Tag Archives: football

NFL Lockout Looms — Will America Crumble?

NFL Lockout

By Thalia Bardell, howiGit Contributing Writer, Boston, MA

Thursday is fast approaching and at the rate the two sides are moving it looks like an NFL lockout is impending. The likelihood that a deal will get done in the next two days is about as likely as Kendrick Perkins returning to the Celtics (too soon for the Perk jokes?). As a Pittsburgh Steelers fan an extended off-season makes me a little nervous. Extra time for Ben Roethlisberger to act like a total goon? I need that like a hole in my head. However, I have to admit that it has been fascinating watching this drama unfold. The last time that the NFL had a work stoppage was 1987 and I was … not even born yet.

When baseball players went on strike during the 1994 season I was seven years old, not yet a Sox fan, and more concerned with getting the training wheels off of my bike. I feel, oddly, like I’m witnessing a piece of history right now. If the owners and players union can’t come to an agreement then I will be in the midst of events that have the opportunity to change the NFL as I know it. To get a tiny glimpse into the inner workings of a sport that I only see from the glamorous outside of televised games, TV endorsements, and Sports Illustrated covers reminds me that sports are a business like everything else. Sure, guys like Ochocinco, Peyton Manning, and Darrelle Revis make the big money – and honestly I don’t really care how they fare in this decision, but it’s the second stringers, the no names, no covers, and no Campbell’s Chunky Soup commercial, “little” guys that interest me the most. These men are simply out there trying to make a buck doing something they love, just as we are, and they don’thave the same amount of time as most of us to do it in. The average length of an NFL player’s career is about three and a half years (perhaps Brett Favre was not included in that calculation) — that’s approximately 56 games. For these guys, to lose even one paycheck is a pay cut they can’t afford.

For the sake of the back-up benchwarmers I hope that the NFL resumes play on schedule next year. But for my self-interest I almost hope that they don’t. I can’t imagine what September will feel like without football (although it would open up more time to watch the Red Sox), but to witness an exercise of worker rights that I actually care about would be interesting to say the least. I’m curious to see the reaction of the players, the fans, and the media if the lockout extends through the summer and threatens the fall. Maybe it’s my age, but I’m history star-struck and, for me, the lack of football might be more exciting than the football itself.

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Bring on the Baseball — Sandlot Style

The Sandlot

By Thalia Bardell, howiGit Contributing Writer, Boston, MA

I’m just going to go ahead and skip right over the Super Bowl. The Steelers lost so I have nothing to gloat about and the only thing that matters to Bostonians is that Big Ben Roethlisberger is still one ring behind Tom Brady. I think it’s safe to assume that I can speak for most Pittsburghians and New Englanders alike when I say, I’m over it. Honestly, I was over it last Thursday. If I saw that Clay Matthews vs. Troy Polamalu hair montage one more time on ESPN I was going to tear my own hair out. Time to move on to more important things – like baseball.

Our fair city has one week left to wait for Red Sox pitchers and catchers to report to Fort Myers, Florida for spring training. I’ll tell you the first thing that I’m going to do, plop right down on my couch and watch The Sandlot. Now, I may catch some flak for this statement but it is my opinion that The Sandlot is one of the greatest baseball movies of all time. Yeah ok, Field of Dreams, The Natural, Eight Men Out, they’re good, but seriously, can anything top the scene of buck-toothed and be-spectacled Squints faking a drowning at the pool so he can get mouth to mouth from hottie lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn? I think not.

The sandlot clan played some pretty sweet ball too. The team’s conglomeration of neighborhood misfits and scrappy style of play remind me of the 2004 Red Sox; Kenny DeNunez’s windup looks a whole lot like Pedro’s, Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez is cracking homers like Manny,and “Yeah-Yeah” – totally Kevin Millar. They even have jacket and jersey clad, expensive bike riding rivals — the  Tigers — who are, of course, the New York Yankees. The sandlot crew  blew those snobs out in a backyard brawl just like the Sox blew out the Yanks in 2004’s ALCS game 7. Proving that dirt, heart, and a little trash talking à la round-faced catcher Ham Porter – “Is that your sister out there in left field, naked? She’s naked?” – were more important than expensive jerseys and highly paid free agents. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of trudging through ankle-deep slush or I’m nostalgic for a time in my life when bike riding wasn’t just for hipsters, but this movie feels like just what I need to get me through the next week and into the start of the Boston Red Sox 2011 season. I can’t wait to play ball.

