It Is All Downhill From Here: Better Than The Superbowl?

Sometimes you see people working on a higher plane. It happens in film (Martin Scorsese), it happens in music (Kanye West), and it happens in sports. Jordan made a career out of it. Mariano Rivera has done it. Last night, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees were working on a higher plane.

Last night’s game left many questions. Think about this. If the Saints didn’t turn the ball over early in the game, would the Packers have pulled away so fast in the second half? Was it Drew Brees seeing the season opener slip away that turned him into the Drew Brees from the 2009 playoffs? Was it competitiveness or skill? We’ll never know, but we all know one thing, last night was something special.

We saw the Packers with the ball for what seemed like 2/3 of the game, yet Drew Brees threw for 400 yards. We saw Brees get sacked, yet somehow get the ball down to the Packers 1 with less than a minute to go. We saw the Packers go 3 and out once in the game, yet they couldn’t put it away when it counted. To say there were any weaknesses by either team on the offensive front would be like criticizing the follow through of a game winning 3 pointer.

The Packers have done something that everyone feared would eventually happen. They got their superhuman tight end the ball (resulting in some truly humiliating moments for Roman Harper), and they got the best value ever out of a 2nd round wide receiver this early in the season. Good luck making the team next year James Jones.

In my preview article, I talked about the dreaded 4 wide set for the Packers. It was successful, very successful. 250 yards of passing successful. It not only took 6 out of the box, it gave Aaron Rodgers time to scramble in ways Michael Vick can only dream of.
At times, Rodgers looked like he had literally been playing the 5th quarter of the Super Bowl. We are fortunate to have about 40 cameras surrounding the field for the 2011 season, because if this were the 70’s, you couldn’t comprehend how hard half of those completions were.

To add to this, usage of Mark Ingram for the Saints was so predictable it made the goal line run look foolish in retrospect. If they were to toss off the left they may have stood a chance, but as soon as you saw Packers linebackers flying over their defensive line, the game was over.

I recently bet a close friend of mine in Madden for PS3. The final was 49-14. I was literally turning to him at certain points and asking him if he was ready for me to go 10 yards, 15 yards, or 20 yards at a time. It made recent Madden commercials look like ads for the next Pixar movie.

Sometimes you see things so clearly it becomes almost laughable. That is why you saw the smile on Aaron Rodgers face, even after the incompletions.

TOJ Week 1 NFL Picks

Lines taken from BET US

Pittsburgh (PK) vs. Baltimore – The Ravens can never seem to get over the hump versus the Steelers and I don’t think that will change this week.

Detroit (PK) vs. Tampa Bay – Plenty of hype surrounding these two young teams, the Lions can overcome that vicious Tampa Bay home-field advantage.

Atlanta (-3.5) vs. Chicago – There is some buzz about the Bears upsetting the Falcons this week, who are a popular Super Bowl pick. I just don’t see it.

Buffalo (+6) vs. Kansas City – The Chiefs aren’t returning to the playoffs this year and the Bills will be better than people expect.

Houston (-8.5) vs. Indianapolis – The Colts are a one man team and that man is hurt.

St. Louis (+4.5) vs. Philadelphia – Tons of pressure on Philadelphia out of the gate, against an improving young St. Louis team on the road sounds like an upset to me.

Cleveland (-7.5) vs. Cincinnati – The Browns should get off to a strong start this year considering their schedule.

Tennessee (+1) vs. Jacksonville – Watch out for the Titans in the suddenly depleted AFC South.

Washington (+3) vs. New York Giants – Jersey’s JV team gets off to an ugly start.

Carolina (+7.5) vs. Arizona – The Panthers will keep this tight and maybe steal a late win to kick off the Cam Newton era.

San Francisco (-5) vs. Seattle – Man, I hate the NFC West.

Minnesota (+8.5) vs. San Diego – Upset alert.

New York Jets (-5) vs. Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys are too banged up to pull the upset in this one.

New England (-7.5) vs. Miami – The game would be blacked out if the 15,000 Patriots fans didn’t show up.

Oakland (+3) vs. Denver – Crazy to have faith in the Raiders? Against Denver, I don’t think so.

