The 2011 NFL Season – Whats Going Down

As the 2011 NFL season is creeping towards the halfway point lets take a quick look at who the movers and shakers are. Who are the teams to watch, and who are the teams that are going to make you cringe?

The story so far:

The winners

The 2011 NFL schedule kicked off on September 8th 2011 with Green Bay, the 2010 Superbowl champions hosting the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field. With the score at 42-34 to the Packers, it set up an incredible run of form and at present Green bay are 6-0 and look unstoppable. They are the only team in either the AFC or the NFC  with a 100% record. Other teams flying high are the Patriots from the AFC east and the 49ers from NFC west, both are 5-1. The 49ers only loss coming from the Dallas Cowboys at ‘the stick’ in a close game that they really should have won. New England recorded their only loss to the ‘Bills’ back in week 3. The Detroit Lions are also at 5-1 which would normally be good enough to top any division at this stage, but not when they are fighting it out with the unstoppable Packers.

The losers

There are a couple of teams who probably wish that their season is over. One being the Indianapolis Colts. They are currently languishing at the bottom of the AFC south at 6-0. This is a surprise as they were tipped as one of the best teams in the division. Yes, the absence of Peyton Manning hasn’t helped, but even if he had been in the team, then defensively, they look in tatters. The Rams are another team that simply haven’t performed this season and like the Colts, St Louis are also yet to win a game. After a reasonable season last year, when they had more victories than the previous 3 seasons put together, they are unfortunately back in familiar territory. The Dolphins too had a poor start to the season and are also at 5-0. Despite making the play offs in 2008, they haven’t really had much to shout about, and unless they tighten their defense, then that looks likely to continue this year.

 

Surprises

When it comes to surprises there are certainly a few this year. The San Fransisco 49ers haven’t had much to shout about in recent years but with Jim Harbaugh at the helm they are sitting at 5-1 and are heading the NFC west. The Colts have already been mentioned and are having their worst start to a season since 1997. With Manning out they are having to rely on 38 year old Kerry Collins. Not good for a team that was tipped to make the play offs. Generally speaking, if there is ever such a thing as a safe bet in football, then it’s that the Steelers are going to win the AFC north division title as they always do. However, although we’re not halfway through the season, the Steelers aren’t as dominant as they have been and are currently lying third at 4-2, so the title could be more open than usual.

 

Come February 5th at the Lucas Oil stadium when the XLVI Superbowl takes place everything will be done and dusted. League titles will be won, superbowl champions will be crowned and names will be made. Will your team be there at the end? Only time will tell.

The NHL and Vegas? Um, yes please

So now that the NHL has finally found a single event that creates a buzz and gets most sports fan to take notice of hockey, they now seem to be salivating over the possibilities for future sites of the Winter Classic.

They have big plans to take it everywhere from Yankee Stadium, to the Rose Bowl, to the Las Vegas strip.

Vegas on New Years? Where do I sign?

The NHL has finally found something here and it looks like they are going to take advantage of it. They were even talking about possible new locations on PTI today and they were throwing out the Red Square in Moscow and in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

USC’s Mark Sanchez will enter draft

At first glance, this a surprise. Five minutes of thinking it over, and it’s not.

Although NFL GM’s might be weary to take a quarterback early in the draft that has only started 16 games in the last four years, there just isn’t much more to prove for Sanchez at Souther Cal.

With Sam Bradford and Tim “Golden Boy” Tebow choosing to forgo the NFL and stick around for another season of college ball, wouldn’t he want to prove himself to be at their level, and maybe even challenge for a Heisman? Well, no. Look what happened to Todd Boeckman.

Boeckman was considered to be a high prospect before this past season, before a guy named Terrelle Pryor took his job from him in week five. In Sanchez’s case, super recruit Matt Barkley is packing his bags for the USC dorms as we speak. And, with quite a lot of SC’s defence graduating or heading for the draft, this might even be a re-building year, if the Trojans are even capable of having one of those.

Even if SC is in a re-building mode, with almost the entire staff heading to UW and their top linebackers declaring for the draft, it wasn’t going to get any better for Sanchez.

Scott Pioli is leaving the Pats to run the Chiefs

In what has been rumoured for a couple of weeks,Scott Pioli is leaving the Patriots front office to take full control of the Kansas City Chiefs.

As far as front office hires go, it doesn’t get much more impressive than Pioli. He has been Bill Belichek’s right hand man for all of the Patriots hugely successful run and is widely regarded as one of the best talent evaluators in the NFL. It’s a huge coup for the Chiefs and should turn out to be a great hire.

The news is not as good for the Patriots and Belichek.

Another year and another defection from the Patriots front office.

Losing coaches can be a problem but at the end of the day Belichek runs the show and has shown he can develop young coaching talent (like Josh McDaniels and Eric Mangini) to replace any coaches that have moved on. Losing so many minds in the front office could be a different story altogether.

