Loss to Cardinals Could be the start of Another Cowboys Late Season Swoon by Lloyd Vance

Could the Dallas Cowboys improbable Week 13 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals lead to another late season swoon? We know team owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett sure hope not.

Week 13 of the 2011 NFL Season was not a good one for the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (7-5).  A purely winnable game turned into a devastating loss as the Arizona Cardinals (5-7) gladly took home a close 19-13 overtime home win.  While the Cowboys were left to wonder, “What If”.  The winning margin came quickly in OT as Cardinals reserve RB LaRod Stephens-Howling turned a short pass from QB Kevin Kolb into a dazzling darting 52-yard touchdown reception.  Continue reading

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2011 NFL Week 10 Remix by Lloyd Vance

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald is Taking It to the House’s Week 10 Game Ball award winner for his huge day in Arizona’s comeback win over the Eagles

With only 7 games left to be played for 28 of the league’s 32 teams, there is much more separation left to do within the NFL’s standings before January’s playoffs.  There are still the “Have’s” (5 teams with 7 wins or more including the league’s only undefeated team — Packers 9-0) and the “Have Nots” (11 teams with 3 or less wins, who are now basically spoilers).  But the majority of the NFL (16 teams) are still playing within former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s parity dream section. 

With records ranging from 6-3 to 4-5 including 6 Teams with a record of 5-4 — Bills, NY Jets, Falcons, Cowboys, Titans, and Raiders that need to figure out if they are “Contenders” or “Pretenders” in the upcoming weeks.  There are 12 covet playoff spots up for grabs and you have to expect that some teams will soon be giving thanks this Thanksgiving holiday for their opportunity in the playoffs. Continue reading

Nightmare continues for Eagles in a bad home loss to the Cardinals by Lloyd Vance

Cardinals receiver Early Doucet scores the game-winning touchdown in Arizona’s 21-17 win in Philadelphia.  The 3rd-and-goal play typified the game — and their season thus far — as the Eagles had a chance to stop him short of the goalline and couldn’t produce the needed tackle

In a “Dream” Season, that has quickly become a nightmare for the Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) , the Birds lost another 4th quarter lead and very well their entire season in a 21-17 home defeat to the Arizona Cardinals (3-6).  Going into this “trap” game, the slogan for the Eagles was simple, it was a “Must Win” situation – like it seems every game this season has been.  Continue reading

A Glimpse At The 2011 NFL Season According To A So-Called Expert: Matt Lombardo

The temperatures have plummeted suddenly into the sixties, leaves are beginning to turn and there’s a certain crispness in the air that can only be broken by the perfect spiral of soaring pigskin. That’s right, the greatest time of the year, football season, is upon us again. Despite a 136-day lockout, the excitement around the NFL is at perhaps its highest levels ever.

As the opener draws closer by the minute, the time for me to sit idly by in hopes of avoiding making a Super Bowl prediction is rapidly drawing to a close. Preseason predictions are rarely worth the paper they’re printed on, but in this upside down world of teams sprinting through a nonexistent offseason, the Lombardi Trophy is truly anyone’s game this season.

Some teams have positioned themselves better than others with free agent acquisitions to finish their journey with confetti falling for Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, some teams stood pat in an effort to draw on existing team chemistry to propel them to glory once again. All of these stories, subplots and themes for the upcoming season make for a wild ride for the next six months. Continue reading

2011 NFC Preview By Matt Lombardo

Last season the Green Bay Packers besieged by injuries mounted a late charge in the regular season to enter the playoffs as the NFC Wild Card and later marched to Dallas where they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. The Packers toppled NFC favorites Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago, who all figure to be contenders in this year’s race, en route to their first Super Bowl Championship since 1996.

The NFC can best be described as a whole, as a conference on the rise. Each division boasts teams that on paper will be much improved from a year ago, and the stalwart favorites all improved in the offseason, be it by making bold additions or simply by taking advantage of the continuity necessary to build on early this season after a lockout wiped away all offseason activities.

Here is a division by division look at the NFC entering the 2011 season. Continue reading

Huddle Up: The Year of the Lions? By Jason King

 The Detroit Lions haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999.  Since then all three of Detroit ’s other professional teams have won championships. We have seen two United States Presidents since the Lions last played into January.  The average price for a gallon of gas was $1.13 in 1999.  I don’t want to go as far as saying hell will freeze over before the Lions get to the playoffs again, but I’m sure it feels that way to Lions fans.The Lions won the NFL championship in 1957.  In the 54 years since then,  Detroit has been to the playoffs only nine times.  The Arizona Cardinals own the longest drought in the NFL, not winning a championship in 64 years.  Still, the Lions are one of only four teams never to appear in a Super Bowl.  The other three are: Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Cleveland Browns.