Week One: The Beginning For Some…The End For Others

College football got off to one of the greatest starts in the past ten years. LSU shutdown the triple option Oregon offense. Boise State shut down the team with the ugliest uniforms I’ve ever seen (Georgia), that is until I saw Maryland’s uniforms. So how does the NFL counter? Two previous Superbowl champions in the season opener. checkmate.

Parody. The Saints had a powerhouse defense when they won the Superbowl. The Packers had a powerhouse defense when they won the Superbowl. The common thread? Turnovers. Turnovers win championships.

So who’s going to win? Handlebar mustache Rogers and the Packers by 7. The Saints can’t stop the Packers passing game, save for heroic performances from Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper. And when the Packers get into their “let’s go 30 yards” 5 wide set? Someone’s going to get beat in man coverage. Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley will have a field day in that formation.

What’s the weakness of the Packers defense? Mark Ingram. He will run up the middle and plow through the linebacking core of Green Bay with anger and brute strength. What about Michelle Beadle’s boy Clay Matthews? As soon as Drew Brees sees Clay Matthews get into his edge rush, Brees will check down to a draw play and there you go, a completely useless Matthews. Good luck AJ Hawk.

A rookie running back? yes. Mark Ingram is different than most running backs. Most NFL running backs look for a hole and tiptoe through it. Mark Ingram makes his holes and people hang on. Go look at the game film from last year against the SEC.

As a brief side-note, everyone raves about speed guys like Chris Johnson dominating the NFL. How many playoff games has he played in again and had a significant impact? How many top 5 defenses does he put up big numbers against? 34 yards against the Steelers last year. I rest my case.

Enough about the man with the long hair, back to teams that will make the playoffs. The Saints will be looking to prove a point at Lambeau. They will want to strike fear into the Packer faithful. they want to send a few messages:

We will beat your corners by going over the middle
We will hit your quarterback. repeatedly
We will keep your quarterback off the field by running the ball

Gregg Williams has been waiting a very long time to unleash the dogs of hell. Do not take that for granted. a few strip sacks and this game will swing into the Saints favor.
There’s a strange method I’ve been using to get a better glimpse at teams I watch in the NFL. I did this for the preseason, and i will probably use it in the regular season as well. I look at the current roster of a team and write down the age, college, round taken, and number of Pro Bowls a player has for each team. I also write down the relevant information of the 2011 rookies (age, college, round taken)

Example:

Charles Woodson – 34 years old/Michigan/1st rd/7 Pro Bowls

It helps to get an overall view of a team as per how many first round draft picks they keep, the production of guys like Tramon williams, who was undrafted yet made it to a Pro Bowl, or Donald Driver who was a 7th round pick that made 4 Pro Bowls. Is the Pro Bowl a real litmus test? Yes and No.

One thing you notice about the Packers is that they took a tight end in the 5th round and another in the 7th. They also took a wide receiver in the second round. If i were to make predictions, it would be that Randall Cobb is slated to take over Donald Driver’s spot next year.

Two tight ends may in fact mean that the packers plan to run a little more with two tight end sets, or are simply looking to get some pressure off their receivers.

So what do the Saints look to do with their draft? Run the ball and get after the quarterback. Shaun rogers will show Cameron Jordan how to hit in the NFL. The front 4 of New Orleans will look to wipe the smirk off Aaron Rodgers face. They made Brett Favre hurt so good. The secondary is the strength of the Saints, so look for them to run alot of nickel and dime packages, disguising a few 3 down coverages in an attempt to get Rodgers out of sync. Monday Night Football on a Thursday. Welcome to Interzone.

2011 NFL Predictions

AFC East

  1. New York Jets: 12-4
  2. New England Patriots: 12-4 (Wild-Card)
  3. Buffalo Bills: 6-10
  4. Miami Dolphins: 5-11

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens: 11-5
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers: 10-6 (Wild-Card)
  3. Cleveland Browns: 8-8
  4. Cincinnati Bengals: 3-13

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans: 11-5
  2. Tennessee Titans: 7-9
  3. Indianapolis Colts: 6-10
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars: 4-12

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers: 11-5
  2. Oakland Raiders: 8-8
  3. Kansas City Chiefs: 5-11
  4. Denver Broncos: 4-12

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles: 11-5
  2. Dallas Cowboys: 10-6
  3. New York Giants; 7-9
  4. Washington Redskins: 6-10

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers: 12-4
  2. Detroit Lions: 10-6 (Wild-Card)
  3. Minnesota Vikings: 8-8
  4. Chicago Bears: 5-11

