Tag Archives: Tom Brady

The Pundit returns, puts Donovan on notice

The wait is over – the Pundit has returned. And there it is, the roaring clap of six hands, as the three people who actually visit this site stand up and raise their voices in jubilation. Your “lazy” Pundit was in fact quite busy attempting to find a new apartment and wrapping up the details as he heads off to grad school in the fall, all while attempting to watch every single Phillies game. But now he has returned, and  has a few things to say to Mr. McNabb.

As most of you know, Donovan McNabb had the final two years of his contract reworked, earning him an additional $5 million or so. Yippie. And as many in the blogosphere/media market are privy to, the deal offers the Eagles a lot of flexibility, in that the biggest chunk of his guaranteed money doesn’t kick in for the second year of the contract until May 5th of next year, meaning that if he sucks it up this year, he can be released or traded without them taking a major hit. And if he lights it up, or at least stays at the level we’re accustomed to, they can extend him and try to move Kolb if they so desire.

And, more importantly, if anybody wants him.

Call it what you want – a monetary make-up kiss, a sound business decision, a way to spend all of that money that they can’t possibly spend. We can argue about the implications of this move by the Eagles and McNabb until the cows return to their residences, going from green to blue in the face trying to predict the future. Continue reading

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Donovan McNabb, and the “Clutch” Conversation

I spent a lot of time going through Donovan McNabb’s game logs, trying to decipher whether or not it was fair that McNabb is often described as a “choker.”

choker

And it was a truly silly endeavor.

See, losing is so damn easy. An example: week two against Washington in 2007. Eagles trail the ‘Skins 20-12, and march down the field. On fourth and six, McNabb throws a rocket to Kevin Curtis at the first down marker, who gets absolutely drilled by LaRon Landry and drops the pass. Game over.

Now tell me – whose fault was that? Continue reading

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The Pundit’s NFL Mocking Draft, Part Two

As noted before, I’m a huge fan of the NFL draft – but it’s way too soon to predict, with any semblance of accuracy, what will actually happen. This is what I came up with instead. (Find Part One here)

17. New York Jets – With the 17th pick, the Jets have selected: A designated scapegoat. Literally, they drafted some guy off of the street for the sole purpose of blaming all of their problems on him.  Genius move – why didn’t Mangini think of this?

18. Chicago Bears – With the 18th pick, the Bears have selected: Jim McMahon. And his super cool shades. Why the hell not?

I mean, what could I possibly add to this?

I mean, what could I possibly add to this? Other then: Bangles' Hot LP? Really?

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The Pundit’s Power Rankings: Plaxico shoots up the list!

Unlike traditional Power Rankings, which attempt to rank teams on a week-to-week basis, the Pundit’s Power Rankings avoid such arbitrary silliness. Instead, The Pundit wishes only to rank the pertinence, scope, and conversational value of the top sports stories of the week. Extra points for any stories that lend themselves to relentless mockery and high-horse rhetoric. On to the Rankings!

1. Plaxico Burress shoots himself in thigh

A true run-and-shoot offense. Well, shoot and run, I suppose. And I’m not sure if I’d be running after I had shot myself in the thigh. Whatever. I feel as though we need to go over the details of this one more time: Plaxico Burress shoots himself in the thigh after stuffing his handgun, which didn’t have a safety, into his sweatpants while hanging out at a club. A handgun he didn’t have a permit for in New York, a city notoriously strict on illegal possession of firearms. And not only do the Giants lose their best receiver, but one of their top linebackers, Antonio Pierce, might be in some trouble as well. This story speaks for itself.

2. The Juice is no longer on the loose

At this point, anything I say would just be piling on. And that’s what, a 15-year penalty?

3. Sean Avery’s sloppy seconds

Hard to believe he got a six-game suspension for what he said. Classy? Hell no. But worth a six-game suspension? Hardly. Seems to me like the NHL was looking for a reason to crack down on what they felt to be one of their more unsavory characters, and they got their money’s worth. Quick question: on a sloppy-second score, is Avery credited with an assist?

