Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Buffalo Bills 2013 Preview

Undrafted rookie QB Jeff Tuel
Yes the picture to the left should be E.J. Manuel the rookie quarterback who is out for the rest of the preseason with an injury.  It isn't even quarterback Kevin Kolb, former Cardinals QB, who may have to retire after sustaining a major cuncussion.  So this is how this post starts out.  Talking about the most important position on the team and the top two candidates to start are injured.  Game 1 is being turned over to undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel.  Who?  Luckily Yahoo sheds some light on Mr. Tuel here.  Yes Manuel should be back for game 2 but this isn't looking too good.  Maybe Tuel can channel some Kurt Warner.  That worked out pretty good for the Rams. 

KEY ADDITIONS: ILB Kiko Alonso (2nd round, Oregon), K Dustin Hopkins (6th round, Florida State), RE Jerry Hughes (from Colts), QB Kevin Kolb (from Cardinals), LB Manny Lawson (from Bengals), QB E.J. Manuel (1st Round, Florida State), WR Robert Woods (2nd round, USC)

KEY DEPARTURES: LB Nick Barnett (to Redskins), QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (to Titans), G Andy Levitre (to Titans), LB Kelvin Sheppard (to Colts), S George Wilson (to Titans) (courtesy Fox News)

E.J. Manuel was the big surprise of the NFL draft after being the first quarterback drafted.  Buffalo is counting on him to be the franchise quarterback of the future.  Geno Smith was the easy draft pick.  At least if they picked Geno and he didn't work out everyone would understand.  Picking Manuel puts a lot of pressure on everyone involved, especially new coach Doug Marrone who makes the transition from college.  I know Manuel has looked good in the preseason but I'm thinking it could be a long year. 

Buffalo does have running back C.J. Spiller who had a breakout year in 2012 and receiver Stevie Johnson to help ease the transition on offense.  Hopefully receiver Robert Woods (USC) can help out as a rookie wideout and he share time with receiver David Nelson and tight end Scott Chandler to provide targets for the quarterbacks .  Buffalo needs to take all the pressure they can off their young quarterbacks but the offensive line isn't going to scare anyone and these young QB's may be on the run quite a bit. 

The defense lost safety George Wilson to the Titans and Mario Williams didn't exactly live up to his big contract.  I'm not saying he is a bust.  I think it was a great move but now the team is switching to a 3-4 defense so I'm not exactly how Williams will fit in.  The team added some youth on defense through the draft and free agency but nobody that will be pushing for defensive player of the year.  The defensive backfield may still be a positive even with the loss of Wilson.  They still have standout rookie Stephon Gilmore, Jarius Byrd, and Leodis McKelvin anchoring the pass coverage.  Of course if the front seven can't get any pressure on opposing quarterbacks or contain the running game it will all be for not.

I'm thinking five wins for this team.  There is a lot of transition going on here and unless Manuel plays like the big three rookie QBs from last year it will not be an easy one.  I just don't know.  There are some weapons on offense but how will Emanuel play?   Will the offensive line give him time to develop?  That was key to RGIII, Wilson, and Kaepernick being able to develop and prosper.  The defense can be better than average but how will the transition to the 3-4 go?  Many things have to go right for this to be a successful season and my definition of that would be seven wins.  Maybe I'm too pessimistic but I just don't see it all jelling this quickly.  I do have hope for the next few years.  Give the coaching staff some time to develop the young talent and anything is possible.  For now, as always, Bills fans can only stay strong and have hope. 

Awesome link from Buzzfeed.  I will warn Bills fans that it will probably make you cry...
32 Reason Being a Buffalo Bills Fan is More Painful Than Childbirth

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Braves Lost Jason Heyward

Jason Heyward is out 4-6 weeks after having surgery for a broken jaw suffered against the Mets on 21 August.  This is a huge blow.  While Heyward isn't having a great year overall he had responded well to being moved to the leadoff spot.  He was batting .348 in August with a .419 on base percentage and was key to Atlanta extending it's lead to 15 games in the National League East.  He'll miss most of the rest of the season.  I'd rather have him playing but for now I'll hope he will be ready to go in the playoffs. 

