Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What We Learned Week 2 in the NFL Season

Week 2 of the NFL season is in the books, and it’s still too early to read any serious trends for the season, but like any good student, we are learning. Let’s take a look at a few of the lessons learned from Week 2 of the NFL season.

10) Passing records will fall. Thanks to the new NFL rules that give receivers all day to run around the field and get open, we are seeing some impressive passing stats pile up. Tom Brady racked up 423 yards on Sunday, giving him over 900 yards on the season. Impressive.

9) Don’t count the Pittsburgh Steelers out just yet. After being punched in the mouth last week, by the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers bounced back and used the Seattle Seahawks as a whipping boy to prove their defense is still something to be feared.

8) The Detroit Lions are legit. It’s one thing to pick up a few scrappy wins. It’s another thing to dominate a team, even it if is the Kansas City Chiefs. Sunday the Lions defense forced 6 TO’s and dominated the Chiefs in every aspect of the game.

7) Cam Newton is the real deal, and the Panthers are suffering because of it. In week 2, Cam Newton threw for over 400 yards again, and the Carolina Panthers loss again. Yes Cam is lighting it up, but the Panthers paid a lot of money for two running backs during the offseason and they are not giving them the ball. Cam’s stats are impressive, but the Panthers need to establish their running game if they want to win games this season.

6) You can’t crown the Baltimore Ravens yet. A week ago the Ravens were the toast of the NFL after spanking the Pittsburgh Steelers. This week, they are back in the doghouse. It’s hard to believe a team whose emotional leaders include Ed Reed and Ray Lewis would have a letdown factor after a bit game. But that’s exactly what the Ravens suffered from on Sunday.

5) Raheem Morris is going to be a good NFL coach for a long time. In the first half of Sunday’s game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were struggling and trailed the Minnesota Vikings by 17 points at the half. Second year coach Raheem Morris made some great halftime adjustments that saw LeGarrette Blount rush for 67 yards in the second half after only compiling 4 in the first half.

4) The Buffalo Bills are the best team that no one cares about. The Bills found themselves in a classic AFC shootout with the Oakland Raiders. The Bills have a good quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick and they are a pretty good team, but in the AFC East they will be lost in the shuffle.

3) The Cincinnati Bengals don’t need Carson Palmer. Sunday evening rookie quarterback Andy Dalton proved he has what it takes to lead an NFL team. The Bengals may have loss 24-22 to the Denver Broncos but Andy Dalton delievered a near perfect performance going for two scores and 332 yards.

2) Tony Romo got the critics off his back, for now. The Dallas Cowboys looked horrible against the San Francisco 49’ers on Sunday. Tony Romo went down with a punctured lung in the first half, and then made his great return leading to Cowboys to victory. The gutsy performance helped to quiet some of the critics.

1) The Philadelphia Eagles did not make enough moves to make the Super Bowl. Michael Vick went down with a concussion on Sunday night. Mainly because the Eagles failed to upgrade a shaky offensive line, and provide Vick with adequate protection. I guess, linemen got lost in all the of the Dream Team shuffle.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Walker Sports College Football Top 25 Poll Week 3

After a hard fought game down in Florida, we finally have some movement in the week 3 edition of the Walker Sports Top 25 Poll. As teams begin their conference schedule, the opportunity for upsets showed itself, and someone suffered the results in this week’s poll.

1) Oklahoma Sooners: On the road in a hostile environment, and the Sooners stood strong. Proving they can win in a physical game. With Saturday’s victory, Oklahoma has to be on the fast track to a National Championship.

2) LSU Tigers: Another solid week for the Baton Rouge crew.

3) Alabama Crimson Tide: Nick Saban’s bunch is a lot better than I anticipated. I have a feeling they will factor into the BCS picture before it’s all over.

4) Boise State Broncos: A tough Friday night road game against an upset minded Toledo was not enough to stop Chris Peterson’s Broncos from taking care of business.

5) Oklahoma State Cowboys: How good is this team? Can Gundy get them over the hump and help them win a big game?

