Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Courtside View: Previewing the 2013-14 Season

  Courtside View: Previewing the 2013-14 Season

The 2013-14 season is just hours away and the reigning champs are looking to start the season. off with a victory against a newly equipped rivalry, in the Chicago Bulls. Following that game on TNT, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers are showcased. I will tell you who is the most dominant team between these two. In the past, I've always said the western conference is the better conference, but with teams like the Indiana PacersBrooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks, all upgrading their odds to win a championship to overthrow the defending champs. The west still have dominant teams, but not like the East. This is probably one of the biggest seasons I've been most excited about in awhile. I'll also tell you why the bottom-feeder teams are going to be looking to make their ways up to the top.

Former number one overall pick, Greg Oden, either has ended up broke, or just couldn't walk away from the game without proving himself. One of the biggest busts in NBA history, Oden has returned to the NBA, ready to make an impact with the Miami Heat. The problem with Oden is that he couldn't never stay healthy. He was always hurt. In fact he signed his big contract with the Portland Trailblazers and then said he was hurt. I can just imagine his thoughts..."I can't play now, but I definitely can cash the checks." As if the Heat needed Help, the core of the team is still in tact. With LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Heat will be there at the end, when it is all said and done. If Wade can stay healthy, this team will be more than a handful. Add Ray Allen to the pot and you now have a complete full course dish. However, the Bulls are looking to throw leftovers in that pot. You can't forget about the Bulls...The same team that derailed the Heats 27 game winning streak, and they did it without their prized possession Derrick Rose. Add him to the mix now and this team has a roster, who can outplay anyone in the league. Did I mention they went 8-0 in the pre-season. I know it doesn't count, but it is worth noting.

The Lakers and Clippers play in the same arena. The Staples center has always been home to the five time NBA champ...Kobe Bryant. Things maybe starting to change in favor or the Clippers. This is a team I'm looking forward to seeing. The Clippers are deep and now have a coach who is defensive minded in Doc Rivers. Chris Paul is a great point guard in this league, but Rivers has called out Paul. Letting him know he hasn't done anything in this league. That's one way to push a player to play harder. I can tell you, Rivers has already won that locker room over. If he gets Blake Griffin to commit to playing better defense, no opposing team will be able to score in the low-post. DeAndre Jordan has defense, he just doesn't have offense. He makes nasty looking dunks, he just can't make free throws. Rivers will have to change that, hire a guru or something, but Jordan and Griffin have to be able to make free throws. Who is playing opening night for the Lakers, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, are the only big names. Kobe Bryant, may be in the building, but he won't be on the court. The 15x all-star is sidelined due to an torn Achilles tendon late last season. It is not known, when he will return. The scale is starting to tilt towards the Clippers side. The team is younger and more talented, while the Lakers are playing, hoping, not to establish injuries along the way.

The eastern conference has gotten better as a whole. The Indiana Pacers are going to welcome their star before their star back in...Danny Granger. Granger missed the majority of the 2012-13 season, due to an patellar injury. Limited to five games last season, Granger is going to miss the first three weeks of this season, due to a calf injury. While he was out, it gave rising star, Paul George, the keys to the team. George is an all-around outstanding player. The former Fresno State product, became an all-star, became the most improved player, and was on the second all-defensive team, thanks to Granger being side-lined. This team isn't worried about missing him. With Roy Hibbert, George Hill, David West and Paul George healthy, this team will be balling-out. They replace Tyler Hannsbrough, with Luis Scola. A more well-rounded player. Scola can score and rebound. That is a great replacement. Other teams such as the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks, have been talking trash all off-season, about being the better team. Who is exactly is better? The Nets acquired aging stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. With a team who already had Deron William, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. This team already had offensive, but now jus became defensive. If Healthy this team can go a long way. The Knicks added Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, and re-signed J.R. Smith. They drafted Tim Hardaway Jr., to a team who already had Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Iman Shumphert. No one is expecting much from this team, but I beg to differ. They broke the record for most three pointers made last season and I expect that to continue this year. That's what happens when you double team Carmelo Anthony.

Bottom-feeder teams, such as the Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Milwaukee Bucks, are making the league more interesting. The Raptors, Cavaliers and Bucks have some big name people. I've seen them in the pre-season and teams won't be able to beat them, just by showing up. These teams are going to be tough to beat. They are more hungrier, than established teams, because they have more to prove. If they can hang with the tough teams in the regular season, they can make a playoff leap. The Raptors in the playoffs, yes. Same can be said about the others. You think the Washing ton Wizards are going to be easy, with John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene, Marcin Gortat. That is a good team. Notice most of these teams are from the eastern conference, the better conference. The western conference are good, but not great. The Oklahoma Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets will be in the playoffs, but with injuries, aging and first year acquisitions, I'm not sure how far these teams will go. With the Clippers they are established, throw in a coach, who can make the right moves and you now have a contender. Who will throw the Heat off ?. The eastern conference is up for grabs. Everybody got better, but the Heat really didn't. The Bulls, Pacers, Nets, and Knicks all will be throwing blows at them. The question is, will anyone of them be haymakers! This season is going to be exciting!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fourth & Forever: Previewing the Packers and Vikings game

  Fourth & Forever: Previewing the Packers and Vikings game

The Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings are headed in two different directions. The Packers are on a three game winning streak, and sit atop of the NFC North, with a record of 4-2. The Vikings are at the bottom of the division, and look to dig themselves out of a three game hole against the division rival. This Sunday night will be the first of two games between these two teams. The division is still up for grabs, while the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions, still try and find their grooves. The Bears and Packers are dealing with some key injuries, and the Lions are looking to get a grip on their defense. The division is still winnable for the men in purple, therefore the Vikings have to dust off their two last embarrassing losses and move on. The Packers are looking to get another win in the division, before their Monday night game in two weeks against the Bears.

The Vikings are in total disarray. The quarterback, the coach, and the consistent losing, I don't know where to start! Last year this team finished 10-6 and made the playoffs, this year the Vikings have started the season 1-5. Through six games, they are one lost away from matching their total number of losses last season. Starting quarterback Christian Ponder lost his title after three games. His backup Matt Cassel, lost his, after two games. The Vikings sign throw away Josh Freeman, who was released two weeks ago by the Tampa Bay BuccaneersThe result, Freeman threw 53 times, while all-pro running back Adrian Peterson, only carried the ball 13 times. He had only been with the team for 12 days before he made the start. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he wasn't ready, than say he is a very bad quarterback. The lost to the New York Giants was the second straight ugly game produced by the Vikings. The week before, the Carolina Panthers blew out the Vikings 35-10. No ball movement, no moving the chains, and the defense gives up more points than a pinball machine. At this point, coach Leslie Frazier is looking like he doesn't know what to do. Maybe that's why he has used three quarterbacks in six games. Its the quarterback, its the defense, its the coach, its the whoooole team! Read coaches in the hot seat!
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The Viking and Packers are always going to be linked to each other, just because the Packers like to throw away people, while the Vikings like to take them in and give them a home and feed them. Players in the past such as Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell, and Brett Favre. This year it has been players such as linebacker Desmond Bishop and receiver Greg Jennings. "Silly Vikings, tricks are for kids." Obviously Green Bay knows what their doing. Bishop was signed and then made two starts...eventually tearing his ACL. Now he is on injury reserve, for the second year in a row. Then there is Greg Jennings crybaby self. "Oh oh  Aaron Rodgers was never a leader, oh."  It sounds like Jennings is missing that good ol Wisconsin home cooking. Not only is Jennings having a bad year, but his team is terrible. He doesn't look like a number one receiver at all. Through five games, he has 20 catches, for two hundred and eighty six yards...with a pair of touchdowns. That doesn't sign like a number one receiver, who just signed a five-year $47.5 million contract in the off-season. The money was going to be nice, but it wasn't going to be the same quarterback or coaches, helping him return to his pro-bowl years. I hope the money was worth it!