4. NFL players take substance to mask steroids, suspensions suspended

Anybody else think it’s a bit fishy that the Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson, of Minnesota, was the judge who temporarily delayed the suspensions of the 5 players accused of using diuretics to mask steroids? Which, of course, led to a federal judge blocking the suspensions until a further investigation into the matter could take place. Would Judge Larson have taken such a vested interest in the manner if the Williams Wall, and the Vikings playoff hopes, weren’t in jeopardy? I have no idea, but I love a conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, so I’m going to go the paranoid route. Which is why I’m almost positive that Matt Cassel has been taking injections of Tom Brady’s DNA, Tony Sparano is actually Tony Soprano and is involved in a massive point-shaving operation, explaining the Dolphins sudden success, and somebody suddenly changed the overtime rules without telling anyone in week 11, confusing Donovan McNabb and, apparently, a huge contingent of NFL players. Oh, and Plaxico Burress didn’t shoot himself in the thigh – there was another shooter up on the grassy knoll, maaan…

5. Charlie Weis’ future in question

Let’s do some math, ok? Alright, here’s a problem to start with: Unlimited resources + a multitude of highly touted recruits + a lucrative television contract + a huge contract for your head coach + the past four years = 28-21 record and two losses in the Fiesta Bowl. Oh, and the two losses in the Fiesta Bowl were with players almost exclusively recruited by Tyrone Willingham. I despise Notre Dame and their College Football politicking, so seeing them fail doesn’t bother me much – I say, let Charlie work it out. Heh…

(And now, for a commercial break. This has nothing to do with this post at all, but I just saw this TV, and it absolutely cracked me up – they were offering commemorative Barack Obama half-dollars. I mean, seriously? What’s next, the Collector’s Edition Obama Oreo Tin?)

6. Oklahoma or Texas? The BCS again reveals its flaws

Though, after watching Oklahoma absolutely toy with Missouri during four lopsided quarters, its hard to argue that Oklahoma doesn’t deserve to be where they are right now. I mean, if you’re a college football fan, the Oklahoma vs. Florida match-up has to be getting you pretty pumped up.  Plus, Penn State vs. USC, and Texas, Alabama, Utah and Ohio State pairing off should actually make for a decent bowl season. Still, even though I supported Oklahoma being the Big-12 South champion, I can’t help but feel as though Texas got absolutely screwed. Hey, at least ESPN now has the broadcasting rights to the BCS after Fox’s contract runs up – now we’ll get years of the Gameday Crew touting the wonders of the BCS. Hooray!

7. Arbitration, Free Agency in MLB

None of the major moves have happened to this point, so much of this story has simply been speculation. Player X is going here, player Y is going there, Scott Boras is a huge piece of shit, etc. etc. Well, except for that last part – that’s just true. Once Manny and CC are signed, sealed and delivered, the rest will fall like dominoes. As for me, I’d like to see Derek Lowe end up in Philly, as well as a second to third-tier outfielder. What I think will happen?  Jamie Moyer will be back, and we’ll still get a second to third-tier outfielder. Though I have a feeling that Mr. Amaro is going to want to make a splash in his first offseason…

That’s it for this week’s Pundit Power Rankings – be sure to check in tomorrow for some postgame Eagles reactions.

E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!!!

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Coming down the stretch, part two: AFC predictions

By Rant (With blurbs from The Pundit)

Tennessee Titans  (11-1)

This team, like the New York Giants, isn’t flashy, yet they get the job done and are solid from top to bottom. They are a force to be reckoned with, and what’s more is that the Titans have been in this position before with head coach Jeff Fisher; they know how to win big. (Editor’s note: I’m not entirely sure when Rant means here. Last year they were a wildcard team that lost in the first round of the playoffs. The last time the Titans made a run was in 2002, when they won their division and eventually lost to the Raiders in the AFC Championship game. Not sure that many players from this team were on that one, however). Their running game is absurd, though defenses have really started to key on Chris Johnson’s speed; simultaneously, the rookie may be hitting the wall a bit in his first NFL season. He had a huge day against Detroilet, but my grandmother could run all over that defense if she had a good line to block for her. (Editor’s note: She probably has one hell of a stiff arm. Actually, I’d imagine all of her joints are pretty stiff by now).

The Titans are leading the AFC South by 3 games, ahead of the previously untouchable leaders, the Indianapolis Colts. Kerry Collins may be experiencing a career renaissance, turning 36 in December, though he’s not quite the ageless “wonder” that Kurt Warner is. Still, he has been playing well…but will it be enough for Tennessee’s offense if the run game gets completely shut down?  I’m not sure there.

Regardless, this team will continue to physically pound and out-hit their opponents.  Their defense is relentless and will help bring this team to victory in the playoffs.

Remaining Schedule:  vs. Cleveland (W); at Houston (W); vs. Pittsburgh (L); at Indianapolis (L)

I see the Titans winning games against Cleveland and Houston easily, but then dropping a loss at home to Pittsburgh because they’ve gotten complacent about their record.  Jeff Fisher will rest his starters the last game of the season in a loss at Indy because his team holds the best record in the AFC and is therefore guaranteed home field advantage in the playoffs.