6) Stanford Cardinals: When Andrew Luck is your quarterback, you have the opportunity to win a few games.

7) Wisconsin Badgers: These guys have to be the frontrunners in the B1G. Russell Wilson gives the Badgers a much needed air attack.

8) Texas A&M Aggie’s: The pieces are in place, but are the Aggais ready to step in as the top program in Texas?

9) Nebraska Cornhuskers: The Cornhuskers are good, but they need to find someone other than their QB to generate all of their offense.

10) Oregon Ducks:
The crew from Eugene Oregon has bounced back nicely after their opening week loss. Most importantly they are showing good balance on offense.

11) Florida State Seminoles: Saturday was a test for the Seminoles. Jimbo is trying to rebuild Florida State to greatness, and after playing Oklahoma tight, but falling short of the victory, FSU knows they still have some work to do.

12) South Carolina Gamecocks: 24-21 is too close against Navy. I don’t care how much the Midshipmen overachieve.

13) Virginia Tech Hokies: The Hokies are the only true rival to Florida State in the ACC.

14) Arkansas Razorbacks: Yet another talented team in the SEC West. That division is better than half the major conferences in the NCAA.

15) Florida Gators:
We warned you at the beginning of the season that the Gators would be a solid team. Slowly but surely Florida is climbing back into the spotlight.

16) Baylor Bears: It’s a shame that Baylor is finally getting some national recognition and they will be out of a conference in 12 months.

17) Texas Longhorns: It looks like the Longhorns have finally settled on a quarterback, and as a result the offense appears to be clicking on all cylinders.

18) TCU Horned Frogs: The whole season is geared toward a showdown with Boise State, and ruining their BCS dreams.

19) South Florida Bulls: Is it time to believe in the Bulls?

20) West Virginia Mountaineers: WVU can play, more importantly Gino Smith can play and he has the skills to lead the Mountaineers into the BCS.

21) Michigan Wolverines:
The Wolverines are for real… sort of. Robinson is playing his tail off, and the Wolverines are following suit.

22) USC Trojans: It doesn’t matter that they are not eligible for post season play, the Trojans are once again playing for pride, and doing a great job of executing on the field.

23) Clemson Tigers: The boys delivered a big win at home against Auburn on Saturday, and ended the nationals longest win streak in the process. Not bad for a day’s work.

24) Georgia Tech: The most impressive number for the Yellow Jackets is 12.1. That’s how many yards per carry Georgia Tech averaged on Saturday. Scary.

25) Michigan State:
Sparty is just barely holding on, as it looks like Michigan State is not who I thought they were.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Walker Sports College Football Top 25 Poll Week 2

Week two of the college football season is in the books, and sure we didn’t get the powerhouse games we saw in opening week. As a result there’s not a lot of movement in this week’s edition of the Walker Sports Top 25, think of this as the calm before the storm.

1. Oklahoma Sooners: An off week will be useful as they prepare for the big showdown with Florida State.

2. LSU Tigers: The SEC West is not going to be easy, but surviving the scandal is impressive.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide: Penn State proved to be little competition for Saban’s crew.

4. Florida State Seminoles: Next week we get to see if the Seminoles are for real. A win over top ranked Oklahoma and Florida State is on the fast track to the BCS Championship.

5. Boise State Broncos: The Broncos are a very good team. They need TCU to stay strong to help them get another quality win on their schedule since Georgia is not helping.

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys: The Cowboys may be the most under the radar team in the country still (no one watch their Thursday game). I’m very curious to see how they fair in the conference schedule.

7. Stanford Cardinals: On the road at Duke and the Cardinals came up with a great win.

8. Wisconsin Badgers: Once again Russell Wilson proved to be the biggest acquisition of the offseason.

9. Texas A&M: Mike Sherman’s bunch are legit.

10. Nebraska Cornhuskers: The Huskers have a home game coming up then a tough 3-game road trip.

11. South Carolina Gamecocks: Georgia played them tougher than I thought, but in the end the Gamecocks were too good.

12. Oregon Ducks: How do you bounce back from an opening week loss? Slap a team around when you return home and prove you’re still a top level team.

