About Mackk

Just a country boy who loves sports, loves to write.. put those 2 together and you have this blog. I love the Carolina Panthers & Detroit Red Wings, followed by Michigan Wolverines football, Chicago Bulls in the NBA and Essendon Bombers in our local AFL. I love coffee, gaming, music and long walks on the beach without pants, (helps keep the sand out.)

Dexter Season 7: Premiere Review & Thoughts

September and October are pretty much my favorite time of the year. Football is back, hockey is (supposed to be) back, TV shows that I watch religiously each week are back for another season.. and  here in Australia, the weather is starting to warm up. It’s all coming up aces for Mackk.

6 seasons of Dexter have graced our TV screens so far and no doubt there have been highs and lows. Critics have been right to criticize Dexter in the past few seasons, as the plot seemed to be repetitive and fans grew tiresome of the same old present, just wrapped differently. We could go on and on about plot-holes, weird turns & story arcs, Deb falling in love with Dexter, the whole Lumen thing after Rita’s death etc but what’s done is done and nothing could prepare us for the season ending finale of season 6, where Deb walks in on Dexter during his kill of Travis Marshall. The shit is really going to hit the fan in season 7.

I was anxious all offseason. I couldn’t wait. We knew that Deb would have to find out eventually and there had been some close calls that teased us in seasons past. We wanted this day to come, we wanted the one “bad person” that Dexter would have to face to be Deb; his own sister. When it finally happened everyone was still shocked, but also a little excited as we knew it would flip the show on its head and put Dexter into deep, boiling, hot water. As we know the show is at its best when Dexter has to dig his way out to avoid being found out & arrested.

It’s like any sporting event; the best action is in the 4th quarter when a team has to rally from behind to win. It’s the classic underdog story.

From the opening scene of the premier episode “Are You…?”, it looks to be an emotional and thrilling season and hopefully one that provides us with the best material to date. However the writers at Dexter best save some of the good stuff for season 8 which has been confirmed that it will be the last and final season for HBO’s Dexter.

In my opinion, fair enough. As a fan you don’t want the show to end because you’ve followed the show for so long where it’ll be weird not having Dexter there every Sunday night. But you can only run a show for so long before it becomes unrealistically long, drawn out and diluted to the point people stop watching and it ends up getting cancelled. (See Scrubs , Lost and many other shows.)

Many fans and critics would say that the show should’ve ended 2 seasons ago. That this season should’ve happened post-Rita. I’m indifferent. The back story provided in the past 2 seasons has been like a long prologue for what should be the best season to date. You have to know when to quit and I applaud the executive producers and HBO for knowing when to say, “It’s been a great ride.”

The amount of awards and accolades the show has collected along the way is enough to have the team walk out with their heads held high, no regrets.

The season kicked off with a bang last Sunday, as season 7 of Dexter started with Dexter, racing towards Miami International Airport, as if he was on the run. He’s low on gas, stops at the gas station to re-fuel on the way, only to find all his cards declined. He opens a bag with passports, money and phones in it, grabs some cash that has been saved for a rainy day and continues onto the airport. Budapest is where he’s headed and the immediate viewer’s assumption is that everything has gone pear-shaped following Deb walking in on him. However, it’s merely a flash forward further along in the episode and a flash in Dexter’s mind, about running as soon as Deb has witnessed his kill. From there, we resume inside the church where we left Dexter at the conclusion of season 6. There Dexter stands, opposite his sister and standing over Travis in his serial killer uniform, holding a knife and trying to pick his jaw from the church floor, as his sister Deb has interrupted the kill.

Fans everywhere, critics, haters and casual Dexter-watchers were captivated and sucked back in to an outstanding first episode. Redemption time for many.. finally. A return to form of season 1 & 2.

We see Deb holding a gun, asking Dexter to step away. Dexter pleads with Deb, “Deb, it’s me,” as if to re-assure her that it’s not a dream.

Dexter tries to explain himself to Deb, lying about how Travis is the only one and that it was a ‘moment of temporary insanity.’ A classic self-defence story but Deb has a hard time believing it, wondering why Dexter has plastic sleeves, a set of knives, an apron and a change of clothes. “It’s a kit every blood spatter analyst carries with them,” Dexter later explains. Deb observes after Dexter’s story, “..it still doesn’t explain why he’s wrapped up like that.” Dexter tries anything and everything to get Deb to call off the dogs, including using the family card of his son Harrison and the death of Rita, as ways to shake Deb off his tail in the discovery that her brother is a murderer. After trying to get Deb to go home so he can finish off his killing routine, the 2 eventually agree to cover up the scene with a fire, make it the Final Tableau for the Doomsday Killer, an apparent suicide. We see Deb offer to get some fuel for the fire, linking her as an accessory to the murder and slowly, pulling her into Dexter’s dark world.

Honestly, with another season to go after season 7, the writers could’ve easily dragged this type of discovery for the end of season 7, then have the final season be the end game season, where Dexter has everything to lose and everything comes unravelled. But credit the writers, they went with the juicy content to start season 7 and had Deb grill Dexter where it made it believable and still, even after all his lies, she has an uneasy feeling, telling Dexter that it “Doesn’t feel right.” Dexter agrees with her, as if to reinforce the questions that would be circling inside Deb’s head over the next 24 hours.

The psychology that has been opened up by the writers after the one person who wasn’t supposed to find out in all this time, has now been exposed to this other side of Dexter, is fresh and exhilarating as a viewer. Dexter has now become even more sociopathic in his bid to try and cover up the real truth. He lies, but each lie falls flat when Deb digs deeper. Every word that leaves Dexter’s mouth, Deb questions. It’s the detective in her.

Deb’s psychology in this isn’t to be overlooked in all this either as she tries to come to terms with what she’s just seen in the church. Hours later, the 2 get called in to the crime scene of the now burnt down and smoldering church. Dexter offers his forensic opinion, manipulating and leading the team at Miami Metro to believe his every word that it was a suicide. Deb watches Dex closely, trying to understand how easily he just lied, getting himself out of trouble like that and wondering, how many times has this happened before?

Deb then digs herself deeper into the mess as she goes to the press stating that Travis Marshall probably committed suicide because he knew “Miami Metro were closing in on him.”

Midway through the episode, she goes to old case files from the Ice Truck Killer case and struggles with flashbacks of her on Brian and Dexter’s table, wrapped in plastic. From there, her thought process begins to get going. Wondering how Dexter could be so well prepared for a moment of self-defence and rage, it simply doesn’t add up for her. By the end of the episode, the first episode provides us with perhaps an even better cliff-hanger than the one at the end of season 6. After Deb questions Batista’s sister and babysitter Jamie about Dexter’s whereabouts that night and his work hours (knowing for a fact she knows he told Masuka he was leaving work early to start early the following day), Deb goes to Dexter’s apartment to find evidence to back up her suspicions.

Meanwhile, (hours before, moments after the crime scene of the church) Detective Mike Anderson is killed after trying to help a man on the side of the road with a flat tire. Mike opens the trunk to get the tire iron, only to find a dead girl. The man, who turns out to be a mobster (Viktor), shoots and kills Mike. The team gets called to the scene, which starts to eat away at Dexter who needs to feed his dark passenger, especially after all the stress. The suspect who killed Mike, would be the perfect target for Dexter’s next kill. Hours later and we re-visit the airport scene, as the mobster is on the way to the airport with Dexter actually pursuing him to catch him and kill him. He’s 3 steps ahead of Miami Metro as always and buys a ticket at the airport under an alias, so he can take matters into his own hands by bashing Viktor’s head in with a fire extinguisher.

What’s interesting in this episode is Dexter’s careless desire to feed his need to kill, despite being under the microscope from Deb and others, he manages to find a lost baggage area of the airport, set up a make-shift kill room and transport the body, all in the name to help with his stress. Classic Dexter, always finding places that people should walk-in on, yet don’t. Another intriguing part of the episode was Dexter, questioning himself and trying to move on by killing another bad guy, thinking a kill would be all he’d need to ease the stress, try and put it behind him. It had him wondering if maybe now, he should run. Get away from it all.

