The Pick Your Cornerstone QB Debate… I Want to Live in Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Optimist Prime.

Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, or Mark Sanchez?

In the TV hit game show Million Dollar Money Drop, if those are my four options, I’m putting the whole $1M on Aaron Rodgers.

It’s that simple. If I am running a professional football team with just one game left to win, and those are my four options, Aaron Rodgers is the guy I want under center, and for good reason. In the three seasons since taking over Green Bay’s drivers’ seat after what’s-his-name left, Rodgers has become one of the brightest young stars in the NFL.

In just a quick comparison between Rodgers and the guy he took over for (I think his name was Brett something… Favre, that’s it!) through their first three seasons as starters for the Packers:

  • Rodgers started 47 games, Favre started 47 games
  • Rodgers passed for 12,394 yards, Favre passed for 10,412 yards
  • Rodgers passed for 86 TDs, Favre passed for 70 TDs
  • Rodgers passed for 31 interceptions, Favre passed for 51 interceptions
  • Rodgers led the Pack to a combined record of 27-20, Favre’s record was 26-19

That’s right. Rodgers has already started off his career better than the greatest quarterback statistically to ever play the game. But the fact that he is already off to a better career than Favre at this point is only part of the reason why I would choose Rodgers as the field general leading my team into battle.

The REAL reason why Rodgers is the ONLY man I would want taking snaps for my team is not how he performs in the regular season, but how he performs in the post-season.

In three playoff appearances so far Rodgers has passed for 969 yards (323 yards per game average) with 10 touchdowns and only one interception. Oh yeah, he also has two rushing scores to add to that total.

It doesn’t matter who is on the field with him, Aaron Rodgers will find a way to get the ball into the end zone.

This season Rodgers has had to find ways to win without his Pro Bowl running back, Ryan Grant, and his favorite target, Tight End Jermichael Finley. Still, he managed to win games. Now he is leading the Packers into the NFC Championship Game as the hottest quarterback still playing.

Aaron Rodgers has already outgunned Michael Vick and Matt Ryan, two of the so-called top quarterbacks in the NFC. With those two out of the picture, and Tom Brady having fallen to the New York Jets, there is no quarterback left standing that can match Rodgers’ performance on the field.

Rodgers may not have the resume of Ben Roethlisberger, or the supporting cast of superstars like Mark Sanchez has in LaDanian Tomlinson and S’Antonio Holmes, but if I need one guy to win one game for me, Aaron Rodgers is that guy!

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The Early Season NFL Injury Debate… Grant’s Absence Could Slow Down The Pack

September 27, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan.

No matter how good a team is passing, it’s pretty common knowledge that a team needs to be able to pose some threat of a running game to be a good football team. Even a relative inexperienced writer like me knows that. Heading into tonight’s matchup with the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers have established themselves as a high powered offense behind the strong arm of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He’s quickly established himself as one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. But with the season-ending week one injury to Ryan Grant, the Packers must find a way to develop some semblance of a rushing attack if they want to make some noise in January.

Some have been quick to dismiss this injury because of the potency of the Packers passing attack. After all, didn’t Rodgers throw for 58 combined touchdowns the past two seasons? As a matter of fact he did (as a Rodgers-owner in fantasy football the past two seasons… and this season… thanks). Lest we forget, Ryan Grant is somewhat quietly coming off back to back seasons of rushing for at least 1,200 yards. He was the workhorse of the backfield, carrying the ball 584 times over that same time frame. That’s durability, and that’s not something you can just pick up off the waiver wire or off the practice squad.

Unfortunately for the Packers there isn’t a lot of depth at the running back position. There is no Chester Taylor, Ricky Williams, Felix Jones, or any of those “name” running backs. In fact, raise your hand (or leave a comment below) if you’re more than vaguely familiar with Brandon Jackson or Dmitri Nance. Are these guys going to be able to carry the load for the Packers? Can they replace the 1,200 yards that have been lost with Grant on injured reserve? I don’t think so, and that’s going to put that much more pressure on Rodgers and his receivers. It showed last week as the Packers ran for only 71 yards on 22 carries against the Bills.

