Tuesday, September 25, 2012

4th and Inches - Three Weeks Down

The NFL has now completed three weeks of the season and as always there are plenty of surprises and disappointments.  I'll mainly address the Bills and Falcons here but also touch on a few other noteworthy (to me anyway) tidbits.     ATLANTA FALCONS:  They are now 3-0 and have beaten two good teams in Denver and San Diego.  No matter how you shake it 3-0 is a good start.  With the next three games against Carolina, Washington, and Oakland they have a good chance of going 6-0.  That would be outstanding but I am not expecting it though Atlanta will be expected to win all three and should be.  Their offense is playing extremely well with the "we'll take the training wheels off Matt Ryan" effort showing big dividends.  He is hitting almost 70% of his passes and has an outstanding TD to interception ratio.  Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez have all looked good in the passing offense as well.  Running back Michael Turner is the one skill player who hasn't looked that great.  He bounced back some against San Diego but needs to keep it up for the offense to stay on track.  The defense has also played well.  Overall I don't think I could ask for much more.  The schedule gets more difficult the latter part of the season so they need to build on these successes and be ready as the competition stiffens. 
BUFFALO BILLS:  I would have liked a better showing against the Jets but Buffalo is 2-1 and that is a good start.  With New England and San Francisco up next I'd be thrilled with a 3-2 start...but that won't happen.  That means Buffalo will have to take care of business against those teams they can beat and make a good showing against the power houses of the league.  C.J. Spiller is averaging 10 yards a carry and is the hero so far.  He was injured in Sunday's game against Cleveland so Bills' fans have to just hope it won't be too serious.  The passing game is going backwards just as it did the second half of last season.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is hitting only 57% of his passes while averaging less than 200 yards a game.  There is definite work that needs to be done there.  The defense isn't great but is good enough to keep them in games even against better teams.  Overall some positives but Buffalo definitely doesn't seem ready to compete with the big boys.  Again if they can just beat the average teams in the league consistently and throw in an upset or two this season can be a "win". 
RANDOM:  Who would have thought Kansas City would beat New Orleans?  Oh wait my wife did.  I figured they'd be one ticked off 0-2 team and would have took it right to the Chiefs.  They did but for only one half.....Gotta love the way Houston looks.  They seem to have it going on both sides of the ball.  Again that is an easy division and they could easily have home field advantage going into the playoffs.....And who thought Arizona would be 3-0?.....Who wouldn't have loved to see the Week 3 Detroit-Tennessee game?  Overtime, 85 total points, 46 points in the 4th quarter, 2 touchdowns in the last 18 seconds by Detroit after Matthew Stafford was hurt.  Really?  Was this the NFL or the old Joe Montana Sega video game? (Me and Deion Sanders were unbeatable!).....I've been able to watch Andrew Luck play.  He may not be lighting it up with unbelievable numbers but he looked good.  I didn't see anything that said he can't be one of the best quarterbacks in the league someday.....Who knows what New England could have done the past few years if they just had a real defense.  This has to fall on Bill Belichek as while a few defensive picks have worked those are few and far between.  Nice to have a top 5 offense but they've proved many times that their offense will only get them so far.  Ok, sometimes that is to the Super Bowl.....Horrible ending to the Packers-Seahawks game.  The replacement refs are an embarrassment.  But with all the issues I'm not sure Roger Goodell will ever back down from the negotiations with the union.  This could be a season we never forget, for all the wrong reasons.   

Saturday, September 8, 2012

2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions

The wife and I watched both the Republican and Democratic National conventions over the last two weeks.  I watched more than I watched in my first 30 years of life.  And it wasn't easy.  A bunch of folks, not all of whom are natural speakers, who tend to say the same things over and over again can make for some long nights.  Both parties have some young talented speakers/politicians who you can tell the party is grooming for bigger and better things. They were good to listen to.  You also had those from congress who'd been around for a while and they scattered in folks from various walks of life to give the common person's perspectives on issues facing the nation.  Don't forget the wives, they get to speak too and of course the Vice President and nominee for Vice President got to speak.

I know going into these things that it is nothing more than a giant pep rally.  But there is nothing wrong with that.  Each party gets to hammer home catchy phrases while reminding you over and over again what snafus their opponent have committed.  The Democratic rally was much more raucous than their Republican counterparts.  They were also more "diverse".  Lots of funny hats, buttons, and folks not afraid to show their enthusiasm in ways that make me laugh.  It is a pep rally so why shouldn't they have fun.

Neither party went into any great specifics of how they would change or fix things.  I believe the debates is where we'll start seeing much of that detail come out.  Nope this was all about saying "our guy is better than your guy".  At the same time they both threw out quotes that gave political "experts" much to chew on and fact check.  But who doesn't stretch the truth sometimes.  And it isn't lying, it is "spinning".  You just have to remember what the conventions are all about and not get to wrapped up in expecting too much meat in these speeches.  Again, it didn't mean their weren't some very good speakers who spoke very well but I'm not ready to hang my hat on either candidate based on any one's oral skills from the conventions. 