Killing Mike Anderson off was also an interesting sub plot, as he didn’t for a moment trust the idea that the church fire and suicide of Marshall was legit. He didn’t buy it and it was right after he hung up on Deb regarding that, that Anderson is killed off and the mob-world of characters is seemingly opened up, ready for season 7. Having Anderson not there to be suspicious of Dexter, opens up the possibility of Quinn taking over that role, perhaps he later discovers Deb has something to do with the scene.

LaGuerta is another wildcard in this season, as she discovers a blood slide that Dexter forgot to take from Travis Marshall, once again opening up the curiosity for LaGuerta that Doakes wasn’t in fact the Bay Harbor Butcher. She was once likeable, but in my opinion grew to be annoying and irrelevant in seasons past. Maybe she too can redeem herself or perhaps she’ll be on Dexter’s table by the seasons end, just like Doakes (sort of was.)

After disposing of the body as usual on his boat, Dexter returns home to find Deb sitting there, with his knives, blood slides and mountains of evidence that uncover Dexter’s big serial killer secret. She simply looks at the blood slides and asks, “Did you kill all these people?” “Yes.” Dexter simply responds, honest and open with his sister discovering the truth. “Are you a serial killer?” Deb asks, to confirm what she already suspected. “Yes.”

And that’s it. End of episode 1, but not the end of the questions that will be thrown around all season long.

What an episode. And that was only with 1 murder being discovered by Deb. I didn’t want the episode to end and immediately looked for episode 2 trailers just to feed my Dexter hunger, much like he feeds his dark passenger. A well-written, carefully layed out episode and a very promising start for what should be the first season of the goodbye tour for Dexter. Now we wait until tomorrow night. What now, that the whole truth will have to come out and the true identity of Dexter will be finally revealed to Deb? How does Deb cope? How does Dexter evolve and deal with this? Does she try to understand or does she let the cop inside of her come out and turn her brother in? Does he try and change finally or does he try and take Deb out? Can he control his desires? Can he outrun what seems to be an end game that he’s talked about in seasons past, of the outcome being of him in a chair, facing the death penalty? What becomes of Harrison? What becomes of Louis and past characters that have had inklings of suspicion about Dexter?

The ideas and prospects that loom for Dexter are mouth-watering. To think how suspenseful and thrilling this season could be.. I cannot wait. I’m positive, optimistic that this could be the best Dexter season to date. Dexter and Deb are the core of the show and are finally, all that matter now. There will be the usual sub-plots to help carry the season and fill in holes but the main story is on the right track and if episode 1 is anything to go by, the other 11 episodes of season 7 should not disappoint in any way. By the end of season 7, Dexter will hopefully have us wanting more, rather than less.

Here are some clips on the season, for your viewing pleasure.

Season 7 Trailer

Season 7 Sneak Peak

Season 7 Behind the Scenes Look

Some predictions for Season 7:

1. Dexter & Deb will team up and be vigilantes together, whilst carrying on with their day jobs.

It will be the only way Deb & Dexter can repair their relationship, as they work through it together, using Harry’s Code as the main baseline, having Deb buy into what Harry taught Dexter and helping her realise there’s more than the law-way of doing things. In the end, Deb will have an understanding of Dexter and be there to protect him from the FBI.

2. Someone from Miami PD gets killed and Deb wonders if Dexter had anything to do with it.

Before this episode, I would’ve said maybe Masuka, his intern Louis or Quinn gets killed from some nutjob. But it ended up being Mike. I can still see Quinn or Louis getting killed off, most likely by Dexter. I can see a department man hunt for Dexter, which Deb gets tangled up in and possibly LaGuerta gets killed because of this hunt, much like the Doakes ending.

3. Dexter will hook up with some hot girl who gets naked, only to send Deb into a jealous & weird rage.

I wonder if the step-sibling romance will come into play again & if it does, no doubt it will become a point of contention when Deb gets jealous as Dex has a love affair with a girl, only to have Deb scare her off (or kill her) which leads to Deb confessing the weird truth about her feelings for Dexter.

Notes:

-I wonder if Dexter’s step-kids will ever make an appearance again? Will most likely be there for a reunion of sorts in season 8, would be my guess.

-Looking forward to seeing what happens with Australia’s Yvonne Strahovski (from Chuck) throughout the season. We know she’ll be helping Miami PD with an old case and she was a suspect in the killing of her partner, which has Dexter intrigued of course. Do they hook up?

-The sooner they get rid of Louis, the better. I can’t stand him, and the writers probably are doing that on purpose, for a reason.

-I may have just eaten a whole bag of Skittles while writing this. I should probably see a dentist this week. 

 

Advertisements

313 NFL Awards: Week 2, 2012.

What a week of football and we’re only 2 weeks into the season. Just the tip of the iceberg my friends. A roller coaster start like many NFL seasons before.

Preseason predictions are already proven wrong, ideas of what was supposed to happen are long gone and new ideas on what could happen are forming. However, don’t count on anything just yet. No need to put 1k on the Niners for a SB win. Geez. Calm down, climb down from the roof, take a deep breath and maybe put some pants back on because you’ve still got 15 more weeks of this grey-hair producing NFL season to go.

And with that, here are my prestigious Week 2 NFL Awards.

QB of the Week:

Eli Manning, New York Giants.

Wow. Way to rebound son. You ever think about playing basketball?

The younger Manning was awful in the first half of the game vs. the Bucs, throwing 3 picks and struggling to get anything going offensively. Here we go again Giants fans thought as week 1, Eli was also sub-par vs. the Cowboys in the season opener.

But something at halftime vs. the Buccaneers must have clicked. Maybe something was said, maybe he just likes to idle the machine for a while before he can finally put it into drive. Either way fans rejoiced as he produced numbers in one half of football that most would take 60 minutes to produce and helped pave the way for an outstanding comeback win to lead his team to a 1-1 record before their Thursday Night game in Charlotte vs. the Panthers.

For the record, he finished with 510 yards passing, 3 TDs (to go with his 3 picks) and a passer rating of 89.5, with a 60.8 completion rate. In the 2nd half alone, he threw for 295 yards, tying for the eighth most in NFL history and coming up 3 yards short of Phil Simms’ club record. An impressive 80-yards in 4 plays won the game for the Giants, which featured a 2pt conversion for backup RB Andre Brown. The duo of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz helped Eli, combining for 21 catches, 378 yards, 18.0 yards per catch & 2 TDs.

Offensive Player of the Week (Other than a QB.. and someone not named Manning):

Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins.

Wait.. did I just write that? Reggie Bush?!

Yep, Reggie Bush. The same Reggie Bush that we all thought was nothing more than a scat-back, change of pace back, pass-catching back, punt returning/kick returning special-play-making back. Not an every down back like he showed on Sunday. What is this crap? Is 2012 really coming to an end, because he can carry the ball more than 12 times a game in a starters role? Well.. we’ll have to wait and see about that but one thing is clear, he certainly proved for one game at least, that he has it in him to be what he believes he can be: A starting RB in the NFL who can rush for 1k yards.

He helped Miami to a pivotal win in an AFC home opener over the Raiders, finishing with 26 touches for 172 yards and 2 TDs, including a 60 yard TD run. With a 6.6 ypc average, if he can produce the kind of explosiveness like he showed on Sunday for 20+ carries, it will alleviate pressure from rookie QB Ryan Tannehill and help keep the opposing defence honest. Add in his ability in the screen game, and you have a RB like Matt Forte. How his knee holds up over the course of the season, depending if he carries it 300+ times, will be the real test as well.

Many running backs have tried and failed to hold down the starting role as a NFL RB.. but for week 2, he certainly looked like the player that was drafted 2nd overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. I for one, will jump on his bandwagon if he proves me and the rest of the NFL wrong.

Honourable Mentions: Marshawn Lynch, Danny Amendola,CJ. Spiller, Hakeem Nicks.  

Defensive Player of the Week:

Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers.

Those golden locks are flowin’.

