2013 NFL Week 7 – Lloyd’s Leftovers

1) Injuries — Every season there seems to be a week where fans and media see the “physicality” of the NFL game. It is truly “Next Man Up” time as marquee players like Colts WR Reggie Wayne (knee – season), Eagles QB Nick Foles (concussion), Texans LB Brian Cushing (knee – season), Bears QB Jay Cutler (groin – 4 to 5 games), Rams QB Sam Bradford (ACL – season), Bengals CB Leon Hall (Achilles – season) and many others went down for extended periods of time. Unfortunately for NFL GM’s there are not a lot of players left on the street, unless you are talking about unwanted retreads like Tim Tebow, T.O, Chad Johnson, and Richard Seymour.

 

2) Not so happy homecoming for Peyton Manning – Maybe it was the long heart-felt ovation from the Indy faithful, but Peyton wasn’t Peyton for a large portion of a 39-33 “road” loss to the upstart Colts (5-2). Denver (6-1) lost their chance for an undefeated season and their 17-game winning in one swoop. Manning’s final numbers were good (29-49, 386 pyds, 3 TDs, 1 INT) but he clearly rattled (sacked 4 times and hit 10 times). There was a 5 for 12 stretch where the 4-time MVP wobbled pass after pass, which many attributed to a big sack/FF/safety recovery by Manning’s former teammate Robert Mathis. I know it was only 1 game, but the Broncos now trail the undefeated Chiefs (7-0) and they look vulnerable in two big areas (Pass Defense and running the football — only 64 ryds). We will see if Manning and the rest of John Fox’s team can respond at home in Week 8 vs. the upstart Redskins (2-4)… BTW is there any question that the Colts will win the pitiful AFC South (2-game lead over TEN).

 

3) Some horrible QB play – I was once asked if this is the “Golden” age of NFL quarterbacks? To answer the question, “No Way”! Sure passing numbers are up, but Sunday showed that there are not even 32 QB’s who should be playing on a weekly basis in the NFL. Sure, Andy Dalton (24-34, 372 pyds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) had a “career” day as he led the Bengals (5-2) to a big 27-24 win over the Lions in a real shootout, but so many other signalcallers stunk-up the joint. I will start with new Eagles starter Nick Foles. After enduring a week of hearing that Foles was the next Unitas and “better” than injured former starter Michael Vick (hamstring) — including some fans saying that he was smarter — the 2nd year passer, making his 8th career start, was a “Deer in the Headlights”. In a horrible performance (), against the hated Cowboys, with the division lead on the line, Foles was too scared to make throws (too many checkdowns). And when he did have chances to make “big” game-changing throws (McCoy on a Wheel Route, a wide-open Avant in the endzone, Celek downfield along the sidelines, D-Jax deep, and many others) Foles looked like Tebow in terms of his accuracy and just plain didn’t take advantage of opportunities. Mercifully for Eagles’ fans, the tentative passer’s day ended in the 3rd quarter with a concussion after Cowboys DE George Selvie slammed Foles to the ground after he refused to throw the ball after holding it for what seemed to be an eternity (at least 7 seconds). We will see who Eagles rookie HC Chip Kelly picks to be his starter versus the Giants (1-6) in Week 8 at home — PHI has lost 9 straight at the Linc — but right now a gimpy Vick is probably his best option. Other lowlight quarterbacks in Week 7 were Eagles backup Matt Barkley (3 INTs), Vikings starter Josh Freeman (Why did they start him on MNF?… Completed under 40% of his passes ), Titans’ Jake Locker (Ineffective in his return from injury), Browns’ Brandon Weeden (Get ready for the draft CLE), Rams Kellen Clemens (average at best after replacing Bradford), Dolphins Ryan Tanneyhill (horrible 4th quarter) and Cardinals Carson Palmer (just looks old as he missed too throws)

 

2010 NFL Week 3 Review

The Indianapolis Colts (2-1) look to be back near the top of the AFC and receiver Austin Collie was one of the stars from  Week 3 of the 2010 NFL Season

As the NFL inched closer to the first quarter pole of the 2010 NFL season, summer has moved out the door and autumn has returned.  Week 3, which I dubbed “Separation Sunday”, definitely helped continue the 12-week process of sorting out which teams are contenders and pretenders before November and December’s playoff push. 

This week had the NFL’s usual boatload of Injuries (Lions RB Jahvid Best – Toe, Ravens RB Ray Rice – knee, Chargers LB Shawn Merriman – calf and others); Upsets (St. Louis Rams over Redskins and Falcons over Saints); Comebacks (Eagles QB Michael Vick and Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears); and Kickers driving you nuts (Saints former SB hero Garrett Hartley missing a “chippy” in OT and Raiders power-leg Sebastian Janikowski missing a short potential game-winner).  But I have to caution a lot of fans who are starting to hit the “Panic” button and making season-long assertions about their teams, it is way too early to go jumping off a bridge.

 Is it just me… or does everyone else feel like every NFL team has a record of 2-1 or 1-2 (24 teams)? After three weeks of play, “parity” is all over America’s game as shown by the current team standings. League standings show that there are three (3-0) teams (Chiefs, Steelers, and Bears) – “The Have’s” ; fifteen (2-1) teams (Eagles, Packers, Texans, Bengals, Patriots, Colts, Ravens, Bucs, Saints, Dolphins, NY Jets, Cardinals, Seahawks, Falcons, and Titans) – “The Contenders’”; nine (1-2) teams (Cowboys, Vikings, Rams, NY Giants, Redskins, Jaguars, Chargers, Broncos and Raiders) – “Still Sorting this out”  teams; and five lowly (0-3) “Have Not” teams – Bills, Browns, Lions, Panthers, and Niners. 

However whether your team is  3-0, 2-1, 1-2 or 0-3, it doesn’t matter as everyone still has a chance to make a playoff run — “Yes” even the hapless Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns who both were scrappy in Week 3, but lost again.   The NFL’s three undefeated (3-0) teams should be feeling good as since 1990 approximately 75% of teams that reach that mark have made the playoffs.  But (3-0) is no guarantee as 8 of the last 10 seasons have seen at least one (3-0) team miss the playoffs – last year it was New York Giants and Denver Broncos.

Four of the past nine Super Bowl champions began their seasons with a 1-2 record including the 2007 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Plus half of last year’s 12 NFL playoff teams started at 1-2 before righting themselves.  History has shown that 1-2 teams can advance to the playoffs — since 1990, 22 teams have started 1-2 and still qualified for the postseason, including three teams in 2008 – Miami Dolphins (won NFC North), Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers (won AFC West).  There have even been three 0-3 teams that have made the playoffs since 1990 — 1992 San Diego Chargers, 1998 Buffalo Bills, and 1998 Detroit Lions.