Final Record:  13-3

AFC Playoff Spot:  No. 1 Seed; AFC South Division Champion

The Pundit’s Take: I agree here – they should have the top seed all wrapped up by the time the Steelers roll into town.

Pittsburgh Steelers  (9-3)

Ben Roethlisberger is playing at the top of his game right now, despite an offensive line that seems to willingly give up sacks and free quarterback hits. (Editor’s note: 33 sacks, to be precise, and the 36 overall the Steelers have allowed is 6th worst in the NFL). Last year, Roethlisberger got sacked second most in the league but still managed a 31 to 11 TD:INT ratio, an incredible stat that tells me this guy knows how to sling the football.  Though Roethlisberger isn’t performing as well this year, he is still the leader of their offense and his tough play through injury embodies what the team stands for (Editor’s note: 13 TD’s, 12 INT’s – not exactly awe-inspiring).

Tomlin seems to have opened up the passing attack to Big Ben in a Pittsburgh fashion, meaning that they’ll still pass but at heart remain a smashmouth, aggressive running team first. The running back committee, however, has been blown many an injury, namely to Willie Parker and top draft pick Rashard Mendenhall.

Pittsburgh’s D will continue to destroy players as they gain momentum heading into the playoffs.  This will be big for the Steelers, because teams will continue to come after Big Ben and it’s going to make things difficult for their offense.

Remaining Schedule:  vs. Dallas (L); at Baltimore (W); at Tennessee (W); vs. Cleveland (W)

I see the Steelers losing big against Big D this weekend.  This will serve as a wake-up call for Pittsburgh, inspiring them to win out the rest of the season.  I think they’ll stun a tough Tennessee team on the road, coming out swinging and playing the same aggressive, hard hitting football that the Titans play, and they won’t be ready for it.

Final Record:  12-4

AFC Playoff Spot:  No. 2 Seed; AFC North Division Champion

The Pundit’s Take: I think Dallas will simply outscore them, doing just enough on defense to get the win, and then comes an interesting match-up against Baltimore. Sorry, Steelers fans – Baltimore’s defense is structured to give Roethlisberger hell all game long. I see Baltimore crawling past Pitt in a knock-out, drag-down battle. I’m thinking 9-7, Baltimore. The Steelers salvage their season by beating an uninterested Titans team and Cleveland, because, well, it’s Cleveland, finishing 11-5 and winning the division. They’ll finish tied with B-More, but after a couple of tiebreakers, their 10 conference wins to the Ravens’ 9 will give them the division.

New York Jets  (8-4)

I remember hearing an analyst this July say that the New York Jets would flip their 2007 5-11 record to 11-5 this year with the arrival of Favre.  I thought that was an overestimation of the Favre-trade effectiveness.  Looks like I could be wrong. (Editor’s note: Though I hate to admit it, ditto.)  But I mean, there’s a first for everything, right?  (Editor’s note: And whatever shred of humility Rant had salvaged by admitting he was wrong just dissipated beyond recovery). Favre is playing really well, and the team has seemed to rally around him. The Jets beat a previously undefeated Titans team two weeks ago, then got humbled at home by dropping a loss to the Broncos; and Favre did not look good in that game. (Editor’s note: Neither did their 30th ranked pass-defense; would you like those 357 passing yards and 2 touchdowns gift-wrapped for the holiday season, Mr. Cutler?)

The Jets were getting really hot before last week, and I see them rediscovering their spark and blazing through teams on their way to winning the division. (Editor’s note: That’s one small step for man, and one giant step for Mangini’s job security?) New York will get by on the arm of Brett Favre and a defense that does enough to win games. (Editor’s note: They are 8th against the run). Their D-line has stepped it up, and I think that will continue.

Remaining Schedule:  at San Francisco (W); vs. Buffalo (W); at Seattle (W); vs. Miami (L)

The loss to the Broncos will fuel this team to win big the next three games. But I see Miami declaring war against New York in the season finale; Favre won’t be on his game and have a multiple pick outing, throwing the game away to the Dolphins. But it doesn’t matter because New York will lock up the division and head into the playoffs,  though I think Favre’s uncanny ability to make dumb throws will plague this team in the postseason.

Final Record:  11-5

AFC Playoff Spot:  No. 3 Seed; AFC East Division Champion

The Pundit’s Take: I disagree only slightly with Rant’s final prognosis – I see this team winning out. Having Buffalo and Miami at home will be an advantage, especially against Miami, who is 1-7 since 2000 against the Jets in New York.

