The Real Brett Favre

51zqcudgjnl-_sy346_.jpgJeff Pearlman has written several books that peel the varnish off and gives us a glimpse at the real lives of sports stars.  This book about the life of Brett Favre is no exception.  It reveals the great, the good, the not so good, and the bad.  It’s all here.

This biography of Favre does a great job of filling in his childhood, high school, and college days which many people are not as aware of.  Brett started out as a prankster and living life hard (or to its fullest) and he never really quit.  The book details his rise in the National Football League and offers many anecdotes about his behavior, both good and bad, but also about his unbelievable play on the field.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Brett Favre is his almost Jekyll and Hyde nature.  He can be unbelievably kind to young fans and those in need, but unbelievably cruel to some family members and teammates.  His practical jokes sometimes went a little too far bordering on meanness.  He is a good family man but also a philanderer.  He basically behaved, even as a superstar, like a juvenile with too many hormones and too little brains.   He also became addicted to alcohol and painkillers while in the NFL.

Another interesting aspect of the book is Farve’s father Irv and how he really latched onto Brett’s fame and fortune and started living out his own dreams through his son.  He also was a philanderer and spent a lot of time around the team, in bars, and bragging about who his son was.  I didn’t know much about Irv until this book.

Finally the book of course talks about Favre’s incredible Hall of Fame football career.  Despite the prankster attitude he took football seriously and clearly loved playing the game.  He had one of the best arms in NFL history but his biggest downfall, as the title of the book suggests, was he was a gunslinger.  He often took chances he shouldn’t have so in addition to the many passing records he holds, he also holds the record for most interceptions in a career.  I would argue that Green Bay would have won more than one Super Bowl had Favre not had a tendency to throw interceptions in the playoffs.

The details about his move to the New York Jets and then the Minnesota Vikings after Green Bay Packers got fed up with the uncertainty of whether Brett really would retire or not is well told here.  There was a lot of drama in Green Bay around Brett’s departure and he didn’t help matters by playing into the drama with his coy indecisiveness for a few years.

The only fault I have with the book overall is there really isn’t much that is new here except some of the interviews conducted during the book.  But a lot of what is chronicled here is mostly already known.  The book does a nice job of pulling it all together go and weaving together the narrative of Brett’s life on and off the field.

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2010 NFL Football Season: Week 11 Observations

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

Top Ten Teams

Philadelphia Eagles. While not as dominating a performance as last week against the Redskins, the Eagles won a division game against a tough opponent and shut down Giants’ running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

Atlanta Falcons. I don’t know what the Falcons strength of schedule looks like but it can’t be great. But they keep rolling along with a solid offense and defense.

New York Jets. The Jets’ come from behind wins week after week are pretty amazing. If the Patriots and Jets both win on Thanksgiving the Monday Night match up the following week will be the biggest game of the year so far.

New England Patriots. The Patriots constantly giving up big leads week after week is a real concern for Patriots fan. While the offense seems to have found a rhythm, the defense hasn’t matched up. This could ultimately be their downfall.

Baltimore Ravens. Not much to say about the Ravens game this week against a depleted and woeful Carolina Panthers unit.

Pittsburgh Steelers. After getting convincingly beaten by the Patriots last week the Steelers made a real statement in blowing out the Oakland Raiders.

Green Bay Packers. The shellacking of Minnesota this week must have been sweet for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

New Orleans Saints. It will be interesting to see if the Saints can regain their dominant form they showed last year. They seem to be on a bit of a roll now.

San Diego Chargers. San Diego is starting to look like the Super Bowl contender they were supposed to be. This is a very dangerous team in a weak division.

Indianapolis Colts. The Colts dropped a little this week after losing to the Patriots but only because the Chargers played so well.

The New York Giants dropped off the top ten list this week after losing a home game to the Eagles.

Trent Dilfer

Along with Tom Jackson, Trent Dilfer joins my all time least favorite announcers/analysts list. This guy is complete idiot and does not belong on television. The first week of the season he was the announcer for the San Diego Chargers versus Kansas City Chiefs game. I taped the game and watched it the next day and started right at the kickoff so I wasn’t even sure who the announcer was, I just thought he was an idiot. He kept going on and on and on and on ad nauseum about how great San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is. I thought, gee is this guy married to Rivers?

Every time I see him on television he makes me sick with his stupidity. I turn the channel when I see him now. He was an awful quarterback too.

Brad Childress is Gone, Brett Favre Should Be Next

As soon as I saw that Brad Childress was finally fired from the Minnesota Vikings and Leslie Frazier named the interim head coach, I thought if Frazier really wants to take control of this team he has to release Brett Favre and see what Tarvaris Jackson can do as quarterback. Favre is as much of the problem with that team as Childress was and it will not be resolved until they show him the door. Favre has played horribly this year and clearly is the person who really that runs the team.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Indianapolis Colts, 31-28

After building up a nice 31-14 lead the New England Patriots defense gave up two really quick scores to the Colts in the fourth quarter, and nearly gave up a tying field goal or winning touchdown near the end of the game. This was heart attack city for Patriots fans and a cause for great concern. The defense is clearly still a work in progress but that progress better be a bit quicker as we reach the end of the regular season. The offense is not going to be able to put up 31 points on every team. And if we get behind it seems like the game could be over.

I am a glass half empty kind of fan after years and years of woeful Patriots teams in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, and I complained about the offense not doing more in the second half after a few bad series. But I was reminded that Peyton Manning threw three interceptions and the game loser, so I will just have to take that.

