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 South and AFC West Preview by Jason King

 

The AFC South and AFC West are looking for their first team, other than the Indianapolis Colts, to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl — last time Oakland Raiders in XXXVII.  Right now, you would have to think both divisions are up-for-grabs in 2011, especially with Peyton Manning iffy (neck) for the start of  the 2011 NFL regular season.

AFC South Preview

 The AFC South belongs to the Indianapolis Colts.  Since the division was created in 2002, the Colts have won 7 division titles (2 straight) and the Titans won the other two.  The Colts have been in the playoffs for 9 straight years.  Could the Houston Texans win their first AFC South division title?  Could the Colts be in for their first losing season in 9 years?  Is Chris Johnson the best player in the division?  There are a lot of questions to be answered in the AFC South this season. Continue reading

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 092010 (Part 1)

In Part 1 of this week’s Taking It to the House NFL Podcast — Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub put on an offensive show as his team won in overtime in Washington DC

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 092010 (Part 1)

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance reviews Week 2 of the 2010 season with host Mark Gray including the Houston Texans – Washington Redskins Instant Classic

The AFC wins the Pro Bowl 41-34 over the NFC, but Does Anyone Care

Not even a new venue and great performances from players like Cleveland Browns WR/KR Joshua Cribbs could make the 2010 Pro Bowl more noteworthy

Though it was a change in venue and playing date, the NFL’s annual Pro Bowl proved once again to being  just another ”blip” on most sports fans’ radars.  The AFC won 41-34 over the NFC in a game that featured defensive players basically taking the game off — the AFC totaled 517 yards and the NFC 470 with both teams throwing for more than 400 yards. 

Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub after throwing for 189 yards and two touchdowns was named the most valuable player of the 2010 Pro Bowl.  The game’s longest play was a 58-yard touchdown pass from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (15-of-18, 197 yards, 2 TDs) to Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson (2TDs in the game and showed his explosiveness) at the start of the 3rd quarter.

Some good news was that the stadium hosting the game was full for a change with a crowd of 70,697 showing up — the largest for a Pro Bowl since 1959 in Los Angeles.  But most emailers, texters, and callers that I talked to, had no intention of watching the game.  I think the new location (Miami, Florida) and play date (week before the Super Bowl) might have helped the in-stadium attendance, but overall it took away what little panache that the Pro Bowl possessed. 

At least when the game was in Honolulu, there was the built excuse that people after watching the Super Bowl forgot to tune into the NFL players’ annual vacation in paradise.  Now with the game being a “speed bump” before the Super Bowl, interest amongst the masses was lost even further by everyone getting ready for the week long media blitz before the Super Bowl. 

To make matters worse, players also seemed to be less interested in the honor of playing in the Pro Bowl by staying away in droves — nearly 40 percent of the players originally selected for the game didn’t play. Many of the players seemed to come up with more excuses than ever this year as they were not as thrilled for the game.  And who could blame them as most had already been to South Beach to party and a good majority were disappointed to not have the chance of going to paradise for the game/vacation. 

The “carrot” of playing in Hawaii – had hosted every Pro Bowl since 1980 — and getting away from everything after a long season always made players, league personnel, and coaches usually show-up for the game.  Did I also mention that the NFL in their infinite wisdom said that defenses could not blitz or run zones and offenses could not run the Wildcat formation – no wonder the Pro Bowl is the least anticipated game on the NFL calendar.

Unfortunately this year, the biggest buzz around the game was Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie being sent home – already lived in Miami – for missing Pro Bowl practices — missed four of the NFC’s five practices — due to “Partying”, which he basically gloated about via his Twitter account.  McKinnie said he withdrew because of “injuries”.  But his early morning tweeting didn’t help his case.  “If U coming 2 (Mansion Miami nightclub) 2nite U better hurry! Getting packed!”.  

NFL spokesman Greg Aeillo has said the NFL is reviewing why Minnesota Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie failed to show up for multiple practices in advance of tonight’s Pro Bowl game, which prompted the league to remove him from the NFC roster.  It will be interesting to see if the Vikings pay McKinnie the $5 million dollars tied to incentives in his contract for making the Pro Bowl.

In the end, the AFC players won $45,000 dollars which will help for their room service and bar bills, while the NFC team got $22,500 compensation.  “It’s different. It was like 7 on 7,” Washington Redskins rookie Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “Everybody came out here trying not to get hurt and give the fans a good show”. 

The AFC still leads the all-time series 21-19.  The game will return to Honolulu in 2011 and 2012, but the league hasn’t decided whether to hold those games before or after the Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl site for 2013 and beyond hasn’t been determined.

You have to feel bad for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as there really is no way to “spice-up” the Pro Bowl on the mainland or in Hawaii.  Because most players don’t want to get hurt and some quite frankly don’t care about the game, money or not.  Unfortunately football can never be played half-speed — especially defensively — and still be enjoyable to most astute fans.

 

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)