The former Defensive Player of the Year had a monster night on Thursday Night Football vs. the Chicago Bears. What a start The Machine is off to in 2012. 2.5 sacks in week 1, 3.5 sacks against Jay Cutler to go with 7 tackles (4 solo) and constant pressure that rattled Cutler enough to force him into 4 interceptions and more excuses. Matthews is one of only 6 players in NFL history to record 6 sacks or more in the first two games of the season, and he is the only player to do it twice. With DJ Smith making his presence felt as the other OLB, the Packers may have the player they’ve been looking for to help Clay. If teams double Matthews they’ll have Smith to answer for, making the Packers D a scary force for teams to game plan against. At his current pace, Matthews has his sights on the single season sack record and most likely, another Defensive Player of the Year award.

Special Teams: Adam Jones, CB/PR, Cincinnati Bengals.

Pacman packs a punch against the Browns.

The former electrifying and controversial CB is still around, just for those who haven’t heard his name in a while. Blast from the past maybe, but the guy is still playing ball and provides solid depth for the Bengals secondary. After much turmoil, it’s clear he’s found a home and in week 2, he helped the Bengals to a W over the Browns by returning the first Cleveland punt 81 yards for a touchdown.

2 minutes into the game and the Browns were setting up to punt. Jones caught the ball at the 19 and as soon as he caught it, he evaded one Browns defender. Then he started up field and sidestepped about 4 Browns defenders before cutting to the sideline, all the while weaving around other Browns. By the time Jones was at the 50 yard line, he was home and the crowd was on their feet as Jones looked like the player the Titans drafted in the first round many years ago. As he crossed the goal line, he threw the ball into the stands, jumped onto the goalpost and hugged the padding like hugging an old friend he hadn’t seen in 10 years.

Say what you will about his past, but the guy knows how to make plays when the ball is in his hands and he has some room to move.

Coach of the Week: Ron Rivera

Carolina Love to Chico for his Week 2 W over the Saints.*

I know, I know. Of course, I could put any of the 16 winners from the weekend here. But I won’t. Not yet. The Panthers haven’t won a home opener since it seems forever and haven’t beaten the Saints* since 2009. Going into week 2, the Panthers were looking at an 0-2 start if they played the way they did in week 1 vs. the Buccaneers. Had they lost, they would’ve gone into week 3 with a short turnaround and potentially gone 0-3 and before you know it, season is pretty much over in September. Not many teams get to the Super Bowl or even playoffs after 0-2, let alone a 0-3 start.

But the Panthers took care of business, thanks largely to head coach Ron Rivera and his coordinators of Rob Chudzinski and Sean McDermott. The offense was able to get its mojo back, lead on the ground by Cam Newton with 71 yards rushing. Along with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both gaining 50+ yards on the ground, all 4 of the Panthers running threats of Newton, Williams, Stewart and FB Mike Tolbert, were able to score. On the day, the Panthers totalled 219 rushing yards and look to continue that on Thursday Night Football vs. the visiting Giants.

On defense, the Panthers were able to slowly strangle Drew Brees, pressuring him, disrupting him and forcing him into 2 interceptions; one of those a pick 6 to Panthers safety Charles Godfrey. The Panthers shut TE Jimmy Graham down in the 2nd half and held WR Marques Colston to 1 reception, late in the game. The only success Brees had was checking down to RB Darren Sproles, who finished with 10 receptions. The defence was able to help the offense take advantage of the field position and with the running game and read option working like a well oiled machine, the Panthers controlled the game at their tempo, keeping Brees on the sideline, worrying about where he was going to get hit from next. If the Panthers can consistent play solid D, the unit and team will go places.

Goat of the Week:

The NFL and their continuing effort to wreck the game’s integrity.

I could also put the replacement referee crew of week 2’s games here but I won’t because the referees themselves aren’t at fault. They’re doing the best they can, under extreme pressure and unbelievable circumstances where they just can’t keep up with the speed of a NFL game. Embarrassing for all to watch, if the NFL doesn’t feel red faced from MNF alone and the debacle that was the 3 & 1/2 hour game, then I don’t know what will force them to do something.

Honourable Mentions:

Jay Cutler. Stop pouting and take it like a leader and man should. Enough with the excuses.  

Josh Morgan: Seriously. You throw a football at a guys groin in front of the referee late in the game and exactly.. what were you thinking? How old are you again? And how are you not cut yet?!

Rookie of the Week:

Who needs Luck to get his first win?

Congrats rookie. Luck lead the rebuilding Colts to a 1-1 record with a win over the Vikings, throwing for 221 yards on 20/31 passes, 2 TDs and no picks for a passer rating of 107.5. It was Adam Vinateri that clinched the winner with a 53 yard FG, with 8 seconds left but it was the new face of the Indianapolis franchise that steered the new-look Colts to the W. After Minnesota had tied it up thanks to a 6 yard Kyle Rudolph score, Luck marched the Colts 45 yards in 23 seconds, with back to back 20-yard completions before drawing the defence off-side, and then spiking the ball. On a day when we wondered what RG3 would do, I was wondering what Luck would do and as luck would have it, the rookie certainly didn’t look like a player who had been drafted 1st overall in April. Most impressive was his ability to allude defenders and still be poised to make the play. Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see which rookie QB fares better.

Quote of the Week:

Ray Lewis, on the passing of NFL Films legend Steve Sabol.

“I think young kids in this business … really need to understand the impact that Steve Sabol had. We lost a great pioneer a few days ago with Art Modell and now lose another one. These men had a vision to do something great. The beautiful thing about what they were doing is it wasn’t for them, they had a vision to expand our league to expand our game and to expand our brand.”

When Ray speaks, I listen. Kids of today, take note.

Upset of the Week:

Cardinals over Patriots, at Foxboro.

Quiz question for $200: When was the last time the Patriots lost a home opener? 2002. Bonus round. What year is it currently? 2012. Show them what they’ve won Doug.

That’s right, a fantastic upset in Boston. And what a bit of a snore-fest it was to begin with. New England QB Tom Brady struggled and the Cardinals did their usual thing of not scoring. Both defences were holding their own and looked to be a New England win after Cardinals RB Ryan Williams fumbled in the crucial stages of the 4th with the Pats recovering the fumble with 1 minute to play. However, TE Rob Gronkowski was called for holding on a Danny Woodhead 30 yard TD run. New England were able to gain 6 yards before Brady spiked it where the Pats would settle for the FG try. And that’s when kicker Stephen Gostkowski shanked the 42 yard attempt; his first missed FG of the day after going 4/4. The Cardinals had escaped victorious by 2 points and Ryan Williams breathed a sigh of relief. In all honesty, he could’ve gone in my GOAT column, and so could’ve Gostkowski.. but both teams made so many bad plays it’s hard to just pin it on the one mistake.

Disappointing Team of the Week:

Dallas Cowboys.

I expected better from you. Actually, not really. But I should’ve known better than to tip you. Kudos to the Hawks though, for taking care of business. Couldn’t be happier for Wilson and Lynch in Seattle, as well that fearsome defensive backfield.

Top Plays of the Week:

Eric Wright, Pick 6 vs. the Giants.

Bucs DB Eric Wright’s pick of Eli Manning’s pass with 20 seconds remaining in the first half was impressive enough as he caught the bullet from Manning from about 5 yards away. From there, it’s like watching a Div 1 player go against a Div III team as Wright makes some incredible moves to get down the sideline and score.

Tom Crabtree, Fake FG Reception vs. the Bears.

It was Thursday Night Football and both teams were struggling to get anything going offensively. Enter, Tom Crabtree. Backup TE. With punter Tim Masthay holding for kicker Mason Crosby, Masthay would take the snap and shovel pass to Crabtree who took it from the left guard to the right tackle, straight up and the gut of the Bears D for a 27 yard TD that would spark the Packers into a beating of Jay Cutler’s Bears.

Honorable Mentions: Eagles TE Brent Celek for his ‘white-men-CAN-jump’ leap over Ravens safety Ed Reed, Reggie Bush’s impressive 23 yard TD run & Bengals WR Andrew Hawkins’ 50 yard TD catch and evade vs. the Browns.  

(For more “Plays of the Week”, click here to go to NFL.com.)

Hardest Hit of the Week:

Golden Tate on Sean Lee, Seahawks vs. Cowboys.