Denver Broncos  (7-5)

The Broncos are led by another young quarterback lighting up the league this year, Jay Cutler (at least when he isn’t stinking it up against the likes of the lowly Raiders). He and his team of wannabes, the Denver Broncos, keep sending me mixed signals. (Editor’s note: And women continue to send him no signals whatsoever). Cutler started off the first 4 games of the year leading MVP talk with Drew Brees nipping at his heels. But he cooled off, and so did his team, which lacks a solid defensive unit.

The defensive play is unfortunate, because they have some stars in players like Champ Bailey, Elvis Dumervil (who I, by the way, always said would be great coming out of college), etc.  The Broncos, like the Seattle Seahawks of pre-2008, are basically granted a free playoff spot due to their poor division, barring a total collapse.

This team needs to learn how to shore up the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, as the run game and run defense are both lacking.  This will be a problem, because they will not be a legitimate title contender without establishing a run game. (Editor’s note: Though Peyton Hillis did just go for 129 yards with a TD against a pretty good Jets running D). But the Bronco’s will be in the playoffs anyway, and I’m glad for them.  Besides, I have a soft spot in my football-shaped heart for the Broncos.  I’d like to see them and Cutler get back to some glory days. (Editor’s note: And Jay Cutler totally has callouses on his fingers for you, Rant. No, wait – that’s the Diabetes. My fault).

Remaining Schedule:  vs. Kansas City (W); at Carolina (L); vs. Buffalo (L); at San Diego (W)

The Broncos will assert themselves against the Chiefs this weekend, but lose at Carolina and Buffalo; a reminder that this team has problems against the run.  Denver will then win at San Diego in the final game of the season in a very tight game.

Final Record:  9-7

AFC Playoff Spot:  No. 4 Seed; AFC West Division Champion

The Pundit’s Take: Agree with the record, though I think the losses come to Carolina and San Diego, not Buffalo. San Diego owes them for the blown-call game, and Denver will likely be resting their starters this week, anyhow).

Indianapolis Colts  (8-4)

This team is not looking like their best right now, a lot of it due to the lacking play of Peyton Manning. Everybody is saying Peyton is having another good year and statistically I would agree. (Editor’s note: Really, I wouldn’t even say he’s having that great of a year – 19 TD’s, but 12 picks in 12 games? Not the Peyton Manning I know and love. Last year’s 14 picks were the most he threw in six seasons!) But the fire that usually carries Peyton Manning doesn’t seem to be there this season, if you ask me.  The guy is getting older and his team is struggling around him.  No doubt the Colts have been winning the games they need to, but they’re game is not on point, and they’re not going to catch division rival Tennessee.

Marvin Harrison’s play is on the decline and it is hurting Peyton Manning’s game. (Editor’s note: Looks like the Colt .88 Special is finally unloaded). Harrison is still productive, but he is not the consistent threat Manning once relied on consistently. And the defense, though fast and led by some studs, only seemed to click like a real unit in the 2005 and 2006 seasons. They need somebody to come along and light a fire under their asses, because they’re not going to scare many teams in the playoffs with their current play.

Remaining Schedule:  vs. Cincinnati (W), vs. Detroit (W), at Jacksonville (W), vs. Tennessee (W)

The Colts will win out, but it won’t look pretty, except for a huge win against Detroit. But then again, everybody has a huge game against Detroit. Indy will win against Tennessee in their last regular season game and head into the playoffs feeling good about themselves.  But I don’t think this team has what it takes to do much, they just look stale.

Final Record:  12-4

AFC Playoff Spot:  No. 5 Seed; Wild Card Seed No. 1

The Pundit’s Take: I think they win out, and they would not be a team I would want to face. In the NFL, a win is a win, and sometimes, believing you will win is as important as talent. I mean, would you want to see an Indy team that had reeled off 9 straight wins heading into the playoffs? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

Baltimore Ravens  (8-4)

Another interesting team, the 2008 Baltimore Ravens.  Joe Flacco is proving has proven his worth thus far this year, though not at the same level as fellow rookie QB Matt Ryan. This team surprised me this year with success the same way they did last year with failure.  The fall from grace last year after a 13-3 season in 2006 was unbelievable, much as this season’s turnaround has been equally surprising.

Coming into the season, I thought second-year quarterback Troy Smith was given the green light by rookie coach John Harbaugh to lead his offense, but then Smith got pneumonia and lost 30 pounds. Flacco stepped in, and I don’t think there is any doubt that he is their franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future.

