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 2010 Michael Vick for MVP Debate Verdict

November 30, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

the micha

How ironic that I am writing about one of the best quarterbacks in football as I watch a Monday Night Football matchup that features two of the worst quarterbacks in football.

The Cardinals and 49ers this season have been a revolving door at the quarterback position, as guys like Matt Leinart, David Carr, Alex Smith, Max Hall, Troy Smith, and Derek Anderson have all at one time or another been tagged as the “starter” for these two franchises. Although it is unlikely that we will hear the names Derek Anderson or Troy Smith brought up in MVP conversations anytime soon, when this season kicked off they probably would have been considered HEAVY favorites over a guy like Michael Vick.

But here we are, week 12 is now in the books, and Michael Vick is performing as one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

There is no denying the impact he has had on the field for the Philadelphia Eagles this season. His performance has almost assuredly earned him many accolades already – team MVP, Pro Bowl, and as Loyal Homer suggested, Comeback Player of the Year. But league MVP?

Babe Ruthless, despite an obvious dislike for Michael Vick the man, feels that his successes on the field simply cannot be ignored when discussing the players who are worthy of being named the most valuable. Considering some direct comparisons between Vick and his counterpart, Kevin Kolb, it is nearly impossible to deny just how valuable Vick has been to his team.

Both quarterbacks got an opportunity to face the Washington Redskins this season. For his part, Kolb was 22 of 35 for 201 yards, one TD and one pick, while Vick, just six weeks later, went 20 of 28 for 333 yards, four TDs, no INTs, and added another two rushing TDs just for good measure.

Clearly, Vick is a difference-maker on the field.

But the Washington Redskins’ defense is not the barometer by which MVPs are measured, and even as well as Vick has played in each of his appearances this season, Loyal Homer does not want MVP voters to forget that Vick has essentially been a part-time quarterback.

To Loyal Homer’s point, it is hard to overlook the fact that Vick has finished less than 60 percent of the Eagles’ games so far this season. Vick has been outstanding, but guys like Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Arian Foster have been equally outstanding (although maybe not as flashy), and have sustained it over a longer period of time than has Vick.

Philip Rivers, for example, is on pace not only for a career best in passing yards for a season, but realistically could put up an all-time NFL best total for the category, having already thrown for 3,362 yards in only 11 games this season. Vick, meanwhile, comes in more than 1,000 yards fewer than that total at 1,941. There are also four quarterbacks in the NFL currently tied for the league lead with 23 TD passes (Rivers, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees). Vick has just slightly more than half of that total with 13.

I’m not one to put a lot of stock in statistics, normally, but differences like that are very difficult to disregard when we are discussing the top performers of an entire season, and so I am awarding this verdict to Loyal Homer.

I just do not feel that Vick deserves consideration for the MVP award in 2010. His value to the Eagles may be immense, but he simply did not have to sustain his performance over a long enough time to truly be compared with Rivers, Brady, etc.

In baseball this season Kansas City Royals pitcher Bruce Chen posted a batting average of 1.000. In fact, Chen has been carried that 1.000 since 2006. He only had one at bat in 2010, and has a total of only three at bats in the last four years, but over that time his average has been perfect. Does that make him better than Josh Hamilton, who sustained a .359 average over more than 500 at bats?

I do not in any way mean to diminish Vick’s performance, but who is to say that he would have remained at the top of the QB ratings leaderboard (or any statistical leaderboard) if he played the additional games against the Redskins, 49ers, Falcons, and Titans? Who is to say that Vick would not have failed epically between weeks four and seven? We will never know.

When recognizing the league’s most valuable player, there can be no room for speculation. The winner has to have been DEFINITIVELY the best over the entire season, and Michael Vick simply cannot state a definitive case.

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The 2010 Michael Vick for MVP Debate

November 28, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

Since taking over for an injured Kevin Kolb during week one of the season, Michael Vick has stormed back into the spotlight as one of the league’s premier quarterbacks. Entering into yesterday’s matchup against the Chicago Bears, he carried the league’s best quarterback rating at 108.7, and still had not thrown for a single interception all season.

