings as a combination of the Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, a strong Bears defensive effort  and Steelers kicker Josh Reed’s potential GW misses spelled the champs doom in Chi-Town.  In a true grudge match, the Steelers travel to Cincy to face a tougher than expected Bengals squad led by Ocho Cinco.

8.  49ers (2-0) – Look out for “Iron” Mike Singletary’s hungry young squad.  For the second week in a row, the Niners served notice to the NFC West that they are the new sheriffs in town by beating the Seahawks.  In a highly anticipated FOX Sunday afternoon tilt the Niners travel to the Vikings in a game to prove who is a contending NFC team.

 9.  Falcons (2-0) – Not many people are talking about Mike Smith’s efficient team at this point in the season, but everybody better take notice of QB Matt Ryan and the rest of the Falcons.  In a get out of the way win, the Falcons pushed former NFC South champ the Carolina Panther aside.  Next up for Matty Ice and his team is a trip back to the Boston area for a huge showdown with the Patriots.

10.  Patriots (1-1) – In a classic AFC East grudge match, Pats’ quarterback Tom Brady was harassed by Rex Ryan’s attacking Jets defense over and over as he lost in the Meadowlands for the first time.  Brady will look to outplay from Boston College star Matt Ryan as the Falcons come to New England looking for respect.

11.  Eagles (1-1) – The Birds had no answer for the Saints high-powered offense and their special teams didn’t do them any favors in losing the field position battle.  In a more dangerous than expected game, the much injured Eagles and newly activated QB Michael Vick host the Chiefs before they head off to their bye week.  Andy Reid’s team better be careful as the Birds are 4-6 going into the bye under the veteran coach.

 12.  Broncos (2-0) – We really don’t know how good Josh McDaniels’ squad really is at this point in the season, but they are undefeated after beating up the Browns last week.  In an old-time AFL battle, the Broncos look to distance themselves from the rest of the AFC West as they travel to Oakland.

13.  Chargers (1-1) – The Bolts moved the ball and scored a lot of points, but in the end the Ravens led by LB Ray Lewis stuffed them when it mattered most.  In a game that could have future playoff implications, the Chargers host the Wildcat happy Dolphins who are looking for their first win of the season.

14. Cowboys (1-1) – All eyes were tuned in for the opening of  billion dollar Dallas Cowboys Stadium, stadium last week, but Cowboys QB Tony Romo was not ready for primetime as Eli Manning and Giants beat them on SNF.  In their second primetime match-up in two weeks, the Cowboys will look to bury the 0-2 Carolina Panthers season as they host them on Monday Night Football.

15.  Cardinals  (1-1) – The 2008 NFC Champs and QB Kurt Warner (NFL record for completion %) found their “A” games in Jacksonville as they beat-up on the reeling Jaguars.  In a Sunday Night Football special, the Colts and Peyton Manning come to town looking to extend their 11-game winning streak.

16. Packers  (1-1)  –  HBO’s Hard Knocks’ heroes, the Bengals surprised the entire NFL by beating the Packers in Lambeau and Ocho Cinco even came back from a Lambeau Leap unscaved.  come to town looking for their first victory of the season.  The Pack will look to get back on the winning side of the ledger against the rebuilding Rams.

17.  Bears (1-1) – Lovie Smith’s team and QB Jay Cutler looked a lot better than in Week 1 as they hung tough and beat the Super Bowl champion Steelers.  A cross-country trip to Seattle awaits the Bears as they take on the injured Seahawks.

18.  Texans (1-1) – The Houston’s new team beatup their old team (Tennessee Titans formerly the Houston Oilers) as quarterback Matt Schaub  went deep to Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson over and over.  The Texans continue their tour of the AFC South as they host the Jags who look like they are ready to fall further down the NFL’s ladder.

19.  Bills (1-1) – The rebuilding Bucs were just the medicine that T.O and the Bills needed.  VH1’s favorite reality star got in the endzone and now the sky seems the limit for Alex Van Pelt’s offense.  In a sure to be shootout, the Saints and the golden arm quarterback Drew Brees are coming to Buffalo and they are not in search of some wings.

20.  Bengals (1-1) –  Ochocinco and the Bengals took over historic Lambeau Field by storm as they pulled the NFL’s biggest victory of Week 2.  In a game where Steelers receiver Hines Ward better have his head on a swivel, the Super Bowl Champion Steelers come to Cincy in an old fashioned AFC North grudge match.

21.  Seahawks  (1-1) – The Hawks were beaten-up as Singletary’s Niners continued to show the NFC West that they are the division’s new lead dogs.  Without quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (ribs), the Seahawks and backup QB Seneca Wallace will look to slowdown the Bears and QB Jay Cutler.

22.  Raiders (1-1) – The reeling Chiefs were just the medicine that the Raiders needed to forget their MNF season opening loss.  Head Coach Tom Cable will need a better effort from quarterback JaMarcus Russell as the Raiders host the division leading hate rival the Denver Broncos.

23.  Redskins (1-1)  – It was not pretty, but the Skins barely beat the Rams despite the a booing home crowd.  On the hot seat head coach Jim Zorn will need much more offense from QB Jason Campbell as the Redskins attempt to be the Lions first victim since the 2007 season.

24. Titans (0-2) – Who would have thought it after two weeks that the 2008 AFC South champion Titans would be 0-2.  But the truth hurts as the Texan went downtown on them in a big win over Jeff Fisher’s guys in Houston.  In a huge game, the Titans travel to Gotham to take-on the red hot NY Jets.

25.  Dolphins (0-2) – On Monday Night Football, the Wildcat and the Dolphins ran all over the Colts, but Peyton Manning had the final answer.  In search of a much-needed win, the Dolphins travel across the country to face the Chargers.

26.  Panthers  (0-2) – John Fox’s team looks like they are facing a letdown season after the Panthers fell to the Falcons.  It will be a Monday Night Football showdown against the Dallas Cowboys, which will either save or move closer to the end of the Panthers season.

27.  Buccaneers (0-2) – Head coach Raheem Morris’ squad didn’t have an answer for the offensive  Bills as T.O and his mates please their home crowd.   The top ranked New York Giants come to Tampa looking to continue their Beast of the East roll.

28.  Jaguars (0-2) – Cardinals triggerman Kurt Warner was pinpoint as the Cards quickly made a laugher out of a game with the hapless Jags.  The Houston Texans will host the Jags in an AFC South battle that could spell doom for head coach Jack Del Rio, if his team loses.

29.  Browns (0-2) – I don’t know how the Dawgs head coach Eric Mangini got a nickname like “Mangenius”.  The Browns continued their losing ways as the Broncos outmuscled them.  The Browns travel to Baltimore as them attempt to stop LB Ray Lewis and QB Joe Flacco.

30.  Chiefs (0-2) – The hated Raiders put a big “L” on the Chiefs and big offseason pickup QB Matt Cassel is being questioned already after only one game.  It will be back to Pennsylvania for Chiefs RB Larry Johnson as he leads his team against the Eagles in Philly.

31.  Rams (0-2)  – Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo’s defense did not allow a touchdown, but the Redskins were just  a little bit better.  The Rams will try to defend their home turf against the Packers and QB Aaron Rodgers.

