I'm so excited about the Coin Flip Challenge that I can't wait to get started.
Rams - Falcons Notes:
As bad as the Rams’ linebackers and corners were in coverage, I would like to point out another serious problem with the Rams’ defense Saturday: Leonard Little, who is supposed to be one of the league’s premier pass rushers, did next to nothing. Little is one of the rare pass-rushing defensive ends who lines up more against the offense’s right tackle than against the offense’s left tackle. Against the left-handed Vick, that’s an advantage, and he’ll need to put consistent pressure on Vick to keep him from piling up the yards against the Rams’ defense.Little has certainly been inconsistent this season, probably a combination of his legal troubles and a lingering groin injury. Teams have also been able to double team him, but with the improved play of their first round DTs, Pickett and Jimmy Kennedy, the strength of this Rams defense is the front four.
At the same time, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett had a surprisingly strong game for the Rams, creating pressure and stopping the run. He’ll need to duplicate that effort against the Falcons’ T.J. Duckett, who is one of the best in the league at running for short yardage up the middle. For most of his four-year career, Pickett has been a disappointment. It could turn out that he’s their best hope for a second consecutive playoff upset.
“We have to force him to become a pocket passer,” Little said. “We can’t have him out of the pocket, throwing the ball on the run, or even take off running. Most teams try to do that, but most teams haven’t been successful. We need to try and do that.”So at least they understand what needs to be done. But they also know #7 had one of the best games of his career in against the Rams in Week 2, so knowing and doing are definitely two different things here.
I've made the progression I would have liked to make so far, and I'm excited about getting out there. I'm telling you that I'm chomping at the bit. I'm ready to play. I can't wait to get back out there.
Unknown Column has opened the new year on a nice streak. He's at 16-10 on the season and has five picks for tonight.
I'm going to start getting back into picking these crazy basketball games even though I don't spend a lot of time following the sport. I do know how to read though and this will at least be an interesting challenge.
I've also dug up my old archive from last season's hockey picks. They are separated by months. All of that stuff was pretty much the reason I started this site, so until the NHL returns, I may have to start breaking rule #1.
I can't contain my excitement.Current 2005 Beach Record: 3-3
Jets - Steelers Notes:
"(There's) no traction. It's dirt," Jets offensive coordinator Paul Hackett said after the Jets' victory in San Diego. "That's basically what it is. You have to be real careful. It depends on how frozen it is and how much snow there might be. There might be certain cleats we have to wear. You don't know until you go out and play on it and the receivers slip -- and that hurt us a lot, really, in the passing game the first time."
Said Steelers running back Jerome Bettis: "If anything, it gives us an advantage. We know how to play on it."
The Steelers have either earned home-field advantage as the AFC's No. 1 seed or wound up hosting the AFC Championship Game five times since 1992. But only once - after the 1995 regular season - did they get to the Super Bowl. They weren't so fortunate in 1992, 1994, 1997 and 2001, when they were upset at home either in the AFC Championship Game or the divisional round.Um, what. Okay whatever. I’ll just keep reading.
There are only 20 players from this year's team who were on the roster when the Steelers were upset by the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots in the 2001 AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh.The knock on Shottenheimer throughout the years is that his teams always play not to lose. That was absolutely the case last Saturday. Cowher seems to have a little of that on him too and considering he’s coming into this game with a rookie quarterback, it will be interesting to see how the Steelers manage this game.
"We're a lot more mature," wide receiver Plaxico Burress said. "Playing in that  game, I was thinking this is how it's supposed to be every year. We didn't understand the significance of having home-field advantage and playing in the AFC championship. We already had ourselves thinking Super Bowl, and we didn't take care of that one game and it cost us."
Cowher - like his mentor, Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer - has experienced his share of playoff failure. He knows that for all the achievements of the regular season, the ultimate measuring stick for a coach is what happens in the postseason. One Super Bowl appearance - he wound up losing to the Cowboys 10 years ago - just isn't good enough. In eight postseason appearances, Cowher is 7-8.
In the Steelers' 17-6 win over the Jets on Dec. 12, the Jets used a 3-5 front a majority of the time. Of course, the Jets used their base 4-3, but when they weren't using that or the 3-5 they changed up with 4-4 and 3-4 fronts. Every now and then they walked a safety up and attacked the Burress-less Steelers with 10 men in the box.
The Steelers still ran the ball. In fact, Jerome Bettis matriculated his way through a 10-man front for a 12-yard touchdown run to salt the game away in the fourth quarter.
So were the Steelers surprised by the rare 3-5 alignment?
"It surprised us in the sense they hadn't done it and then they did a lot of it," said Bettis. "We didn't expect that heavy dose. It made it difficult to pound the football."
Was it troublesome?
"At first it was," said left tackle Marvel Smith. "Once we went to the sideline and saw what they were trying to do to us, we made the adjustments we needed to to be able to block it. After that it really wasn't a problem."
Was there one key adjustment?
"Communication," Smith said.
Ever see anything like that?
"We've had teams go 4-4 on us," said center Jeff Hartings. "That's probably even tougher than a 3-5. But no I'd never seen a 3-5, not on first down."
Do you expect to see it this week?
"Yeah," Hartings said. "They've used it since then. I think they like it."
"I don't have any doubts they're going to try it again this week," said Smith.