The short-handed Packers, are running out of playmakers. The Packers are going to be down two starting receivers, and their big physical tight-end, Jermichael Finley. Both Randall Cobb and James Jones, will be side-lined for Sunday nights game, due to injuries. Cobb was placed on Injury Reserve-designated to return a week ago, due to him breaking his fibula two weeks ago at Baltimore. He is out at least 6-8 weeks. Jones was also hurt in Baltimore, with a sprained PCL. He is out two to four weeks. Finely got hurt in Sundays win against the Cleveland Browns, win a contusion to his spinal cord. It has not been determined if Finely will continue his career, with such a scary injury. Nevertheless, the games have got to be played and Rodgers is soon going to be throwing it to himself.  But with the emergence of rookie running back Eddie Lacy, the Packers finally have a two dimensional game. Lacy leads the league in rushing yards over the past three weeks, with 301 and Kansas City Chiefs running backs Jamal Charles is second with 272. That's right, he has more yards than Charles. Now that is impressive for a rookie. With receiver Jordy Nelson demanding attention, defenses can no longer play two deep safeties every time, because the Pack now have an top tier power running back. I maybe getting ahead of myself, but the future looks bright for Lacy.

Regardless of the injuries racking up, the Packers are still going to be dangerous. Lacy takes pressure off of A Rod, as well as the back-ups catching the ball at the end of Rodgers passes. Back-up tight end Andrew Quarless and back-up receiver Jarrett Boykin's will have to step up to replace these playmakers. Boykin's a 6 ft. 2 undrafted second year receiver proved last week he is up for the task, catching eight passes for 103 yards, and a touchdown last week. Packers are now in first place, and will not be looking back. The Vikings are starting starter Christian Ponder against the Packers. Apparently Josh Freeman has an concussion and won't play. Sounds like the Vikings are not looking to be embarrassed again in a primetime game. Ponder gives the Vikings a better chance to win games, as long as Adrian Peterson stays healthy, this team can win. Ponder torched the Packers last year in the regular season match-up, throwing three touchdowns. That win sealed a Vikings playoff berth. They played the Packers the following week in the first round and lost that game 24-10. Ponder didn't play in that game due to an injury. I have the Packers winning this game, but not by much. Ponder has something to prove, as well as Greg Jennings. The Packers defense is banged up, so I expect AP to rebound from last weeks blunder. In the end its to much Rodgers and Lacy overpowering the Vikings.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Devon test drives a radical new Ford Focus

 The next generation Ford Focus is a radical departure from the previous generation. The new generation is stylish inside out and is aimed at the heavy hitters the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. Trying to take the rental car image away and offer a car that people actually want, has Ford finally hit a homerun with the Focus? Or is it all style no substance? Let’s find out.

Performance: There are two engines available with the Focus. A 2-liter four-cylinder producing 160hp and a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 252hp in the ST. The standard Focus offers enough oomph for most buyers, while the ST offers wicked fast acceleration and a smooth manual gearbox to match. Only downside with the ST is the large amount of torque at low revs which causes the ST to torque steer more than we’d like in the first two gears.
On the road: The Focus was known for having sweet handling when it first arrived here in 1998. The new Focus continues that trend with strong grip and solid body control which makes it feel agile through corners and bends. The steering weighs up nicely and the ride is pretty good too. It isn’t as smooth as a Volkswagen Golf but it’s pretty close to it. The standard Focus engine is smooth and doesn’t make much of a racket when you put your foot down. The manual gearbox is the way to go. It’s smooth and crisp shifts make it much more of a joy than the rather jerky Power-shift automatic. Wind, road noise is well isolated in the cabin making the Focus a comfortable long distance cruiser.
Behind the wheel: The Focus driving position is really good. There’s plenty of adjustment for the steering wheel and driver’s seat. Visibility out is okay, with a few blind spots over the shoulder and out the rear windscreen. The dashboard has too many fiddly and confusing buttons. The Focus offers enough room for four and the boot space is pretty generous it isn’t as large as the VW Golf but its decent compared to the rest.
Equipment:  The S trim comes with CD-player, air-con and stability control. You’ll have to step up to the SE to get alloy wheels and SYNC voice activated entertainment system. Titanium trim adds climate control, premium sound system, rear view parking camera and four-wheel disc brakes. The ST trim adds unique exterior body-kit, turbo engine and few extra sporty bits to make it feel sportier than the rest of the Focus range.
Buying & owning: The standard Focus offers plenty of choices. Although we highly suggest sticking with the SE trim in sedan and hatch form. It seems to make the most sense compared to the S and Titanium trim. ST trim offers hot hatch performance with a relatively low price but don’t expect discounts as the demand for them are high. Running costs should be reasonable and resale value should hold up well as the Focus has been selling quite well.
Quality & Safety: The Focus has a funky and attractive design inside with plenty of high quality materials used in the cabin. This is all good but we wish the dash overall design was a little more user friendly. The Focus has suffered few mechanical issues with the automatic gearbox and the SYNC infotainment system. Stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard. Sadly you’ll have to pay extra for rear disc brakes on most trims which should be standard considering the hatchback starts near $20,000. Side curtain airbags are standard as well as an array of anti-theft features to keep theft at bay. 
The Ford Focus is a radical departure from the previous generation. It’s stylish inside out and offers way better driving experience that the previous generation lacked. However, just like all good things there are its downsides. The Focus interior controls are fiddly and confusing to operate. The Power-Shift auto gearbox is rather jerky between gears and take some getting used it. Also the fact that you’ll have to either step up to the Titanium trim or pay extra for rear disc brakes is just baffling to us. Other than these few complaints the Focus is a solid choice among the heavy hitters and well worth the extra look.
Likes: A radical departure from the previous generation, plenty of grip with excellent body control. Wicked turbo engine performance with low starting price.
Dislikes: Interior controls are too fiddly and confusing to use. Rear disc brakes aren’t standard on SE trim. Power-shift auto gearbox can be jerky between shifts.
Devon’s Pick: SE trim pretty much has all you’ll ever really need in a Focus without paying more than you’ll really need to with the Titanium trim. Our only complaint is the fact that this trim is close to $20,000 and only comes with rear drum brakes. At this price point this is unacceptable. Other than that this is the best Focus of the range not counting the thumping ST.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fourth & Forever: Coaches on the Hot Seat

        Fourth & Forever: Coaches on the Hot Seat!

The season has been unkind to a few teams. Whether it be due to injuries, lack of talent, or suspensions; the first person to lose their job are coaches. That's how it is in every sport, the team is bad, the coach is the first person to go. We will be looking at some of the coaches, who I believe will be looking for another job soon. Greg Schiano, coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, could be headed for an early exit. Schiano, was the wrong guy for this team. Same with Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier. Frazier had always been rumored to get the boot, but after helping the Viking make the playoffs last year for the first time since 2009, the Vikings picked up his option for 2014. The Vikings maybe thinking that was a big mistake. Tom Coughlin, could be another head coach, who leaves the facility unexpectedly. The New York Giants do have two super bowl rings in five years under Coughlin, however in his ninth season as head coach, this season has been a total disaster. Like they say in show business..." The show must go on."

  After signing a five-year contract with the team last season, Schiano a former Rutgers coach, hasn't gotten a hand in the big leagues yet. With a head coaching record of 7-14, the Bucs have found themselves at the bottom of the NFC South for the second year in a row. Starting the season 0-5, the Buccaneers have no chance of making the playoffs. Teams usually run as the quarterback runs, but in this case it looks like Schiano has been doing the running. The team is in total chaos. An MRSA disease has hit the team.The team had released former starting quarterback Josh Freeman, and starting running back Doug Martin is no where to be found. MRSA is a contagious Staph infection disease, that can be resistant to some antibiotics. This is a big distraction to the team. Players and coaches now have to worry about this outbreak at the facility, as well as the games. The team released Freeman because of his lackluster performances. In three games this season, he has completed only 45 percent of his passes and only three touchdowns. It doesn't help the coach is under fire for a suspected in-house leak. To get the heat off himself; Schiano has been accused of leaking personal information about Freeman. Freeman takes prescriptions to treat ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), but took the wrong drug, which triggered a positive drug test. As a result he voluntarily joined the drug program and takes frequent drug test. Now after running for over 1400 yards in his first year, running back Doug Martin is in a sophomore slump. He has ran for a little over 400 yards in five games and has one touchdown and two fumbles. Schiano is getting no offense from his team. A winless record has led to him being in the hot seat.