32.  Lions  (0-2) – The Lions losing streak is now at  19 games after a rather easy win by the Vikings and QB Brett Favre.  I have a feeling this could be the Lions week as they host the Redskins in a “loser” leaves town match.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

The Michael Vick Experience returns to the NFL regular season

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Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick is expected to return to the NFL regular season for the first time since December 2006 this week against the Kansas City Chiefs

With former NFL superstar receiver Plaxico Burress entering prison for a two-year stint this week, many NFL fans’ minds started to wonder about the next steps of another fallen from grace NFL star.  After over two years of waiting and anticipation, the ‘Michael Vick Experience’ will more than likely return to the National Football League regular season for the first time since December 31, 2006.  Vick probably will get his chance to play for the Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) at Lincoln Financial Field, ironically the last stadium he played in, against the struggling Kansas City Chiefs (0-2).  Earlier in the 2009 NFL preseason, Vick had played in games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets, which the returning former star described as “Surreal”.  Well now Mr. Vick get ready for the glitz and chaos of the NFL regular season.

As you are probably fully aware, the former indefinitely suspended quarterback had his suspended cut to the first two games of the 2009 NFL season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his actions related to his much publicized dogfighting case that cost him almost two years in a Leavenworth, Kansas prison.   The July 2009 signing of the controversial quarterback by the Philadelphia Eagles, long known as a “High Character” team for years, was a total shock to Philly fans and media.  The signing fueled a firestorm of talk radio, chat room, and water cooler discussions everywhere, with the question of “Why bring in a distraction of this magnitude?”  However after an initial fire storm of publicity about the signing -– people saying they would turn in their season tickets, picketing threats, etc — Vick’s presence on the Eagles roster seemed to have been minimalized.  The former highest paid player in the NFL “quietly” went about his business of re-acclimating into the NFL as the Birds third or fourth quarterback.  Plus doing some much needed PR work related to curbing dog fighting in urban communities.

There is no doubt that the Eagles went out on a limb to sign the infamous quarterback earlier this summer not as social commentary, but as an insurance policy.  And like it usually does, fate stepped in and any chances of the Eagles continuing to bring Vick along slowly were thrown out the door in Week 1 of the regular season.     Eagles starting quarterback Donovan McNabb was injured (broken rib) in a win over the Panthers and as McNabb laid on the ground, several eyes looked to Philadelphia Eagles Owner Jeff Lurie’s suite at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC.  You could almost hear, “Paging Michael Vick… Paging Michael Vick” through the television even though the former 3-time Pro Bowl player was not eligible until Week 3 (KC Chiefs).  Well week 3 of the NFL regular season is here and Eagles head coach Andy Reid will probably be redeeming the Eagles’ Vick insurance policy as the team looks for a win before their bye week (Week 4). 

McNabb’s rib injury has lingered and Eagles fill-in starter Kevin Kolb played up and down in a lopsided loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 2, so Vick better be ready for the heat of the NFL regular season.  If game preparations go as expected, look for Kolb to start, Vick to be the backup, and newly signed backup Jeff Garcia to be the “emergency” quarterback.  Vick — career passing numbers of 930-1730, 54%, 11505 yards, 71 TDs, 52 INTs, and a 75.7 rating in six years w/ the Falcons — will be one hit away from being the team’s leader.  Even if Kolb continues to play as the starter, you can still expect to see Vick used in a variety of ways and formations.  In their week 2 loss to the Saints, the Eagles used the wildcat formation nine times – produced 45 yards of offense with receiver DeSean Jackson taking most of the wildcat snaps.  But now the ultimate dual-threat wildcat quarterback will be available for the Chiefs game in Michael Vick.  Having the only quarterback to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a season should greatly alter both the Eagles offensive and Chiefs defensive plan of attack for their week two match-up.

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said upon learning of Vick’s release from prison in May, “There’s no question Michael’s paid his debt to society and merits a second chance”.  So with the knowledge that Vick will more than likely get his second chance to finally play in a regular season game.  Two questions remain:  How will Vick be received and What kind of game shape is Vick in?  In Vick’s last regular season activity for the Falcons back in 2006, he had a difficult season.  Vick did become the first quarterback to run for 1,000 yards in a season (1,039 yards) and established a career high of 20 TD’s passing.  But he didn’t lead the Falcons to the playoffs for the 2nd straight year, threw for a bad 54% completion percentage and looked like a high school quarterback in some games throwing for less than 100 yards.   Vick’s worst performance in the 2006 season had to be a bad 27-14 loss to the Giants on Oct. 15, which Vick called his toughest setback.  In that infamous loss, Vick was sacked seven times, had four fumbles and an interception as the Atlanta Falcons gave away an 11-point lead.

Fast forwarding to the 2009 NFL preseason, Vick playing for the Eagles in his return to the NFL debuted against the Jacksonville Jaguars, where surprisingly anticipated jeers, protests, and booing never really materialized.  Vick received strong cheers and some fans even gave him a standing ovation.  In that game’s postgame press conference, Vick admitted that he was also pleasantly surprised by the fans’ reception saying, “I didn’t think (the reaction) was going to be this positive. I didn’t know what to expect. … I was listening to hear what it would be. I’m very thankful.”  On the field, Vick was okay playing in a variety of roles including quarterback, zone-read quarterback, wildcat quarterback, and wide receiver in the slot. He finished with numbers 4-4 for 19 yards with his best pass a 13-yard bullet to now former Eagles receiver Hank Baskett. 

The next week in extensive playing time versus the New York Jets, in the almost never watched dreaded 4th preseason game, Vick struggled.  The Jets’ faithful booed him every time he entered the game and Vick’s body of work for the game showed that he played like a “rusty” guy who had been out of football for two years.  Vick often tried too hard to make something out of nothing and was not his usual mercurial self finishing with two turnovers (1 INT and 1 fumble lost) while producing passing numbers 7-11, 26 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT. Though Vick did rush seven times for 35 yards including a tough 2-yard touchdown sneak, he clearly needed more practice time.  However the former Virginia Tech star missed a couple of weeks of practice as the Eagles played roster musical chairs around 53-player roster cuts,  placing Vick on the suspended list.  Causing Vick to not be allowed to practice, while he could everything else at the team’s facility (ex. Film Study and working w/ ballboys on the sideline).

After the Jag’ preseason game, Vick put his current condition at 70% of his past faculties.  But added the “sky’s the limit” once he gets his legs under him and that he once played at a high level before and could do it again. Vick had once been so popular that his #7 jersey was the number two seller among NFL players (Reebok – 2005) and was on the cover Madden in 2004, but his fall was quick and devastating.  On Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, Michael Vick will get another chance in changing people’s view of him on and off the field.  Helping the Eagles to “Win” could be the driving force of helping him climb up the mountain of doubt that exists with some.  Hopefully people will give Vick the same chance as other in the league players who served their time — Tank Johnson, Christian Peter, Leonard Little… (insert any of the many NFL players with legal problems) – and returned to get a second chance to play in the NFL.