Another area where Grant will be missed is pass protection. It’s well known that the Rodgers spent a lot of time on his backside last season. In fact, he was sacked 50 times! Both Jackson and Nance, along with fullback John Kuhn, are going to have to work much harder to protect the franchise quarterback. Teams are going to be geared up to stop the pass with virtually no running threat established at this point. Grant established himself as a strong pass blocker, and that’s one of the things that really doesn’t show up on the stat sheet in the morning newspaper.

Don’t be so quick to dismiss Ryan Grant’s injury. I know most people think that Green Bay is a pass happy team, and by most accounts it surely is. But Grant established himself as the perfect running back in the Packers’ offense. He’ll be sorely missed. It’ll be up to a cast of virtual unknowns to step up and keep the Packers’ goals alive.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Tradition, Stakes High For Week Three

September 23, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

Here I am, the last truly fervent college football devotee here at The Sports Debates, NOT writing about how some game on Saturday will be the weekend’s best. It almost makes me feel dirty. For me, college football is absolutely the greatest sport in America. The players may not have the refined athleticism of their professional counterparts, but, like the entire sport itself, its unrefined gray area on and off the field is what makes it so lovable.

But, everyone once in a great while, some of the traditions that hold so strongly for college football seep into some professional games. When tradition is augmented with talent, intrigue, and TRUE drama – not the mocked up stuff the sports media wants us all to believe is important – then the traits that make all college football games great are mirrored in the professional game. No game better encapsulates that idea than the matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday.

It has been a long four seasons for the Chicago Bears. Can you believe it has been four years since the Bears even made the playoffs? Of course, the team more than made the playoffs. The team won the NFC Central, the NFC, and then lost in the Super Bowl. But the team has lost its direction since by firing several defensive coordinators, hiring former NFL coaches as coordinators (and in one case as just the defensive line coach), and swapping players out with reckless abandon. Well, at least that is one perception of the Bears the past several seasons. The other perception is that it was a down on its luck team that succumbed to too many injuries too close together.

No matter what, it was clear the team stunk and the expectations beyond .500 were unwise.

The Packers, however, are a team that built toward success through strong draft cycles, player development, and a commitment to a core group of players that was exceptionally wise. While the Bears acted in mercurial fashion, the Packers have slowly built toward a team that is coming of age and poised to dominate its division with designs on extending its life deeper into the playoffs in 2010. While the expectations are high, the talent and ability of the team seems to be in lockstep.

Now, both teams – which relish the opportunity to play in a rivalry that is truly one the greater contests in sports – sit in a tie atop a surprising division, each boasting a 2-0 record.

The Bears must prove their record is not a fluke. If not for a stupid rule that prevented the Detroit Lions from beating the Bears in week one, the team would be sitting at 1-1. Boosted by a bogus rule, the team came out and beat a still talented, though struggling, Dallas Cowboys team. A quick glance at the Bears’ schedule reveals that the next two weeks will be very revelatory for the team. If the team can be 4-0 at the quarter pole of the season – or even 3-1 – suddenly the Bears become the team to beat in the division. With a primetime, Monday night matchup this week, and a Sunday night contest against the Giants next week, the Bears may fight through ha tough stretch and legitimately challenge the Packers for the division crown.

The Packers must prove their record is a sign of things to come. Their schedule reads very differently than the Bears’. While Chicago caught Dallas early and down, the Packers face off against them in week nine, right after a game against the Jets. The injury to starting running back Ryan Grant has shaken the team, but does not appear to have broken it. Brandon Jackson is a more than able backup running back on a team that is built around the passing game anyway. The defense is outstanding, with Clay Matthews playing stellar on defense thus far having recorded six sacks already.