Viking head coach Leslie Frazier, is in the same burning boat. His team has no offense at all, outside of Adrian Peterson. Even with the addition of a top wide receiver in Greg Jennings, the Vikings are one of the worst offensive teams in the league. The team has benched starter Christian Ponder, they're benching back-up Matt Cassel and they've signed former Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. The same Josh Freeman, who has thrown only two touchdowns in three games. You move one quarterback around in Alex Smith, he succeeds and now people believe Freeman can do the same-thing. This last resort will sink, as well as Frazier. Freeman had the talent in Tampa. He had running back Doug Martin and wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. This tells me, its the quarterback and not the lack of talent. Frazier is losing ground in the NFC North and in the playoff race. The team is currently 1-4 and is losing confidence by the minute. After an ugly home loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Vikings look like they have nothing left to give. Greg Jennings keeps bad mouthing his old team. Who knows the state of Adrian Peterson, with his son dying at the hands of an assault. The defense gives up 31.6 points per game. I don't see this team turning things around, especially with Freeman as the quarterback. Frazier maybe gone after next season, after is contract is over.

Giants head coach, Tom Coughlin is looking at an 0-6 record. With that said, I'm sure the New York media is all over him. This team was suppose to compete for the NFC EAST, but instead are competing not to be laughing stock of the league. I mean even the Raiders have won at least one game. The offense has some big names, but they don't perform. I never really liked Eli Manning, but somehow an angel helped him win two super bowls. Can you say, "Angels on the Turf." This has to be one of his worst seasons. Throwing 15 interceptions and being sacked 16 times, in six games. With receivers such as Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, the Giants should be a top offensive team. With a emerging running game in Brandon Jacobs, the Giants could get back in the NFC EAST, I mean the division leader is 3-3. However I think they have dug themselves to deep in a hole to recover. Manning is losing confidence, the defense looks lost and the pass rush, couldn't move a kindergartener. I think Coughlin has lost control of his team. I think he has lost the locker room and the state of New York will let him know. Thanks for the championships, but what have you done for me lately!

If Schiano isn't gone in the upcoming weeks, I believe he will be gone by the end of the season. I just think the Bucs just need to start over. Give third round pick Mike Glennon a full training camp with the first team. He needs time to develop and prove himself before he is swept under the rug. The team invested a lot of money in the defense, with Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson. They're a solid group, but I just think they need a new leader on the sideline, someone who doesn't point fingers at other people. The Vikings needs a quarterback with talent. AP is wasting his talent with a team that is going no where. The team has a descent receiving core in Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Corradelle Paterson, and tight end Kyle Rudolph. They just need to be coached up, help them develop and use their talent. The coaches are not doing a good job at this, which refers to Leslie Frazier and Inc. The Vikings just need better coaches. Tom Coughlin has one year left on his contract, but I don't see him coaching the Giants next season. The team doesn't play hard for him, which will result in a change. I feel like he lost the locker room. A Giants defense shouldn't be ranked last in the league, sacrificing 34.8 points a game. The defense is the biggest problem with this team. Maybe a different voice can upstart them. Right now, Coughlin is feeling the pressure from the media, that will be looking to remove him his from his job.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fourth & Forever: Bear Hugs vs. Giant Smiles

Fourth & Forever: Bear Hugs vs. Giant Smiles

The New York Giants are winless after five weeks and are hoping to get back on track tonight with a win at the Chicago Bears. As crazy as it sounds, the Giants could still make the playoffs, as the NFC East is once again...terrible. As of right now, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys are tied for first, with a record of 2-3. At 0-5 the Giants are only two games out of first, and could win the division. They would have to win the division to make the playoffs. At five losses in five weeks, it would be a longshot for the Giants to make the playoffs. Teams like the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and the Chicago Bears, all are looking to be playoff bound. The Chicago Bears are looking to get back into the playoffs after missing it the last two seasons. After starting out 3-0, duhhh Bears, have dropped their last two. The Giants and Bears  need a win to put an end to their early season skids.

Defense

The New York Giants need to restore order as being schoolyard bullies. They need to find a mental and physical balance on the field. When I look at the Giants, I think about that fierce pass rush with players such as defensive ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre Paul. Between both of them, they have a total of 1.5 sacks in five games. That is unheard of between these two quarterback hunters. They were known as really getting after the quarterback in past years; but now they look like they couldn't get to the Kool-Aid pitcher, if he was standing in the pocket. Ooohh Yeeaahh! This defense is a joke. They give up 36.4 ppg. The Giants defense, really! The Bears defense on the other hand, first started the season like last year...pigskin hungry. Committing turnovers and scoring touchdowns. They must've ate before playing in the last two games; giving up 60 points and only having two sacks. Hey, has anyone seen defensive end Julius Peppers?  Through five games, he has one sack and five tackles. Sounds like a 101 roster cut could be happening at the end of this season, especially since he is due around $38 million in the last two years of his contract. Cornerback Charles Tillman is falling apart with injuries and with age. He can't run with the best of them at age 32, sooner or later he's got to switch to the safety position. Ask Charles Woodson! Whoever comes out with the defensive stops and the turnover battles, wins this game. It doesn't matter who is running the offense.

Offense

The Giants offense averages two touchdowns a game. For a super bowl winning quarterback like Eli Manning, moving the ball down the field should be cool breeze, He's got caliber receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks on the other end of his completions. So what's the problem? The problem is the Giants do not have a running game. When running back Andre Brown went down early with a broken leg, David Wilson took over and ran into quicksand. Wilson has rushed 44 times for a grand total of 146 yards, with two catches for eight yards. So with no running game, Manning is forced to throw and when defenses know that, they tend to read the play and intercept the ball. They read Manning so much they picked him off 12 times. He should be a professor on how to throw interceptions at Manning University. I even heard Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub was enrolled. A lot of defenders call Manning their favorite author. The Bears offense has been much improved under new head coach Marc Trestman. Having a balanced offense and adding weapons around quarterback Jay Cutler. In the beginning it was all about throwing to Brandon Marshall. It didn't matter if he was surrounded by a force field, Cutler still threw it. Now he spreads the ball to second year, second round draft pick Alshon Jeffrey and free agent addition Martellus Bennett. They have five touchdowns between each other. Marshall has three. Running back Matt Forte has been finding running lanes in Tresman's offense, averaging almost five yards a carry. The problem is when the Bears get behind, the running game gets lost and Cutler forces things. Throwing interceptions or fumbling the ball from sacks. The tempo has to be set early for both teams in tonight's matchup..

 Heart

Players look at playing football as a passion, more than just a job. When that passion goes out the door, it becomes just a means to buying nice things. Hey that rhymes! You can tell as a fan, if players are playing to be paid or playing to have fun. Will the real Jadeveon Clowney please stand up! The Giants have been playing just to be playing.  There's no love for the game at all! Sometimes I think the Giants are full of excuses. Whether its injuries, contracts disputes, or lack of leadership. This team needs a voice in the locker room to pull the team together. I can't think of one person on the team, that could unite the locker room. The Bears have a few people, including linebacker Lance Briggs, Brandon Marshall and Julius Peppers. They talk, people listen. The Bears are playing with passion, but they just can't beat top teams. They don't have enough talent to go to a super bowl, but its not all about talent. Its about heart, its about the fight. The Bears look and play together as a team. They play with heart. Remember that hit, Cutler put a hit on Steelers defensive back Robert Golden...that's passion, that's heart. For a team who has dug themselves in a hole, which players are going to take it upon themselves to get them out? Which players are going to put the game and team on their back?