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The Patriots Loss My Skepticism has Been Hinting At

Peyton Hillis Cleveland Browns

Week after week, I have been writing Monday articles excited about a Patriots win, yet unable to rejoice after any sort of “telling” victory. My skepticism was confirmed yesterday, by a couple of young bucs on the Cleveland Browns — Peyton Hillis and Colt McCoy. The 38-14 loss was a terrible one for the Patriots, who needed a win to maintain their place in the division with their upcoming schedule — probably the most difficult in football from here on out. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to give the Browns credit — they played a great game.

While Colt McCoy is a bit undersized, everyone seems shocked to see him playing well in the NFL. Not I. To me, Colt has undergone the best possible training to be successful in the NFL. He set nearly every major college quarterbacking record while at Texas, but the haters note that only occurred because he was a 4-year starter. To me, that’s exactly the point — if you are a 4-year starter at a college like Texas, you are pretty damn good in the first place. Then you have 4 full years to develop, in a first class organization, and to learn to win. To draw from another sport, I see Colt’s path as the antithesis to Michelle Wie’s. Hailed as a phenom from age 12, Wie tried to jump to the LPGA tour as quickly as possible. While she’s had some success, ultimately she never learned to win at the various stages leading up to the LPGA tour. While Colt could have left Texas early, he became that much more mature, that much more of a winner for having stayed. And having a completion percentage over 70% three games into your NFL career is proof enough.

McCoy aside, this was Peyton Hillis’ game. I knew relatively little about this guy before this game, but he made be a fan. Sure, the Patriots made him look pretty damn good but he made himself look pretty damn good as well, en route to 184 yards and 2 touchdowns. This is a guy who never fully got to prove how good he was in college at Arkansas — after a great start to his college career he had to take a back seat to Darren McFadden. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make a name for himself in the NFL.

If I were a Browns fan, I’d be very excited about my team’s young quarterback and running back. As for the Patriots, they’re going to have to make up for this loss against a tougher team in the upcoming weeks.

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Tom Brady Versus Derek Jeter — Who is Superior?

Tom Brady New England Patriots

By Jimmy Cunningham, howiGit Contributing Writer

New York, NY

Mr. howiGit loves his comparisons, so here is one for him: a comparison of the two most iconic heroes in New York and Boston of the past generation — Derek Jeter versus Tom Brady. As with most comparisons on this blog, this one will dig deeper than just the numbers and performance on the field, but will examine the whole person — and in the end will determine the more iconic figure.

Winning – Both Jeter and Brady have won a lot in their careers. Both have been in the playoffs every year except one, with Brady missing one season while hurt in 2008. Jeter has played in seven World Series in 15 seasons; Brady has played in four Super Bowls in nine years. Jeter has won five World Series championships and Brady has won three Super Bowls. With those numbers being too close to close to call, this is a push.
Result: Push

Records – Currently, Jeter is the active leader in hits in the MLB, and looks to continue to move up the all-time list. I have a bet with Mr. howiGit Derek Jeter New York Yankees that he will break Pete Rose’s record for the most hits all-time, so we will see how that one ends up. That said, most of Jeter’s records are playoff records: leading in playoff hits, runs, and doubles. Along with that, he is third all-time in playoff home runs. Brady’s records come mostly from the 2007 18-1 season with Patriots, with his single season record-breaking 50 touchdowns being his crowning jewel. He also owns the record for most completions ever in a Super Bowl with 32 against Carolina in 2004. For both Brady and Jeter, career records have yet to be determined, but due to his touchdown record season the edge goes to Brady.
Result: Brady Wins

Clutchness – Mr. howiGit’s favorite intangible quality is clutchness. Both of these players seem to have ice water in their veins and step up when their teams need them most. Jeter’s batting average when his team is down is .317, which climbs to.322 when his team is down by one run. His career average climbs by nine points when his team is losing by any margin, from .308 to .317. His average also continues to grow on the games highest stage; the World Series, going from .308 to .321. With that, Jeter has a .400 on-base percentage in the 9th inning, to go along with a .333 batting average in extra innings as well as a .500 on base percentage in those extra innings. Brady has 30 4th quarter wins, in which his team is tied or down heading into that quarter. Along with that, he has engineered two last-minute Super Bowl winning drives and has been near perfect in overtime throughout his career. The edge here goes to Jeter. Looking at Brady’s career by quarter, the 4th has been his worst. He has his most interceptions, fumbles, and worst quarterback rating in the 4th quarter. According to quarterback rating, Brady plays his worst when his team is down, while Jeter elevates his play at crunch time.
Result: Jeter Wins

Women – Tom Brady has a gorgeous wife in Gisele Bundchen. I would question you to find anyone who would say that she is ugly. He also has dated Tara Reed, pre letting herself go, and also has a kid with Bridgette Moynahan who also is no slouch. But this one is not a contest. Derek Jeter has dated 6 women on Maxim’s top 100 lists; Jessica Alba, Vanessa Manillo, Scarlett Johansson, Gabriele Union, Mariah Carey, and Jessica
Biel. That is just the All-Star team which does not include a Miss Universe, singers, and actresses. Oh and he is engaged to Minka Kelly who was recently named sexiest woman alive by Esquire Magazine.
Result: Jeter Wins, by a landslide.