“It’s been a long journey for me,” Vick said after the Jaguars preseason game. “I just want to do it right this time around.”  The next step will be proving on the field against the Chiefs that the Eagles made the right choice in taking a chance on Michael Vick.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Review – Week 2

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Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo is Lloyd’s Lackey for Week 2 of the 2009 NFL Season

Week 2 of the 2009 NFL season came and went without the fanfare and glitz Week 1– except in Dallas  But this week in the NFL season showed that every year is a new opportunity to rise or fall quickly in the parity laden league.  There were upsets (Bengals over the Packers in Lambeau and Texans over the Titans), a possible changing of the guard in two divisions (Niners over the Seahawks and the Jets knocking off the Patriots), rebounds (Bears over the Steelers, Cardinals over the Jaguars, Bills over the Bucs and Raiders over the Chiefs), offensive explosions (Saints QB Drew Brews, Titans RB Chris Johnson, Niners RB Frank Gore, Texans WR Andre Johnson and others)  and bad teams getting worse (Redskins over the Rams,  Broncos over the Browns, and Vikings over the Lions).

 The biggest story of the week had to be the grand opening of Jerry Jones’ new football palace called “Cowboys Stadium”.  An NFL record 105,000 + crowd came to see the Cowboys against division rival the New York Giants, but the stadium was the real story.  The truly first class stadium is state of the art including mega scoreboards, huge concourses, pedestal dancers, and any other amenity that $1.1 Billion dollars can buy you.  The pregame ceremony was right out of a Hollywood script including former President George W. Bush proving the pre-game coin toss and a video placing Cowboys stadium in the class of the Taj Mahal and The Coliseum in Rome.

Unfortunately Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (see Lloyd’s Lackey) was not up to par and stunk up Jones’ new play pen again and again in a close 33-31 loss.  Despite Dallas pounding out 251 yards on the ground against the Giants’ vaunted defense  — final rushing numbers 251 yards rushing on 29 carries (an 8.7-yard average) and three touchdowns – Romo floated passes that ended up in the other team’s hands and made bad decisions at inopportune moments.  The Cowboys turned over the ball four times, including three interceptions thrown by Romo that led to 24 points for the Giants. The last time the Cowboys opened a new stadium in 1971 (Texas Stadium), they won the Super Bowl, but is anyone ready to step out on that limb…not just yet. 

An interesting stat is that at the end of Week 2, is that the middle of the NFL keeps increasing as there are 9 teams at (2-0), 9 teams at (0-2) and a glut of 14 teams at (1-1) showing that parity is indeed alive in the “Any Given Sunday” NFL. For the 23 teams that are either 1-1 or 0-2, there is still good news and their fans need to keep their feet still on their teams bandwagons.  Being 1-1 or 0-2 after the first two weeks of the season is not a death sentence as since 2002, 48 of 84, a percentage of 57.1%, teams made the playoffs after starting at those marks.  In fact, four of the past eight Super Bowl champions began their seasons with a 1-1 or 0-2 record, including the 2007 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, who started last season at 0-2.  Remember last year the Bills were (2-0) and the Dolphins were (0-2) and we know how those two teams finished in the AFC East.

Though it is still too early to start formulating long-term season assumptions based on a couple of games, here are some interesting news/notes/trends at this time.

The Jets Back It Up – When Jets head coach Rex Ryan was a youngster learning at the foot of his legendary defensive guru father Buddy Ryan, he really listened to his Dad’s ability to “Back It Up”.  After a week where Ryan said, “I didn’t come here to kiss (Patriots coach) Bill Belichick’s rings. I came here to win”. The Jets snapped an 8-game home losing streak to the Patriots with their 16-9 road win. Ryan’s defense was suffocating as the Patriots never scored a touchdown and were limited to three field goals – no offensive touchdowns allowed in first two games of the season, first team since 2006.  Though Patriots QB Tom Brady was not sacked, the Jets continued to put pressure on him again and again.  The Jets had many heroes, but biggest props should go to CB Darrelle Revis — shutdown Patriots WR Randy Moss (four receptions for 24 yards) – and rookie QB Mark Sanchez (14 of 22 for 163 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT) who was cool against the veteran Pats’ defense.  “I just tried to be physical with him at the line,” said Revis.  BTW:  Did you happen to catch the “chilly” postgame handshake between Ryan and Bill Belichick.

1972 Dolphins must be feeling good – There are currently only 9 unblemished teams in the NFL with a record of (2-0) including 2008 playoff teams Colts, Giants, Vikings, Ravens, and Falcons.  This cast of usual winners has been joined by the surprising San Francisco 49ers (continued out-physicalling the rest of  the NFC West led by their defense and RB Frank Gore), New Orleans Saints (outscoring the league behind record setting QB Drew Brees), Denver Broncos (rookie head coach Josh McDaniels’ team is getting the job done, but who have they beaten), and the New York Jets (Brash group of youngsters is following their head coach Rex Ryan with a “take no prisoners” mentality).  Though the unbeatens all have good stories, I don’t think any of them will come close to not losing 2 or more games.

The NFL Season is Survival of the Fittest-. Unfortunately every week in the NFL an important aspect is which teams can avoid injuries.  Tthis week’s biggest stories was the fractured rib injury that Seahawks  quarterback Matt Hasselbeck suffered after LB Patrick Willis nailed him in the Hawks’ loss to the upstart SF 49ers. We will have to see if Hasselbeck is able to get back on the field as Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has a similar injury and is not expected back until Week 5.  Other major injuries Eagles RB Brian Westbrook (ankle), Eagles WR DeSean Jackson (groin), Falcons rookie DT Peria Jerry (knee – season), Eagles CB Asante Samuel (stinger), Packers OT LT Chad Clifton (ankle), Bucs S Jermaine Phillips (broken thumb), Bills RT Brad Butler ( knee – season), RG  Randy Thomas (torn right triceps – season), and Raiders OG Robert Gallery (broken leg – season)

The Wildcat still around – With the Dolphins gaining 239 yards rushing in the MNF loss, including 107 out of the Wildcat.The 2008 breakout formation is still the “talk” of the NFL after it’s 1-year anniversary.  But Defensive coordinators maybe catching on as they are preaching that unless the guy taking the snap (Wildcat QB) can throw then “sellout” on stopping the run – Ravens were the first team to totally shut it down in the playoffs against the Dolphins.  The Philadelphia Eagles had okay success with the Wildcat in their loss against New Orleans as Jackson, Westbrook, and rookie Jeremy Maclin only gained 45 yards on nine plays out of the Wildcat.  I have to agree with ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski that the Wildcat is fun, but in the end the NFL is a passing league first.  Jaws said, “I love the Wildcat. It’s great. I’m glad Dolphins QB Coach (David) Lee is up there working all the plays. Maybe he can give them to the college coaches, because that’s where they work. At the NFL level you must have a quarterback that plays from the pocket.”  We will see if Eagles backup QB Michael Vick can open some eyes as a dual-threat Wildcat QB this upcoming week when he returns from suspension against the Chiefs.

