Tuesday 29 January 2008

Mystic Macka


With the NFL season coming to its close and the Heineken Cup I feel it is time for the post-season autopsy report on my predictions for this year. Now I couldn't find my NFL predictions for this year in any of my old posts but truthfully this is how I would have (confidently) called it at the start of the year:

AFC
Patriots
Colts
Chargers
Ravens
Jaguars
Bengals

NFC
Cowboys
Bears
Seahawks
Tampa Bay
Saints
The Pack

Which means I wouldn't have been that wrong at all actually (4/12 wrong).. then there were my playoff picks at the mid point in the season

AFC
1. New England
2. Indianapolis
3. Pittsburgh
4. San Diego
5. Tennessee
6. Cleveland

NFC
1.Green Bay
2.Dallas
3.Seattle
4.New Orleans
5.New York Giants
6.Detroit

Not too shabby I think you'll agree 3/12 wrong is pretty good I think

With ze rugby I was kinda worse, Heino predictions for the knock out round were...

1.Biarritz Olympique
2.Stade Francais
3.Neath-Swansea Ospreys
4.Perpignan
5.Llanelli Scarlets
6.Leicester Tigers
7.Saracens (Best runner-up)
8.Toulouse (Best runner-up)

In reality...

1.Saracens
2.London Irish
3.Gloucester
4.Toulouse
5.Cardiff
6.Munster
7.Perpignan (Best runner-up)
8.Ospreys (Best runner-up)

So painfully wrong, 4/8 of my knock out selections were right but none of em in the right places. This is essentially why I am not a gambling man

Ready For Business


The Giants arrived in Arizona for the build-up to the Superbowl yesterday with the entire team clad in black suits; a mark of solidarity and a message to the Patriots that the trip to Phoenix was not simply a vacation following their surprise victory in the NFC championship game, they're all business. And classy, definitely classy. First blood to New York

Saturday 26 January 2008

Here's to you Mr. Tomlinson


I never said anything about the NFL championship games last week primarily because of my extreme disappoint at the Giants beating the Pack. Belicheck could just start his second stringers against New York and we'd probably get a better game.

Anyway the Giants D turned up and shut down the Packers rushing offence, forced Favre to pass and the old man can't do absolutely everything by himself. Still, considering Green Bay had no ground attack its a credit to how dire the Giants are that the game was even that close.

In the AFC New England eventually pulled out comfortable winners against a battered San Diego outfit that really were in no condition to take on that Patriots team. Rivers could barely move in the pocket, Gates was operating at around 50% of his usual usefulness and L.T. was a spectator for the entire game after playing in the first couple of series.

As far as el Superbowl goes my brain is screaming Pats for the win, it is the glaringly obvious choice BUT New England have been shaky all post season. They were rattled by some teams in the last few weeks of the regular season (including the Giants) and they look like they've lost some of their swagger. The Giants on the other hand are peaking right now. The defence is doing all the hard work and they've got a couple of backs to carry the majority of the offensive responsibility so Eli doesn't have to. The more time the Giants can keep Manning from HAVING to throw the ball the better chance they'll have.

Still need a miracle though

Monday 14 January 2008

Referee!

Bravo good sir, bravo

Walking Amongst Giants


From personal recollection, there always seems to be one kind of random team in the final four of the NFL playoffs. A team that is capable of being unbelievably good or diabolically poor. New York are this years bogey choice. Last week I don't think I was alone in expecting another postseason implosion from Eli Manning but it never came. The game against Tampa went pretty much to plan and the Giants uncharacteristically kept true to the script and advanced to meet up with division rivals Dallas for the third time this season.

Now the Cowboys had already beaten the Giants twice this season and despite worries earlier in the week, star wideout Terrell Owens was fit to play. Dallas may have been going through a rough patch but most would have picked America's Team over lesser Manning. I know I did. But I was wrong, the OTHER young QB capitulated this evening; Romo was completely unable to deal with the mounting Giants pressure and since his O-Line had been on the pitch for soooooooo long (they had a 10 minute TD drive in the first half) they tired as the game closed. With fatigue came the inability to block. This led to a hilariously porous offensive line. Which led to Romo being hounded and hurried. In turn this led to Romo throwing a pick with 9 seconds to go inside the Giants 20.