Everyone needs to understand that an NFL regular season is a 17-week 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 2009 New York Giants started 5-0 only to limp home to a 8-8 record and missed the playoffs. 

Trust me every team, including almost Super Bowl winning team, has experienced some form of adversity at one time or another during their season – remember last season the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints lost at home to the desperate Cowboys in Week 15, then to the Bucs in Week 16, and the Panthers in Week 17.  The main thing right now is for teams to focus on their opponents week-in and week-out, because things can change very quickly in the topsy-turvy NFL.  Teams can no longer just mail-it-in as shown by the formerly winless St. Louis Rams’ unexpected 30-16 victory over the heavily favored Washing Redskins in a Week 3 “Trap Game”.

There are only three unbeaten teams remaining (Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, and Kansas City Chiefs) all of which most people would describe as “unlikely”. You have to start with the AFC West leading and undefeated Kansas City Chiefs (3-0).  The Chiefs, who after making the playoffs in ’07 had only 10 wins in the last three years, now could be the NFL’s Cinderella story of 2010.  Kansas City dominated the equally surprising – for the wrong reasons – Niners by a score of 31-10 at renovated Arrowhead Stadium.  It was a battle of two teams headed in the wrong direction.  The Chiefs now hold a two-game lead over the Chargers, Raiders, and Broncos.

The AFC North is looking like the NFL’s best division with the Steelers (3-0), Baltimore Ravens (2-1), and Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) all bunched near the top.  But to the surprise of experts –including yours truly –- it is the Steelers who are currently undefeated even though their starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is serving a 4-game suspension.  Fueled by veteran quarterback Charlie Batch’s three touchdown passes, the Steelers annihilated the formerly undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) by a score of 38-13 in Tampa.  And they are doing it the “Steelers Way”. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is averaging over 100 yards a game and their defense led by safety Troy Polamalu has allowed an NFL-best 11 pts per game.  Now everything will point to a Week 4 battle between the Ravens and Steelers.  Plus you can’t sleep on Ochocinco and T.O as their Bengals who are quietly picking up wins too.

The last undefeated team to discuss are the Chicago Bears (3-0).  The Bears, who many predicted would finished 3rd or 4th in the NFC North, have pulled to together in an effort to save head coach Lovie Smith’s job.  This is a new Chicago team who seem intent on changing  a downward spiral that has plagued this team since losing in the Super Bowl in 2006.  They have a ton of offensive weapons (QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte, and others), a defense that looks to have their teeth back (have allowed an average of 17 points per game through 3 weeks) and good special teams (blocked field goal and returned a punt for a touchdown in win over Packers).  On Monday Night Football, the Bears showed that they were the “Beast of the NFC North” by beating the formerly undefeated Green Packers by a score of 20-17.  However this division should get interesting as I don’t expect the Packers to be so sloppy in the future and the Vikings picked up a big win over the Detroit Lions.

So with Bye Weeks about to start there is much football to be played in this parity laden league -– or mess as some analysts are saying.  Trust me… NFL fans and media are both scratching their collective heads when trying to predict which teams have what it takes to go the distance.

The unexpected surprises of the undefeated Kansas Chiefs and the Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers plus the revival of the Michael Vick Experience so far show that nothing is a given in the NFL.   And  “Any Given Sunday” still reigns supreme.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

NFL is a Passing League First…But — To Fantasy Footballers dreams, last year there were an NFL record  10 quarterbacks who passed for over 4,000 yards in a season.  And so far in 2010, five quarterbacks have passed for over 400 yards in a game.  But this week showd passing is not everything.  The Top 5 passing quarterbacks in terms of yardage all lost — including Broncos QB Kyle Orton, 476 yds   in loss to the Colts.  Ironically four out of five of the week’s Top Rushers’ teams won their games (led by Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson’s 160 yards in a win over Detroit)

1972 Dolphins must be feeling good –  The champagne will be flowing soon in Miami as the only team to have an undefeated Super Bowl season will be celebrating in the near future.  There are only 3 undefeated teams left in the NFL this season (Chiefs, Steelers, and Bears) and in this parity-filled league, I am certain none of them will go past Week 8 without a loss.  Hard to believe in 2009, the 1972 Dolphins had to wait until Week 16 for the Colts (14-0 at the time) to finally lose a game.

Rookies making their mark at a surprisingly early rate – Following in the footsteps of several 2009 rookie stars (Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo, Jeremy Maclin, Austin Collie and others) many rookies this season have stepped into the spotlight. No longer “redshirting” takes place in the NFL as teams need rookies to help right away.  Already several outstanding rookies have made an impact  including Eagles FS Nate Allen, Chiefs RB/WR/KR Dexter McCluster, Lions RB Jahvid Best, Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount, Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki, Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez and others.

Coaches on the Hot Seat – With most of the coaches on our Hot Seat List starting with either a 1-2 or 0-3 record, the heat is on.  Some of coaches feeling a little uncomfortable include the Cowboys Wade Phillips, Giants Tom Coughlin, Panthers John Fox,  Jaguars Jack Del Rio, Niners Mike Singletary, Raiders Tom Cable, Browns Eric Mangini and some other coaches that might even know it .

Game Ball Winners

Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick — The catalyst for the NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) has been incredible as he has produced a 110 quarterback rating.  Vick  has gone from Public Enemy No. 1 to the leading candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year.  The former 3-time Pro Bowl player in his first game as the Birds anointed starter passed for 291 yards and 3 TDs in a dominating 28-3 win over the reeling Jacksonville Jaguars.  The real fun will come next week when Vick and rising Eagles host former Philadelphia and current Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb.  However the Skins and Eagles can’t get too comfortable as the Cowboys (1-2) are still lurking and they should get even better after a Week 4 bye.

Honorable Mention: Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Baltimore Ravens WR Anquan Boldin, Kansas City Chiefs rookie WR/KR Dexter McCluster, Green Bay Packers CB Charles Woodson, Philadelphia Eagles DE Trent Cole, Cleveland Browns RB Peyton Hillis, Seattle Seahawks RB/KR Leon Washington, Chicago Bears LB Brian Urlacher and Chicago Bears WR/KR Devon Hester

Lloyd’s Lackey

New Orleans Saints K Garrett Hartley – Less than one year after Hartley skyrocketed to fame by connecting on a 40-yard game-winning field goal to send the New Orleans Saints to their first  Super Bowl, he may be looking for a job.  The Saint erratic kicker missed 29-yarder – a kick any high school kicker could make — in overtime that could have kept the defending Super Bowl Champs undefeated.  Of course after the big miss the Falcons kicked their own game-winner, a 46-yard field goal by Matt Bryant..  After the game, you could clearly see that Saints quarterback Drew Brees was not happy about Hartley’s miss and the team started auditioning new kickers on Tuesday.