The Steelers rushed for 120 yards that day. They've encountered only three worse rushing days this season. But even though the Jets dared the Steelers to throw, Roethlisberger finished with his worst day as a passer. His rating was a season-low 33.6. So the plan obviously worked. But can the Jets employ such a plan with Burress on the field?
"Nope," said Burress.
I guess, this place is pretty much becoming a "Colts for the Super Bowl" sounding board.
Q: Because of the nature of the position, most of that talk will surround (Colts quarterback) Peyton Manning. You’re confident he can handle that, are you not?
Tony Dungy: He’ll be fine and I think our team will be fine. Most of the talk will be about New England the last time and how many times they’ve beaten us in Foxboro. It will be about Peyton’s record against (New England Patriots Head Coach Bill) Belichick and it will be about us being a dome team and how it’s going to be cold weather. None of those three things will have any determination in the game Sunday, but that’s what the talk will be.
Q: Cold weather . . . you don’t see that as a big deal, do you?
TD: It’s really mental. We can prepare for it. We’re going to walk around in it. We’ll have some chilly weather here, but with Jacksonville, there was nothing they could do. They couldn’t even simulate it and they went up there and they outplayed Green Bay. Atlanta did it a couple of years ago up in Green Bay. There’s no formula that just because it’s going to be cold the home team has to win.
Q: Why can this offense work in cold weather? What makes it weather proof?
TD: If the quarterback can hold on to the ball and throw it and if the guys can catch it, there’s really no difference. If it’s so cold and so windy that you can’t throw and catch, then it’s going to be tough for both teams. If that’s not the case, then you’re going to function well. I can remember San Francisco once going into Chicago (for the NFC Championship Game following the 1988 season) when it was so cold that you supposedly couldn’t do anything. They went in and killed the Bears with a precision passing game and with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice and John Taylor. They went in and said, ‘We’re going to get the job done.’
I asked a few NFL coaches why teams don't seem to run the ball very well in the playoffs but still win games.
- One offensive coordinator said, "Only the best quarterbacks are left when we get to the playoffs, and they have a better chance of beating you with their arm than by handing off."
- A defensive coordinator suggested, "We are so wired to a team's running game after 16 games that we are very well prepared to stop most good backs."
- A personnel man offered, "You get against a team like Indianapolis or Minnesota, and you can't score fast enough on the ground to stay with them."
I can't even read articles about the NHL anymore. Last night, I watched most of espn's Big Monday double header (Syracuse/Notre Dame - UConn/Oklahoma). I don't even like basketball (rule #1) but I at least enjoy the overall environment and passion of intercollegiate athletics. I'm planning on shutting off my cable tv for the months of February and March. I may even read a book or two.
More about the Moss thing:
It's hard to find a complete transcript of Dungy's press conference from yesterday. In addition to the majority of the quotes he's been getting, it's important to make sure this one gets included too:
"It’s not the kind of thing you want to see on national TV, but I understand what it was all about. Anyone who has played in the NFC Central knows what that’s about. The fans in Green Bay have a tradition in the parking lot after the game where they moon the visiting team’s bus. … I had seen it seven times because when I was with the Vikings, we lost to them seven times up there."
I don't personally pay much attention to stories like this, but it's a much larger issue now. It's become a question of 1) what is and what isn't suitable for broadcast television, 2) what is broadcast television anymore, and 3) who is best able to determine what can and can't (if anything) be seen by anyone willing to seek it out?
Memphis Bengal over at the Sports Frog:
Joe Buck of Fox and ESPN in general are taking well deserved shots over their hysterics, and I couldn't be more pleased.
Joe ("that's disgusting") Buck, who apparently is happy to collect for commercials lampooning such behavior is all of a sudden finding it hard to maintain journalistic cred. Good.
ESPN with Chris ("Randy Moss disgraced Lambeau Field") Berman and not running the fake-mooning on its initial SC shows on Sunday night backtracking one day later and running the highlights? Priceless. ESPN getting called out for having a show (Tilt) featuring a clearly implied blow job scene but getting its panties in a bunch over a fake-mooning? Beyond priceless.
The last 2 days coverage of Randy Moss endzone celebration are going to go down in sports management and journalism school history. The media and people who made an issue about this are going to be embarassed for the rest of their lives with questions from their kids, their grandkids, their friends and their future peers.
We do live in interesting times. We are the first generation to memorialize everything that we do on video. We are entering the first generation that will able to search through all of that video and find what ever they want.
Future generations will thank us for the entertainment we are offering them.
Future generations will always laugh at the silliness of their predecessors. You think most 6 year old kids today will grow up concerned that their teacher is gay, or their boss is a woman, or their son-in-law is black (or white, or asian, or hispanic).
America's pants have officially become too tight for it's waist. It's time to accept it and go out to buy some new clothes. You are getting old.
"I will say one thing about Moss ... probably no one in the country can appreciate what is behind that," Dungy said. "What happens — and if you play in that division, which I did for a long time, you know — when you leave the parking lot in Green Bay that's kind of a tradition their fans have. They stand next to the fence as the buses go out and they moon the buses.
"Randy has had about six or seven years of those guys mooning him as he's left after a loss and I think that was his way of saying, 'OK, appreciate the fun, you guys had your fun, here's a little shout back at you.' That's what that was all about."
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