Despite throwing his first interception of the season in a loss against the Bears yesterday, his individual performance over the course of the game remained on par with the rest of his season.

There is little doubt that Vick will be named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl squad at the end of the season and, assuming he remains healthy, is very likely to lead the Eagles into the post-season as one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

But, does he deserve consideration for the league’s MVP award?

While it is true that Vick has been exceptional when on the field, it is important to note that he has not been on the field all that long. He was not the season’s starter for the Eagles, and after leaving the game early in week four with an injury, he did not return to the field until five weeks later.

So, the question for today’s debate is: To this point in the season, does Michael Vick’s performance earn him consideration for the NFL MVP award?

At this point in the season, I think it is safe to assume that the Philadelphia Eagles may have been a good team WITHOUT Michael Vick at starting quarterback, but WITH him they are one of the best teams in the NFL. And, as Babe Ruthless will argue, his presence makes such an impact on the field that he absolutely MUST be considered for the award, regardless of the fact that he missed a couple games due to an injury.

Meanwhile, Loyal Homer will argue that Vick’s performance, albeit outstanding, must be taken in context. Even if he finishes the season healthy he STILL would have missed a full 25 percent of his team’s games this season when players like Philip Rivers, Arian Foster, and Tom Brady have been equally vital to their teams’ success, and they will have played the ENTIRE season to this point.

Can you be the league’s most valuable player when you did not even play the entire season? We are about to find out.

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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 All Time Greatest Colts Quarterback Debate… The Greatest QB Who Ever Lived

August 10, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback that ever lived, and that’s a fact. Well, maybe it’s not a fact, but it’s an opinion based on fact. An opinion I can seriously not overstate. You might ask, “Just how good is Peyton Manning?” I’ll tell you. But brace yourself because the answers may be shocking.

Peyton Manning’s football prowess is so blindingly brilliant that doctors recommend watching him play through a pin hole in a sheet of paper. Mathematicians have declared his passes the only perfect arches that occur in nature. Physicists have even speculated that if he throws a football hard enough in the exact opposite direction of the earth’s rotation he can actually turn back time, like at the end of the Superman movie. In my not so humble opinion, Peyton Manning is the greatest football player in the history of mankind.

Throughout his career he has drawn comparisons to other great quarterbacks, especially Johnny Unitas. Both he and Johnny U have been hugely successful, record setting quarterbacks for the Colts. The comparison comes naturally. Each man is an icon in their own right. But in comparing legacies, Manning stands alone.

Unitas will forever be remembered as a revolutionary of the game. His innovative approach to the passing game paved the way for the stars of today, but he simply cannot measure up to Peyton Manning. In terms of franchise records, there is no doubt that Manning is superior. He owns practically every Colt’s franchise passing record – including passing yards, passing touchdowns, attempts, completions, and completion percentage – an impressive feat considering how high Unitas set the bar. Even more impressive still is the fact that Manning has succeeded in today’s faster, more intense version of professional football. Modern athletes are bigger, faster, and stronger than they were in Unitas’ day. So while Manning would have absolutely owned the 1950s and 1960s, the same cannot necessarily be said of Unitas in the late 20th and early 21st Century.

When it comes to league-wide accolades the two are neck and neck, but Manning still has the edge in a close one. Both quarterbacks have been selected to an impressive ten Pro Bowls. They both have one Super Bowl victory a piece to their credit, but Manning also has the honor of being the Super Bowl MVP. Admittedly, Unitas has a couple of NFL World Championships to his credit, but that’s not 100 percent comparable to the Super Bowl since the AFL and NFL were not yet combined and competing against each other for an undisputed title yet. Unitas did beat out Manning in terms of All-Pro selections with six to Manning’s five, but Manning trumped Unitas in the more prestigious category of AP NFL MVP awards. Manning stands alone with a record four league MVP awards compared to Unitas’ three. While Unitas hangs with Manning almost tit-for-tat in awards, Manning usually seems to win in the bigger, flashier categories.