Titans not the same without Haynesworth — Titans DBs Cortland Finnegan, Michael Griffin and Chris Hope all went to their first Pro Bowl  last season as the Titans picked off 19 passes and allowed only 12 TD passes, second in the NFL.  But after losing high-priced free agent DT Albert Haynesworth to the Redskins – collapsed the pocket and caused defensive pressure – the Titans secondary  has struggled .  The once mighty Titans have gone 0-2  to start the season and are ranked dead last in the NFL in pass defense (339 ypg). Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub had a field day in the Texans’ 34-31 upset win over the Titans in Nasvhille,  throwing for 357 yards and four TDs.  Conversely, the Redskins with Haynesworth have improved ( allowed 183.5  passing yards per game —  tied for 10th in the NFL).

Who needs Plaxico Burress? – In the Giants’ big win in Big D, Mario Manningham (10 receptions for a career-high 150 yards, including his 22-yard TD) and Steve Smith (10 receptions for 134 yards, and his own 22-yard TD) were spectacular. The underrated duo — combined for 20 receptions for 284 yards and two touchdowns — seems to have finally crawled out from the huge shadow of Plaxico Burress (former playmaker just started a 2-year jail sentence) and now look like reliable targets for improving quarterback Eli Manning.  Conversely the Cowboys’ receiving corps of  Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin and Sam Hurd produced only reception a piece.

Two Future Hall of Fame Quarterbacks Break Records — Colts QB Peyton Manning, playing in front of his special guest Tiger Woods, broke the Colts all-time record for most wins by a starting quarterback (119) in Colts comeback 27-23 victory over the Dolphins.  Manning said of the accomplishment, “I don’t feel comfortable with these comparisons to Unitas.” Manning added, “But I’m very proud to wear the same uniform as Johnny Unitas. He was a real winner.”  Manning’s biggest plays were down the stretch including a 48-yard game-winning touchdown throw to emerging WR Pierre Garcon with 3:18 minutes left in the game.  Manning (14-23, 303 yards, and 2 TDs) was joined in the record books by Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, who set the NFL’s all-time record for consecutive games played by any player (285 consecutive games) breaking Vikings DL Jim Marshall’s record in a dominating 27-13 win over the Lions.  Favre — who turns 40 in October — completing 23 of 27 for 155 yards and 2 TDs. y enough to play that long.

Quick Lloyd’s Leftover

What in the world happened to the Steelers vaunted running game that has been a staple of the six-time Super Bowl winner since the 1970s.   This season, Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has shelved the running game in favor of passing the ball.  The Steelers have run 45 times and tried to pass on 84 occasions (including six sacks) in two low-scoring games decided by three points.  With their record standing at 1-1 and a tough game coming up at the Bengals, you have to wonder if Arians will have RBs Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, and Mewelde Moore running more.

Games Balls

Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis – The stories of Lewis’ demise over the years has been greatly exaggerated.  When the Ravens needed a big play to close out the Chargers, it was the future Hall of Fame linebacker who answered the call. On fourth-and-two in the final minutes and the Ravens protecting a 31-26 lead back up against their 15-yard line.   The Chargers ran little tank RB Darren Sproles,  but before Chargers  OG Kris Dielman could pull, Lewis blasted through the line to stop Sproles for a four-yard loss.   Lewis (34) finished the game with 12 tackles and a forced fumble.  NBC analyst Rodney Harrison said of the play, “The greatest play of Ray Lewis’ career”.

Honorable Mention

Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner – In turning back the clock, the Cardinals 38-year old pass set an NFL record with a 92.3 completion percentage in the Cardinals’ 31-17 win over the Jaguars. Warner completed his first 15 passes and finished with passing numbers 24-26, 243 yards, 2 TDs and a 131.2 passer rating. The previous record was surprisingly set by Cleveland Browns former QB  Vinny Testaverde (21 of 23 —  91.3%) in 1993 game against the Los Angeles Rams.  One of Warner’s incompletions was an admitted blown route by WR Anquan Boldin.  Warner said of the effort, “I’ve had days where I felt like this before… The NFC Championship Game last year. The Super Bowl. Those weren’t as accurate, but I felt like I was going to complete every ball. This was one of those days where you see things so quickly and feel comfortable about making the decisions so quickly”.

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees  — For second week in a row, the 2008 NFL offensive player of the year receives a game ball.  Brees threw three touchdowns passes in the Saints’ 48-22 lopsided win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The former Purdue star now has nine touchdown passes through Week 2, which ties him with former St. Louis Cardinals QB Charley Johnson (1965) for the most TD passes through the first two games of a season. The Saints topped the 40-point mark for the second consecutive week – has not been done since the 1968 Oakland Raiders – and Breess dealt with the Eagles blitz as he finished with numbers 25-34, 311 yards, and 3 TDs.

Cincinnati Bengals DE Antwan Odom – Who would have thought after the Bengals starred on HBO’s Hard Knocks that a little known defensive end would their leading player through 2 weeks.  Going into the 2009 season Odom had had only 15.5 sacks in 60 NFL games, but look who is now the NFL’s most feared sackman. Odom currently leads the NFL with 7 sacks and he was amazing in the Bengals upset win over the Packers.  Odom produced  7 TKLs, 5 sacks, 2 tackles for loss in the 31-24 win.

Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson – One of the fastest men in the NFL became the first player in NFL history to record a 90-plus yard rushing touchdown (91), 50-plus yard rushing touchdown (57), and 60-plus yard receiving touchdown (69) in a game.  Unfortunately Johnson’s efforts did not lead to a victory as the Texans surprised them 34-31.  Johnson had 284 yards from scrimmage on 25 touches (16 carries for 197 yards rushing, nine catches for 87 yards).

San Francisco 49ers LB Frank Gore – What a game for Niners offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye’s main weapon.  Gore ran for 207 yards on only 16 carries (246 total yards) and displayed a tremendous burst on a pair of long touchdowns. After rushing 79 yards for a first-quarter score, Gore took the opening handoff of the second half and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown in the 49ers’ 23-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Gore is the first player since Barry Sanders on Oct. 12, 1997 to record two rushing touchdowns of 75-plus yards in a single game.

 Others standouts —  Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson (Totaled 10 receptions for 149 yards and two touchdowns in the Texans’ 34-31 win over the Tennessee Titans); NY Giants QB Eli Manning (Came of age in a big win over the Cowboys throwing for numbers 25-38, 330 yards, two touchdowns); Colts TE/HB Dallas Clark (Took the first pass of the MNF game 80 yards for a touchdown and  finished with seven receptions for 183 yards – the 4th highest total for a tight end in NFL history); Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson (Rushed 29 times for 141 yards (a 4.9-yard average); Redskins safety Chris Horton (knocked away the Rams’ potential game-winner and produced a forced fumble in the Skins ugly 9-7 win)

Lloyd’s Lackey of the Week

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo – America’s sweetheart passer was terrible in the opening of Dallas Cowboys Stadium.  Romo struggled (13 of 29 for 127 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions) and squandered 251 rusing yards by the Cowboys running backs.  T.O’s best buddy did have a rushing touchdown, but too often when the Cowboys were deep in Giants territory, Romo found a way to not get points.  “It’s frustrating, I’m really, really disappointed in myself right now ” said Romo, who entered the game as the NFL ‘s highest rated passer.  Romo’s rating for the night was 29.6 passer rating which was more than a 100 points lower than a season-opening 140.6 rating in Week 1.   Maybe Jessica Simpson was somewhere with a voodoo doll.

