Saturday, January 28, 2012


January 22, 2012 marked a day of sadness in college football.

Joe Paterno, one of the greatest icons ever in the sport, passed away from lung cancer at the age of 85.

Looking back at the last two months, part of his legacy took a hit thanks to the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal and what Paterno did not do in order to stop it. However, Paterno was a man that stood for integrity and honor.

At a time where many coaches change jobs just like clothes, Paterno was the head coach at Penn State for an outstanding 46 years and had been at Happy Valley since 1950.

At Paterno’s memorial Jan. 26, former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge said, “No one individual has ever done more for a university anywhere in the country than what Joe Paterno did for this school.”

During his tenure at Penn State, he won 409 games, two national championships, and each of the five major bowl games—Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar.

Even when he had four losing seasons in five years from 2000-2004 and numerous people calling for him to step down, Paterno bounced back to lead the Nittany Lions to an 11-1 season in 2005. This included the Big Ten title and a thrilling triple-overtime against fellow coaching legend Bobby Bowden and his Florida State Seminoles.

In his last game—a hard-fought 10-7 victory over Illinois in the snow—Paterno passed former Grambling coach Eddie Robinson for most victories by a Division I head coach.

After that game, his son and assistant coach Jay said, “This might be one of the best jobs Joe’s done of coaching, getting kids to buy into team-first, just win, the whole nine yards. Don’t worry about personal accolades, personal statistics. Don’t worry about playing time. Just (concentrate on) we’re going to continue to win.”

While doing so, he wanted his players to not only exceed on the field but off of it too, and doing so in a fair way.

In 2008, their Graduation Success Rate was at 78 percent according to the NCAA Graduation Rates Report. At the same time, the Nittany Lion football program had never been placed on probation.

Sadly, on Nov. 9, his coaching career came to an abrupt end following the Sandusky allegations and doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer shortly thereafter.
Still he was respected and supported by his peers such as former Penn State football player Charles V. Pittman.

Pittman said, “Despite being pushed away from his beloved game, and under the extreme pressure of the events of the past few months, Joe’s grace was startling.”

Whether he did or did not do enough or more than the minimum to stop the scandal in its tracks is a different story for a different time. However, his overall contributions should still be well noted.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
ANALYSIS: Both teams did their part at home last week to set up this game for the right to go to the Super Bowl. New England completely crushed the Broncos 45-10, as Tom Brady showed he had a hot hand with 363 passing yards and six touchdowns—five in the first half. Baltimore had to scrap its way through a hard fought 20-13 victory against an up-and-coming Texans squad. Joe Flacco did not turn over the ball once and the Ravens forced four turnovers.

OFFENSE: There is no denying who is the better quarterback in this matchup between Tom Brady and Joe Flacco. Brady had another great season after throwing for 5235 yards and 39 touchdowns certainly has the playoff experience with an NFL record 15 wins in the postseason. Brady has great offensive weapons in Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski leading his receiving corps. Gronkowski was money last week, catching 10 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns, while Wes Welker caught a league leading 122 passes this season.

Joe Flacco has proven to win his share of games in the postseason too. The former Delaware Blue Hen has won a playoff game in each of his four seasons in the league and proven to win a game on the road when it counts. Last week, he threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens must help him out with the running game and Ray Rice. Houston held Baltimore to 87 rushing yards and Rice only ran for 60 of those on 21 carries. Worth noting, the Ravens are 3-4 when they run for under 100 yards and 10-0 when they reach that benchmark.

Coming off of one of its best performances this season, the Patriots’ defense is out to repeat its showing from last week. New England held Denver to 252 total yards and sacked Tim Tebow five times throughout the game. Despite having the second-worst total defense in the NFL, the Patriots forced 34 turnovers—good for third in the league. Cornerback Kyle Arrington was one of those active in causing turnovers, intercepting a league-high seven passes.

If there is one defense you can always trust then it is the Baltimore Ravens’ great one. Last week, they forced four turnovers against the Houston Texans en route to a 20-13 victory. Baltimore ranked No. 3 in defense this year and they still are led by Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Suggs had 14 sacks this season, Reed is still one of the better ball-hawking safeties in the NFL and Lewis is still a great tackler and motivator. Watch out for Ladarius Webb who picked off five passes and recovered two fumbles this season.

PREDICTION: Ravens 24, Patriots 21
Joe Flacco vs. the New England defense

New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers
ANALYSIS: So who had these teams in the NFC Championship Game? The New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers used defense to defeat the offensive minded favorites Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. The 49ers stunned the Saints early and forced five turnovers throughout the game. However, it was an Alex Smith pass to Vernon Davis that sealed the deal and placed it in the lore of other great catches in 49ers history. The Giants also controlled the game early and forced the Packers to cough up the ball four times. Hakeem Nicks shone brightly in this game with 165 yards on seven catches, but it was his Hail Mary grab before halftime that changed the outlook of this game.