Dishonorable Mention:  NY Giants (3 personal foul penalties, a safety called on a penalty in the endzone and overall sloppy play), Green Bay Packers (franchise record 18 penalties), Jacksonville Jaguars QB David Garrard, Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski, Dolphins RB Ricky Williams and Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox

2010 NFL Week 3 Results

Sunday, Sep 26 

Chiefs (3-0) over Niners (0-3), 31-10 — The NFL most surprising undefeated team rolls to 3-0 with a dominating win over the reeling Niners…Singletary in trouble??…Niners allowed 457 yards in total offense to the Chiefs…How About Chiefs RB/KR Dexter McClusters who is an explosive player

Bengals (2-1) over Panthers (0-3), 20-7 — Chad Ochocinco and the Bengals take a layup against an awful Carolina team…rookie QB Claussen now sees the NFL is not NCAA football… John Fox on the hot seat       

Ravens (2-1) over Browns (0-3), 27-20 — Welcome to the Charm City, WR Anquan Boldin… Flacco and Boldin abuse Browns CB Eric Wright for 3 TDs…The Browns and QB Seneca Wallace are scrappy… You have to take your hat off to RB Peyton Hillis who ran for 144 yards and 1 TD against the Ravens tough defense    

Vikings (1-2) over Lions (0-3), 24-10 — It was a “win”, but Favre (6 INTs in ’10) and the Vikings were a little sloppy in beating the lowly Lions…Huge day for RB Adrian Peterson who ran both long and short in the win (23 carries, 160 yards, and 2 TDs including an electric 80-yard run)

Titans (2-1) over NY Giants (1-2), 29-10 — Head coach Tom Coughlin’s team is an undisciplined mess (5 personal foul penalties)..V.Y does just enough but it was the CJ2K show (32 Rush, 125 yds, 2 TDs) in NYC…Titans defense is opportunistic against  a careless Eli Manning          

Steelers (3-0)  over Bucs (2-1), 38-3 — Honestly, Did anybody expect a different story?  P-Burgh is now 3-0 w/o Roethlisberger and Batch looked great in his first start in awhile…The Steelers D and RB Mendenhall were consistently good again

Falcons (2-1) over Saints (2-1), 27-24 in OT — K Garrett Hartley (missed 29-yarder in the extra period) goes from Super Bowl hero to goat as the Saints lose in OT….The Falcons ran the ball with extreme toughness (202 yards) and their defense did just enough.. Lance Moore filled in nicely for injured RB Reggie Bush (broken fibula)

Patriots (2-1) over Bills (0-3), 38-30 — Pats won their 14th straight over the Bills… Brady (252 yards w/ 3 TDs) and Moss hooked up 2 times…Bills have something in CJ Spiller (2TDs)…Pats rushed for 200 yards

Cowboys (1-2) over Texans (2-1), 27-13 — The Battle for Texas ended early with Dallas throwing the ball downfield to WR Roy Williams (117 yards and 2 TDs) and running it too…Romo was back to his old self including not throwing any interceptions..Cowboys go into a bye week with some momentum

Rams (1-2) over Redskins (1-2), 30-16,  — Maybe I was too premature in saying the Skins were much better with McNabb and Shanahan… Washington was out scored 16-3 in the 2nd half after trailing by 3 points at halftime…Redskins were 1 for 10 on 3rd downs…Where is the Skins running game (115 yards but 25 of them were McNabb)…Jackson leaves with a groin injury.. Redskins had 9 penalties and 2 costly turnovers     

Eagles(2-1) over Jaguars (1-2), 28-3 — The Michael Vick experience is back in the NFL after a long hiatus — 17-31, 291 yds, 3 TDs and 30 yards rushing w/ 1 TD in the win.  The former first overall pick in 2001 — Vick now  40-28-1 as an NFL starter — definitely seems to have a firm grasp of the Birds scheme and is a dual-candidate for both MVP and Comeback Player of the Year… The Eagles defense sacked Jags struggling QB David Garrard six times..Jack Del Rio better get his resume ready

Seahawks (2-1) over Chargers (1-2) — An old AFC West rivalry game where San Diego played catch-up the entire game…No Ryan Matthew meant no running game for San Diego.  Seattle comebacking RB/KR Leon Washington had 2 kickoff return touchdowns      

Colts (2-1) over Broncos (1-2), 27-13 — Robo-quarterback Peyton Manning was on the money the entire game (27-43, 325 yds, 3 TDs)…2nd year receiver Austin Collie had 12 catches for 171 yards and 2 TDs in the unexpected easy win.  Despite 476 passing yards by QB Kyle Orton, the Broncos couldn’t hang with the resurgent Colts. Denver failed to get into the end zone on five trips inside the 20-yard line (settled for 2 FGs and turned the ball over on downs 3 times)

Cardinals (2-1) over Raiders (1-2), 24-23 — The Cardinals are tied w/ the Seahawks at the top of the NFC West at 2-1…This was a gift victory as Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski was 3 for 6 on FG attempts including missing a 32-yard kick at the buzzer.    

NY Jets (2-1) over Dolphins (2-1), 31-23 — Miami falls from the ranks of the unbeatens after a SNF loss to the battle tested AFC East leading NY Jets… After serving a 1-quarter team imposed penalty for his DUI during the week, WR Braylon Edwards responded by producing the game’s biggest play, a 67-yard touchdown catch.  Jason Taylor got a Gatorade bath in his victorious return to South Florida

Monday, Sep 27 

Chicago Bears (3-0) over Green Bay Packers (2-1), 20-17   — A back-and-forth Monday Night Football game as the Bears and Packers met for the 180th time…The Packers shot themselves in the foot over and over (franchise record 18 penalties, 1 blocked FG, Punt Return for a touchdown, 2 turnovers and only 63 rushing yards)..Former NFL #1 return guy, Devin Hester, was back as he scored on a 62-yd punt return (first since Dec. 30, 2007)

 

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)

2010 NFL Week 1 Review

The Seattle Seahawks, fueled by comebacking receiver Mike Williams (pictured), dominated the favored San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31-6 in one of Week 1’s bigger upsets

The first weekend of the 91st NFL season titled: “The Grand Crossroads of Hope” is finally over. NFL nation just couldn’t get enough of America’s Game as Week 1 stretched over three game days (September 9th, September 12th, and September 13th). Even in the face of pending CBA Doom, fans turned out in record numbers as even the downtrodden Jacksonville Jaguars played to a sellout – only one of the NFL’s slate of 16 games, the Tampa Bay Bucs – Cleveland Browns in Tampa, FL was blacked out.