So Manning survives another week and will lead his Giants to Lambeau field to play old man Favre and the Pack on their home turf. I reiterate; either the Giants will click and pull out a frankly historic performance out of their asses OR lesser Manning will bottle in spectacular Rex Grosman fashion and New York will be thumped in a humiliating and reasonably embarrassing fashion.

The B-Team


I think I'm ready to admit that San Diego are a viable Superbowl team now. Not only did they beat the Colts in Indy but by the end of the game they didn't have Rivers, LT or Gates. Granted Rivers went out later in the game but LT was gone early and Gates, although he did play, was nowhere near 100%. San Diego needed the B-Team to step up and step up they did indeed.

Jackson and Chambers made up for Gates absence in the passing game whilst Turner was an ample replacement for LT on the ground. The defence helped out too, picking off Manning twice and doing just enough to keep the Chargers out in front until the end despite Peyton throwing for just over 400 yards. Linebacker Cooper had an exceptional game with 15 tackles and CB Cromartie (the interception machine) was unlucky to have an 89 yard pick six called back for a pretty lame holding call.

If the Chargers allow that kind of yardage through the air against the Pats next week though, I'd expect Brady and Co. to punish them much more than Indy. San Diego need to sort out that pass D and pray to god that their starters are ok. It worked out fine in the end today but to go whole playoff game against this New England team without your starting RB, QB and primary receiver will only ever end embarrassingly

Sunday 13 January 2008

Guns Of The Patriot


So much for Jacksonville being the only team capable of stopping New England. Credit to the Jags though they managed to match the Pats score for score until the end of the third quarter when the New England defence finally forced them into a field goal situation which left the score 21-17 Pats. On New England's next series Brady marched his team down the pitch and picked up another TD, 28-17. Now eleven points behind the Jags were never going to recover and New England ran out eventual winners 31-20.

For the first half the Jags made the Patriots work though, young QB Gerrard, in his rookie playoff campaign did extremely well going 12/14 in the fist half, nearly perfect. Unfortunately for Jacksonville Tom Brady was perfect in the first half and then again for most of the second. He went 26/28 in the game! The two incomplete passes were also drops by his receivers on very catchable passes; not Brady's fault. That level of perfection in the playoffs is quite frankly ridiculous.

What may be even more remarkable than Brady's near perfect play is the fact that during his immaculate display Randy Moss caught only one pass for fourteen yards. In the entire match. Not only that but RB Maroney went for over 100 yards. And I thought New England didn't have a running game? In contrast Jacksonville's own rushing offence was well contained by the Pats, Jones-Drew and Taylor held to just 66 yards between them on the day.

This game has to finally bring an end to the accusations that New England have no ground attack; its simply not true. Maroney and Faulk just get forgotten in the midst of the Brady-Moss hype; they are an extremely dangerous and capable pair of backs. Moss' relatively quiet game against the Jags highlighted that when pushed to, the Pats can pound the rock as well as anybody in the NFL.

With Moss occupying most of the Jag's defence some of the Pats 'lesser' offensive names got some limelight. Stallworth, Gaffney, Welker and Watson all cashed in on the Jacksonville fear of Moss. Double covering the big guy just left his mates open and freed up the rest of the Brady bunch to showcase their ability.

I thought if Moss was smothered and New England forced to run, they may bottle. That maybe a good ground game would outpace their linebackers but no, that didn't happen. And the Pats were only too ready to deal with the double/triple coverage on Moss. The Jags may have been the last team capable of even keeping up with the Pats scoring machine for 2 quarters. This team is unstoppable.

Return Of The Pack


There are few moments whilst watching sport when it is permissible to dance around like a lunatic, for example; Leinster/Munster winning a big game in the H-Cup, an English club doing poorly in the H-Cup, when Ireland beat England at anything, if England get beaten by anyone at anything and perhaps most recently watching the Irish cricket team's Odyssey unfold in the last world cup (memories of a Jamaican bobsleigh team spring to mind).