13. Virginia Tech Hokies: They haven’t played anyone of significance yet, but Virginia Tech appears to be up to their usual tricks.

14. Arkansas Razorbacks: Still waiting to see if the Razorbacks are as good as we think they are.

15. Ohio State Buckeyes: Still waiting to get everyone back on the field to see how good this team really is.

16. Michigan State Spartans: These guys are going to be the B1G spoilers.

17. Florida Gators: Sneaky team in the SEC, that will surprise someone.

18. Baylor Bears: With that type of talent at the quarterback position, Baylor will be competitive all year.

19. Texas Longhorns: There’s still a lot of questions surrounding the Longhorns, as they struggle to find their identity.

20. Auburn Tigers: A solid win against an SEC opponent puts War Eagle back in favor with some of the Auburn faithful.

21. Arizona State Sun Devils: The quiet killers out in the PAC-12.

22. TCU Horned Frogs: Good way to bounce back after a heartbreaker to open the season.

23. South Florida Bulls: Could this be the year the Bulls finally breakthrough in the Big East?

24. West Virginia Mountaineers: Just have to keep pace with USF.

25. Michigan Wolverines: Welcome back to the Top 25, now try to stay here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

10 Lessons Learned from Week 1 of the NFL Season

Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season is nearly in the books, save a couple games tonight. So we thought it was as good of a time as any to make some notes on what we saw over the weekend.

10) Cam Newton can be a productive NFL Quarterback. The rookie QB led all passers on Sunday evening, in his NFL debut. Not an easy task. He may struggle during the season, but it appear the Carolina Panthers have something special in Cam Newton.

9) The 49er’s will be back. In his NFL coaching Debut, San Francisco 49er’s hears coach Jim Harbaugh beat up on former Pac 12 foe Pete Carroll. Alex Smith may not be the quarterback of the future for the 49er’s but he will be serviceable this season.

8) Mike Shanahan is turning over a new leaf in DC. In the past Shanahan has used a plug-n-play system for his running backs, and he’s managed to be successful with that strategy. Sunday, new Washington Redskins RB Tim Hightower avg. 2.9 yards a carry. However, journeyman quarterback Rex Grossman threw for 305 yards. Maybe times are changing for Mike Shanahan.

7) You can’t rely on last year’s successes to get you by. The Kansas City Chiefs appeared to still be living off their 2010 success, and the Buffalo Bills snapped them back to reality with a 41-7 beat down. It’s Time for the Chiefs to hit the drawing board and make some adjustments.

6) Some things never change. The San Diego Chargers brought in a new special teams coach, and they gave up a 103 yard return on the opening kickoff. San Diego wanted to get off to a hot start, but someone should have told them that meant more than an interception on the first defensive play of the game. Once again the Chargers are slow out of the gate.

5) The NFC North is tough. The Bears, Lions, Vikings, and Packers all racked up impressive victories over quality opponents in the opening week. It’s going to be a long winter up north.

4) Plaxico Burress is still tall. In his first game in two years, New York Jets wide out Plaxico Burress proved he still knows how to take advantage of his height and dominate in the red zone.

3) The Steelers got old. The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered their first opening day loss in eight years, and they did it in glorious fashion being blown out by the Baltimore Ravens. One of the most evident things was the lack of athleticism shown by the Steelers. The defense looked slow, and the offensive line was horrible.

2) Tony Romo is who we thought he was. Once again the Dallas Cowboys gunslinger was his own demise fumbling the ball on the goal line, and then tossing a pick with 1:54 to go in a tie ball game. Romo has yet to progress in his six years in the league, and Jerry Jones and co. have to wonder if he really has what it takes to lead the Cowboys.

1) Peyton Manning is a difference maker. The Indianapolis Colts played their first game without Peyton Manning under center since the Clinton administration, and they looked just as bad yesterday as they did twelve years ago. The Colts appeared loss on offense and defense with their general sidelined with a neck injury.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Keys to the NFL Season Part II

16. This is the end my friends. Neck and spine injuries are no laughing matter, and neither is having Kerry Collins as your starting quarterback. If you ever wondered how important Peyton Manning is to the Indianapolis Colts, wait till you watch the Colts play sans Manning.