But the most compelling argument comes in comparing their best years, where Peyton Manning seemingly dwarfs Johnny Unitas. In 1959 Johnny Unitas set a career high scoring 32 touchdowns and compiling 2,899 passing yards. Four years later, in 1963, he established another career benchmark throwing for 3,481 yards and 20 touchdowns. Even combining Unitas’ career high marks together, as if they were accomplished in the same season, his statistics become pedestrian feats when compared to what Peyton Manning does on a routine basis. On three separate occasions – 2000, 2004, and 2009 – Manning eclipsed both single-season highs for Unitas the 32 TDs and the 3,481 yards. There has never been a season in Manning’s career when he threw for fewer yards than Unitas’ best season.

Peyton Manning’s best season came in 2004 when he threw for 4,557 yards and scored a then NFL record 49 TDs. This aerial barrage was a campaign for the ages. Manning’s TD record has only been surpassed by Tom Brady, who scored only one more TD than Manning (50) during the 2007 season. But even Touchdown Tom doesn’t stand up to Manning in the long run. Aside from Brady’s record breaking 2007, he has never eclipsed the 30 TD threshold… something Manning has done five times in his still relatively short career. While this debate isn’t about Brady, it speaks volumes that Manning’s numbers are consistently better than the current NFL record holder.

So when it comes to statistics, just about the only number that Unitas has that is greater than Manning is the one on his Jersey, where Manning wears 18 but Unitas donned 19). But, if you look at it in golf terms, not surprisingly Manning wins again.

In the intro to this debate Bleacher Fan asked who we would choose to lead our team. Undoubtedly it’s Manning. The guy has not only broken Unitas’ franchise record, he has set NFL milestones. He puts up stat lines that would be career years for most quarterbacks, past and present, nearly every season. He also does it with charisma. Peyton Manning is surely the greatest Colt’s quarterback of all time.

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The Extending the NFL Season Debate… Too Much of A Good Thing Is A Bad Thing

June 24, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

There seems to be a growing sentiment to not only cut back on the NFL preseason schedule, but to expand the regular season schedule to 18 games. Last August we had a debate revolving around the validity of even having a preseason at all. I argued that it was necessary while Bleacher Fan argued that it was totally unnecessary. Now, we’re discussing expanding the current 16 game schedule to 18 games. Let me go on record again – this is a bad idea.

Obviously, injuries come into play here. As it stands now, NFL locker rooms can often be mistaken for MASH units during Week 17. If players aren’t seriously hurt with serious injuries like torn ACLs, then they are hobbling around with nagging injuries like sprained ankles and sore shoulders. By Week 19, those ankles could end up broken and those shoulders could end up separated. Tom Brady and Ray Lewis have separately addressed the issue, citing injuries to the players. I hesitate using Ray Lewis, of all people, to make a point. But, along with Brady, represents players who have had injuries over the course of their respective careers. In this particular instance his opinion carries a lot of weight with me. Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, whose opinion should carry weight with a lot of people, is opposed to expanding the regular season. He says, “In the preseason you’re involved with experimentation as a player, but in the regular season, that’s two more games in which you are hitting as hard as you can hit.”

According to the current proposal, two extra regular season games would replace two of the preseason games. That leaves two preseason games to get ready for an “extended” regular season. That essentially leaves less time for coaches to evaluate talent on the team. Coaching staffs have enough trouble trimming rosters from the players that start training camp to the roster limit of 53 players. It’s going to be that much more difficult to accurately choose the best players with two less games of evaluation of talent.

I am also am not convinced that an expanded regular season would put that much additional revenue in the pockets of owners. Obviously there would be some increase in revenue, but you can also expect the players to demand a higher salary if they have to put their body through two extra regular season games. As far as I am concerned, you might expect the training staff of each team to ask for a raise as they will be working that much harder. Also, Bleacher Fan said, as a Cleveland Browns season ticket holder, he was expected to buy tickets to the two home preseason games, along with the eight game regular season game. The preseason games are at full price. Therefore, the majority, if not all of the tickets for preseason games, are sold anyway. Where‘s the financial windfall there?