Last year they lost former Director of College Scouting Thomas Dimitrioff to the Atlanta Falcons and now Pioli is gone as well. Those are two people who were directly involved in the drafting of most of New England’s roster.

Imagine Dexter losing the actors who play Angel and Debra after consecutive seasons. Those two characters have become so important to the show that if they were to leave, it might not ever recover.

The Patriots showed this year that they are still a good team even without Tom Brady. With an aging roster at several positions, whether they can continue being the team they once were is still up in the air. If they don’t have the right front office staff members ready to step up and take the place of Pioli then their run as an elite team in the NFL could be cancelled.

Shanahan is back with the Devils

Having been the lesser story to Mats Sundin, Brendan Shanahan is making a return of his own.

In his case though, it’ll be with the New Jersey Devils, a team that had originally drafted him in 1987.

According to TSN, the unrestricted free agent “has yet to agree to terms on a contract and it isn’t clear at this point when that will happen or when he will be ready to play a game with them.”

It’s not officially confirmed but it looks as if the 39 year old is tired of waiting for the New York Rangers to make room for him on their team, a roster he had wanted to rejoin.

So the next best option apparently is New Jersey, who are currently sixth in the East, and could use more offensive help. That’s where Shanahan will come in.

Maybe the three-time Stanley cup veteran does not have the same flair that he originally held but he will be a valuable asset on any offense, and any locker room.

Much like Sundin, Shanahan will need time to find his competitive legs and it’s still unsure when his debut will be. Nor his role on the team.

Adding a player like Shanahan, although past his prime, is always a bonus, especially when he has recorded 650 goals and 690 assists in his career. With Shanny on their team, look for the Devils to be a more dangerous team, move offensively and defensively.

Maybe his impact won’t be as big as it would have been, say 10 years ago, but it’s a big shot to the Rangers, as they could not find the room to resign the winger.

Not to mention that Shanahan goes to one of their divisional rivals.

Roger Huerta: Fighter/actor/model

Roger Huerta has big plans.

He is one of the rising stars in the UFC and has amassed a very impressive record while working his way up to the top of his division. Even though he suffered a defeat to Kenny Florian in his last fight, he is only a few wins a way from getting a title shot.

It’s not that unrealistic to say that he is close to living out every fighter’s dream.

I think it’s safe to say that Huerta is not “every fighter”. Apparently all that time spent climbing up the ranks was not that important to him because it appears he is going to take some time off after his next fight to pursue a career as an actor and model.

This makes absolutely zero sense. I guess he must have been inspired from Randy Couture’s turn as the Scorpion King or Chuck Liddell’s appearance on Entourage. Either that or his head got big after he was on that Sports Illustrated cover.

Maybe he doesn’t realize that Liddell and Couture were only able to procure those roles because of their status as the faces of the UFC and MMA. That’s what happens to stars. People start opening doors for them that were not even a possibility before.

Huerta is not a star in the UFC. He could be one day, but not now. Right now he is just another fighter with potential.

It’s disappointing because he might not ever get to realize that potential. Most young athletes who take extended breaks from their sport never live up to the promise that they once showed.

Just ask Drew Henson. Or Brandon Vera who has never looked the same after taking a year off in a contract dispute.

Roger Huerta is likely going to find out that it will be a lot harder to break down the doors he wants to in acting than he thought. He had already broken down some doors in MMA, but as more time passes, those doors will close for him.

It very well could lead to him saying, “What if …” down the road when he finds out that he no longer holds the keys he once did.

Boston College fires Jeff Jagodzinski

Boston College shot themselves in the foot when they let Tom O’Brien walk away. Now BC Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo is cutting that leg off by firing Jeff Jagodzinski.

Jagodzinski, a long-time NFL assistant coach, received the opportunity to interview for the New York Jets vacant position of head coach this week. DeFilippo, being the genius that he is, told Jagodzinski that if he interviewed for the job he would be fired.

Well, the interview came and went, Jagodzinski met with the Jets brass, and DeFilippo handed the man a pink slip.

Reaction in Boston:

PTI favourite and Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan.

Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy.

From what I can gather, Jagodzinski had not been actively pursuing this job, the Jets came to him. In every line of work this happens every day.

A sought after employee of company X is offered a high salary job at bigger company Y. Company X is doing its employee a disservice by not letting the person at the very least interview for the job. The employee might not get that job but the interview will help him climb the ladder in the future.

That’s what’s happening here, Jagodzinski probably will not be named head coach of the New York Jets. I don’t think he is the best candidate or even a very serious candidate at all.

DeFilippo has said that he is removing the coach because he wants someone who will stay at BC for a long time. Too bad you already had that with Tom O’Brien! O’Brien wanted better facilities, but you couldn’t give those to him and now he’s started building a potential stumbling block for BC at NC State.

The single event of O’Brien leaving BC for NC State turned BC into a stepping stone school. Now the coaching search is on, less than a month away from National Signing Day.

Who are the candidates? DeFilippo said he would name an interim head coach, but for recruiting purposes, that’s a terrible idea. 17 and 18-year olds don’t want to hear that you might be replaced next season.

Frank Spaziani - BC Defensive Coordinator since 1999

Jack Bicknell Jr. - BC O-Line Coach since 2007

Steve Logan - BC Offensive Coordinator since 2007

They will also interview two people from outside the program.

One of those should be Buffalo head coach Turner Gill.

So far Spaziani is the leading candidate. He’s long overdue for a head coaching position and more than deserves the promotion. If DeFilippo is looking for someone who will stay at BC for a long time, he doesn’t have to look much further than Spaziani. If they slap the interim tag on him, it’s as good as a slap in the face. Make Spaziani head coach immediately and the program can get back to competing in the ACC much faster than it would under a new regime.

That doesn’t change the idiocy of this whole debacle. Jagodzinski should be able to interview wherever the hell he wants, contract or no contract. Interviewing coaches under contract is common practice in football, whether we’re talking college or pro. Athletic Directors have every right to keep teams from talking to their coaches, but that’s counterproductive for both sides.

If USC offered DeFilippo their Athletic Director position he would think about it for all of five seconds before taking the job.

2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl

LSU 7-5 (3-5) vs. Georgia Tech 9-3 (5-3)

Wednesday, December 31, 4:30 p.m. PST.

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia.

SEC West #3 vs. ACC #2

Coaches: Les Miles (41-11) vs. Paul Johnson (9-3)

Quarterbacks: Jarrett Lee/Andrew Hatch/Jordan Jefferson vs. Josh Nesbitt

The line: GT -3.5

Payout: $3 million

If LSU loses this game, Les Miles will have doubled the amount of losses he had at LSU coming into the year, in just one season. It might be time to question whether or not LSU got the right man.

In the last four games of the season, they lost to arch-nemesis Nick Saban and Alabama, then got pushed to the brink by Troy, narrowly escaping what would have been LSU’s worst loss of the decade. With the Cotton Bowl on the line, Ole Miss came into Death Valley and beat LSU 31-10, then to close out the season, Arkansas – yes 5-7 Arkansas, beat LSU 31-30.

Les Miles won a National Championship with a roster still full of players recruited by Saban. Lose this game to upstart Georgia Tech, and Miles will find himself on the hot-seat next season.

2009 NBA Mock Draft First Edition

We’re into the third week of the college hoops season, and the pre-season All-American’s are all getting it done, in big ways. Because it’s so early, the first mock draft is only going to pick the top five, expect more in the future.

Here’s part one of, well, who knows.

1. Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

In his first big game of the year, he went head to head in a scoring battle with fellow PSAA Stephen Curry and put up 25 points on 7-11 shooting and went 11-12 from the line. Although he lost the scoring battle to Curry, who had 44, Griffin’s Sooners won. Griffin is the Michael Beasley of this draft: a big, physical scorer who will be a workhorse in the paint, but can also attack the rim at will off of the drive. If his 26 points per game holds up throughout the season, expect a lot of hype throughout the tournament and into the draft over Griffin, who would be a big help to guys like Kevin Durant in Texas and OJ Mayo in Memphis, as long as they keep losing.

NBA West tidbits

Dallas Mavericks

The Jason Kidd trade killed them last season, and there’s no denying it was a big mistake. Dallas is going to need an enormous year out of Dirk Nowitzki if they can do anything in the playoffs, or even make the post-season dance at all. Best case scenario is Josh Howards and Gerald Green get their acts together and play the ball we know they can. Worst case scenario is if they don’t.

Denver Nuggets

Word is they have some money woes coming up, which is why they got rid of Marcus Camby and tried to tell Nene that he might be as good as Camby was. And he clearly isn’t the leader Camby was. But remember this team still has international star-turned-semi-letdown Carmelo Anthony who was drafted the same year as LeBron, remember? And they have the self-proclaimed MVP in Allen Iverson, depending on whether or not he shows up to practice. Then its Kenyon Martin. A little over rated but can still play ball. I predict an eighth place finish by Denver just because the West is even better than last year.

Golden State Warriors

…are going to be very good. But then again, so is almost every team in the West. Keep in mind that they have a young group of guys, four of which averaged over 20 per game in the preseason, and are that much older and more experienced. This is Stephen Jackson’s year to prove that he’s not over rated, Al Harrington’s year to live up to the praise he’s recieved, and Brandon Wright’s year to establish himself.

