“I like to call it a one-two punch. Me and Andrew [Luck], we’ve been around each other for quite a while now leading up from the Heisman to the draft and training and stuff. Andrew’s a good guy, just meeting him and his family, just knowing what type of person he is and just knowing that we’re going to grow together, how young we are, we going to be here for a while. We’re not planning on going nowhere. We plan to be here, we plan to grow and we plan to win a lot of games.”
The Indianapolis Colts have taken Defensive End Bjoern Werner 24th in this 2013 Draft.
Smart move for the Colts. Their offense is fairly sound, so beefing up their defense would be welcome in making them a bit more meaner and dangerous.
Mike Caldwell, or, Jim Tyson
Have you always wondered how Jim Caldwell could entirely revamp his bland persona? And have you spent many hours wondering about it like me? I think I figured it out: just give him Mike Tyson’s tattoo.
Anyone else have other suggestions?
Winners and Losers: Wild Card Round edition
So, that wasn’t the most memorable weekend of football, was it? Still, we’ve got several interesting match-ups set up for next week, and who will ever forget Ray Lewis’s final pre-game dance in Baltimore?
Onto the winners and losers of the wild card round:
The Green Bay Packers as contenders: The defense figured out a way to bottle up Adrian Peterson in their third game against the superhuman running back in the last six week and Aaron Rodgers was efficient in spreading the ball around (completions to 10 different receivers). Experience counts in the playoffs, and even though it was against an inferior opponent, the Packers reminded everyone why even with an uneven regular season, they’re still going to be a tough out in these playoffs. I can’t wait for Green Bay-San Francisco next week.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady: Anything can happen in the playoffs, but I imagine the two quarterbacks were texting each other throughout the weekend marveling at the level of competition that the AFC teams displayed. We’re still on track for an AFC Championship Game showdown between these two in Denver.
Arian Foster: Most rushing yards by a running back in his first three career playoff games in NFL history. By the way: undrafted.
Christian Ponder: Nothing like a bad performance from your back-up QB to enhance your own value by default. Although I think the Vikings would be wise to explore the free agent and trade market for a quarterback this off-season.
Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks in general: The numbers weren’t spectacular for Wilson, and there was no 50 point performance from the offense this time around. But down 14-0 on the road in the first quarter, all the questions came back: were these Seahawks just a great team at home? Is this team capable of playing from behind? Wilson answered that with two key drives in the first half to get the game back to a manageable 14-10 deficit. Also, even though he had a key fumble, Lynch was spectacular on the day (137 yards, and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter). The Seahawks defense also tightened up after the early deficit. That was an impressive win, by Seattle. They struggled early in a hostile environment, made mistakes throughout, and still walked out with a double digit win. It’s the type of win that will have people debating all week long whether they might just be able to go into Atlanta and give themselves a great chance at the upset.
Ray Lewis: A great final home game send-off for the future Hall-Of-Famer. Oh, and he got a shoutout from Kobe Bryant’s brand new Twitter account.
The Cincinnati Bengals franchise playoff drought: Saddest stat I read all week was that the Bengals had not won a playoff game since 1990, and since that time, every team in the league has won a post-season game (Browns? Yes. Jaguars? Yes, shouts to Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. And the list goes on). Marvin Lewis is now winless in four playoff games and, Andy Dalton, what exactly is his ceiling? Joe Flacco? Matt Schaub? I suppose that’s not entirely bad, since both those guys are still playing next week.
Joe Webb: If you follow the Vikings, or just football in general, you’ve heard whispers about Joe Webb and his freakish athletic ability, pretty best summed up by this video of him jumping over 7 dummies at the NFL combine. But on Sunday, pressed into action, he showed that there’s still a lot to go for him to be a competent quarterback.
The end of great regular season narratives: Time to tuck away #CHUCKSTRONG, and wonderful seasons from Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Adrian Peterson. But they’ll be remembered.