This injury is not good news for the Braves whose offense isn't the most potent and the Braves as a whole have dealt with a ton of injuries this year.  His defense and veteran leadership are also a big piece of this team.  Six Braves have been lost for the season to include key pitchers Tim Hudson, Eric O'Flaherty and Johnny Venters.  Now the Braves also must deal with an injury to starter Brandon Beachy.  He had only five starts after returning from injury and now he may be out again for an extended timeframe. 

Atlanta is a good team and their record shows it.  Still they need to catch a break with all these injuries or it may all be for not come playoff time.  I can only hope the rest of the lineup can step up and fill the void.  The Braves have lost three in a row to the Cardinals scoring a total a five runs in those three games.  I'm not panicking but definitely fatigued at seeing all these injuries. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Atlanta Falcons 2013 Preview

After last year's disappointing loss in the NFC Championship this year Falcons fans are looking at this as the year Atlanta goes all the way.  Will it really happen that way?  I hope so but it rarely works out that way for all involved.  New Orleans will have their coach back and many are looking to Cam Newton and the Panthers to have a bounce back year so this could go either way. 

In 2012 Atlanta went 13-3, won their first playoff game with Matt Ryan in a squeaker over Seattle and then lost by mere yards to the San Francisco 49ers.  Great year for this team though the defense was iffy in the bend but don't break mold - gave up lots of yards and plays but held the league to the fifth lowest total points scored.  While the end was disappointing it was a heck of a ride.  Hard to get that close and not wonder "what if?".

The offseason saw a few changes as noted below (came from Sports Illustrated Falcons preview).
Signed RB Steven Jackson, DE Osi Umenyiora; drafted CB Desmond Trufant, CB Robert Alford, DE Malliciah Goodman, TE Levine Toilolo
Subtractions:RB Michael Turner, OT Tyson Clabo, C Todd McClure, DE John Abraham, DT Vance Walker, CB Brent Grimes, CB Dunta Robinson, S Chris Hope

Running back was a need and they got better with Stephen Jackson.  With his age and the yards on his body this is a short term fix but he is better than Michael Turner who gave us some great years but had nothing left.  CB Michael Trufant who was drafted in the first round is also a player expected to step right in and upgrade his position.  After that the Falcons lost key members of the offensive line (Clabo, McClue) how their replacements fair may be key the entire Falcons' season.  Matt Ryan got a big extension which was huge for the future of the franchise.  Hopefully he is up to the pressure that comes with a big contract. 

The defense is crap shoot.  I would have liked to have seen a few more key additions to the line.  DE John Abraham is gone with Osi Umenyiora replacing him.  Is that better or worse?  No one knows yet.  The defense wasn't great already and the lack of a pass rush won't help the young secondary.  For now if they can sustain what they did last year it will be a plus but as we saw in the playoffs they were very weak against the young mobile quarterbacks. 

So with all that said and, oh yeah, Tony Gonzalez back there is no reason not to be optimistic.  Atlanta should compete with any team in the NFC.  Still the NFC is very strong this year so  we'll need some things to break the Falcons' way.  Maybe the defense surprises us and Ryan improves on his good year from last year.  Everyone will be disappointed if Atlanta isn't in the Championship game again this year.  That is where I'll put them while I think they only win 11 (maybe even 10) games with a schedule heavy with very good quarterbacks (I'm hoping for a sophomore slump for some of those young quarterbacks around the league).  That means they'll need to win two playoff games just to get to the NFC Championship.  I think that is their lot in life this year.  Doesn't mean they can't.  They have the offense and the defense just has to keep limiting the scoring of their opponents.  Should be a very interesting year and I can't wait for September 8th when the season starts at New Orleans. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Movie Review: Easy Rider

I've never seen this movie and thought it was something I should watch.  I like older movies and this one is a classic by some standards.  I will warn you now there are spoilers in this review.  Yes I know the movie is from 1969 but not everyone has seen it.  Here are the particulars:

Stars:  Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper
1969 - Directed by Hopper
Written by Fonda, Hopper and Terry Southern
Third highest grossing movie of 1969
Easy Rider IMDB Link    Easy Rider Wikipedia Link

The movie is nothing more than the characters played by Fonda and Hopper, Wyatt and Billy respectively, selling some dope and taking a road trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  Not too complicated.  Of course there are adventures along the way.  First up is a rancher who helps them out when Wyatt's motorcycle breaks down.  Here we get to see the main characters eat a meal with the rancher and his family.  Next up is a hippie who needs a ride to his commune.  Once there they socialize a little to include some skinny dipping. 

Back on the road they join a parade while driving through a small town.  This gets them put in jail where they meet lawyer George Hansen who is played by Jack Nicholson.  While he had been around for some time and this was a supporting role, this movie was considered by some as his breakout role.  Once getting out of jail, the three continue the trek together to New Orleans.  The locals and the police don't take a shine to the three when they stop for a meal in a small town in Louisiana.  They quickly leave town but are attacked in the middle of the night while camped.  George Hansen dies at this point and Wyatt and Billy continue on.

They make it to New Orleans and head to a local house of prostitution recommended to them by Hansen.  There they and two prostitutes take some acid given to them by hippie they took to the commune.  They are now at a local cemetery where the acid trip begins.  In true 60's style the filming style takes you along for the ride. 

Once done in New Orleans Wyatt and Billy head out for Florida.  While on the road two locals end up killing the pair for no good reason.  And the there the movie ends.

You may think I left out quite a bit of detail.  That is true but again this movie was pretty straight forward and I probably didn't get the finer details as to provide much better insight.  A road trip with plenty of marijuana and some adventure. That was it.  I did like the movie.  I was pretty naïve going in actually thinking it revolved around a motorcycle gang.  Wyatt is the very laid back hippie type while Billy is the always hyped up character.  The movie flows fairly well if not aimlessly.  The dialogue is also pretty shallow.  That said Easy Rider was critically acclaimed and boasted a pretty good soundtrack.   Best of all it gave us the classic "Captain America" bike Peter Fonda rode throughout the movie which is pretty sweet.  I know this all doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement but again I liked it.  If you at all like movies from the time, have an interest in the counterculture of the period or are just curious you have to pick this movie up. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mark Cuban Defends Alex Rodriguez

Mark Cuban "defended" Alex Rodriguez in an appearance on Jay Leno.  The story can be seen here.  First Mark Cuban has an axe to grind against Major League Baseball (MLB) because he has always thought MLB has kept him from owning a major league team.  That said I'm on board with the criticism. 

I'll be the first to tell you I have steroids/PED fatigue.  I'm so tired of hearing about it on the radio, on every sports show, and online.  I'm also not a fan of Alex Rodriguez.  Like many I just don't find him that likable though I can't really put my finger on why.  He has admitted to using steroids.  That automatically puts him into a category of players fans will dislike - unless you are Andy Pettite (and Jason Giambi to some extent) who seems to get a free pass on the issue.  Still none of these players will be talked about without PEDs coming up in the conversation and none will sniff entry into the baseball hall of fame.

To the punishment itself, a 211 game suspension.  As Cuban has said there is a process in place.  First time offenders get a 50 game ban.  Yes, Ryan Braun got 65 games but I think that was a bit self serving.  He was going to get a minimum 50 games, the Milwaukee Brewers were out of contention and he was dealing with a wrist injury.  It served him best to just take the 65 games and move on without a fight.  Probably the right decision for him.  A-Rod has admitted use in the past but it wasn't during a time when MLB could punish him under the labor agreement.  So is this sour grapes on the part of MLB?  Those famous unnamed sources say there is other evidence of A-Rod obstructing the investigation.  Would that be like Melky Cabrera creating his own website to throw off investigators?  He only got 50 games.  Hmmmm.  It also leaves the door open for some to argue the big, bad Yankees have influenced MLB while trying to keep Rodriguez from ever playing for them again. 

