Credit Where Credit Is Due: The NFL

While I’m not a huge football fan, I’ll still spend nine hours watching every Sunday during the Fall. I feel compelled to watch no matter my feelings on the sport (too many commercials!) so an NFL lockout didn’t seem like the end of the world to me. It basically would have given me my Sundays back. But that won’t be the case for at least the next decade because “football is back”.

That means SportCenter will be dominated by free agency, rule changes, training camps, preseason games and team predictions over the next couple of weeks. Fantasy football commercials will pick up en masse and most major stories on ESPN will relate to the NFL.

I’m not particularly looking forward to ESPN shoving an offseason full of NFL news down my throat in a month, but I do have to give credit NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith.

This was a pretty bitter battle that went back and forth a couple of times and led to the longest lockout in league history. But in the end, they got it done.

Here’s how Ashley Fox at ESPN described the deal:

• The owners and the players. Call it a tie. Each got a little something they wanted, and most important, each will get a lot of money. The owners now will keep 52 percent of the revenues, not the 47 percent from the previous collective bargaining agreement that so rankled them, but they also will have to operate with a $120 million salary cap, with an additional approximately $20 million for benefits, and have a guaranteed spend. That guaranteed spend was important to the players, and they got it.

In the end, the owners and players are splitting more than $9 billion. No one is losing.

That sounds exactly like how this sort of thing is supposed to work. Lots of bickering, months of proposals, counter-proposals and walking away from the table. Bring in the lawyers and the courts and make this thing as messy as possible. But when the season nears, each side sacrificed something and realized missing any games would be unacceptable. The Hall of Fame game is a big enough casualty in itself.

So, props to Goodell, Smith and everyone else involved in these negotiations. They were messy and dragged on but we’re going to have a full season of football and everyone can be happy with that (If only people in Washington could learn how to give a little bit on each side).

2010 Divisional Playoff Preview

Saints' QB Drew Brees Throws a Pass

In last week’s predictions, I was 2-out-of-4. Saturday was a good day, but Sunday didn’t go so well. Here are my predictions for this week’s matchups.

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints – Saturday 4:30

The Cardinals won last week’s shoot out with Green Bay, but if that same defense shows up this weekend, this game won’t be close for very long. The Saints finished the year weakly, but will be fresh and ready to go after the off week. Quarterback Drew Brees didn’t play in the Saints’ Week 17 loss to the Carolina Panthers while running back Reggie Bush had just five carries. The Saints will have to shake off any rust immediately since the Cardinals are in full swing after last week. The Saints’ defense has had holes at times this season and the three consecutive losses to end the season are alarming. Meanwhile, Cardinals’ quarterback Kurt Warner had an excellent game last week. This game will come down to scoring. I’m going with the Saints again, because I think their defense will step up and hold the Cardinals to a reasonable score. Warner proved me wrong last week, but I’m saying the Saints win 35-24.

Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts – Saturday 8:15

The Ravens upset the Patriots last week in a dominant performance that left many NFL fans in awe. Baltimore’s defense was just overpowering last week. Ray Lewis led the defensive attack and the Patriot offense had no answer for it. The Ravens’ offense played strong as well, putting up 33 points on a New England defense that isn’t nearly as good as it was in years past. Like the Saints, the Colts finished the year badly, losing their final two games while resting most of their starters. Even so, quarterback Peyton Manning had a terrific year. However, the Colts’ rushing attack was weak with no one rushing for over a hundred yards in any game this season. The Colts will be home where their only loss came to the New York Jets, but Baltimore proved that they have no trouble winning away from home after the destruction of New England this past week. I’m going with an upset here with Manning struggling to find his game and the Ravens win 24-17. Continue reading “2010 Divisional Playoff Preview”

2010 Wild Card Weekend Preview

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

Wild Card Weekend is upon us and it’s time to give some predictions for those games and more. This year’s wild card games are particularly interesting because three of the four games are rematches from games in Week 17. With that, let’s look at the games: 

New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals – Saturday 4:30 

The Jets had a big victory last week when they beat Cincinnati in New York to secure their playoff spot. The Jets were dominant last week, but Cincinnati didn’t exactly put out its top players. Cedric Benson will be back this weekend after missing last week and he is the main component of the Bengals’ offense. Carson Palmer had an abysmal week in New York, but a lot of that was due to the injury to Chad Ochocinco which occurred during warmups. A combination of exceptional coverage by Jets’ cornerback Darrelle Revis and the injury made Ochocinco useless. He got open rarely and when he did, dropped the passes. Jets QB Mark Sanchez will be making his playoff debut, which could prove costly if his inexperience shows. I think Revis will be the difference in the game. He shutdown the opponent’s top receiver week in and week out and the playoffs will be no different. This will allow the Jets to focus on stopping Benson and packing the line. The Jets offense won’t light up the board, but RB Laveranues Coles will push the Jets to a 21-10 victory. 

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots – Sunday 1:00 

This is the only matchup that isn’t a rematch from Week 17. New England has a lot of injuries to deal with after losing Wes Welker for the season in a loss to the Houston Texans last week. The Ravens on the other hand held the Raiders to just 13 points last week in an eight point victory. Tom Brady has three broken ribs, a hand injury, and a shoulder injury, but will certainly be on the field come game time Sunday. The Pats are expected to get nose tackle Vince Wilfork back which will significantly upgrade their run defense. While QB Joe Flacco has struggled throwing the ball this year, RB Ray Rice has lead the offense on the ground. With Wilfork back, I expect Rice to struggle and Flacco doesn’t have the arm to carry his team to victory. New England also possesses homefield advantage which will lead the Pats to a 24-17 victory. Continue reading “2010 Wild Card Weekend Preview”