Boom. Cowboys Sean Lee gets layed out by a WR. ..Wait, what?

WR takes out a LB. Golden Tate, take a bow. Hines Ward would be proud. That’s how I want my WR’s to block when or my Panthers RBs are running up-field. Way to help the team and fire up the crowd. Lights out.

Headline of the Week:

NFL Films President Steve Sabol Passes Away

Worst-Play-of-the-Week:

Phantom PI Call on Steelers DB Ike Taylor.

Seriously. How?

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap1000000062826/What-were-the-refs-calling

Ryan Clark comes in to lay Santonio Holmes out over the middle, like an safety should. The hit is clean, Taylor makes no contact and in fact loses Holmes before Holmes makes the catch and then proceeds to fall backwards, courtesy of Clark. It doesn’t take much for these replacement referees. Apparently asking for a penatly now results in the request being granted. Either way, you Mr. Ref get the Worst Play of the Week.

That’s it for Week 2 of the NFL Season already. Hard to believe but week 3 is just around the corner as we look towards Thursday night’s blockbuster NFC clash of the New York Giants visiting the Carolina Panthers.

Stay tuned for my preview of that game and more.

Remembering Steve Sabol: NFL Films Storyteller

Let me be clear. If there’s one thing that you read today, let it be this:

Steve Sabol is the reason why you watch the NFL.

Steve Sabol

Steve Sabol, co-founder of NFL Films passed away Tuesday, aged 69.

You may argue that it was your dad who introduced you to the game, maybe you fell in love with the game through playing it in school or heck it may have even been Madden 2003 with Marshall Faulk gracing the cover.

Ultimately though, it was Steve Sabol who reached out through that TV and pulled you into the game, where you stood for the first time with wide eyes, unable to take your eyes off the poetry in motion that was unfolding before you.

Steve Sabol wanted people to “See the reality, not as an instant replay but rather as a motion film.” It was this kind of vision and creative genius that along with his father, helped revolutionise sports broadcasting and the way that we saw the game.

Today we mourn the loss of Steve Sabol, who passed away at the age of 69; 2 weeks shy of his 70th birthday after an 18 month battle with brain cancer.

However, although we mourn the loss of the loss we should also celebrate the life of the long-time president and mastermind of NFL Films. And what a life it has been for the brilliant cinematic mind of Sabol, who was undoubtedly the heart beat of NFL Films.

In an interview (as seen in Peter King’s SI column on Sabol here) Sabol spoke of his life and legacy.

“So they talk about heaven, and I don’t know what is waiting for me up there. But I can tell you this: Nothing will happen up there that can duplicate my life down here. That life cannot be better than the one I’ve lived down here, the football life. It’s been perfect.”

Perfect indeed. Just like the product he produced on film. There wasn’t a detail Steve would miss. A lineman’s taped up hands covered in mud, blood dripping from a broken nose. The smallest detail, helped paint the picture for the story he wanted to tell and we’ll never see someone like Sabol again; that much is certain.

His genius, his artistry and vision with the camera, his talent with the sound, writing, directing, editing.. it all helped transform what we see before us on Sunday. For more than half a century, he put his heart, his soul into NFL Films and he created a legacy that will always be remembered.

To better paint the picture of the man, here is a perfect clip from the very network that wouldn’t be possible without Steve’s decades of countless work.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-videos/0ap2000000063280/Remembering-Steve-Sabol

Steve, as an art history major at Colorado College and an All-American running back, was able to entwine the 2 seamlessly, as if it was something that had always gone together. But up until NFL Films, America had not known such storytelling, especially in relation to sports.

It was the 1962 Championship Game, Packers vs. Giants at Yankee Stadium. Steve’s father Ed, who had founded Blair Motion Pictures, had won the rights to film the game, at a cost of $3,000.

Steve recalled the moment he received a call from his father, after winning the bid. “I see from your grades that you’ve been doing nothing but playing football and watching movies,” Sabol told his son. “But that makes you uniquely qualified for this new position I have in mind.”

Steve took the field on that blistery, cold day as a cameraman. The elements were so strong, team benches blew over during the game and cameramen from TV networks had to defrost their lenses with bonfires in the dugouts. One cameraman suffered frostbite. It was truly a horrid day, but a beautiful beginning as the birth of NFL Films. It was the game that impressed then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozell, who asked the owners of the NFL to purchase Ed Sabol’s company. It was then, that NFL Films was born, co-founded by Ed and Steve.

Jim Taylor

From there the Sabol’s brought in Sam Spence to compose the iconic NFL Films soundtracks that would play over the clips of legendary running backs charging towards the camera in slow motion or players standing on the sidelines, the cold air visible through their facemask. On top of Spence, the team added John Facenda – the man with the voice of silk. As Ed Sabol said, he could make reading a shopping list sound like the Declaration of Independence. To NFL fans, he is known as “The Voice of God.” Facenda’s soothing baritone voice was the perfect match for the dramatic nature of the footage he narrated.

And it was Facenda himself who famously read a poem written by Steve Sabol. Titled, “The Autumn Wind” which described the Autumn weather of the football season, it’s also known as the “Battle Hymn of the Raider Nation.”

http://www.nfl.com/videos/a-football-life/09000d5d8235036b/A-Football-Life-The-son-the-sound-the-symphony

(If watching those clips I’ve linked above doesn’t give you goose bumps, nothing in the NFL on Sunday will.)

The way in which Ed and Steve worked together as a team, was remarkable. But it was Steve, who helped innovate and orchestrate the footage. He would chronicle characters, deftly describe a play with slow motion, convey emotion with a composition as well as humour, just like a Hollywood film; just like a storyteller would.

“We see the game as art as much as sport,” Steve Sabol told The Associated Press when his father was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

People were only watching football. Then Steve came along with his eye for detail, his love of film, football, art and with a work ethic and passion that no one could match, he moulded a product that helped teach us about the game, more so than anyone else ever could.

He introduced slow motion and reverse angle replays, close up shots of players. There was the close up shot of the pigskin in the air (labelled “Tight as a Spiral” shot.) There were microphones on players, coaches, along the sidelines to pickup the sounds of the game as well as sideline chatter. NFL Films also featured the home team’s radio broadcast dubbed over the film, as the radio commentators tended to convey more passion.

With the dramatic orchestra soundtrack by Spence, the deep voice of Facenda (and later Harry Kalas) it was like combining ballet and football onto the small screen.

Sabol also helped us take the game less seriously and help show it for what it was.. a game. We were able to laugh at football (and at first, made coaches scorn as the footage made them “look like chumps”) with the Follies series, which debuted in the late 60s and was proven to be a popular staple of the NFL Films product.

No doubt, Sabol leaves behind a legacy.

Commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell released this statement on the passing of Sabol:

“Steve Sabol was the creative genius behind the remarkable work of NFL Films. Steve’s passion for football was matched by his incredible talent and energy. Steve’s legacy will be part of the NFL forever. He was a major contributor to the success of the NFL, a man who changed the way we look at football and sports, and a great friend.”

 A true icon, Steve wanted to be the best. Master his art. In his own words, he wanted to “bring an understanding, to something that has already been seen; to bring creative treatment, to reality.”

What started as a father’s dream, became a reality because of his son. I for one am thankful for Steve, Ed and the NFL Films team that pioneered the way we see football. Without their hard work, their talent, leadership and brilliance, I believe the NFL would not be as popular as it is in 2012.

Throughout his career, Steve has won over 40 Emmy awards himself for writing cinematography, editing, directing and producing. NFL Films as a company, has won over 100 Emmys since its 1962 establishment.

Steve and Ed both received the Lifetime Achievement Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2003 & Ed Sabol, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year as a contributor to the game.

I  would love to see Steve in there posthumously, as he is above any other player in deserving such an honour and should be right there with his father. I believe the NFL would put him there in a heartbeat, but that will be up to the Pro Hall of Fame committee to decide what’s best for the man who embodied exactly what ‘A Football Life’ is.

Steve is survived by his wife Penny, his son Casey, his parents Audrey and Ed, and his sister Blair. Rest in Peace.

