2011 NFL Week 8 Remix by Lloyd Vance

In one of Week 8’s shockers, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Diego Chargers 23-20 in overtime on Monday Night Football. One of the stars of the MNF win and the Chiefs’ recent 4-game winning streak, that has put them at the top of the “wild” AFC West, is emerging RB Jackie Battle

(Philadelphia, Pa) — The midpoint of the 2011 NFL season is upon us and throughout the league there “should” be a pretty good understanding of who the “Contenders” and “Pretenders” are.  But with 9 more weeks of NFL action ahead of us, other than the Green Bay Packers (7-0) — who are vulnerable too — no one is very sure what is happening week to week in the topsy-turvy National Football League.  Parity is everywhere as there are 19 teams with winning records along with 14 teams bunched between records 3-4 and  5-3.  So buckle up as the second half the 2011 season is about to begin.

And here are some storylines that we will be following in the league’s second half:

  • Can  the Green Bay Packers go undefeated for the entire 2011 season and/or be the first team since Patriots in 2000-2001 to go to back-to-back Super Bowls
  • Can rookie quarterback Cam Newton continue his magic carpet ride towards the Rookie of the Year Award and possibly Peyton Manning’s rookie passing yardage record
  • Are the Steelers, Chiefs, and Eagles truly back after producing winning streaks after some “slow” starts
  • Could it be possible that the Indianapolis Colts will not win a game in 2011 and match the 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16)…. If that happens at least they will get Stanford QB Andrew Luck
  • Which coach currently on the hot seat (Dolphins Tony Sparano, Jaguars Jack Del Rio, Colts Jim Caldwell and others) will be the first one issued their pink slip
  • Will the Niners (6-1) have the NFC West wrapped up by Thanksgiving Continue reading

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

2011 NFL Season Week 1 Preview: Saints-Packers by Lloyd Vance

The Green Bay Packers will be looking for a big game from DB Charles Woodson when they host the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field  in the 2011 NFL Regular Season Opener

The road to Super Bowl XLVI (February 5 in Indianapolis, IN) will begin tonight as the 92nd Season of the National Football League will officially kickoff at historic Lambeau Field.   For the eighth consecutive season, the Super Bowl champion will open the slate as the Green Bay Packers will host the 2009 NFL Champion New Orleans Saints (Sept. 8 at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC).  The regular season start of America’s favorite sport will also include a concert by Grammy Winners and fireworks.  

All the hoopla will signal a new beginning for the sport that everyone is watching — according to Nielsen Media Research, the NFL reached 207.7 million unique viewers in 2010, the most in history.  Week 1 in the NFL season is almost at the holiday level as football fans everywhere finally quench their thirst for “real” NFL game action. Especially after the 136-Day NFL Lockout dominated league news rather than mini-camps, OTA’s, and the many other events on the NFL Calendar.  

I am not sure if it is the quick five-month schedule where the games come and go before we know it, the long arduous 7-month wait for real games after the Super Bowl, the once-a-week high, the “every game counts” subplots, the talented players that always amaze you with their toughness and ability to perform under mental and physical stress, the autumn weather, team allegiance, trash-talking, the dreaded g-word (gambling), fantasy football, or any other thing.  But we all know that the NFL is everyone’s sports obsession like none other. 

Football brings people together from all walks of life and gives commonality where almost everyone has a team and a rooting interest from the guy working at the local convenience store to President Barack Obama — supporter of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The NFL has even infiltrated sometimes stuffy Corporate America as Fridays are now, “Wear your NFL team’s colors to work day”.  Co-workers during lunch or coffee breaks will be talking fantasy football line-ups, poking fun at each other’s team, and comparing the best venues to watch the game each weekend until February brings the curtain down on the season.

Football fans everywhere can now shout “Hallelujah” as their lengthy wait for “real” NFL game action since the Super Bowl in February is finally over. 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

2010 NFL Wildcard Round: Saints – Seahawks Preview

Saints Head Coach Sean Payton will be looking to guide the defending champs back to the Super Bowl, but first the Seattle Seahawks are their opponents in the Wildcard Round

New Orleans Saints (11-5) at Seattle Seahawks (7-9), Saturday, Jan. 8th, 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Broadcast Team: Tom Hammond, Mike Mayock, and Alex Flanagan (Field Reporter)

Already everyone is moving the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints to the divisional round of the playoffs.  Yes, the Saints have playoff experience and the lowly Seahawks – in the playoffs for the fifth time in the past seven seasons — are the running NFL joke as they are the league’s first losing record playoff team in a full 16-game season.  But these are the playoffs and anything can happen, especially with New Orleans having a host of injuries to some key players (see leading rushers Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory on I/R). The Saints are trying to become the first team to repeat since New England did so in 2003-04, but they will have to take inspiration from the 2007 Giants by winning three road games, starting with Seattle. 