The Bears and the Packers are eager to make a statement. This game is early in the season but crucially important if either team is to prove it can compete each week when it matters the most.

As inconsistent s the Bears have been in recent seasons, the Packers are now that consistent. Both teams need to win this game. Sure, it helps for one of have bragging rights and the tiebreak, but both teams have a real shot to have a special season, and both need a win this weekend to build momentum and belief. For week three, there is a lot at stake, making this game the best this weekend has to offer.

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The Best 2009 NFL Wild Card Game Debate – Time to Get Wild in the Desert

January 6, 2010

Read the arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless about which NFL Wild Card game they believe is the best of this postseason.

It is rematch city this week for the NFL Wild Card weekend. In a bizarre twist of something that definitely is NOT luck, the NFL slate of playoff games features three rematches from week 17. With plenty of gamesmanship on display last weekend as teams did their level best to withhold game plans and star players, all the cards are on the table this weekend (get it… cards?). The best Wild Card game of this 2009 NFL postseason, therefore, is a rematch. Since Dallas and Philadelphia were actually playing hard (supposedly) last weekend, and the Bengals have played poorly down the stretch, the best game is the rematch between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals in the desert.

Fresh off a lopsided Packers victory last weekend, where Arizona took the established step of benching important starters, the two teams meet again on the same field. Though the Packers handled the Cardinals reserves, and the Cardinals are scrambling to replace injured receiver Anquan Boldin in the lineup this week, do not dismiss these Cardinals.

It only SEEMS as though the Cardinals are easy to dismiss. Remember last season’s playoffs? The Cardinals were dismissed all the way to the Super Bowl, where the team barely lost thanks to last minute heroics from Pittsburgh. This Arizona team again seems underrated, and it is improved over last season’s team.

In 2008 the Cardinals were poor, at best, when it came to running the football. In fact, the Cardinals were dead last in the NFL in 2008 with a scant 73.6 yards per game earned on the ground. The team drafted Ohio State beast of a running back Chris Wells, and has now made dramatic improvements to the running game to balance out an already stellar passing game. The Cardinals certainly did not lead the NFL in rushing, but the team improved the yards per game by 20 yards – TWENTY YARDS. That is no small task, and the running attack will take pressure off of Kurt Warner AND help the team in goal line situations.

Since I mentioned Warner, it is only fair to fully outline why he is so vital to the team’s success. He throws for over 250 yards per game and has two 1,000 yard receivers. He has thrown for 100 touchdown passes with two different teams (Rams and Cardinals). He is a two time NFL MVP award winner, and has a Super Bowl MVP to his credit, too (he probably would have added a second if the Cardinals defense could have stopped Pittsburgh in last season’s Super Bowl). He is a great player, and a likely future hall of famer. And, Warner gets better as the running game improves. The Packers will need every bit of effort its defense can muster this weekend to limit, not stop, the Cardinals offense.

The Packers, on the other side of this Wild Card coin, are hot with a record of 7-1 in the last eight games. A big reason the team is hot is the play from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Sure, the Packers have a better record than their playoff foe (more on that in a moment), but Rodgers must be thanking his lucky stars to be out of the frozen tundra and landing in the desert for this game. The aerial assault the Packers offense has become synonymous with will thrive in the desert. No, the Packers did not have the season’s best passing attack (remember that Peyton Manning fella?), but the offense was formidable, especially considering some unfavorable weather conditions the team plays in every season. Thirty touchdowns against just eight interceptions are impressive statistics for Rodgers, who has reliable receivers all over the field. Rodgers took many sacks early this season, but limited them late. Rodgers’ improvement in this area is important as the Cardinals are sixth in the NFL with 43 sacks in 2009.

While it is easy to focus on the quarterbacks alone in this game, what makes this matchup so fascinating is Charles Woodson, hands down the best defensive players in the league right now. Without Anquan Boldin, Woodson can blanket star receiver Larry Fitzgerald and force Warner to throw to less reliable receivers. Consider the “Charles Woodson Factor” another reason to watch this game.