Endorsements – Jeter is endorsed and heavily featured by Gatorade and Jordan. He is also one of three athletic spokesmen for Gillette with Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, two of the best at their respective sports. Jeter makes over $10 million a year total in endorsements. He was recently in a movie, The Other Guys, staring Mark Wahlberg and Will Farrell. He also currently has the top-selling jersey in the MLB, coming in his 15th season. Brady, on the other hand, has endorsements with Smartwater and Movado watches, and makes about $4 million annually in endorsements. He also has the 14th highest selling NFL jersey, one behind Eli Manning.
Result: Jeter Wins

Personality- Derek Jeter seems to have the respect of his peers, media, and the public in general. The knock on Jeter is that his defense has declined. People that do not like him have the type of dislike that comes from respect. Brady gets much love from the media and seems to have a healthy rivalry with Peyton Manning. However ask the Baltimore Ravens or the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have both had issues with Brady on the field, what they think of Tom Terrific. I don’t think you would ever see Jeter get in the face of a back-up left fielder, a la Anthony Smith or question how many runs his team is going to score in the World Series, a la Plaxico Burress. Something I did not know existed before doing some research for this article is dickipedia.com. It is a Wikipedia type page devoted entirely to who the public thinks are “dicks”. Tom Brady has a page, Alex Rodriguez has a page, Derek Jeter does not. Jeter also doesn’t model his hair off of a 16-year-old Canadian punk.
Result: Jeter Wins

So in the end, Jeter is the winner, 4-1-1. The on the field was very close with Jeter winning one, Brady winning one, and a push. However Jeter really pulled away in the off the field aspects, proving himself the overall better man. If any topics were missed, let the debate begin.

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Ndamukong Suh’s Dirty Jake Delhomme Hit

The Detroit Lions’ Ndamukong Suh should be suspended, 110%, for his dirty face-mask tackle and subsequent throw-down on Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Jack Delhomme (see video). This hit really looks like Suh couldn’t be trying any harder to make sure Delhomme spends the rest of his life in a wheelchair. I doubt that was Suh’s intent — I bet he was just another overly raged-up defensive back playing irresponsibly. Ultimately, the league needs to protect its players — Commissioner howiGit would dole out a 2-game suspension coupled with a 2-flat screen TV fine. Money just doesn’t give these players the message, but take their flat screens and they’ll listen up. I think the NFL will get this one right.

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New York Giants NFL Season Preview, Predictions

New York Giants

By Jimmy Cunningham, howiGit Contributing Writer, New York, NY

Last year, the New York Giants started off as hot as any team, only to fade.  Yet after insurmountable injuries in the secondary and a tough, back-loaded schedule, the Giants organization, players and fans have been left with a bad taste in their collective mouths.  The goal this year? To prove that last year’s New York Giants are not the real New York Giants. The expectations of this season rest solely on a few factors: Kenny Phillips and Keith Bulluck’s health, Osi Umenyiora and Brandon Jacobs having bounce back years, and new coordinator Perry Fewell’s Tampa-2 scheme reigniting the formerly feared Giants defense.  With these factors in mind, let’s take a look at the upcoming New York Giants season – position by position.

Quarterbacks- Despite Eli Manning’s general lack of respect in the media (including the founder of this blog who some may say is still sore from losing a Super Bowl to someone with an “ever-present whining-panicked-crying look”), Manning has a Super Bowl ring and MVP under his belt – more than any other quarterback in the NFC East can claim. The bottom line remains that Manning remains a top ten QB in the league.  While he still has things to improve on – including holding onto the ball – the Giant’s group of very talented, young wide receivers should continue to help Manning improve. If Manning can put up at least 25 touchdowns while holding his turnovers under 20, the Giants should consider it a successful season from their star quarterback.