Expanding the regular season seems like a sexy idea. But, you know how you are very much enjoying that double scoop of chocolate ice cream? When you get done, the craving is not finished and you want more!!! Feed that craving!! Well, you end up getting that extra scoop. Unfortunately, after finishing that extra scoop, you feel miserable. You feel bloated! Why did you get that extra scoop of ice cream? It scars your wonderful thoughts of the first two scoops.

There’s no need to overdo it, and possibly damage something that is so good right now. As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And the NFL certainly ain’t broke.

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The Best 2009 NFL Wild Card Game Debate – Can Pats Win Without Welker?

January 6, 2010

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

It is the first round of the NFL playoffs. If you are a fan of one of the teams in the playoffs, you love this time of year. But even if you are a fan of the NFL without a team in the playoffs (like the four of us writers at TSD), then you still love this time of year because it is January football! I especially love January NFL games on Saturday! It fills the big void in my Saturday viewing schedule that had previously been occupied by college football. Rest assured, I will be watching some NFL football at some point Saturday. However, the game I am focusing on takes place on Sunday as the Baltimore Ravens take on the New England Patriots.

These two teams played each other back in Week four, but you can just throw that out the window with yesterday’s garbage because it should provide little to no blueprint for this game. For one thing, that game was played in September while this game will obviously be played in the much colder month of January. I am not sure what the game-time temperature was during that game, but you can bet it was significantly warmer than the high of 24 (expected as of Wednesday morning) for kickoff on Sunday. That is actually warm compared to what it is in some parts of the country today. You always hear the players say they get used to the cold weather once the game gets started. Who knows if that is 100 percent accurate!

As I am sure you all know by now, the Patriots lost wide receiver Wes Welker last week after he tore his ACL and MCL. Losing a guy with 123 catches (despite missing two earlier games) is a damaging loss for the Patriots. He is often the go-to guy for Tom Brady, and is able to open some things up for Randy Moss. But, as they say, the show must go on. While you cannot replace a guy like Welker, rookie Julian Edelman will sure try. Edelman is not some bum the Patriots front office picked up off the street Sunday. He had 37 catches this season, including ten last week.

The Ravens were able to secure a playoff bid after winning ugly in Oakland last week. This is a different team than the one from Week four. At that point, quarterback Joe Flacco was on fire, having thrown for over 800 yards in his first three games. But since then, he has cooled off and the 2009 version of Baltimore’s team has become more of the traditional Ravens team, with a strong defense and a strong running game.

Who knew running back Ray Rice was this good outside of the fine people at Rutgers? You may remember Rice from his playing days at Rutgers just a few years ago, but I would bet you did not think he’d turn into a versatile, Pro Bowl running back. He had nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage (1,339 rushing and 702 receiving). He is the focal point of the Ravens offense, something few would have predicted back in August.

The Ravens have a real shot at the Pats this week. This is setting up to be the type of games the Ravens prefer – a tough, hardnosed, physical game in cold conditions. But, it’s still New England, and the team still has that aura about them, to some degree. I am definitely looking forward to seeing if Baltimore can pull off a mild upset in what I believe is the best Wild Card game of this weekend.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate – Patriots and Colts Battle Again

November 13, 2009

Read the arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek about which games they believe are the best of THIS weekend.

We are over halfway through the NFL regular season, and we are, sadly, closing in on the end of the college football season, too. We just kicked off the season the other day, right? Wow, it always flies by! Nevertheless, we enter this weekend with some interesting NFL matchups. After looking at the schedule, we all know what the best game of the weekend is and I was not about to skip it. The undefeated Indianapolis Colts welcome the New England Patriots to town. Is it just me, or does this game always seem to pop up on the schedule? This is the 14th time these two teams have met (including three times in the playoffs). The Patriots have won eight of 13, but the Colts have four out of the past five. It is without a doubt the best NFL rivalry of this decade.