Without seeing the other evidence which is supposedly very damning it is hard to make a complete argument.  But for now I'm on the side of A-Rod.  Unless he went to some great extent to avoid being caught that involves other illegal activities, I think MLB may have bitten off more than it can handle.  I may be proven wrong but we'll know at some point.  MLB should have given A-Rod 50 games and called it a day thus saying not even the biggest in our sport are immune.  No he isn't the player he used to be but he is getting paid like he is.  Now the entire affair will be talked about to death for what most think will be another 3-4 months.  Does MLB really want to be dealing with this when everyone should be concentrating on the playoffs?  This is a fail for everyone.  No one will win with fans being the ultimate victim. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Disney to Make New Star Wars Trilogy

 It has been a while since Disney announced they will produce a new Star Wars trilogy as well separate spin off films.  I'm a huge Star Wars geek who reads the books, some comic books, the official magazine and try to stay up on the "universe" as best I can so I have to say something.  "Universe"?  The new characters, worlds and other Star Wars creations that have come from the books, games, comics, and TV shows is called the Star Wars expanded universe.  I like to stay up on what is happening even if I don't get a chance to read and see it all.  I was eight when the first Star Wars movie came out so the original trilogy was huge for me growing up.  I can't tell you how many action figures I had, and still have. 

Bottom line is I'm excited.  I love the idea of more Star Wars.  The first six movies gave us great stories and characters.  I can only expect the same with the new movies.  Some are scared we'll get more movies along the lines of episodes I-III.  I am not scared for two reasons.  First I am among the few who don't cringe when episodes I-III are talked about.  Were they great?  No.  Were they horrible?  No.  They were somewhere in between.  Didn't mean we didn't get some great characters and finally got the back story of how we got to the most awesome opening scene of A New Hope.  The other is Disney should do a good job of ensuring fans and movie goers are satisfied. I've heard way too much grumpiness about how Disney won't be able to give Star Wars it's proper due.  I guess none of those folks saw The Avengers.  So I won't worry. 

What will the story be?  There is already a huge universe full of stories from which they can pull.  One rumor is they will do a trilogy based on the Legacy of the Force series in which Han and Leia's son Jacen goes to the dark side.  Details on the series can be found here.  Who knows.  It is out now that Han, Leia and Luke will be back in some capacity.  I think that is great.  They play a huge roll in the Legacy series as well as the expanded universe as a whole and I would think they would play small rolls as support characters of the overall plot.  I am not picky though.  There are so many different ways the writers can go it is crazy.  It may also be a completely new story arc that hasn't been touched before.  I think it will be hard to disappoint me no matter which way they go. 

There is an element out there leery of any new story and whether or not it will change what has already been created in the expanded universe.  Lucasfilm did an awesome job of keeping all the different Star Wars properties cohesive ensuring they didn't contradict each other.  This was a massive task and Star Wars fans are very protective of.  I quantify that.  There are rabid Star Wars fans who aren't familiar with the expanded universe.  They don't read the books, watch The Clone Wars TV series or otherwise pay attention to spin off properties.  Some are fanatical about one or the other.  There are new fans who are more familiar with episode I-III and the new properties.  Fans also vary in age from those my age (40's and 50's) and those who are were introduced to Star Wars through The Clone Wars, toys and other newer properties.  It is a very diverse fan base so all these different fans will have their different ideas of what a new Star Wars trilogy should be and not all of them will be happy.     

No matter what happens there will be drama among hardcore Star Wars fans.  It is something I wish didn't exist but it will be there.  Star Wars fans are passionate if nothing else.  I'm sure you have this with any property (see Harry Potter) that has a rabid fan base.  Again, I'm excited and will be excited no matter what happens.  Just to have the buzz about a new film and all the fun that will come from having another Star wars movie will be good enough for me as long as the move isn't a total bust.  Disney, don't let me down...