Everyone has their own personal vendettas in this regard, their own private list of teams that they would love to see embarrassed and humiliated (preferably on home turf) on a regular basis. When it comes to the NFL the target of this sadistic (albeit irrational) mentality happen to be the Seattle Seahawks franchise. I can't really explain why this is. I've never been to Seattle, from what I hear its lovely.

Its not that I particularly dislike any one player either, they're all equally worthless. They have some good defensive players too, I like defence. But not this one. My problem with Seattle is that when you get right down to it, they are decidedly average; neither spectacularly impressive or shockingly poor yet ever present in the post season party. That guy that just stands in the corner quietly doing nothing before going home early without leaving much of an impression on anybody.

Every time I have seen Seattle in the playoffs this is exactly what happens; they arrive with the same amount of pomp as every other team, maybe win one game, then get thumped and head back to the North-West with a whimper. Same thing has happened again this year. Three TDs for old man Favre as well as three for the 200+ yard rusher Grant the (we don't have a running offence) Packers are looking good to make the Superbowl right now.

They came back from 14-0 down to destroy the Seahawks 42-20. Although Seattle are pants, that's still pretty impressive, clinical if you will. I'm telling ya, Green Bay's aggressive pass offence under Favre coupled with this new found running game allied to an already intimidating defence; there is NO reason Green Bay can't go all the way. I have serious doubts that Eli (lesser) Manning or Tony Romo could beat this guys, the Pack for the Superbowl methinks

Monday 7 January 2008

Lights Out! I want to sleep...


This may have been one of the worst playoff games I have ever seen. And this was mainly the fault of only one team. The Titans, having realised that they had no real offensive ability with which to dismantle San Diego's defensive unit and that their own defence was woefully unprepared to deal with the Chargers offence decided to try and bore the Bolts to death. Two early field goals gave Tennessee a slim lead which they clung onto for dear life but that was never going to be enough as San Diego finally began to get the ball moving on offence in the second half.

Credit to the Titans, they did manage to keep Tomlinson under wraps for most of the game but in the end it was the Chargers running back who played a pivotal role in swinging ze game the way of the Californian outfit. The first TD came off a playfake which pretty much the entire Titans linebacker corps fell for leaving WR Jackson free to make the catch from Rivers at the two and wrestle his way over. The second TD was run in by LT himself. Although hit mid flight over the line of scrimmage he had the presence of mind to pop the ball over the line for the score in comical fashion before celebrating in an equally comical fashion.

Their inability to get the running game going could be a source of great concern for the Chargers with FB Lorenzo Neal out and now Antonio Gates uncertain for the next round at Indy. Granted they managed pretty well through the air today with Rivers passing for close to 300 yards and two receivers going over 100 yards receiving. But the Colts are better. They won't leave receivers as hideously open as the Titans did and although the Chargers O-line did a good job of blocking the Titans pass rush the Colts D-line will prove much tougher opposition. The Chargers will need their own defence to step up as well. They creaked against the Titans running game early on and ye they dealt with the Tennessee passing game but compared with Manning's elite in Indy the Titans pass attacks is pathetic. The Colts have a better offensive line, better receivers and a better QB. I know San Diego beat them in the regular season but that was with a lot of help from their special teams, twas in San Diego too.

Should be a good one

The Buc Stops Here


If one Manning rises up the football ranks does this mean that the other has to die? Or at least lose? We may find out next week when older (and so far greater) Manning and his Colts go up against the Chargers. Younger (and until proven otherwise, lesser) Manning will still around next week too after his Giants dominated a pretty poor Tampa Bay team 24-14.

Sure Manning played well today, and the running game looked competent enough but the fact of the matter is that this Tampa Defence is a spent force. It has been the backbone of the franchise for years but at this stage is looking the worse for wear. With their D unable to contain Eli (a phrase I never thought I'd use) the Bucs needed big plays from their offence which just never materialised in the face of immense Giants pressure. An injury to Galloway early on robbed Tampa Bay of their only legitimate deep threat and despite a valiant effort reserve running back Graham managed little in place of the injured Cadillac Williams. The running game was non-existent and the porous offensive line let the Giants defence bully Garcia and the Bucs' passing offence all game long.

