Posted on: September 5, 2012 6:08 am

And So It Begins - the 2012 NFL Season

For fans of the NFL, the offseason can be particularly brutal.  Once the stadium lights are shut off and the cameras have gone, we mourn the end of a season, feeling the first symptoms of withdrawal.  We commence the countdown of months, days and hours until the first kickoff of the next season. In the process, we satiate our need by watching replays of the games from the past, build our warboards for the draft and above all, realize we no longer have an excuse not the clean out the garage.  We might follow players on Twitter and Facebook just to keep that connection.  Read and re-read reports from the Combine, the draft and training camp. 

In less than twenty-four hours, the party in Arlington, Texas will begin. Opening day of the 2012 NFL season will be ushered in with the trumpets from heaven and a chorus of angels in the splendor that is known as Cowboy Stadium. With the first kickoff, flashes of light will erupt, as if the very stars from the galaxy came down to bear witness.  And fans, in jubilant proclamation will shout out, "it's here, it's finally here."

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating just a bit, but you have to admit, Mariah Carey has one heck of a voice. 

NFL 2012 will be a bittersweet season for me.  As a Steelers fan, I will miss the smile of Hines Ward as he gets up from a play.  And to no longer hear James Farrior name be mentioned and missing Aaron Smith on the line. Time marches on though and with that positives advance.  Which diamond in the rough will shine this year?  What play will leave me pondering? Of course, my ponderings aren't limited to just the Steelers.

The New York Giants come into this season defending their crown and are the team to beat this year.  The watch is on to see how long they can go before they are defeated and who will be the team to do it this year. My recommendation is lose a game early, get it over and done with and get rid of that one distraction.  Giants seem to do better when they're the underdog, the team that might not be perfect to garner the attention of the media.  The David against the Goliath in a division where their nemesis have been perceived as trying to by championships.  They quietly got the work done last season.  Can they do it again this season though?

And on the other side of the coin, you have the Dallas Cowboys, who are faced with their own distractions.  There's no doubt that quarterback Tony Romo is frustrated with the questions about the window of opportunity closing.  And of course there will be the attention paid to wide receiver Dez Bryant, unfortunately more for what he's doing off the field than on it.  Have the Cowboys front office done enough to beef up their defense to help the team get over that hurdle? 

Focus has been on the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason, mostly due to the hold out of Maurice Jones-Drew.  It's not likely that the attention will lift anytime soon as we watch to see how last season's top rusher will perform.  If his numbers drop, chances are great that analysts will point to the hold out as the reason.  Still, in a way, I'm pulling for the Jags to have a decent season.  I like coach Mike Mularkey.  I believe, given time, he can acquire the talent to get the team to the playoffs.  But it's easier to pull the trigger than it is to have patience to grow a team. 

One wonders what the direction of the Oakland Raiders will be now that Al Davis is no longer with us.  It was always believed that the late owner was holding the team back with his hands-on approach in ownership.  I'd like to see Terrelle Pryor get his shot and do well.  Pryor made his name as the number one prospect coming out of Jeannette High School.  I like to see kids that graduated from the same school I went to, make good.  Pryor is no exception.  Still, one can't argue that the Raiders have no talent.  It's just a matter of finding the right magic to make it work. 

If there is any team that is facing distractions this season, it will definitely be the Saints.  No one will argue that they, as a team will be under a microscope with both the press and the fans, watching to see how they rebound from the scandal and if "bountygate" was the reason for their past success.  They have two options, shoot everyone the bird and come out with a "we'll show you" attitude or succumb to the pressure.  I'll say it's the former.  Quarterback Drew Brees is nothing but a passionate and consumate leader who has the ability to rally his troops in the face of adversity. 

One thing I do know, that as with each season it will be electrifying and disappointing on the road to the playoffs.  The days of manicured nails and quiet Sunday afternoons are now gone until February.  And if one is disappointed that the window of opportunity to clean out the garage has gone, well, there's always the bye.