This game is also interesting because it is one of the countless matchups in the NFL playoffs over the years where a Wild Card team actually has a better record than the division winner that lays claim to home field advantage. I hope that the league reviews this policy in the coming years and reseeds once playoff teams are determined. The Packers have a considerable home field advantage it seems the team should have earned, since it has a better record than its opponent and even owns the head-to-head tiebreak. The league could kill two birds with one stone by not only rewarding the team with the better record, but forcing teams to not rest starters and compete in each game of the season. Having the best record matters, and should matter. But, earning the third best record should also matter… at least it should matter more than winning a lousy division.

For this game, however, the Packers seem to have the momentum even though Arizona has surprised in the playoffs in recent seasons and postseasons, especially in 2008. With Boldin down, a new receiver can step up and help carry the Cardinals into the second round of the playoffs. The Packers and Cardinals both have a lot to prove. One thing is for certain – this is the best Wild Card matchup on the NFL 2009-2010 postseason.

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The Best Remaining NFL Game of the Season Debate – Yet Another NFC East Showdown

December 25, 2009

Read the arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek.

First off, Merry Christmas to everyone!!! On behalf of the four of us, I sincerely wish a Merry Christmas to you and yours this holiday season! I hope you enjoy spending time with your loved ones! I’m also glad you’ve chosen to give us a look today as we wrap up yet another week of debates.

As you probably know, we usually highlight the game of the weekend on Friday. Since the NFL regular season is winding down, we have decided to pick out the best game of the last two weeks of the season. There are a handful of games that have playoff implications this weekend, and there will be some huge games next week in Week 17 depending on what happens this week. But to me, there is no question about what the biggest game is the rest of the way this regular season and that is yet ANOTHER NFC East showdown. This one involves the Philadelphia Eagles making a trip down to Big D to take on the Dallas Cowboys.

Some of you may remember the Eagles absolutely throttling the Cowboys 44-6 in Week 17 last season in a game that put the Eagles in the playoffs and the Cowboys back in the Lonestar State with no playoff berth in hand. I certainly remember it because I heckled my brother about it for weeks, since he is a big Cowboys fan. This season, depending on what happens in Week 16, the stakes could be just as high.

Philadelphia clinched a playoff spot with its victory over the 49ers last week. The Cowboys, despite an impressive win over the previously undefeated Saints last week, still have work to do to clinch a playoff spot. The ‘Boys are currently tied with the Green Bay Packers at 9-5, with the New York Giants sitting a game back at 8-6. Both the Packers and Giants have tiebreakers over the Cowboys. Even if the Cowboys win in Washington Sunday night, there is a good chance, depending on what the Giants do, that they will have to defeat the Eagles to make the playoffs. Contrarily, there is a chance the Cowboys can still win the division with a victory over the Eagles.

If the Cowboys do not make the playoffs, it is pretty safe to assume that Wade Phillips will join millions of Americans on the unemployment line. What a complete embarrassment that would be for Jerry Jones. But hey, look at the bright side, Jerry! At least you can go ahead and start working on getting the stadium ready for the NBA All-Star Game. You have already been telling anyone that listens that you want at least 100,000 people in Cowboys Stadium! A loss will give you more time to get ready!

There are several different scenarios right now as far as who can make the playoffs and what it will take for that to happen, but that is what makes the NFL great. And that is what makes this a huge game, regardless of what happens this weekend.

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The Best Remaining NFL Game of the Season Debate – Evenly Matched Teams Forecast Exciting Game

December 25, 2009

Read the arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan about what they believe are the best remaining games in the NFL season.