Dishonorable Mention

Dallas Cowboys OT Flozell Adams — Giants DE Justin Tuck was rightfully angry with Adams after being tripped in the second quarter of New York’s 33-31 win on Sunday night.  Tuck said Adams’ trip, extended his leg after being beat by Tuck, was “bush league.” Tuck hurt his shoulder on the play and did not return to the game.  Tuck later said, “It was bush league, He did it a few times, and they (the officials) only called one.”  Adams was tried to downplay the incident when asked by AOL FanHouse, saying “I didn’t see nothing,” told the site. “Did you see something?”

Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini – Little Belichick without the resume is now 0-2 after an embarassing 27-6 loss to the Broncos and his team is one of the NFL’s worst.  It was also learned this week that Mangini had fined a player $1,701 for failing to pay for a $3 bottle of water during a team hotel stay. My advice for Mangenuis is to treat your players like professionals and you will get better results.

Washington Redskins rookie LB Robert Henson – The rookie linebacker from TCU – who was inactive against the Rams — complained via Twitter about Redskins fans booing the home team during a 9-7 win against the Rams.  Henson tweeted, “All you fake half hearted Skins fan can .. I won’t go there but I dislike you very strongly, don’t come to Fed Ex to boo dim wits!!”  He later apologized, saying he was angry after being hit with objects from the crowd, but he is a dope.  Luckily for the world, Henson cancelled his Twitter account.

Other dishonorees:  San Dieo Chargers LB Shawne Merriman (tied for 218th in the NFL in tackles after two games with only six tackles and zero sacks); Eagles punter Sav Rocca (wildly inconsistent and had a bad shank of 26-yards at a crucial stage of the Eagles eventual loss to the Saints).

 

2009 NFL Week 2 Results

SUN, SEPT. 20

49ers (2-0) over Seahawks (1-1),  23-10

Bears (1-1) over Steelers (1-1), 17-14

Bengals (1-1) over Packers (1-1), 31-24

Bills (1-1) over Buccaneers (0-2), 33-20

Broncos (2-0) over Browns (0-2), 27-6

Cardinals (1-1) over Jaguars (0-2), 31-17

Falcons (2-0) over Panthers (0-2), 28-20

Giants (2-0) over Cowboys (1-1), 33-31

Jets (2-0) over Patriots (1-1), 16-9

Raiders (1-1) over Chiefs (0-2), 13-10

Ravens (2-0) over Chargers (1-1), 31-26

Redskins (1-1) over Rams (0-2), 9-7

Saints (2-0) over Eagles (1-1), 48-22

Texans (1-1) over Titans (0-2), 34-31

Vikings (2-0) over Lions (0-2), 27-13

SUN, SEP 13 

Colts (2-0) at Dolphins (0-2),  27-23

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Week 2 Preview

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All eyes will be on Philadelphia to see if Eagles veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia will get his chance against the Saints in Week 2 of the 2009 NFL Season

I am naming Week 2 of the 2009 NFL season “Divisional Rivalry” Week as there are seven match-ups featuring divisional rivals. Rivalry games on the docket include Oakland at KC, New England at NY Jets, Carolina at Atlanta, Minnesota at Detroit, Houston at Tennessee, Seattle at San Francisco, and NY Giants at Dallas (See Game of the Week). To football fans there is nothing better than putting on your team’s colors and rooting against a hated rival.  Players usually try to keep a lid on emotions, but when a familiar foe is across the line — play twice a year and sometimes three times, if both teams make the playoffs –- you can save the handshakes for the offseason.  Former Super Bowl winning head coach turned NBC analyst Tony Dungy said of divisional games, “These games are important, because you want to gain an advantage in your division.”  Some fans may ask, “How important are division games?”  Well… since realignment to the current eight-division format in 2002, the 14 teams that have advanced to the Super Bowl have a combined 68-16 (.810) record in games within their division.

With the 50th anniversary of the AFL, there will be two renewals of old-time AFL rivalries (Chiefs-Raiders and Patriots-Jets).   The Oakland Raiders will travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs for the 98th time in this heated rivalry — 2 of 8 original AFL teams.  Both teams hung around in Week 1 only to lose near the end of their respective games – Ravens 38, Chiefs 24 and Chargers 24, Raiders 20 –- so they both will be looking for their first win of the season.  The Raiders and Chiefs have not liked each other for a long time starting with the AFL’s birth in 1960 when the Raiders faced off against the Dallas Texans (later the KC Chiefs). The two teams have battled over the years in games, for players in the draft, and even their owners, the late Lamar Hunt (Chiefs) and Al Davis (Raiders), battled over league rules and other matters.  Some of their best games were played when Pro Football Hall of Fame legendary coaches Hank Stram and John Madden were patrolling the sidelines against each other and wouldn’t give an inch.   One of the more famous incidents between  the teams back in the day was the infamous spearing of Chiefs QB Len Dawson by Raiders LB Ben Davidson’s in 1970 that prompted a huge brawl. The Chiefs are one of two teams in the NFL with a winning record against the Raiders (51-44-1) which includes a 2-1 record in the playoffs. So get ready for some heated action as the Chiefs’ Red Storm crowd welcomes quarterback JaMarcus Russell and the rest of the Silver and Black.  Raiders LB Kirk Morrison said of the KC-Oakland rivalry, “In Oakland…the game you always really wanted to come see was the Chiefs. You grew up hating red…It goes deep… It’s always been the must-win game”.

The New England (formerly Boston) Patriots will play the New York Jets for the 97th time.  The Patriots traveling to the Jets is always big news especially with the two teams’ history — Spygate, Belichick coached the Jets for literally a minute, Patriots have won of five of the past seven AFC East division titles and NFL aristocracy vs. blue collar tough guys — so basically there is no love lost between these two franchises.  Though the Jets hold an edge of 49-47-1 in the series, the Patriots have won 3 of the last 4 games against them and are looking to improve on their 9 consecutive game win streak at the Jets’ home.  Pats starting quarterback Tom Brady has never lost to the Jets in the Meadowlands as he holds a 7-0 record in the stadium.  Brady also has added incentive, because with a victory on against the Jets, he will match former Bears’ quarterback Jim McMahon for the longest streak of consecutive regular-season wins by a quarterback (22).

To heighten the Patriots-Jets rivalry even more, there is the addition of brash Jets rookie head coach Rex Ryan who definitely likes to take a page from his father, former NFL defensive guru Buddy Ryan, in stirring the pot.  Ryan has been yapping his mouth all week and his team has been following suit, which may get the Pats even more fired up on Sunday.  Ryan said of the J-E-T-S playing the vaunted Patriots, “I didn’t come here to kiss (Patriots coach) Bill Belichick’s rings. I came here to win. … I’m certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else.”  Ryan must be rubbing off on his team as defensive leader FS Kerry Rhodes added, “You go out from the first quarter on, from the first play on, and try to embarrass them, not just go out there and try to win, try to embarrass them”.  Rhodes better be careful as Brady, fresh off a 378-yard passing performance in a Week 1 win over the Bills, said “Talk is cheap…We’re going to be playing this game like it’s the Super Bowl”.