Houston Rockets

One of the most controversial moves in the summer was Houston picking up the still ghetto Ron Artest, the former defensive player of the year. Let’s not forget that Houston has yet to win a playoff series in a long, long time, and needed a shake-up without giving up Tracy McGrady or Yao Ming. With that trio, combined with a finally established Rafer ‘Skip to My lou’ Alston and the yet to emerge Joey Dorsey, added with Shane Battier, looks pretty damn deep.

L.A. Clippers

This is probably the single most jinxed franchise in the NBA. Combined with Elton Brand’s pulling of a Steve Miller Band (Take the Money and Run), they’re not going to have a very good time. Remember, Eric Gordon is my darkhorse to win the Rookie of the year award, and we have seen Baron Davis do big things with a bombed up and depleted rosters. So, as interesting as they will be to watch, I’m keeping with the current theme of how good the West is, and it’s no playoffs for the Clips’.

L.A. Lakers

My pick to win it all. Their depth is amazing, as they can go two-deep, at least, at every position, and don’t have to at two of them. Oh, they kind of have the MVP on their team, too. You know, the most talented player in the world? Kobe? If his pinky really doesn’t need surgery, this team has championship written all over it. They have two stud seven footers who can both get the job done in different ways. Finally, Kobe might get one without Shaq.

Memphis Grizzlies

The last place team in the West. Although, everyone is very excited for the Gay-Mayo era down in Tennessee. Those two are good players, but not good enough, yet, to lead their team into a playoff berth. You want a player to watch? How about Marc Gasol, Pao’s brother. He is a very big boy and it will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets and what kind of damage he can do. Another interesting tidbit will be to see how many hookers Darrel Arthur can cram into his hotel room if he’s bunking with Gasol, and how much pot his toilet can hold. Ouch.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Talk about a franchise that has gone downhill. Let’s just say Kevin Love would have liked it better in Memphis.

New Orleans Hornets

The bumblebees are most likely destined for the top three in the West. Will travel hurt them, being stuck in New Orleans? Probably not. If it does, I’m not taking it as an excuse. This is a very good-looking team, and the sexy pick of 08/09. Chris Paul will get the job done, and with four guys shooting over 40% in the preseason, Paul won’t have to worry about who’s hands he’s putting the ball in. He’s got the power forward in Tyson Chandler, the three-ball man in Peja, the proven clutch shooter in James Posey, and last season’s NBA X factor David West. Probably the only team in the West that can beat the Lake show.

Oklahoma City Thunder

I don’t even want to talk about the Sonic stealers. Karma is a bitch. Remember that. (p.s., never name a sports team without an S on the end. “I’m proud to be an Oklahoma Thunder.”)

Phoenix Suns

The window for a championship is coming to a close very quickly on the Suns. If they want to surprise anyone, they’ll go out and finish in the top four. Next season, they won’t even have the chance to surprise anyone. Not with the rising star point guards in the west and an aging Steve Nash. I think he should take little-to-no money and go play for the Lakers when his contract is over. You know they liked it when Gary Payton was around. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Shaq, their starting centre, will average no more than nine points a game while Shawn Marion, the guy he was traded for, will flourish in Miami.

Portland Trail Blazers

Another sexy team coming into this year. but without Greg Oden, they have little to no inside presence. Whatever the results are on his foot are going to be huge in what this Blazers team can do this year because they have a very young, gifted offensive club that has proven they can put up points, along with a Rudy Fernandez who is out to prove that he deserves starting minutes.

Sacramento Kings

I’m sorry, but am I the only person who remembers that building being the loudest, wildest joint in the league? When Peja was dropping bombs, Bibby was hitting clutch shots and C-Webb was getting it done down low? I honestly just had to look at Sacramento’s website to find out who they even had on that team. Bobby Brown and Bobby Jackson. No one else is worth mentioning. Move on.

San Antonio Spurs

I’ve said that this is their year to drop off. Tim Duncan is coming up on 1,000 games, Manu Ginobli still has a hurt wheel, and there isn’t much depth to speak of. But, I say this every year. And every year they’re good. So this paragraph is probable good news to Spurs fans and good news to Spurs haters. There is nobody in between that group of people. But one think I can say they won’t do is be able to beat the Lakers, or the Hornets. Chris Paul is just as fast as Tony Parker and will probably be the first guard in the west that can finally guard him, too. The Lakers will wear them down. Fifth in the west.

Utah Jazz

Looking pretty good. Another safe bet to have them in your top four. But, are the expectations too high for this young squad? The poll on the team website asks how many wins the Jazz will notch this season, and the lowest option is 45-50. Deron Williams showed at the Olympics that he can deal with pressure, But Andrei Kirilenko has showed that he can’t He’ll come off the bench this year, and better be shooting for a sixth man of the year award. I’m picking them in the top five, but the amount of white guys scares me.