Conventional thinking dictates that the only possible quality remaining games in the NFL season involve teams consistently in the national conversation. My colleagues will argue that only Pittsburgh or Baltimore or Philadelphia or Dallas – teams that are always “in the conversation” – are playing in games worth watching as the 2009 regular season comes to a conclusion. I say, whatever happened to good, old fashioned football? Give me a couple of talented team with loads of talent – and a few question marks – and I will give you the best game left in the NFL season featuring the Green Bay Packers visit to sunny Arizona to take on the Cardinals in Week 17.

All of the metrics necessary to evaluate quality are in place. Arizona is a division winner already while Green Bay has nearly locked up a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. It is quite possible that when the teams meet next week to close out the regular season they will be vying for 11 win seasons.

Plus, expectations for both teams were moderate entering the season.

The Arizona Cardinals had turned over important defensive players, had a star receiver in Anquan Boldin trying to complain his way off the team, and an offensive coordinator in Todd Haley that took the head coaching position in Kansas City. For a team that reached the Super Bowl a season ago – and nearly beat the Pittsburgh Steelers – underwent a great deal of change, but managed to win its division again in 2009.

The Packers were supposed to be a solid team in 2009, but were not playoff lock by any stretch. Aaron Rodgers and the offense have put up some impressive numbers, but questions surrounding the defense persisted, and a switch from a 4-3 scheme in 2008 to a Dom Capers led 3-4 scheme in 2009 – without a substantial changeover in personnel – was cause for alarm in Cheesehead country.

Both teams have come through the season and passed a variety of tests with flying colors, winning tough games when necessary and surviving close ones each was “supposed” to win. The two teams are even similar statistically on offense. The Packers are seventh in the league in offense putting up 27.1 points per game and the Cardinals are eleventh at 24.1 points per game. The Packers are eighth in passing yards putting up 262.9 a game, and the Cardinals finish eleventh again with 256.1 per game. The Packers slightly separate from the Cardinals with a strong 46.6 percent success rate on third down.

Both have middle of the pack defenses. The Packers are 11th the league in defense allowing 20 points per game, and the Cardinals are 12th allowing 20.1 points per game.

In short, these teams are even, they have compelling season stories, and both enter the final game of the season again a team needing to prove they belong in the playoffs. The Arizona Cardinals enter the 2009 post-season much the way the team did last season when it surprised the Carolina Panthers – and the NFC – en route to the Super Bowl. This season’s Green Bay Packers team shares some similarities with that Cardinals team, too. Steady improvement through the season, proven coaching, disciplined players are all hallmarks of quality teams – and traits these two teams share.

If you are in search of a great football game to watch in the NFL before the regular season ends, look no further than this game between two talented, evenly matched teams. The Green Bay Packers visit to Arizona to face the Cardinals next weekend is the best game remaining in the 2009 NFL regular season.

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The Most Surprising NFL Division Debate – NFC North Tops the Surprise Charts in 2009

December 23, 2009

Read the arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer about which NFL division has been the most surprising.

As is always the case, there have been many surprises in the NFL in 2009. Teams which were supposed to succeed will fail, and teams which are supposed to fail will succeed. The NFC North, though, went four-for-four in the surprise category this season.

Detroit Lions

On the ‘Surprise-o-Meter’ the Detroit Lions provide the smallest blip of all the teams in the NFC North. But, realistically, would you have picked them to win two games all season? I thought that the only achievement the Lions were going to claim this season was the new record for consecutive losses. Instead, they managed to put together not just one, but TWO wins. Again, this is not an Earth-shattering surprise, but it is a surprise nonetheless.

Green Bay Packers

Coming in next on the scale of surprises from the NFC North is the Green Bay Packers. The Packers, who had been pegged as the likely champions of the division (with some even going so far as to choose the Packers as the NFC representatives in the Super Bowl), have played some of the most inconsistent football in the league. Behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have displayed the potential to put a TON of points on the board, scoring 30 points or more in five games, and being held to less than 20 points only once in the entire season. Those offensive stats should have been enough to lock up a playoff spot by this point in the season.