As always, it is a big game. The Colts come into the game undefeated at 8-0, though they have been tested the past two weeks against the San Francisco 49ers and the Houston Texans. Peyton Manning, once again, is having an MVP caliber season. Through eight games, he has thrown for 2,545 yards and 16 touchdowns. I thought he might have somewhat of a down season, for his standards anyway since he no longer has Marvin Harrison to throw to. Add in the fact that the other starting receiver, Anthony Gonzalez, has not played since week one, and there is a recipe for inconsistency at the wide receiver position. But guys like rookie Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon have picked up the slack, combining for 55 catches and six touchdowns. Head coach Jim Caldwell has done a magnificent job of picking up right where Tony Dungy left off.

Meanwhile, the Patriots are who we thought they were. The Patriots come into this matchup with a 6-2 overall record. New England has had its share of close games, too. Tom Brady, after a slow start, has picked up the pace and thrown for nearly 2,400 yards and 16 touchdowns. The usual suspects are still there at wide receivers with Randy Moss and Wes Welker having solid seasons. Remember when Moss was considered a bad seed? That seems like such a long time ago now! The offense as a whole is third in the league and the defense quietly is the second ranked defense right now.

New England needs this game to send a message to the Colts that they are still a force to be reckoned with in the AFC. It will also keep the Patriots alive in the battle for home field advantage in the AFC, which is very important in January… especially if these two teams are to get together again. Indianapolis needs this game to distance itself overall by three games over the Patriots. The Colts most definitely do not want to go to Foxboro in January, having been there and done that and knowing they do not want to do it again! It is quite a bit warmer at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Overall, I am definitely looking forward to this game. It is a Sunday night NBC matchup so we will all be able to watch it. It should be another classic in a long line of great games in this rivalry.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate – It Is Exam Time in the Mile-High City

October 9, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument and Loyal Homer’s arguments about the which game this weekend is the one that you CANNOT miss.

FINALLY, we all will get to find out if the Denver Broncos are for real this year!

While their 4-0 start to the 2009 season has already exceeded expectations for many, there are still questions surrounding the team’s ability to compete against the league’s elite. To date, the Broncos have defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns, the Oakland Raiders, and the Dallas Cowboys – none of which are being mistaken for Super Bowl contenders this season.

This weekend, however, we should get some answers as to just how good the Broncos REALLY when the team plays host to the always dangerous New England Patriots.

After a shaky start to the season, the Patriots seem to have found a rhythm once again, as evidenced by impressive wins in the previous two games against truly formidable opponents in the Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens. In fact, many pegged the Ravens as being the best team in the NFL heading into their matchup against New England last weekend. Thanks to an unfortunate drop in the end zone late in the game by Ravens wide receiver Mark Clayton, the Patriots were able to hold them off. With that victory, the Patriots officially tossed the proverbial hat back in the ring as legitimate contenders for the AFC crown.

Now that the Patriots have answered some of the questions about their claim to being one of the best in the AFC, it is time for the Broncos to prove worth.

The most interesting battle on the field during this game will be examining how the Broncos’ defense (which is currently ranks third in the NFL in total defense) handles New England’s offense. The Broncos on defense have given up only 6.5 points per game during the first four weeks of the season. Let’s be honest, though, the offenses in Oakland, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and yes… even Dallas… are not that impressive. In fact, the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders have COMBINED for only 91 total points scored, a total that is lower than what 13 other teams in the league! This weekend, however, the Broncos are facing a dangerous Patriots offense that is averaging 21.8 points per game on offense.

In fairness, Denver’s offense has not exactly been a disappointment, either. Despite some preseason criticism heaped onto new Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels after quarterback Jay Cutler left town – and then the subsequent issues surrounding wide receiver Brandon Marshall – the Broncos have managed to move the ball with reasonable success thanks in large part to a rushing attack that is averaging 148 yards per game. The rushing attack, which features Correll Buckhalter and rookie Knowshon Moreno, poses a considerable challenge for a New England defense that has undergone very heavy personnel changes in recent seasons.