Danny Woodhead’s 36 yard touchdown run in the third quarter with little Wes Welker blocking downfield was a thing of beauty.

MVP: Danny Woodhead, RB

Chicago Bears over Miami Dolphins, 16-0

With third string quarterback Tyler Thigpen starting for the Dolphins off a short week I thought they were in big trouble, and they were. Add to that some injuries on the Dolphins’ offensive line and they were in even bigger trouble. The Dolphins offense just never could get it going and they were giving up a lot of yards on kick returns to Devin Hester that set up Chicago for an early lead that they never relinquished.

I think Thigpen is a decent quarterback and with a regular practice schedule and some protection can win some games for the Dolphins.

MVP: Devin Hester, KR/WR

Baltimore Ravens over Carolina Panthers, 37-13

This game went pretty much as expected with the Ravens dominating the undermanned Carolina Panthers on both sides of the ball. Nothing against Brain St. Pierre but when you sign a perennial backup and third stringer off the street to be your starter you are in big trouble. That goes doubly true if you are facing a ball hawking Ravens defense.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

Philadelphia Eagles over New York Giants, 27-17

Despite being only a game up on the New York Giants in the NFC East, the Eagles staked their claim to the division title with a win over the New York Giants. While it wasn’t the otherworldly performance of a week ago against the Washington Redskins, the Eagles played good enough, especially on defense, to pull out a tough win. More impressive is the defense is playing better than it has all year long.

While the Giants are a bit banged up they are a strange team to watch week in and week out. Some weeks they look great and other weeks they look awful, even in some of their wins. You never know what Giants’ team is going to show up.

MVP: Jeremy Maclin, WR

San Diego Chargers over Denver Broncos, 35-14

Has a sleeping giant awoken from its slumber? After three straight wins and basically handing a game to the New England Patriots, the Chargers, even at 5-5, are poised to take the AFC West title if they keep winning. They have some tough matchups ahead but I am not a big believer in the Kansas City Chiefs or Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos are almost out of it.

This was a very dominating performance in all phases of the game by the Chargers. And while Philip Rivers was brilliant and really is having an MVP type season, backup running back Mike Tolbert set the tone early in the game with tough runs.

MVP: Mike Tolbert, RB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
Defensive Player: Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears
Offensive Lineman: Sebastian Vollmer, T, New England Patriots
Special Teams: Devin Hester, KR/WR, Chicago Bears
Rookie of the Week: Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay

2010 NFL Football Season: Week Ten Observations

General Observations

Michael Vick. I hereby officially and unequivocally eat my words. When Michael Vick took over the starting job for the Philadelphia Eagles I said he would never be more than a running quarterback. I predicted he would look brilliant at times and has a cannon for an arm but would make bad throws and poor decisions just like he did in Atlanta not allowing the Eagles to get over the hump. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When Vick has been healthy he is the best quarterback in the league. He brings an unprecedented threat of the run at the quarterback position but now makes good decisions in the pocket and throws the ball more accurately than I ever saw from him in the past. He has always had an unbelievable arm. The only reason he didn’t make my Midseason All Pro team is because he missed too many games because of injury. Were I picking the team after Philadelphia and Vick embarrassed the Washington Redskins I’d go Vick, Brady, Manning (Peyton). I must say that I have a hard time getting over his abuse of poor dogs, but he has been simply amazing this year when healthy.

Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys showed up against the Giants after being railed on in the press all week about being quitters. I wonder how long it will last?

Brett Favre. Brett Favre stunk, throwing three interceptions in the Vikings loss to the Bears. Now he says he needs an MRI on shoulder. I wonder what excuse he will come up with next. Brad Childress is gutless or Favre would be on the bench. Neither Childress or Favre are likely to be back next year with the Vikings.

Terrell Suggs. Suggs should keep his fat, ugly, slobbery lips closed and quit making a fool of himself. Shut up already.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Pittsburgh Steelers, 39-26

I was really worried last week that the embarrassing loss to the Cleveland Browns exposed our young defense for what it really has been all year, a bit undisciplined, a bit out of place, and at times a bit soft. This game proved otherwise. As in the game with the Minnesota Vikings the Patriots defense played tough, hardnosed, disciplined football, while the offense found some rhythm, built a lead, and never looked back.

The offensive line of the Patriots played a wonderful game. Left tackle Matt Light has struggled more than I am used to seeing this year but he did a great job against James Harrison. Granted he often had a little help from Algae Crumpler and the Steelers attempted to play more coverage than blitz, nevertheless Light handled himself well. And Logan Mankins added that little bit of toughness and meanness to the offensive line that was sorely needed against a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Overall I thought the Patriots game plan on both sides of the ball was excellent and Tom Brady played a great game. Of course you give just about any quarterback the kind of protection Brady had they are going to slice you up.

The only bothersome part of this game was the defense playing so soft in the second half keeping the Steelers in the game and making me nervous until the final seconds ticked off the clock.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB

Atlanta Falcons over Baltimore Ravens, 26-21

The Atlanta Falcons are an impressive team and will be a real threat in the playoffs. Matt Ryan is a calm, cool customer at quarterback and Roddy White is having a career year at receiver. Along with a solid offensive line, a thumper in running back Michael Turner, and a very good, solid defense, other NFC teams better take notice.

