Don’t Look Now: Takes on the World of Sports

Shooting From the Lip

NFL: Week 4 Power Rankings

Posted by Eric Engberg on September 25, 2008

ESPN’s power rankings are out and once again it has some flaws.  Apparently it is the NFC East’s world and everyone else is just living in it as the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles all claim the top 3 spots in this week’s poll.  The TItans, Steelers, Bills, and Broncos claim the next 4 spots as the top teams the AFC has to offer.

I have an issue with the Steelers being listed as the #2 team in the AFC.  The Steelers have some serious flaws to deal with in terms of their offensive line and they were thoroughly dominated by Philadelphia’s defense on Sunday.  The Titans and Bills are currently playing the best football in the AFC.  I would also move the Broncos ahead of the Steelers on the basis of them being unbeaten though they cannot seem to stop anyone defensively.

The Chargers move back into the top 10 on the heels of kicking a mediocre Jets team up and down the field on Monday.  What’s more is they move ahead in the rankings ahead of a 2-1 Carolina Panthers team despite the fact the Panthers beat them on their own field.  Does it make sense to rank a team with a lesser record ahead of a team with a better record that has beaten them?

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NFL: Week 3 Rookie Recap

Posted by Eric Engberg on September 25, 2008

The third week of the NFL season saw a pair of rookie runners show off their blazing speed and the top QB taken in the draft rebound from an abysmal outing to post another solid start.  We also saw another rookie quarterback make his pro debut and the top tight end taken in the draft score his first career touchdown.

Steve Slaton, Houston – Week three was Slaton’s time to shine as he cruised to 116 yards on 18 carries including his first career touchdown against a stout Tennessee defense.  For the year Slaton has 159 yards and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

Felix Jones, Dallas – Continues to use his elite speed to deliver big plays for the Cowboys.  Jones was rather ineffective aside from his 60 yard touchdown run.  Jones compiled a career-high 76 yards on six carries.  For the season he has 148 yards on 18 carries for a whopping 8.2 yards per carry.  Jones has also made a major impact for the Cowboys as a kick returner.  In 3 games he has two returns of 40 or more yards including a 98-yarder for a touchdown against Philadelphia.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta – Ryan rebounded from an abysmal outing against the Buccaneers to post another solid game against the Chiefs completing 12 of 18 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown.  It is tough to gauge just where Ryan is along the developmental process as his two best games have come against two of the worst teams in the league while his only game against a potentially playoff caliber team was not good.  For the year Ryan has completed 53.1% of his passes for 511 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions.

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Week 3 Power Rankings

Posted by Eric Engberg on September 17, 2008

ESPN’s weekly power rankings are out and based on what ESPN is telling me the NFC is starting to strut its stuff again.  With the Cowboys, Steelers, Giants, Packers, and Eagles manning the top five spots that means the NFC holds four of the top five and with the Panthers coming in at number eight that gives the NFC five of the top eight teams in the league according to ESPN.

Just like last week there are some things that do not make sense to me here.  First is the Patriots move back up to the sixth spot despite the fact they have looked rather lackluster in their two wins against the Jets and Chiefs.  The Jets are supposed to contend in the AFC East but they do not look as though they have their stuff together just yet and the Chiefs are one of the worst teams in the league right now.  It seems as though ESPN is overvaluing that win against the Jets who were only ranked 14th last week to begin with.  Do not get me wrong I still think the Pats are a playoff team but I want to see how they respond to a challenge before ranking them in the top 6.

This leads me to the next two on the list.  I am trying to figure out the justification for rating Colts, and the Pats for that matter, above the Panthers.  Consider the Panthers just beat a Bears team that humbled the Colts on opening night in their own stadium.  It was all the Colts could do to get past what is appearing to be an overrated Vikings squad.  The Colts offensive line is a mess right now and they would probably lose to several teams ranked below them right now.  I have a hard time ranking a one loss team against an unbeaten team when that loss came from a team ranked lower than they are.  I don’t have a problem with the Eagles being rated that high because their only loss is on the road to the top rated team.  Honestly, given the way they are playing right now I think I would put the Broncos, Titans, and Bills ahead of the Colts. 

