History will be witnessed come Sunday. The first pair brothers to coach in the league at the same time in the history of the NFL will play in the Super Bowl. Coach John Harbaugh and the rest of the Baltimore Ravens will try to hand the 49ers their first loss in the big game in 6 appearances.
Then there’s Ray Lewis, who will spend his last day on the gridiron the same way he spent the first moments of his life- Crying and yelling unintelligible words while covered in other people’s blood.
What pisses me off are the rumors that the middle linebacker took banned substances. Even if the rumors aren’t, as quothed (is that how you use it?) the raven, “trick of the Devil,” who cares? He didn’t do it to gain an unfair advantage. If that were his motive, he would have started doping before last year in the league. A guy who has spent 16 years making hit after hit and won two Defensive Player of the Year awards does not need any advantages. His passion for the game is what drove him to do whatever it took to make a speedy recovery. He was willing to risk his reputation, which has been scrutinized anyway since his murder trial, to be on the field and play his heart out like he always does.
His promise as a football player became eminent during his years at Kathleen High School in Lakeland, Florida, where he was recognized as an All-American in both football and wrestling. He then brought his dominance to the heralded University of Miami football program. In his first year, he made the freshman All-American team. In his sophomore year, under coaching great Dennis Erickson, the Ray Lewis-anchored Hurricanes’ number 1 ranked defense and the team finished sixth in the final polls. He repeated his dominance the next year, being selected to his second straight first team All-American and All-Big East teams while falling just short of receiving the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker.
Having accomplished everything a football player could imagine (besides a national championship), Lewis decided to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL draft. The Baltimore Ravens, who had just relocated to Maryland in a shocking move that still gives Browns fans nightmares, made him the second guy in their brief history to be drafted by them when they took him with the 26th overall pick. With the 4th pick in that round, they selected Jonathan Ogden, a monstrous Right Tackle who was just selected to be part of the next batch of Canton inductees. Despite the promise the two young bucks showed, they could only eke out four wins in their inaugural season.
It wasn’t Ray’s fault, though. Lewis immediately made a splash in the NFL, leading the league in tackles for loss in his rookie year and leading the league in tackles the next year en route to getting named to his first of many pro bowls. By 1998, Lewis was part of a solid defense that featured talent like Peter Boulware, Tony Siragusa, Jamie Sharper, and Hall-of-Famer-to-be Rod Woodson. This group had serious potential, but with only six wins and an average statistical output, they were grossly overlooked.
Everything clicked for them the following year. The Ravens posted their first non-losing season since the relocation with the help of a decent offense, the 6th ranked defense, and—oh yeah—the NFL Alumni Linebacker of the Year. Lewis had reason to celebrate; something he had planned on during a Super Bowl party in Atlanta.
We all know what happened there. A fight broke out between Ray’s posse and another group. Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar never made it out and Lewis and two others were indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges. Though he was able to score a plea bargain that spared him any time in prison, he was still handed a yearlong probation sentence and slapped by the NFL with a $250,000 fine. That wasn’t his biggest punishment, though. The public dealt him that the next year when Disneyworld spurned him.
In 2000, the Ravens lived up to their potential. That potential they found turned out to be… WOW! That “WOW” I just said doesn’t even come close to describing how freaking good they were. Their defense was so dominant that year, that some consider it one of the greatest of all time. Their opponents could only manage to walk away with a measly average of 10.3 points per game during the regular season. Here’s the thing, though. Only three defensive players—Lewis, who was also named an All-Pro, Woodson, and DT Sam Adams—were Pro Bowl selections. Almost single-handedly, Ray Lewis made that team great. They showed even more heart in the playoffs, as they beat opposing offenses to a pulp. First, the bullied the Broncos at home, allowing a field goal on just 177 yards of total offense. Surprisingly, they seemed outgunned going into the next week as they went up against their divisional rival Tennessee Titans, who were defending AFC Champions and finished one game better that the Ravens. If any team out there had a chance at infiltrating destiny, a team whose defense was second in the league and had weapons like Steve McNair and Eddie George would certainly fit that description. Like I said, though: Their defense was second best. Though the Titan offense had a better day yardage-wise, the numbers lie in a game that was decided by 14 points. Seven came when the Anthony Mitchell took a blocked field goal 90 yards to the house. The other points came after some guy named Ray Lewis scored on a 50 yard pick six. Blah blah they beat the Raiders for the AFC crown blah blah blah SUPER BOWL!!!
Facing the Kerry Collins-led HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA… Kerry Collins took the Giants to a Super Bowl. Every time I think about that it’s just too hilarious!!!!! Where were we? Right. Ravens and Giants Super Bowl. They might as well have been playing in the puppy bowl, though. Baltimore never trailed nor did they allow an offensive touchdown. Lewis played his heart out in that game and became the only linebacker besides Chuck Howley (must. not. laugh. about. the. Blunder. Bowl) to win the MVP. Despite all he went through, Trent Dilfer got to say the lines made famous by Phil Simms
Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl. I can’t do this anymore. My post ends here.
Quick run through of everything else: 13 Pro Bowls in 16 years. Another DPOY selection in 2003. Some playoff victories, but mostly heartbreak. But he just kept on hitting, fighting, and, of course, dancing. I just hope all those things get him his rightful place in history: recognition for being the smartest psychopath of all time.
A couple weeks ago, there was nothing to see in the NFC East. The Giants were cruising, the Cowboys were doing… Cowboyish, the Redskins were blowing games, and the Eagles were getting owned on a weekly basis. With the exception of Philadelphia, everything has changed. The Redskins are in the midst of a 5-game winning streak. The Giants have been slowed down. The Cowboys went from a “win a couple, lose a couple” team to a solid team that looks like it knows exactly what it’s doing. The three teams (all 8-6) are in the midst of a major battle for first place. Don’t be fooled, though. The boys in burgundy and gold will have no trouble taking this one.
The ‘Skins, already with an upper hand in the division due to tiebreakers, are in perfect position to pull off something that nobody ever thought they could. I remember watching a sports talk show in which each team’s chances to win the NFC East was being discussed. What I specifically remember are four words emitted from Bob Costas’s mouth: “Certainly not the Redskins”. He wasn’t the only one to give up on my beloved Hogs, though. Coach Mike Shanahan was quoted after a loss, dropping the team to 3-6, discussing how at that point, they just wanted to see who was going to stay on the team for 2013.
Then the unthinkable happened. It started with a perfect game against the Eagles in which Robert Griffin III had a perfect game behind center. It was followed by the first Redskins’ victory against Dallas ever on Thanksgiving. A narrow win under the Monday-night spotlight against their rival New York Giants put them at .500. You know the rest of the story.
Whether it’s RGIII’s amazing play (despite being a cornball brother) in all imaginable categories, Kirk Cousins’ reliability as a backup, Pierre Garcon’s clutchness at wide receiver, Alfred Morris’s compact-yet-fleet running style—you get the idea—this has been an elite team over this 5-week stretch of dominance. They should have no trouble handling the Eagles on the road this Sunday. The match after that is certain to be a huge story as my beloved ‘Skins will be facing Dallas in a game that may decide the fate of the NFC East. However, Washington did well on the road against them on Turkey Day and should have no trouble pulling a repeat performance at Fedex Field.
It won’t even matter whether the Giants beat the Ravens on Sunday (which they won’t) because destiny chooses wisely; and after years of not having their way, the once-inept Redskins are on a warpath sure to gain destiny’s attention.
As Week 13 of the NFL season comes to a close, it seems like nobody exceeded expectations, and the teams that did not meet them came up miserably short. Some of the blame falls on the players, some of it on the refs, but most of the failings can be attributed to coaches who may not be wearing the same team logo on their jackets next year. Among these bumbling bosses are Rex Ryan, whose win total followed his weight in dropping to an all-time low, Jim Schwartz, who cost his team a win on thanksgiving day before blowing a lead to Andrew Luck during the final play, and Romeo Crennel, whose Chiefs have had everything and everything bad happen to them this season. These are just three of the guys who need to win. Let’s take a look at all of them:
- Every coach besides Tom Coughlin in the NFC East-
If it were last year, Coughlin would be on this list, too. He can breath a sigh of relief though, because winning a Super Bowl will do that for you. The other guys have some issues, though. First up is Andy Reid. Though his 14-year tenure as
Eagles’ head coach has included tons of success, the team is in the middle of a downward spiral. Last year’s so called ‘dream team’ had to make a mad dash just to post a pedestrian 8-8 record. It got much worse this year, as the Eagles went from flying high at 3-1 to taking a nosedive as a result of a 7-game losing streak that they still have yet to break. Philadelphia’s fans are tough as is, so staying this long despite sucking for two consecutive seasons is an amazing feat. A three-peat is unlikely.
He’s had 2 quarterbacks who went to Super Bowls and a former Heisman winner, but Mike Shanahan just get the Redskins to win consistently. They’ve built a great team with RGIII, Alfred “The Butler” Morris, and a good receiving corps and solid defense. If Shanahan can’t use this formula to have a winning team, maybe the Skins should see if someone else can.
The Cowboys always come into the season with Texas-sized expectations, only to have just as big disappointments. This group has basically the same lineup as the 2009 squad, which won 11 games and a division title, but they have been notorious underperformers. About two years ago, after Dallas fired Wade Phillips, the team started to show signs of improvement under Jason Garrett. They then proceeded to choke down the stretch after a decent 7-4 start that had them in first place and were passed in the division by the eventual world champion Giants. They have a 5-6 record and are trailing the Eagles as I write this. Either a Cowboy fan needs to assassinate Jerry Jones, or the Cowboys need a new coaching staff.
2. Jim Schwartz, Lions-
The way that these kittens are finding ways to lose this year reminds me of Tim Tebow’s miracles of yesteryear. It seems at times like they have no way of screwing up. They find a way, though. Thanksgiving was Coach Schwartz’s worst moment. In an epic matchup against the Texans, the defense allowed Houston RB Justin Forsett to burst 81 yards into the end zone. The catch, though, was that it appeared Forsett’s knee had hit the ground way before he broke the plane. Frustrated with the refs, Schwartz threw a red flag. What he forgot was that the NFL implemented a rule stating that all turnovers would be reviewed and that his challenge would, in turn, negate the booth review. The Lions lost in overtime.
The Lions were just getting used to winning, too, after making their first playoff berth in over a decade last year. That makes this season even more futile. Oh, well. Schwartz could have it much worse. He could be…
3. Romeo Crennell- Kansas City Chiefs
I wish I wasn’t writing this. KC has gone through an abundance of hardship in the wake of Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide. The loss of a beloved teammate may have been what they needed for inspiration. They played an inspired game the following day by beating Carolina. The thing is, they never show this kind of fiery spirit. That was only their second win of the season and they are in need of a quarterback. Maybe if they get Geno Smith or another quarterback, Crennell can keep his job. Otherwise, Romeo may just be caught in a bad romance that GM Scott Pioli would be glad to take him out of.
There are more, of course. Ken Whisenhunt and the Cardinals were soaring at 4-0, then they realized that Cardinals don’t soar, and proceeded to lose 8 in a row. Rex Ryan and the Jets were Super Bowl contenders for two years before crashing and burning. The point is, a lot of teams suck and a lot of coaches are going to get canned as a result.
Week 4 had some great story lines: The refs are back, RG3 had his first game-winning drive, and the most surprising—the Arizona Cardinals are 4-0. Led by Kevin Kolb, they drove down the field before tying the game on a 4th down pass to Andre Roberts. Kolb continued his magical touch in overtime when he led a drive that ended with a 47 yard field goal off the foot of Jay Feely that sent Glendale into a frenzy and Miami into a corner, crying in the fetal position. The Cards may be undefeated, but should they be?
They surrendered over 250 yards in the air to Dolphins wideout Brian Hartline alone and over 450 passing yards to rookie Ryan Tannehill. This is the third close game they’ve played and barely made it out of, with the other two being a last second win versus the Seahawks and a missed field goal by the Patriots in the final seconds of their game Week 2. They could just as well be 1-3 right now with that in mind. Kevin Kolb couldn’t even win the starting job against John Skelton, so how can fans expect to see him perform consistently for a full 16+ games? Larry Fitzgerald is battling an ailment known as getting old, so they can’t rely on him like they did in the Warner days. In addition to their 31st ranked offense, they have a mediocre run defense. All their bad boys are in the secondary. They need a stronger defensive front, as well as a plethora of other things, if they want to be successful.
I lied, guys. The Cardinals should be taken seriously. Sure, their d-line isn’t anything special, but that hasn’t stopped them. Their defense, led by Adrian Wilson and Patrick Peterson, who is widely regarded as the most athletic player in the league, has only given up an average of 15.25 points per game. Let the secondary do its thing, and the rest will click soon enough. Sure, they’ve played some tight games, but they also played a game in which they absolutely dominated the Eagles. The one thing I didn’t mention in my semi-rant was the Cards’ running game. I did that for a reason. Beanie Wells is a promising young back who has the talent to be a solid option for years to come. And as for the receiver situation—they’re fine. Fitz may be less awesome, but he’s still quite awesome. And so is Andre Roberts. He had a great game in which he hauled in 6 balls for 118 yards and two scores. Add rookie and former Notre Dame monster Michael Floyd and tight end Todd Heap and you have a legitimate core. In short, the Cardinals are not a fluke. In fact, they’ll be around for a while.
This may be the strongest division in the NFC. Each team has a legitimate chance of making the playoffs one way or another. Even though two of the four teams, the Panthers and the Buccaneers, had losing seasons last year, they both show the potential to have seasons in which they contend. All four starting quarterbacks, Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and, of course, Drew Brees, are outstanding presences on the gridiron. The division may give other teams a tough time, but the standings seem very clear-cut to predict at this point. So here we go. Our shoo-in for first place is the record-setting Drew Brees and his…
- The New Orleans Saints- It doesn’t matter who’s coaching these guys. Despite the bounty scandal resulting in the suspensions of head coach Sean Payton and interim coach Joe Vitt, the New Orleans Saints are just really, really good. Here are four reasons why:
- First off, they have a fullback named Jed, so Mr. Collins scores them some brownie points with me. Jed Collins only had 15 touches last year for the Saints and doesn’t play a big role at all. However, it’s not very often that I see a guy named Jed that isn’t living in an Amish Paradise or being a miniature cowboy played by Owen Wilson, so I feel that I must recognize him. In conclusion, since he plays in Louisiana, I hereby dub him Jedidiah Jambalaya. Spread the word. The nickname will catch on. It has to.
- They have four awesome running backs: Their third-string RB is a former Heisman-trophy winner. Enough said. Even though the Beasts of the Bayou have one of the greatest passing games of all time, don’t ignore their running game. After serving five seasons in San Diego followed by a brief stint as an Oompa Loompa in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, the 5’6 pinball, Darren Sproles, set a record for yards from scrimmage in a single season during his first year in the Big Easy. His backup is Pierre Thomas. He played a key role in the 2009 Super Bowl squad and scored on a key touchdown pass from Drew Brees in the big game. If Darren Sproles is a pinball, Mark Ingram—third on the depth chart—is a medicine ball. A really big, really fast, really agile medicine ball. The former Heisman trophy winner managed to score five touchdowns and average 3.9 yards per carry despite not seeing much playing time. Chris Ivory is the last guy on the list. Injuries led to him seeing significant playing time two years ago and having a decent season with 716 yards and 5 TD’s in 12 games. I’m not going to close this out with an “Ebony and Ivory-related” pun because I know you’re going to hate me anyway after you read the next Fresh-Prince-rap-song-wisecrack-laden paragraph.
- Their defense is going to be at full strength this year: When the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma and Will “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” Smith, two key players who had the ’09 team singing “Bienvenido A Miami”, were announced during the “Summertime”, it seemed like the Saints would not be “Just Cruisin’” and have to battle a little harder for the playoffs this year. The NFL recently made a “Switch” and reversed the suspensions. Now the Saints have a “Brand New Funk” and “Think [They] Can Beat Mike Tyson”. Smith and Vilma’s presence, as well as the off-season additions of linebackers David Hawthorne, Barrett Ruud, and Curtis Lofton will have the Saints’ defense “Freakin’ It” on opposing offenses. See? I told you you’d hate me.
- As I have previously mentioned, their passing game is amazing. Drew Brees surpassed Dan Marino’s 28 year-old single season passing record last year with a jaw-dropping total of 5426 yards through the air. His top two targets were tight end (you can say that again) Jimmy Graham with 99 receptions for 1310 yards and 11 scores and wide receiver Marques Colston, who caught 80 balls for 1143 yards and 8 touchdowns. In total, five Cajun Kids made at least 6 touchdown catches last year.
There are probably more than just four reasons that New Orleans can take the division title, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll receive competition from teams like…
2. The Atlanta Falcons- They may not have had as much success recently as the Saints, but the Falcons may have a chance at a getting the first postseason win of the Matt Ryan era and maybe even more. They are two seasons removed from a year in which they posted a 13-3 record and scored the top seed in the NFC, but fell flat against the Green Bay Packers in the midst of their Super Bowl run. In addition to Ryan, they have also retained bruising running back Michael Turner and wide receiver Roddy White—both of whom are considered among the best at their respective positions. They have also kept veteran tight end and future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gonzalez and added Julio Jones, a wide out who not only has incredible potential, but a very fun name to repeat over and over and over in a Cee-Lo Green voice. While John Abraham and Dunta Robinson are probably the only players on the Falcon defense that could be considered household names, Hotlanta’s defense is formidable not for its dominance, but for its cohesiveness. In addition to the sack master and shut down corner, they have a wide array of great players such as ROLB Sean Witherspoon, defensive end Ray Edwards, and Brent Grimes, who is a former pro bowler and one of the most underrated corners in the league.
The Falcons are riding a streak of four straight seasons with a winning record after a four-decade stretch in which they failed to even register two in a row. Another team in the division who has had seasons of success and inconsistency is.
3.The Tampa Bay Buccaneers- In the three years Raheem Morris coached the Bucs, the team went from pretty bad (3-13) to kind of good (10-6) back to pretty bad (4-12). The Greg Schiano era got off to a good start due to a prolific offseason. Some of the talents acquired were former All-Pro tight end Dallas Clark, former Chargers’ wide out Vincent Jackson, and two-time All-Pro guard Carl Nicks as well as rookies Mark Barron and Doug Martin. In addition to Martin, they also have LeGarrette Blount, who had one of last season’s top running plays. Josh Freeman will be handing off to Blount and Martin. In addition to Clark and Jackson, two other receivers on the team are Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams. Their defense was last in the league last year, but with new coaching and Mark Barron’s presence, it should do just fine.
Ronde Barber is one cool cat. Speaking of cats, I think I should preview…
4.The Carolina Panthers- All Cam Newton and Steve Smith need is a clever nickname in order to become the next Brangelina. Newtith? Smewton? Wheels and the Legman? (That one was for you, American Dad! fans) Smewton will do. With the reigning rookie of the year behind center, the three-time all-pro receiver caught 79 passes for 1394 yards and 8 scores. They have a great defense, too. Their linebackers include Jon Beason, who missed most of last season after making the pro bowl the year before, rookie Luke Keuchly, and James Anderson, who led the team with 145 tackles last year. They have a solid secondary consisting of safeties Charles Godfrey and Haruki Nakamura, who received meager playing time in Baltimore, and two above-average cornerbacks in Captain “America” Munnerlyn and Chris Gamble. Defensive end Charles Johnson had a decent season last year, though it was not one deserving of his $34 million salary. If the Panther offense does not rely entirely on Smewton and players like Brandon Lafell, DeAngelo Williams, and Greg Olsen play consistently Carolina fans may have ant-hers in their Pant-hers when it comes time for the playoffs.
Did I say something stupid? Did I do something right for once? Feel free to comment!
Kicking off our 2012 NFL preview, I’m covering the NFC East, which includes the defending champion Giants. Will they repeat? You’ll find out what I think soon enough. First, the standings:
- Washington Redskins- Golly Gee, Jed, that’s such a stupid thing to predict. This is even stupider of a prediction than when you said that the Celtics weren’t gonna make the playoffs. You’re only saying this because you are a diehard fan. The Redskins are bad and they will always be. Well, dear readers, I see your point. The Redskins have not been relevant in many, many years. The Dan Snyder Law states that if they have offense, they must have no defense and vice versa. This off-season, Bruce Allen and the rest of the staff have done a remarkable job, though. The offense is extremely underrated. Robert Griffin III is inheriting a wide receiving corps that includes veteran Santana Moss and the speedy Pierre Garcon. Tight ends include Fred Davis and converted wide-out Niles Paul. Their defense will do the damage though. In addition to bolstering their secondary, they have one of the top linebacker units in the league including future hall-of-famer London Fletcher (oh, yes I did), pro-bowler Brian Orakpo, all-rookie Ryan Kerrigan, and the more-than-capable Perry Riley. The Skins have faced to eventual super bowl champion each year since 2006 and have the talent to make it there in a few years’ time.
- Giants- I admit it: Eli’s elite. How can you not be after taking last year’s Giants, their 9-7 record, and their negative point differential to the super bowl? The guy does great things with under-qualified teams, and that’s an admirable quality. Let’s take a look at those numbers again though. 9 wins are the fewest for a Super Bowl team in the regular season and these Giants are the first team to go to, let alone win, a super bowl with a negative point differential. Manning wins when he’s hot and with such talent surrounding him as Ahmad Bradshaw, Hakeem Nicks, and of course, Cruuuuuuuuuuuuuz, he should be able to stay hot. Everybody on the Big Blue’s defense that isn’t Jason Pierre Paul and Justin Tuck are all that’s keeping the Giants from being hot 24/7. If Chase Blackburn, Corey Webster, and everybody else on the D can stay hot, the Giants will go from a 10-win team to a 13 win team with ease.
- Cowboys- Sorry, Romo, the haters are walking on sunshine right now. The Dall-ass Cowboys’ longtime quarterback put up good numbers a season removed from clavicle issues sidelines him, but the Giants’ mad dash into the playoffs left the Cowboys with a disappointing 8-8 record. Owner, GM, and renowned Satan-worshipper Jerry Jones could have capitalized in the off-season by taking some big-name free agents, but all he walked away with was Brandon Carr, a cornerback who did nothing notable during his tenure with Kansas City. It will be interesting to see how he and rookie Morris Claiborne will do to help the secondary, but don’t expect it to be much.
- Eagles- Ah, Philly. It was their year last year. They had everything and would have gone all the way if it weren’t for those meddling… um… they just didn’t do as well as expected, okay? Many unexpected players such as LeSean McCoy and Jason Babin had breakout seasons in which they put up ridiculous numbers, but it wasn’t enough. Their wide receivers and tight ends, with the exception of Brent Celek, were the only thing that turned the Eagles’ “dream season” into a nightmare. Let’s just say that next season won’t exactly be a wet dream, either.
That’s it for the NFC East. Stay tuned for the rest of the NFL.
As you may be aware, I promised you the standings a couple days ago. That’s taking a little long, so until I get it done sometime today or tomorrow (I promise), here are my playoff predictions
Heat over Bucks
76ers over Knicks
Hawks over Bulls
Nets over Pacers
Thunder over Mavs
Timberwolves over Grizzlies
Clippers over Nuggets
Spurs over Lakers
Heat over Hawks
Nets over 76ers
Thunder over Timberwolves
Clippers over Spurs
Nets over Heat (Yes, the Nets can definitely beat the Heat)
Clippers over Thunder
Nets over Clippers
A lot of bold predictions here. Tell me if you disagree with my seedings, my projections, or if I left a team out that deserves a shot in the playoffs. Leave your comments below