Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Up To Speed- Houston Texans

The Texans' most prominent appearance on the NFL landscape in 06 came in April, when this n'er do well franchise used the first overall pick in what was one of the most star studded drafts in recent memory on Mario Williams, a defensive end from NC State. In doing so, they passed on:

- Reggie Bush, everybody's number one in that draft
- Vince Young, the National Championship hero from the University of Texas, who would have given the team instant credibility in the Lone Star State
- D'Brickashaw Ferguson, a left tackle who would have represented an obvious step toward correcting the offensive line problems that everyone keeps reminding you that they've supposedly had for five years.
- Matt Leinart, who most everyone agreed was the most polished of a once in a decade QB class.

Former Texans GM Charlie Casserly decided the Texans didn't need any of those guys, and made Mel Kiper's hair explode by taking Williams. Predictably, Williams came up short of expectations (although he wasn't horrible, with 47 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks), and the franchise missed a huge opportunity to change the Tampa Bay Devil Ray-esque course they have been on since their inception.

So Casserly's outsmarting of himself on draft day loomed over everything the Texans and first year coach Gary Kubiak did last year.

Once the season actually started, the Texans weren't as bad as they were in their horrendous 2-14 05 campaign, but they were a long way from being any good. The team was solidly ensconced in the bottom third of the league on both offense and defense. QB David Carr put the finishing touches on a failed tenure in Houston, and the running game suffered with Ron Dayne, Wali Lundy, and Samkon Gado each taking turns being ineffective as the feature back.

While there wasn't a whole lot to get excited about in this 6-10 campaign, there were a few bright spots. The Texans FINALLY beat the Colts, bringing their lifetime record against the AFC South colossus to 1-9, and they also swept the Jaguars. And while they blew their first round selection, they hit a home run in the second round with Defensive Rookie of the Year DeMeco Ryans.


Look directly above you, and you'll see the 2 biggest moves the Texans made this offseason. Former Falcons backup Matt Schaub replaces David Carr at QB. Schaub has never been a starter in the NFL, and in his 161 career pass attempts he's posted a 69.2 rating with 6 TDs and 6 INTs. And he is good why?

The other guy in this photo is former Packer feature back Ahman Green. Green enjoyed somewhat of renaissance in his 9th pro season, rushing for 1049 yards and getting 373 receiving yards. 30 year old running backs tend to be very limited in what they can give you though, so expect Green to share carries with some mixture of Dayne, Lundy, and Gado.

In addition to not really showing any measurable success in the NFL, Schaub has the added burden of having a horrible receiving corps. Andre "1000" Johnson is a good #1, but there is nothing after that. Kevin Walter, who had 17 catches for 160 yards last year, enters camp as the #2. Shudder.

On defense, the Texans would love to see Williams, Ryans, and corner Dunta Robinson continue to develop into Pro Bowl level players. They think they may have added another player in that class in 10th overall pick DT Amobi Okoye. He'll start right away, and if he is as good as his physical abilities indicate he might be, the Texans could be well on their way to having the best defense in their division very soon.

It's becoming clear that the Texans new plan of attack is to build an elite defense, and hope they can parlay that and an adequate offense into supplanting the Jaguars as the #1 contender in the AFC South. It's a plan that has worked for other teams, and it will be interesting to see how the Texans do with that. The offense though, looks dire, and because of that, I think the best the Texans can hope for is a one or two game improvement on last year's 6 win season. Now you're up to speed on the Texans.

Monday, July 30, 2007

USA "Invasion" Help Iraq Win Asian Cup

I'm sitting here at an airport in Japan waiting eight hours for my flight back home to the States. I was recently in Vietnam where their firewall prevents me from accessing this site. Two things about Vietnam: 1) I never accidentally caught dudes doing inappropriate things to others dudes so much as I did in Vietnam (twice), and 2) the official soundtrack to Vietnam should be the Pirates of the Carribean because that's all they do here.

Some good and bad news for America. The Canadian dollar is worth more than the American dollar right now. How shitty is that?

Also, Iraq won the Asian Cup. I was happy for team until Iraq captain, Younis Mahmoud, decided to take his time of glory to shit on the USA:

"I want America to go out," Mahmoud said. "Today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but out. I wish the American people didn't invade Iraq and, hopefully, it will be over soon."
Whatever your political beliefs about the war, this guy's statement is fucking bullshit. While he's sitting there raising the Asian Cup and shitting on America, he seems to forget that the former head of Iraq soccer, Saddam Insane's son, used to torture Iraqi soccer players and rape their wives for poor performances. Hey Mahmoud, sorry for the "invasion" into your country, but your team was just NOT getting the soccer job done. So we decided that stopping the torture and rapings on your team may help you guys play better. Oh, you have an Asian Cup? Wow, we were right.

The other big soccer event is the Superliga, a tournament pitting four MLS teams against four FMF (Mexican Soccer) teams. Sad to say, but my Club America is getting and got RAPED by MLS teams. Yes it's preseason still for CA, but we need to shore up more than two goal chances total with the fucking payroll we have. By the way, Houston looks for real.

I should be home tonight. Group hug all.

Third Hand News

Here's your Third Hand News for July 30, 2007. As always, these are lifted directly from SI.com's Truth and Rumors, except for the brilliant commentary, which is mine.

- The AJC reports that 200 fans gathered yesterday to show their support for indicted Falcons QB Michael Vick. These people need to be put to sleep.

- The Jaguars have signed 1999 first overall pick Tim Couch to a 2 year contract, and he is expected to compete for a backup QB slot. You may think Tim Couch is a big loser because he was a colossal bust as a football player. I think otherwise, because he's married to this woman:

There are MUCH better photos available on the interweb of Mrs. Tim Couch. But this is a family site.

- The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that corner Deltha O'Neal, who was suspended from the team for a DUI incident last year, is back and better than ever in camp this year, with a "positive attitude". He is now high on one thing, life. Life, and quaaludes.

- The Charlotte Observer tells us the Panthers are happy that coach John Fox has them on a lighter practice schedule this year. I believe this is called getting the players on your side so that it makes it harder to fire you when your team comes up way short of high expectations again.

- Both NY teams have high profile players who are unhappy. Jets O linemen Pete Kendall has said he expects to be playing elsewhere this year, and Michael Strahan is holding out of Giants camp. Strahan's holdout should leave him more time to pursue his offseason hobby of having sex with men.

- With Strahan unhappy, the Giants are considering the option of signing recently released former Buc Simeon Rice. Rice missed half of last year, and had only 2 sacks, but he combined for 26 sack in 04 and 05.

- Contract holdout talk is so goddamn boring. Here's your high profile rookie in camp/out of camp scorecard:

Adrian Peterson: signed and in camp
Brady Quinn: not signed and not in camp, hopefully he is using this time to learn how to tie a tie and not look like such a douchebag.

