Thursday, November 29, 2007

Five weeks left...

With five weeks left in the regular season, there are certain truths that have become crystal clear in the NFL. Barring collapses of epic proportions, Green Bay and Dallas should represent their respective divisions in the playoffs and be the one and two seeds in the NFC. With a win tonight, Green Bay would clinch the NFC North.

The Patriots have five teams to go through to tie Miami's single season record for consecutive wins. The teams with the best chance to stop it between now and then is the ones that get the most creative in the way they play. Philly already proved that.

The Dolphins have a strong chance to go 0-16. Miami has lost six games by three points, and their best chance for a win will probably come against the offensively deficient Ravens in December.

Currently in the NFC, the wild card standings are as follows -

  1. NY Giants
  2. Detroit Lions
  3. NO Saints
  4. Arizona Cardinals
  5. Philadelphia Eagles
  6. Washington Redskins
I'll call it right now. The Giants and the Cardinals get in, Detroit will struggle to their first non-double digit loss season since the 2000 at 7-9, and this will mark Donovan McNabb's last season in Philadelphia.

The current wild card standings in the AFC -
  1. Jacksonville Jaguars
  2. Cleveland Browns
  3. Tennessee Titans
  4. Denver Broncos
  5. Buffalo Bills

The most likely changes in the AFC playoff picture really take into account the possibility that the Colts could end up the top wild card entry and the Broncos could knock the Chargers out of the playoff picture. With the soft final five for the Browns, I wouldn't rule out Cleveland and Pittsburgh tying with an 11-5, or even a 12-4 record. However, a tie still puts the Browns behind the Steelers by virtue of their two losses to the Steelers and no better than the fifth seed, no matter how bad the record of the AFC West champion is.

Let the games begin.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Superman wears the number 80

A hearty welcome back to Troy Brown.

For over a decade Troy Brown has been everything for the Patriots - special teams demon, slot receiver, third-down threat, number one receiver, pro-bowl receiver, nickel corner, third string quarterback (and Kordell Stewart was nicknamed Slash?!). Today he was activated when Rosevelt Colvin was shut down for the season.

With Colvin shut down, the Patriots resigned Chad Brown and, as I previously speculated would happen, released rookie defensive lineman Kareem Brown (expect Brown to be signed to the practice squad, if possible).

Superman is back for what may be his last hurrah before going off into that sunset.

Coincidentally, Troy makes his return to a team that is already six deep at wide out with Randy Moss, Dante Stallworth, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Kelley Washington, and Chad Jackson. However, for those watching Sunday night's game, it might have been noticed that the defensive backfield was a little strapped with career special-teamer Eddie Jackson seeing significant time.

Don't be surprised if the Patriot's elder statesman goes out with six guns a blazing from the nickel or dime corner position, covering opponents' slot receivers rather than catching passes.

Welcome back Superman. Hope to see you on the field this Sunday.


Has there ever been a year like this for professional football?

Early this morning Sean Taylor, the 24-year old starting safety for the Washington Redskins died from a gunshot wound to the leg sustained during a home invasion last night.

Taylor becomes the 40th player or coach to have passed away since January 1 of this year. That number includes four active players in the NFL, all 24 years old at the time of death: Broncos corner Darrent Williams (shot on January 1), Broncos back-up running back Damien Nash (heart failure after a charity basketball game on February 24) Pats defensive lineman Marquise Hill (drowned trying to rescue a friend on May 27), and Sean Taylor, as previously noted, early this morning.

He is the second in 11 months whose life was ended by a bullet.

Makes one wonder what Tank Johnson will take from all this....I digress...

This is, of course, tragic in many ways - families grieve for members taken from them far too soon, several had children who will learn about their fathers second hand, and least of all - we will never know if these four ever came close to fulfilling their true potential on the field. Team mates mourn, but the games go on, as do they.

Of the remaining 35, six were 55 or younger; former Charger Mike Mooney (37); former Patriot Darryl Stingley (55); former Giant Johnny Perkins (54); former 49er and Redskin special teams ace Kevin Mitchell (36); former Buccaneer Ron Hall (43); and former Packer, Skin, and Phin Nate Hill (41).

Among the other notables - three members of Lombardi's Packers passed - Jim Ringo, Max McGee, and Bill Forester. Former Eagles player and Patriots GM Bucko Kilroy died in July, as did Mr. 49er, Bill Walsh. Sam Dana, earlier this year thought to be the oldest living football player (Hartford Blues and New York Yankees), died at the age of 104 in October.