Overall the first week of the 2010 NFL season brought surprises (Houston Texans led by RB Arian Foster dominating the Colts, Chiefs taking out the Chargers in the 2nd MNF game, Seahawks pounding Niners who were supposed to be the NFC West favorites and several photo finishes), non-surprises (Bills finding a way to lose again,  Steelers and Ravens winning “ugly” behind running the ball and attacking defense), cheers, and tears (Sorry Detroit Lions fans…Megatron did indeed catch that touchdown no matter what the officials say) that only NFL drama can provoke. The wins and losses no doubt will create a buzz of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” around the water cooler and on sports radio, but remember the NFL season is a 16 game marathon. To the NFL’s credit, the majority of Week 1 games (11 out  16) were decided by 7 points or less.

The first game on Thursday night kicked off the excitement (fireworks, Grammy winners, etc) and featured the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints using a fast start by their offense to hold off the Minnesota Vikings 14-9.  In the game you could see a couple of things:  The Saints offensive line is physical and can run the ball when needed (didn’t hear Jared Allen’s name called once), Vikings QB Brett Favre looked extremely rusty as he threw a bad interception and couldn’t rally his team in the 4th quarter, and New Orleans probably has the NFL’s highest octane offense even if they were stuck in neutral for parts of the opener.

What I love about Week 1 is experts, fans, and some members of the media start making year-long assertions based on “one week” of real NFL games.  Two of the comments/feedback that I have received after only one week of play that I consider “laughable” from one of my loyal listeners were: “After the way the Texans beat-up Indianapolis, Peyton Manning and the Colts are done…It is going to be a long year in Indy”; “The Philadelphia Eagles have to start Michael Vick because Kevin Kolb will never get it done” and “The Baltimore Ravens are this year’s Super Bowl champs based on their physical play”.  Just slow your roll there a little bit “Mr. Overzealous Fan”.

C’mon some of these conclusions may prove to be true, but Week 1 isn’t enough game action to paint with such a broad picture.  Sure Week 1 is important for setting the tone for the entire season — the last 44 Super Bowl Champions started out a combined 36-7-1 in Week 1 of their championship season and teams that made the playoffs last year were a combined 10-2 in 2009’s Week 1.  But remember in the parity-laden NFL everything can change very quickly. The 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 early in an NFL season guarantees nothing. 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 that they are facing.  Last year after five weeks the NY Giants looked like Super Bowl contenders as they started 5-0 only to limp home to an 8-8 record. 

Some Lloyd’s Leftovers from Week 1 included:

A Bad Rule Rears its Ugly Head – And you thought “Tuck” rule that thwarted the Raiders years ago was bad.  The hard-luck Detroit Lions were jobbed by a rule that doesn’t pass the smell test in my opinion.  In a game that was there’s for the taking, the Lions had fought through losing starter Matthew Stafford and were poised to beat their NFC North rival, the Chicago Bears. With 1:32 remaining in the game, backup Shaun Hill threw a great 25-yard apparent touchdown Calvin “Megatron” Johnson.  Unfortunately after one official called touchdown, the zebras huddled and Johnson’s catch was ruled incomplete due to the big receiver not maintaining possession throughout  his catch according to the officials….Bogus.  I have even listed the cockamamie rule for you to interpret — “If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.”  I thought the call was a disgrace and once again, officials are making themselves part of the story…Sorry Lions fans, you deserved better.

The Ravens Show talk is cheap on MNF – After selling Wolf Tickets on HBO’s Hard Knocks, the New York Jets expected to open their $1.6 Billion Dollar home stadium in style.  Unfortunately, the Jets had no idea what was in store for them.  In a physical dominating win, the Baltimore Ravens, led by veteran linebacker Ray Lewis, put all of the Jets’ Hard Knocks boasting to rest as they showed the country who is the NFL’s best defense.  The J-E-T-S were held to six first downs and a one-of-11 rate on third-down conversions in a black-and-blue 10-9 loss.  Plus Rex Ryan’s rowdy bunch produced a staggering 14 penalties for 125 yards.  Ryan said of his team’s effort, “Today, was a joke.”  Lewis said of the opening-game win, “All the trash talking, it’s out the door. Every time you challenge a warrior, a warrior is going to always respond.”

The NFL Season is Survival of the Fittest– The “tough” physical game of football causes a survival of the fittest on the way to the Lombardi Trophy. No team makes it to the top without dealing with injuries every week of the season. Unfortunately one of this week’s biggest stories was two season-ending injuries for the Philadelphia Eagles as leaders center Jamaal Jackson (torn triceps) and fullback Leonard Weaver (severe knee injury) unfortunately were badly hurt.  The Eagles also will be on the NFL’s front page too for another set of injuries as both QB Kevin Kolb and MLB Stewart Bradley had concussions, but were allowed to return to the field briefly before being shutdown at halftime.  Now both players will have to pass baseline testing and other tests administered by an independent source before returning to game action. Other major injuries were Lions QB Matthew Stafford (Shoulder), Panthers QB Matt Moore (Concussion), Packers RB Ryan Grant (ankle), Cardinals WR Early Doucet (Hamstring), Giants TE Kevin Boss (Concussion), Texans DE Conner Barwin (fractured ankle), Colts S Bob Sanders (elbow), Steelers LT Max Starks (high ankle sprain) and NT Kris Jenkins (knee).

Colts need to get serious about the run – Sure…QB Peyton Manning had great numbers 40-57, 433 yards and 3 TDs in a 34-24 road loss.  But the Colts’ lopsided loss to the Texans showed that successful teams can run the football on offense and stop the run on defense.  Houston out-rushed Indy 257 to 44, setting a franchise record for most rushing yards in Texans’ franchise history and most rushing yards allowed in Colts’ franchise history.

Former playoff teams struggle – As I always say, “Every year is different in the NFL”.  That phrase was never more prophetic than in Week 1 where 2009 playoff teams went a combined 5-7 — winners were Patriots, Saints, Cardinals, Packers, and Ravens.  Yes… the Patriots dominated the Cincinnati Bengals 38-24. 

Witherspoon shows heart – Only days after learning about his mother’s passing, Carolina Panthers LB Will Witherspoon gave everything he had in a loss to the NY Giants. 

Game Balls

Texans RB Arian Foster – What an amazing game for the 2nd year runner, who was viewed as a back-up just a short time ago.  Foster (6’1, 220), running in OC Rick Dennison’s zone-blocking scheme, became the first player in NFL history to rush for 200+ yards and three touchdowns on Kickoff Weekend.  The former Tennessee star finished with 33 carries for 231 yards — including 191 yards in the 2nd half — and 3 TDs as the Texans rushed for a franchise record 257 yards in the big 34-24 win over the Colts.  The Texans maybe changing their ways into a rushing team first as shown by their 42-to-17 run-to-pass ratio in the much-celebrated win.