If you love reading up on Steve or NFL Films and want to read some other fantastic articles on those very subjects, here’s a few links worth checking out: 

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/peter_king/09/18/steve-sabol/index.html?sct=nfl_t12_a0

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1165530/1/index.htm

http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2012/03/26/Champions/Sabol.aspx

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000063659/article/the-nfl-world-reacts-to-passing-of-steve-sabol?module=HP11_hot_topics

 Enjoy.

Steve is back to being Steve again.

Credit: Carolinahuddle.com

I love Steve Smith.

I have been one of his biggest fans ever since I started following football & the Carolina Panthers as a teenager. He is actually part of what drew me to the Panthers. And for that alone Steve, I thank you.

Smitty, as he is known to many, has intrigued me since day 1 & still, every Sunday he amazes and leaves myself & others, in disbelief. Every Sunday, he brings it. Every play, he gives his 110% with the same fierce, fire, intensity and determination that makes him one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the league today. On any given play, he can turn a defense inside out.

He is electrifying, mesmerizing, a freak in a league of athletic monsters. He is passionate, he has swagger and he wears his heart on his sleeve as we’ve come to learn and respect. He is often outspoken, always great for a quote or a sound bite. He yaps, but he backs up his talk with his on-field play. He is definitely not someone you’d want to cross the wrong way but also, one of those guys you’d want with you walking down a dark alley at night for protection.

At 32, he is on the downside of his career yet here he is, leading the NFC in receiving yards with 918 receiving yards, 2nd in the NFL only to Wes Welker after the bye week. He has 46 receptions for a 20 yard per catch average and 4 receiving TDs to go along with his average of 114.8 yards a game. He has been revitalized by rookie sensation Cam Newton, after having Jake Delhomme and numerous band-aid QBs throw to him over his career. Finally, after Delhomme he has a QB that can get him the ball and put in a position where he can make a defense hurt with one move. He can run any route, crossing over the middle daring the defense to lay a lick on him (only making him madder, which if you ask DeAngelo Hall, Fred Smoot or any CB in the league, never ends well) or a smoke screen pass that turns into a 20 yard gain, stiff-arming defenders along the way or, the deep ball which Smith has caught a lot of this season with 4 catches over 40 yards and 19 catches over 20 yards.

After a nightmare season in 2010 with another rookie QB throwing to him, as well as Matt Moore, the Panthers struggled and stalled, and so did Smith’s season. Many though Smith had lost a step, was done and on the verge of leaving town with him almost being traded. Smith ended up with 46 catches for 554 yards and 2 TD’s. This season to date, he has the same amount of receptions, almost double the yards and double the TDs. No doubt 2011 will be a big rebound season and will land him a nomination for Comeback Player of the Year – an award he’s already won once after breaking his leg in 2004-05, only to win the triple receiving crown the following season.

Many believe that had Steve Smith had Tom Brady throwing to him (or any elite QB), he’d be a Hall of Famer right now. Maybe, but I also believe that his career in Carolina has served him well and made him a better player. Had he been in New England or Indianapolis, he may never have seen the 2005-06 season that he did, becoming one of the many few WRs in NFL history to win the triple crown of receiving. (Most yards, most receptions and TDs in a season.) Smith is on his way to becoming a Hall of Famer, but he’ll need to hit a few marks and check off a few boxes before then.

Already, his season is getting praise, much due to the play of QB, one who can feed him the ball and put him a position to make a play and do his thing. And the media is taking notice of all that. Outlets and websites are talking about his possible Hall of Fame entrance one day, and SI’s Peter King has him on the Mid-season All Pro team at WR along with Wes Welker & Calvin Johnson. He’s probably not the only one. No doubt, he’s well on his way to another Pro Bowl and probably numerous other awards. But it’s not new to Smith and it won’t be the last time he grabs the spotlight for his work on field.

Smitty is currently ranked 37th in career receiving yards in NFL history with 9,802 yards.  There are currently 5 active players are ahead of him: Hines Ward, Derrick Mason, Reggie Wayne, Chad Ochocinco and Falcons TE and future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. None of those players except Gonzalez is a lock to make the Hall.

If Smith wins a Super Bowl ring, it’ll be heavily taken into consideration by the panel. Wayne and Ward both have rings, Mason has consistently put up steady numbers but has always been under the radar as a top WR and Ochocinco’s career was similar to Smith’s until the past few seasons where his career has appeared to stall and his career is all but on the downside. This group of players is in the category of “Almost.. but needs more work.” Give each of these players a few more seasons to check off criteria boxes and they may move up the future Hall of Famers list.

With Cam Newton at QB, Smitty has already said in numerous interviews that he wants to play another 3 or 4 years and with the way he takes care of himself, he definitely could. With Newton throwing to him, he could continue to post 1000+ yards for the next 4 or so years, potentially adding on 4,000-5,000 yards to his career numbers. Those kind of numbers will move him past 10,000 yards and up the list of already enshrined/future Hall of Fame players. Even if he moves to the slot, the connection that Smith and Newton have will continue to grow in the future seasons.

After QB Jake Delhomme, Smith struggled to connect with new QBs who came in to fill Jake’s shoes. Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen and a host of other 3rd string fill-ins who played QB while the injured and the just plain awful QBs who were supposed to be ‘the future’ instead made the Panthers decide to draft Newton 1st overall. The connection and relationship Smitty and Jake had on and off the field, was almost like man-love. A tough ask, it wasn’t until Newton came in this offseason that the old man and the new guy started to get along like a house on fire. So far, the bond that has been made has been special, reminiscent of the Jake-Steve connection that lead Carolina to a couple of playoff appearances including Super Bowl 38. The connection of fiery, angry, passionate, chip-on-the-shoulder Smith and Jake, the gunslingin’ country boy from Louisiana who made his way into the league in similar fashion to Kurt Warner, from NFL Europe and backup to starter in a Super Bowl.

Now it’s Cam and Steve and so far, the results speak for themselves. An uncanny duo, one would think before the season started that perhaps Newton’s favorite target would be a TE or a slot receiver. But the rookie made a connection with 89 often and early, with the 2 working out during the summer. One thing that impressed Smith of Cam was his work ethic and his up-bringing; the support from his father Cecil – something coach Ron Rivera has praised often too of the young QB. Both players are similar, yet so different. Smith is 5-9, Newton is 6-5 but is probably closer to 6-6 and they’re birthdays are 1 day apart in May; Smith is May 12, Newton is May 11. Both want to win and are the face of the franchise. Both have that hunger, that drive; the work ethic. They both have their haters, but they also have a very large following. If the rest of the team can improve and get it together in the next couple of seasons, look for Newton and Smith to be the next big duo in the NFL, leading the way and helping Smith become a legit Hall of Fame candidate.

Right now though, Smith is on track to break Jerry Rice’s single season receiving record of 1848 receiving yards. No doubt, he’ll have some stiff competition from Welker who is also having an outstanding season with New England. Smith has to get 930 yards in the back end of the season while Welker only needs 60 yards less. The Patriots offense has struggled at times this season & if they really get going, watch out. However, they’ll be playing in severe weather conditions later on in the season which could hurt Welker’s chances. The Panthers however will be mainly around in the south and in domes, helping Smith’s chances. Another factor could be that the Panthers defense isn’t the greatest, so if they get behind in games, it will make the offense have to air it out and games could turn into a shootout, which again helps both Newton & Smith’s yards. Good news for fantasy players this season if you have either Brady & Welker or Newton & Smith.

Smith could potentially, hit 2000 yards if he increases his current pace of 100 plus yards per game to at least 135.25 over the next 8 games. He already has 7 100 yard receiving games this year, but will need to turn those 100 yard games into 150, 180 yard games if he has any chance of hitting 2k yards. He’ll probably have to have a 200 yard game at some point, or at least a few 160-180 yard games to close the gap. Rice had a huge game when he had 14 catches for 289 yards vs. the Vikings in ’95, helping him hit the 1,848 yards he had for the record-making season. While it may sound out of reach & realistically it probably is, it does say something about the current trend in the NFL with so many QBs and WRs putting up big numbers & having 2 great receivers on track to come close or even maybe surpass the great Jerry Rice and his single-season record.