The Bears are favored to win by eight. Looking at how both of these two teams have reached tonight's matchup. The Bears winning by eight sounds right, however the Giants need to win badly. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bears let the Giants hang around and then eventually lose the game to them. At this point, the Giants have nothing else to lose besides pride. Even though their record is bad, they still do have a good quarterback and receivers connection. With no running game, it will be hard to keep defensive backs off of the receivers. Therefore I believe the Giants defensive line comes alive tonight and rattles Cutler until he commits turnovers, which will give the Giants good field position. The Bears pass rush is in a coma. If they give Eli time in the pocket to get passes downfield, his receivers will get separation and he will have a big night. The Bears need to make sure that Giant pass rush will stay quiet. Run the ball and let Forte keep the defense honest. Bear hugs vs. Giant smiles. Bears are looking to give hugs at the end, while the Giants are looking to walk away with a smile.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Devon test drives a budget Mitsubishi

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Mitsubishi has been on a rocky roller coaster here in the U.S. Many have thought the company would finally disappear like Suzuki did last year. Little did anyone ever think that Mitsubishi still had some fight within the company. They've recently released the new Outlander and are also working on the next the generation Lancer. So it was no surprise that Mitsubishi offered the Mirage here in the U.S. as a volume seller to bring more traffic into their showrooms. It's a cheeky small car that goes toe to toe with the Chevy Spark and Scion IQ. It's a cheap small car with plenty of luxury features to choose from. Is this enough to bring buyers back to the ailing brand? Or is it all just a lost cause?
Performance: The Mirage only comes with one engine and that's a 1.2-liter three-cylinder which produces 74hp. Around town the Mirage feels zippy and light which is what most Mirage owners will use this vehicle for. Take the Mirage outside of the city and you'll have to work the engine hard to get any kind of pace out of it. The standard five-speed manual makes the most of what the engine has to offer. The CVT feels like it saps what little power the engine has and often leaves you cold until the revs build up again.
On the road: The Mirage soft suspension allows it to soak up bumps and some road imperfections. However the car tends to thump over potholes and there's way too much body roll in corners. Steering is light and easy around town while at higher speeds it becomes vague and numb feeling. Part of the whole appeal of the Mirage is the distinct thrum that comes from the three-cylinder engine when you rev it hard. At times it becomes loud and never really settles at highway speeds. This makes long journeys in the Mirage longer and more tiresome than we'd like. The manual gearbox is slick shifting. Wind and road noise will be welcome companions on the highway.
Behind the wheel:  The dashboard has a simple layout. Everything is easy to navigate and easy to use. Drivers will however have a hard time getting comfortable. The steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach and you can only adjust the angle of the seat base not the height. Visibility is so-so thanks to thick side pillars and a small rear windscreen. There's enough space for four inside the cabin. A fifth person would be pushing it. The rear seat is really only designed for two passengers. Boot space isn't great but offers enough for a week's worth of shopping for one. The high load lip makes loading heavy items a little tedious.
Equipment: The Mirage comes standard with power door locks and side view mirrors. A remote keyless entry system comes standard and a rear spoiler. You'll have to step up to the top of the range to get alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and keyless start system. Optional on the top of the range is navigation system, LED illumination package and unique exterior package.
Buying & owning: We aren't really sure if the Mirage offers a convincing case when you look at the Scion IQ and Chevy Spark. The Mirage is obviously a cheap car but it doesn't really scream value when you compare it to its keen rivals. Running costs will be low while resale value is unknown at this time.
Quality & Safety: The Mirage is a budget car and there's no hiding that fact when you sit inside. It's a shame because the Chevy Spark feels a tad bit higher in interior quality along with the Scion IQ.  The plastics used in the interior feel sturdy and long lasting. They don't really look all that eye appealing. Reliability should be average as with most Mitsubishi products. All Mirage vehicles come with stability control and brake assist to help keep you out of harm's way. Side curtain airbags are fitted as standard too in the event of an accident. Security isn't great but you get an immobilizer.
City cars are supposed to be cheap but also offer some kind of redeeming feature to them. Both the Chevy Spark and Scion IQ offer more of an engaging driving experience around town and can hold its own ground on the highway. The Mirage can do the same but it doesn't feel exciting to drive. There's too much body roll and the steering feels almost nonexistent at higher speeds. Wind and road noise enter the cabin at high levels and the overall packaging of the Mirage is rather disappointing. It's not the best city car you can buy but it does offer decent running cost and the price tag is well justifiable. Sadly this won't be the hallow car Mitsubishi desperately needs.  
Likes: Low running costs. Low price of entry. Easy to drive around town with roomy interior for four.
Dislikes: City cars should be fun to drive and sadly this one is not. Wind and road noise at highway speeds. Steering and handling become sloppy beyond city limits. CVT transmission should be avoided at all cost.
Devon's Pick:  Mirage DE MT is the pick of the range. It's the cheapest and offers the best value overall. You get all the features that you'll ever really need in a budget car and with the five-speed manual gearbox you'll be able to really make the most of what the tiny engine has to offer. The ES trim offers a few extra bits but takes the value factor away. It pushes the price to closer to roomier and much better rivals.  


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fourth & Forever: My 4-0 Fantasy Football Team

 Fourth & Forever: My 4-0 Fantasy Team


Toilet Bowl Trophy
Picture courtesy of WCFFL
For the 2013 NFL season, I have two fantasy teams. But today, I'm only going to talk about one. My Yahoo Wrecking Crew Fantasy Football league. The other one is hosted by ESPN, and it is a waste of time. Its free and not as competitive as my Yahoo league. Therefore I won't discuss it. The Wrecking Crew league is so amazing; not only is it competitive, but it is amongst friends. It does involve playing for money, however the most exciting thing for me are the trophies. There are three divisions with four teams each and each division winner receives a small, almost Heisman like stance trophy with their team name and division name. There is also a loser trophy, awarded to the team with the worst record. Their prize...a toilet bowl seat with wise cracks written on it from other teams. Who says grown man can't have fun? Then theirs, "Alyssa," the name of the big trophy. A football shaped, silver color trophy, attached to a wooden base, with the current champions name on the name plate. We chose, "Alyssa," in regards to Alyssa Milano. She's hot and her name fits well with the trophy. "Alyssa," is coming home with me this year.

My 2012 division trophy
picture courtesy of Johnny J.


My teams name is called," Black Sunday." No specific meaning behind the name, it just sounds intimidating. After four weeks, I am proud to say that I am in first place in the whole league and I'm undefeated. I'm not going to talk about the draft much, because its not current, but I will say I followed most general managers tactics. I drafted what was given to me. I didn't overthink it, I didn't panic, but I would say I came out with one of the deepest teams in the league. MOVING ON... I came to the draft with intentions on making picks people didn't see coming. I'm A Packers fan, and I drafted a Chicago Bears player in the second round! That player is running back Matt Forte, who is has not disappointed thus far. He has rewarded me with three touchdowns in four games. I root for him in hopes of the Bears losing. Yea a Packers fan rooting for my second round pick. I came to the draft thinking...I was going to draft with my mind and not my heart. As much as I wanted to draft Aaron Rodgers or Jordy Nelson, I knew the quarterback and receiver position was too deep to draft them early. I actually had a chance to pick A Rod, with the 10th pick, but chose LeSean McCoy instead. Four weeks later, he is leading the league in rushing yards.