Unfortunately after only one week of play, some NFL fans are panicking a little over whether their team is a pretender or contender.  To anyone feeling the pinch of the NFL season after one week of play, please relax as the NFL regular season is a 17-week marathon with many twists and turns ahead.  It is too early to paint broad conclusions on team’s futures after one week.  Sure injuries and areas to fine tune were prevalent throughout the league last week, but take the results from week one as partial results.  I am urging all fans to wait until 5 to 6 games before jumping on or off your team’s bandwagon.  As we saw with the 2007 Patriots brush with perfection, it is almost unthinkable that a team can get through a season undefeated in today’s NFL –– this fact should make you truly appreciative of the Herculean effort of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins.

An interesting stat is that at the end of Week 2, no more than 11 teams will be able to claim a perfect 2-0 record, leaving at least 21 clubs at 1-1 or 0-2.  But being 1-1 or 0-2 after the first two weeks of the season is not a death sentence as since 2002, 48 of 84, a percentage of 57.1%, teams made the playoffs after starting at those marks.  In fact, four of the past eight Super Bowl champions began their seasons with a 1-1 or 0-2 record, including the 2007 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, who started last season at 0-2.

Here are some Lloyd’s Leftovers before we move on to our featured game for this week.

Lawn vandals are catch – In a grotesque act, the front lawn of Bills DB Leodis McKelvin was vandalized after the Bills’ heartbreaking 25-24 loss to the Patriots on MNF.   McKelvin had fumbled a late kickoff return that led directly to the Patriots go-ahead score.  The vandalism apparently consisted of the score — 25-24 — and a graphic depiction of the male anatomy scrawled in white paint.  Fortunately, the vandals were caught when two male teens, who lived near, McKelvin turned themselves in.  To the surprise of many,  the emerging second year corner didn’t want to press charges, but expect the D.A in the area to do so.  Bills receiver Terrell Owens said of the incident, “Once we make it to the playoffs, tell them to do his lawn again.  You just attribute that to ignorance.”

NFL hits Texans corner in the pocket — Houston Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson was fined $25,000 by the NFL for his shoe message to his team’s front office. Robinson inscribed “Pay Me” and “Rick” on his shoes, a message to GM Rick Smith.  Robinson has been locked in a nasty contract dispute after being tagged as the team’s franchise player way back in February.  The disgruntled defensive back held out through training camp and didn’t report to the team until right before their season opener – signed 1-year, $9.957 million deal.  My feeling is Robinson should let his play do his talking and last week he wasn’t saying much as he allowed Jets rookie Mark Sanchez to pick him apart in an embarrassing 24-7 home loss.

Ochocinco may try a Lambeau Leap – It may be another of his self-promoting stunts (Twitter, U-stream, and others), but Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said via a conference call that he plans on doing a “Lambeau Leap” if he scores against the Packers on Sunday.  No. 85 said, “I’m looking forward to the Lambeau Leap like I did with the Dawg Pound…There needs to be understanding that this is merely a challenge for the defense to find a way from stopping me from getting in the end zone”.   Hey if Ochocinco wants to take his life in his own hands by jumping in the crowd, then more power to him…just don’t try it in Philly.  Last week Ochocinco seemed to be on the comeback trail producing 5 catches for 89 yards in the Bengals heartbreaking 12-7 loss to the Broncos.

V.Y does a great job filling in — Titans quarterback Vince Young, who was mentored by the late Steve McNair during his teenage years, did an awesome thing the other day.  Young filled-in for his deceased friend at his sons’ (Trenton and Tyler) “Dear Dads Breakfast” event at their school, St. Paul Christian Academy.  V.Y surprised the children when he showed up at their house early Wednesday and took them. “Those are my boys,” Young said.  “I wouldn’t say it was to pay anyone back; it was just out of love. Steve would do it for me. He pretty much did it for me when I was growing up. I have a history with the boys and I want to do anything I can. I am their big brother.”  Young gave jerseys and autographs to several St. Paul children.

Favre sticks it to the Jets all the way from Minnesota – Even though Brett Favre is now on the Minnesota Vikings, America’s favorite flip-flopper stuck it to the J-E-T-S one more time.  After Favre commented to the media in Minnesota that last year the Jets did not properly disclose his injury, the NFL took action this week.  The league fined the New York Jets $75,000, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum $25,000, and former Jets head coach Eric Mangini $25,000, for their roles in failing to disclose Favre’s biceps injury on 2008 injury reports.  The Vikings don’t play the Jets this regular season, but that would be one fun reunion.

Week 2 Featured Game

NEW YORK GIANTS (1-0) AT DALLAS COWBOYS (1-0) – Sunday Night Football @ 8:30 PM ET on NBC

Broadcast Team: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Andrea Kremer (Field Reporter)

In talking about rivalries in the NFL, the NFC East division has them everywhere.  In particularly, the rest of the division all want a piece of the ballyhooed Dallas Cowboys.  I don’t know if it is the star on the helmet, their borderline smug owner, or their moniker as “America’s Team”, but the Cowboys bring out the best in the Eagles, Giants, and Redskins.  This week the Giants and Cowboys will meet for the 94th time in a NFC East grudge match — these two NFC East rivals have won the past two division crowns; Giants (2008), Cowboys (2007).  To make the stage even greater, the Giants will be the first regular season opponent of the Cowboys in their new billion-dollar place, Cowboys Stadium. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of his team’s new digs, “This is the real deal.  This stadium shows the glitz and glamour of the Dallas Cowboys.”

Surprisingly the Cowboys have won four of the five meetings between the two, but both teams are coming off impressive Kickoff Weekend victories (Giants over the Redskins 23-17 and the Cowboys over the Bucs 34-21).  However I still think both sides are thinking about the 2007 season where the Cowboys beat the Giants twice in the regular season only to have the G-Men turn the tables on them in the playoffs by a score of 21-17 in a stinging home loss.  That Giants victory and subsequent Super Bowl title have fueled a bitter rivalry to take shape between the two teams.  “We’re just going to go in there and try to play good football,” says Giants quarterback Eli Manning.  “It’s a big game.  It’s a division game.  We know it’s going to take a great effort on our part.  We’re going to Dallas, playing in a new stadium, and it will be a loud crowd.  It’s a big game for us.”

Offensively these two teams have weapons, but go about their game plan differently.  The Cowboys prefer throwing the ball all over the place with early season hero QB Tony Romo while the Giants look to be efficient behind their power running game.  Dallas’ high-powered offense led by Romo – threw for a career-high 353 passing yards plus 3 TDs of 40 yards or more – will have to find a way to avoid the Giants pass rush.  The Giants last week, held the Redskins to 272 total yards, recorded three sacks and forced two turnovers, including a 37-yard fumble-return touchdown by defensive end Osi Umenyiora.  The Cowboys also have a running game led by their three-headed monster (Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice) – combined for 111 yards on 22 carries and 1 TD last week.