Posted on: October 27, 2008 10:26 am

A Surreal Ending

Memo to Bruce Arians:  Play not to lose and you probably will.  When something is working, it’s usually a good idea to go with it until it stops working. 

Memo to Mike Tomlin:  Think it’s time to get the oline some more help?  Might want to look at emphasizing plays on special teams too, especially when it comes to the long snapper positon.

Memo to Dick LeBeau:  Keep doing what you’re doing.

Memo to Ben Roethlisberger:  What made you such a perfect fit for this team was that you weren’t a pure pocket passer, so why are you trying to be?

Memo to James Harrsion:  You may suck at long snapping, but you’re still one hell of a linebacker. 

Memo to my daughter:  Perhaps you may want to look into going into sports medicine, with the drop in my 401K, you may be needing to support me in my old age. 

Yesterdays Giants versus the Steelers game proved to be the defensive battle that Giants and Steelers fans expected it to be.  Did it live up to the hype?  Perhaps, depending on who you were rooting for.  Of course, if you were looking for a high scoring run away game, forget it, neither defense was going to allow it.  And, in the end, it was the defenses on both teams that would make the difference in this game.

Going into the game, there were three questions I had.  1)  How would the Giants oline do against a defense that ranked first in sacks?  2)  Would the Steelers defense be able to contain Brandon Jacobs?  3) How would the Steelers oline handle the pass rush of a Giants defense that ranked second in sacks? These questions were answered yesterday.  1) Great, 2) Most definitely, 3) Very poorly. 

No doubt after this game, there are questions on the Steelers offense.  At the beginning they came out looking strong and put themselves ahead.  However, the game and momentum would shift in the Giants favor, a lot due to the pressure the Giants defense was able to place on the oline and Ben Roethlisberger and would limit the Steelers to only 14 points for the entire game.  Of course it didn’t help that the play calling seemed to become rather conservative when it needed to be aggressive either. 

It wasn’t just the Steelers offense that struggled getting points.  Though the Giants did better in obtaining yards on the ground to get to the red zone, the Steelers defense for three quarters would limit the Giants offense to nine points in four trips to the red zone, all field goals.  Steelers defense made an impressive stand keeping Brandon Jacobs out of the end zone and ended up turning it over on downs.  In fact the Steelers defense against the rush, did spectacular in keep Jacobs under 40 yds rushing for the game. 

However, it is said that the team that wins that battle in turnovers will win the game.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, it would be the Giants that would win the turnover battle.  Roethlisberger would end up, at the end of the day, being credited with four interceptions.  So we can argue how good or bad those interceptions were, however, that is irrelevant.  Two of the interceptions placed the Giants with good field position and another took the Steelers out of the game.  It would be at the final quarter, when the Giants would have a field goal and come up with a safety that would tie the game, then a touchdown to put them ahead in the end.

Given the season, it is fitting that one would wonder though if a black cat had crossed the path of the Steelers.  Too many penalties straight in a row, that hurt their field position.  A pulled hamstring by the punter Mitch Berger, a torn ACL to the longsnapper Greg Warren, a hit by Ryan Clark on Brandon Jacobs (or vice versa) that left Clark with a dislocated shoulder.   Somehow it seemed just too surreal.  A bad snap that tied the game, and the inability to get anything going on offense at the end would leave Steelers fans muttering unreal, and grumbling again at the offensive coordinator.

Posted on: October 23, 2008 7:33 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2008 7:48 pm

Flashback, Fast Forward and Deja Vu

Some have called this the game of the year, I’m not sure why, but if some in the media want to hype it that way, go for it, though I doubt if the teams will bite.  I’m looking at it as more of a game of eeriness, shall we say.  Perhaps that’s good though, given it’s a home game at Heinz Field so close to Halloween.  No black and orange here though, just black and gold … oh and the white, blue and red of that other team.  You know the team I’m talking about, the one that will have the bulls eye on their back all season long because everyone wants to beat last years Superbowl champions.