Honorable Mention – Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte, Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews Jr, Kansas City Chiefs kick returner Dexter McCluster, Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson, New York Giants WR Hakeem Nicks, Seattle Seahawks WR Mike Williams, New England Patriots WR Wes Welker, Pittsburgh Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall, Houston Texans DE Mario Williams, Washington Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall and Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis

Lloyd’s Lackey of the Week

Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid – After already quickly burning his 2nd half timeouts, with the game on the line Reid and/or offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg came up short.  Backup QB Michael Vick had rallied the Eagles from a 17-point hole and the Birds had to convert a fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 42-yard line with two minutes left for a chance to tie the score at 27 points. Reid decided that Vick – who lined up in the shotgun formation —  should run a quarterback draw up the middle instead passing or getting the speedster to the edge.  Of course, the Packers easily diagnosed the play and stuffed Vick for no gain to the ire of the Philadelphia Faithful.  The 4th down play was the cherry on top of Eagles injuries, poor offensive execution in first half, poor offensive line, and penalties…I bet the Eagles will never wear those 1960 throwback jerseys again.  Green Packers LB Nick Barnett said of the crucial 4th down play, “He’d been making all the plays, and we knew they were going to put it on him…So yeah, we were ready.”

Dishonorable Mention – The “Loudmouth” New York Jets, Officiating crew from the Bears-Lions game, Carolina Panthers QB Matt Moore, Niners RB Frank Gore, Bengals WR Terrell Owens and the Dallas Cowboys

2010 NFL Week 1

Thu, Sep 09 

Saints 14, Vikings 9 — Fast start for Brees and his WR’s then a defensive battle..After missing most of camp was Favre rusty??

Sun, Sep 12 

Jaguars 24, Broncos 17 — Big win for the Jags, Garrard 3 TDs         

Titans 38, Raiders 13 — The Titans stomp all over the Raiders led by CJ2K who had 142 yds and 2 TDs

Patriots 38, Bengals 24 — Behind Brady and Welker, New England jumps out 24-3 in first half and cruises home.  Moss bitching about contract         

Bucs 17, Browns 14 — Tampa puts away the hard-luck Browns; Freeman had a good game     

Texans 34, Colts 24 — Fueled by RB Arian Foster (231 yds, 3TDs) Houston rolled; QB Peyton Manning had big yards, but there were several drops

Bears 19, Lions 14 — Chicago wins a good game that was overshadowed by the officials overturning an apparent Calvin Johnson TD        

Steelers 15, Falcons 9 — P-Burgh wins in OT on a Mendenhall run; Lots of D and FGs, but Steelers win on 50-yd TD run in OT

Dolphins 15, Bills 10 — Henne efficient.. Good running by R. Brown; Bills are a bad team

Giants 31, Panthers 18 — Eli and Hakim Nicks have huge days; Matt Moore (concussion) had 2 INTs in the endzone          

Packers 27, Eagles 20 — Philly loses Jackson, Kolb, Bradley, and Weaver; Back-up Vick starts a QB controversy as he almost gets it done      

Cardinals 17, Rams 13 — The Cardinals return to STL and get an ugly win; Though hurting, WR Larry Fitzgerald had the game-winner

Seahawks 31, SF49ers 6 — Hasselbeck has a big day and the Niners look bad; Singletary has some clean-up to do      

Redskins 13, Cowboys 7 — McNabb efficient and Defense scores TD; Romo throws touchdown at end that is disallowed due to Barron’s holding penalty        

Mon, Sep 13 

Ravens 10, NY Jets 9 — Ray Lewis and his defense show the J-E-T-S that “talk” is cheap; Also NY Jets QB Mark Sanchez has to do better than 71 yards passing

Chiefs 21, Chargers 14 — Stayed up late for this one, but it was worth it; Romeo Crennel’s young defense came-up big when it mattered most; KC has some speedsters too 

 

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)

2009 NFL Season – Week 9 Preview by Lloyd Vance

tony_romo

All eyes will be on Lincoln Financial Field in Philly in Week 9 as QB Tony Romo lead the Dallas Cowboys against the Philadelphia Eagles on NBC Sunday Night Football

The second half of the 2009 NFL Season is here and now the “real” fun begins as teams confirm their status as a “Contender” or “Pretender”.  Many people around the NFL, including yours truly, are excited about the second half of the season kicking off as almost all bye weeks are over (Week 9 — Buffalo, Cleveland, Oakland, St. Louis, Minnesota, NY Jets and Week 10 — NY Giants, Houston).  And the games each week have a heightened level of significance in terms of teams jockeying for division titles and the league’s coveted 12 playoff berths.  Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said of starting the second half of the 2009 season, “It’s a new season, we have a nine-game schedule and we open with Baltimore.”

The NFL as usual is parity-laden this time of the year as there are 15 teams above .500 and 12 teams below the .500 mark.  But there is still a lot of sorting out left to do with the group of 12 teams currently residing in the league’s “Any Given Sunday” middle with records ranging from 5-3 to 3-4 (Texans (5-3), Giants (5-3), Jets (4-4), Ravens (4-3), Chargers (4-3), Falcons (4-3), Bears (4-3), Cardinals (4-3), Niners (3-4), Dolphins (3-4),  Panthers (3-4), and Jaguars (3-4).  In the coming weeks, the Stuck in the Middle” teams will either join the playoff hunt or fall back which always is the fun part of the third quarter of the NFL season.  But nothing in the NFL is predictable and there is a lot most football to be played.  Since 1990, when the current 12-team playoff format was adopted, 47 teams (20.6 percent of the 228 playoff clubs) have advanced to the postseason after starting the season with a .500 or worse record after eight games. 

Even the NFL’s two undefeated teams, the New Orleans Saints (7-0) and Indianapolis Colts (7-0), know that nothing is guaranteed in today’s NFL and that they better put away any thoughts of catching the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins and concentrate on their opponents for this week – both have tough divisional battles Saints-Panthers and Colts-Texans.  The Colts are 7-0 for the fourth time in the past five seasons, but they begin a stretch that will see them play teams that are a combined 19-11 (.633) over the next four games.  Colts receiver Reggie Wayne said of his team’s record and where they currently stand, “We know that 7-0 guarantees us nothing, we’ve gotten farther than this in the past and came out with nothing.  We just want to stay dialed in and continue to win games.”