After I went 3-0. I wanted to do a New York Yankee trade, and so I did. Before I discuss who I traded for and what I gave up for them, I contemplated if I wanted to go through with it. I hadn't lost a game, I had just blown somebody out by 60 points. I didn't need to make a trade, but like every GM brainstorming in the front office, I wanted to create a team that is guaranteed to go far. So I wanted to get a great player, who was struggling, in hopes that they will return to a top tier producer. That way it wouldn't cost me a lot in return. I' m not talking about quarterback Philip Rivers, but running back C.J. Spiller. He was picked in the first round, but hadn't been performing like a GM expects from a first rounder. The person who had him was 1-2 and I know they were looking for a big trade. And so I gave them one. I traded the Seattle defense and running back Le'Veon Bell, in return for C.J. Spiller. Yea I know Seattle has the best defense in the league, and I know Bell just scored two touchdowns, but I'm looking at the bigger picture...the playoff run. Defenses are expendable, because any defense can get you descent points weekly depending on match-ups. I picked up the Tennessee Titans defense, who had five sacks, five tackles for a loss, two picks, two fumble recoveries and a touchdown against the New York Jets. They got me more points then the Seahawks would have last week. Bell is coming off a serious injury, I'm not sure if he will be the answer for the 0-4 Pittsburgh Steelers. It's a gamble I hope will pay off.

I've also been doing my homework on the waiver wire. Picking up no name players who I think might make an impact in certain games. I look at their opponents weekly and I survey players; deciding on I believe fits in the lineup for the upcoming game or games. I picked up wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, before the season started. He has been in and out of my lineups, although I had him in my lineup last week, when he blew up for 127 receiving yards and a touchdown, against the Atlanta Flacons. I figured with receiver Danny Amendola and tight end Ron Grownkowski out, he was going to have a big game in a primetime match-up. I seen him in a pre-season game and he just stood out. I knew he was someone I should grab. I also had pick up Le'Veon Bell, after someone dropped him. He was supposed to be out like six weeks with an injury, but came back sooner. Instead of giving him a chance I used him in the Spiller trade.  Since I traded away the Seattle defense, and then dropped the Titans defense, I needed to pick up a sleeper defense for this week. So I picked up the Cleveland Browns defense. They play the Buffalo Bills tonight, and I'm hoping they can duplicate the stellar defense they showed last week against the Cincinnati Bengals. Surrendering only six points at the, "Dawg Pound." The Browns defense is descent and ferocious. In four games they have 14 sacks, 19 tackles for a loss and have only given up 70 points. The Bills have a banged up backfield, so I'm betting on a good day at the pound. 
 
"Alyssa"
picture courtesy of the current champion and
co-founder of Pathologicalhate.clogspot.com
Felipe Melecio
 
These are the main reasons why I'm undefeated in the Wrecking Crew Fantasy Football League. It comes down to good drafting, and taking what the draft was giving me. Thinking with my mind and not my heart. Believing the person I drafted, was going to have a good year. Regardless if I liked the team or not; I'm too busy thinking about making my pockets fatter; and of course...Alyssa. Even though its too early to say if my trade was a success or not, but I felt like I could get rid of the Seahawks defense and get the same points from sleepers on the wire. By adding C.J. Spiller, I now have a four-headed running attack. LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray. With two running back slots and two flex slots, say hello to my four-headed horseman. The waiver wire is my friend in need. I look at throwaways and sleepers and invite them for workouts. If everything checks out ok, the contract is signed and a number is given. Welcome to the future of WCFFL...Black Sunday.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Devon test drives a Small Chevy

Photo provided by Raul



The Chevy Sonic has finally replaced the long and forgotten Chevy Aveo. This time around the Sonic is stylish and comes in the familiar sedan and hatchback body styles. Trying to catch up to its Korean rivals Hyundai and Kia. Has Chevy found a new reason to buy American? Let's find out.

Performance: Engine offerings are similar to that of the Chevy Cruze. You can choose from a 1.8-liter producing 138hp and a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing the same 138hp. Pick of the two is the turbocharged four-cylinder. It has more torque at low revs which makes it more entertaining to drive on the highway. Plus fuel economy between the two are relatively similar so it really only boils down to if you desire a turbo or not.

On the road: The ride feels jittery over rough surfaces but the suspension does a good enough job ironing out potholes and some road imperfections. The small size helps make the Sonic easy to maneuver around town. Steering feel is light but is rather heavy at low speeds. Take the Sonic on open road and the steering looses that sharpness and there's way too much body lean than we'd like. The non-turbo engine often feels short of pull when you are on the move. This is why we suggest going for the turbo which has the extra torque to make it feel less short winded. Wind and road noise are reasonably ironed out.

Behind the wheel: It's easy to get comfortable behind the driver's seat. Steering wheel adjust for reach and height and the dash board has a simple layout with a motorcycle-inspired design.  Visibility is good all round thanks to large windows and good seating adjustments. Rear seat space is best left for two as three would be a tight squeeze. Boot space is good too although you'll have to lift heavy items over a boot lip.

Equipment: LS trim offers keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity and stability control. You'll have to step up to the LT trim to get cruise control, power windows and alloy wheels. LTZ trim adds rear view parking camera, fog lights and perforated leatherette seats. Top of the range RS trim adds a 7 inch infotainment screen, premium sound system and unique RS body-kit and interior treatment.

Buying & owning: The Sonic is priced aggressively towards the Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent. Running costs should be reasonable with both engines. Resale value won't be impressive but we think that it should hold its value averagely compared with most of its rivals.

Quality & safety: The Sonic isn't the classiest compared to its rivals but you do get a good amount of car for your money. The interior quality is good although some plastics feel rather cheap. It's a leap forward however and we applaud Chevy for finally get up with the times. Reliability record should be decent too.

When it comes to safety the Sonic comes with ten airbags standard as well as stability control and anti-lock brakes. Both standard across the range. An alarm system and theft deterrent comes standard to keep theft at bay.

The Chevy Sonic is a compelling option when you look at the Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent. However there are a few short comings that make it feel a tad behind its keen rivals. First the two engine choices are 'okay' there's nothing special about them. The turbo has the most zip and feels more peppy than the 1.8 which we think is the better engine option to go for. Handling and steering aren't as good as a Ford Fiesta and the overall packaging is good but feels a tad overpriced when you climb up the line-up. The RS trim is only for looks but is priced to compete with the Ford Fiesta ST and Fiat 500 Abarth which both have more powerful engines. If you can overlook these few negatives we'd say the Sonic is a huge leap in the right direction. Only if Chevy ironed out the few bits and added more power. The Sonic would be even more of an compelling option. Disappointing.

Likes: Finally a compelling small car option from Chevy. Turbo engine has real zip and is affordable. Interior quality has improved too.

Dislikes: RS trim needs more power. Handling and steering fall short on open roads. Sedan looks dumpy compared to hatchback.

Devon's Pick: The LT trim is the pick of the range. You get all the kit you'll ever really need with the Sonic. Plus the price seems very reasonable too. If you spec up the base trim the way you'd desire you'll be close to this trim which we feel is worth spending the extra cash for. Paying the extra for the turbo is also worth it too because the 1.8 feels short on pull.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Are the 49ers Super Bowl Contenders?

  Are the 49ers Super Bowl Contenders?

Good news! The 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams yesterday 35-11. The bad news is the 49ers looked great against a weak team, but can't produce the same outcome against playoff teams. In a weak primetime game aired on the NFL Network, the 49ers dominated the line of scrimmage. Making life miserable for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Daryl Richardson. Bradford threw 41 times and only connected on 19 of them. He was sacked five times and just seamed uncomfortable in the pocket. Richardson rushed 12 times and only racked up 16 yards. This is the 49ers defense that we all seam to recognize. To bad it came against one of the most disappointing teams in the league. Seriously its the Jacksonville Jaguars and then its the Rams. After the 49ers didn't score a single point in the first quarter, they quickly found their toughness in the way they're accustomed to. Shoving the ball down the opponents throat, with Greg Romans pistol power running calls. The only problem is the 49ers could find themselves 1-3 after four games. Losing to the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts, the 49ers were 50 yards away from losing a shootout game in week one against the Green Bay Packers. Yeah, a shootout! That's not the 49ers way of winning games, its through tough defense and power running. At least it use to be.