The Ravens have a trio of good runners in Willis McGahee, rookie workhorse Ray Rice, and the hard hitting Le’Ron McClain. The O-line is still pushing people around despite the loss of Jonathon Ogden to retirement this past offseason. The defense is showing signs of aging at several positions, though they are still 3rd in the NFL in points allowed and 2nd in yards allowed per game. Third year DT Haloti Ngata from Oregon is a solid anchor in the middle of their defense.

John Harbaugh is yet another rookie head coach turning his team around and making headlines. In fact, Jonathon Ogden almost held off retirement because he said that Harbaugh was that inspiring from day one in the organization.  This is a team on the rise.

Remaining Schedule:  vs. Washington (W); vs. Pittsburgh (L); at Dallas (L); vs. Jacksonville (W)

The Ravens will flatten the Redskins this weekend, then drop a loss to a better Pittsburgh team. After this, the team will go into desperation mode, but won’t be able to get it done in Big D because Flacco won’t be able to handle the pressure, being that he’s still a rookie. Baltimore will finally get it done against a struggling Jacksonville team and head into the playoffs, beating out New England and Miami for the final Wild Card spot. The Ravens hold the tie breaker over Miami with their head-to-head victory, and against New England because they have a better in conference record:  Baltimore 8 wins in conference, New England 6 wins in conference.

Final Record:  10-6

AFC Playoff Spot:  No. 6 Seed; Wild Card Seed No. 2

The Pundit’s Take: I don’t agree. I think this team beats the Steelers, hounding and pounding Big Ben all day long. That victory will prove huge for the Ravens, as their 11-5 record will get them into the playoffs, though the Steelers will still win the division. The reason I see them winning this one? Couple of reasons: they protect Flacco a bit better than the Steelers protect Big Ben, to the tune of 13 less sacks allowed this year. The Steelers are playing their running back situation by ear, while Baltimore shuffles three solid backs in and out of the game, to the tune of the NFL’s third-ranked rushing offense. Though the defenses cancel each other out, I think the Ravens offense, at this juncture of the season, is a bit more equipped to handle the Steelers D than the Steelers offense is equipped to handle B-More’s D. Should be one of the better games of this season.

New England Patriots  (7-5)

Matt Cassel is finally getting the idea that he can just chuck that ball in the general vicinity of Randy Moss and win games.  He has been playing well the past couple weeks, but like all the experts say (cough, cough…ahem), he is a product of wonderboy Josh McDaniel’s videogame-like passing attack.  Seriously, with the Pats pass-blocking O-line, all they need to do is have Wes Welker run square-ins against linebackers while Randy Moss runs go’s and post routes. Viola!  Insert Random Quarterback Here and Automatically Gain 300 Yards Passing!

This team is struggling right now though, regardless of Matt Cassel.  The Pats just resigned LB Roosevelt Colvin, a guy they cut this past offseason; to me, this is a sign of desperation from Bill Belicheck. The guy must be pulling his fucking hair out right now the way his defense is playing. The secondary is a make-shift joke, and teams will continue to exploit that weakness the rest of the season. (Editor’s note: They’re 16th against the pass – not spectacular, though I don’t know if that makes the secondary a joke).  Rookie LB Jarrod Mayo is playing well right now, and the D-line still has it, but the defense as a whole is not meshing well right now. This and a so-so run game are the Achilles heel(s) of this team.

Remaining Schedule:  at Seattle (W); at Oakland (W); vs. Arizona (W); at Buffalo (L)

New England fields a very favorable remaining schedule, but it’s that last game at Buffalo that will finally put a knife in their playoff hopes.  Division rival Buffalo will come out swinging like it’s the Super Bowl and Matt Cassel simply won’t be able to deliver in the clutch like Tom Brady.  The season is on the line, and I say the Pats fold like a lawn chair.  This will piss me off because I love watching the Patriots, but there’s always next year when Randy Moss and company greet returning MVP Brady with open arms and reassert their dominance. AMEN! (Editor’s note: YOU CALL YOURSELF AN EAGLES FAN? I CALL YOU A BANDWAGON SELL-OUT! I ONLY ALLOWED THAT UTTERLY DESPICABLE SENTENCE TO DIMINISH THIS POST SO THAT I COULD PUBLICLY CHASTISE YOU! Seriously, though – shame on you, Rant. You’re better than that).

Final Record:  10-6

AFC Playoff Spot:  OUT

The Pundit’s Take: Way to let him have it, Editor. I think the Patriots will win out, and tragically for them, still miss the playoffs at 11-5 due to Baltimore holding the tiebreaker over them. Which is a brutal way to go out. Still, 11-5 after losing the game’s best player for the season is one hell of a job by Bill Belichick, his staff, and the Patriots team.