I’m calling it kind of spooky myself.  No, there won’t be any ghosts or goblins, after all, the game will be a day game, however, some events are just a little uncanny to be just, well, to have just happened.  Flashback to 2004 with me for a moment. 

Preseason draft, two young first round draft picks, quarterbacks of course.  One, the first one or the number 1, the other drafted at number 11.  Okay, even that may be a stretch at numerology.  The one would start off as the hope of the franchise, the other proved to be the pride of the franchise, that year. 

Still with me in 2004?  Good, because that was the last time the Steelers hosted the Superbowl champions in Heinz Field.  Guess what, it was on October 31st, 2004 when the Patriots were defeated at Heinz Field by the Steelers.  That Superbowl team was met with a stifling defense, a solid running game and a quarterback who didn’t throw away the game.  Later that year, they would also face the loser of the Superbowl.  Okay, this is as far as I want to take this coincidence, because we know what happened at the end of that year.

Oh yeah, one more thing, last time these two teams met, these two quarterbacks played each other, 2004.  Steelers won that game too.

Now fast forward to October 26, 2008.  Two quarterbacks from the same draft class will be meeting for the first time on the field since their draft year.  One will be the Superbowl champions, the other will be one of the recipient of the Superbowl ring from a few years before. 

One other canny thing here.  On October 26, 2008, the two teams that  are meeting are 5-1, have each registered their only loss to their opponents division rivals. 

Okay, so it’s easy to draw coincidences in this game and make parallel universes appear when there really isn’t any.  However, as I mentioned in the beginning, some are touting this the game of the year.  I can understand why. 

Sunday’s Steelers game against the New York Giants at Heinz Field could very well turn into the battle that the hype may allude it to be.  The hype, two first round draft choices of 2004, two quarterbacks who’ve grown into their own.  Each having their own Superbowl ring. 

Not hype.  Each team having a balanced offense, with a running back tandem that can burn defenses.  For the Giants, Brandon Jacobs could be compared to…well…Jerome Bettis.  A beast on the field that could run over defenders.  Add to that the presence of Derrick Ward.  Combined, both backs have accumulated a total of 853 yds in six games.  Add to that Eli Manning’s arm and the wide receiving talents of Plaxico Burress, Steve Smith and Amani Toomer and this offense has the potential to be lethal.  That’s why they’re 5 and 1 and sitting on top of their division and their conference.

However, the Steelers offense is no slouch either, especially since showing it’s depth with the loss of Willie Parker for several games and Rashard Mendenhall for the season.  In fact, Mewelde Moore was able to fill in quite nicely having accumulated 219 yds in his first two starts.  With the possibility of Parker returning to the game on Sunday, we could see a switch off of the two backs against the Giants 4-3 defense.  Add to that the passing attack of Ben Roethlisberger to Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington (not to mention tight end Heath Miller) and the Steelers offense can be just as potent. 

Still not hype.  Giants 4-3 defense and the Steelers 3-4 defense.  Steelers defense have only allowed a total of 418 yds on the ground, Giants, 507.  Steelers lead in sacks 25 to 21 and have allowed fewer passing yards 952 to the Giants 1144. 

Here I’m liking the Steelers defense to match up well against the Giants offense.  However, this will be the first real test of the Pittsburgh oline since the Philadelphia Eagles game, especially with Justin Tuck and Fred Robbins on the Giants defense. 

What I’m also liking is that, with the exception of the Redskins, the Giants oline hasn’t really been truly tested this year in the protecting against the constant pressure of the blitz and a 3-4 defense.  When the Browns played the Giants, there were 3 interceptions and 1 sack, and the Giants loss that game. 

Given that this is at home, the Steelers coming in with the momentum, a defense that can force turnovers and leads the league in sacks.  I’m liking the Steelers chances, but it will be close and it will be defensive. 
Posted on: September 5, 2008 6:34 am

2008-09 Projections - NFC East

Talk about a stomach bug coming on quickly.  As I type this up, all of the sudden I feel really ill.  Okay, I’ll admit it, it’s because I can only say nice things about the Dallas Cowboys and it’s making me ill. 

