January 12, 2009

Another weekend of football

I just noticed in the news that Tony Dungy retired from coaching the Indianapolis Colts. That's sad news coming from a Colts fan. The NFL needs more guys like him -- great role models, guys with integrity and strong character. It's unfortunate but probably for the better. He's young enough that he can still work on the many ministries he's involved with, and of course spend more time with his family.

Ina and I watched approximately 14-16 hours of football over the past two days and to be honest, as much I enjoyed watching these games, my eyes were getting pretty tired from staring at the television last night.. especially since there was an additional 2 hours of 24 tacked on after the Steelers/Chargers game.

In the first game, I thought Tennessee would be able to hold off the Baltimore Ravens in a matchup of two of the most unforgiving defenses in the league. These two teams had played before and I guess the matchup had ended in not-so-friendly terms. The two teams appeared to hate eachother.

I told my brother before the game that I thought the Titans would win it because the Titans possessed the only play-maker on the field -- Chris Johnson. There was never any doubt that both teams had strengths and weaknesses, but overall they were pretty evenly matched. What it came down, at least for me, was the presence of one Chris Johnson, the rookie runningback for the Tennessee Titans.

So for the first half, I was proven right. Chris Johnson led the way, moving the chains and pretty much making the Ravens defense look human. But then he hurts his ankle and he's out for the second half, and the Ravens claw back and win it. Titans were completely useless on offense without Chris, which is not surprising since he was pretty much all they had going for them in the first half.

The second game I expected to be a blowout. I was telling my friend from the States (who was cheering for Kurt Warner) that Carolina had Arizona dominated in pretty much every statistical category there was. I told him that the only chance Arizona had was if they were to run the ball effectively; and their run offense was the worst in the league. The chances of Arizona winning this game was close to nothing.

Arizona did everything that I thought they couldn't pull off. The stars aligned and Warner used Edgerrin James like during his glory days with Marshall Faulk and got the offense running on all cylinders. Further, they took an early lead preventing Carolina from using their dominant running game.

Throughout the 3rd and 4th quarters I felt that Carolina should have just run the ball down Arizona's throats. Forget the conventional wisdom of airing it out when you're down and just run like hell. If they had started doing this earlier in the game, there would be no reason to force the ball to Steve Smith or worry about running the clock down. Instead, Jake Delhomme throws 5 interceptions on his way to quite easily one of the worst performances of his life.

The Saturday games were more exciting than the Sunday games, even though I thought Sunday's games were more important.

Next up were the Giants against the surging Eagles. I told my brother that this game was going to go either way, McNabb had been playing well and the Eagles' defense had been very, very good over their last few games. But the game was being played in the Meadowlands and I just didn't think Philly would be able to stop all 3 of Bradshaw, Jacobs and Ward -- the Giant's 3-headed running force.

I was proven wrong though as the Eagles were able to stop them from running and then it came down to Eli trying to beat Eagles' secondary. Eli just was not on his game, at all, throwing inaccurate passes on his way to an unimpressive day. I thought the Giants did a good job of limiting Brian Westbrook and had a fair shot to win this game if it weren't for Eli's uninspiring performance. Any time your defense plays great and you still can't win the game, it's easy to point fingers. They lost this game because of Eli and that hurts, especially after his back-to-the-wall performances in the playoffs last year.

In the final game was Chargers vs Pittsburgh, and I have to admit at this point I was pretty football'ed out. Ina was cheering for Pittsburgh and I cheered for the Chargers which in all honesty came down to me just wanting to see an offense-heavy team win over a superb defense. I saw no reason they could win except through some freakish luck or tragedy from the Steelers' side. I thought even if they had to go with their backup Byron Leftwich, the Steelers should still win this game handily.

Vincent Jackson has had a great year, which surprises me because I never expected that he would be. In previous years, the #1 WR in SD was always the 3rd option on offense after Tomlinson and Gates, and even so I thought Chris Chambers was their best WR. Philip Rivers has had a fantastic year, and has really grown into a good leader of the team even if he's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Looking back I'm not even sure Vincent Jackson was even drafted in either of my leagues. I guess the minute we heard Tomlinson was iffy I should have went out and grabbed him.

Somehow I can never get fantasy football out of my head. Okay, back to the game. The Steelers dominated this game because the Chargers had no running game. I hope that all the talk about Darren Sproles being good enough to be a starter, or that he is anywhere nearly as good as Michael Turner can finally stop. The guy is fast and quick, but he's too small and outside of a couple of big meaningless saving-face plays towards the end of the game, when Pittsburgh was just going through the motions and looking towards next week, he was a non-factor in the game.

Next week is Pittsburgh against Baltimore, which I think Pittsburgh should take because they have an offense, and then the more interesting matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the upstart Arizona Cardinals.

I'm going to be cheering for the Cards next week, but looking at the way the Eagles contained the Giant's runners, I don't really see how the Cards can run. I would be just as happy to see the Eagles make it.

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