The reason that the Packers have been unable to seal the deal up to this point in the season is because of an inability to put away the teams that should have been easiest to beat. The Packers, despite offensive prowess, somehow managed to hand the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that team’s only win of the season, and most recently helped Pittsburgh end a five game losing streak which included losses against the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, and Cleveland Browns.

For a team pegged to make a Super Bowl run this season, that kind of inconsistency has been a surprise!

Chicago Bears

I would like to file a missing persons report – The Chicago Bears offense, which was expected to show up at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on September 13th, 2009, never arrived at their anticipated destination, and has not been seen or heard from since.

No offense in the NFL came into the season with higher expectations, and then failed to meet those expectations, as spectacularly as the Bears. After closing an alleged blockbuster deal that brought quarterback Jay Cutler to the Windy City, folks all over Chi-Town were giddy with anticipation to see what a bona-fide quarterback could actually do for their beloved Bears.

After all the anticipation, how exactly DID the Bears’ offense do behind that bona-fide quarterback? They have played to a record of 5-9, scoring 25 or more points only three times all season (against the Browns, Lions, and Seahawks… not exactly the NFL’s most dominant teams). In terms of season statistics, the team ranks 23rd out of 32 teams with only 18.1 points per game. For his part, Jay Cutler has thrown only 19 touchdowns to 25 interceptions, and has a passer rating of only 71.1.

I would rank the Chicago Bears as being one of the biggest disappointments of the entire season.

Minnesota Vikings

As surprising as the letdown of the Chicago Bears offense might have been, it is actually the Minnesota Vikings who top the surprise charts for 2009.

Brett Favre’s resurgence may not be a surprise any more (15 weeks later), but when you consider the manner in which he entered the season, it has clearly been one of the biggest surprises of 2009. Behind Favre, the Vikings have already clinched the NFC North, and stand poised to claim one of the two postseason byes in the NFC. Not bad for a team who’s coach, Brad Childress, was viewed as being on the hot seat when the season began!

Favre has not been the only surprise for the Vikings, though, and much of his success MUST be credited to his weapons on offense. Adrian Peterson has once again provided very strong numbers at the running back position, but it is the emergence of three receiving threats – Sidney Rice, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, and NFL Rookie-of-the-Year frontrunner Percy Harvin – that has made the Vikings one of the most dangerous teams in the league.

Good or bad, the NFC North has been the most surprising division in the entire league. From top to bottom, it seems that none of the teams from the division got their respective memos on how to perform in 2009. They have collectively provided some of the biggest headlines of the NFL season, and have added some excitement and drama to a season that has been woefully lacking of both.

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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 Surprise From the Weekend Debate – Apparently, Panthers Lay Eggs

September 14, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument that the play of Terrelle Pryor was the biggest surprise of Week One and Bleacher Fan’s argument that the play of the Ravens defense was the biggest surprise.

It was an exciting first week in the NFL with tonight’s two games still to come. The end of Denver-Cincinnati game was surprising, and I thought the Packers-Bears game last night was very entertaining. Hope you enjoyed Week one, and I hope your fantasy team did well.

The biggest surprise was what Kanye West did to Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards last night… oh wait, we are talking football, not dramatic (or staged) music video awards. To me, the biggest surprise of this past weekend was the complete whipping the Carolina Panthers took as host of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Carolina came into this season as one of the favorites in the NFC. Despite ending last season last year on a sour note with a second round loss to Arizona at home in which quarterback Jake Delhomme had six turnovers, the Panthers still had high hopes for this season… and they probably still do. But, it was not the way they envisioned starting off.

On Sunday, Delhomme picked up right up where he left off last year, turning the ball five times before being pulled in the third quarter for Josh McNown (yikes)! You know you are struggling with a guy when someone with the last name McNown (Cade, Luke, Josh, etc) takes your place. Head coach John Fox has not yet announced who will start this week at quarterback, but you can bet Panthers fans are getting anxious… and Fox is smacking his gum a little faster.