After building a 13-7 halftime lead that really should have been more, the Falcons let the Ravens back in it in the second half. Both teams hds very nice drives for touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but Atlanta had the last laugh with the last score and the win. Both teams are upper echelon teams.

Roddy White had a great outing with 12 catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner. He has always been a very good receiver but this year he is having the best of his career.

MVP: Roddy White, WR

Indianapolis Colts over Cincinnati Bengals, 23-17

Cincinnati is fun to watch, mainly because it is so comical watching them beat themselves week after week. The defense and Chad Ochostinko played well enough to win this game. Ocho was making great catch after great catch. But five turnovers, including three interceptions by Carson Palmer, one that was returned for a touchdown, just doomed the Bengals.

The Colts played well enough, especially on defense. Their offense, significantly hampered by so many injuries, was a bit mistake prone. There were a lot more dropped balls and miscues than I am used to seeing from a Colts team on offense, but they were good a lot of the time and excellent at other times.

But this game was very winnable for the Bengals. They gave up five turnovers, one an instant touchdown, and still only lost by six points. Carson Palmer was just simply horrible in the second half. And Terrell Owens, after a great outing last week, didn’t even look like he showed up for the game. He clearly short armed a few balls, one which lead to a Palmer interception.

MVP: Kelvin Hayden, CB

Dallas Cowboys over New York Giants, 33-20

You never know what is going to happen when two bitter division rivals meet. Records don’t matter. With new coach Jason Garrett at the helm and players admitting they didn’t show up last week in an utterly unprofessional, embarrassing outing against the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys woke up and played football. The Giants, on the other hand, did their best imitation of the Dallas Cowboys this season and were just plain awful in nearly every phase of the game.

Many pundits touted the Giants as the best team in the league before this game but they have had some major clunkers this season.

Dez Bryant, the Cowboys rookie wide receiver is about the only player that has showed up week in and week out and this week as no exception.

MVP: Dez Bryant, WR

Chicago Bears over Minnesota Vikings, 27-13 (DVR)

Brett Favre’s three interceptions plus a couple of nice kick returns by the Bears’ Devin Hester doomed the Vikings to another loss. I really am sick of the Favre soap opera this year. I’ll be glad when he is finally gone.

While the Bears looked pretty decent at times in this game Cutler just doesn’t cut it for me as a quarterback. While he had a decent outing he too threw a few interceptions. While his offensive line is a struggling mightily, he doesn’t help them much as he seems to run right in to trouble. And let’s face it this team just does not have the personnel to run a Mike Martz style offense. They are not fast enough, their offensive line isn’t good enough, and they don’t frankly seem smart enough to get it done.

MVP: Devin Hester, WR/KR

Philadelphia Eagles over Washington Redskins, 59-28

This game was simply mindboggling. I don’t believe I have ever seen an offensive performance as unbelievable as the one the Eagles put up against the Redskins. From the first play from scrimmage, an 88 yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson, through a lighting quick 35-0 lead, the offense just embarrassed the Redskins. I frankly don’t know if the Eagles are this frighteningly good, or the Redskins defense just had a horrible off day.

Vick played as well both passing and running as I have ever seen a quarterback play. It was simply amazing to watch.

I will give this to the Redskins, I never throughout the game got the feeling that the team quit. They fought hard and played hard throughout. This just very clearly was not their night.

And let’s face it, as bad as McNabb has played this year, the offensive line is a disaster, he has what would be a fifth or sixth running back on most teams, he has no good receivers except maybe the aging Santa Moss and the dinged up tight end Chris Cooley. He really is in a no win situation. Now, maybe if he were a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. But he never has been, never will be.

MVP: Michael Vick, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Defensive Player: Kelvin Hayden, CB, Indianapolis Colts
Offensive Lineman: Max Jean-Gilles, Philadelphia Eagles
Special Teams: Devin Hester, KR/WR, Chicago Bears
Rookie of the Week: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

As the NFL Turns: Observations on NFL 2010 Season Week 8

Nearly every NFL season has its soap operas, usually revolving around diva wide receivers (Terrible Terrell Owens, Chad Ochostinko, Keyshawn Johnson, and Randy Moss have provided good fodder for years). But frankly, I cannot remember a season with so many teams falling apart and in disarray.

The real center of the soap opera of the 2010 season has been two teams, the Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre and the Washington Redskins with Albert Haynesworth and now the benching of Donovan McNabb in the last two minutes of a winnable game.

Let’s start with the Vikings. It’s been fun watching them implode this year.

The Minnesota Favres, Brad Childress, and Randy Moss.

Brad Childress does not run the Minnesota Vikings, Brett Favre does. I used to have a lot of respect for Favre but now I simply find him despicable. It has become clear over the last several years that Favre wants the universe to revolve around him and craves attention. The Green Bay Packers finally got fed up with his will he retire, won’t he retire annual soap opera and jettisoned him. Luckily for the Packers they did it before he could destroy the team. He has now succeeded in doing just that to the Minnesota Vikings. I am so sick of Favre I can hardly stand to see the purple uniform anymore. Hopefully they will continue to lose so I don’t have to see them in the playoffs.

First, Favre had his annual rite of lounging around in Mississippi leaking word that he might retire, he might not retire, don’t you want me back Vikings? “I’m injured and had ankle surgery so I might not come back. Did you hear me? I might not come back?! But I’m throwing the ball and working out. Pssst, I might retire. But I’m working out! Hey, look at me…I might retire, but the arm feels good.” I have come to believe the entire story of several Vikings players flying to Mississippi to get Favre and bring him back to Minnesota was entirely scripted. He missed all of training camp and has played mostly horrible this season.