The factor that everyone hopes will lead to being in the playoff hunt come late December is “adjustments”.  The NFL is a copycat league where teams can catch-up quickly and adjustments are the only way to stay ahead of the pack and combat falling behind.  With only eight more weeks of action after this week, it is time for the “good” coaches to make the adjustments necessary to get their teams back on track or keeping them at the top.  Remember early season results are important (don’t want to get too far behind), but good coaches realize that they want their team peaking in the championship months of November and December. 

The halfway point of the season also seems like a good time to start talking about the NFL’s 8 divisional races.  Entering Week 9, seven teams that did not win their division in 2008 either were at the top or tied for first place in their division.  If this pattern holds true, the 2009 season will break the NFL record for new division winners since realignment in 2002 (Six new division winners in 2003 and 2008).

Here’s the current division breakdown:

NFC East — 2008 Champion was the NY Giants and this season the Eagles and Cowboys have a ½ game lead over the Giants.

NFC West– 2008 Champion was the Arizona Cardinals and this season the Cardinals have a 1-game lead over the Giants.

NFC South– 2008 Champion was the Carolina Panthers and this season the New Orleans Saints have a 3-game lead over the Falcons.

NFC North– 2008 Champion was the Minnesota Vikings and this season the Vikings have a 2 ½ game lead over the Packers and Bears

AFC East– 2008 Champion was the Miami Dolphins and this season the New England Patriots have a 1 ½ game lead over the New Jets.

AFC West– 2008 Champion was the San Diego Chargers and this season the Denver Broncos have a 2-game lead over the Chargers.

AFC South– 2008 Champion was the Tennessee Titans and this season the Indianapolis Colts have a 1 ½ game lead over the Houston Texans.

AFC North– 2008 Champion was the Pittsburgh Steelers and this season the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers have a 1-game lead over the Baltimore Ravens.

Some of the more compelling storylines that we will be following in the NFL’s second half include:

  • Can either the New Orleans Saints or Indianapolis Colts go undefeated for the entire 2009 season
  • Can the Vikings and veteran quarterback Brett Favre  continue their magic carpet ride into the playoffs
  • Are the Patriots and Steelers truly back after producing winning streaks going into their recent bye weeks?
  • Could it be possible that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will not win a game in 2009 and match the 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16)
  • Which coach currently on the hot seat (Browns Eric Mangini, Redskins Jim Zorn, Raiders Tom Cable, Bills Dick Jauron, Panthers John Fox and others) will be the first one issued their pink slip

After so many weeks containing five or more blowouts, let’s hope that Week 9’s many great match-ups live up to their hype.

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals – The Ravens (4-3) will visit the Bengals (4-3) in a matchup between two fighting to be near the top of the AFC North.  The Ravens are looking for revenge from a Week 5 home loss to the Bengals so don’t expect many pleasantries.  To make matters worse, Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco sent the Ravens secondary and linebackers some gift baskets of deodorant sticks in anticipation of this week’s game (i.e. No. 85 is saying the Ravens’ D stinks).  Ochocinco better be careful as the Ravens showed last week against the Broncos (30-7 victory) that they mean business after a much-needed bye. 

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans – In what looks like a primo AFC South battle, the Texans –- have won three games in a row — will look to get to a 6-3 record for the first time their franchise’s history and get some respect around the NFL.  Quite frankly, this game could make or break the Texans’ season as they try to make the jump from a perennial 8-8 squad to being a playoff contender.  However the task of beating the Colts is daunting one as Indianapolis has now won 16 consecutive regular season games and can tie the 1933-34 Chicago Bears for the third-longest streak in NFL history with a win this Sunday.  Of this Sunday’s matchup Colts QB Peyton Manning said, “We’re heading into the teeth of our schedule”.  Manning will also be shooting for two decade milestones and NFL firsts in the game — 19 passing yards from 40,000 passing yards and 4 TDs from 300 touchdown passes.  Also watch for Colts DE Dwight Freeney who has recorded a sack in 7 consecutive games this season — needs one sack on to tie teammate Robert Mathis’ start of season record (8) from 2005.

San Diego Chargers at New York Giants – Remember the 2004 NFL Draft…well I know the Chargers and Giants do.  In April of 2004, the Giants and Chargers swapped quarterbacks Eli Manning (foot) and Philip Rivers in a trade that will forever link the two young passers.  Rivers and the Chargers are looking to continue their recent found winning ways.  While Manning’s team is trying to end an ugly 3-game losing streak that has saw them slip from 5-0 start to second place in the NFL East.  I am sure the Chargers will attack a beleaguered Giants’ secondary that allowed four plays over 40 yards or more last week against the Eagles. The will need to get pressure from their D-line (when DE Justin Tuck records a sack, the Giants are 15-3) and hope for the healthy return of DL Chris Canty, CB Aaron Ross and LB Michael Boley or could be a long day.  The G-Men will need to keep an eye on Chargers TE Antonio Gates who has an NFL leading 53 TDs since 2002.  The Giants have won five straight vs. the AFC — including Super Bowl XLII – but this is a tough assignment.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos – In the AFC’s marquee match-up of the week, the defending champion Steelers, coming off a bye, will look to extend their winning streak to five consecutive games against the upstart Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football.  The entire country will be watching as these two division leaders clash at INVESCO Field.  One thing is for certain, expect some serious defense in this game as the Broncos are rated No.1 in the NFL in terms of yardage allowed (266.7) and have allowed an average of just 13.7 points per game.  The Steelers are not far behind with an average of 291 yards allowed and only 23.8 points per game.  Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said of his unit, “I think we have the potential to be a very, very good defense.”  The Broncos will try to protect quarterback Kyle Orton by running their backs Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter.  While the Steelers may allow QB Ben Roethlisberger to go no-huddle which gave the Broncos fits in their first loss of the season last week in Baltimore.  Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels said of the match-up after losing first time last week, “You can find out just as much about your team through the adversity of a loss as you can through six wins, now we’ve got to get ready to play against a really good team in Pittsburgh.”

Lloyd’s Leftovers for Week 9

Riggo has a mouthful for the Redskins front office — John Riggins, a hall of fame and former Super Bowl MVP for Washington Redskins, took his battle with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to the big stage.  Appearing on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL”, the talkative former NFL workhorse back let Snyder have it with both guns blazing.  Getting quite personal, Riggins said of the Redskins management, “I’ve been asked this question a lot, when they say do you have an ax to grind…Maybe that’s the case. But truthfully I do have an ax to grind and I just realized I have been a little bit disingenuous. But this is a bad guy that owns this team. I’ll just tell you that upfront. Bad Guy! And if the commissioner is worried about potential new owners and saying some of these guys shouldn’t apply, he might want to police his own inside guys.”  Somehow I don’t see this little tiff going away anytime soon.