- The Tampa Tribune says Jon Gruden is totally gay for Jeff Garcia.

- I see Matt Schaub is now wearing David Carr's old #8 jersey for the Texans. I am assuming he is doing this in hopes that if he ends up sucking for them, that the national football media will blame it all on his offensive line. Seriously, ESPN has talked about David Carr like he's a a 6 year old Bengladeshi kid with a hare lip for the last 5 years, like I'm supposed to feel sorry for him or something. OK, I'm sorry you've been getting paid millions and millions of dollars for sucking balls for 5 years. Is there some sort of red iPod I can purchase to help you?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Up To Speed- Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans did things that NFL teams aren't supposed to be able to do last year. Things like winning a game despite getting five first downs the entire game, like they did in Week 15 against Jacksonville. Things like erasing a 21-0 fourth quarter deficit to win 24-21, as they did in Week 12 against the Giants. Things like going from being 2-7 to 8-7 during a truly improbable six game late season run.

They may not have been a great team, or even a good team, in fact, they were, in all aspects of the game except running the ball and special teams, a very bad team, but there's no denying that the Titans were one of the more exciting teams to watch in the 06 season.

Of course, the biggest reason for this was their quarterback, Vince Young. He may have posted a dismal 66.7 passer rating, but he ran for 552 yards and 7 TDs, and he won more games than any quarterback had a right to win with the supporting cast that he had. He was, simply put, a revelation. He was Michael Vick without the dogfighting and herpes.

Vince wasn't the only reason for the Titans winning jag though. Running back Travis Henry revived his career by rushing for 1211 yards, and the Titans excelled on special teams, ranking first in the league in average per punt return, thanks to Pacman Jones, who took 3 back for TDs.

Why, the Titans have made a big move just this week my friends. Well, kinda sorta big. They signed fading 34 year old wideout Eric Moulds, who had 557 yards and 1 TD for the Texans last year. So there's that.

You also may have heard something about Pacman Jones being involved in a few off-field incidents. I think ESPN may have mentioned this one or two times this offseason. Pacman is in the same doghouse (no pun intended....or is it?? Mooo Hoo Hoo..Ha Ha Ha) that Michael Vick is with the NFL in that he has been banned from training camp. Like Vick, Jones is facing felony charges, and probably won't play a down this year.

In anticipation of that, the Titans signed former Colts corner Nick Harper this offseason, and used their first round draft pick on hybrid corner/safety Michael Griffin, who was VY's teammate at Texas. Jones won't be missed that badly on defense, but the Titans will miss him a lot on special teams, where he was the next closest thing to the one man wrecking crew that Devin Hester was for the Bears last year.

The Pacman unpleasantness isn't even the biggest concern this team has heading into camp. Far more troubling is that they lost both their top 2 receivers and top rusher over the offseason. Drew Bennett took his team leading 737 yards to St. Louis, #2 wideout Bobby Wade is in Minnesota, and Travis Henry, who was equally as important as Young was to the team's success late last year, made a savvy jump to the running back Valhalla of Denver. The Titans plan on replacing Henry with a 3 headed monster of LenDale White, second round pick Chris Henry, and deposed former feature back Chris Brown. This doesn't seem likely to work, but then nobody anticipated Henry would run for 1200 yards last year either, so I'm taking a wait and see on this.

As for Bennett and Wade, well, they weren't really that good, and the Titans figure that any 2 NFL receivers they plug in can combine for just under 1200 yards like they did, and they are probably right. Still, the passing game was weak last year, and it'll be weak this year too, because nothing was done to upgrade it. The pass rush was also lame last year (29th in the league in sacks), and it will probably take more than a suspension-free season from DT Albert Haynesworth to fix that.

The Titans were a lot of fun last year, but they weren't as average as their 8-8 record would indicate. They have no passing game, and the defense is terrible, and now they have uncertainty in the areas they were good in last year (running the ball and special teams). Add all that up, and it's look like the Titans could be taking a giant step backward this year. Now you're up to speed on the Titans.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Third Hand News

Welcome to a new feature of mine, called "Third Hand News".

The concept is simple, I lift NFL news stories from SI.com's Truth and Rumors page, which they have in turn lifted from newspapers across the country. What value do I add to this? Neither SI nor the local papers offer my pithy commentary and analysis of each story, which you can only find here.

Here we go.

- The Detroit Free Press reports that rookie WR Calvin Johnson will be a holdout at the beginning of camp this weekend, but that the Lions don't expect it to be a long holdout. I'm sure everything will work out great. The Lions are a highly competent organization. Now I will hug some snakes. I will hug and kiss some poisonous snakes.

- Another rookie holdout is Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. Peterson told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "This is about the future. It's not about being greedy." He stole that line from Walter Payton's rap in the Super Bowl Shuffle I think.

- Daunte Culpepper and his dwarf-like hands have been turned away by the Falcons, Jaguars, Ravens, and Rams so far this offseason. When you're getting turned down by the Falcons right now, that's gotta hurt. It's like, "No thanks, we're fine with Joey Harrington and our gas-huffin', orphan beatin', soon to be convicted felon the Michael Vick Experience." Culpepper must be feeling worse than the suicide robot in that Super Bowl commercial right now.

- With Lance Briggs signed to a one-year extension by the Bears, Pats corner Asante Samuel is now the highest profile veteran holdout.

- The NY Post dedicated some space to a heated denial that new GM Jerry Reese is pulling a Rachel Phelps in Major League, or a Jerry Angelo with Dick Jauron in 2003, and setting his coach Tom Coughlin up to fail this year so he can bring in his own coach in 2008 without even having to pay lip service to giving Coughlin an extension. Reese said, "That's insane. That's silly. I'll be very disappointed if we don't win, and win big." By disappointed, he means happy.

- The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports that the Steelers are in "exploratory" talks with former Raiders and Saints QB Aaron Brooks. Now THAT's "insane" and "silly".

- And in what is by far the most interesting story of the day, it appears that Priest Holmes has been exhumed and re-animated, ala Serpentor, and the Chiefs are dangling the possibility that they may send running back Larry Johnson and his perpetual frowny face elsewhere, and re-instate Holmes as their feature back if LJ doesn't pipe down about wanting LaDanian Tomlinson money. Holmes is 30 years old, which in running back years makes him 210, but the Chiefs must figure that they were able to milk a couple more useful years out of Marcus Allen back in the day, so maybe they can do that with Holmes too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Up To Speed- Jacksonville Jaguars

The last time the Jags met the Colts, the great white whale they've been chasing for what seems like time immemorial now in the AFC South, was in Week 14 of last season. In that meeting, the Jags absolutely eviscerated the Colts 44-17, rolling up over 300 rushing yards and seemingly declaring there was a new sheriff in town in the division.

So, of course, the Jags then dropped 3 in a row immediately following that game to miss the playoffs, and the Colts went on to win the Super Bowl. As Yakov Smirnoff would say, what a country.