Football fans with Jets fatigue: Just when we thoughts Jets drama was behind us for at least a few weeks, we had to read all about Rex Ryan’s curious tattoo this week. The Jets aren’t just insufferable, they’re inescapable.
The Redskins: So, Washington fans, this is precisely why the Nationals took so much precaution with Stephen Strasburg by leaving him off the post-season roster, right? It was painful seeing Robert Griffin III out there on one leg, I mean, your knee isn’t suppose to bend this way, is it? With much chatter about whether Dr. James Andrews actually allowed Griffin to return to a game in December when he suffered his initial knee injury, coach Shanahan went ahead and risked further damage to his franchise, the investment that made the Redskins a topic of conversation again in football this year. We’re crossing sports for comparisons, but this reminds me of when the Blazers allowed Brandon Roy to return, and while that alone might not have cause the injuries that eventually forced him to retire (he’s since returned, but is on the injured list again), it does show what the long-term repercussions are when you don’t safeguard your best assets. Let’s just hope that we’ll see the same RG3 again next year. Also, Dan Snyder, let’s improve the field conditions just a little bit can we?
Who were your winners and losers?
Colts at Ravens: The Intangibles Bowl
The main storyline was clear heading into the divisional round match-up between the Colts and Ravens: #CHUCKSTRONG.
It went from a hashtag, to a movement, to a full blown playoff rally cry for the Indianapolis Colts, who really did win 11 games this season. Curtis Painter, we barely remember you.
But by mid-week, with news that Ray Lewis will be retiring after the season, the whole intangibles meter swung a bit back to the home team. Here stands their leader, win or lose this week, likely playing in his final game in Baltimore.
Despite the inconsistency of the Ravens all year, and a defense that is more reputation than performance at this point, you have to figure that Lewis’ swan song and the home field advantage will matter.
Everyone’s excited for this one, except for Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who continues to just stare at something in the far distance, we’re just not sure what.
Speaking of legacies, welcome back to the spotlight Joe Flacco. He is elite, in a fleeting, once in a while type of way. He can amaze. He has amazed. But he’s incredibly frustrating as well. Which kind of describes the last decade of Ravens football. A few solid regular seasons, a couple of divisional titles (back to back AFC North champions), but whether it be the Steelers, their own kicker, or the Steelers again, that second Super Bowl appearance has eluded Lewis and crew.
But under John Harbaugh, they have yet to go one-and-done in the post-season.
The Colts have been a wonderful story, but they’re also faced one of (the?) easiest schedule of the season and been incredible in close games. I’m starting to sound like Bill Barnwell.
But it feels like this is what happens: Joe Flacco shows glimpses of being great again, the defense rises one more time, the rookie quarterback gets an important road playoff lesson for the future, and yes, Jim Caldwell will even crack a smile at the end of the game.
Ravens win 34-10.
I spent all week convincing a friend that the Cowboys were the right bet for tonight’s game against the Redskins, for no reason other than the fact that sports rarely provides the happy endings that we want.
Excuse the pessimism, but especially in a year where the negative side of things reared its ugly head in sports, I was expecting the final week of football of 2012 to deliver much of the same. It feels alright being wrong too.
In Indianapolis, the #Chuckstrong story of coach Pagano and the upstart Colts got one more chapter to their brilliant season, upending the previously top seeded Texans at home, and gave us the victory dance of the year. No matter if this team is confronted with a new reality when the playoffs start next week, the entire turnaround coupled with Pagano’s return has more than made up for the forgettable season in 2011. Oh, and by the way, Andrew Luck is your quarterback for the next decade and some. Not too bad at all.
In Minnesota, the Vikings and Packers went 12 rounds, before Adrian Peterson decided to finish things off at the end. He came just shy of breaking the all-time rushing yards record, but after the performance that he just put on, are we suppose to doubt that he will challenge for it again next season? We need more nicknames for All Day. I suggest New God Flow, because he’s the God of everything else.
And tonight, in Washington, the Skins capped off Robert Griffin III’s rookie season with a win over the Cowboys for the divisional title, and a home playoff game next week. A season that started with a road win in New Orleans, stalled with a 3-6 record, ultimately ended with a seven game winning streak, and hope that things are changing for the franchise. For now. For later.
So if you’re in Detroit, Cleveland, Jacksonville, New York (both, but more so the Jets), Buffalo, or any other city where there doesn’t seem be much hope on the other end. Just remember today. No one could’ve foretold the stories above when the season started.
Sometimes sports is really the most fun when we get reminded of how little we know, then when it reaffirms what we think we know.
Next time, I might be a little less skeptical, and just let the stories play out to their happy endings.
Winners and Losers Week 5 - Andrew Luck edition
That’s how Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians described his rookie quarterback after yesterday’s comeback win against the Green Bay Packers — made all the more special against the backdrop of Chuck Pagano’s leukemia diagnosis.
Sometimes, being good doesn’t mean being exciting.
Since a few months before the draft, all of the attention has gone towards Robert Griffin III, who emerged as a great story during college football season, overshadowing the consensus first overall pick in Luck, for which everything that could be said was already so before his last season in the collegiate ranks.
In many ways, the mobile quarterback who can not only throw from the pocket but also improvise and move the chains with his feet when his comfort zone breaks down has become the preferred quarterbacking style; it’s become like the slam dunk in basketball or the home run in baseball, it’s the more exciting highlight.
But if yesterday proved anything, it’s that there still is — and always will be — room in the game for the cerebral quarterback who does all his work from the pocket.
That was Luck’s first signature win, a poised second half with credit to the defense for shutting down Green Bay after an uneven first two quarters.
And at night, another quarterback whose famous by his arm only — Drew Brees — threw four touchdown passes on his way to passing Johnny Unitas for the all time record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
Meanwhile, Michael Vick — whom ESPN devoted an entire issue to just a year ago — can’t seem to stop giving the ball back to the other team, and may be just a few more bad games away from giving way to Nick Foles. Cam Newton is single-handedly bringing back the whole belief in sophomore slump, and Robert Griffin III’s running exploits hit its first roadblock against Atlanta.
This is not to say that this is an “either or” proposition. There’s only good or bad when it comes to quarterbacks, regardless of style.
But for one day, gunslinging was the method of choice to success. And good quarterbacks only get their moniker when they’re getting wins.
You can’t scramble your way out of that truth.
362 yards. 2 TDs. 1 INT. 81.0 Passer Rating.
Game winning drive over Green Bay.
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Winners and Losers - Week 2 Sunday edition
I heard it was a beautiful day outside today. I wouldn’t know, was busy watching football all day. I always thought Week 2 was one of the easiest weeks to gamble on games, so I’m really glad I didn’t test that theory by taking Oakland and Baltimore on a parlay.
More referee controversy, and coaching controversy, and kicking controversy, and player controversy, just all kinds of controversy.
Let’s take a look at some teams who are now 2-0, and those that are in the vaunted 0-2 hole, amongst other things.
The Giants - After scouring my deep vocabulary of words, I’ve settled on calling Tom Couglin’s team: predictably unpredictable. Not sure if anyone was surprised that the Giants fell behind early against Tampa Bay this afternoon, nor was anyone surprised that they came out with a victory. This is so Eli Manning: he throws for 510 yards and 3 touchdowns (shouts to his two dynamic receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, who combined for 21 catchs, 378 yards and 2 touchdowns) but also threw 3 interceptions and ended with a QB rating of just 89.5. There’s just something about the other Manning that lacks appeal, even with two Super Bowl rings to his name. But that’s the nature of the whole Giants team. They’re so underwhelming for stretches, but always find a way to be there when it counts. At one point, it was possible that they would fall to 0-2 and be two games back of every team in their division. But here they are, tied with the Cowboys and Redskins and just a game back of the Eagles after week two. It could’ve been dire for the Giants had they lost, it’s always on the verge of being dire for these Giants, but they always find a way.
2-0 teams (Philadelphia, Arizona, Houston, San Diego, San Francisco) - It really doesn’t matter how you get your wins in this league, stop me before I quote Al Davis. The most surprising of this group are the Cardinals, but full points for their win in New England. Ryan Williams, don’t forget to send Stephen Gostkowski a Christmas card, or something. Just make sure it’s not bounty related. The ugliest of this bunch are the Eagles. Fun fact alert: they’re the first team ever to win their first two games of the season by a single point. Lots of turnovers, lots of mistakes, Desean Jackson and company threatening to lose their cool. Actually they did, punches were thrown but the refs forgot to keep the game in control. As for Houston and San Diego, the jury is still out based on the level of competition. San Francisco? Most complete team after week one, same after two weeks.
Antonio Garay - With a tribute to Junior Seau.
Reggie Bush - Do we need to reconsider the Mario Williams-Reggie Bush debate again before it’s all set and done? Remember all the talk of how Bush couldn’t be a feature back in this league? Not so sure if that’s still the case.
The refs, again - Hey, did you hear about the one about how the league had to pull a side judge from the Saints game today because he was a huge New Orleans fan? As in, there are photos of himself tailgating in Saints gear in the pre-season?
Andrew Luck - Win number one. Not as dramatic as Robert Griffin III’s in week one, but they all count just the same. Also, respect to Adam Vinatieri for still doing his thing at age 39. It’s good to have a reliable kicker in your back pocket for those late game drives. Sometimes it takes more then Luck. I can’t believe I just wrote that.
Greg Schiano - So on the last play of the game, the Buccaneers coach decided it was a good idea to have his team come after Eli Manning on a standard kneel down play, which earned a tongue lashing from Tom Coughlin in their post-game handshake. I’m all for the culture change and attitude that Schiano is bringing to Tampa Bay, but this is not the way you do things in the pros, or at any level of competition for that matter. His excuse that this is about sending a message to his team and the rest of the league that his guys will never stop trying until the game is officially over is just that: a poor excuse. You can preach and practice those values in many other ways, ones that don’t involved the possibility of unnecessary injury. Or embarrass your team in the process. Too late on that last one.
0-2 teams (New Orleans, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Kansas City, Oakland) - Most surprising of course are the Saints. Easiest thing is to say that the team misses Sean Payton. But I think it’s a simple fact that the defense has been terrible, which was masked by the record breaking offense last year, and the offense has not been sharp. Some of that has to fall on Drew Brees, who missed some time in preparing for the season due to his contract dispute. For Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Kansas City: they are who we thought they were. Although I think Cleveland can be a competitive team coming down the stretch. As for Oakland? They remain as frustrating as ever.
A lot of survivor pools - Or as CBS Sports’ Will Brinson said: “And on the second week of the season, Belichick proclaimed there would be no more survivor leagues.”
Tim Tebow - 33 yards of total offense through two games. Strangest thing is, there will be some calls for him to start next week.
Wes Welker - Became the Patriots’ all-time franchise leader in receptions, on a day that he didn’t make the starting lineup. I think that contract dispute upset a few people in New England, the wrong people. I mean the wrong person. When Bill Belichick thinks you’re putting yourself above the team, he’ll go out of his way to put you in your place. Which makes me wonder whether we’re headed for a break-up between Gronkowski and the Pats, not this year, not next, but at some point.
Chris Johnson - He’s averaging 3.1 feet per carry this year.
The Cowboys - Same as what I wrote about the Giants above, except that the Cowboys always make things more dire than they need to be. Or maybe the simple truth is this: whether it’s the quarterback, the coaching or something else, this team just does not have the makeup of an elite team, and never will.
Consequently, this is what it looks like to beat the Minnesota Vikings by doing your job.
Too bad the Pats didn’t have Adam Vinatieri…oh wait.
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)