Miami Dolphins  (7-5)

This team is turning things around with a great rookie head coach led by the ever-steady hand of Bill Parcells. Chad Pennington and a revitalized rushing attack have helped to make the Dolphins look good on offense, but they just lost leading WR Greg Camarillo to a season-ending knee injury.  The Ricky Williams / Ronnie Brown tandem has been a hit so far, and the two started the NFL wildcat fad this season.

However, the defense is not playing as well as it needs to, and this will hurt the Dolphins in the end.  Joey Porter is playing lights-out football right now, but the guy needs to shut his mouth, because his defense isn’t playing as well as he is.  Regardless, this has been a very positive rebuilding year for head coach Tony Sparano.

Remaining Schedule:  at Buffalo (W), vs. San Francisco (L), at Kansas City (W), at NY Jets (W)

Miami will play a tough game in Toronto this weekend against Buffalo and come out on top.  But the team won’t stay focused enough and will end up losing to a 49ers team for whatever reason, causing Bill Parcells to freak out and go ape-shit on the team. (Editor’s note: No, he won’t; he’s pretty removed from the day-to-day happenings of the team). After a win against the pathetic Chiefs, Chad Pennington will be out for revenge against his former team after being excommunicated when Favre arrived in New York this year. Pennington and the Dolphins will have a huge game and come just short of the last Wildcard spot after winning only one game the year before. Great turn around season for this franchise.

Final Record:  10-6

AFC Playoff Spot:  OUT

The Pundit’s Take: Disgree with the final result – I think they lose to Toronto, er, Buffalo, beat the Niners and Chiefs, then lose to the Jets, finishing 9-7. Hey, if I’m a Dolphins fan, I’m completely satisfied with their 8-game turnaround this year. Nice work, Tony Soprano. (Editor’s note: Wait, that’s not right…)

Rant’s AFC Playoff Seeds

1. Titans

2. Steelers

3. Jets

4. Broncos

5. Colts

6. Ravens

The Pundit’s AFC Playoff Seeds

1. Titans

2. Jets

3. Steelers

4. Broncos

5. Colts

6. Ravens

Rant’s AFC Playoff Predictions

Wildcard Round: Jets over Ravens, Colts over Broncos

Divisional Round: Titans over Colts, Steelers over Ravens

AFC Championship: Titans over Steelers

The Pundit’s Playoff Predictions

Wildcard Round: Steelers over Ravens (the difference between these two teams ends up being homefield adavantage and a few field goals this year), Colts over Broncos

Divisional Round: Titans over Colts, Steelers over Jets

AFC Championship: Titans over Steelers

Rant’s Super Bowl Prediction

Giants over Titans

The Pundit’s Super Bowl Prediction

Titans over Cowboys (you know damn well I could never pick them to win the thing)

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No Eagles? No problem…The Pundit previews a few games worth watching

With no Eagles to watch on Sunday, I’ve been trying to decide what I will do with my day tomorrow. It would be a spectacular day to catch up on some laundry, do some cleaning around the house, take a trek to the Free Library, and cook a few meals for the upcoming week.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

While that is what I probably should do, what I likely will do is watch football all day, flipping over to the Sixers at five. The one nice thing about not having the Eagles game on tomorrow is that I can frantically follow my fantasy players – a win tomorrow, and I clinch a playoff spot, baby! (Editor’s note: The Pundit enjoys long walks on the beach, fine dining, and fantasy football – which one doesn’t fit?)

There are some great storylines around the NFL tomorrow. I’m not going to bother with predictions, because that’s a truly fruitless endeavor this year, but I will highlight a few of the games worth paying attention to.

1:00 Kickoffs

Giants at Redskins – Hey, any NFC East clash is worth tuning in for. This one is probably more meaningful for the Redskins than it is for the Giants, as every week becomes vital for a Redskins team fighting for a playoff spot. Look for a grind-it-out, defense-oriented, old-school football game. Should be a good watch.

Saints at Bucs– The Saints are fighting for their playoff lives. I don’t think they’ll make it, but this would not only be a big win against a division foe, but would be a confidence victory against another playoff contender. Are the Bucs legit? Their defense seems to be, allowing only 16.4 points and 274.7 yards per game, good for for third and fourth in the NFL, respectively. Will their second ranked pass defense be able to slow down the Saints top ranked passing attack, or will Drew Brees light them up like he did the Packers? A game with big playoff implications.