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NFL: Week Two Rookie Recap

Posted by Eric Engberg on September 16, 2008

Darren McFadden, Oakland – McFadden had a breakout game this week piling up 164 yards on 21 carries against the hapless Chiefs.  McFadden showed everyone why he was considered the top talent available in the draft.  The only real knock on his performance is that he put the ball on the ground twice which was main knock on his game coming out of Arkansas.  McFadden’s performance made him the second leading rusher amongst rookie backs this year with 210 yards and 5th in the NFL.

Chris Johnson, Tennessee – Continued to shine for the TItans posting his first 100 yard game of his career piling up 109 yards on 19 carries.  Johnson’s 202 yards rank him third amongst rookie runners.

Johnathan Stewart, Carolina – Stewart came up big for the Panthers scoring two second half touchdowns to go with a career high 77 yards.  Stewarts 130 yards rank 4th amongst rookies and his two touchdowns are the most amongst all rookie running backs.

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia – Jackson posted another 100 yard recieving against Dallas hauling in 6 balls for 110 yards.  Jackson’s 12 catches rate second amongst rookies and his 216 yards are tops amongst rookies and 4th in the NFL.  He is quickly emerging as the top wideout in the 2008 rookie class.

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NFL: Thoughts on Week 2

Posted by Eric Engberg on September 16, 2008

As an Eagles fan last night’s loss was awfully tough to take.  It is not solely because it was against Dallas but because of the feeling that Philadelphia had a chance to put Dallas away and could not pull the trigger.  Not to mention the last play they ran.  Was that really the best they could come up with.  I thought we have always been told that you have to throw to or past the marker on 3rd or 4th down.

The game was somewhat encouraging in that McNabb looks like he is playing with a purpose this year.  He was moving around in the pocket and hitting his targets.  If not for some dropped passes he would have had his second 300 yard game in as many outings.

I was also very impressed with how well the run defense played.  They kept Marion Barber contained most of the game and held the Cowboys as a team to just 2.8 yards per carry.  There were only two runs where Barber really had significant gains.

The secondary, on the other hand, was atrocious at times.  What they were doing with Sheldon Brown on Terrell Owens at times just boggles my mind.  Fortunately they made the right adjustments and Owens was a nonfactor after he scored his second touchdown. 

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Week 2 Power Rankings

Posted by Eric Engberg on September 9, 2008

Some of the things I see on ESPN boggles my mind from time to time.  I was perusing their NFL power rankings online today and some of what is listed on here does not make a ton of sense.  Let us just go down the list in order.

First, the Chargers drop from second to third despite the fact that they lost at home to what was the 17th ranked team in the Panthers.  Not to mention the Panthers were playing without their biggest offensive weapon in Steve Smith.  In relation to that beating the second best team on the road ws only good enough to move the Panthers up to 12th.

The Saints move from 7th to 4th on the basis of beating the Buccaneers.

Defensive overhaul is working wonders and Reggie Bush is off to a hot start. 

So basically because the Saints held the Buccaneers, a team who averaged 21 points and 327 yards of offense, to 20 points and 352 yards of offense the defense is now fixed.  The Bucs ran up 9 yards per carry against the Saints.  I fail to see how that was a stout defensive performance by New Orleans this past weekend.  What makes this comment even dumber is the one they listed for the Bucs:

Showed no big-play capability and the defense is looking old.

So wow, they held a team that shows no big-play capability to 20 points.