PREDICTION: 49ers 27, Giants 20
KEY MATCHUP: 49ers running game vs. Giants run defense

Saturday, January 14, 2012


New Orleans Saints @ San Francisco 49ers
ANALYSIS: The San Francisco 49ers are back in the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons and new head coach Jim Harbaugh has the team playing good football. Alex Smith has not been asked to do much, but he has done a great job in protecting the football with just five interceptions. Shouldering most of the load has been Frank Gore—who ran for a solid 1211 yards and eight touchdowns this season. San Francisco is also doing it on the defensive end with the fourth-best unit in the league. Giving up passing yardage might be a concern, but the 49ers picked off 23 passes, while it is very tough to run on the best run defense in the league.

The New Orleans Saints got off to a slow start on Wild Card Weekend, but everything clicked late as they defeated the Detroit Lions, 45-28. The Saints offense was as explosive, if ever, tallying up 626 yards—a new NFL record for a playoff game. Drew Brees threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns on 33-of-43 passing, and Jabari Greer’s two second half interceptions virtually end any chance of a Lions’ win. This week, the Saints will try to win their first road game in franchise history. 

PREDICTION: Saints 27, 49ers 23
The Saints offense vs. the 49ers defense (especially the passing game)

Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots
ANALYSIS: The New England Patriots are back in the playoffs, yet they are seeking their first postseason win since the AFC Championship Game four seasons ago. In a mirror image of last season, the Patriots breezed through the second half of the season and Tom Brady made his claim to win the MVP award. Brady passed for 5235 yards and 39 touchdowns, and if not for Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, he would have had the more prolific passing season this year. His two favorite targets—Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski—were reliable this season, each having over 1300 yards receiving. On the flip side, New England has the second-worst defense in the league but they did force the third-most takeaways with 34.

Tebow-Mania lives to see another week after the Denver Broncos’ thrilling 29-23 overtime win last week. Just as everyone was grasping the new overtime rules made specifically for the playoffs, Tim Tebow hooked up with Demaryius Thomas for the 80-yard “one-hitta quitta” to seal the deal.  Tebow was just 10-for-21 passing, but he threw for 316 yards. While under the radar, Thomas’ 204 receiving yards (103 after the catch) is just as impressive. Denver hopes to avenge a 41-23 loss in Week 15 to the Patriots. 

PREDICTION: Broncos 23, Patriots 20
Tim Tebow vs. the Patriots defense

Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens
ANALYSIS: The Baltimore Ravens finally were able to unseat the Pittsburgh Steelers as champions of the AFC North, ensuring a home playoff game for the first time since 2007. The Ravens are still fierce on defense, giving up the third-fewest yards and points this season. Terrell Suggs recorded 14 sacks and one can never count out Ray Lewis being the heart and soul of the unit. On offense, Ray Rice ran for 1364 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with catching 74 passes. Joe Flacco continues to be hit-or-miss playing quarterback at times, but he threw for 3610 yards and 20 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. Rice, Anquan Boldin, Ed Dickson and Torrey Smith will be counted on to help Flacco.

Houston, we have liftoff! The Houston Texans soared to a 31-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in their first-ever playoff game last week. Arian Foster dominated on the ground, running the ball 24 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Andre Johnson caught five passes for 90 yards in his playoff debut and Houston’s defense forced three turnovers, including J.J. Watt’s pick six late in the second quarter. In this week’s game, can rookie T.J. Yates do the improbable and give the city of Houston its first representative in the AFC Championship Game since the “Luv Ya Blue” Houston Oilers?

PREDICTION: Ravens 20, Texans 10
Ravens run defense vs. Arian Fostor/Ben Tate

New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers
ANALYSIS: The Green Bay Packers played much better this season than in their Super Bowl winning season last year with Aaron Rodgers emerging as a legitimate MVP candidate. Rodgers threw for 4643 yards and 45 touchdowns despite sitting out the season finale. Greg Jennings was once again his favorite target but four others also caught at least six touchdown passes including Jordy Nelson with a team-leading 15. With the Packers offense sizzling, the defense was awful, giving up the most yards in the league.

The New York Giants pounded the Atlanta Falcons so much into submission that they actually gave them two points thanks to a safety. But in all seriousness, New York’s 24-2 victory was impressive and the Giants continued their recent trend of running the football well and playing good defense. The Giants ran for a season-high 172 yards and Atlanta had a tough time getting its running game going. We cannot even forget Eli Manning’s play in the contest with 277 yards and three touchdowns to no interceptions. New York is quite familiar with Green Bay and played them close until the end of Week 13’s thrilling 38-35 Packers win. 

PREDICTION: Packers 30, Giants 27
Aaron Rodgers vs. Eli Manning

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans
ANALYSIS: The Houston Texans are in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history and overcame many injuries to get to this point. Matt Schaub and Mario Williams were lost for the season, while Andre Johnson was slowed and limited to seven games. The good news is that Johnson is back to give rookie quarterback T.J. Yates a dependable target when he does need to throw. For the other times, Arian Foster and Ben Tate will share the load on the Texans’ No. 2 ranked ground game. Defensively, Brian Cushing leads a unit that ranked No. 2 in total defense and allowed the fourth-fewest amount of points this season.