NFC South

  1. New Orleans Saints: 12-4
  2. Atlanta Falcons: 10-6 (Wild-Card)
  3. Tampa Bay Bucs: 6-10
  4. Carolina Panthers: 4-12

NFC West

  1. St. Louis Rams: 9-7
  2. Arizona Cardinals: 6-10
  3. San Francisco 49ers: 5-11
  4. Seattle Seahawks: 5-11

AFC Championship: Jets over Patriots

NFC Championship: Saints over Eagles

Super Bowl: Jets over Saints

Offensive Player of the Year: Philip Rivers

Defensive Player of the Year: Darrelle Revis

League MVP: Drew Brees

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Julio Jones

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marcell Dareus

NFL Pre-Season Week 2 Review

There are too many preseason games for any sane man to cover, so I cut my losses with week one and moved on. Week 2 was a beauty, with the first game of the week putting cutting power through the gaudy neon green DREAM TEAM sign in Philadelphia. Michael Vick threw 3 interceptions and was demoralized by the Steelers defense, who quickly made work of Vince Young as well. That is not good for Vick, considering Big Andy might have the wild idea to give Vince Young a shot at the starting job if all is not well in the regular season.

I will again reiterate my lack of faith in the new Eagles defensive scheme, which seems to have no real leader (Casey Matthews is a rookie) and will be beat by any quarterback with a few years under his belt. . Asante Samuel looked uncomfortable, Rodgers-Cromartie is now a cheap imitation of Charles Woodson. Nnamdi Asomugha made a mistake looking for a team that had no plan defensively. He will come to rue the day he didn’t go to either Houston (Wade Phillips), Dallas (Rob Ryan) or New York (Rex Ryan).

The Steelers are the team everyone in the NFC will be tested against this year. They are the most substantive and best coached run defense in the NFL. The Jets are a close second. Though the Steelers line and linebacking core seems to be on it’s last legs with guys like Harrison, Farrier and Smith all getting into the upper 30’s, there are a few bright spots like Ziggy Hood, Lawrence Timmons and Lamarr Woodley showing that the yellow and black will live on in good hands.

Rashard Mendenhall, at 24, has become one of the best running backs in the AFC. He has balance and agility that makes Chris Johnson look one dimensional. He has spun out of hundreds of tackles with the grace of a ballet dancer. As usual, the Steelers offense will be a strange mix of power running, go routes, and improvisational scrambles that usually results in touchdowns.

Game 2 (Week 1 Overrun) – Bengals Vs. Lions

Andy Dalton has a tough road ahead. He is in a division that is going to bruise him like Brett Favre at an early age. There will be no mercy for the Mike Brown Bengals. They are going right for the throat. Clint Boling and Andre Smith better play like Pro Bowlers, because Andy Dalton is going to need someone to stop the onslaught of defensive lineman coming to break him in half on 3rd down.

The frustrating thing for a guy like AJ Green is that he will be left standing halfway down the field for most of the game wondering where the ball went. Things are going to get especially frustrating if the Bengals lose Dalton to injury. Luckily there is a guy that is already in Green’s position, and that is Jermaine Gresham, who some team will pick up down the road and turn into a 3 time Pro Bowler.

Matthew Stafford has the set of weapons around him to win the division. Jahvid Best has some much needed experience, Calvin Johnson is a physical specimen with great hands, and Brandon Pettigrew can bail Stafford out of most double-teams to Johnson. If Stafford doesn’t lose his arm completely, he will be able to finally grab this team a wild card spot in the playoffs, which will be like a Super Bowl to Detroit fans.

Silver Crush. That’s the fun of being a Lions fan. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh making 30 year old offensive lineman look slow and fat. Sadly, we have yet to see the Silver Crush at full force, which consists of Fairley, Jackson, Suh and Vanden Bosch as the front four. The Lions have little to no help between linebacker and secondary, so that front four will have to be the best in the league to keep opposing teams out of the end zone. Will it be a thug defense? Maybe, but most street fights put the WWE to shame.