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NFL: Week One Rookie Recap

Posted by Eric Engberg on September 8, 2008

The first week of the NFL season featured some impressive debuts from the class of ’08.  We saw two rookie quarterbacks, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, win their pro debuts for the first time since 1971 when Archie Manning and Jim Plunkett won their debut games.  We also saw a back go for 100 yards rushing a reciever catch over 100 yards worth of passes, and another back compile 100 yards of total offense.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta – Ryan played about as well as could be expected for a rookie making his first start in the NFL.  The Falcons game planned this one perfectly to a tee relying heavily on the running game which has plenty of quality depth with Micheal Turner and Jerious Norwood toting the ball for the Falcons.  Ryan simply delivered when asked to.  His ability to complete passes downfield kept the defense honest allowing Micheal Turner to rack up 220 yards on the ground.  Ryan looked sharp completing 9 of his 13 passes for 161 yards and no interceptions.  He made a couple of big time throws and did not make any of the dumbs ones that rookies are wont to do.  

Joe Flacco, Baltimore – Flacco was essentially good enough to get the job done.  The positives are that he did not turn the ball over and showed some wheels in taking a 38 yard scramble to the house.  The negatives are he only completed 51.7% of his passes against a bad defensive team in the Bengals and did not complete one throw over 15 yards.  Basically he did not do anything to screw it up and Coach Harbaugh was willing to utilize a dominant running game to monopolize the ball.

Matt Forte, Chicago – Forte was the league’s top rookie rusher piling up 123 yards, including a 50 yard romp to the end zone, leading the Bears to a 29-13 blowout of the Colts.

Chris Johnson, Tennessee – Some folks snickered when the Titans selected Johnson in the first round, especially when they desparately needed to find someone for Vince Young to throw the ball to.  Johnson proved his crtics wrong yesterday by racking up 127 yards of offense (93 rush, 34 rec) and a touchdown.  Johnson was one of the lone brights spots on offense in what was an otherwise pedestrian game.  Ultimately the Titans needed to get a playmaker on offense and it appears as though they have one in Chris Johnson.

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia – The lone rookie wideout to catch more than 2 balls and had about as good of a debut as one could have expected catching 6 balls for 106 yards including two that went for over 20 yards.  He also gave the return game a shot in the arm with a 60 yard punt return.

Ray Rice, Baltimore – A rather lackluster debut of 64 yards on 22 carries including a fumble.

Felix Jones, Dallas – Scampered his way to 62 yards on 9 carries including a TD run the first time he touched the ball.

Jonathan Stewart, Carolina – Gave the Panthers exactly what they wanted with 53 yards on 10 carries in relief of DeAngelo Williams. 

Steve Slaton, Houston – A so-so debut of 43 yards on 13 carries in a game that Houston was never really in from the start.

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh – Mendenhall managed just 28 yards on 10 carries in a game that saw teammate Willie Parker go for 138 yards and 3 scores.

John Carlson, Seattle – The rookie tight end caught four passes for 52 yards in a solid debut outing.

Keith Rivers, Cincinnati – The top rookie tackler of the week recording 10 tackles against the Ravens.

Antoine Cason, San Diego – The rookie corner recorded six tackles including a forced fumble that led to a Chargers touchdown.

Derrick Harvey, Jacksonville – Drafted by the Jaguars to bolster the pass rush the rookie defensive end was ironically the only rookie to record an interception this week.  He also managed to knock down two other passes but failed to record even a tackle.

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NFL: Week One Thoughts

Posted by Eric Engberg on September 8, 2008

One initial thought as the Bears maintain comfortable lead with just under ten minutes to play: Is the balance of power finally shifting back to the NFC?  Consider that the Carolina Panthers, considered to be a marginal playoff team, stunned the San Diego Chargers at home with a last second touchdown and the Bears coming off of a 7-9 season and not considered a serious threat are handling the Colts quite easily.  The Chargers and Colts were two teams heavily favored to make deep playoff runs this year.  In fact the Chargers and Colts were second and third respectively in ESPN’s preseason power rankings while the Bears and Panthers were 25th and 20th.

Living in Durham I hear a lot of Panthers fans say Delhomme has to go, but after the throw he made to win that game today I wonder what they think now.  It is amazing how much better the Panthers are with Delhomme under center and they won this game without Steve Smith, their best player.  Carolina was able to basically run the ball at will racking up 142 yards getting 4.9 per carry, however, without Smith in the lineup the passing game suffered from untimely drops and a costly fumble that eventually led to a Chargers touchdown.