As the Cincinnati Bengals said adios to Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer, their new quarterback/receiver tandem is already turning heads in their first year in the league. A.J. Green lived up to being the No. 4 draft pick in the 2011 NFL Draft after catching 65 passes for 1057 yards and seven touchdowns while fellow rookie Andy Dalton was not shabby in his debut season. The second rounder from TCU threw for 20 touchdowns and 3398 yards as he learned the position. One cannot forget Cincinnati’s underrated defense that only allowed 323 points and helped the team win close games.

PREDICTION: Texans 21, Bengals 17
Andy Dalton vs. T.J. Yates

Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints
ANALYSIS: Drew Brees put up unheard of numbers this season as the New Orleans Saints look to win their second Super Bowl in three years. The signal caller threw for a record 5476 yards and shared the wealth evenly as five players caught at least 50 passes in the Saints’ high-powered aerial attack. Brees’ favorite target this season was tight end Jimmy Graham—who burst onto the scene in a major way with 99 receptions for 1310 yards. The only weakness might be New Orleans’ “bend, but don’t break” No. 24 team defense.

The Detroit Lions snapped their long playoff drought thanks to Jim Schwartz instilling a nasty, tough attitude to the team that has not won a title since 1957. Some have taken the nastiness a bit too far to heart such as Ndamukong Suh. When the Lions played the Saints five weeks earlier, Suh was serving the first game of his two-game suspension after stomping on a player. Now that they have him back, they may be able to put up more of a battle in the trenches. Detroit has enough to go into a shootout with New Orleans, thanks to Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. However, Megatron must improve upon his output (six catches, 69 yards) from when these two teams last met.

PREDICTION: Saints 38, Lions 31
Ndamukong Suh vs. the Saints’ offensive line

Atlanta Falcons @ New York Giants
ANALYSIS: Left for dead at 6-6, the New York Giants manned up to win three of their last four—including a sweep of the Dallas Cowboys—to take the NFC East crown. While still a bit erratic at times, Eli Manning stepped up when needed by delivering five comeback wins. His primary target was Victor Cruz, who burst onto the scene with 82 catches for 1536 yards and nine touchdowns. However, the two things the Giants must improve upon are defense and running the football. The Giants had the worst rushing attack this season and were 2-7 when they did not get over 100 yards.

For the first time in their history, the Atlanta Falcons have made the playoffs in consecutive seasons but it is the team’s recent lack of playoff success that many people are talking about. Mike Smith and Matt Ryan have yet to win a playoff game and to do so they have to limit their turnovers and stop the opposing team’s passing game. Luckily, Atlanta has a good balance of the run and pass with Ryan throwing for over 4000 yards and Michael Turner rushing for 1340 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Falcons are very good in stopping the run as well, ranking No. 6 in that category.

PREDICTION: Falcons 21, Giants 10
Michael Turner vs. New York’s run defense

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Denver Broncos

ANALYSIS: The Denver Broncos turned a 1-4 start into an AFC West title after John Fox benched Kyle Orton for Tim Tebow. While Tebow has been dreadfully inaccurate for most of ballgames, he finds ways to win late. Much credit for this goes to Fox for building a game plan that suits Tebow based on a heavy dose of the running game led by Willis McGahee. On defense, rookie standout Von Miller leads a squad that has gotten better in recent weeks, but still can be inexperienced at times and suffer whenever Tebow struggles.

This year, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost the AFC North title to the Baltimore Ravens, but the defense was still stingy in allowing other teams to get yards and points. Pittsburgh was the best team in total defense and scoring defense, as James Harrison and Troy Polamalu look to have big games without Ryan Clark playing in this game. On offense, Ben Roethlisberger might be hobbled but he is very tough and he threw for over 4000 yards this season.

PREDICTION: Steelers 10, Broncos 7
Tim Tebow vs. the Steelers defense

Sunday, January 1, 2012


HOUSTON @ Indianapolis
DENVER @ Buffalo

Jacksonville @ TENNESSEE

N.Y. Giants @ N.Y. JETS
Minnesota @ WASHINGTON
Tampa Bay @ CAROLINA
Cleveland @ BALTIMORE

SAN DIEGO @ Detroit
Philadelphia @ DALLAS

Chicago @ GREEN BAY

WEEK: 9-7 (.563)
SEASON: 150-90 (.625)

DETROIT @ Green Bay

N.Y. JETS @ Miami
CHICAGO @ Minnesota
Carolina @ NEW ORLEANS
INDIANAPOLIS @ Jacksonville
Tampa Bay @ ATLANTA
BALTIMORE @ Cincinnati
PITTSBURGH @ Cleveland
Kansas City @ DENVER
San Diego @ OAKLAND
Seattle @ ARIZONA
DALLAS @ N.Y. Giants