Then rumors surfaced of him sending voice mails trying to lure a then New York Jets sideline reporter to his hotel room when he played for the Jets, and then supposedly sending lewd pictures. He admits to the voicemails but not the pictures. Give me a break. If he did one he almost certainly did the other. And guess who knows if those pictures really are of Brett Favre? His poor wife, a breast cancer survivor who has become a public figure herself. I feel sorry for her. Maybe the injuries and certainly a lack of domestic bliss has Favre distracted and that is why he isn’t playing well. Or that he missed all of training camp. Or that he is, and always has been, overrated.

Reportedly he doesn’t get along with or respect coach Brad Childress, and maybe for good reason. How can Favre respect a coach when he is the one that is really in control of the organization, not Childress? And stemming from that, why should the rest of players respect him? It’s becoming pretty clear they don’t.

And then we have the Randy Moss saga. The Vikings, desperate for wide receivers with the injury to Sydney Rice and the health of Percy Harvin, make a trade with the New England Patriots for the mercurial Randy Moss. And then cut him four weeks later after a tirade in the locker room aimed at some poor mom and pop outfit feeding the team and his rant about how much he misses the Patriots and taking a subtle jab at the coaching staff for not listening to before getting beaten by the Patriots this week. So the Vikings are out a third round draft pick for four weeks of Randy Moss with little to show for it.

Brad Childress, aka Chili, must be feeling the heat after the Vikings owner Zygi Wilf showed up to practice to talk to the players about their coach. Another nail in the proverbial coffin as far as any respect the players are likely to have for Childress. He may last this season, but he has got to be gone next. And if the Vikings are smart, so will Brett Favre, even if they have to lock him out of the facilities.

And then, unfortunately for a team that was on the cusp last year, they will likely be almost in a rebuilding phase next year.

If Childress were smart he’d bench Favre and put in Tarvaris Jackson to see, once and for all, if he can be a starting quarterback in this league. I suspect not, but they need to be looking to the future

Fat Albert, Donovan McNabb, and the Shanahans

No, this is not a new age rock band. This is the mess that is the Washington Redskins. Granted, the Redskins are much better this year with essentially the same personnel, except at quarterback, as they had last year. Mike Shanahan has clearly improved this team’s play. But what a whacky way to start his new coaching gig. It’s not a very auspicious start.

I find it hilarious that Dan Snyder gave Albert Haynesworth a $100 million contract with nearly half guaranteed. Last year he played okay but not a $100 million worth. And then he shows up to camp out of shape, doesn’t want to play nose tackle in the 3-4 defense, and can only get on the field in third down situations. I bet a lot of players would love to be making Haynesworth kind of money for taking a handful of snaps in the game. That is what Danny Boy gets. He loves the high priced, flashing signings instead of going after players of substance both mentally and physically. Haynesworth has no heart but he has a bank account full of Danny Boy’s money.

And now we get an even juicier story. The Redskins sign one of the better quarterbacks of his generation to lead the team into the future. And let’s face it, he has been very streaky this year and most of the Redskins’ wins have been because of their defense. McNabb played horribly against the Chicago Bears but the Redskins won thanks to four interceptions, with one being a touchdown, by DeAngelo Hall. But with about two minutes to go against the Detroit Lions this week, in a winnable game, they bench McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman. Rex Grossman! Of course Rex promptly fumbles the ball and gives up a touchdown to seal the game for the Lions.

Now wait a minute. You bench Donovan McNabb with two minutes to go for Rex Grossman? Shanahan first said it was because McNabb didn’t know the two minute drill as well as Grossman. So what has McNabb been doing since training camp during the two minute drill offense? Then he said it was because he was out of shape. Okay, maybe he is but what does that say when your starting quarterback is not in shape to run the two minute offense halfway through the season? Then he said it was because of injuries. While McNabb is dinged up, he said this is not the case.

Clearly Shanahan made an emphatic statement that he does not trust nor think McNabb is the quarterback of the future. His actions speak loudly. This will clearly be a strain on the Redskins’ psyche the rest of the season. Even with McNabb playing poorly with his overthrows and under throws and missing open receivers, Shanahan undermined a team leader. If McNabb is not your guy just say so and move on. It should be an interesting rest of the season for the Redskins.

The Dallas Jerry Joneses

The Dallas Cowboys are 1-6. Before he got injured Romo was inconsistent and the play calling suspect. Now with Romo out and Jon Kitna in the defense seems to have quit on the season as well. All the talk before the season started from the Cowboys and pundits was that this team would be playing the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Then the losses mounted up. Wade Philips took what appeared to be a swipe at offensive coordinator Jason Garret and heir apparent to the head coaching job after the loss to the Redskins. And Jerry Jones weekly, but it seems like almost daily, has to reiterate that Wade Philips is the coach for at least the rest of the season. It’s been fun watching the Cowboys lose this year. I hope it continues.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Minnesota Vikings, 28-18

The New England Patriots shut out Randy Moss and after a shaky first half offensively and defensively, outplayed the Vikings in the second half to secure the win. One of the biggest keys to the game was the Patriots’ outstanding goal line stand, stopping Adrian Peterson on fourth and 1 with a few seconds left in the first half to keep the Vikings from building their lead.