Game 3 – Patriots vs. Buccaneers

Bill Belichick does not mean to embarrass. He has created a system by which to expose every weak facet of an opposing defense, and for the Buccaneers that is their youth. Trying to lineup and call the right plays against a team like the Patriots requires weeks of preparation and practice. (Gerald McCoy actually requested a gentleman’s timeout during the game). The Buccaneers did not have that sort of time. They had a week, and even then they were still trying to actually implement the defense while simultaneously getting ready for the league’s most productive offense.

The Buccaneers secondary is going to have to tighten up if they want to hang in the NFC South. Ronde Barber will have to coach up his two rookies in Ahmad Black and Anthony Gaitor if this team is going to successfully utilize that highly touted front three (Bowers, Clayborn, McCoy).

The Patriots are starting to look closer and closer to the thing most Jet fans fear. Stevan Ridley is a legitimate running back, Aaron Hernandez becomes larger and faster everyday, and Wes Welker will again find the holes you thought your defense didn’t have. The other terrifying about the Patriots? Give defensive lineman who are 1st round picks, with 7 Pro Bowls between three of them.

Oh yes, I completely forgot about the Jets week one game. There was a Jets game last week and it was eerily reminiscent to the Ravens game last year. What looked different? Jeremy Kerley, who makes DeSean Jackson look big. If Kerley is going to be a receiver in the NFL, he needs to fill out that frame, because 6’2 corners are going to do work on him. Kenrick Ellis looked good, and Vlad Ducasse looks like the Jets version of Joba Chamberlain. He has the physical traits, I just have my doubts about this experiment to switch him through all line positions without a second year of OTA’s under his belt.

Greg McElroy showed what he needed to for a 7th round rookie quarterback. He is physically disadvantaged, but with good receivers, a good running game, and one of the best offensive lines in the league, he can rest easy knowing all he has to do in the event of a Sanchez injury is make the right reads, let the run game go, and not turn the ball over.

To his credit, McElroy showed how incredibly smart he is , after being given some time to think about the opposing defense and huddle with Mark Sanchez, he was able to engineer a game winning drive that was halted only by a dropped ball in the endzone. For a quarterback who was only supposed to play a quarter or two, McElroy played three and looked good for two of them.

Long Time Gone: 1 Week And It Is Already Love

I recently made the decision to go ahead and be a professional about my reporting, so I decided to drop $20 for the NFL preseason live season pass. Money well spent. All preseason games in HD streamed to your computer without commercials and halftime shows. The only problem is, you have to wait 24 hours after the game ends to watch it. Which means that in my attempt to cover all the preseason games I have successfully written about two. I have four more on the way. It is a start.

The first, and the funniest, was the Patriots vs. Jaguars game. It was a screamer. If you are a Patriots fan, you will undoubtedly get that warm tingly feeling you always do before you get smacked out of the playoffs. 2007 is a long time ago. Aaron Hernandez can, and probably will go to the Pro Bowl this year. He has the size and the good hands. He also has Tom Brady throwing him the ball, which is why Chad Johnson, that’s right, Chad Johnson, will go to the Pro Bowl too.

The backups for New England are like two mutant children of Tom Brady, with Brian Hoyer having the “don’t throw a pick” mentality and Bradyesque sense of timing in the pocket. Ryan Mallett however, has an arm that puts most Pro bowl quarterbacks to shame. If he can comprehend the Patriots system, he has the physical traits to even outsling Brady.

Steven Ridley. LSU. SEC running backs go through things every Saturday that would make grown men beg for mercy. If you can run in the SEC, you can run in the NFL. It helps that Ridley has good hands. The scary thing about adding a guy like Ridley is that the Patriots have finally acquired the power running game that teams like the Jets and the Steelers live on.

You begin to notice things about the Patriots when you watch their preseason game. You begin to notice how good the system is, how exact the routes are, how their quarterbacks rarely have pockets or plays that break down.

Turning to the Jaguars: if Gabbert is going to survive in the NFL, that offensive line is going to have to hold up. With a third round rookie from Lehigh (Editor Note, I graduated from Lehigh and don’t appreciate this comment) on the line, that may not be possible. There is not that much depth and Gabbert is going to have to live off checkdowns to Mercedes Lewis and Maurice Jones Drew breaking 10 yard runs.

Realistically the Jaguars can go 8-8. The Jaguars have two rookie DB’s, and a lack of superstar talent anywhere. This may be the year that Maurice Jones Drew doesn’t make the Pro Bowl. There seems also to be a lack of discipline and or superstar talent throughout the linebacking core, which is odd considering Jack Del Rio was a star linebacker at USC.