Panthers at Packers– Is Carolina for real? Can Green Bay do enough down the stretch to win the division? Will Brett Favre prepare the huge crow dinner he’s been cooking this year for the Packers’ organization Cajun style? (Editor’s note: Oh c’mon, Aaron Rodgers has been pretty damn good this year). Really, this boils down to Green Bay’s defense: If they don’t pick up their game, Green Bay is shot. For Carolina to be considered a legitimate threat in the NFC, they need to win games like these. This one could go either way, though its always tough to go into Lambeau.

4:00 Kickoffs

Falcons at Chargers – Who cares if they’re only 4-7 – the Chargers can still win the AFC West! God, what a disappointment the Chargers have been this year. At the beginning of the year, if I told you the Falcons might make the playoffs and the Chargers likely wouldn’t even make .500, you would have told me to get off the crack. (Editor’s note: The first step is admitting you have a problem, Pundit). Matty Ice and the Falcons are a great story – no one is dogging them anymore, huh? (Editor’s note: Groan. You’re all bark and no bite, Pundit).

Broncos at Jets – The Broncos probably won’t win this game, but a victory here would all but seal up the division for them. Despite the fact that they would only be 7-5. The AFC West is a joke. The Jets aren’t. And it’s not just because of that guy playing quarterback – they stuff the running game, and do a good job of churning out yards on the ground themselves. But if they have a weakness, it’s against the pass, and if the Broncos have a strength, it’s throwing the ball. The Broncos could use a good win, and the Jets still have the Pats nipping at their ankles – should make for a pretty good contest.

Steelers at Patriots– Brady who? Alright, so maybe we’re not there yet, but Matt Cassel has been nice. That guy Belichick can coach a bit, can’t he? I don’t really know what to think about the Steelers – they play good defense, they have a pretty balanced offensive attack, and I think Ben Roethlisberger is the real deal. Yet, if I was playing them, they wouldn’t scare me. I might be totally off here, but I just don’t see them as an elite team this year. I think they’re very good, but not elite yet – the Patriots need this more, and I’d put my money on them taking care of business against the Steelers at home.

Sunday Night

Bears at Vikings – Let’s play “Who wants to win the NFC North?” Contestant number one: You play tough run defense, run the ball well, and try desperately to keep your quarterback from having to make plays in the passing game. Contestant number two: you play tough run defense, run the ball well, and try desperately to keep your quarterback from having to make plays in the passing game. Can we just call this Matt Forte vs. Adrian Peterson and move on? And yet, the last time these two teams played, the score was 48-41. How the hell did that happen? A Vikings win gives them a big advantage over the Bears, who they already beat. (Actual Editor’s note: No, that’s incorrect. The Bears actually won the last game between these two, 48-41, and thus, a Bears win gives them a major advantage.) Still, it’s a divisional rivalry, and the Sixers will be over by the time it starts, so its worth a view, if for nothing else than to marvel at Adrian Peterson.

So there you have it. Some intriguing match-ups, and a lot of playoff shuffling will go on by the end of the day. So go ahead – see if you can do some lawn work. Try to rearrange the garage. See how much cleaning you get done. We both know that Sunday autopilot will kick in, and your ass will be on the couch, watching football.

Fight the urge if you must – you know it’s a fight you want to lose.

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Are the Birds cooked? This Pundit isn’t convinced…

The radio hosts and their faithful lackeys will tell you that Andy Reid is washed up as a coach, that his scheme is outdated and his player personnel decisions are shaky, at best. He shouldn’t have been given the duel responsibility, and the harmful effects of that decision are rearing their ugly head this season.

Maybe they’re right.

They think that McNabb is washed up, that he can’t win the big game, his early inconsistency hurts us, and its time to see what Aaron Rodgers…cough, I’m sorry…Kevin Kolb can do.

Maybe they’re on to something.

They think that the defense is overmatched against good offenses, that our defensive line is too small, that we just can’t stop a good running attack.

They could be right about that.

They’re saying that our receivers are pretty terrible, with the exception of DeSean Jackson, and that we should have gotten Tony Gonzalez because our tight ends stink (Editor’s note: Hey, everybody’s shit stinks, you know?), and we just can’t run the ball when we really need to in short yardage situations.

Yeah, there’s probably truth in there, though I would never, ever give up anything higher than a 3rd round pick for Tony Gonzalez, and I’m not even sure if I would have given that up for an aging tight end. Trivia question: what round was Brian Westbrook drafted in? Oh, the third round – ahhh, I see what you did there, Pundit. (Editor’s note: Ohhhhhhh, snap. The Pundit always be playin’, yo).