Running backs- The Giants have a very good tandem at running back, with both players complimenting each other well.  As the pound-for-pound largest and most physically intimidating running back in the NFL, Brandon Jacobs has been considered the number one for the last few years, but that may change in the upcoming season. Giant fans last year grew frustrated with Jacobs’ lack of physicality when running, and his frustration equaled the frustration of the fans.  Biting at Jacobs heals is the shifty Ahmad Bradshaw, who looks poised to take the starting job if Jacobs continues to struggle.  How will Jacobs handle this pressure if Bradshaw overtakes him for the starting job?  For sake of the Giants success, hopefully well.  If the two of them are able to work together, the Giants will have a very dangerous offense.

Wide Receivers- While the Giants lost former starter Dominik Hixon for the season, the receiving corp. looks poised to be mentioned among the best in the league. Coming off of a career year, in which he set the the Giants record for receptions in a season and made the pro bowl, Steve Smith is one of the best possession receivers in the league.  Second year player, Hakeem Nicks, coming off a remarkable rookie campaign, has been receiving rave reviews from the media at training camp and also has been seen as a fantasy sleeper by many publications this season. If Nicks can follow through with expectations and have a breakout season, while Smith continues to be the reliable possession receiver the Giants have come to expect, there is no better and younger one two punch in the NFL. Add the speedy Mario Manningham in the slot and the 6’6” Ramses Barden in the red zone, and the Giants have plenty of weapons at Manning’s disposal. Undrafted rookie Victor Cruz also has shown promise after putting on a show in the first preseason game against the Jets.

Tight Ends- While Kevin Boss in no way should be mistaken as a superstar tight end, he has grown into a reliable target for Eli Manning, as well as an excellent blocker in the running game.  Second year player Travis Beckum has shown promise as well and will likely continue to improve.

Offensive Line- Back in 2008, when the Giants won the Super Bowl, critics lauded them as having the best line in the NFL. With most of that line still intact, the Giants will look to regain their form along the offensive line.  The only major change will come with the insertion of Will Beatty at either the guard or tackle position. He is most likely to replace right tackle Kareem McKenzie, who despite performing at a high level over the last few years, is getting up there in age. Beatty, a second round pick last year, is a big young talent that will hopefully give the Giants more flexibility on the offensive front.

 Defensive line– The Giants are loaded at the defensive end position, especially in terms of athleticism. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, and rookie Jason Pierre-Paul are all quick, athletic players that can get to the quarterback. The trouble for the Giants will not be getting to the quarterback, but rather finding a place for all of these players to contribute while remaining happy with their role on the team.  The benefit to this is that on passing downs they can put them all on the field at the same time and attack the quarterback. This skill upfront allows for Fewell to call fewer blitzes which will allow for better coverage in the middle of the field, which was a major problem last season. The free agent signing of defensive tackle Chris Canty was supposed to bolster the defensive front, yet injuries kept him on the sideline most of the year.  Expect a healthy Canty to produce for the Giants this year. Jay Alford, Rocky Bernard, and Barry Coefield will platoon for the Giants to fill out the defensive front.  Rookie defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who has been receiving excellent reviews from the Giants insiders, also figures to play a role in the defensive tackle rotation.  One thing is for sure; the depth of the Giants defensive front is something that every offense around the league will need to account for week to week.

Line Backers– With the loss of defensive captain Antonio “AP” Pierce, many expect a fall off at the linebacker position. And while AP’s skills had diminished over the last few seasons, no one can dispute that he was the leader of the defense, and had every player in the right position on every play. The Giants will be looking to free agent signee Keith Bulluck to fill AP’s shoes.  Bulluck had filled the same role as AP for the Tennessee Titans over the last 11 season, breaking 100 tackles six times from the outside position and making 2 All-pro teams and a Pro Bowl.  After having reconstructive knee surgery in December, Bulluck was available late in the free agency period, and the Giants scooped him up.  A health Bullock could make all the difference for the Giants defense. With the Giants switching to Fewell’s Tampa-2, the middle linebacker position becomes more important than ever before. Outside linebacker Micheal Boley began last season on the injured list, yet showed promise during the end of the season.  Boley, like Canty, is another player who needs to stay healthy in order to earn his contract.  Clint Sintim, another second year player, will most likely fill in the other starting outside linebacker role. Gerris Wilkinson could also see a good amount of time during passing situations.

Secondary- After a porous performance last season, the Giants secondary must improve in the upcoming season, especially with the strong passing attacks in their division.  Last season the secondary was decimated with injuries, most notably to safety Kenny Phillips, who missed 14 games with a knee injury. With a full recovery, Phillips will be paired with former Arizona Cardinal, Antrelle Rolle. Rolle, a former first round pick out of Miami, has experience in the Tampa-2 scheme that Fewell enforces.  His play making ability could be lethal alongside Phillips, another former Miami player.  Matched with the safety tandem, the Giants have three young fast corners that have all shown promise at points, but need to show more consistency. Corey Webster seems to go from superstar in the making to practice squad player every season.  Terrell Thomas looks to be on the verge of a breakout season.  Aaron Ross is looking to recover from a hamstring injury, a nagging injury he has seemed to have since he has entered the league. If the secondary can stay healthy, the Giants could sneak up on some people.