EAGLES vs. RAVENS.: YING YANG TWINS

The Eagles and Ravens are stacked. Each team has 10 Pro Bowlers spread out on both sides of the ball. The Eagles, however, are not quite as substantive as their on paper wealth. Watching these teams matchup is like watching two equally strong men arm wrestle for 60 minutes. The Eagles have the pass. The Ravens have the run. The Ravens have the blitz. The Eagles have the zone.

Philadelphia will run the ball this year. The Eagles will make absurdly long pass plays off the success of the run. The only thing that scares me about the Eagles is their strange move to put their offensive line coach in a new role as the defensive coordinator. Even the announcers were questioning the move. I understand he’s got passion, but it takes years to understand the intricacies of an NFL defense. It’s no surprise that Rex Ryan’s success with the Jets took 10 years of assistant coaching jobs to create a number one defense. Mixing zone corners and man corners, pass rushers and run blockers, is not something that can be done with great success in the first year.

Oh yeah, and Casey Matthews is going to run the defense on the field. That’s right, a rookie linebacker. I understand the Matthews family has some sort of strange Thorlike knowledge and success in football but rookies don’t have the experience to run an NFL defense. The Eagles have the best corner trio in the league, the best D line, but they also have 3 rookie linebackers.

The changing of the guard is finally occuring for the Ravens. The secondary has 1st and 5th round rookies working alongside Ed Reed, who is probably on his last year as a Pro Bowl safety. The linebackers are getting up there and the D line has to live off the big plays of Haloti Ngata. If all goes well, the Ravens will march into the playoffs at 11 and 5.

CARDINALS VS. RAIDERS: WITHOUT HOPE, THERE IS NOTHING

Watching this game was not easy. The Raiders are a shell of their former psychopathic selves, though they have a D line that is respectable (and aging) by Oakland standards. Luckily their linebackers are young enough to make up for the age of the big men up front. Jason Campbell has enough pieces around him to run a balanced attack between Darren McFadden, Darius Heyward Bey and two rookie tight ends.

Apparently Kevin Kolb went out and made a few Pro Bowls, because that’s how people like to treat him nowadays. Big Andy can’t be wrong. No way. That mustache is truth incarnate.

I have a feeling Andy Reid pulled a fast one on Arizona. Kolb will not make the Pro Bowl, and Larry Fitzgerald will be the most underutilized great receiver of the last 10 years. The Cardinals are going to attempt to run the ball but Beanie Wells is not a top 10 running back and he will be out catching passes in the flat more than he will be running off tackle.

If the Cardinals attempt to win the NFC West, they will need big plays from their defense. Sam Acho will have to step up in his rookie year and David Carter will have to give relief to Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams.

I am not a betting man, but if I was, I would say the Cardinals would be lucky if they stole a wildcard slot for the playoffs, because the NFC West has a few teams on the rise. I’m talking to you Sam Bradford. I will not yet speak of Tarvaris Jackson.

The game itself was somewhat balanced, though if they were to meet in the regular season, I would take the Raiders by 10. They are the cool new team to root for. Especially because I never had the opportunity to see Al Davis pre electroshock therapy. Raiders go 9 and 7 and the doldrums set in once again.

BRONCOS VS COWBOYS: REDNECKS, TYCOONS, SKIERS AND HIPPIES

I am an unabashed fan of the Ryan brothers. I will watch them coach peewee football. I will even watch them eat. So will the Ryan defense be successful in Dallas?

Rob Ryan, as could be expected with two weeks of practice, had very little to show in his first preseason game. A Ryan defense takes months to build, experiment with and run properly. It’s the football equivalent of SKUNKWORKS. Luckily, Jerry Jones did not get all hot and bothered by the highly ranked offensive weapons in this year’s draft and gave Ryan a 5th round DB and a 2nd round linebacker. The real trick to this Dallas defense will be the pressure created by Marcus Spears and Jay Ratliff. The Cowboys do not have the corner talent to leave Jenkins and Newman on an island at all times, so Ryan will occasionally have rush two, three or four to keep their corners out of trouble against big time receivers.