The Giants first option will be to pound the ball behind their big O-line.  Last week against the Redskins the G-Men were okay running the ball, but their leading rusher Ahmad Bradshaw only ran for 60 yards and big back Brandon Jacobs never really got going.  Quarterback Eli Manning is still searching for a replacement for former receiver Plaxico Burress and the candidates are plentiful including Steve Smith (6 catches for 80 yards) and second year receiver Mario Manningway, who had a touchdown reception last week.   

The Giants defense is one of the NFL’s best and they will have their hands full contending with Pro Bowl players RB Marion Barber, TE Jason Witten, and Romo plus emerging speedsters Jones and Miles Austin – 462 total yards in Week 1.  The Giants defensive line led by Umenyiora and Justin Tuck (1.5 sacks last week) will try to rattle Romo into throwing interceptions to a secondary led by CB Aaron Ross. 

The Cowboys defense was a bit sloppy as they gave up 450 yards of offense and 21 points to a rebuilding Tampa and the Giants are a bigger more physical team.  The Cowboys will be looking for OLB DeMarcus Ware (bell rung last week) to get some pressure on Manning as they had no sacks against the Bucs.  There will also be the anticipation of seeing if Cowboys punter Matt McBriar or Giants punter Jeff Feagles can boom one into the huge controversial scoreboard in the middle of Cowboys Stadium.

Injuries will also play a factor in this games.  The Giants list includes DE Chris Canty (calf), S Michael Johnson (shoulder), T Adam Koets (ankle), WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring), RB Danny Ware (elbow), S Kenny Phillips (knee), CB Kevin Dockery (hamstring), and LB Clint Sintim (groin).  Dallas does not have as many players hurt with their list containing S Michael Hamlin (wrist), LB Jason Williams (ankle), LB Curtis Johnson (hamstring), QB Tony Romo (ankle), and S Gerald Sensabaugh (chest)

LV’s Pick: Last time these two teams met it was the Cowboys who harassed the Giants offense to the tune of 8 sacks and 2 turnovers.  But I believe the G-Men led by their very deep D-line and powerful running game will spoil Cowboys Stadium’s grand opening.  Look for Manning to find Smith and for Tuck to make a big game-changing play – Giants 27, Cowboys 24

 

NFL Week 2

SUN, SEP 20 

Carolina at Atlanta 1:00 PM (FOX)

Minnesota at Detroit 1:00 PM (FOX) 

Cincinnati at Green Bay 1:00 PM (CBS)  

Houston at Tennessee 1:00 PM (CBS)

Oakland at Kansas City 1:00 PM (CBS)

New England at NY Jets 1:00 PM (CBS) 

New Orleans at Philadelphia 1:00 PM  

St. Louis at Washington 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Arizona at Jacksonville 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Seattle at San Francisco 4:05 PM (FOX)  

Tampa Bay at Buffalo 4:05 PM (FOX) 

Pittsburgh at Chicago 4:15 PM (CBS) 

Baltimore at San Diego 4:15 PM (CBS)  

Cleveland at Denver 4:15 PM (CBS)

NY Giants at Dallas 8:20 PM (NBC)

MON, SEP 21 

Indianapolis at Miami 8:30 PM (ESPN)

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Power Rankings – Week 1

The “real” games finally began around the NFL and everyone celebrated from New England to San Diego.  Week 1 gave us some surprises (Niners handling the Cardinals), expected results (Colts, Giants, Steelers, and Patriots all found a way to win), and some heartbreakers (Bengals, Bills, and Jake Delhomme).

But let’s not forget that it was only one week of the 17-week and 16-game endurance testing 2009 NFL Season.  Fans and media need to wait the provisional 5 to 6 weeks before making broad assumptions or viewing trends as anything can happen in the wacky parity laden NFL.

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1. Steelers (1-0) – The 2008 Super Bowl Champions still remain in my top spot until someone knocks them off their perch.  In order to be the man, you have to beat the man…wooo!!  The Steelers won ugly against the scrappy Titans, needing overtime in the NFL’s season opener.  The champs overcame Hines Ward’s potential game-changing fumble, but they should be worried about a ground game that only produced 36 yards.  Next up for Mike Tomlin’s team is a trip to Chi-town to face confident quarterback Jay Cutler – despite throwing 4 INTs in his debut — and the Bears.

 2. Giants (1-0) – The G-Men won in their typical way playing tough defense and being efficient on offense against the Redskins.  Quarterback Eli Manning spread the ball to 7 different receivers and the Giants defense was led by returning Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora (defensive touchdown).  The Giants next travel to Dallas for the opening of Cowboys Stadium on NBC Sunday Night Football with a goal of shutting down early season phenom Tony Romo.

3.  Patriots (1-0) – Quarterback Tom Brady returning from a devastating knee injury in 2008 took a little while to heat-up.  But in the end the Pats found their rhythm late and the Bills gave them the breaks they needed to shockingly win on MNF in the last minutes of the game.  Everyone knows “Spygate” is long over, but there will be an emotionally charged atmosphere when the Patriots travel to the Meadowlands to face the rising Jets in an AFC East grudge match.

4.  Eagles (1-0) – The Birds answered many questions as they pounded the Panthers in Week 1 led by a defense that caused 7 turnovers.  But the win was costly as quarterback Donovan McNabb fractured a rib and may not be available for 2 to 3 weeks – hello Jeff Garcia.  The Eagles will finally have their regular season unveiling of “starting quarterback of the future” Kevin Kolb in their home opener against the high powered Saints.

5.  Vikings (1-0)  –  It was all good news and roses for the Vikings in Week1 as All-World running back Adrian Peterson led them in pounding the hapless Browns.   The hits should keep on coming in Week 2 as the Vikings travel to Motown to face another one of the NFL’s bottom teams, the Detroit Lions, and just maybe Brett Favre will get more involved this week.

6.  Colts (1-0) – For Indy it was a new season and a new head coach (Jim Caldwell) but it was also the same old Peyton Manning (threw for over 300 yards).  The future hall of famer tied Colts great John Unitas in franchise career wins (118) as the Colts squeaked by the Jaguars, but lost receiver Anthony Gonzalez (knee).  Next up is trip to Miami as the Colts return to the place where they won Super Bowl XLI  to battle fellow 2008 playoff team, the Dolphins.

7.  Ravens (1-0) – QB Joe Flacco looked like he is ready to take the next step in his maturation by passing for over 300 yards in a tougher than expected win over the Chiefs.  Next up for John Harbaugh’s team is a trip out West to face a hungry Chargers squad led by quarterback Phillip Rivers, RB Darren Sproles, and an attacking defense.

8.  Saints (1-0)  – Sean Payton’s team was back to their big play ways as they roasted the hapless Detroit Lions led by quarterback Drew Brees, who set a franchise record of 6 TDs in one game. However the road to returning to the playoffs will get a little harder as the Saints travel to Philly to face the Eagles and their hostile defense.

9.  Chargers (1-0) – The Bolts got the win in a tougher than expected battle with the Oakland Raiders in a “throwback” AFL game on MNF.  In one of Week 2’s feature games, the Chargers hope to get LT back to full strength for anticipated tough battle against the improving Ravens.