Special teams- The loss of punter Jeff Feagles, the most consistent Giant since he joined the team, will most likely be the most detrimental to the team. While Feagles would not wow anyone with his length on his kicks, he could put a team inside the 5 unlike any punter ever in the league. Lawrence Tynes returns as kicker, which leaves a lot of uncertainty at this position. The return game seems to be an open competition with Hixon out for the season.

Season overview- Over the last few seasons the NFC East has been called the toughest division in the NFL. With the Eagles being the most consistent team in the division, and the Cowboys receiving the most notoriety, the Giants have gone largely overlooked.  Yet the Eagles have traded All-Pro Donovan McNabb this offseason, a move that will likely hurt them this upcoming season. Taking the reins of the talented Eagles offense will be Kevin Kolb, but is he ready? McNabb may have worn out his welcome in Philly, which is not difficult in a city notorious for being short-minded, but sometimes the evil you know is better than the evil you don’t. The Cowboys are being picked to win the division by most pundits, yet they have been picked to win since Clinton was President, with no rings to show for it. The Giants beat the Cowboys twice last year, including in the stadium opener of Jerry “Nip/Tuck” Jones’s wet dream. The Redskins have improved with the addition of McNabb but the Redskins are a team that one will have to see to believe. Every year the Redskins make a big splash and then disappoint. The NFC East seems to have teams that all have each other’s number – the Giants have the Cowboys number, the Eagles have the Giants number, and the Cowboys have the Eagles number. That may all change, but I think the division is pretty wide open. The Giants play two pretty tough divisions in the NFC North and the AFC south. Looking at the Giants schedule I want to say they’ll go 10-6 and make the playoffs. However, there are a lot of questions still to be answered – hopefully the Giants will respond.

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Tom Brady and the Patriots — Criticism on Both Accounts

Tom Brady

So yesterday I ripped on Eli Manning and the New York Giants a bit, as he was all bloody and one of our contributing New York writers has season tickets to the mediocrity happening every weekend at the new $1.7 Billion dollar Meadowland stadium. Now it’s time to take a look at my team — the New England Patriots.

I’ll start with some criticism of Tom Brady. Yes, I’ll say it again. I’ll start with some criticism of Tom Brady. I ripped on Eli, and at risk of being called a homer, I must be fair. I’ve decided to do this in a personal note to Tom, as I love him.

Dear Tom,

Boy, your eyes sparkle in the picture above. You are so photogenic. But please, Tom, cut that hair. You’ve never looked so soft. I know that Gizelle loves the triumvirate of your long locks, your dimples, and your butt cheeks — but that hair is not intimidating Ray Lewis. If I was a D-lineman, I’d want to rip your head off. So ditch the pretty boy look, get back to the grizzly-badass-stud look, and dominate once again. We all still love you.

Geoff

Tom Brady aside, I’ll start with this — despite the newly retooled Jets and Dolphins, the Patriots will once again win the AFC East. That being said, I don’t think they will be able to contend with the elite teams in the league. Their Super Bowl chances look very slim.

As usual, I think the Patriots offense will be fine.  The air attack still consists of Tom Brady, arguably the best slot receiver in the league (Wes Welker, knee-dependent), and arguably the best deep threat in the league (Randy Moss). It’ll certainly be interesting to see how our new tight ends play — Ron Gronkowski is supposedly a stud and has great size (6’6″, 264 lbs.) while Florida’s Aaron Hernandez has shown great potential despite a love of weed that rivals Ricky Williams’. The Patriots should use approximately 4-28 different running backs, all with mild effectiveness. The O-line isn’t great, but neither is the D-line. The pass defense should be pretty poor, as in past seasons. I’d look for the Patriots to go 10-6, something along those lines, then lose before the Super Bowl.

This is extremely unfortunate to me. The Patriots have an all-time coach, arguably two all-time receivers (it’s a bit early to call Welker that), and an all-time quarterback. These are extremely hard pieces of the puzzle to come by, let alone finding all of them at once. Yet by having the third lowest payroll in football, the Patriots seem to be throwing it all out the window. They are simply refusing to surround this core with the role players necessary to win another championship. I don’t know why, and it frustrates me.

Oh yea, and message to Bob Kraft. What are you thinking? Sign Brady all ready. Who cares what it takes? 

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