15. It’s about change. As a city Detroit has needed change for decades, for 2011 the Detroit Lions will be experiencing change. A change in culture and a change in attitude will see the Lions improve this season. Thanks to dominant force Ndamukong Suh, and his partner in crime Nick Fairley the Lions are going to one mean bunch. There are no pushovers in the Motor City.

14. Rebuilding made easy. The Jacksonville Jaguars revamped their offense last year thanks to a reach with the 10th pick and they are yielding the rewards now. There are plenty of questions surrounding the Jags offense, but the defense could be good enough to carry them.

13. Was it just a dream? That’s what many are asking about the 2010 campaign put on by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The youngest team in the league shuck up the NFL and nearly slipped into the playoffs. But with their schedule getting tougher and two potentially elite teams in the division, they'll have to improve to win as many games as they did last year.

12. We like being under the radar. Those are words you never thought you would hear from the Dallas Cowboys, but that’s exactly where they current sit. Dallas went 5-3 in the Jason Garrett half of last season, but many cannot forget their 2-6 start. The Cowboys need to prove to the world that they are as good as they look on paper. Maybe having lowered expectations will help this team.

11. This year we are going to do it. I mean it!! Every year there is a breakout team in the NFL, and for the past four seasons that team has been the Houston Texans. Unfortunately for the Texans they never break through the glass ceiling. Thanks to additions on defense, and a shaky AFC North, this may finally be the Texans year.

10. Mark Sanchez is good enough. Yes I really mean that. The New York Jets have a loaded defense and talent at the skills positions. Now they need to trust and believe in Mark Sanchez. His stats aren’t great, but he is great in the 2-minute drill, and that will win you a lot of games.

9. The defense can’t save you this time. The New York Giants won 10 games last year, despite Eli Manning's 25 interceptions. Last year they had a healthy defense that saved the Giants when Eli got them into trouble. This year, Manning may not have that security blanket to fall back on thanks to injuries.

8. Find a way to make the pieces fit. So far, for Chad Ochocinco the issue hasn't been showboating or calling attention to himself, but instead, finding a way to fit into the New England Patriots offense. If things are bad enough for the Patriots to consider Randy Moss, you know the Patriots have concerns.

7. Its Joe Flaco’s time to shine. The defense is getting older, and does not have the big play making ability they once possessed. The offensive line has some holes in it, and the power running game may not be there. The Baltimore Ravens to have a host of reliable receivers who can make plays. Now it’s time for Flaco to take control of his team and prove he is an elite NFL quarterback.

6. It’s all about getting off to a good start. For three consecutive years the San Diego Chargers have gotten off to dismal starts, despite having the top ranked offense and defense in the NFL. The sluggish start and special teams mistakes cost the Chargers last year, they cannot allow either to happen in 2011.

5. Let the aerial display begin. The Atlanta Falcons were a great team last year, who fell short against a red hot Packers club. In order to keep pace with their rivals from the north, Atlanta traded up in the draft to secure the rights to Julio Jones, who is looking to make an immediate impact opposite Roddy White.

4. Is this really a dream team? The Philadelphia Eagles went against their recent history and they spent big in free agency this offseason. They spent big on their own players (See Mike Vick’s contract). Now it’s time to see if the Eagles spent their money wisely, or if this will be Andy Reid’s last stand.

3. Old habits die hard. If you’re the New Orleans Saints that’s a good thing. Last season the Saints suffered from a post-Super Bowl hangover. This year Drew Brees and company have been as focused as any team in the NFL, and the results will be seen on the field.

2. Will they play Pittsburgh Steeler football? We know they will on defense. But will the Steelers go back to a powerful ground attack that has made them one of the best teams in the NFL? There are not a lot of questions around this team.