The defense held its own.  It allowed only two touchdowns on sustained drives while the Chargers other score came on a 28-yard drive following a D. J. Hackett fumble.  The one negative to take away was San Diego was able to get deep a few times and the pass coverage broke down in the middle of the field a few times.

Watching DeAngelo Williams carry the ball yesterday I could not help but wondering why DeShaun Foster go the bulk of the carries the past two seasons in Charlotte.

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NFL: Preseason News and Notes

Posted by Eric Engberg on August 25, 2008

As we move closer to the beginning of the regular season there are some interesting storylines developing around the league:

Are the Giants seriously considering luring Strahan out of retirement?  I know they desperate to find another pass rusher with Osi Umenyiora going down for the year.  And, I know Strahan sat out most of camp last year but he was also working out on his own and staying shape.  Do the Giants really believe Strahan has kept himself in game shape?  Furthermore how many weights is Strahan lifting while he is living it up over in Greece right now?  Strahan says he would come back for $8 mil but then again who wouldn’t?  He still looked like he has some lead left in his pencil at the end of last year, but, then again, he also had the luxury of not having to be the guy and played in a rotation that was 3 deep in terms of quality pass rushers with Justin Tuck in the mix.  Would Strahan have enough to go back to being an everydown end in the NFL again?  Are the Giants even willing to take the $8 million gamble that he does?

On the heels of an impressive showing in his last preseason game against the Titans Matt Ryan has been dubbed the opening day starter at quarterback for the Falcons.  This always has the potential to go either way but QBs who spend four years in college and start for two plus seasons, including 3 bowl games, tend to succeed more times than not at the next level.  In watching Ryan play quite a bit last year he impresses me as one of those guys who easily shakes off the bumps, bruises, and mistakes that go with playing the position and moves on.  He seems to be one of those guys who impresses with his leadership skills as much as his QB skills.  Besides, it is not as though Joey Harrington, Chris Redman, or D. J. Shockley provide Falcons fans with anything to be excited about.  With Micheal Turner and Jerious Norwood to hand the ball off to Ryan should be okay for now.

Apparently Kurt Warner has beat Matt Leinart out for the starting job in Arizona.  Is this a wake up call to Leinart who made the news for his wild offseason co-ed parties or does Ken Whisenhunt truly believe Warner is the best fit to lead his team?  Given Warner’s inability to stay healthy during his tenure in Arizona Leinart will probably be back on the field before you know it.

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LeBron to Europe? Please Don’t Insult My Intelligence

Posted by Eric Engberg on August 6, 2008

Why does ESPN insist to insult my intelligence?  Why are they gving any credence to the idea that LeBron is seriously considering a jump to Europe?  Sure he is willing to consider a move for $50 million a season but does anyone truly believe that offer would ever come to fruition?

Consider that the deals that Josh Childress and Earl Boykins recently signed are two of the more lucrative deals in their respective leagues.  Childress is only getting roughly six to seven million per season and that is the richest on his team.  Does anyone believe the cash is out there for a European team to legitimatly make this kind of offer to a LeBron James?

LeBron puts that price tag out there because he knows it is not a realistic possibility.  He is essentially saying, “Yeah I’ll go play in Europe if you give me $50 mil a year”, because he knows the likelihood of getting his asking price is remote at best.  I just have a hard time believing that any European teams have the resources to be able to compete with the NBA when it comes to the overall amount of money an elite basketball player can make playing in the NBA.

You see European teams do not pony up $100 million guaranteed contracts the way NBA teams do.  Nor do European players gain as much exposure or garner the endorsement opportunities the way NBA stars do.  Is a European team going to be able to match the $200 million or so LeBron would be walking away from in guaranteed salary and endorsement money he would likely receive if he stayed in the NBA?  I seriously doubt it as if they could they would have already made a run at American players better than Josh Childress and Earl Boykins.  The European leagues are a long way away from being able to financially compete with the NBA for the elite basketball talent of the world.

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