New England finally got its running game going in the second half with BenJarvis Green-Ellis pounding the ball for 112 yards and Danny Woodhead making some nifty runs to keep the chains moving. The biggest play of the game came in the third quarter when Brady scrambled around and then found a wide open Brandon Tate for a 65 yard touchdown pass and a 14-10 lead. That was followed by a Devin McCourty interception of Brett Favre (which actually bounced out of Percy Harvin’s hands) that New England promptly turned into another touchdown and never looked back.

The New England Patriots may have the best record in the league but their offense really has struggled at times without Randy Moss, who opened up the short passing game, and their defense has been mostly not up to par. In this game both units played very well in the second half, which was heartening to see for Patriots fans.

Danny Woodhead has been a huge addition to the team. If you simply look at his stats they appear unimpressive but Woodhead is a playmaker. He made some very nifty moves and fought for yardage to secure key first downs in the game and is as valuable a player as anyone on the squad save Tom Brady. And New England finally getting a running game going in the second half greatly helped keep the Viking defense a little off balance. On defense, Jerrod Mayo is a rock. He was mostly responsible for stopping Adrian Peterson on the goal line stand to end of the half, and frankly had stopped Adrian Peterson on the Vikings first score of the game but the referees gave the Vikings a touchdown.

Brett Favre actually played quite well in this game despite his ankle injury and before being knocked out of the game on a hit late in the game. But this team is in disarray and will likely continue to spiral downhill.

Meanwhile the Patriots are winning games on special teams, turnovers, and simply playing smarter than their opponents.

MVP: BenJarvis Green-Ellis, RB


Detroit Lions over Washington Redskins, 37-25

This was a fascinating game to watch. Both teams’ defensive lines dominated their opponents and both teams had outstanding special teams play, especially in kick returns. Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams just decimated the interior line of the Redskins leaving the running game and passing game in disarray. But the same can be said for the Redskins front three, plus London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo.

The difference? In the second half Matthew Stafford handled the pressure better than Donovan McNabb did, hitting Calvin Johnson for three touchdown passes. Johnson was taking a beating in the process but manned up and grabbed some tough catches. And Stefan Logan’s kick returns consistently set the Lions up on good field position. While he didn’t outduel the Redskins’ Brandon Banks returner who took one to the house for a score, his runbacks were a real difference maker for the Lions.

For the Redskins, like last year’s loss to Detroit, this could be a negative turning point in the season as Mike Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb with about two minutes to go in a winnable game. This unfathomable decision led to backup quarterback Rex Grossman taking a snap and getting mauled by the Lions’ defense and giving up a fumble for a touchdown. Redskins Park will be interesting for the next two weeks after this call (see above).

Ndamukong Suh is the real deal at defensive tackle and when healthy, Detroit rookie running back Jahvid Best has proven to be a dynamic runner. The Lions have a good, young core of players to build around for the future.

I know it will be odd not to give Calvin Johnson and his three touchdowns or Ndamukong Suh for his sterling play the MVP award for the game. Both of them deserve it. But the most telling difference in the game, outside of McNabb’s poor play even when he wasn’t under pressure, were the kick returns.

MVP: Stefan Logan, KR

New Orleans Saints over Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-10

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is the toughest, roughest, meanest, nastiest unit in the NFL. They are scary. And they played a great game against the Saints. The only problem is the Saints defense played a great game too and a turnover by the Steelers’ Heath Miller late in the fourth quarter was too much to overcome. With the score 13-10 New Orleans, and the Steelers moving the ball well, Miller fumbles near midfield. The Saints score what turns out to be the decisive touchdown. Then Big Ben throws another interception on the ensuing drive. Game over.

This very well might be the hardest hitting game I have seen all year long by both defenses.

MVP: Jonathan Vilma, LB

Indianapolis Colts over Houston Texans, 30-17

Many pundits crowned the Houston Texans Super Bowl champs and said the Colts were through after the Texans upset the Colts in their first tilt in the season opener. Peyton Manning simply did what Peyton Manning does best, pick apart the Texans like they were schoolboys against real men. Even with injuries to several starters and his security blanket Dallas Clark, Manning just made the Texans look silly on defense. It was a little embarrassing to watch actually.

And of course once behind, Dwight Freeney could tee off. He got a couple of sacks and some good pressure on Matt Schaub. At the start of the season after seeing him for a few games I thought Texans’ Duane Brown might be the best left tackle I’d seen. After being suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy he looks rusty and got schooled by Freeney. Maybe he needs to get back on whatever it was he got suspended for.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (238 total yards)
Defensive Player: Ndamukong Suh , DT, Detroit Lions
Offensive Lineman: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers
Special Teams: Stefan Logan, KR/WR, Detroit Lions
Rookie of the Week: Ndamukong Suh , DT, Detroit Lions

2010 NFL Football Season: Week One Observations

Wes Welker Scores Against the Bengals

A new season is upon us and it should be an exiting one.

In the NFC we wonder if the New Orleans Saints can repeat as Super Bowl champions, if all the hoopla over the Dallas Cowboys will end again in ignominy, if Brett Favre can take a depleted receiving corps back to the playoffs, if the San Francisco are as good as advertised, and how will the only rookie starting quarterback in the league, Sam Bradford, fare in St. Louis?