Fact is, a lot of people are getting pretty fed up with this Eagles team. They’re inconsistent, they can’t seem to make the key plays to lock up a win, and in general, their games this year have often been maddening and frustrating and fickle – they’re like a teenage girl, for Chrissakes. They seem to be struggling with the identity they’ve been given by their parents (Andy Reid), but they don’t really know how to break out of it just yet, so their play becomes tempermental and inconsistent and difficult to watch.

But the Eagles have an advantage that we’re all ignoring – they are still a “pretty” team. They have guys like McNabb, who has shown glimpses of brilliance, and Brian Westbrook, who might be the best player in football, and DeSean Jackson, who is developing into a pretty good player. They have Trent Cole, who when not double-teamed is a force, and Asante Samuel, who has been extremely solid.

When everybody was talking, early in the season, about how the Cowboys were the NFC’s team to beat, the Eagles took them to the limit. They beat the Steelers, a team that, at this stage in the year, would be third in my Power Rankings of Pure Punditry, if I thought that ranking every team every week of the season came even close to being relevant or worth anyone’s time. (Editor’s note: However, a Power Rankings of Pure Punditry over the entire spectrum of the sporting world might be worth doing – stay tuned…)

Let’s take a quick look at the Eagles four losses this year. When they lost to the Cowboys, they were a team that was 100 percent and playing well. I think everyone deemed that an acceptable loss at the time. The Giants are 8-1; they are clicking on all cylinders; they just outplayed us, though we kept ourselves in a game we probably should have lost by a lot more. I judge this an acceptable loss, though certainly one that was frustrating as hell.

We didn’t play well against the Redskins, but they are a pretty good team, and you’ll lose games like that from time to time. Though, at some point, this team needs to beat a conference foe. The Bears loss was painful, they had ample opportunity to beat them, and they are just a better team than the Bears. That, to me, is the only completely unacceptable loss of the season. All four losses came by a combined 19 points, all under a touchdown, all games they had the chance to win.

You see, all is not lost, people.

The rest of the schedule is favorable. For the duration of November, we have the Bengals, the Ravens, and the Cardinals. The Bengals should be a no-brainer, and though I think the Ravens and Cardinals are good teams, the Eagles should beat them. I expect this team to win the next three games, and head into December at 8-4.

December will be when we find out what this team is really made of. They get the Giants again, followed by the Browns, the Redskins and the season finale with the Cowboys, a game that will proabably have playoff implications for both teams. We’ll assume the win against the Browns, which leaves the 3 games against the NFC East. Take 2 of 3, and you are sitting at 11-5 – hello, wildcard. Take 1 of 3, and you might be in, though you’d be 1-5 against the East, and would not have the tiebreaker against the Bears, which could hurt. 10-6 may be good enough on its own to get them in, though I don’t think I’d want to risk it. Lose 3 of 3, and enjoy all of the time you now have to go golfing.

With 7 games to go, this Eagles team could get hot. See, last year, when the Giants began their run to the Superbowl, a couple of things fell into place for them. They bought into Tom Coughlin’s system whole-heartedly, and started playing like a team. Eli Manning developed into a top-tier quarterback. Their defensive scheme and strengths happened to make them they only team in the NFL that actually had a shot to beat Tom Brady’s Patriots (able to generate a rush with only their front four, disguised a multitude of blitzes and coverages to keep Brady, Moss and Welker guessing, had a solid ground game that could chew up clock, had weapons of their own on offense like Plaxico Burress and a suddenly poised Manning that could score some points. Really, they were the perfect storm needed to beat last year’s Patriots).

For the Eagles, the same could happen, though a bit differently. Andy Reid and the offensive line could find a way to better utilize and execute a running game. Donovan could start showing up in the first quarter; I mean, honestly, if he played a consistent 4 quarters, was able to make a few more plays down the stretch, and got this team into the playoffs, he’d have had himself a pretty nice season. He’s already having a pretty good one – 2372 yards, 13 TD’s, 5 INT’s, a 90.7 QB rating. They need to find a way to convert short-yardage plays – it killed them against the Bears, and again against the Giants. Three-and-outs that chew up little or no clock tax the defense, and in turn, the defense needs to be able to consistently stop the other team’s running attack. The Giants absolutely gashed us. It was ugly.

So that’s it – the schedule is challenging, but one that can be conquered. Our issues exist, but they are not  beyond repair. This team still has a very good chance at making the playoffs, and if they get hot in a lukewarm NFC, they have a dreamer’s chance at making the Superbowl. I wouldn’t start making reservations, but I wouldn’t write this team off just yet, either.

Maybe them radio folks aren’t right at all.

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