Huddle Up Week 1: The Ravens and Texans make an Opening Week Statement By Jason King

There were some intriguing games in Week one of this new NFL season.  Packers/Saints, Lions/Buccaneers, and Cowboys/Jets were all exciting non-divisional games.  The two divisional games of importance were the Colts/Texans and of course Ravens/Steelers.  Neither was close as the Ravens and Texans both handled business respectively.

The Ravens/Steelers rivalry has been one of the NFL’s best over the last four years.  In that time frame no Ravens/Steelers regular season game was decided by more than 4 points.  Yesterday afternoon that changed.  It was clear from the very beginning of the game that the Ravens wanted to make a statement.  They demolished the Steelers 35-7.  Baltimore put their stamp on this win by forcing seven Pittsburgh turnovers.  They also ran all over the “vaunted” Steelers defense piling up 170 yards rushing yards (5.5 YPC).  Joe Flacco was 17-29 with 224 yards passing and 3 touchdowns.  He beat Ben Roethlisberger for the first time in his NFL career.  Flacco needs to thank his defense for that.  Baltimore’s blitzkrieg pressured Big Ben all day long forcing him into five turnovers (3 INT and 2 fumbles lost).  They never letPittsburghget into any rhythm offensively. Baltimoremade a statement loud and clear that the collapse in last season’s playoffs is behind them.  It’s only the first week of the season, but this was a big game psychologically for the Ravens.  Roethlisberger had won seven straight starts against the Ravens, but that run is now over.  The Ravens have to be feeling confident about themselves.  It is still early, but this was a great win for the Ravens.  On the other side, you can bet Mike Tomlin will have his team prepared for next week’s game against the Seahawks. Continue reading

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AFC East and AFC North Preview by Jason King

The AFC North and East have sent six of the last eight conference representatives to the Super Bowl. This year figures to be no different as the Patriots, Jets, Steelers and Ravens are all emergent favorites to play for the Lombardi Trophy.  

AFC East

 The AFC East has been dominated by the Patriots over the last 10 years.  Are the Jets ready to win their first AFC East crown since 2002? Will the Bills or Dolphins be competitive or just easy outs?  All of these questions and more will be answered in the next 5 months.

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Steelers-Eagles: Pre-Season Game Preview and What to Watch For by Jason King

The defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking to bounce back from a lackluster effort when they host the Philadelphia Eagles in a preseason showdown at the ketchup factory.

Date/Time: August 18, 2011 at 8:00pm

Place: Pittsburgh, PA

Venue: Heinz Field

Playing Surface: Grass

Television: FOX (national broadcast)

The first weekend of meaningless football is in the books, we now head into week two.  The Steelers and Eagles square off in their annual Keystone State battle.

The Steelers starters played only one series against the Redskins last week.  The only positives Pittsburgh can take away from their 16-7 loss to the Washington Redskins was they suffered no significant injuries, they held the Redskins to just one touchdown in five red zone trips, and they only committed two penalties for 10 yards.  They had 186 yards of total offense.  The defense gave up 452 yards.  They were a pitiful 2 of 11 on third downs.

“That’s not the kind of performance we were looking for,” Mike Tomlin said after the game.  “Quite frankly, we got outplayed in just about all areas: blocking, tackling, running, throwing, kicking. That team was better prepared tonight than us. They showed it. We accept that, and I look forward to this group responding to what we put out there tonight. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.”

Just having Ben Roethlisberger play for more than one series will help the offense.  The offensive line in front of Roethlisberger is a concern, but those issues won’t be solved in one preseason game.  The Steelers hope to gain their usual continuity and rhythm on offense that was missing last week against Washington.  That starts with establishing the run, which opens the field up for Roethlisberger to improvise in a way only he can.

The Steelers defense isn’t an issue.  Last year they led the NFL in eight statistical categories. They were especially stingy against the run, only giving up 62.8 rushing yards per game.  Pittsburgh’s defense should be even better with the return of Aaron Smith at left defensive end.  James Harrison anchors the linebackers, while Troy Polamalu anchors the secondary.  Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau calls the signals.  The Steelers first team offense and defense should play a quarter, maybe a little more.