Few fans have suffered like Lions fans.

This could be the year their fortunes change.  The NFC is stacked.  Seven teams won 10 or more games and 14 of the 16 teams in the conference won at least six games last year. The Lions were 6-10 and won their last 4 games.  They gained a lot of momentum at the end of last season and seemed to buy into what Jim Schwartz was teaching.  It looks like the Lions could be ready to take that next step.

They looked razor sharp in their preseason rout of the Cincinnati Bengals 34-3.  Matthew Stafford looked healthy as he led the Lions to touchdowns on his only two series.  He was 6-7 with 71 yards and 2 TD passes.  The 26-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson made Lions fans everywhere feel good.  Johnson ran an out route and Stafford threw a pin-point pass right at the pylon where only Johnson could catch it.  If they stay healthy this could be one of the most dynamic quarterback/wide receiver combinations in the NFL over the next 10 years.

The defense is a work in progress.  They looked good in the game against the Bengals, even intercepting rookie QB Andy Dalton on his first pass attempt.  Once again, they were playing the Bengals, nonetheless they looked impressive.

It’s only one preseason game but if the Lions can overcome some early injuries (DT Nick Fairley, RB Michael Leshoure, and LT Jeff Backus being the most prominent) and address their issues in the defensive secondary they could compete in a tough NFC.  One thing is for sure, the Lions are finally headed in the right direction.

Huddle Up

1. Cam Newton could make a big impact on the Carolina Panthers franchise:  The ovation Newton got when he came in the game was astounding for a preseason game.  Panthers fans are excited to see what Newton can do.  It will be interesting to see what effect he will have on that community.  He looked pretty good in the game.  He made some good throws and already looks like he has the respect of his teammates.

 2. The Bears don’t play by the same rules as everybody else.  They apparently didn’t get the memo that the new kickoff rules state that ALL kickoffs are at the 35.  They disregarded this and kicked their first two kickoffs from the 30.  Roger Godell please fine them heavily, especially since this was a premeditated act of disobedience.

3. Mario Williams needs time to adjust to his new role.  Slow up before calling him the next DeMarcus Ware.  Wade Phillips will have that defense a lot better than it was last year.  He got off to a good start, as they set a franchise preseason record with seven sacks in their preseason opener against the Jets. How quickly Williams finds his place could be a key to the Texans season.

4. The 49ers need a quarterback.  Jim Harbough must have been kicking himself watching the 49ers preseason opener on Friday night.  He probably thought “I should have stayed at Stanford because Andrew Luck is 10 times better than any quarterback I have on this roster.”  Seriously, Alex Smith looked horrible and Colin Kaepernick looked worse.  I expect Alex Smith to play better once he learns the system, but that could take a while.  There is hope, as 7 wins could win the NFC West again.

5. The Patriots put up 47 points in a preseason game which is a franchise record.  15 Patriot regulars sat out the game including Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Jerrod Mayo, Albert Haynesworth, and Chad Ochocinco.  Bill Bellichick really is a mad scientist.  He’ll run up the score in the preseason!!!

6. I get the feeling that a lot of teams will regret passing on Ryan Mallett in the April draft.  I don’t know if he will make his mark in New England , but we could look back at this draft 15 years from now and say Mallett was the best quarterback.

7.  Boy, the Colts need Peyton Manning to be healthy.  He is the most valuable player to his team PERIOD.  And nobody else is even close.  The Colts not having Manning would be just like the Cavaliers without LeBron James, from first to worst.  They would struggle to win 3 games.  It’s just another reason for Colts fans to be grateful for No. 18.

8.  First preseason games are meaningless.

9.  Greed is ruining college football.  These greedy bastards don’t give a damn about the integrity of student-athletes or collegiate athletics.  All they care about is money.  All we hear about are: scandals, recruiting violations, conference realignment, or adding more meaningless bowl games.  The play on the field is secondary.  Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said, “We’ve made no decision about terminating our relationship with the Big 12.” “This is all about what is best for Texas A&M, along with … visibility for us and our athletes and financial resources. That’s what it’s all about. I think anybody in my shoes would have exactly the same kinds of concerns.”  Key words are “visibility for us…and financial resources.”  Now we hear about the scandal at the University of Miami .  The landscape in college sports has to change.