For their part President Obama and Mitt Romney played their part well.  I give the edge in speaking to the President but not by much.  Each could only be so humorous or only so tough on the opponent so their speeches didn't stray much from what we've heard before.  All the good stuff was left to those who spoke before them. 

My biggest takeaway from all of this?  Bill Clinton.  It has been 12 years since he was president.  I remember those years but it is easy to forget why he was so well liked...besides all the good things he did as president.  He worked well with Republicans, the economy turned around, blah blah blah.  But that man can speak.  When he finished his speech on Wednesday night I was ready to vote for HIM.  Having a crowd who holds you up as maybe the best president ever doesn't hurt but it wouldn't have mattered.  He is good.  I'm not saying everything he said was perfect or even 100% correct.  I'll let someone else figure that out.  I'm saying that man can deliver a speech.  He also did a very good job of making arguments and counter arguments to what the Republicans said the week before.  If you haven't gotten a chance to see it you can see it here. 

I don't know who I'll vote for come November.  I am undecided and the upcoming debates will go along way in my decision making process.  I do feel better for watching both conventions.  Going into the presidential race's stretch run I have a good idea of what each candidate will foot stomp and where they'll attack the other.  They now only need to fill in the blanks with some details on their plans to make it all better.  If you didn't watch the conventions I highly recommend you do so next time around.  I can't say I enjoyed all of  the speeches but I do feel better about my ability to make the best decision for me come voting day. 

4th and Inches...NFL 2012 Season Preview

With one game in the books I need to get my thoughts on the upcoming season down.  I'll start with the bounty scandal.  This is so messy and just needs to go away.  With the panel overturning Roger Goodell's suspension it puts things in flux.  Sure the players are cleared to play but with the NFL looking to revisit suspensions soon I'm not sure how everyone can play with a clear head.  I do believe the players deserve some type of penalty just not as severe as the ones they got.  I'm really hoping the NFL can get it right this time so everyone can just move on.
ATLANTA FALCONS:  This could be the year.  I know Matt Ryan and the Falcons have caught much flack for not winning a playoff game the past three years.  Still they are 32 and 16 in that time frame.  This team is good and the offense brings back all the stars with Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez leading the way.  Rumor has it the offense will open up the passing game this year and I also expect second year running back Jacquizz Rogers to get the ball more.  I think he can be good as a receiver and also help keep Turner fresh.  Cornerback Asante Samuel was a huge addition in the off season.  Hopefully it will help put pressure on the opposing team's passing game and allow the team to improve on the 18th in the NFL standings for points given up per game.  Atlanta makes the playoffs and I think they are a 50-50 bet to win the NFC South.
BUFFALO BILLS:  Buffalo's acquisition of Mario is huge.  I think he could be good for one extra win this year.  Otherwise I'm not real sure what to expect.  Running back Fred Jackson is coming off an injury and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick battled injuries last year which many attribute to his swoon in the second half of the year.  Stevie Johnson is a solid number one receiver and David Nelson will do fine on the other side but I'm not sure that'll be enough.  The offensive line still needs help and that is always a recipe for disaster.  The defense was 30th in points allowed in 2011.  I think it begins and ends there.  Not sure Williams is enough to make everything good.  Buffalo will need the secondary to step up or no matter what the offense does they'll always be playing from behind.  Don't be surprised if Buffalo gets 8 eight wins but I will say I think the Jets will falter again this year so they should be able to get four wins out of the division alone. 
ST LOUIS RAMS:  I'm only typing about the Rams because they are the local team and I hear and talk about them quite a bit.  Bringing in Steve Fisher as coach was a great move.  Still they have a long ways to go.  I am befuddled because they have a quarterback in Sam Bradford with whom they believe is the long term answer but for some reason they won't get him anyone to throw to.  Everyone knows they are a run first team but I'm not sure anyone will respect the pass until they get a receiver who can make a defense pay. 
RANDOM:  The Patriots should win their division but at some point you'd think the offensive line troubles and bad defensive draft picks will catch up to them.  Maybe this is the year...Houston must be licking their lips.  They are poised for a big year if everyone stays healthy and should win all six games against their division foes...I was shocked to see Cincy let Cedric Benson walk but think they made a great pickup with BenJarvus Green-Ellis.  I think he can put up some major yards if he gets the carries a normal back would get, something he didn't have the luxury of in New England...The AFC West could be the best division going this year.  Oakland has Carson Palmer with a training camp under his belt, Peyton is in Denver, the Chiefs could be a huge surprise if Matt Cassel plays up to expectations, and the Chargers still have Phillip Rivers so I'll never count them out...
NFC - Division Winners:  Philly, Green Bay, Atlanta, San Francisco
           Wild Cards:  New Orleans, Detroit
AFC - Division Winners:  New England, Baltimore, Houston, Denver
           Wild Cards:  Kansas City, Pittsburgh
Super Bowl:  Green Bay vs Baltimore
Green Bay wins!  I think Green Bay is the best team all around.  Their defense is better than the 19th ranked D they had last year and their offense is stacked.  Baltimore will give them a good test but I don't think it will be that close.