Titans’ running back pulls out his crystal ball – Titans RB Chris Johnson feeling real good about his team’s first victory last week over the Jacksonville Jaguars predicted that the Titans (1-6) could run the table to end the season.  Johnson said, “We really believe like we can, like we started off 10-0 last year”.  Fresh off a franchise record 228-yard game against the Jags, Johnson added “Before we played Jacksonville, we sat down and was like we really feel like we can go 10-0 in these last 10 games”.  I will let you decide about Tennessee’s chances and here is the rest of the Titans’ schedule: at 49ers, vs. Bills, at Texans, vs. Cardinals, at Colts, vs. Rams, vs. Dolphins, vs. Chargers, at Seahawks.

The Wildcat returns to it’s NFL birthplace – I know the Patriots haven’t forgotten, but it was in Week 3 of the 2008 season that the Dolphins unleashed the much-talked about ‘Wildcat’ formation on the NFL.  Heady Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning and his quarterbacks coach David Lee surprised the Patriots and the entire NFL by running a form of single-wing in a 38-13 road upset in Foxborough.  The ‘Phins churned out 216 rushing yards and RB Ronnie Brown (17 rushes for 117 yards and 4 TD’s) was spectacular to say the least as a part-time quarterback.  The former Auburn star set a Dolphins franchise record by running for four touchdowns and even threw a perfect left-handed 19-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Fassano.  The win stopped the Patriots’ 21-game regular season consecutive win streak and the NFL has never been the same with almost every team in league looking to run a version of the “Wildcat”.  In Week 9, look for the Patriots to load the box with their safeties (Brandon Merriweather and Brandon McGowan) in an attempt to stop the Dolphins vaunted running game (153.4 yards per game) and of course the Wildcat formation.

Sustained Success — The 2008 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers have 99 wins since the start of the 2000 season.  With a victory in Denver on Monday night, the Steelers can become the third team this decade with 100 regular-season wins, joining the Indianapolis Colts (108) and New England Patriots (107).  The Philadelphia Eagles are not far behind from the 100-win mark for this decade as they have 97 wins.  The Colts and Patriots also are within striking distance of the all-time win mark for a decade held by the San Francisco 49ers of the 1990s (113).

Colts hit hard by the injury bug — If the Indianapolis Colts are going to improve upon their current 16-game winning streak and undefeated start (7-0), they will need to find some gems on their depth chart.  This season injuries have ravaged the Colts and this week was no different as CB Kelvin Hayden (knee – 4 weeks), CB Marlin Jackson (ACL – season), and safety Bob Sanders (elbow – season) were lost for significant amounts of time.  Some bigger names listed as either “Out” or “Questionable” are Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin (ankle), Falcons WR Roddy White (knee), Chargers C Nick Hardwick (ankle), Lions WR Calvin Johnson (knee), Donald Driver (stinger), Eagles LB Chris Gocong (quad, hamstring), Patriots RB Sammy Morris (knee), Bears WR Devin Hester (ankle), Ravens DT Haloti Ngata (ankle), Panthers WR Muhsin Muhammed (knee), Eagles WR Kevin Curtis (knee), Bucs WR Antonio Bryant (knee), Colts K Adam Vinatieri (right knee), Patriots DE Jarvis Green (knee), Dolphins LB Channing Crowder (shoulder) and Redskins P Hunter Smith (right groin).

Big Plays are prevalent in the NFL this season — There have been 81 touchdowns of at least 50 yards scored this season.  That is the most through the first eight weeks of a season since 1970.  The previous high was 80 touchdowns of 50+ yards scored in 1998.

Veteran is a good luck charm — New England has won 24 consecutive regular season games with recently re-signed veteran LB Junior Seau on their roster.

NFL Week 9 – Featured Game

Dallas Cowboys (5-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-2), 8:00 PM ET (NBC)

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

NBC’s Sunday Night Football will be alive as one of the biggest rivalries in the NFL will be showcased this week.  To die-hard Eagles fans there are only really two games a year that really matter and both of them are against the hated Dallas Cowboys. To make things even more interesting, this year’s first battle between these two bitter rivals is for first place in the NFC East. NBC football analyst Tony Dungy said of the match-up, “Philadelphia and Dallas are playing great in all three phases it’s setting up a big showdown game – with first place in the NFC East on the line – on Sunday night.”  Both the Cowboys enter the game riding win streaks — Cowboys have won three consecutive games and the Eagles have a two game winning streak themselves.   The last time these two teams met in Week 17 of the 2008 season, the Eagles trounced the Cowboys 44-6 at Lincoln Financial Field to knock Dallas from the playoff race.

Expect there to be plenty of offensive fireworks as both teams have several big play threats – Cowboys ranked 2nd in NFL with an average of 411.1 yards per game and the Eagles are not far behind averaging 344.4 yards.  The Cowboys have been led by quarterback Tony Romo (won 12 consecutive November starts) and emerging receiver Miles Austin (26 catches for 563 yards, 21.7 ypc average and 6 TDs) have scored 101 points (33.7 per game) throughout the 2009 season, but especially during their recent 3-game winning streak.  Romo surely will be looking to hit his favorite target TE Jason Witten (37 receptions for 348 yards, and 1 TD) over the middle as tight ends from the Bucs’ Kellen Winslow to the Raiders’ Zach Miller have torched the Eagles in coverage.  It will be up new Eagles MLB Will Witherspoon and FS Sean Jones to keep Witten in check or it maybe a long day for Sean McDermott’s defense.  Also watch for the Cowboys to run the football with their three-headed backfield (Tashard Choice, Felix Jones, and Marion Barber) to slowdown the Eagles blitz-happy defense (23 sacks).  Conversely the Eagles have gone from a methodical team that moved the chain with short secure passes to a unit that is a quick strike big play team –four touchdowns of 40 yards or more in Week 8 win over the Giants. 

Last week, the Eagles scored 40 points in a 23-point victory over the New York Giants, which was the team’s largest margin of victory over the Giants since 1996.  In Philadelphia’s five wins this season, the team has averaged 34.4 points per game.  The Eagles offense will look for returning RB Brian Westbrook (concussion) to help quarterback Donovan McNabb (80-133, 1008 yards, 9 TDs, 1 INT, and a 103.2 rating) and emerging young players RB LeSean McCoy, WR Jeremy Maclin and TE Brent Celek.  However any offensive talk for the Eagles will start and end with number one threat WR/PR DeSean Jackson (will be shadowed by Cowboys former Pro Bowl corner Terrence Newman).  The former 2nd rounder from Cal has scored six touchdowns of at least 50 yards this year, becoming just the second player in NFL history – Pro Football Hall of Famer Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch (1951) – to score six 50-yard touchdowns in the first seven games of a season. Jackson said of his feat, “I’ve just been put in some great positions to score long touchdowns”.  The charismatic and borderline cocky playmaker added, “Whatever we need to do to make it work, that’s what we’re going to do.  I want to keep winning, keep making plays and hopefully make it to the Super Bowl.”