But this season should come as no surprise to you if you know the Steve Smith story. Fact is, there’s not much more I can tell you that will surprise you. Just in case you don’t know the full story, here’s a brief recap of one of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL.

Drafted in the 3rd round out of Utah, the 5 foot 9 wide receiver came into the league as a returner, a specialist and his and the legend was born the first time he touched the ball in the NFL, as he took it back the other way for a 99 yard TD return in the Metrodome vs. the Vikings. That rookie season, he made the Pro Bowl as a returner.  As soon as Panthers GM Marty Hurney drafted him, they knew they had something special. It wasn’t until a few seasons later when he began to develop into a wide receiver, that the fruits of labor began to show. Soon, he was a #1 receiver. With Jake Delhomme at QB the Panthers would make a trip to the big dance in 2003-04, with Smith’s play at WR along with Panthers legend, Muhsin Muhammad and veteran wide receiver Ricky Proehl (now an offensive assistant with the Panthers). Smith helped his status as an elite WR when he caught a beautifully thrown TD pass from Delhomme in Super Bowl 38 vs. the Patriots and went on to have a monster game. His legend actually began in the Divisional Playoffs a couple of weeks earlier vs. the Rams, when Smith caught a 69 yard TD pass from Delhomme in double OT, the play famously dubbed “X-Clown” where Smith can be seen, arms outstretched as he ran into the endzone.

Following the huge 2003-04 season, Smith then went onto suffer a broken leg in week 1 action vs. the Green Bay Packers, ending his season for 2004-05. Muhsin Muhammad went onto having a fantastic year in Smith’s absence, however Smith more than made up for it in 2005-06 when he helped the Panthers reach the NFC Conference Championship, leading the NFL in all receiving categories and getting All-Pro and Pro Bowl nominations as well as co-Comeback Player of the Year (with LB Tedy Bruschi.) From there his legend grew and grew. A top fantasy stud, he continued to have solid seasons in ’06, ’07 and then had another breakout season in 2008 as he helped steer the Panthers back to the playoffs. Following that he had solid seasons until 2010 as he had his worst statistical season and the Panthers went 2-14.

And then 2011 happened and we sit here, talking about Smitty as a possible Hall of Fame candidate & for Panthers fans like myself, it’s a great thing to see 89 dominating again. We know the story, we know the journey. We know his talent level and what he’s had to overcome. His incidents, his past. We felt sorry for him, having to go through last season as we all felt it. We don’t blame him asking for a trade. But then you see the kind of player he is, the kind of teammate he is to the rookie QB and even though the team only has 2 wins in 2011, Smith is back and having fun. He’s going out there, making plays as if he’s just a kid playing some ball in the park. The competitive fire still burns and like it’s been said before, Newton has been a fountain of youth for Smith who is still troubling defenses who now can’t commit 2 or 3 guys to Smith because of the threat of Newton who can hurt you with his arms or legs. Now it’s a different offense and it’s one that is tailor-made for Smith and if he keeps on doing what he’s doing and putting up astronomical numbers and helping Carolina win along the way, then we couldn’t be happier as fans of the Panthers and of Smith.

During the last game vs. the Vikings, Smith had a controversial and costly holding penalty against him as Newton scrambled to get the ball into the endzone. The Panthers were driving, down by 3 and needed a FG to tie it. Smith blocked a defender, before running to take out another as Newton dove, trying to break the plane of the endzone. He was called on the first block, a hold. The Panthers eventually settled for a FG, a 31-yard chip shot only to have Olindo Mare shank it wide. The Panthers lost and Smith gladly vented to the media afterwards about the call. In a few words he said, “..for a 70-year-old man gimping down the field, I guess that’s what the ref saw.”

Classic Steve. Classic 89. That’s the bottom line.

As far as I’m concerned, Smitty has given a lot to this team and will continue to do so. As a veteran and a leader, I for one applaud him for telling it like it is & frankly, he can say whatever he wants to say. We need guys like him, keeping us on our toes and being blatantly honest in a league full of political correctness and pussy-footing. If every guy had the fight, the tenacity the passion and love for this game that he does, the game would be in a better place. He only wants the right calls made and he knows the referees missed a call there that should’ve been put down to a football play. Just let them play, in those instances. But hey, that’s football in 2011 and we’ll agree to disagree. Removing my homer glasses for a second, we can’t really sit here and say that Smith should’ve made it a legal block. As a professional football player, he’ll tell you until the day he dies that that was a legal block & he’s probably right.

But like I said, that’s Steve Smith for you. As long as he is yapping and getting angry – doing what he does best with that swagger of his every Sunday, then all you can do is watch and enjoy the rollecoaster ride of emotions that he’ll take you along for.

Who knows how many fights Steve Smith has left in him. Who knows how many yards, how many seasons he has left. All we know is that he is a damn good football player who is underrated, under appreciated and has been since he was drafted into this league.

He’ll still carry the chip on his shoulder, even when he stands up there at Canton as his bust is unveiled. He’ll still carry the chip, because people love to hate on 89. But he’s used to it. He’s used to getting back up after a big hit from a LBer after he crosses over the middle, spinning the ball celebrating a first down. He’s used to owning DBs and LBs, literally knocking them on their rear as he continues to show that he has one of the nastiest stiff-arms in the NFL. He is used to it all, even after 11 NFL seasons.

That’s just Steve Smith in a nutshell. Chip on the shoulder with that swagger, used to showing the doubters wrong, used to putting on a show every Sunday.

And for that alone; for that entertainment that you provide us Steve, I once again thank you.

From every Panthers fan worldwide, we thank you for being you, for being special and for giving us your all, for giving us hope for the future.. for giving us greatness.

I for one can’t wait to see how the rest of 2011 turns out for Smitty. But watch closely because it may just be record-breaking.

GTA 5 Trailer Debut: Questions Answered

Finally the world watched and it damn sure delivered.

Credit: Rockstar Games

After much anticipation and hype surrounding the news that a GTA V (5, for those thinking I’m saying GTA-vee) does exist, on November 2nd the first GTA V trailer was revealed by Rockstar. For many like myself, from the opening shot to the closing fade, my jaw was getting reacquainted with the carpet for a good 5 minutes. Wow. HOLY. SHIT! Incredible.. and it’s only the trailer.

Here, check it out for yourself below. See what you think (if you haven’t seen it yet due to you either residing under a rock or being in a coma since before last week.)

As I wrote in my previous, pre-trailer blog, there are a lot questions that would be answered just by the one introductory video. And I wasn’t far off.

Firstly, the rumors that it’d be set on the west coast turned out to be confirmed. <Cue Law & Order soundbite, “dah-dun.”>

The official setting for GTA V is Los Santos (Los Angeles). If you look at the trailer, you’d take one look and think its San Andreas all over again. Wrong. Easy mistake to make though. Rockstar Games has officially stated that the whole state of San Andreas won’t actually be featured, which isn’t so bad since the Los Santos map has been said to be the “largest and most ambitious game Rockstar has yet created.”

Credit: Rockstar Games

With surrounding hills, beaches, countryside, mountains, deserts, the city itself and everything in-between, you get more than what Liberty City had to offer in GTA IV; a lot more variety and more exploration. It’s as if Rockstar are injecting some Red Dead Redemption wilderness into the game (more on some of that later.)

Credit: Rockstar Games

Although Rockstar have said it won’t feature the whole state of San Andreas, it may just be a smokescreen.  There has been no solid proof on the surrounding areas of Las Venturas & San Fierro; those details may be released later on (or maybe even as part of some downloadable content later on) so as to make sure the focus is on Los Santos, rather than San Andreas again.

From the trailer, the location of the game was answered, just like in the first GTA IV trailer with Liberty City. GTA V will focus on the LA lifestyle and play on the Hollywood (or Vinewood as it’s called) theme. With the GTA V logo and the “V” made to look like money, greed and chasing that “American Dream”, all in pursuit for the almighty dollar will no doubt be a prominent part of the game. Where else do people go besides Liberty City and Las Venturas, to chase the green as well as the fame..? LA. Beverly Hills. Hollywood.  It all adds up when you put 2 and 3 together.