10.  Its only one game, but the new kickoff rule is going to change the NFL.  Yes it will prevent scary injuries seen in recent years on kickoffs, but it will also result in more touchbacks.  Who this helps and hurts most are still to be determined and I think judgments on this matter need to be reserved for a season or two at least.

 

Jason King is a contributing writer at Taking It to the House and can be reached at jdk2032@yahoo.com

Kevin Kolb a hot commodity in post lockout NFL by Matt Lombardo

Taking It to the House is predicting that the NFL Lockouot will be ending within the next week.  And the biggest commodity after the deal is completed will be Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb

Kevin Kolb’s days in Philadelphia are numbered.

 That much is certain if the recent surge of optimism towards the NFL lockout being lifted in the next seven to ten days is to be believed. By now it’s no secret that the Eagles will be active in the NFL shuffle once the league year begins, and Kolb’s name is already front and center on the wish list of several teams in need of a starting quarterback, whose need was left unsatiated by what appears to be a mediocre quarterback draft class. With Michael Vick entrenched as the starter and confidence growing within the Eagles organization in second year backup Mike Kafka, along with Kolb’s impending free agency, the fourth year quarterback out of Houston has become an expendable commodity that the Eagles are set to sell to the highest bidder.

Several teams have surfaced as possible landing spots for Kolb who figures to be one of the most pursued players and quickest moved once the league opens for business. The Cardinals, Dolphins, Browns, 49ers and Seahawks have all been rumored to have expressed interest in Kolb who completed nearly 61 percent of his passes in four years for 2,082 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 19 career games.

“Kevin Kolb will be dealt to Arizona, San Francisco, Cleveland, or Seattle, it’s a matter of when, not if.” Eagles beat writer Bob Grotz of the Delaware County Daily Times said. “The only question is who backs up Vick.

The Eagles brass is in a very lucrative position of having three teams in the woefully mediocre NFC West all vying for Kolb’s services to be their starting signal caller in the post-lockout world. Howie Roseman and Joe Banner, ever the poker players, would be wise to play the offers against each other to garner the largest bounty for their 2007 second round pick and one time quarterback of the future.

Each of the teams interested in Kolb offer the chance for the Birds to fill gaping holes in their roster both now and looking ahead to the future. However, as a settlement to the lockout appears to be nearing by the day, the team most likely to land Kolb looks to be the Cardinals.  Arizona has been interested since it became clear that Kolb was on the market, and theSunDevilStateis a natural fit as their quarterback situation has been in flux since Kurt Warner’s retirement in 2010.

The Cardinals are the ideal dance partner for the Eagles, offering corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as the centerpiece in a Kolb deal. Rodgers-Cromartie is an ideal compliment to cornerback Asante Samuel in a secondary that was anemic against the pass in 2010. The 6’1, 182 pound Rodgers-Cromartie made his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2009 and finished last season with 44 tackles, three interceptions and he returned two for touchdowns. Needless to say, Rodgers-Cromartie is a dynamic playmaker who would allow the ballhawking Samuel to flourish on the other side of the field.

While other teams certainly have expressed interest; Seattle reportedly offering a first and third round choice for Kolb, the obvious Eagles connection in Cleveland and the Niners who recently walked away from the failed Alex Smith experiment among them, the Cardinals and Eagles share a common thread of a shared sense of urgency to make a deal and make one quickly once the league allows. After all, receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been openly pining for the Cardinals front office to bring Kolb west.

Adding fuel to the Kolb to Arizona speculation, Cardinals beat writer Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic appeared on the Weisman Trophy Radio Show on July 11th and reiterated the Cards interest in the current Eagles backup.

“I think [The Cardinals’] first call, the first thing they’ll do when the lockout is lifted, is to talk to the Eagles and see if they can acquire Kolb.” Somers said. “They’re very interested in trading for him. They’re wary, however, the Eagles are going to command a ransom for him. They’re not going to be willing to give that up, but they do like him an awful lot. They like almost everything about him and they think he could be a quarterback really for the next 10 years. So, it makes a possible teal intriguing. What do you give up for that guy? Especially for Kolb when he hasn’t proven himself.”

There is strong sentiment growing throughout the league that the lockout could be lifted and the league reopened for business by July 21 with a truncated free agency period which makes for frantic player movement in a short period of time before training camps open and pre-season games begin.

All signs point to Kolb finding a new address before the first footballs fly in formal workouts across the league. 

 

 

Matt Lombardo is a reporter for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ.  Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL