The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Lion(s) Share of Questions

September 17, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek.

It is only week two of the NFL season and we already have a matchup between two backup quarterbacks.

Unfortunately, that is only the start of the issues facing the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions on Sunday. Both teams find are in the extremely rare situation of entering the second game with MORE questions than were faced on opening weekend.

Let’s start with the Eagles.

For the last decade the Eagles have been led on the field by quarterback Donovan McNabb. In the off-season, though, the team made a strategic decision to look toward the future by trading McNabb to the division rivals Washington Redskins. The young and highly anticipated prospect, Kevin Kolb, was given the keys to the kingdom.

So how did that decision pay off in week one? In less than two quarters of playing time, Kolb struggled under the pressure provided by the Packers defense and he went 5-10 with only 24 passing yards. Then, to make matters worse, he was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Replacing Kolb, Michael Vick (yeah, THAT Michael Vick) finally got his opportunity to once more lead an NFL offense as THE quarterback, and he never looked back. Even though the Eagles lost the game, Vick looked spectacular playing like he hasn’t missed any time at all since his pre-prison Pro Bowl days. During his time on the field Vick was 16-24 for 175 yards with one touchdown, and he added another 103 rushing yards to the mix… just for some variety.

And with Kolb not passing his concussion test until yesterday (he failed his first try on Wednesday), it looks like Vick will get another shot to prove that he deserves more than just a supporting role in the NFL.

Then, the Lions.

If ever there was a rock bottom in the NFL, the Detroit Lions found it. The Lions went a pathetic 2-30 over the last two seasons and were coming into 2010 with no place to go but up. The team was entering 2010 with some very real expectations for genuine improvement, with Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson coming back to lead the offense along with explosive rookie running back, Jahvid Best.

And to the delight of the fans, the Lions showed signs of improvement during the week one matchup with the Chicago Bears. But a controversial call at the end of the game cost the team victory. Like Kolb, Stafford was knocked out of the game, only Stafford’s injury was in his shoulder.

If the news of Stafford’s injury wasn’t bad enough for Lions fans, the name of his doctor surely must be –Dr. James Andrews (although Dr. Andrews stated that Stafford would not need surgery, which had to ease the blow at least a little bit).

So now it is up to Shaun Hill to try and continue leading the development of the Lions’ offense.

Neither of these teams want to start the season off at 0-2, but with so many questions sitting unanswered right now, it is virtually impossible to try and predict a winner.

Will there be a new quarterback controversy in Philadelphia?!

Is Matt Stafford REALLY that valuable to an NFL franchise, and are the Lions REALLY improving?!

Did Calvin Johnson go back and study the fundamentals of completing a reception?!

Will Rocky and Bullwinkle find the missing ingredient for the rocket fuel formula?!

Be with us Sunday for “Eagles Come, Eagles Go,” or “The Goal Lion Stand!”

Editor’s Note: Sigh.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Pats Jetting to 2-0?”

September 17, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek.

The battle of the border is back in a big way. There has never been any love lost between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, but here lately the rivalry has intensified. Over the past several season, from Spygate to Tom Brady’s public profession of “hate” for Gang Green, it seems the Patriots and Jets are doing their best Red Sox-Yankees routine. So when the Pats make their first trip to the New Meadowlands Stadium, likely with hopes of extending a run of road dominance over a plucky Jets team, it’s immediately a top contender for game of the week.

Teams with Something to Prove

Before the season started there were several questions swirling around Foxboro that figured to undermine the Patriots effectiveness this season. Like, could the Patriots function despite the distraction of the looming contract situations of Tom Brady and Randy Moss? Would the young Patriots defense make the necessary growth to be serious playoff contenders? And, would Wes Welker be able to contribute before season’s end? Well, with week one in the books it appears those answers are yes, yes, and yes. Now a lethal Patriots team, which has won eight out of nine road games against the Jets, looks to march into the Empire State and prove they are the team to beat in the AFC East.

The Jets, however, have different plans. New York started the season with a tough loss on Monday Night Football to the Baltimore Ravens. It was a game in which sophomore quarterback Mark Sanchez completed just ten passes for 74 yards and zero touchdowns, and the Jets ground game appeared equally pedestrian. But everyone knows that Gang Green’s claim to fame has been solid defense, and with the return of shutdown corner Darrelle Revis from a holdout hiatus, New York looks ready to mix it up with Tom Brady and company. This Sunday may mark the first home win in the team’s new stadium, potentially ushering in the beginning of a new era in the New England-New York rivalry.

Marquee Matchup: Moss versus Revis

One of the most interesting storylines leading into this game is the matchup of elite wide receiver Randy Moss and shutdown corner Revis. During last week’s matchup against the Bengals, Moss was quiet, posting a respectable, but not mind-blowing, five catches for 59 yards and no TDs. While one unexplosive week from Moss is not necessarily cause for alarm, it should be viewed in the greater context – the aging of the Patriots. At 3, Moss is not getting any younger, and a slight reduction in productivity at his age is not unimaginable. Add to that the fact that Moss is unhappily entering the final year of his current contract with no deal from the Patriotss in sight, and this could be the first signs of a potential problem for Patriots’ passing game. This Sunday’s game will give Moss a chance to prove he’s still got it by taking on one of the greatest defenders in the game.

Moss will certainly be motivated for the showdown. What remains to be seen, however, is whether he will get the opportunity to showcase his skills against A) Darrelle Revis, one of the league’s best defensive backs or B) Darrelle Revis, unprepared cornerback suffering from holdout hangover. Now that Revis is back from his 36 day holdout, he appears to be ailing from some hamstring tightness that has limited him in practice. In the week two clash between the Patriots and Jets last season, Revis limited Moss to just four catches for 24 yards, and statements by Rex Ryan have indicated that if Revis is ready on game day he will get his chance at a repeat performance and be asked to cover Moss all day. Revis even added fuel to the fire by dubbing Moss a “slouch” for his underachieving performance last season. This has certainly hyped up the showdown and figures to add drama to an already great rivalry.

War of Words

Even more hype has been added to the Patriots-Jets rivalry as of late because of public statements made by members of both teams. It all started when Tom Brady was asked if he watched the HBO series “Hard Knocks,” a series that followed the Jets throughout training camp. His answer, “I hate the Jets, so I refuse to support that show” didn’t sit well with many of the Meadowlands faithful. Jets head coach Rex Ryan even retorted, “Hell, he knows we hate the Patriots so what’s the difference… join the club.”

There’s a lot at stake for each team. The Jets look to shake a rough start and prove they are Super Bowl bound, while the Patriots look to put upstart rivals back in their place. It figures to be a very physical football game with plenty of aggression on both sides of the ball. In other words, it’s the type of game that reminds guys why they like football in the first place.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Dawging the Gamecocks

September 10, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Loyal Homer.

While there are a lot of interesting games this weekend, I’ve chosen one slightly off the beaten path. Well, as off the beaten path as an SEC game between two top-25 ranked opponents on national TV can be. Saturday at noon, Georgia rolls into Dead Cockroach Stadium (look at a picture, I’m not kidding…) to take on the newly-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks. Sure, history is in the Bulldogs’ favor, but let’s dig deeper into what makes this ESPN2 game a compelling matchup.

There was a lot of off-season chatter about how this was “the year” for South Carolina to make some noise in the SEC East. Fans and pundits alike have been waiting for Spurrier’s genius to show itself in the Midlands of South Carolina. While South Carolina has many of the resources necessary for competing in the cutthroat SEC, they are perpetually trying to get over the hump in the SEC East. Part of the reason for that is that Spurrier has not had the quarterbacks at South Carolina enjoyed at Florida. Blake Mitchell was no Danny Wuerrfel, my friends. However, coach Spurrier and the Gamecock faithful have high hopes for Stephen Garcia, and Garcia’s time at the controls of the Gamecock offense this season has come. While Garcia has shown flashes of physical talent on the field and flashes of smiles in mug shots off the field, this may be the year that he puts it all together and leads the Gamecocks to the SEC championship game in Atlanta.

Beyond Garcia, the Gamecocks have a pair of freshman phenoms who will spend some time in the backfield this season. Freshman quarterback Connor Shaw and freshman running back Marcus Lattimore supplement seventeen returning starters for the Gamecocks, and make them a popular sleeper pick to win the SEC East. Despite the fact that tight end Weslye Saunders is likely to miss another game due to the NCAA investigation, the Gamecocks appear to be a formidable foe for the Bulldogs.

South Carolina’s optimism runs smack into UGA VIII and his team of angry canines led by Mark Richt.

While Georgia may not have garnered the right kind of headlines in the off-season, Mark Richt will absolutely have the Bulldogs ready to play in a very hostile environment in Columbia, South Carolina. Keep in mind that Georgia is 8-1 in its last nine games against South Carolina, and they have faced this combination of optimism and hostility from Gamecock fans and teams in the past. The Georgia offense, despite missing A.J. Green, put up 55 points last week, signaling they are ready for a conference clash.

I don’t want to turn this post into a statistical rundown of the two opponents. But there are two data points that make this game really interesting. First, UGA and South Carolina really do not like each other, and that will come through on the field and in the stands (hopefully more on the field than in the stands).

Second, and perhaps most importantly, Florida looked decidedly vulnerable against Miami of Ohio last weekend, and the Gamecocks and Bulldogs both believe they’re playing for the driver’s seat in the SEC East. We all know much of the greatness of college football is tied up in the desperation shown by teams on a week-in, week-out basis (especially in conference play).
This game seems like an entertaining, eminently watchable week two matchup. At the very least, it’s the best excuse you have on Saturday to crack a cold one at noon Eastern!

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The 2010 Best Divisional NFL Playoff Game Debate – Colts Welcome Baltimore to Indy

January 16, 2010

Read the argument from Sports Geek.

I said in last Friday’s debate how much I love NFL Wild card weekend. I expressed some doubt that the Patriots would be able to beat the Ravens and I was correct in expressing that doubt, though I did not expect that whipping. But as much as I love the wild card weekend, I love the divisional round of the NFL playoffs even more. The four teams that achieved byes in the first round are now in action, and it is time to get serious. Obviously, the showdown between the Vikings and Cowboys is getting a lot of looks. I will be watching that, obviously, and I am sure FOX will be heavily hyping the series premiere of Human Target and the season premiere of 24… both of which I will be watching. But the best game takes place in primetime Saturday as the Indianapolis Colts play host to the suddenly hot Baltimore Ravens.

As I stated, it was an absolute whipping in Foxboro last week. Watching that game unfold, it became increasingly clear to me that the Ravens were playing with a tremendous amount of confidence. In using one of the most overused “cool” words in today’s society, the Ravens had that “swagger.” If you do not think so, just watch how Ray Lewis acts on the field, and you tell me what you think. The Ravens defense was flying to the ball last week, as evident by the three interceptions by Tom Brady. In fact, it is not just Brady the Ravens defense has been “picking” on lately. The Ravens have caused 25 turnovers in the past nine games. If the Ravens can control the ball on offense with an increasingly strong rushing attack led by Ray Rice, then Baltimore can win this game. I know the Ravens are around a touchdown underdog, but to me, a Ravens win would not be THAT big of an upset.

The Colts come into this weekend with more pressure than any other team in the playoffs. With all the hoopla surrounding the decision to essentially sit the starters the last two games of the regular season, the Colts had to have known the heat would be turned up on them. Everyone associated with the team stated that they were concerned with winning the Super Bowl and not achieving regular season perfection. Well that Super Bowl journey begins Saturday night.

These two teams faced off in Indianapolis back in Week 11, with the Colts coming out on top 17-15. It was a game the Ravens definitely felt got away. You may recall that the Ravens lost a close regular season game to the Patriots, and we all saw how that rematch turned out last week. The Colts are well-rested for sure, and it will be fascinating to me to see if they come out rusty or rested. Every team that has a first round bye battles that issue every year. But let’s face it… many of the Colts starters have not played a full game in a month. Will that be an advantage or a disadvantage?

A Ravens win would not be shocking, but neither would a Colts convincing win. Tune in Saturday night to see which one it is.

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The Best Remaining NFL Game of the Season Debate – Give Me a Reason to Keep Watching

December 25, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s and Loyal Homer’s arguments about which is the best remaining game in the NFL schedule.

Week 16 in the NFL is a time for two things – fantasy football championships and exciting playoff races. Without those two events, most games this late in the season are not worth watching (honestly, who cares that the Cleveland Browns are hosting the Oakland Raiders?). Teams that have run away with their respective divisions shift into resting mode to get stars healthy and ready for the playoffs, while teams that have been out of the hunt for a while begin to shut down and regroup to rebuild. The problem when that happens is that the games just are not very interesting. There is nothing to me that could be worse than a collection of meaningless games being played just because they are scheduled. That is called the NFL preseason. Instead, this is supposed to be a time when playoff contenders are put into do-or-die situations, with postseason futures hanging in the balance.

Unfortunately, with five of the eight division champions having already been crowned, the NFL is quickly running out of meaningful games in the last two weeks of the season. There is some good news in the AFC Wild Card race, though, that just might make the rest of the 2009 regular season worth following. The Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos currently own the rights to the two Wild Card spots at 8-6, but there are six teams sitting just one game behind them at 7-7, and any one of those teams would love more than anything to crash the playoff party.

Of those teams currently on the outside looking in, only the Pittsburgh Steelers have the opportunity to directly influence their chances of playing football in January as they take on the Baltimore Ravens this weekend, and the entire pool of playoff contenders will be paying very close attention to how this one plays out. If the Ravens play on to victory, they advance to 9-6 and will come very close to guaranteeing a postseason bid. If, however, the Steelers pull off the win, the playoff race will become a whole lot more interesting.

To begin with, the Steelers would pull to a tie with Baltimore at 8-7, getting right back in the thick of the playoff hunt despite having lost five games in a row late in the season. More important, though, is that it would also open the door to the Houston Texans, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, and yes, even the Tennessee Titans. This one game could become the first domino in what would be a very exciting dash to the finish line. Suddenly, matchups such as Miami versus Houston, Jacksonville versus New England, and Pittsburgh versus Miami (during week 17) become much more exciting!

The matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers is the best remaining game of the NFL season because it is one of the only games left with implications that extend beyond the participants within the contest. The seasons of eight different NFL franchises hang in the balance of this one single game. Greater postseason implications will not be found anywhere else as the NFL season draws to a close.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate – Holiday Traditions

November 26, 2009

Read the arguments from Sports Geek and Loyal Homer about which game they believe will be the best game of THIS weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Turkey Day is a time of tradition for many people across our country. Whether it is getting together with friends for the annual “Turkey Bowl” football game at your local park, a favorite dish that you look forward to all year at your Thanksgiving dinner, or a special activity that you share with your friends and family, tradition is a big part of how we give thanks. Another annual Thanksgiving tradition is Detroit Lions football!

It doesn’t matter that the Lions are 2-8 this season or that they are likely to get CRUSHED by their division rival Green Bay Packers. This is the game to watch this weekend. Why? Tradition!

The Detroit Lions have been a part of Thanksgiving Day since 1934. Like the Macy’s parade, the Lions have become an indispensible piece of the holiday experience. With the exception of a five-year layoff between 1939 and 1944 due to World War II, the Detroit Lions have played football on every single Thanksgiving Day for the past 75 years. Generations of Americans have gathered together on the last Thursday of every November to celebrate their lives, families and friends, and those parts of life they are most thankful for. After the feast every year, those same generations have gathered together to hear or watch the Lions play football.

Once again today, millions of people around the country are gathering together for some turkey with all the fixin’s. After second-helpings (or in my case, third-helpings), and a piece or two of pumpkin pie, many family will settle down into a sofa, loosen their respective belts, and tune in as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers travel to Detroit.

With the Minnesota Vikings at the front of the NFC North with a record of 9-1, the Packers are not likely to win the NFC North this season. Instead, the Packers are competing for one of the Wild Card spots. Currently they stand at 6-4 and are tied with the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles for the two remaining postseason spots. Because the Giants and Eagles both have seemingly more difficult schedules to close out the season, the Packers need to make sure they capitalize on “gimme” games like a matchup today against the Lions. They cannot afford to get caught looking ahead, because each game could make the difference in whether or not they reach the playoffs.

The Detroit Lions, despite a very exciting come from behind victory against the Cleveland Browns last weekend, will likely finish out this season in very bleak fashion. Adding to the struggles of the Lions (like they didn’t have enough problems already), they will be playing today without quarterback Matt Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Without two of their primary offensive weapons available, the Lions will have to rely on their worst-ranked defense to stop Aaron Rodgers, who has been one of the top quarterbacks in the league so far this season. I hate to say it, but I don’t think the Lions will be up to the challenge today.

The game may turn out to be a one-sided affair, but it is a Thanksgiving tradition that cannot be beaten. Spending the day with friends and family, enjoying good food, celebrating all that you are thankful for, and watching the Lions play football is what makes Thanksgiving so enjoyable. Besides, this game will also provide the perfect excuse for slipping into a turkey-induced nap before your second round of dessert begins!

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The Biggest Game of THIS Weekend Debate – Gators Shouldn’t Overlook These Bulldogs

October 23, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek’s arguments about the which game this weekend is the one that you CAN’T miss.

It is a weekend full of duds in football this weekend. Does anyone care to watch the Buffalo Bills – Carolina Panthers game? How about the New York Jets on the road against the Oakland Raiders? Whether the matchups are intriguing or not, though, football is still football and like many of you, I will still be sitting in front of the TV to watch some gridiron action. Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek have their reasons for picking the NFL matchup of Houston – San Francisco or the NCAA game between Clemson and Miami, but I am going off the radar for my pick of the week. I am focusing on Starkville, Mississippi this weekend, as the Mighty Gators of Florida come to town to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs

I know what you’re saying – “Loyal Homer, what are you smoking? Mississippi State is terrible.”

It is true that they have four losses, but look more closely at their last three. Nearly a month ago, they had then-undefeated LSU on the ropes (and probably should have won the game). The Tigers stopped the Bulldogs at the goal line, though, to hang on for the victory. The following week, a one-loss Georgia Tech squad came to town and won 42-31. One week after that, they played a one-loss Houston team that escaped with a 31-24 victory. LSU, Georgia Tech, and Houston all make for a pretty tough three-game stretch (in fact those three teams have combined for only three losses all season). All things considered, the Bulldogs should not be overlooked, especially with All-SEC running back in Anthony Dixon, who has rushed for over 3,000 yards in his collegiate career.

The Gators, as we all know, come into the game undefeated and ranked at the top of the 2009 inaugural BCS standings. Last week, they squeaked out a victory over Arkansas in a game that was filled with questionable officiating. As a side note, the officiating crew that worked the game (which is the same crew responsible for another blown-call scandal during the LSU – Georgia game earlier this month), has since been suspended for a week by the SEC. At this point, though, the Gators have failed to show the explosiveness that they demonstrated in past seasons. They do not appear to have the same caliber of playmakers at the wide receiver position, and have not shown the air of invincibility that many people expected to see.

What really makes this game intriguing is the fact that the Bulldogs are coached by Dan Mullen, who was the previous offensive coordinator of the Florida Gators. He knows and recruited many of the Florida players, and he knows many of the plays that will be run by their offense. He has also installed the spread offense at Mississippi State, which is slowly beginning to take shape. The question is – Does he have the personnel to stop the Gators?

I am not calling for an upset (which would be foolish to expect), but this game has a chance to be rather interesting. It is a night game in Starkville and the Bulldog fans are itching to have something to cheer for so they can ring those cowbells! The Gators would be wise not to overlook these Bulldogs because of another Bulldog team (from Georgia) that they will be playing next weekend. This is not going to be the cake walk that much of the country expects.

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