Overall the causes of death have ranged from natural (Dana), to the gunshot wounds suffered by both Taylor and Williams, to the tragic accidental death of Marquise Hill. Other causes include a variety of diseases such as Walsh's battle with Liekemia, former Cleveland Brown George Ratterman's (80) decline into the final stages of Alzheimer's, to Ken Kavanaugh's combination of age (90) and pneumonia.

Somehow I find it ironic that none of those who have passed away played for the NFL's oldest franchise - the Cardinals.

The NFL and its teams often refer to themselves as family - the NFL Family, the Redskins Family, and so on...well, here are the losses that the NFL family, and it's sub families have suffered this year -

Washington Redskins -

Sean Taylor, d. Nov 27, 24 yrs old
Nate Hill, d. Sept 18, 41 years old (also played for the Packers and 'Phins)
Ken McAfee, d. July 4, 77 years old (also played for the Giants and Eagles)
Sam Baker, d. June 5, 76 years old (also played for the Browns, Eagles, and Cowboys)
Kevin Mitchell, d. April 30, 36 years old (also played for the 49ers)
Jim Ricca, d. Feb 11, 79 years old (also played for the Eagles and Lions)

Green Bay Packers -

Jim Ringo, d. Nov 19, 75 years old
Max McGee, d. Oct 20, 75 years old
Nate Hill - see Redskins above
Bill Forester, d. April 27, 74 years old

Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens (for obvious reasons, sorry Cleveland fans) -

George Ratterman, d. Nov 3, 80 years old
Sam Baker - see Redskins above
Tom Hutchinson, d. May 5, 65 years old
Tommy James, d. Feb 7, 83 years old

Los Angeles/St Louis Rams -

John Baker, Jr., d. Oct 31, 72 years old (also played for the Eagles, Steelers and Lions)
Lamar Lundy, d. Feb 71, 71 years old

Philadelphia Eagles -

John Baker, Jr. - see Rams above
Frank "Bucko" Kilroy, d. July 10, 86 years old (was also a scout and general manager for the Patriots)
Ken McAfee - see Redskins above
Sam Baker - see Redskins above
Jim Ricca - see Redskins above

Pittsburgh Steelers -

John Baker, Jr. - see Rams above
Ed Brown, d. Aug 2, 78 years old (also played for the Bears)
George Webster, d. April 19, 61 years old (also played for the Oilers and Patriots)

Detroit Lions -

John Baker, Jr. - see Rams above
James David, d. July 29, 79 years old
John Gonzaga, d. May 17, 74 years old (also the 49ers, Cowboys, and Broncos)
Charlie Ane, d. May 9, 75 years old
Ralph Heywood, d. April 10, 85 years old (also the Chicago Rockets, Boston Yanks, and New York Bulldogs)
Bill Fisk, d. March 28, 90 years old (also the 49ers and Los Angeles Dons)

Atlanta Falcons -

Jim Mitchell, d. Oct 20, 60 years old

Miami Dolphins -

Nate Hill - see Redskins above

Buffalo Bills -

Garrard "Buster" Ramsay, d. Sept 16, 87 years old

Chicago Bears -

Ed Brown - see Steelers above
Ken Kavanaugh, d. Jan 25, 90 years old

San Francisco 49ers -

Dick Nolan, d. Nov 11, 65 years old (also coached the New Orleans Saints)
Bill Walsh, d. July 30, 70 years old
Kevin Mitchell - see Redskins above
John Gonzaga - see Lions above
Bill Fisk - see Lions above

New England Patriots -

Frank "Bucko" Kilroy - see Eagles above
Marquise Hill, d. May 27, 24 years old
George Webster - see Steelers above
Darryl Stingley, d. April 5, 55 years old

Houston Oliers/Tennessee Titans -

Jim Norton, d. June 12, 68 years old
George Webster - see Steelers above

Tampa Bay Buccaneers -

Ron Hall, d. May 19, 43 years old

Dallas Cowboys -

Sam Baker - see Redskins above
John Gonzaga - see Lions above

Denver Broncos -

John Gonzaga - see Lions above
Damien Nash, d. Feb 24, 24 years old
Darrent Williams, d. Jan 1, 24 years old

Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts -

George Preas, d. Feb 24, 73 years old

Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers -

Ernie Wright, d. March 20, 67 years old (also played for the Bengals)
Mike Mooney, d. March 2, 37 years old

Cincinnati Bengals -

Ernie Wright - see Chargers above

New York Giants -

Tex Coulter, d. Oct 2, 83 years old
Johnny Perkins, d. April 25, 54 years old
Ken McAfee - see Redskins above
Ken Kavanaugh - see Bears above
Ray Beck, d. Jan 10, 75 years old

Other -

Sam Dana, d. Oct 29, 104 years old, played for the Hartford Blues and New York Yankees