NFC North: 

#4) Washington Redskins – Nope this has nothing to do with last nights game, although I think the Jim Zorn will be good for the quarterback, I think that this will be an instance where a rookie coach is going to need to get acclimated and his players are going to have to get accustomed with their system.  Yeah, and Clinton Portis isn’t the key to this team, their defense is.  They do have the best looking coach in the NFL though.

#3) Philadelphia Eagles – somethings missing with this team.  Not sure what it is and it’s definitely not Brian Westbrook or Lito Sheppard.  Just a feeling, you know.

#2) New York Giants – No doubt that what the Giants did last year was remarkable, not only to go on to the Superbowl on the Wildcard, but to beat an undefeated Patriots team to win the trophy.  Those of us who’s teams have been to the Superbowl will tell you, it’s extremely difficult to do back to back unless you have an awesome team.  Giants definitely are a good team with the Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress go to, and no doubt that Brandon Jacobs is a beast.  But the Giants have a bulls eye on their back now and they’re the team to beat and they’ll be seeing the A games from most everyone they meet.

#1) Dallas Cowboys – God this pains me to say this.  The Cowboys have everything it takes to get to the Superbowl this year.  Tony Romo has now settled down and become comfortable, they’ve got a very good defense, Patrick Crayton and Terrill Owens as passing weapons.  Keep an eye on Felix Jones.  He’ll make an impact for the team this year.

NFC East Division Champions – Dallas Cowboys 
Posted on: January 30, 2008 6:09 am
Edited on: January 30, 2008 6:12 am

Yes I Cry at Football, is this a problem?

It's early morning here.  My husband is playing his videogame and I'm perusing the sports stories.  He just happens to look over at me as I'm wiping tears off my face and blowing my nose.  All he goes is "football?" .  I nod and then start laughing.  My husbands favorite line, "gotta love my wife, only person I know that cries over football".  I guess I should feel foolish but I don't, but then, he's the only one who sees me cry.

No, it's not the loss or win of a game that brings me to sobs.  Although regular season losses just leave me feeling down, and post season losses just want to make me get drunk.  I can "man up" with the best of them and accept the loss as a fan, graciously.  Well...ok...I ummm...do grieve at the loss during a playoff game, but I hide in the closet when I do this.

It's the human side of football that often brings me to tears.  A player or a coach that I admire retiring.  Yep I cried when I saw Bettis holding the trophy after his last game of his career.  And yes, I did cry when I read that Bill Cowher was retiring also.  Some tears were shed when I saw the various NFL players pitching in to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  At one point, I had to stop watching the NFL Network because there was always something nice that would reduce me to tears...but then again, no one was watching. 

This season I found the waterworks in full force as I followed the story of Buffalo Bills player Kevin Everett's miraculous struggle with a spinal cord injury earlier in the season.  Yes, even when he returned to the stadium for the last game of the season, some tears escaped as I heard and read about it. 

Now this morning, it was Pete Prisco who had me in tears.  No, not his writings, I actually enjoy them, but it was his story on Domenik Hixon and how he'll be playing for Everett in the Superbowl.  "Playing for two", as it's stated in the article.  It was a little heartwrenching to read how that hit by Hixon on Everett and the susequent injury not only haunted him, but inspired Hixon. 

There's a human side to the NFL.  It's not just stats and points and player information.  Not just game plans and Sunday games.  We often feel for the players who get hurt and spurn those who cause those injuries.  Prisco's article shows us the effects that incidents like the Everett injury has on those who cause them. 

Yes I cried.  I cried when Art Rooney passed on, I cried when Terry Bradshaw came back to Pittsburgh, after his self-exile.  Tears were flowing when they showed the 75th All-Star team for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Yep, the waterworks were turned on quite a bit these past few seasons.  Thanks Pete for flipping that faucet again.  Anyone have a tissue?

Note:  Pete Prisco's article can be found here:   www.sportsline.com/nfl/story/106073


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com