The Eagles are coming off a 13-6 win over the Baltimore Ravens last week.  The first team offense and defense played one series each so we didn’t get to see much from them.  They should play more in this game.

The Eagles have a few intriguing storylines as they approach this game.  They have a few position battles going on, the main ones being at center and middle linebacker.  The offensive line could have as many as three new starters.  DeSean Jackson makes his 2011 debut.  These are things to watch in this game.

Jason Kelce and Jamaal Jackson are battling to see who wins the starting center spot.  Since David Akers was let go, Jackson is the longest tenured Eagle.  This game will be a key spot for the rookie Kelce.  This Pittsburgh defense was the best in the business last year.  If he performs well it could go a long way in him eventually winning this job.  If he doesn’t, expect Jackson to start the season at center.

Casey Matthews only played two series against the Ravens.  Expect him to play the entire first half.  Matthews, the Eagles fourth round pick out of Oregon, looked solid in his NFL debut last week.  The two series he played, the defense only allowed 3 points and 59 yards rushing.

Ryan Harris isn’t playing because of a back injury.  King Dunlap is expected to start at right tackle.  According to Andy Reid, rookie right guard Danny Watkins “is progressing every day.”  If Ryan Harris’ injury is more serious than anticipated the Eagles need to see what they have in King Dunlap.  It sounds like you can pencil in Watkins as the starting right guard.  Right tackle, Mike Vick’s blindside, is more troublesome.  If King Dunlap doesn’t perform well, the anxiety for Howard Mudd and Andy Reid will begin.

DeSean Jackson and Michael Vick were a feared force last season.  They will be reunited at Heinz field Thursday night.  Jackson will most likely play a few series as the Eagles try and ease him back into things after his 11 day holdout.  He won’t be fielding any punts but that’s fine for now. The biggest objective is for Vick and Jackson to build that chemistry that made them so dangerous last year.

The Eagles and Steelers both have areas they want to improve on this week. Not all questions will be answered Thursday night, but it will be a good indicator for both teams.

 

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

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – WCHE Interview 020711

In his weekly interview on the “Matt Lombardo Show” (1520 WCHE – West Chester, PA), NFL Insider Lloyd Vance breaks-down Super Bowl XLV

The 2010-11 NFL season was completed with a thrilling game in Super Bowl XLV as the Green Bay Packers (14-6) defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers (14-5) by a score of 31-25 in Arlington, Texas. The Packers win brought an NFL-record 13tth Championship to “Title Town”. 

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance makes his weekly appearance on the “Matt Lombardo Show” on 1520 WCHE – West Chester, PA including breaking down this year’s Super Bowl.

Green Bay Packers Win Super Bowl XLV

The 2010 NFL Season culminated with the Green Bay Packers returning the Lombardi Trophy back to Title Town after winning Super Bowl XLV

The 2010-11 NFL season was completed with a thrilling game in Super Bowl XLV as the Green Bay Packers (14-6) defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers (14-5) by a score of 31-25 in Arlington, Texas. The Packers win brought an NFL-record 13tth Championship to “Title Town”.  As the league’s smallest market team won their first championship in 14 years.  The Packers joined the 2005 Steelers as the only No. 6 seeds to win a Super Bowl and Mike McCarthy’s team also became the sixth Wild Card team to win a Super Bowl.  Plus the third team to do so after winning three road playoff games.

“The Dynasty Bowl”, as some had themed this game, started out looking like a “stinker” as the Packers built an early 21-3 halftime lead but the Steelers fought back to make it a game in a match-up two of the NFL’s most-storied franchises.  The whole thing was not over until Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s fourth-down throw over the middle to Mike Wallace fell incomplete with just under a minute to play.  After two victory-formation kneel-downs, the Packers, the NFL’s second oldest franchise, improved their league-best postseason record of 29-16 in 45 games.  As new legends Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson, and Clay Matthews will now walk with past Hall of Famers Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Reggie White and Willie Davis in brought another title to the “Frozen Tundra” playing surface at historic Lambeau Field.