10.  49ers (1-0)  – “Iron” Mike Singletary got his first win of the 2009 NFL Season as his Niners showed the entire league that they are ready to fight for the NFC West by out-toughing the former NFC champion Cardinals in Arizona.  The Niners quest to conquer the NFC West continues in Week 2 as they host the Seahawks … wonder if malcontent draftee Michael Crabtree will be watching.

11. Titans (0-1) – Jeff Fisher’s team went toe-to-toe with the Super Bowl champion Steelers and came up a little short in the NFL’s inaugural game of the 2009 season.  In a game I will call “The Battle of Bum Philips”, the Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers) will host their former city’s new squad, the Houston Texans, in a key AFC South game.

12.  Falcons (1-0) – Head Coach Mike Smith and 2008 Rookie of the Year QB Matt Ryan started to prove that last year was not a fluke by dismantling the Dolphins led by their turnover happy defense.  I am sure the Falcons will not show the Carolina Panthers any “Southern” hospitality when they host them in Week 2.

13. Cowboys  (1-0) – QB Tony Romo was up to his early season highlight reel ways  once again as the Cowboys went to the air for several big plays in beating the Tampa Bay Bucs  All eyes will be on Texas this Sunday Night as the Cowboys  move into their new billion dollar stadium by hosting the New York Giants in the latest chapter of one of the NFL’s best rivalries.

14.  Broncos (1-0) – Young head coach Josh McDaniels’ squad should be thanking their lucky stars as the Bungles — I mean the Bengals — found a way to hand them a victory in the last minutes of their opening game…kudos to WR Brandon Stokely.  The Broncos continue their tour of the lower portion of the AFC North as they host the Browns in Week 2.

15.  Cardinals  (0-1) – The 2008 NFC Champs had their Super Bowl glide going and forgot that the Niners came to play in their opening game loss.  In a respect game, the Cardinals travel to Jacksonville to face a Jaguars team that is fighting to keep their head coach Jack Del Rio off the hot seat.

16.  Jets (1-0) –  In a surprise road victory over the Texans, Rex Ryan’s team gave notice to the NFL that there is a new sheriff in town and his name is Mark Sanchez.  The J-E-T-S will look to continue to ride their growing rookie passer and attacking defense when they host the Patriots in an old-time AFL grudge match.

17. Packers  (1-0)  –  On Sunday Night Football, the Pack served notice to the NFL that they were a team to be reckoned with as they outmuscled the Bears behind their new 3-4 defensive scheme.  The Packers for the second week in a row host another team from the Midwest as the stars from HBO’s Hard Knocks, the Bengals, come to town looking for their first victory of the season.

18.  Seahawks  (1-0) – The Jim Mora era got off to a good start for the Seahawks as they slapped around the punch-less Rams in an easy Week 1 shutout win.  I am sure the 12th Man will be parked in front of their television set for a highly anticipated NFC West battle as the Hawks travel to Frisco to take on Singletary’s Niners.

19.  Bears (0-1) – Despite losing Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher (wrist), Lovie Smith’s squad hung in there for awhile against the Packers unfortunately too many turnovers were their undoing on SNF.  QB Jay Cutler will need to start proving to the Windy City that he was worth all of the hoopla from this summer as the Bears host the Steelers.

20.  Texans (0-1) – The team everyone picked to be the breakout team for 2009 laid an egg at home against the upstart Jets as none of the Texans’ offensive weapons (Schaub, Slaton, or A. Johnson) could get going.  The Texans will be playing for civic pride as they travel east to face Houston’s former pro football team, the Tennessee Titans, in an AFC South divisional game.

21.  Dolphins (0-1) – Last season the ‘Phins protected the ball like no other NFL team — only 13 turnovers all season.  But against the hungry Falcons nothing seemed to work right as the Dolphins committed five turnovers in a bad opening season loss.  This week the national spotlight will be in Miami as the Peyton Manning and Colts come to town for a Monday Night Football showdown.

22.  Panthers  (0-1) – The 2009 NFC South Champion Panthers imploded at home again as turnovers (i.e. Jake Delhomme) cost them dearly in a blowout loss to the attacking Eagles.  I hate to put the term “must-win” on an early season, but John Fox’s team and quarterback have to bounce back in a big way when they travel to Atlanta to take on Matty “Ice” and Falcons.

23.  Redskins (0-1)  – You have to wonder when owner Daniel Snyder will start putting pressure on head coach Jim Zorn after his team once again could not get the job done against the Giants in a key NFC East battle.  The ‘Skins may get their necessary medicine for winning as they host the hapless Rams in Week 2.

 24.  Raiders (0-1) – Of course Al Davis will talk about being jobbed by the referees again, but playing on the national stage for the first time in a while, the Raiders being the Raiders just could not finish the job against the Chargers on MNF.  In a rivalry game that goes back to the heydays of the AFL, the Raiders travel to KC to face the Chiefs and a hostile Red Storm crowd. 

25.  Bills (0-1) – The new look Bills still played like the old Bills in a heartbreaking MNF loss to the Patriots.  I am sure Orchard Park will be rocking as the Bucs come to town in an interesting game where Bills quarterback Trent Edwards better get T.O the ball, if he knows what is good for him.

26.  Buccaneers (0-1) – Head coach Raheem Morris’ squad did some nice things against the Cowboys, but they were unable to stop long plays down the field which cost them.  Morris and his retooling squad will head north to Buffalo as they face a Bills’ team also looking for their first win and some respect.

27.  Jaguars (0-1) – The Colts continued to be the Jaguars’ AFC South nemesis as they outlasted the Jags to open the season. The Jags’ secondary better be ready for some fireworks as the high octane Cardinals and triggerman Kurt Warner come to town looking for their first win of the season.

28.  Browns (0-1) – “Mangenius” decided that Brady Quinn was his starter, but he should have been more worried about his defense, who allowed Vikes RB Adrian Peterson to embarrass them in a bad opening loss.  In a battle of two former Bill Belichick protégés, the Broncos (Josh McDaniels) host the Browns (Eric Mangini) in Week 2.

29.  Chiefs (0-1) – Head coach Todd Haley had to be proud of his team’s effort as the short-handed Chiefs almost pulled an upset against the Ravens.  Somewhere former head coach Hank Stram will be smiling as the Chiefs host the hated Raiders in an old time AFL rivalry game.

30.  Bengals (0-1) –  Fresh off the positive experience of being on HBO’s Hard Knocks, you would have thought the Bengals had turned the corner, but to the dismay of head Coach Marvin Lewis the “Bungles” were back in a shocking loss to the Broncos.  The road to redemption doesn’t get easier for the Bengals as they travel to historic Lambeau Field for a battle with the Packers.

31.  Rams (0-1)  – New Rams head coach and defensive guru Steve Spagnuolo got a first-hand look of how much work his rebuilding squad needs in a shutout loss to the Seahawks.  Spags’ team travels to the Nation’s Capital to face a hungry Redskins team.

32.  Lions  (0-1) – Just like the Super Bowl Champion Steelers, the lowly Lions continue to retain the other end of my NFL power rankings.  The Lions showed a little fight, but unfortunately the Saints blew the doors off them in an offensive explosion game.  The Lions will look to end their 18-game losing streak as they host the Vikings and their venerable quarterback Brett Favre.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)