The 49ers are a running team. If that quickly changes to a passing team, the game could be headed for a rough outcome. The 49ers ran the ball 42 times and threw only 23 times against the Rams. That's because they won the line of scrimmage battle. They looked good against the Rams, but then again the Rams defense are giving up 30.2 points in four games, which is ranked 28th in the league. The defense is horrible, giving up 175 yards to DeMarco Murray, the week before. I wasn't mad because Murray is on my fantasy team, but Murray ran for a lot of yards against them the year before. My point is the Rams defense sucks! A week later, Frank Gore ran for 153 yards on 20 carries. That's a whopping 7.7 yards a carry. That is dominating the line of scrimmage, followed up with play-action. In the two losses, the 49ers were dominated. They only ran the ball 23 times against the Colts and 20 times against the Seahawks. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a mobile quarterback, who has the ability to throw the ball in the pocket, but he is more effective when he is on the move. When defenses shutdown the run, his best ability is taken away from him and he is now one-dimensional. The 49ers have to be successful running the ball for him to be his best.

Secondly, the 49ers need to be able to bring their high-powered defense every game. Against the Rams they shutdown everything the offense was bringing. They took out the run game and then took out Bradford's favorite targets on the field. Throwing for only 202 yards on 41 attempts. In the lost against the Colts, the 49ers gave up 184 yard on the ground. That was unheard of at Candlestick Park. With the Colts winning the yards being produced on the ground. The 49ers are throwing more than running, which is not found in their game plans. Kaepernick isn't Joe Montana or Steve Young. So winning with his arm isn't going to always work. He is a quarterback who has the frame of a receiver and the legs of a kick returner. The read-option and pistol formation are used to complement his qualities. To keep defenses guessing is what he does best. That's what separated him from former 49er quarterback Alex Smith. Smith is one-dimensional; a passer who looks to throw 10 yards in play-action and was very successful in taking care of the ball, simply because he never threw down-field. Kaepernick has the ability to do that, but he should be looking to run first.

The reason we haven't seen Kaepernick at his best is because of the play-calling. I rarely seen the read-option being used in the 49ers games this year. Coach Jim Harbaugh is concerned of getting his quarterback hurt. He should be, especially after Packers Clay Matthews tried to take his head off out of bounce in the first week. Playing Kaepernick as a pocket quarterback is hurting the team. Taking away a mans best asset leaves him with nothing. I say, let him play his style that we are used to seeing. Having defenses look confused and lost. Teach the quarterback to get down and slide if in trouble. Not to take hits like RG3, and not to throw hits like Jay Cutler. Its a long season and most teams go as the quarterback goes...unless you're the Minnesota Vikings. If the 49ers are not going to use him for what he can do, then what's the point of having him on the team. They might as well have kept Alex Smith, if they're scared of using a mobile quarterbacks skills. The 49ers do have injuries on the offensive side, but the injuries are in the passing game. Its irrelevant to what the team needs to do. Meaning Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are expendable. They have a veteran receiver in Anquan Boldin and a talented tight-end in Vernon Davis. They can coach-up others to catch the ball and to run routes. Big names are overrated. But they are a team who runs the ball, they don't need their best receivers to be affective. Like Sandra Bullock said in the movie The Blind Side, "Run the damn ball."

When they look bad against playoff teams, the Super Bowl looks further away in the distance. The 49ers need to change that. They need to run the ball to be effective and they need to bring that tough defense every game and they have to do it against good teams. They will have plenty of chances to redeem themselves. With matchups against the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. They have to establish the line of scrimmage early, because once they fall behind, they seem to get out of that running funk. Once that happen, its a whole different game plan, because the opposing team has them in unfamiliar territory. I don't see the 49ers making a repeat trip to the Super Bowl, I 'm not even sure they will make the playoffs, but I do know if they don't get back to their X and O's, its going to be a long season. Running the ball, while serving up the read-option and playing hard nose defense is 49ers football 101.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fourth & Forever: 81-64-63

     Fourth & Forever: 81-64-63

 In week one against the Washington Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles ran 81 plays. They were up 33-14 heading into the fourth quarter. If it wasn't for their defense giving up 13 points in the fourth quarter, they would have won by more than six points. In week two, the Eagles lost 33-30. Yes the defense was bad, but I'm looking at the bigger picture. The 10 X 10 frame of not controlling the tempo. They only ran 64 plays in week two against the San Diego Chargers. 19 plays fewer than the first game against the Redskins. In Thursdays game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Eagles only ran 63 plays. Still 16 plays fewer than the first game. The result, Eagles lost 26-16. The home lost results in seven straight loses, dating back to last season. A trend that is starting to look a little to familiar to Eagle fans, who watched their team go 4-12 last season. This time, former Eagles head coach Andy Reid was on the opposing side and new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is picking up where the team finished last year.

At the University of Oregon, the Ducks ranked second in the nation last season under Chip Kelly. Going 12-1 and scoring 49.6 points per game. Kelly's Ducks averaged 78 plays last season. The Oregon defense gave up 21.6 ppg. Controlling the game in an up-tempo offense. Running as many plays as possible, trying to wear down the defense. Now if a team plays at an up-tempo pace, the opposing team, will have shots to score. Its only logical that the opposing team will have the ball for a long period of time. Playing at a fast pace will help opponents put points on the board. The offense at Oregon was so good, that regardless if the opponent was scoring, the Duck offense won in blow-outs. Teams couldn't slow them down. With this being Kelly's first year as the Eagles coach. It may take a while for the team to learn and develop his style of play, offensively and defensively. The NFL is a grown mans game. Its very rare to see a team give up 50 points and its even rarer for a team to average 50 ppg.

The Eagles are averaging 2.3 giveaways a game. Whether its fumbles or interceptions, the offense is not going to control the tempo of the game, by giving the ball away. It gives the opposing team momentum and it eats up the clock. If the Eagles are driving down field and have had the ball for six minutes, then fumbles inside the opponent 10 yard line. That's a waste of a possession. The opponent then drives the ball right back down field and score, now the Eagles are behind and time has been taken off the clock. In the Eagles two loses, the Eagles have been playing catch-up. The Eagles offense have been their own nightmare. Turning over the pig skin and playing from behind slows down the offense, simply because you're playing catch-up now.  The game-plan had to change in the last two games, which is why the Eagles had a big drop off in offensive plays being ran. In order for Chip Kelly's schemes to work, the Eagles can't fall too far behind. Also the Eagles defense looks terrible, they look like they can't stop anything. This tells me, the offense might be in shootouts in every game.

After three games, the Eagles are ranked 30th in the NFL. Two away from being ranked last. Far from Chip Kelly's Oregon days. Right now the Eagles average 26. 3 ppg. A top ten offense, which is great, but the Eagles also give up 28.7 ppg, which is ranked 28th in the league. The defense is the reason why the Eagles will continue to lose games, unless the defense is resolved. The Eagles turned the ball over five times in Thursdays game. Nobody is going to win, coughing the ball up that many times in one game. The reason why the Eagles won their first game is because the Redskins defense is terrible, giving up 35.5 ppg. Against a good defense, like the Chiefs, they will have a hard time controlling the tempo. I see why former quarterback Donovan McNabb, doesn't think this type of offense will last. " To me, It's just a fad. I don't know if any offensive player would want to run 90 plays in a game. If you're running 90 plays in a game, that means your defense is pretty awful and you're running entirely too many play," said McNabb. Quote taken from, http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/donovan-mcnabb-not-impressed-chip-kelly-offense-calls-191810915--nfl.html;_ylt=A2KJ3CXzojxSzyUAmpDQtDMD.