Unlike San Andreas, GTA 5 will be set in the modern day just like GTA IV was. You can expect that there will be the latest cars, the latest tech. Just by watching the trailer and seeing the for sale sign go up on a house and the homeless people, you can tell the recession in America and everything to do with our world in 2011-12, will be in this game. Similar Hollywood headlines will be parodied out as it was in GTA IV. Just the thought of all the details has me salivating.

Reading around the web and sifting through all the rumors, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding the chase for the almighty dollar and the hint that there could be a major drug war going on throughout the game, as well as corruption with solicitors and banks, maybe even high ranking politicians. It would definitely add an extra layer or excitement to the game and help it become one of the deepest and ambitious games to date.

After the main revelation of the location, we’re shown a man in a suit, looking out over the balcony at Los Santos. There is the narration from a man, telling of how he’s trying to get away and retire from his previous lifestyle and be a normal dad, live a normal life. To quote, “..So I bought a big house, and came here. Thought I’d be a dad like all the other dads, and my kids, would be like the kids on TV.”

Credit: Rockstar Games

Putting 2 & 3 together again, one would think that the prominent figure in that one shot would be the main character, narrating and introducing himself to us. Just who that is in the picture and whether that is the main character, are 2 questions we probably won’t get answered for a while. One rumor was that it would be an older Tommy Vercetti from Vice City. If my math is correct, he’d be around 60 years old and honestly, would anyone want to run around LA with a 60 year old man? According to sources around the web, the casting agent for Ray Liotta who did the voice for Vercetti has shot down any truth to that story. Doesn’t mean it isn’t him though. Liotta could gain a lot from it too. One of the biggest gaming franchises ever, starring in one of the biggest, most anticipated games not named Call of Duty.. who would pass up a chance like that?!

I also have another theory, on the main character and the news that in GTA V, you can play as multiple characters. My idea or “hunch” is that Vercetti will be back, as well as Packie and Niko from GTA IV, CJ from San Andreas – it will be Oceans 11, back for one last shot. The video game version of “The Avengers” except with more firepower and less super powers.. and latex.

Credit: Rockstar Games

All the characters reunite, from different time periods to the modern day LA, somehow coming together to take down the corrupt and still get a final slice of the pie for themselves. Hey, it’s a work in progress and just my guess. Never said it was good.

Right now, this trailer is just the beginning of what will probably be a tight-lipped 12 months or so. Information is already slowly, painfully leaking out as to what may or may not be featured in the highly anticipated game. According to a source, the following information came from his co-workers at the magazine, where they were given a 30-minute gameplay preview before the trailer aired via a video call. He then proceeded to post on GTAForums.com and share the privledged and confidential information with us. Believable? Read on and judge for yourself.

(Quoted from forum:)

Hi all, I am new to this forum and what I am writing here is not to spam/troll, etc. I work for a Playstation magazine in the UK ( I will not be disclosing any further details….) and a select few of our team have seen via video links with Rockstar in Scotland 30 minutes of in-game footage. I have not, personally, been privy to this unfortunately but I will relay to you what I have heard so far and I promise you that none of this is BS but that is down to the lot of you fans to judge. Ok, here goes:

1: The game world is absolutely massive and will push both xbox and PS3 to the very limit in terms of what it has accomplished. Yes, the main city is simply Los Santos however is it AT LEAST 4 times bigger than Liberty City in GTA 4 and that is just Los Santos. The surrounding country side, beaches, etc are massive. For instance, we saw the main character ( an African/American, early 30’s) travel by car from the center of Los Santos into the wildnerness and it took over 15 minutes. The views were incredible from farmhouses with cattle, huge wind farms, an oil refinery which appeared to be living and breathing with nearly 100 NPCs working on machinery, operating vehicles, lifting and loaded, etc, unlike the gas works in GTA 4 which seemed to only house a few NPC at a time. The forests are more beautiful than those in RDR and featured people camping, young NPC drinking and dancing around campfires, people riding dirt bikes and jumping over logs, streams, etc. The water effects, forna, plants, trees all looked beautiful.

2: The shooting mechanics have been greatly improved with animations for diving, climbing, rolling and crawling all added for better realism. The re-loading animations for new ammo also look cooler, less static.

3: There is much more climbable elements in the world such as ladders, overhand climbing, etc.

4: There are animals in the game from dogs to cattle but at this time it is not confirmed if you will be able to harm the animals. Rockstar were able to get away with it in RDR as it was a true depiction of the world in which the game was set. Allowing dogs/cattle to die in a game sent in current times may cause headaches with PETA. Its unclear if Rockstar were joking here.

5: There are planes to pilot and they can be crashed into buildings if you choose to do so….

6: Rockstar have included many, many more interior locations such as a shopping mall, college campus, police station, a huge hospital and there is also a vast underground sewer network which one mission later in the game involves a jet ski chase that culminates in a Fugitive-esque waterfall jump ( there are nods to the ridiculous but awesome Ballad Of Gay Tony missions)

7: The city is full of NPCs jogging, weight-lifting, hitting on women, being chased on foot by cops, shopping, washing cars, fixing fences, moving home, filling up their cars, etc.

REAL JUICY INFO:

1: Cars can be upgraded/repaired and it has been considered to have a car have fuel forcing the player to fill her up.

2: The dating aspect of the game is gone. You still have a cell-phone but only people you will meet in the game will call you to ask you to do a mission or to ask you to do something else before the mission.

3: Weapons include the usual arsenal you’d aspect but the flamethrowers, remote mines, laxer trip mines and claymores are included. It is possible now to pick up random objects in a street/buidling to use as a weapon. There is also a museam where it is possible to steal old age swords, axes, etc.

4: it is possible to rupture a fuel line and if you shot at the trail of gasoline it will lead straight back to the car blowing it up.

5: mini games such as bowling, darts, etc have all gone. You can play basketball, weight train, arm wrestle, gamble and cage fight, enter triatholons, water races, cannoing, ab-saling, rock climbing, base jumping, ski diving. More to be confirmed.

6: Character customisation is back but only in terms of clothing, body weight, etc. The player you start off which, much like CJ, can’t be altered by race, age, height, etc.

7: Rockstar said burglary missions may return but only as part of missions and not on neigbourhood houses.

8: No children NPC at all. Ever.

9: There is now an ability to grab people and use as sheilds or in “hostage” situations.

10: The cops are much, much, much more realistic. If you kill somebody when you know there are no cops around you will not run the risk of a one star as often as you would in GTA4. The cops will use smoke and tear gas, dogs, riot gear and rams to knock down the doors of buildings you are hiding in.

11: You can enter some buildings and lock doors, push objects in the way to barricade.

12: You become better at things as the game progresses. If you only ride motorbikes then you will increase your skills, same as individual weapons.

13: Certain weapons can be customisable and some even home-made.

14: One mission involves breaking out a very familiar GTA icon from a previous game…

15: Torrential rain fall and sunshine and even tremors will appear in the game.

 Source

Interesting information. Take it for what it is, internet rumors at this point but there could very well be something to this information. Personally, I love the fact there are animals and wilderness, an added element I think just helps the realism factor climb up a few notches. The fact that the characters and guns can be customizable is pretty awesome as well. If half of these “features” are true, it would be fantastic obviously. I do think Rockstar will pull something unreal out of a hat, and my trust is in them to deliver once again and deliver on some fantastic features and details that will leave gamers and fans breathless.

For now, we can keep sitting here, thinking about possible scenarios and asking questions and sifting through rumors that the interwebz provides us with. But until we know more and have more questions answered, it’s just basically a game of wait and see.

Hard to wait and see when GTA V will probably be the most anticipated and most likely the best selling game of all time. Big call, but I can see it happening. I know I can’t wait. Must. have. now.

The main pressing questions were answered and confirmed, which is a start.

The only question I’ll be waiting to get answered now in the coming months is when will it be hitting our shelves?

If you want more GTA V information and news until then, I suggest following IGN.com or going into hibernation until the release of the game. For some, it might be the only way to survive premature excitement.