The Broncos have somehow become the soap opera of the NFL. People HATE Tim Tebow. Merril Hoge must have been snuffed by Tebow at some point because he is on a mission to destroy any Tebow momentum. Perhaps Orton sent him a check. I always say a quarterback needs two full years in the NFL to be judged, so let’s see where we stand at the end of the season. This was one of the few games that went down to the wire. It had the feel of a rivalry begun anew, but it probably wont be, as the Cowboys seem to have genuine rivalries with the Redskins, Eagles and Giants. There is only so much rivalry hand. The Broncos have no hand.

Pre-Season Review: Two Franchises Trying To Make A Statement

After the shockingly well played game by the Seahawks against the always efficient Chargers , we as fans got spoiled, hoping for some sort of serious showdown between the Chiefs and Buccaneers. It was not to be. Five minutes into the game, you could see that Todd Haley had no concern about how many points his team put up against the youngest team in the NFL. It was a practice.

It was a beatdown, with the Buccaneers showing that age matters not when you’ve got two years of head coaching and quarterback experience in the second hardest division in the NFL. Playing Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan will age you rather quickly.

The Chiefs will live by their defense, with Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson getting a new line-mate in Allen Bailey (1st round), the front 4 will be their source of success, not to mention they have one of the best safeties in the league with Eric Berry, who will scoop up many a rushed throw.

Though I like Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles, I still don’t think they’ve got enough of a supporting cast to get the Chiefs into the playoffs this year. They are in a complete overhaul, with this year’s draft picks spreading all over the field (4 on defense/3 on offense).

Jonathan Baldwin, thankfully, was not picked in the first round by the Jets. He looked decent, but clearly not Julio Jones. Julio Jones, (see my draft article) will make defenses look slow and weak. Oh yes, and remember Mark Ingram? He had a touchdown. The NFC South will be the SEC this year. The NFC East and West will all have their mettle tested in the South.

There are things you don’t get to see in preseason, like the Buccaneers (eventual) starting D line. Gerald Mccoy, Adrian Clayborn, Michael Bennett and Daquan Bowers. That’s serious. That is not fun to run against. That is a nickel and dime package that smothers opposing offenses.

Josh Freeman may in fact become a Pro Bowler in his third year. He is the size of Roethlisberger, as patient as Ryan, and as athletic as Vick. Redskins beat the Steelers? Dolphins beat the Falcons? Ndamukong Suh beheadings? 49ers playing like a CFL team? Shocking, unexpected, and um…..expected.

Thanks Todd Haley for giving cynics ammunition.

Tears Of Joy: Football Is Back (Pre-Season That Is)

It took a few minutes to set in. It was real. It was Monday Night Football, on Thursday….you could hear men breaking down, praising Jesus by the light of the moon.

The battle of the West Coast, the Beach Boys of the South vs The Fisherman of the North, What entails below is a series of brief thoughts, notes, ramblings, and musings on last night’s Seahawks vs. Chargers preseason game.

Philip Rivers is a machine. He will find receivers you’ve never heard of for long periods of time, and then hit Vincent Jackson for 40 yards while slinging it in that horrible to watch, high school throwing motion. It is hideous, but puts up numbers, like watching a Jonas Brothers concert in 3D.

The Seahawks offensive line will come to be one of the top 10 in the league. They will make the Raiders look like a cheap joke. Many people did not understand what Pete Carroll was trying to do in his last two drafts, (except he was very excited) and yet, Russell Okung goes down in the first half. If healthy, this offensive line is half rookies (1st and 3rd round) and half former first round picks (Gallery/Okung). With Tom Cable as the offensive line coach, I have faith this team will be able to run power sets and and play action with great success.

Tarvaris Jackson looks like things have not improved greatly since his days in Minnesota. Call it nerves, call it high expectations, but he never seemed comfortable at all. Give him a preseason under his belt and he will understand that his run game is going to shoulder the load.

Big corners. Big receivers. Pete Carroll is trying to make a mix of Alabama and Wisconsin. There will be no greatest show on turf in Seattle. Keep the opposing quarterback on the bench. Anyone can be beat. Except the Falcons.

Jordan Todman. Attack of the microbacks. Mike Tolbert, Ryan Matthews, San Diego likes small backs and giant receivers. To make up for the loss of Darren Sproles, the backs will need to be checkdown ready. Did anyone notice how stout Mike Tolbert is? He’s going to be a big part of the offense this year, because despite Ryan Matthews first round pick status, he will come to be a wash. Book it. Fresno State is not the gold standard of running backs.