McNabb hit it right on the button. Defensive coordinators are going to be prepared for the fast-paced offense. Defenses in the NFL are not going to roll over and let people run right by them. The Eagles could be 0-3. They ran 81 plays in the Redskins game, in which they led the whole way. The Redskins defense is currently ranked 31st in the league, by the way. The Eagles only won by six. They run fast plays to outscore opponents, but the Redskins were one touchdown away from winning the game. So what happened? If the offense doesn't score, they give the ball back to the opponent, using very little time. Then the defense has to do their part, however if the defense stinks, such as the Eagles, than the opponent has time to get back into the game or control it themselves. The Eagles defense will hurt the attitude of being the field runners. The Eagles won't score every time, but the opponent most likely will. The fast-paced offense is amazing to watch, but has repercussions...especially if that same team has a bad defense.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fourth & Forever: The Patriots are in Big Trouble

     Fourth & Forever: The patriots are in Big Trouble

The Patriots have started the 2013 season going 2-0. It sounds like a usual Patriots team. Always having one of the best records in the NFL, earning a bye week in the playoffs. I'll tell you why this won't happen this year. We all know what quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick can do. Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. A great pocket-passer, who has great range and accuracy on his passes. Belichick is considered one of the best coaches in history. He is all business on and off the field. Always trying to find ways to make the team better, even if that means bringing out the camera and filming other teams practices. Together Brady and Belichick are a winning offensive duo. This season is starting out good, but in the end it will be a tough pill to swallow. After watching the first two games, I see that the Patriots are not the Super Bowl contenders they always seemed to be.

In the first two games, Brady has threw the ball 91 times and has only connected on 48 passes. That's 52 percent, which sounds like the low tier quarterbacks range . Brady is never found in that tier. At this rate Brady is going to be on pace to break Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford's record of last years 727 passing attempts. By the way the Lions finished 4-12 last season. Brady is 36 years old. He is going to need to save his arm for the prolonged season, in hopes of going to the playoffs and making a long run. Brady is missing all of his weapons from last season. Former receiver Wes Welker, decided to leave the Patriots in the off-season to join the high-flying Broncos team. Ron Gronkowsi had surgery on his fore-arm four times, less than a year. He then had back surgery in the off-season, although signs point to him coming back as early as week three. The other tight-end Aaron Hernandez is in jail, facing murder chargers. So right now, Brady has a hand full of low cards to play.

The injury bug has also bitten the Patriots early on. Talented back-up running back Shane Vereen broke his wrist in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills. He was placed on IR with designation to return. He won't be eligible to return until after the Patriots 10th week-bye. The Pats maybe upset, but I'm pissed off, since I had him on my fantasy team. A waste of a draft pick! Receiver Danny Amendola, was brought in to replace Wes Welker. He is not a good replacement because he is always hurt. In the pre-season he injured his groin and he re-aggravated it in the first game against the Bills. He is now out two to six weeks. So now the Patriots are forced to rely on rookies to pick up the scoring slack. Its not as easy as it sounds, as some of the rookies are raw. Talented, but needs time to develop. Players such as Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. Although Dobson caught a 39 yard touchdown pass from Brady on Thursday, I wouldn't put him in my starting lineup in my fantasy league, because he wouldn't be consistent. Fifth- year receiver Julian Edelman had a descent game against the Jets, catching 13 passes for 78 yards, but then he lost a fumble. I can just imagine Brady pulling his own hair out.

The Patriots are in un-familiarized territory. The Patriots are use to blowing teams out, instead of squeaking by them. The Pats beat the Bills in week one 23-21, after trailing heading into the fourth quarter. Starting week two off, the Pats beat the Jets 13-10 on Thursday. Brady threw for only 185 yards and one touchdown. I know it was raining, but still its the Jets at home in a primetime game. The great news is the Pats are 2-0. The bad news is the Pats are 2-0 against rookie quarterbacks. This puts a lot of pressure on the defense, especially if the offense isn't going to be taking a few steps back. When the Pats get into the meat of their schedule, throwing for 185 yards is not going to cut it. In week three, the Pats play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons in week four. The Bucs have a good defense and the Falcons have a great offense. I can't imagine seeing Brady winning in a shootout against the Falcons, especially with the pieces he has around him.  This is going to be a long year for the Patriots and at this point, I can see every game coming down to the wire. I don't see any blow-outs in the Pats future this season.

I believe the Buffalo Bills have a chance to win the AFC East. I don't want to bet against Brady, but looking at there schedule against the Falcons, Bengals, Texans and Saints. Its going to be tough. The Bills play some of the same teams, but I think their more well rounded. I like they're  a running team with C.J. Spiller leading the pack, plus they actually have a good quarterback in E.J. Manuel. A rookie quarterback who takes care of the ball. I do believe Belichick will find a way to make the playoffs, but I not so sure on winning the division. However, I can see the Patriots trading a draft pick away to bring talent in. Brady doesn't have years to throw away. They are a team who needs to win now. They need to be a more balanced team. Throwing the ball 91 times in two games, isn't the sign of a balanced team. Its a sign of a team, who needs help moving the ball. The once Super-Bowl winning team, now finds themselves struggling to put points up on the board.




Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fourth & Forever: Faking Injuries to Slow Down Offenses

 Fourth & Forever: Faking Injuries to Slow Down Offenses

Earlier this week, former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher admitted, the Bears faked injuries to slow down offenses. Its not hard to see that some players do take dives to stop the clock, or to help their team catch a breather. This happens all the time and no one who isn't attending to the injured player really doesn't know if the player is actually hurt. Urlacher, who is now an analyst for Fox Sports 1 brought up the topic this week and had no problem throwing his former team under the bus. For someone to break silence and trash solidarity with the team they formerly played for is unheard of. It may seem like the eight time pro-bowler is still a little bitter at his former ball club, who have moved on without the inside linebacker. The Bears offered Urlacher a $2 million salary this past offseason. Urlacher took it as a slap in the face. Telling Urlacher to, "take this offer or leave it." So Urlacher left it and both sides ultimately went their separate ways. When a player is drafted and plays their whole career for one team and in the end, feels like the team didn't appreciate them, is when negative emotions come out. We've seen this all offseason with former Packers receiver Greg Jennings talking bad about his former club, but nothing about breaking a code of silence.

I remember when the New York Giants beat the St. Louis Rams two years ago 28-16, that was televised on ESPN. Yeah it made my stomach hurt to watch the Rams play, but what made me feel sick to my stomach, was how the Giants beat the Rams. The Rams were driving down the field on the Giants defense and was inside the 10. The Rams were in a no-huddle offense and were getting ready to hike the ball, when the Giants weren't sure what they wanted to do. They wanted to put in their-goal line defense and had two players fall down to the ground to slow down the offense. They received a free time-out by having two people fake an injury. Literally, both defensive back Deon Grant and linebacker Jacquian Williams fell to the ground at the same time. Check it out in this YouTube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cV3K_ML2UsI. In the end the Rams settled for a field-goal, after the faking of the injuries allowed the Giants to use a free timeout to get certain people in the game. The Giants weren't fooling anyone, because the commentators kept showing the replay over and over. If you watched that game, you can see Rams quarterback Sam Bradford display his frustration in what was going on. I mean everyone knew.

That was the first time, I've actually seen something like that. I'm sure it happens a lot, but the Giants were one of the few teams to get caught. If a team runs a, "No huddle offense" or a, "Hurry-up," offense," that takes advantages of defenses who are winded, or for defensive coordinators who need to get the right personnel on the field. Its the reason why its starting to become popular in the NFL. Its all about exploiting the defense to score easier points. It reminds me of my last blog, when I discussed Philadelphia Eagles  head coach Chip Kelly's offense, in how they ran over 80 plays and lost the time of possession to the New England Patriots in the first preseason game. This is a developing trend in the NFL. When the Rams run the "Hurry-up," and  it are successful in going the length of the field, then you know its a new day and age. If you look at the San Francisco 49ers defense. They barely switch people in and out of the lineup. There personnel is an every-down team. The same linemen and the same linebackers, play every down. Not to many teams can do that, so faking injuries is a way to get the right people in as well as fresh legs, without having to use a timeout.