The Giants will in all probability go into Dallas full of confidence, especially if the rumours that T.O. is out for the Cowboys turn out to be true. I'm still not entirely sure lesser Manning is capable of taking the Giants the whole way to the promised land and next week will be a true test of his credentials. The game against the Cowboys has the potential to devolve into a high scoring offensive affair which so not only will New York need a BIG game from its defence (especially its D-line) but Manning may have to step up and play the game of his life.

Still at least he's going up against fellow young QB playoff bottler Romo and not old man Favre.

(pictured above is Camilla Decesare sp?, she's Bucs' QB Garcia's wife)

Sunday 6 January 2008

The Twelve Playoff Labours Of Pocket Hercules


1. Win Wildcard [Done]
2. Win Divisional game
3. Win Conference
4. Score a receiving TD [Done]
5. Score a rushing TD [Done]
6. Score a TD on special teams [Nearly done]
7. Rush for over 100 yards
8. Go for over 100 yards in the air
9. Get 100 yards on the ground and through the air in one game
10. Win Superbowl
11. Be Superbowl MVP
12. Be hilariously short, stocky and fast [Done]

Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jags beat Pittsburgh last night even though they did try their level best to throw the game away in the second half. Kicking the go-ahead field goal with around 40 ticks left on the clock Jacksonville now advance to play either New England or division rivals Indy depending on which team wins the Chargers-Titans clash this evening.

After all of five minutes careful consideration I compiled the above list to act not only as a method of measuring Jones-Drew's progression towards 'legend' (n the true Munster sense of the word) status but to act as a barometer of the Jags offensive prowess throughout the playoffs. But mostly I just want Jones-Drew to see more game time and get more ball.

Its pretty good to see Jacksonville progress, they get kind of jipped by having the misfortune of sharing their division with the Colts. That pretty much guarantees the Franchise a wildcard berth every year no matter how good a season they have. Sharing a state with the Bucs and the Dolphins (however shit they may be) as well as two prominent college teams robs a lot of deserved limelight for the Jaguars too. About time they got their due.

Granted Pittsburgh aren't the REAL kings of the AFC North (Cleveland anyone... *cough* and Baltimore *cough*) Jacksonville, by most reports cos I didn't get to see this game, dominated. Heres hoping they get the Colts in the next round and humiliate them too.

Please don't draw New England... please?

I hate Seattle, I truly do


I began writing this post with about two minutes left in the Redskins - Seahawks game with Seattle up 28-14 (correction 35-14) and my fury rising steadily. I'm not usually a fan of either team but I love the underdog so naturally I was gunning for Washington to pull the win out.. but sadly it wasn't to be. And there was the whole 'gonna win it for Taylor' thing which, as cliche as it may have been, would have been unreal. No unfortunately the potential for a feel good playoff journey on the Redskins emotional rollercoaster has been swiped from us all by those bastard Seahawks.

Don't get me wrong I'm not just angry about Seattle advancing purely because they knocked out the Redskins. Oh no, my grievance runs far deeper than that. I don't like Seattle because they are ALWAYS in the playoffs. Not only is their omni-presence tedious but it is, in my opinion, completely unjustified. Their team (unlike Indy or New England, two other constants in the post-season) are devoid of any real talent, their division is hilariously weak, and this year their schedule was equally weak. Over-hyped, no-talent, boring beyond belief... they have no redeeming features as a football team. Even the Dolphins have Jason Taylor at least.

To put this in a 'soccer' context its kinda the equivalent of having this team you hate with a passion (irrational hatred is welcomed too I don't discriminate) that gets dumped in some absolutely pathetic group in the Champos league drawing several unknown teams from the depths of eastern Europe, pummeling them into submission and waltzing into the knock-out stages fresh as a daisy. Now imagine that happening every year. Its sporting injustice I tell ya.

Fuck the Seahawks

Booo Seattle

Screw Microsoft

And that Starbucks malarkey

...but thank you for Frasier