The AFC appears to be even more wide open than the NFC. Several teams have a legitimate shot at Super Bowl glory. The New England Patriots with a healthy and hot Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Randy Moss and a young defense should improve over the year and be a contender. The New York Jets and their slothful undisciplined coach say they are the heirs to the AFC East. The Baltimore Ravens are loaded on offense and their defense looks as good as ever. The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has proven to be as formidable as ever and when Big Ben gets back their offense should improve. The Indianapolis Colts are always a tough team and the Houston Texans are emerging. Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers may or may not slip. They are in the weakest division in the AFC and despite losing their opener, will likely have a spot in the playoffs.

Before jumping in the games I watched this, a few big picture headlines that week one revealed.

  • Brady, Welker, Moss and the offense are back and as good as ever.
  • New Orleans appears to have started right where they left off last year, with a powerful offense and defense that is solid. They are the favorites to emerge from the NFC.

  • Minnesota, after the tiresome annual saga of Brett Favre’s retirement dance, suddenly found themselves without receivers. Their defense is solid but their opening salvo on offense bodes ill for their chances this season.

  • Thankfully, for once, we won’t have the annual will the Indianapolis Colts go undefeated as they spank the teams in their weak division. Houston hung a loss on the Colts, and if their offense line continues to struggle, Peyton Manning is in for a long season.

  • Will Michael Vick be the Eagles starter this season?

  • San Francisco is not as good as we thought they were.

  • Dallas continues to shoot itself in the foot.

  • Finally, for the most part the defenses in the league seem to have started the season a step ahead of the offenses. This is likely to change as the season progresses but as someone who loves the defensive side of the ball, it was refreshing to see.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Cincinnati Bengals, 38-24

One word: Welker.

It was a very happy sight to see Wes Welker looking like, well, Wes Welker, after his amazingly fast recover from reconstructive knee surgery after suffering an injury in the last game of the season last year. WELKER! WELKER! WELKER!

Tom Brady also looked very sharp in this game, as did the entire offense. It was good to see a little bit of the running game back in the game plan, although I still think they could run the ball even more. Fred Taylor seemed to have fresh legs in the first half and the running back by committee approach worked. And I continue to be amazed at how older players like third down back Kevin Faulk can continue to be so effective.

What was also heartening to see is the very young defense with two rookie starting cornerbacks holding up well against the powerful Cincinnati Bengals offense with two of the best receivers in the league. I did get somewhat worried in the second half when the Bengals had two back to back sustained scoring drives. Barring injury I expect the defense to continue to improve as the season progresses. While it was not a lock down defense, it was good enough to win this game.

And Brandon Tate! His kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half was crucial, as it turned out, to extend the lead. Instead of providing even more momentum for the Patriots, it almost seemed like the Patriots players thought the game was over and played really rather poorly in the third quarter. The defense suddenly looked vulnerable and the offense didn’t do much either.

The Patriots played a very good all around game while the Bengals really didn’t get started until the second half. But for us Patriots fans the story was Wes Welker.

As a side note, good riddance Baloney Lauren Maroney. And don’t worry about Randy Moss, he’ll be fine.

MVP: Wes Welker, WR


New Orleans over Minnesota Vikings, 14-9

There are really a lot of storylines to this game.

The Saints look like a Super Bowl team. While their offense did struggle a bit their two scoring drives were dominant and once they started running the ball in the second half, they locked the game up. If they can continue to mix in a solid running game with their vaunted passing attack they will be very difficult to beat this season.

The Saints’ offensive line was the most dominant unit in the game and the best I saw all weekend. Guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, along with center Jonathan Goodwin, completely dominated Minnesota’s defensive tackles, Pat and Kevin Williams. Maybe the Williams boys need to get back on that supplement that almost cost them a suspension. They got punked in this game. And I really have to give a huge shout out to Jermon Bushrod. He totally handled my 2009 defensive player of the year Jared Allen entirely on this own. Last year I got a lot of criticism for favoring Carl Nicks over Jahri Evans as my All Pro guard. I did so because last year Nicks often had to help Bushrod, who really was the weak link on the offensive line. I don’t know if this is a one game stellar effort by Bushrod or if he has really improved that much. If continues this level of play the Saints may even be better this year than last.

In the second half the Saints finally started running the ball with Pierre Thomas, who ate up the clock and moved the chains. He has solid performance behind the dominant offensive line and I felt it was a great change of pace by Sean Peyton.

Minnesota, meanwhile, looked awful on offense. With Sydney Rice out for at last half the season and Percy Harvin ailing and running lousy routes, there really were no receivers open to throw to. Bernard Berrian looked awful in preseason and woeful in this game as well. He seems to have completely disappeared. I was surprised Greg Camarillo did not see more action in the slot.

Minnesota’s defense did not play up to their usual standards on the defensive line but they settled down and did manage to hold the Saints to 14 points. They are battling injuries in the secondary and Antoine Winfield is also coming off an injury plagued 2009 and really did not play up to his usual standards. It was great to see linebacker E.J. Henderson back in the lineup and playing extremely well after suffering a gruesome broken femur last year. I though his career was likely over, but clearly it’s not.

Minnesota is likely to continue to struggle on offense unless the receivers get their heads out of their ass and start playing football.

While Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans are better and played wonderfully, I am giving the most valuable player award here to Jermon Bushrod for handling Jared Allen.

MVP: Jermon Bushrod, T

Green Bay Packers over Philadelphia Eagles, 27-20

Let the quarterback controversy begin! The Eagles offense looked absolutely miserable in the first half. Kevin Kolb was harassed and the receivers weren’t really getting open but he wasn’t doing much either. I am not sure if it is because Michael Vick kept entering the game and did not allow Kolb to establish a rhythm or something else, but once he sustained a concussion and Vick took over the offense came to life. But, that was mostly because of Vick’s legs. His running really broke the game open for the offense even though they still fell short in the end.