This is ruining the league. I rank this just as bad as the replacement referees. Its messing up the game. When the recent Hall of Fame inductee and ESPN commentator Chris Carter was raving about the replacement refs and how the NFL wants to protect their shield. He should add this to the list about protecting the shield. The NFL has sent out memos to teams about faking injuries, which include penalties and more severe penalties for players after the game. For me, that's not good enough. Teams and players who are caught faking injuries should know what their punishment is going to be, going into the game. Not just a warning or threat. When people flopped in the NBA, the league fined them and told them they would be fined more if they did it again. The NFL needs to set the bar higher.  The NFL needs to come out and say what would happen and not something they come up with the night before. If its an important game, someone might fake an injury, lets say in a playoff game and the team goes all the way because of it. You're telling me other teammates won't help pay the fine? There Super Bowl champs, people would help pay for it. People paid for George Zimmerman's attorneys, fans will pay for league fines. They need to discipline cheaters with yearly suspensions. HGH to the fourth power. Suspend them for a year and than see how quickly they wish to hold their ankle and then come back in two plays later. SET THE BAR! Four game suspensions for abusing the substance abuse policy is nothing. It should be eight. MLB is 50 games for a first time abuser. SET THE BAR! What's a fine these days? People lineup to pay for it.

I respect Brian Urlacher for coming out and breaking a teams code, especially if it has something to do with cheating. If a coach has signals that they give to players to cheat, I put them in the same category as former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. That's how I see a coach who dignifies cheating, regarding how big or small it is. A sin is a sin, regardless of how big or small. They should be suspended for a year, than a petty slap on the hand fine. They're cheaters who are interfering with the outcome of the game. Until the league actually sets the bar, someone is going to test that rule. Whether the refs catch it or the league, the bar needs to be set. Urlacher probably didn't agree with what was going on around him, but if you play for that team, you can't say anything. What goes on in the locker room, stays in the locker room. That's why its called a code of silence. That's why the whole Saints defense didn't get suspended because they all didn't want to participate in bounty hunts. Same with faking injuries. I'm glad to see someone finally came out and admit that they were apart of it. Memo to the NFL...SET THE BAR!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fourth & Forever: Best Read-Option Teams

Fourth & Forever: Best Read-Option Teams

The read-option is the new wildcat and the newly found play-action remix. Times have changed in the NFL. Pocket quarterbacks are too one-dimensional. Teams are looking for mobile quarterbacks, who can be a good pocket quarterback and a good running quarterback. Plug that into the offensive schemes and the defenses have to prepare for both situations. Add in a good running back and this team has just become more dynamic. To run the read-option to perfection, you need a good duo; running back and quarterback. To keep defenses unbalanced, the read-option shouldn't be used excessively, but moderately. Plus no one wants to have their quarterback repeatedly in harms way. I'm going to be taking a look at the top read-option teams based on what they will do this season.

Chip N Dales Rescue Rangers have landed in the city of "Brotherly Love". Last season, the Eagles didn't get any love. The offensive line was terrible, giving up an average of seven sacks a game. Starting quarterback Michael Vick missed six games because of injury. Starting running back LeSean McCoy missed four games because of a concussion. The line couldn't stop a bowl of cereal from hitting the ground. I explained it to the Pillsbury Doughboy and he couldn't stop laughing.  Vick kept getting pressured out the pocket. Andy Reid had fans standing outside the Eagles facility protesting his release, and eventually it happened after a 4-12 season. But with former Oregon coach Chip Kelly uptempo offense, this team is going to be explosive, coming in at number three. The offensive line is better, they drafted offensive tackle Lane Johnson with the fourth pick in this Aprils draft The 6 ft 7  tackle  will definitely help. I was reading an article on Bleacher Report about Kelly's Eagles. They ran 86 plays in their first pre-season game against the New England Patriots, while not winning the time of possession advantage. 86 plays in under 29 minutes compared to the Patriots who ran a total of 72 plays. With Kelly its all about running as many plays as possible and scoring in bunches. Wearing down defenses and making them pay for it. He uses a different type of read-option that can limit the quarterback from running down-field. Don't be surprised to see receivers in the back-field, this is a running team. He uses mis-directions with the running back and different formations with the offensive line to keep the defense guessing. Pulling line-men around to double team defensive line-men and getting to the second level at linebackers. With McCoy and Vick being able to run and make cuts in fashion, this could be the best rushing team in the league. Kelly's inside and outside zone read-option scheme is going to help them win, especially when the defense can't figure out if its a running or passing play.

The Seattle Seahawks come in at number two. This team runs the read-option like its no ones business. They are a running team with work-horse Marshawn Lynch leading the pack. The former Golden Bear has been on a tare with quarterback Russell Wilson running the team. Lynch ran for over 1700 yards last season, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and totaling 14 touchdowns. 13 on the ground and one from the air. The Seahawks are a running team. Last year they ran the ball 54 percent of the time. Wilson, who was a rookie last season ran for five touchdowns and threw for 29. Having a quarterback rating of 100.3 in his first year makes him a big time threat moving forward. The more he develops, the better his team will become better. This Batman and Robin duo run Emerald city. Either one of them can be Batman, therefore teams just cant focus on one. Trying to plug the running lanes, leaves man to man coverage down-field. Faking the hand off to Lynch gets the defense leaning toward one side and Wilson lets it fly to receivers Sidney Rice or Golden Tate on the other side. Option two is Wilson him keeping the ball, going one way while Lynch has the defense chasing him. This team is unpredictable when it comes to scoring points. They averaged 25.8 ppg and 360.1 ypg. Feed the beast indeed!

Staying in the NFC West, the San Francisco 49ers come in at number one. The combination of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, running back Frank Gore and that pistol formation offense are lethal. The Packers are still trying to figure out who had the ball, from that 45-31 NFC Divisional game. The reason why they run this offense to perfection is because of the playmakers on the team. A good quarterback, to go along with a good running back, with the addition of two full-backs or tight-end in the backfield in unheard of. When the play starts, one full-back block the defensive end, while the guard will pull leading the way, followed by the other full-back and Gore. In order to get to the running back, the defender has to get through the guard and full-back. Then Gore is not an easy target, he is big back, who can break tackles. If Kaepernick keeps the ball, he wants to get to the outside running lanes. For this to work the outside defender isn't blocked, in hopes of the defender biting the fake hand-off to Gore. The person who was suppose to block the end defender is blocking up-field. The defensive end or linebacker comes in and Kaepernick keeps it and has a ton of running room because the other defenders are drawn down-field to the decoy receivers. The formation gets defenders to check for the run and when they realize its a pass their man is open down-field. For instance tight-end Vernon Davis is a mismatch. His man doesn't commit to him and he's left open. Plus he ran a 4.3 at the Combine. He can run right past most linebackers. There is a ton of things that can be done to produce yards out of that formation. Kaepernick averaged 7.7 yards a carry and Gore averaged 4.8. Combined they ran for 20 touchdowns. Just imagine if Kaepernick played the whole season. If I was coach Jim Harbaugh I personally would have bought former quarterback Alex Smith a Christmas gift for getting hurt, but I guess giving him the boot works as well.

The reason why I didn't pick the Redskins in because I think Robert Griffin lll, is going to be used a different way this season. Coming off a ligaments injury, the Redskins are not going to let him loose. He might now run with the ball for awhile. Of course it will intimidate defenses, although I still see the Redskins easing him in slowly. This offense is good, but won't be as explosive. The teams I discussed earlier are going to be the most effective running the read-option. The Eagles are the firecracker team to keep an eye on in the NFC EAST. Kelly is going to have defenses sucking air in, trying to catch their breath. Michael Vick is going to reinvent himself in this offense. McCoy, who I picked in my fantasy league 10th overall is going to get me a ton of points. The more plays that are ran, increases my point value. "Rescue Rangers!" Russell Wilson has another year of training camp under his belt. He reads the defense well, scrambling moving the chains. Marshawn Lynch, will do what he does and that is moving the pile and eating Skittles on the sideline. This offensive is going to be that much better, when receiver Percy Harvin comes back from injury. The 49ers are the team to beat. Kaepernick had a full training camp with the number one offense and Vernon Davis is going to be used more, due to injuries to the receivers. That pistol just became modified. There ranked number one on power rankings for a reason, its not just because of the defense, although it helps.