On defense, the Eagles are ranked 10th against the pass and 12th against the run, but they are always looking for the turnover.  The Eagles are third in the NFL with 14 INTs plus they currently sport a +12 turnover ratio (2nd in the NFL).   Pressure from the Eagles’ D-line led by former Pro Bowl pass rusher Trent Cole (6.5 sacks) has led to Pro Bowl corner Asante Samuel (5 INTs) making big plays.  The Cowboys defense also is predicated on pressure (LB DeMarcus Ware – 5 sacks in ’09) which has helped them stop the run (ranked 13th in the NFL), but also has left Dallas susceptible to big plays in their secondary.  Other than Newman, the other members in Dallas’ secondary have had a lot of problems in coverage, especially safeties Gerald Sensabaugh and Ken Hamlin. 

As always injuries will be a big part of this game as the Cowboys’ injury list includes: CB Allen Rossum (hamstring – out), RB Marion Barber (thumb), DT Jay Ratliff (knee), S Gerald Sensabaugh (thumb), and LB DeMarcus Ware (foot).  Conversely the Eagles will be missing WR Kevin Curtis (knee) and most likely LB Chris Gocong (quadricep, hamstring) with other players on their injury list like DE Victor Abiamiri (knee), DT Brodrick Bunkley (knee), DE Chris Clemons (shoulder, elbow), G Nick Cole (knee), S Macho Harris (ankle), DE Darren Howard (ankle), and CB Dimitri Patterson (quadricep, hand).

LV’s Pick: – Watch for special teams in this game as Cowboys returnman Patrick Crayton  has been playing very well of late — had an 82-yard punt return touchdown last week to become the 2nd Cowboy with punt return for a touchdown in consecutive games (“Bullet” Bob Hayes in 1968).  And Eagles kicker David Akers’ leg is looking stronger than ever (61 points – 3rd in NFC and 13-16 FGs).  In picking this game there are some trends to keep in mind. Since 2004, each team has won four games in this series.  But lately the Eagles have been on top, winning four of the past six meetings and 14 of the last 20 games in this series. Even though the Cowboys ead the overall series, (55-44 including the playoffs), expect the Eagles and McNabb (won 11 of last 16 starts against Dallas) to rise to the occasion of playing on National TV – Eagles 31, Cowboys 28

NFL Week 9  

SUN, November 8 

Washington at Atlanta 1:00 PM (FOX)

Arizona at Chicago 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Baltimore at Cincinnati 1:00 PM (CBS)  

Houston at Indianapolis 1:00 PM (CBS)  

Miami at New England 1:00 PM (CBS)  

Green Bay at Tampa Bay 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Kansas City at Jacksonville 1:00 PM (CBS)

Detroit at Seattle 4:05 PM (FOX) 

Carolina at New Orleans 4:05 PM (FOX) 

San Diego at NY Giants 4:15 PM (CBS)  

Tennessee at San Francisco 4:15 PM (CBS)  

Dallas at Philadelphia 8:20 PM (NBC)

MON, November 9 

Pittsburgh at Denver 8:30 PM (ESPN)

Bye: Buffalo, Cleveland, Oakland, St. Louis, Minnesota, NY Jets 

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)

Perrilloux Tries to Resurrect his College Career at Jacksonville State (AL)

Troubled former LSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux has signed on as a transfer with Jacksonville State (AL) for the 2008 NCAA season.

May 19, 2008

(Philadelphia, Pa) —  In some good news, talented but troubled  former #1 prep player quarterback Ryan Perrilloux has officially transferred to Jacksonville State (AL). By now everyone knows that Perrilloux after numerous infractions was  kicked off LSU’s national championship team this spring. 

There is no doubt that the 21-year old Louisiana native has enormous talent (championship pedigree, strong arm, and dual-threat ability), as shown by his MVP performance in the 2007 SEC Championship game, but it is now time for him to mature and take advantage of the opportunity given to him by the Gamecocks. Jacksonville State is a Football Championship Subdivision level team (former 1-AA), so Perrilloux will have two years of eligibility to measure up his huge prep level clippings.

Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe, who handed the starting job to the former LSU prized recruit after doing his investigation said, “I think he’s been an immature player, and I think he’s been a very, very, very frustrated player”.  Crowe added  “He’s got a national championship ring and a love for LSU. He’s not a tainted person with a tainted feeling. He just made mistakes, admitted them and moved on”. 

I truly hope that Perrilloux has grown up and is ready to take the steps needed on and off the field to make it to the next level.  Hopefully he has learned something from how Tavaris Jackson went from Arkansas to Alabama State to the NFL as a 2nd round by the Minnesota Vikings.  Perrilloux has two years left in college, so I will be monitoring his progress

Lloyd’s Leftovers

 — Former Georgia Tech star quarterback Joe Hamilton, who had been just hired on April 28th to a position of assistant coach in the player personnel department, has resigned his position at the school after he was charged with marijuana possession, driving under the influence of alcohol and hit-and-run.  GA Tech Paul Johnson in announcing the resignation said about Hamilton, “I know he has great love and concern for this program and always will.” LV’s Take: Hamilton can recover from this situation, but it is a shame.  The former Heisman runner-up could have been very valuable to the option offense that Johnson is bringing from the Naval Academy.

— The Falcons have for sure moved on from the Michael Vick era with the selection of Matt Ryan.  Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank recently said “Michael (Vick) is in jail” and “We don’t know how long that will be for. We don’t know what physical and mental condition he’ll be in when he gets out. … Selecting Matt Ryan was the important way to do that.”   LV’s Take: The real fun will begin when Vick is released, which is expected sometime in 2009.

—  Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell showedd up at minicamp in shape at 269 pounds and should have better stamina this season. LV’s Take: Hopefully now all of the talking heads will finally put to rest all the 300 pound rumors and the big quarterback eating his way out of the NFL stories.  The kid has a huge upside and I think this season you see him go vertical to all of the speedsters that  Al Davis has assembled.

— Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson got a strong vote of confidence from his center Matt Birk on the radio station KFAN.  Birk said of his growing young passer “This is the year,” and “Do I think he has what it takes? Absolutely! Is it going to be ups and downs, bumps in the road? Absolutely. But I think he’s coming along. … I think he’s got what it takes. Obviously, it’s a big year for him and a big year for us, but I feel very good with him being our quarterback.”  LV’s Take:  As long as Jackson hands off to all-world running back Adrian Peterson, he will be okay.  But he better watch for competition from Vikings draft pick John David Booty.