It will be fascinating to see what transpires this season now that Kolb might be out for a few games and Vick will be the starter. If Vick is successful it will be hard for Andy Reid not to keep him behind center once Kolb is healthy. But you know what? Vick will never lead a team to the promised land (although he has sent quite a few dogs to doggie heaven). His success in this game was mostly his running ability. Just like in Atlanta, once teams scheme against him, his inaccurate passing and poor decision making will catch up with him. Yes, he may have a rocket arm and can throw the ball 60 yards with a flick of the wrist, but Eagles’ fans should not get too giddy over the possibilities. Unless he continues to be a running quarterback he will not be that dynamic, and eventually teams will catch up with the Eagles if Vick is at the helm.

Green Bay didn’t really look all the wonderful either. The offensive tackles had a hard time handling the rush but they did manage a couple of really nice touchdown drives. The star of the game was Clay Matthews, Jr. who was all over the place on defense and recorded a couple of sacks.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

Washington Redskins over Dallas Cowboys, 13-7

GOAT: Jason Garrett. And no, that is not for “greatest of all time” but idiot. I am sure everyone has seen the play by now, but at the end of the first half, in bad field position, with little time left on the clock, the Cowboys ran a short sideline route to Tashard Choice who ended up fumbling the ball which was returned for a Redskins touchdown and was the difference in the game. What made this play so stupid? First, the Redskins offense was doing absolutely nothing and had only a 3-0 lead. Scores were clearly going to be a premium in this game and with so little time left on the clock, the smart move was simply to run the time off the clock and regroup in the second half. Secondly, the play had no chance of even netting enough yards to get into field goal range. It was stupid play call, period, for that situation.

What this play and head coach Wade Phillips’ comments after the game shows is that Wade Phillips is not in control of this team. He basically threw Jason Garrett under the bus by saying they should have kneeled on the ball, didn’t know why the ran a play there, and tersely said the defense (which he runs) did its job and did not give up a touchdown. I believe they will continue to be destiny’s stepchild this season.

Otherwise, both teams struggled a great deal on offense. Dallas’s offensive line did not protect Tony Romo well but they finally got going late in the game to finally make a run for a win, but alas they failed. A holding penalty on the last play of the game negated a would be game winning touchdown. It was clearly holding too so nobody can gripe about the call.

The Mike Shanahan era started off with a win over archrival Dallas on Dallas’s home turf. While it was not a dominating or particularly impressive win, especially on offense, it was a win. As usual, the Washington defense is very solid this year, as they have been in year’s past. While they have sometimes been criticized for not getting enough turnovers, they are basically a very sturdy unit.

The offense, however, was woeful and did nothing. Shanahan needs to find a way to fix that quick because they won’t be winning many games like this otherwise. He can thank DeAngelo Hall for the fumble recovery and touchdown, which was the difference in the game. Or, send Jason Garrett a thank you card for the gift.

MVP: DeAngelo Hall, CB

Baltimore Ravens over New York Jets, 10-9

The New York Jets are an undisciplined team and reflection of their coach, the slovenly Rex Ryan. They shot themselves in the foot with penalties and giving up big plays on third and long when they had the Ravens’ offense on the ropes, which was the difference in the game. Add to that the harassment by Jets players of a female reporter also shows a lack of professionalism, decorum, and discipline, again a reflection of their head coach. The Jets may very well implode this season.

The Jets defense continues to be a stellar unit, one of the best, if not the best in the league. But their offense looks awful and Mark Sanchez has not proven, yet, that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. They were facing another top defense in the Ravens, so maybe time will tell.

The Ravens defense played excellent football and Ray Lewis continues, in his fifteenth NFL season, to be one of the best defensive players in the league. He got some great hits on the Jets, and the rest of the unit played excellent as well. I was surprised at how the offense was so throttled, however, even facing the Jets. With Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and a very good offensive line, Anquan Bolden, Derrick Mason, and Todd Heap, I thought they were loaded on offense. The Jets bailed them out with bad penalties most of the game and Ravens were lucky to escape with a win.

MVP: Ray Lewis, LB

Kansas City Chiefs over San Diego Chargers, 21-14

I was happy to see the Chiefs beat the Chargers on Monday night but Chief’s fans shouldn’t get too excited. It was really two big plays on offense that sealed the deal, a great 56 yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles and a 94 yard punt return for a touchdown by rookie wide receiver Dexter McCluster were the keys to the game. Otherwise the offense looked anemic and Matt Cassel really did not do much to distinguish himself.

The Chief’s defense did play well. Defensive tackle Glen Dorsey finally looked like a first round draft pick in this game and the defensive backs did a very nice job on the Charger’s receivers, especially Brandon Flowers.

Philip Rivers made himself look like a complete idiot and proved what a jerk he is yelling at his teammates and carrying on a like a petulant child in the second half. While indeed his teammates made mistakes, I can’t imagine that endears him to his offensive line or establishes him as the leader of the team. They did almost come back and win, however. Rookie running back Ryan Matthews had a decent game, but he gave up a fumble that lead to a touchdown, helping the Chief’s secure the win.