The most glaring reason the Jaguars went from 12-4 in 2005, to 8-8 and out of the playoffs in 06, was dismal quarterback play. Byron Leftwich and David Garrard were both subpar, and Garrard was awful in a huge late season loss to the Titans in which the Jags lost despite allowing only 5 first downs the entire game.

The ills of the passing game were definitely due in part to the failure of Leftwich and Garrard, but also due to the team's dearth of anybody capable of being a #1 wideout. Second year receiver Matt Jones led the team with a paltry 643 yards receiving.

The team's inability to generate any type of offense thru the air ended up sinking a season in which the running game, behind veteran Fred Taylor and electrifying rookie Maurice Jones-Drew, ranked third in the league, and the defense, led by DT John Henderson, CB Rashean Mathis (21 PD's, 8 INT's), and surprising DE Bobby McCray (10 sacks), ranked second overall in the league.

What you saw last year is pretty much what you'll get this year as far as personnel goes. A couple of changes have been made though. OT Tony Pashos was signed from the Ravens, and will be given an opportunity to start for Jacksonville. Safety Donovan Darius was allowed to go be a Raider, and the Jags are excited about the added athleticism first round pick Reggie Nelson should bring as his replacement.

The bigger story is what hasn't been upgraded. The lackluster receiving and quarterback ensemble returns intact, and that's probably not a good thing. In theory, Jones, Reggie Williams, and Ernest Wilford are all young and supposedly improving, but none of them has really given reason to expect a breakthru season, especially not with Leftwich and Garrard still errantly chucking the ball at them. There've been discussions about the Jags bringing in Daunte Culpepper to compete for the quarterback job, but that's hardly a great solution to that problem even in the unlikely event he signs with the Jags.

The Jags showed a lot of faith in their young players this offseason. Rather than bringing in free agents or using high draft picks to shore up the offense, they elected to stick with what they have. In theory, another year of experience should make this group better, but if that were true, then you wouldn't have expected this team to close out the year with three straight losses like they did last year. If Leftwich and the young wideouts can get it together, this team is a darkhorse Super Bowl contender. If not, they'll again struggle on the fringes of the wildcard race. It could go either way. Now you're up to speed on the Jaguars.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Up To Speed- Indianapolis Colts

Watching the Colts in the final 2 months of the 06 season, you never would have guessed that they would break thru and win their long-awaited Super Bowl title.

Before catching fire in the postseason, the Colts lost 4 out of their final 7 regular season games. This uninspiring stretch saw them:

- Lose all 4 of their final road games.

- Lose to each of their division rivals.

- Surrender 305 rushing yards in a merciless 44-17 ass kicking at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

- Finish the season ranked dead last in the league in rushing defense, surrendering 173 yards per game on the ground. The 31st ranked team gave up 145.4.

Then, inexplicably, this defense, which had been bad on a historical level during the regular season, carried the Colts to victory in a pair of playoff wins over KC and Baltimore in which Peyton Manning threw one TD against 5 interceptions.

The offense found its bearings after this, came back from a 21-3 deficit to win the AFC Championship against New England. Then in the Super Bowl, the Colts beat a Bears team that wasn't in its class.

So when the dust had settled, the Colts, this team that had the worst run defense in the league, that heads into this season on a losing streak against every single team in its own division, were the most unlikely Super Bowl champs we've seen this decade.

We've already established that the defense was, to put it generously, shaky last year. Now consider that they've lost their leading tackler, linebacker Cato June, who bolted to Tampa as a free agent, and that the Colts plan on replacing him with a second year player, Freddy Keiaho, who had 120 fewer tackles than June last year. I have no Super Bowl rings on my fingers, but in my idiotic opinion, that could be a problem.

The Colts also are replacing both of their starting corners from last year, swapping out Nick Harper and Jason David for younger models Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden. On paper, it looks like there should not be much of a dropoff there, but until we see these two as starters over a full season we can't say for sure.

Those are all concerns, but they may be complete non-issues if safety Bob Sanders stays healthy for the entire season. Sanders played only 4 regular season games in 06, but he was there for the playoffs, and he may be the reason why the Colts defense improved soooo much in the postseason. Any defense with him on it for 16 games will not rank 32nd in the league against the run, this much I know for sure.

The defense isn't the only part of the team that's in flux. This week the Colts were hit with a bombshell when left tackle Tarik Glenn, one of the best O-linemen in the league, announced he was taking his ball and going home due to his untenable contract situation. This is not something the team was prepared for, and they'll scramble to fill his shoes assuming he stays retired, or at least not in a Colts uniform.

In addition to this, the Colts will be leaning on Joseph Addai, who had a stellar rookie year, to go from being a 200 carry back to a 300 carry back, because Dominic Rhodes opted to commit career hari kiri and sign with the Raiders. That's a concern, but the passing game should be slightly improved with first round pick Anthony Gonzalez filling the #3 receiver role that Brandon Stokely, Aaron Moorehead, and Ricky Proehl failed to fill last year.

The Colts were the second team in as many years to defy expectations, get hot at the right time, and win 4 postseason games to become World Champs. The Steelers, of course, were the other team, and their post-Super Bowl year wasn't very kind to them. There are a lot of red flags to suggest the Colts could have similar problems in 2007, but the fact that there isn't a team in their division ready to knock them off their perch means they'll be back in the postseason this year. Now you're up to speed on the Colts.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Asian Cup, Blanco vs. Becks Debut

I'm still writing from Japan, and boy they got some weird shit here. They have a toilet that blasts water in your a-hole to clean that shit up, literally. I ordered pizza at an "Italian" restaurant, and they put soy sauce in my pizza. That was pretty gross. But it as cool. I just threw up the pizza in a Japanese toilet and rinsed my mouth with a-hole water.

Asian Cup

I guess I'm pretty awesome because all my predictions came true for the Asian Cup. Iraq shit on Vietnam because Vietnam was just not that good. Japan and Korea won from PKs, and Saudi Arabia barely wins 2-1. So now we have Iraq/Japan and Korea/Saudi Arabia. Japan looked highly organized in their game against Australia kickin' in the back, maintaining posession, and laying crosses in front of the horrible Australian goalie like a teabag. I'm picking Japan to win it all and defend their title.

Beckham vs. Blanco

Beckham made his debut on a busted ankle against Chelsea. What a stupid move considering you have some Chelsea players fighting for a starting spot (see Beckham getting dumped by Steve Sidwell). We learned one thing from that game: Becks has a bullseye on his back. Someone's going to make a name for himself taking Becks out. I can't wait for Becks to show his real intensity and get red carded out. HAHAHAHAHHA thanks for paying to see him.

The real superstar of the MLS is Blanco for the Chicago Fire. Blanco was busting tricks and shitting all over Celtic FC in a friendly. If you want to see real soccer, watch Blanco.

"He brings something special to the team," Fire coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. " You notice in 75 percent of the times we got in the attacking third, it was through him that we created the better chances."

75% motherfuckers. That's exactly what I was telling people. He's not over the fucking hill. Some SI writer who knew shit about soccer was saying Blanco was going to be nothing and that he was over the hill. I sent that asshole an emailing telling him Blanco carried Club America, a favorite for the title, on his back and maybe he should watch a game Blanco plays in to see how much he determines how CA's offense goes. Now he's doing the same shit for the Chicago Fire against quality teams. IN YOUR FACE SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. IN YOUR MOTHERFUCKING FACE. Go find a Japanese toilet and rinse your mouth with some a-hole water because all that's coming out of your mouth is dog shit.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Up To Speed- Detroit Lions

The 06 Lions answered the question that has plagued man since the dawn of time. That question was, "What would you get if you had a pro football team who was pretty good at throwing the ball, but absolutely sucked at everything else?". The answer was a team that finished 3-13 despite playing in what may have been the weakest division the NFL has seen this decade.

Led by new QB Jon Kitna, stud receiver Roy Williams, and unknown revelation Mark Furrey, the Lions were the proverbial aerial circus last year. They ranked 7th in the league in passing offense, and both Williams and Furrey had 1000 yard seasons.

The problem was, the Lions were the worst team in the league at running the ball. Worse than the Cardinals. Worse than the Raiders. Really, really bad. Perennial disappointment Kevin Jones crapped all over himself with a 689 yard season. Don't even ask about his backups. With no running game to fear, opposing defenses pinned their ears back and unleashed hell against the pass. The result was Kitna was sacked more than any QB in the league last year, and only the Raiders gave up more sacks than the Lions did.

The inability to run meant an inability to control the ball, and a strain on the defense. The Lions ranked 30th in the league in points allowed, and in the bottom third of the league against both the run and pass.

Basically, the only thing the Lions will want to remember about 2006 was the season finale, in which they went into Dallas and depantsed the Cowboys 39-31, sending America's Team on the road for it's first playoff game, and possibly costing them a lengthy playoff run.


First the good news, the Lions did make a couple of nice upgrades to the O-line by signing tackle George Foster from the Broncos, and former Ravens guard Edwin Mulitalo.

However, like the idiots that they are, the Lions front office did nothing to shore up the team's many, many weaknesses, and instead decided to use its top 2 draft picks on a wide receiver, and a backup quarterback.

True, Calvin Johnson, the wideout from Georgia Tech the Lions took with the second overall pick in the draft, may very well turn out to be an excellent player and a great compliment to Williams. Last I checked though, this ain't Quidditch, and they only play football with one ball at a time. Why you would take a wide receiver with your 2nd overall pick when you already have 2 1000 yard receivers and you ranked 31st in sacks allowed, 32nd in rushing offense, and 30th in points allowed is beyond me.

The rest of the offseason comings and goings leaves a 3-13 in worse shape than they were last year. They swapped out DE James Hall, who was second on the team with 5 sacks last year, for former Bucs DE Dewayne White, who also had 5 sacks. That seems like a wash. They also traded corner Dre Bly to Denver for running back Tatum Bell, and that's not a wash. That's a horrible trade. Matt Millen has a fetish for former Denver running backs, and I'm guessing Bell will be as successful in Detroit as Olandis Gary was.

On paper, this looks like a bad team that made all the wrong moves this offseason. People seem to like Rod Marinelli as a head coach though, although what they're basing that on I'm not sure. Maybe they're right, and he's good enough to squeeze out a couple more wins than last year. Maybe not. Now you're up to speed on the Lions.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Asian Cup Quarterfinals

This is Patrick N over at Japan. I've just taken advantage of a special service where if you are too drunk to drive, you call some bitch to drive your car and a taxi drives the hired drive home. That shit was only 20 bucks. Cheaper than a taxi! The world is much better equip to deal with drinking than America is, sniff sniff.

The U-20 World cup looks to be Argentina vs. the Czech Republic, but since I missed every one of my quarterfinal predictions, Imma shut up about U-20.

The big soccer event here in Japan is the Asian Cup with the semifinal match ups looking like Iraq/Vietnam, Iran/Korea, Japan/Australia, and Saudi Arabia/Uzbekistan (WHO?). Iraq/Iran would be a fun match up just because of the politics between them lately. The thing with this tournament is that there really isn't a domanant team. Australia looks the closest to be a favorite with Mark Viduka (3 goals), Michael Beauchamp (1), and Tim Cahill (1) scoring goals for them, but Australia's defense blows. Against a high scoring Japanese team headed by Naohiro Takahara (3) followed by Shunsuke Nakamura (2), this tournament can go to anyone. The big surprise is Vietnam who makes good on their first chance ever in this cup by qualifying for the quarterfinals. It's not so much as Vietnam is good, but more that the other two teams that were in their group (United Arab Emirates and Qatar) sucked cock. I got to see the Saudi team the other day while in Japan and they looked pretty good.

In transfer news, Chelsea and Real Madrid have similar interests. My favorite two teams fighting over the same players. That's like two girls fighting over me. Win/win.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Copa America Roundup

Wow, I'm the best.

Mexico looks like they'll make me liars but ends up beating Uruguay 3-1 for third place. Brazil picks up three goals and Argentina gets none making half my score prediction right. I guess I can only guess semifinals correctly because Chile beats Nigeria and Austria shits on USA.

Mexico and Club America goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa looked good for Mexico keeping them in the game with his usual fantastic saves. Ochoa should have been in goal during Mexico's semifinal match up against Argentina, not Oswaldo Sanchez. Even though Sanchez proved to be a calming force for a very nervous Mexican team against Argentina, it was his lack of effort and blunders that ultimately cost Mexico the game.

Brazil didn't need Copa America Golden Boot winner Robinho to beat the shit out of Argentina in the Finals. When Wagner Love started in the fifth minute with his goal strike from Cambodia to put Brazil up 1-0, it was over. Brazil losing to Mexico was the best thing to happen to them. They rallied around each other when the Brazilian contingency went into doomsday fire Coach Dunga mode. Brazil had excellent defense making future Manchester United star Carlos Tevez invisible. How is it that Tevez can shit on Premier League teams by himself, but he's invisible in this Final? Brazil shut down Argentina's MVP Riquelme as well, but no one was making Riquelme shoot those horrible free kicks from point blank range. Brazil's defense and creative offense lead to Argentina looking pretty pathetic.

I'm off to Japan for two weeks checking out Japan's best soccer team, Kawasaki Frontale. Urawa Red fans can leave their complaints on my dick for me to piss on.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Up to Speed- Minnesota Vikings

The Senior PGA Tour, C-SPAN, the process of paint drying. All of these things were more exciting than the 2006 Minnesota Vikings.

After a 4-2 start, the Vikings bottomed out and went 2-8 the remainder of the season, despite finishing the year with the NFL's top rated run defense. Of course, they also had the 31st ranked pass defense, so some of that #1 run ranking may be because teams didn't bother trying to run agains the Vikes when it was so damn easy to throw against them.

It can be argued that no NFL team was as completely devoid of anything resembling any sort of star power on either side of the ball last year. Sure, Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are top shelf defensive tackles, yipee. No one cares.

Now consider Travis Taylor led the team with an underwhelming 651 receiving yards. Travaris Jackson ended his rookie year as the starting quarterback, and almost drove me to suicide when I watched a 9-7 Packers/Vikings abortion on the NFL Network in Week 16. Not that I had any vested interest in him playing well, it just seemed pointless to live in a world with such incompetence. Someone named Darrion Scott led the team with 5 1/2 sacks. I dare say that not a single person who buys or rents Madden 08 will ever play as the Vikings.

The Vikings actually plan on heading into next season with a passing game anchored by Jackson, Bobby Wade, Billy McMullen, and Troy Williamson. They also drafted WR Sidney Rice in the second round, because they love Gamecock wide receivers after Williamson made them look so smart for taking him in the top 10 a couple years ago. Seriously, would it have killed them to give into deliciousness and just brought Culpepper and Randy Moss back and see what happened? Could it really have been any worse than this flaming poo poo platter they are rolling out there this year?

Of course, all eyes will be on the running game, and this year's #7 draft pick, Adrian Peterson. Peterson will wrestle with Chester Taylor for the right to run into 11 man fronts on a regular basis, because let's face it there is NO passing threat here.

On defense, the Vikings will have a new coordinator, as last year's rajah, Mike Tomlin, is now the Steelers head man. Leslie Frazier takes over. The Vikings didn't add any pass rushing threats thru free agency or the draft, and is banking on DE Erasmus James, and LB Chad Greenway to come back from injuries and add some athleticism.

It really is hard to believe that not too long ago the Vikings were perennially one of the most exciting teams in the league. The infamous Groovy Sex Boat Ride 05 ended all of that. My prediction for the Vikings this year is, to quote Clubber Lang, PAAIIIIIINNNNN!!! Now you're up to speed on the Vikings.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cuban's Job Application

Mark Cuban, one of my biggest heroes, submitted a job application: to own my favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs.

This is the best news ever.

When he actually owns the Cubs, then that will be the best news ever.

I was listening to local LA radio talking about how Mark Cuban never won anything and him owning the Cubs would be no different. The hosts went on to say that Cuban's strength is to create interest, but the Cubs sell out every game already.

How about the fact that Mark Cuban makes teams competitive. He makes people excited about the team he fields not just the team logo. How about the fact that Cuban provides state of the art facilities, training equipment, and spares no expense. It's like having a Yankee Owner but he's also a Patrick N asshole. Please fucking happen. Please.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

3 Things I Learned

Here are three things I learned after the semifinals of the Copa America:

1) Mexican striker Nery Castillo made the right decision. He's a big star in the Premier League he plays for in Greece. He didn't know what country he wanted to play for, but he ultimately picks Mexico for the exposure. Castillo farts around in the Gold Cup and lights it up on the Copa America big stage and now has interest from Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Man U.

2) Argentinean creative midfielder Riquelme is crazy but can play. Riquelme underperformed overseas, is sent to Argentina's Boca Juniors, rapes it, and then leads his team into the Copa America finals. Hopefully, he maintains his nutsack playing La Liga shit coming season.

3) Brazil can surprise. Most of the odds lies with Argentina because they brought their super squad, but Brazil has some things on their side. Brazil can rely solely on Robinho to win. Brazil can win without Robinho (see Uruguay). Brazil is an archrival. Brazil is an underdog. These things smell upset for me.

I predict Brazil wins 3-2 over Argentina in the finals. Mexico will take out Uruguay too ez for 3rd place.

Here are three things I learned in the Under-20 World Cup in Canada:

1) USA is for real. Sort of. After being bailed out by an own goal by Uruguay, USA showed some sack to win it with Freddy Adu's creativity and the balls of Michael Bradley (son of the head coach for the USA National Team that's not for kids).

2) Everyone hates America. After the game, some bitch takes a swing at Bradley prompting five guys to hold Bradley back from giving the chickenshit some anal. Instead, Bradley had to settle for holding his fingers up showing that USA won 2-1. Now what, bitch.

3) Everyone hates America. It's kind of like Fight Club's first two rules. We're not trading jerseys with any team at the end of a game.

The tournament is USA/Austria, Spain/Czech Republic, Argentina/Mexico, and Chile/Nigeria (my predicted winners in bold).

I'm going to the Chelsea/LA Galaxy game to see my Chelsea team shit on poor Beckham. On the bright side, the new Galaxy jerseys are pretty cool. Imma grab both once they come long sleeve. If you're at the game, I'm the guy in the Black LS Chelsea Champions League jersey.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Up To Speed- Green Bay Packers

By the end of last year, the Packers were a pretty damn good team. You didn't hear much about them, because they started the year 4-8, but they closed the season with 4 straight wins, and held their 3 NFC North Division cousins to less than points in 3 consecutive wins to close the season.

The offense ranked 9th in the league on the strength of a 1298 yard, 8 TD season from WR Donald Driver and a solid performance by running back Ahman Green. The offense was better than adequate, but it's the young defense that Packer Backers should be excited about. In his 5th NFL season, DE Aaron Kampman emerged as a bona fide beast with 15 1/2 sacks. Kampman wasn't the only Packer getting to the QB, as the team finished with 46 sacks, 4th best in the NFL. 1st round LB AJ Hawk had an excellent rookie season, leading the team with 121 tackles.

The Pack also had one of the league's better corner tandems, anchored by the always good Al Harris, while Charles Woodson stunned everyone by having the best season of his 9 year career with 20 PD's and 8 INT's.

All this and Brett Favre healed 27 lepers.

Brett Favre didn't retire, so 2007 will be like his third farewell tour. With Ahman Green gone, it looks as if the Packers will be leaning on Favre even more than they have in recent years. Vernand Morency has averaged 4.4 yards per carry in his brief 2 year career, so it's hoped that he can continue that given 20 carries a game instead of 5. If Morency can't get it done, 2nd round draft pick Brandon Jackson will get a chance.

It's been well documented that Favre was cheesed off that the Packers didn't do anything to upgrade his receiving targets this offseason. Specifically, he wanted Randy Moss around to pretend to pull his yellow and green pants down in the Lambeau end zone many, many times this year. That didn't happen.

The Packers also could have used their first round pick to land a wideout or tight end, but they didn't do that either. They chose to continue building a defense that is sneaking up on the rest of the league, taking Tennessee DT Justin Harrell to add to their tackle rotation.

It's starting to become evident that the Packers are modeling themselves after the Bears team that has easily won the NFC North the last 2 seasons. They are trying to build a young, athletic defense, and it's working. The Pack may not be all the way back, but that 26-7 spanking of the Bears in the season finale probably wasn't a fluke, and the NFC North may not be a one-horse race this year. Now you're up to speed on the Packers.

Copa America: Brazil Wins From PKs

Uruguay gave Brazil a run for their money as the match went into penalty kicks.

First Half

Brazil controlled the pace most of the way in this half. After Maicon helped Brazil take the lead in the 13th minute, power went down making everyone in the United States hug their Teletubbies a little tighter. After play resumed, Diego Forlan put Uruguay level in the 45th minute only for Brazil to take the lead once again with Julio Baptista's clean-up goal from a failed clearance by Uruguay in the 54th minute. Still, even with Brazil taking a big shit on Uruguay, Uruguay was pretty happy to only be down 2-1.

Second Half

The second half helped Uruguay find new life as they went level once again in the 70th minute with substitute Sebastian Abreu cleaning up after Forlan's hard work. After the goal, the Brazilians tried for a bit to go ahead once again, but both sides ultimately played to the final whistle with the intent to settle things through PKs.

Penalty Kicks

Tied at 4-4, Uruguay's last efforts hits the post and Brazil finishes hitting all five PKs to advance into the finals. Brazil looked vulnerable. It gives me the feeling that the Mexico/Argentina match is the real finals.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Up To Speed- Chicago Bears

I watched every game the 1985 Super Bowl Shuffle Bears played. I also watched every game the 2006 Super Bowl Stumble Bears played, (and I would say about 98% of the games in between). The 85 Bears are considered probably one of the 3 best NFL teams of all time, and having seen them, I feel comfortable saying that at one point in the season, the 2006 Bears were just as good as that team was.

Unfortunately, that point in the season was not the point it needed to be for the Bears to win their first Super Bowl in 22 years. Early in the season, the Bears looked like the best team in the league. In weeks 1 and 2 they won by a combined score of 60-7. They nipped the Vikings in week 3, and then destroyed the Seahawks and Bills by a combined 77-13 in weeks 4 and 5. For the first month of the season, the 2006 Bears were much better than the 85 version was in the first month of their season, and just as good as that team was at the end of that season, when they were unbeatable.

That was as good as it got for the Bears though. After that start, they were still good, but had obvious flaws. Chief among them was play of QB Rex Grossman, who finally stayed healthy for a full season, but also threw 20 interceptions. The defense lost DT Tommie Harris to a season ending injury, and was never the same. A team that gave up 30 points combined in its first 5 games gave up more than 20 points in its last 4 regular season games, and 2 of its 3 postseason games.

Still, for all their flaws, and despite the disappointment some felt in a team that at one point looked like a champion, the Bears did reach the Super Bowl.

And the fact they were the NFC's Super Bowl representative last year almost certainly fortells disaster for this year. In this decade, the NFC seems to spit out a different team every year to go to the big game, that team gets clobbered, and the next season they wallow in mediocrity.

The Bears' offseason hasn't done anything to give me any faith that they won't suffer a similar fate. Other than the Broncos' tragic offseason, it could be argued that no team has had a worse 2007 so far than the Bears. I say this because:

- LB Lance Briggs is the bearded lady in this year's Drew Rosenhaus contract renegotiation circus. Briggs put up numbers virtually identical to Brian Urlacher's last year, and while he may not be the freakish athlete Urlacher is, he probably isn't as replacable as the Bears hope he is given that it looks like he's prepared to sit out the season.

- DT Tank Johnson was released after getting stopped on suspicion of DUI in Arizona shortly after being released from prison for having a Branch Davidian type arsenal of unlicensed weapons in his home.

- Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera left to be a linebacker coach in San Diego, and has been replaced by Bob Babich, who is a first time pro coordinator.

- 1210 yard back Thomas Jones was traded to the Jets, leaving the so-far disappointing and weird Cedric Benson as the Bears feature back.

- General lack of faith in Grossman, best illustrated by Tommie Harris' lustful comments to the media about Donovan McNabb.

- And, most recently, super weird baby mama drama for Urlacher, involving threatening text messages purportedly sent by him to one of the mothers of one his children.

So there are plenty of reasons for concern. There have been a couple of seemingly positive developments though. The first is the signing of first round TE Greg Olsen, who the Bears hope can help Rex stop making retarded decisions, presumably thru mental telepathy.

The Bears also plan to involve Devin Hester, who was absolutely blasphemous as a kick returner last year (5 regular season TDs, one Super Bowl TD) in the offense. If he gets hurt while doing this, this will go down as one of the stupidest decisions ever made.

Finally, and most importantly, the Bears still play in the NFC North, which is still absolutely terrible. This guarantees the Bears another playoff berth. Another Super Bowl? It certainly can happen, if the defense is back to its early 06 form. That may depend on how the Lance Briggs situation plays out. Now you're up to speed on the Bears.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Copa America 2007 Semifinal Preview

All the good teams in the Copa America are playing good. Mexico took a big ole dump on Paraguay 6-0, Argentina shitted on Peru 4-0, and Brazil bukaked Chile 6-1. Uruguay beat host Venezuela 4-1, but Venezuela sucks ass. Uruguay is a bit of a sleeper team, but if you look at their roster (try Wikipedia, search for Copa America 2007, and you can click on each team to see their roster and what pro club they come from), they are pretty solid. That they barely got out of their weakass group worries me a bit, but they’ll give Brazil a fair challenge. Alright, enough bullshit, let’s get to the real preview:

Uruguay vs. Brazil

Both these teams ate shit their first game resulting in the respective national team fans to call for Armeggeddon. Uruguay lost to surprise for a little moment Peru and Brazil lost to Mexico. Uruguay got lucky and played a shitty ass Venezuela (a team that consisted mainly of Venezuela’s best club, Caracas FC), while Robinho decided to carry the team on his back and earn respect. Look for Robinho to do what he does: ballhog, lose balls, dive, cry, and score and assist all of Brazil’s goals.

Mexico vs. Argentina

The Copa America was originally created to celebrate Argentina’s centenary anniversary of their independence. Consequently, Argentina tends to bring their big ass guns and this year they did. Riquelme, Messi, and Tevez. That’s some bullshit. But Mexico brought some guns too. Castillo, Marquez, and Blanco coming off the bench. The truth is that Argentina is to the USA Basketball Dream Team is to Mexico is to Spain’s National Basketball team. Argentina has offensive creativity, but Mexico plays sound counter-attack soccer with Nery “Opportunity” Castillo kickin’ it in the front waiting for the counter. And with Chelsea looking into Castillo and new best friend Blanco helping with his confidence, Mexico may upset Argentina like Spain Basketball did to USA.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Mexican Beckham, Cuauhtémoc Blanco

They call him the Mexican David Beckham. When Lalas heard of the Beckham Rule (i.e. the designated player rule), you could tell what his idea was for the two teams he owned, the LA Galaxy and the Chicago Fire. “I’ll just get the most popular face in all of soccer for one team, and the most popular face in soccer in Mexico for the other. So for the Galaxy, he got David Beckham. Becks is a pretty boy, yes. But what people in America may not know is that he was his team’s enforcer. When his teammates got the bad end of a poor tackle, Becks would be the first to get into the face of the enemy, and then give a dangerous tackle in return. You probably won’t see that part of him here in the States, but Becks is not all pretty and nice.

Then there’s the Mexican David Beckham.

He was the symbol of Club America, Mexican soccer’s New York Yankees. A team that was really loved or really hated because they solve problems like Patrick N solves problems: throw money at it.

Chicago, do you know who you’re really getting?

Cuauhtémoc Blanco is really loved by allies and really hated by enemies. Cua will flop like a bitch one moment, and foul the shit out of you the next. If one of his opponents gets hurt, instead of checking to see if the opponent is alright like a sportsman, he will tell the ref to check the watch because the opponent is time wasting. And if he is in a mood, maybe after a goal he’ll get on all fours and pretend to piss in your goal like a dog.

Chicago, do you know who you’re really getting?

If his team is down, he will start fights just to rile up his own team. And most of the time it works. He carries a team in a sport where one player shouldn’t be able to influence a game with 11 players staring against you, but he does. He is not a glory hog. He does not mind the assist. He just hates losing more than he loves winning. And he is also very protective of his teammates. When Mexican National stand out Nery Castillo was getting shitted on by the press for taking so long to choose Mexico to play for, Castillo, who isn’t used to press pressure, didn’t know what to say or how to handle it. Blanco did. He basically tells the press, “You guys always want to make up drama. Why don’t you guys just fuck off.” And they did. And as opposed to Beckham, where the Galaxy will get a calmer, more gentlemanly version of Becks, you will get the same Blanco from Mexico: a loyal, unsportsmanlike asshole who hates to lose more than he loves to win and is very protective of his teammates.

Chicago, you are getting the Mexican Patrick N.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Up To Speed- Oakland Raiders

2006 represented the low point in the history of the Raider franchise. Only 4 years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, the Raiders bottomed out under the exhumed Art Shell, posting the 2-14 record that is the long-established mark of a truly horrible team.

What was odd about this 2-14 team, was that they reached this level of futility despite having the third ranked defense in the NFL. That doesn't seem possible, but if you saw the Raiders' offense, it starts to make a lot more sense. Aaron Brooks was supposed to be the starting QB, but he was dismal, and the replacement, Andrew Walter, was even worse. The running game was just as bad as Lamont Jordan wrestled with injuries, inefficiency, and Ding Dongs en route to a miserable 434 yard season. Meanwhile, the team's supposed offensive superstar, Randy Moss, was unmotivated and virtually invisible.

As you'd expect a 2-14 team to do, the Raiders completely blew things up in the offseason. They conceded the Art Shell experiment was a disaster. What fools they were to bring in a guy who hadn't been a head coach in 14 years. This year, they decided to do the exact opposite, and bring in a guy who was in junior high during Shell's first tenure, 31 year old Lane Kiffin. Kiffin has offensive credentials as the former co-offensive coordinator at USC, and as the son of longtime NFL assistant Monte Kiffin is a member of the NFL lucky sperm club. We know from the head coaching tenures of Jim Mora Jr., David Shula, Wade Phillips, etc. that hiring a member of that club always works great.

The Raiders also cut bait on Moss, trading him to the Patriots. With Moss gone, the Raiders will be relying on Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry to stay healthy all season, which has not occurred in this dimension nor in any other. If either of those guys go down, former Lion first round bust Mike Williams will be there to come to the rescue.

Former Colt Dominic Rhodes was brought in to share the load with Jordan at running back, but he's going to miss 4 games with a banned substance suspension announced this week. Super.

At QB, we'll probably see former Cardinal and Lion backup/sometimes starter Josh McCown hold down the fort until first overall pick JaMarcus Russell is deemed ready. The Raiders hope Russell will repeat the success Vince Young had last year. Since they are both big, black quarterbacks, I don't see why that should not happen. With logic like that how can you lose?

The Raiders did make one nice move this offseason, bringing former Bronco Cooper Carlisle to help their offensive line. It's all about winning for that guy, how else can you explain why he would sign with the Raiders?

The defense is exactly the same as last year. They did, after all, rank 3rd in the league. Why mess with success? Unless you ranked 25th against the run, like the Raiders did, and you play in a division with LT, LJ, and whoever the Broncos 1500 yard back will be this year, then I think you may want to look at messing with it. The Raiders didn't though. Warren Sapp will still be getting run over every other snap.

The hire of Kiffin is supposed to mark a bold new direction for this franchise. I dunno, this smells a lot more to me like a Mike White or Art Shell II esque hire than a Jon Gruden hire. Now you're up to speed on the Raiders.


Beginning this weekend, I am launching an impressive new re-branding of this site that will change your life.

Pancakes In the Age of Enlightenment is now FootballFutbol. Why the bilingual name? Am I making some kind of statement on immigration? Am I going to start writing in Spanish? Oh the questions that must be rattling around your head now!! Well, the answers to both of those questions are no.

FootballFutbol will be, to my knowledge, the first site in the history of the interweb that marries the 2 sports that America, and the rest of the world, are the most passionate about, American Football, and the rest of the world's football, or soccer, or calcio, or, yes, futbol.

You'll still be getting the NFL coverage I've been bringing, but now, you lucky, unworthy bastards, you'll also be getting soccer postings from a guy who is far, far, far more talented than I, Patrick N. You may know Patrick from his work on the On the Offense radio podcast, and from his ontheoffense.com website, and his On the Offense column at our old website. Now you can find him here, and that is awesome.

His first post is right below this one, and talks about the US team's awful performance in the Copa America. Go read it now.

Friday, July 6, 2007

USA Copa America Blues

The American view of sports is much different from the rest of the world. To the world, playing for your national team is more important than playing for the club or team that pays you. An example of this is the end of La Liga (the soccer championship for Spain) when Real Madrid had to send Robinho to Brazil and the team’s best defensive midfielder, Mahamadou Diarra, to Mali for nationals. Real Madrid and Diarra got a lot of heat for ditching PRACTICE nationals for one game (Real Madrid and the players had to get very rare special permission to play in the final game).

To put this in perspective, it would be like FIBA forcing Dwayne Wade to pull out of the NBA Finals to practice with the USA Basketball team. You are thinking exactly what the Heat would think: “Fuck you, bitch.” Logically, the American view is that you should put priority on where you get paid over something you are not getting paid for.

So when USA sent their “A” squad to the Gold Cup (our region’s championship) and their “B” squad to Copa America (South America’s championship and globally more prestigious), a lot of USA soccer fans got butthurt. USA soccer fans are like soccer fans from the rest of the world: Nationals over Club. But in a league that is already short on star power, you can’t have your stars gone for two tournaments while your barely-above-water league plays with 2nd and 3rd stringers. And if you have to pick one, you pick your own region. We’re not in a position to try to prove a point yet. The MLS is not like what the Galaxy owner Lalas thinks it is: on par with the Premier League. So the MLS cannot make the same sacrifices the better, more established leagues can. And even if we could, Dwayne Wade should not be gone for half a season to play for nationals in an American market, and neither should the MLS stars.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Up To Speed- Denver Broncos

The Broncos got off to a nice 7-2 start last year. There were pretty obvious problems though. The defense , which went from Week 2 to Week 6 without giving up more than 7 points in a game, started to show vulnerabilities, especially against the pass, due primarily to the inability to put any kind of pressure on opposing QBs. The running game, which for years had been able to make superstars out of the Olandis Garys and Mike Andersons of the world, wasn't able to do the same for Tatum and Mike Bell, who were just OK.

These issues were concerning, but a more urgent matter was that quarterback Jake Plummer was playing terribly. He finished 2006 with a 68.8 passer rating, which is understandable given that he spent most of the season looking over his shoulder at rookie Commodore Jay Cutler instead of at the mediocre receiving corps he was supposed to be throwing to. Eventually, Mike Shanahan gave in to deliciousness and benched his old, grizzled, grizzly veteran for the dewy, nubile rookie Cutler. Cutler didn't play badly, and in fact played much better than Plummer, but by then the defense had completely disintegrated, leading to 4 consecutive losses. The Broncos rebounded to win in Weeks 15 and 16, and needed only to win a home game against a 49er tea that had lost 4 of 5. It seemed like a slam dunk, but the Broncos dropped the game in overtime before their incredulous fans, and missed the playoffs.

It's been a tragic offseason for the Broncos, one which has seen the unfathomable catastrophe of having two of their players die in off the field accidents. Given that awfulness, the Broncos still had to shore up a defense which very quickly and unexpectedly fell apart at the end of last season. By signing former Lions CB Dre Bly to bookend the brilliant Champ Bailey, it can pretty much be guaranteed that the Broncos won't be ranking 21st in the league in pass defense this year. To help ensure this, the Broncos spent both their first and second round draft choices on defensive ends. The hope is that Florida's Jarvis Moss, and Texas' Tim Crowder can step in and boost a pass rush that didn't scare anyone in 06. Leading tackler Al Wilson was released, and the Broncos will fill that position from within, promoting LB Nate Webster to fill the Mike spot.

On offense, the Broncos will bring back pretty much the same group they had at the end of last year. Cutler will be the starter from Day 1. His group of receivers is uninspiring. Javon Walker led the team with 1084 yards, but after him, Rod Smith is old and Brandon Marshall is unproven. The Broncos signed former Raven and Colt Brandon Stokley in a half-hearted attempt to give Cutler someone to throw to, and also inked deposed New England TE Daniel Graham, who lost his job to Benjamin Watson last year.

Finally, Travis Henry will be the 2007 model running back. Henry looked like he was going to fade quietly into oblivion after back to back 300 yard seasons sandwiched around a substance use suspension, but last year he returned to the form he displayed in 02 and 03 in Buffalo, posting over 1200 rushing yards. The line he runs behind this year will be slightly altered, as guard Cooper Carlisle signed with the rival Raiders.

I don't know much about football, but I can say with some degree of confidence that the Broncos are clearly the second best team in the AFC West. The Chargers are drowning in talent, so the Broncos are not on their level, but the Chiefs are re-building and the Raiders are a primordial soup right now, so they are also clearly better than those 2 teams. So that means second place, and a possible wild card berth, which would lead to a probable first round exit. Now you are up to speed on the Broncos.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Up To Speed- KC Chiefs

When Trent Green went down with a gruesome concussion early last season, it looked like the Chiefs may as well give 2006 back to the Indians. With Green out, they were forced to rely on NFL vagabond Damon Huard to step in and play quarterback, and Huard hadn't played in so long, the last snap he took in a game situation was out of the single wing formation. However, in a development absolutely no one predicted, Huard stepped in and posted a higher QB rating than anyone in the league outside of Peyton Manning.

Huard's reward for this was to go back to the bench once Green got clearance to play again, and the Chiefs immediately went into the toilet, dropping 3 in a row before recovering to win their last 2, reaching the playoffs before bowing out in a snoozer of a wild card game to the Colts.

While Huard was a nice surprise, the Chiefs offense was in reality more of a one man show than any other team in the league. Larry Johnson carried an inhumane 416 times last year, which was 68 times more than the next closest back, LaDanian Tomlinson. Herm Edwards has been known to lean on a running back until the only decent thing left to do is put a bullet between their eyes (Curtis Martin). Whether last year's consistent 150 pitch outings by LJ will adversely affect him this year will determine whether the Chiefs are competitive in 07.

This offseason saw the beginning of the Chiefs' transition from being Dick Vermiel's team to being Herm Edwards team. Most indicative of that sea change was the unceremonious dumping of Trent "Scramby Eggs' Green. While Green was definitely Vermiel's guy, he's not Herm's guy, so the Chiefs are going to enter the year with the two headed monster of Huard and Brodie Croyle duking it out for the quarterback job. Whomever comes out on top will be expected with making an NFL stud out of first round WR Dwayne Bowe, who wags are saying may be the Chiefs' #1 wideout headed into camp.

KC will also have some upheaval on their O-line. Former Dolphin Damion McIntosh will replace the departed Jordan Black at left tackle, and KC all-time great Will Shields has retired, vacating a guard position.

On the defensive side of the ball, Edwards continues to build a group with his stamp on it. The Chiefs were right in the middle of the pack of NFL defenses in 06, mediocre against both the run and the pass despite a very good rookie season out of first round DE Tamba Hali, who had 8 sacks. This year, the Chiefs have added a pair of new linebackers. Former Charger standout Donnie Edwards will start on the outside, and former Raider and Viking Napoleon Harris steps into the middle. Harris was a first round pick of the Raiders in 02, and the fact that this is his 3rd NFL team in 5 years doesn't indicate he's lived up to expectations.

The secondary loses safety Sammy Knight, who was strong against the run but didn't make a whole lot of good things happen against the pass. He'll be replaced by Greg Wesley, who the hope will make a few more plays than Knight did. The Chiefs also signed former Bear backup Alfonso Boone to be a starting defensive tackle until 2nd round pick Turk McBride or 3rd round pick Tank Tyler can step in.

This is definitely a team in the midst of transition. It's also a team whose one superstar, Larry Johnson, is very, very unhappy. LJ wants LT money, and unless he gets it he's going to be giving Herm one hell of a frowning all season. This team is under construction, and like most construction sites, won't be pretty to look at until the construction is finished. Now you're up to speed on the Chiefs.