1. First and 10 let’s do it again. The Packers were firing on all cylinders by the time the post-season came around last year. That was without several key players who were out on injury. This year they are healthy, and there will not be a post-Super Bowl hangover.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Keys to the NFL Season Part I

With opening day of the NFL season just a day away, it’s time we do our version of the 2-minute drill here at Walker Sports. We are going around the NFL, and touching on 32 keys to the 2011 NFL season.

32. New beginnings can be rough. Jim Harbaugh is calling the shots for the San Francisco 49ers now, but Alex Smith is still his quarterback. Harbaugh is an extremely capable coach, and when the losses start to mount, try to remember that better days are ahead.

31. The little things count in life. For the Cincinnati Bengals just arriving at the stadium without incident will be something to celebrate. Because I think that's about the best they can hope for in 2011.

30. Sometimes a quarterback is not the most important thing. The Seattle Seahawks were surprisingly good in Pete Carroll’s first season. They upgraded in a bunch of ways going into this season, including adding Sidney Rice. But Tarvaris Jackson is their starting quarterback, and I just don't know what a team is supposed to do with that.

29. Sometimes all you need is a quarterback. Derek Anderson, John Skelton (who?!?) and Max Hall (seriously who?!?) are taking reps as your starting quarterbacks, and your team isn't a complete embarrassment, you might be pretty good. If you can add even a decent quarterback to the mix, who knows, and Kevin Kolb should be at least that for the Arizona Cardinals.

28. The dreaded "rebuilding” isn’t always a bad thing. The Denver Broncos were a wreck last season, and need to start from scratch, especially on defense, and new head coach John Fox is a guy who can do that and rebuild with fundamentals. Kyle Orton, will need to start off hot, despite maybe being the team's best offensive player, if he wants to fight off some weird fictional quarterback controversy.

27. Cam Newton and who? Cam showed some promise during the pre-season, but his lack of talent when throwing the ball proved more prominent than anything else. With a 42.1 percent preseason completion percentage, Cam Newton is going to have have some really, really rough games for the Carolina Panthers. The key will be can the Panthers running backs stay healthy to take some of the pressure off of him, while he finds his NFL legs.

26. Is Chris Johnson the $50 million man? Yes Chris Johnson has a 2,000 yard season, but what have you done for me lately? The Tennessee Titans are an under .500 team without him, and they still are with him.

25. Back to square one. Believe it or not the Oakland Raiders were a good team last season, especially coming down the stretch. However, they lost Robert Gallery, Zach Miller and an All-Pro defensive back. That hurts, especially if you’re looking to turn your offense over to a 6’4 speedster at quarterback who has very little actual skills at the position.

24. Is Mike Shanahan as smart as he thinks he is? Somehow Shanahan put the Washington Redskins in a quarterback controversy to start training camp. Too bad the two competing quarterbacks were Rex Grossman and John Beck.

23. There is such a thing as addition by subtraction. Brett Favre and Sidney Rice may be gone, but the Vikings managed to add Donovan McNabb. Who despite his performance in Washington last year, he can still play. The big question will be, did the Vikings add enough to keep pace with the rest of the division?

22. Is this really the right direction to be moving?. Despite five years in the league, there's been virtually no indication that Reggie Bush can be an every down back, but the Miami Dolphins are out to prove otherwise.

21. Not all victories are not shown in the win column. The Cleveland Browns are building a solid team, but in that division, and with an all-new coaching staff and schemes, they're still not ready to challenge Pittsburgh or Baltimore for AFC North supremacy, yet.

20. Will CJ Spiller develop into the threat everyone thought he would? The Buffalo Bills are tougher than most people realize. However, they still have plenty of holes, especially on their offensive line which has halted Spiller from growing into the threat he should be.

19. You have to take advantage of the opportunities given. The St. Louis Rams are definitely still growing. To this point, Sam Bradford has proven to be the real deal. The to the lack of talent in the NFC West the Rams were a game away from making the playoffs last season. They won’t have the same big game jitters this season.

18. Prove last season wasn’t a fluke. The Kansas City Chiefs shocked the world last season by winning their division and earning a spot in the playoffs. Now they have a tougher schedule and they have to prove to everyone that they can build on last season’s success.