It is time for the Denver Broncos to put the questionable record on the line. This potential playoff preview will be very competitive, and should reveal just how impressive the Broncos’ 4-0 start is.

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The Overcoming Team Obstacles Debate – Plan Ahead… “It Wasn’t Raining When Noah Built The Ark”

September 25, 2009

Read the debate intro, Sports Geek’s argument and Loyal Homer’s argument about which is the easier obstacle for a team in the NFL to overcome, a week one injury to the star player, or the slow decline in performance by the team’s veteran leader.

Which brand of life’s lemons is easier to make lemonade from?

It is difficult to gauge which is the worst of two different situations, because each presents a unique set of complications that must be addressed. In the case of this debate, the choice was to discuss which is the lesser of two evils – to lose your star player to injury, or to deal with the decline if performance of a once-productive veteran.

When a player is lost to injury, the coach’s “choice” of whom to play is already made for them. Thanks to the injury that was sustained, the coach is forced to look towards the backup player, who is expected to step in and fill the hole vacated. This may help eliminate some second-guessing on the part of the head coach, but the level of talent that is placed on the field is markedly less than before the injury took place.

As Sports Geek points out, coaches prefer black-and-white issues. When a coach has to decide how to utilize a now less-reliable veteran, it creates many complicated questions that can be difficult to answer. With those questions comes scrutiny and the potential for conflict within the organization, especially if the coach is perceived to have made the wrong choice.

Loyal Homer brings up the fact, though, that the sudden loss of a star player creates problems because a team must redesign their entire gameplan to accommodate that loss. Using Loyal Homer’s example of Brian Urlacher, the Chicago Bears had built their defensive gameplan around the expectation that Urlacher would be on the field. Urlacher, as noted by Sports Geek, has been one of the best defensive players in the NFL for nearly a decade. When Urlacher went out with a wrist injury during week one of the season, Bears head coach Lovie Smith was forced to redesign his entire strategy at a moment’s notice to compensate.

Both Sports Geek and Loyal Homer made very strong arguments, but I am awarding this verdict to Loyal Homer.

There were key example raised by Loyal Homer that ultimately won the debate was regarding the San Diego Chargers. Since 2001, the Chargers offensive gameplan has been simple – feature running back LaDainian Tomlinson and force the opposing defenses to stop him. Tomlinson was such a powerful presence on offense that he single-handedly carried the Chargers to FOUR AFC West Division Championships. During that same time, the Chargers only had two losing seasons, in 2001 (Tomlinson’s rookie year) and 2003.

2008, as mentioned by Loyal Homer, was a different type of season for the Chargers, though. As Tomlinson’s performance began to decline, the Chargers were forced to look to the other players on their team, such as quarterback Philip Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates, and backup running back Darren Sproles, to help pick up the slack. The reason that the Chargers have been successful in doing this is because they had time to prepare and develop their players. A smart coach doesn’t “put all his eggs in one basket”. Instead, he relies very heavily on the stars of today while planning for and developing the stars of tomorrow. In the case where a star player is injured while in his prime, the coach doesn’t have the luxury of that preparation. Instead, the coach must start a player who may not yet be fully prepared for full-time competition in the NFL.

When you consider the example that Sports Geek raised about the New England Patriots, who still managed to win 11 games without quarterback Tom Brady, you cannot ignore the fact that they still missed the playoffs, which Loyal Homer pointed out. If Brady were healthy and could have earned the Patriots just ONE more win, they would have reached the postseason. They did not reach the playoffs, though, essentially making their 11-5 record worth the exact same value as the Detroit Lions’ 0-16 record. At the end of the year, neither team won enough games to extend their season, so both failed in what they had tried to accomplish.

Neither is an ideal situation. What makes the injury to a star player a more damaging loss is simply the fact that there is no planning or preparation for it. A good coach with the foresight to read the writing on the wall can plan for the eventual phasing out of a star player whose time is simply running out in the NFL, and can begin to phase in the next generation of star talent.

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