MVP: Dexter McCluster, KR/WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans (231 yards rushing, 3 TDs)
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Jermon Bushrod, T, New Orleans Saints
Special Teams: Brandon Tate, WR/KR, New England Patriots
Rookie of the Week: Dexter McCluster, WR/KR, Kansas City Chiefs

Peter King Spouts Off About the National Football League

Monday Morning Quarterback: A Fully Caffinated Guide to Everything You Need to Know About the NFL by Peter King
Sports Illustrated: October 2009

I have always considered Peter King to be a bit of a blowhard and this book mostly confirms my opinion.  Monday Morning Quarterback is a compendium of King’s writings and articles about the National Football League in the print and online versions of Sports Illustrated.  As a result it is a bit of a hodgepodge, jumping back and forth between topics, with mostly short topical comments on many aspects of professional football.

I did find the book rather entertaining though.  I particularly liked where he makes lists, my favorite being his ranking of the greatest 100 football players of all time, and his list of the smartest coaches of all time.  Lists are always fun because there is plenty of room for disagreement and prompts you think what your own list would look like.  Who do you think King considers the greatest receiver of all time?  It’s not Jerry Rice.

Given that King is all over the map in this book I’ll suffice it to say he does have some rather nice pieces in here.  My favorites are where he talks about a particular person in the context of their character or an event.  For example, the opening article on Ernie Accorsi, former General Manager of the New York Giants, and the story behind the Eli Manning for Philip Rivers trade during the 2004 draft is intriguing.  His insights into Tony Dungy and Brett Favre are also insightful.

This book also includes asides about King and his love of his kids’ sports, which are really totally unrelated to the topic at hand, but worthwhile reading nonetheless.

And despite that I find King a blowhard, he is self deprecating at time, like when he admits his prognostications that were utterly wrong.

The aspect of the book that is the most bothersome is his articles about Brett Favre.  King admits he became good friends with Brett Favre when he stayed with Favre and his wife while writing a story on him.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that.  But, he is so close to Favre that he even brokered a phone call between Favre and an agent when Favre was contemplating coming out of retirement and was looking to sign with another team.  I know in sports journalism the line is often crossed between being an unbiased reporter and a participant in the events.  And while I will take King at his word when he says he has some insight into what Favre is thinking, his opinions about the drama king are not worth quite as much.  He is no longer an objective observer on that topic.

That said, overall this was a worthwhile read and mostly entertaining.

Sports Illustrated Monday Morning Quarterback: A fully caffeinated guide to everything you need to know about the NFL

2009 NFL Season: AFC & NFC Championship Games

Indianapolis Colts over New York Jets, 30-17

You have to hand it to the New York Jets for their nice run in the playoffs. They embarrassed the Cincinnati Bengals (well, the Bengals embarrassed themselves) and I gave them no chance against the hot San Diego Chargers but they pulled off an impressive win. Despite the final score, I thought the Jets played a fine game against the Colts.

The Jets got the big passing plays they needed for scores in the first half to go ahead and stay in the game. And their defense did a great job of taking away Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. The problem was Peyton Manning finally figured out how to move the ball effectively against the Jets defense, and Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie stepped up to the plate with big plays. Once the Colts got a quick score to end the first half, they became too much to handle for the Jets in the second half. The Jets never did make great adjustments and eschewed the blitz to play coverage. But Garcon, especially, came up big for the Colts when it counted.

And once the Jets got behind, their offense just isn’t built right now to come back from a deficit. The Colts with the lead could play to stop the pass and the Jets passing game just simply isn’t dynamic enough to compensate.

So in the end this game turned out about how I expected it to, with Colts finding ways to score against a solid defense, and a Jets offense just not able to keep up.

MVP: Pierre Garcon, WR

New Orleans Saints over Minnesota Vikings, 31-28 OT

This was a very entertaining game and completely lived up to its billing. The Vikings basically outplayed the Saints but turnovers matter in all NFL games and the Vikings fumbled their way out of a Super Bowl birth. It was a closely contest with the offenses moving up and down the field, but the Vikings had an edge on offense that they negated with turnovers and negative plays.

Near the end of regulation, as Minnesota was driving into field goal range, I kept thinking I would be writing what an unbelievably courageous performance by Brett Favre in a win. He was battered as badly as I have ever seen any quarterback battered in a game, but he kept getting out there and fighting back. Instead Favre, as he has done so many times in the past in the playoffs, he threw and idiotic interception instead of stumbling forward for a few yards to give his kicker a chance to win the game. Of course the Vikings had already blundred on that series with too many men in the huddle for a five yard penalty, an egregious mental error at that part of the game. But it was still Favre cementing his legacy, for me at least, as a choke artist in the playoffs, that was the saddest part of the game. Maybe the kicker misses the long field goal, but Favre took his out of any chance to win it in regulation with his terribly ill advised pass late over the middle.

The game then goes to overtime, the Saints get a great kick return by Pierre Thomas for great field position, and win the game on a 40-yard field goal.

Don’t get me wrong though. It was an unbelievably courageous performance by Favre. And it certainly was not Favre’s fault they lost the game. Stupid penalties and fumbles, especially by Adrian Peterson, helped doom them. But why does Favre insist on making the dumbest of throws in the most crucial of situations?

That is what I will remember in this game, as much as anything else.

MVP: Jonathan Vilma, LB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Defensive Player: Jonathan Vilma, LB, New Orleans Saints
Offensive Lineman: Jeff Saturday, C, Indianapolis Colts
Special Teams: Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans Saints

Brett Favre Blunders Again