Back in Week 11 these two teams met in New Orleans with the Saints winning by a score of 34-19 and it wasn’t even that close.  In the game, star quarterback Drew Brees (selected to 3rd straight Pro Bowl) passed for numbers 29-43, 382 yards, 4 TDs, and 2 INTs while getting the ball to WR Marques Colston early and often against an overmatched Seahawks secondary.  I fully expect Brees (448-658, 4620 yards (1st in NFC), 33 TDs (1st in NFC), 22 INTs, and a 90.9 passer rating) and Colston (84 rec, 1023 yards, 12.2 ypr, and 7 TDs) to pick right where they left off, but the Saints have to find balance in this game and that means running the football.  New Orleans will have Reggie Bush in this one (Broken leg earlier in the season), but it will be real interesting to see if former Seahawk Julius Jones wants revenge on his old team.  Whether the Saints’ featured runner is Jones or someone else, expect head coach Sean Payton to attack the Seahawks smallish defense by establishing the run behind his huge offensive line led by Pro Bowl player OG Jahri Evans.

Balance will allow Brees to then go play-action to receivers Colston, Lance Moore, and Robert Meachem – New Orleans led the NFL with a completion percentage of 68% — against a Seahawks defense that allowed an average of 25.4 points per game to their opposition.  It will be incumbent on Seahawks defensive leaders LB Lofa Tatupu, rookie FS Earl Little (5 INTs) and team sacks leader DE Chris Clemons (11 sacks) to make big plays against the Saints high-octane offense.  When the Seahawks have the ball, head coach Pete Carroll will be turning to former Super Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselback – returning from a hip injury – to spark the underdogs.  To tell the truth, I was surprised that the Seahawks are going with Hasselbeck after back-up Charlie “Serpico” Whitehurst played so well the week before in a 16-6 win over the St. Louis Rams for the NFC West title.  And it is no secret that Hasselbeck has to play better for Seattle to have a chance — accounted for 13 turnovers compared to 5 TDs final five regular season starts.  Also somehow Seattle (ran 17 times for 58 yards in first meeting) must get a run game going against a Saints defense that can be vulnerable to physical runners.

I expect Seattle to try and establish running back Marshawn Lynch (202 rushes for 737 yards and 6 TDs) as the former Bills workhorse wants to show he is a playoff caliber back.  Hasselback will also be looking for TE Jeff Carlson and NFL Comeback Player of the Year candidate WR Mike Williams (65 rec, 751 yards, 11.6 ypr, and 2 TDs).  But there are two areas that fans cannot forget when they are breaking down this game.  Turnovers are going to be “huge” in this game as both teams are a negative in turnover ratio (Seattle -9 and New Orleans -6).  Watch for Little for Seattle and a very good secondary for New Orleans led by DB Malcom Jenkins to look to be opportunistic.  And the second area to watch is special teams, the Seahawks have stellar kicker Olindo Mare (3 FGs in WK17 win) and explosive KR Leon Washington (11.3 yards per punt return).  While the Saints have Bush, but are not close to being sold on inconsistent kicker Garret Hartley (20/25 on FG Attempts in 2011).

Saints head coach Sean Payton said of playing the Seahawks in the playoffs, “We’re looking forward to the challenge.  We know it’s going to be a tough place to play.  The crowd noise is as loud as it is in this league for an outdoor venue.  For us, it’s all about playing your best football at the right time, and that time is right now.  Clearly, everyone recognizes that you have to win to advance.”   

LV’s Pick:  I know it is kind of mean to say, but the Seahawks do not belong in the playoffs.  Though I am  all for keeping the existing playoff format, it is a shame that the Bucs and NY Giants, both 10-6, are sitting at home while Seattle is playing.  You expect Seattle’s raucous 12th Man crowd to try and rally the home Seahawks, but Brees, Payton, and Company have been here before.  Look for Brees and the Saints offense to jump out to an early lead then cruise home as they get ready for another meeting with the Falcons.  BTW: If the Seahawks do lose as we expect, you know it will be by 15 points or more — Saints win 28-13

 

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)

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – Wildcard Round Preview

In the Taking It to the House NFL Wildcard Round Preview Podcast The 2010 NFL Playoffs are finally here and teams can either “Win” or “Go Home”.  One of the bigger match-ups will be the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Green Bay Packers

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – Wildcard Round Preview

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance and Host Mark Gray give you their “Pick 4” for the 2010 NFL Playoffs Wildcard Round including the Philadelphia Eagles looking for “Week 1 Revenge” against the visiting Green Bay Packers

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – Week 8 Preview

In the Taking It to the House NFL Week 8 Preview Podcast — After a turnover filled performance last week, the Super Champion Saints (WR Lance Moore pictured) will be hoping to cure their “hangover” as they take on the resurgent Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1)

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – Week 8 Preview

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance and Host Mark Gray give you their “Pick 6” for Week 8 including the 2009 Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints trying to get back on track as they face the surging Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1)