What do the Seahawks have going forward? Two pro bowl running backs, and a pro bowl tight end. three first round DB’s. They will win 8 games, and probably make the playoffs.

Chargers? Best tight end in the league. Two first round D lineman. Takeo Spikes on his last legs. Bob Sanders trying to prove a point.

It was a better game than I expected. On to Friday Night.

NFL Is Back!

I never use exclamation points in articles, as part of my belief that men should never use emoticons or exclamation points when typing or texting…but I have to break that belief because the NFL is back and I, like all of you, couldn’t be more excited.

The reported timeline for the upcoming week is still a bit up in the air, but I will update this post when the finalized version is released. It is expected that teams can begin negotiating with free agents tomorrow, with all contracts becoming official on August 2nd. The Jets are expected to report to camp this Sunday, with their pre-season opener set for August 15th at Houston.

The road to the Super Bowl finally begins…

Top 10 National TV Sports Theme Songs

TOJ would like to welcome our second new writer in as many days, Chris Celletti, who is also featured at SB Nation NY and can be followed on Twitter. Welcome aboard! – JC

For this blogger who cares way too much about the useless things in sports (announcers, uniforms, stadiums, etc.) nothing gets me more amped up than a great TV sports theme song. I thought I’d take the time to rank some of the current (keyword current) National TV sports themes:

1. NFL on CBS

How can I put this ahead of the NFL on Fox theme song? Because I’m a Jet fan, that’s why. No song gets me more pumped up for watching a sporting event on TV than this one, especially when they play it right after kickoff as they’re going over starting lineups and Greg Gumbel runs down the stats for Mark San-CHEZ (I’ll never
understand why anyone pronounces his name this way).

2. NFL on FOX

This song has been around for so long now. I don’t really have any memories tied to it, since every time the Giants trudge through a riveting 13-9 win I’m usually fast asleep by mid-first quarter, yet it belongs up here because of its longevity and popularity.

3. NCAA Basketball on CBS

Definitely a classic; the problem is that it’s just so underused since the college hoops season is so short. Although, for those three weeks in March, there isn’t any other song that gets stuck in your head so easily. Anytime I hear it, (and every now and then I’ll just YouTube it for the hell of it) it brings me back to scratching away at my bracket after getting every 8/9 and 7/10 game wrong – yes, this has happened to me before.

4. NBA on TNT

The NBA always has good TV theme songs. Nothing will ever, ever be as good as the NBA on NBC theme (the absolute hands down best TV sports theme of all time as we’ll get to later), but TNT’s is solid. It is usually followed, unfortunately, by the voice of Ernie Johnson, but it is a classy tune.

5. NBA on ABC/ESPN

There’s actually two versions of this theme, the faster one that they play when opening a show, or the slower one that’s used when going to or coming back from a break. I particularly like the slower one, especially late in the fourth quarter of a playoff game.

6. NHL on NBC

Something very hockey about this one. Just works well with clips of guys smashing into the boards and Alex Ovechkin having a heart attack celebrating a goal in Feburary against the Bruins. But it has a classic sports sound to it, with a pretty recognizable hook.

7. MLB on ESPN

This is basically the Sunday Night Baseball theme song, and it ranks lower because who the hell watches Sunday Night Baseball unless your team is playing? It’s not a bad song by any means and is a classic at this point. Beyond that, since they dumped Joe Morgan, Sunday Night Baseball is definitely a better place.

8. Golf on CBS

This is the perfect golf theme song, and I don’t know why. It sets the tone for Jim Nantz coming on air and painting the scene of a terrible tournament – “Here live from picturesque TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut, it’s the third round of the Travelers Championship. Steve Marino is leading the way with Nick Watney and Brandt Jobe right on his heels…” – Strap in for three-plus hours of
awesomeness!

9. NHL on Versus

This is the worst damn theme song in the history of American professional sports. Their older one from 2008 was pretty good, but this past year it is just a repeating, awful tune that has zero pump-up factor for a big game. Thank goodness NBC is taking over operations over there – they’ll probably just use their standard
hockey theme.

10. Monday Night Football

Iconic, yes. But also incredibly lame.

Let’s also not forget to pay homage to the gift that John Tesh brought the world, the NBA on NBC theme…Best sports theme of all time.