The Panthers running game also struggled Sunday, with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combining for 72 yards on 25 carries. That can partially be attributed to the struggles of the passing game and the fact that they got behind early against the Eagles.

The Panthers do not get a breather this week, either, as they travel to NFC South rival Atlanta on Sunday. Lose Sunday, and they are already behind two games in the division. This does not even include the Saints, who looked really good on offense yesterday (okay, so it was against the Lions). With the Panthers upcoming schedule, they really cannot afford to dig too deep of a hole. This year, the NFC South matches up with the NFC East and AFC East. That gives them a trip to Dallas in two weeks and two cold December trips to look forward to. If you are a visiting team, you cannot be looking forward to December trips to Foxboro and the Meadowlands!

It is still early in the season, and it is WAY too early to push too many panic buttons. But, if I am a Panthers fan, I definitely woke up this morning not feeling too good about my team. It is one thing to lose a close game. At least there is some hope! It is quite another to get whipped on your home turf! And with Delhomme struggling the way he is, I am not sure this team can turn it around this season.

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The Should the NFL Relax the Blackout Rules Debate – Blackouts Hurt the Fans

September 8, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s argument that the NFL’s blackout policy should remain the same.

Close your eyes and imagine this scenario three weeks from now.

It has been a really hard week at the office, located in Eden Prairie, just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. The boss is a jerk. He told you to stay late every day during the week. He even told you to come in on Saturday, causing you to miss the first wave of college football games (now he is past the point of being a jer – who does that anyway?!). Now, after going to church on Sunday morning and eating a nice lunch with the family, you plan on getting in your recliner and watching the Vikings -49ers game on local FOX affiliate KMSP. You are really excited because Favre and Peterson had a great first two weeks of the season. Someone offered to sell you a ticket to the game earlier in the week, but with times being tough, you did not feel like you could afford to go. But that is okay, because you like watching it at home with your two boys (ages nine and six) who are reaching that age where football has become a big part of their lives. They are big Vikings fans, also. Adrian Peterson is their favorite player. Twelve o’clock local time comes and… what is this? This is not the Vikings-49ers!!! Why are they showing the Packers-Rams game? What???? You scream “I hate the Packers! Everyone in Minnesota hates the Cheeseheads! The Rams are awful!” (Hmmm, didn’t someone else say the Rams are awful?)

Welcome to the life of a NFL fan in 2009!

In case you have not heard, it appears that the NFL is going to have numerous games blacked out this year. What that means is that if the home team does not sell out its home game, the game is blacked out in the home team’s local market. There are no winners in this situation. The owners do not get the extra revenue from a sold out stadium. The TV station carrying the game suffers lower ratings. But, the real loser is the average NFL fan!

This has obviously been a tough year economically. It is going to continue to be tough. Last year, the average NFL ticket costs $72.20. How many families can afford to go to a game at those prices any year, much less this year?

Here is another question I have always had – and maybe this is because I do not live in a big television market: If I am debating going to a game, does whether or not it comes on TV play into it? Do I sit around thinking, “Hey, the Vikings game may be not be on TV Sunday so I better buy a ticket.” I cannot envision a lot of people thinking that way.

I see no harm in lifting the blackout policy. I really do not think it is going to cause a dramatic decrease in ticket sales. If you are set on going to the game, whether or not it is going to be on TV rarely ever enters the equation when deciding on whether or not to go. Also, how are the teams supposed to build their fan bases to the casual fan, or the new fan, if the games are not regularly on television locally? I bet a lot of fans, especially outside of the home market, are unaware if a game is going to be blacked out. Perhaps it is even true that most fans do not even know the blackout rules.

The NFL is arguably the most popular league in today’s sports landscape. Therefore, everyone should be able to watch their home team play on the tube, no matter what. It is an easy call! Yes they should! The long term benefits outweigh any minimal damage.

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