17. Same old story just a new year. Adding Roy Williams did not give the Chicago Bears a legitimate offense. They will still rely heavily on a swarming defense, to get the back into the post season.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Walker Sports College Football Top 25 Poll

With week one of the college football season in the books, it’s time to go back and analyze our pre-season polls, and start jumping on people for being overrated.   However, that’s not what this post is about, let’s see how your favorite team fared in this week’s Walker Sports College Football Poll.
o 1) Oklahoma Sooners: Naturally Tulsa was not an issue. Now the Sooners have their first big test against FSU.
2)      LSU Tigers: Could the Tigers be better than advertises?  Even with the off the field distractions the Tigers should a smothering defense that shutdown the high powered Ducks.
3)      Alabama Crimson Tide: These guys looked good over the weekend, and they will factor into the SEC and National Title mix.
4)      Florida State Seminoles:  It’s good to see the Noles back on their game.  If they get by Oklahoma on Saturday a BCS Championship game appearance is not out of the question.
5)      Boise State Broncos: The uniforms were ugly, but the play on the field was anything but. The Broncos still have what it takes to compete and play big time ball.
6)      Oklahoma State Cowboys: This might be the best offense that no one’s talking about. A big performance on Thursday night could change that.
7)      Stanford Cardinals: If Andrew Luck is calling the plays these guys have a chance to remain relevant in the PAC 12.
8)      Wisconsin Badgers: The Russell Wilson era has arrived in Madison Wisconsin and it’s going to be good. The Badgers looked great Thursday night.
9)      Texas A&M: Looking to leave the Big 12 on a high note, the Aggi’s are playing some good high powered football right now.
10)   Nebraska Cornhuskers: Not a bad outing for the B10 newest member.
11)   South Carolina Gamecocks: When Garcia was on the field the Gamecocks were at their best. Now how does he stay on the field?
12)   Oregon Ducks: Tough loss on the road in a neutral site. The Ducks looked slow and the offense was out unable to find gaps.
13)   Virginia Tech Hokies: The Hokies did exactly what you’d expect from a Frank Beamer coached team, solid defense good offense.
14)   Arkansas Razorbacks: The best receiving core in the country is still looking for a chance to showcase their talents to the nation.
15)   Ohio State Buckeyes: Good start to the post Jim Tressell era, but suspensions still kept us from seeing how good this team really is.
16)   Michigan State Spartans: Old Sparty is still looking to make some now in the B10 this year.
17)   Mississippi State Bulldogs: Can the Bulldogs take advantage of a weaker than normal schedule?
18)   Florida Gators: After watching the rest of the SEC East, don’t be surprised if this bunch is not back in the mix.
19)   Missouri Tigers: Big opening weekend win, but the Tigers still have question at quarterback.
20)   Baylor Bears: Biggest win on the weekend. Robert Griffen III put his name into the Heisman hunt, now can Baylor keep up the success?
21)   Texas Longhorns: For all the hype around this team, you’d think they’d perform even better.
22)   Penn State Nitny Lions: Opening weekend victory in the books, but there’s a lot of questions surrounding this team. A strong showing against Alabama could prove a lot of people wrong.
23)   Auburn Tigers: It’s a miracle the Tigers stayed in the poll.  It’s also amazing what a difference one player can make. Auburn will struggle this season.

College Football Wrap Up: Who Wore it Worse?

The 2011 college football season opened up on Thursday night, and football fans around the country rejoiced as the season got underway.  Sure there were some great upsets, and exciting games this weekend (thank you Baylor). But the one topic that stole the show across the country was the uniform choices that some teams went with.  Thanks to Nike's affiliation with Oregon, we have gotten used to seeing the Ducks in some wacky uniforms.  Last season we saw the Nike-Pro Tech jerseys that teams like Virginia Tech, Boise State, and a few others wore.  This year we saw a few other teams, get into the mix, and man was it ugly.

White on white is never a good look

State pride is one thing, but those helmets are just bad

The jersey is not too bad from this angle

Those helmets look like they came out of a video game