With the threat of potential CBA-Armadegon and “No Football” after March 4th looming, you could sense that the NFL Universe wanted to see a great game and a high-level quarterback performance.  And Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn’t disappoint.  The game’s MVP brought the Lombardi Trophy back to it’s original stomping grounds as he completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns with most importantly no interceptions for first NFL title since some guy named, Brett Favre, led the Packers to a championship in Super Bowl XXXI (January 26, 1997).

Conversely, Roethlisberger never really got it going as he lost his first Super Bowl in three tries.  Like any playoff game, the Super Bowl was won by Green Bay due to are usual keys — Strong Quarterback Play (i.e. Taking Care of the Football), Good Attacking Defense, a Balanced Offensive Attack based first in the Run, Sound Special Teams Play, and Limiting Penalties.  Of that list “turnovers” loomed most large in Super Bowl XLV.  Roethlisberger threw two costly interceptions that the Packers turned into 14 points and Pittsburgh continued their turnover misery with running back Rashard Mendenhall’s very costly fumble that led to 7 more points off turnovers for Green Bay.

Definitely congratulations are in order to the entire Packers’ organization including their players, coaches, front office, and staff.  Special kudos must also go to the architects of this team, head coach Mike McCarthy, GM Ted Thompson, and Personnel Head Mark Murphy.  Your team did the NFL proud by winning with persistence, grit, determination and a little magic.

Rodgers said after the game, “This a great group of men we’ve put together here.  Lot of character, been through a lot together. It’s just great to be able to share it with them.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

  • I thought the pre-game performance by Christina Aguilera was terrible as the former Pittsburgh home-girl set a bad tone for the Steelers by singing a choppy national anthem, including forgetting a lyric or two.
  • Everyone always wants to know the commercials that I liked and didn’t like. I just found it amazing that in our tough economy, about 28 advertisers paid over $3 million per 30-second spot. My number one has to be the “Budweiser: Singing Cowboys” ad (I like the tough guy cowboys singing an out-of-character Elton John’s Tiny Dancer) followed closely by the GM “Emimem” spot and the lovely Kim Kardashian’s ad where she breaks up with her trainer for Sketchers. A stinker was the Motorola Mobility ad taking a shot at Apple and the Ozzy Osbourne ad. You can watch all of the Super Bowl ads at YouTube.com/adblitz
  • The 14 minutes of the Black Eyed Peas’ halftime performance really lived up to the hype.  I really like the re-emergence of former Guns and Roses guitarist Slash as Fergie sang “Sweet Child of Mine”

Now that Super Bowl XLV is over, I can take a quick break.  Like most people, my NFL season is “suspsoed” to end with the Super Bowl.  But constant CBA talk, the NFL Combine (later in February into March), and the NFL Draft (in April, with the Carolina Panthers currently on the clock) are already here.

 

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

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – WCHE Interview 020211

In his weekly interview on the “Matt Lombardo Show” (1520 WCHE – West Chester, PA), NFL Insider Lloyd Vance breaks-down the news surrounding Super Bowl XLV, including the Philadelphia Eagles surprise choice for Defensive Coordinator, former O-line Coach Juan Castille

After some great action in the 2010 NFL Playoffs first three rounds, Super Bowl XLV in Arlington Texas will take center stage with the Pittsburgh Steelers facing the Green Bay Packers. NFL Insider Lloyd Vance makes his weekly appearance on the “Matt Lombardo Show” on 1520 WCHE – West Chester, PA including breaking down this year’s Super Bowl Match-up featuring two of the league’s brightest quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers)

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – Division Rd Review – Conference Championship Preview

In the Taking It to the House Division Rd Review – Conference Championship Preview Podcast The 2010 NFL Playoffs continue to roll-on as NFL’s Final 4 left standing are the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, and Pittsburgh Steelers

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – Division Rd Review – Conference Championship Preview

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance and Host Mark Gray review the 2010 NFL Playoffs Divisional Round and then move on to give you their “Pick 2” for the upcoming Conference Championships