Credit: Rockstar Games

NFL Week 8: The Big Guy’s Week to Shine

Football is a great game. It entertains us every Sunday, whether our team wins or loses (for the most part.)

There are some things during a game that just make you smile. A kickoff return for a TD, a big catch or a big hit – the electrifying & the mesmerizing. But sometimes it’s the small things that are just as great. One of those is the fat guy touchdown; or any football play that involves a big ugly rumbling down the field, following blocks and shedding tackles like Barry Sanders.

(See here for more of the great fat guy TDs in years past.)

Football, we thank you. We thank you for giving us this one, fantastic delight.

This 2011-12 NFL season has been good to those of us that love to see the big guys in action. They rarely get a chance to shine outside of their role as the warriors of the trenches. Most of the time if they end up anywhere past the 2nd level, we ask, “What are they doing there?!” But when they get a chance to dive on a loose ball or to show off their high school running back skills, it makes everyone in the stadium stand up and applaud the effort that these 300 pound monsters give. And you know they savor the moment of appreciation.

At the start of the year, New England’s Vince Wilfork gave us some 2 fantastic highlights full of big, round glory when he turned into a shutdown corner, picking off a Philip Rivers pass in week 2 before picking off another pass vs. the Raiders in week 4. Both times he returned it for a big gain. Head down, protecting the ball, trying to truck whoever got in the big man’s way. No TDs, but it was a beautiful sight; a big, beautiful sight that made the earth tremor.

Pick #1:

Pick # 2:

Then there was Wade Smith scoring the first touchdown by an offensive lineman in Texans history, which created a buzz on social networking sites like Twitter. Facing the Ravens D on the 6 yard line, Texans RB Ben Tate rushed to the 1 before Ravens DB Lardarius Webb knocked the ball from Tate. Tate tried to get to the ball, which had rolled into the endzone, but he was out of reach. An alert Smith, dived on the ball and recovered the fumble, allowing the Texans to score and for the fat guy touchdown spike to happen..

Then week 8 happened. Enter Joe Staley and Clint Session/the Jaguar’s defense.

Everyone loves a nose tackle in at the goal line as a FB, blocking or taking the handoff for a FB run. But nothing quite compares to San Francisco offensive tackle Joe Staley, hauling in a pass from QB Alex Smith and taking it upfield.

First off, outside of Kyle Turley, how often do you see a big guy/offensive tackle catch a football? (Or have a designated play for the eligible tackle?)

Everything about this play is epic. From the balls to call such a play, to the execution, the perfect route running from Staley, to the reception of the pass, to the turning and rumbling up field, to trying to stick the head down, take on contact and truck a few defenders for a couple of extra yards.

And then there’s the first down celebration! Have you ever seen a guy happier to make a play? Probably not. Staley is like a kid at Christmas time.

No doubt, look for coach Jim Harbaugh to look Staley’s way more often for a big play. 4th down, down by 3, ball on the 40 yard line, 30 seconds left.. Smith drops back, Staley wide open.. boom, plucks the ball out of the air; sprints it in for 6. (And by sprint, I mean drags all 11 defenders into the endzone while the clock hits 0:00.)

If that wasn’t enough excitement for the week, there was the Jags defense stepping up against the Texans.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/auto/09000d5d823991ba/Session-sack-fumble

Late in the 2nd quarter, with the Texans up by 7 and with the ball on their own 45 yard, Texans QB Matt Schaub dropped back to pass. Jaguar’s defender Clint Session sacked Schaub, popping the ball loose and in rumbled DE Matt Roth. Roth then proceeded to do what everyone in the stadium didn’t expect. Like a kid in a schoolyard just playing ball, he played hot potato with his team mates, lateralling the ball to defensive tackle Terrance Knighton who flipped it back to Session who gained another 10 yards before Texans RB Arian Foster got him down at the 10. No TD, but the glorious running of the mound was more than enough to satisfy even the Texans fans.

That one play brought back everything that is great about this game. Just a group of big kids, getting paid to play a game that only most of us would ever dream about. And they’re having fun doing it.

Bonus points to Roth for not having eyes only for the endzone and sharing the turnover with his team mates. Sure, Roth could’ve tried to hog the glory and churned those chubby legs for maybe at best, an extra few more yards but unselfishly, he flipped it back to his other fat friends to see if they could pick up a few extra yards, maybe even 6 on the play. Not quite a TD, which may have resulted in a group of big guys with an even more memorable TD dance, but hey.. it’s week 9 and the season is still young. And if that happens, I’ll add it to the collection and make it worthy of a blog post.

Rumble on you big, beautiful sons of bitches. America and the world salutes you.

Panthers Game Grades & Notes – Week 8

Carolina Panthers (2-6) vs. Minnesota Vikings (1-7)

Bank of America Stadium, November 30th 2011.

Overall Offense: B

The Panthers had a solid game plan under offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and managed to score 21 points through the air, however several key penalties and a string of 3 & outs in the 2nd, allowed the Vikings back in the game, rather than keeping Adrian Peterson on the sidelines which would have helped out a shotty defense. The Panthers offense did a good job holding the ball for 28 minutes, had a nice 50% 3rd down efficiency rate and were able to make some big plays at key moments. However, they didn’t quite score enough and made too many mistakes for the grade to be any better than a B.  

Quarterbacks: B

Cam Newton had an outstanding game against a tough Vikings defense. He threw for 290 yards and 3 TDs with no interceptions for a QB rating of 117.6, including a nice pass to Brandon LaFell on 4th down, gaining 44 yards on the play as they drove to tie the game in the 4th quarter. He added 53 yards on 6 carries including a 24 yard scamper in the 3rd quarter. However amongst the good, Newton was sacked 3 times and lost the ball twice on fumbles.

Running Backs: C

Jonathan Stewart & DeAngelo Williams continue to be an efficient duo, capable of either having their own big day out or helping Newton move the chains. On this day, they were merely helping move the chains with Stew gaining 49 yards on 13 carries and DeAngelo rushing for 26 on 7 attempts. Combined, they only managed 3.8 ypc and although they look explosive at times, the offense needs more balance & Double Trouble need more carries. If they can do that, Cam will have less on his shoulders & the Panthers can control the clock and game more. Steve Smith also added a nice end around play for 12 yards, in which he owned Cedric Griffin via a nasty stiff arm.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B

3 passing TDs from Newton: 2 to TE’s and 1 to Steve Smith. What a day to be a Panthers receiver. Shockey finally got his 1st TD as a Panther vs. the Vikes on a 1 yard pass – his only reception for the day.  Not wanting to have Greg Olsen feel left out, Newton hit Olsen on a streak, straight down the middle for a 39 yard TD catch, totaling 73 yards for the day on 4 receptions. Smith continues to be a threat every time he touches the ball, having another big day with big plays, catching 7 balls for 100 yards, including a nice catch and run 22 yard TD. However despite the good, Legedu Naanee and Smith had key holding calls that would’ve changed the game and apart from LaFell’s 44 yard 4th down catch, the supporting cast of receivers didn’t do much.

Offensive Linemen: D

The offensive line had a forgettable day out. While they kept Newton clean for most of the afternoon, they allowed 3 sacks including 2 key fumbles (that they were unable to recover both times) that allowed the Vikings back in the game. Tackle Jordan Gross, in All-Pro form, was beaten twice on one play by DE Jared Allen. First for the sack, then on the recovery of the ball. The Panthers line also failed to open up holes for the Panthers RB duo of Stewart and Williams, only averaging 3.8 ypc on the ground. Penalties also killed the Panthers, an area that the line and the team in general needs to clean up over the next few weeks.

Overall Defense: D

The Panthers scored a D, because they simply allowed the Vikings to run over them in the 2nd half. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott had a good plan and in the 1st half, it was executed well, holding RB Adrian Peterson. But through the defenses and offenses fault, the D stayed on teh field too long as the game wore on and holes opened up for the Vikings offense, allowing Peterson and rookie QB Christian Ponder to control the game. Although the Panthers did a good job pressuring Ponder and forcing several mistakes, in the end they couldn’t stop the Vikes offense enough to keep the lead. Signs of improvement are little consolation for this D.

Defensive Linemen: B

The defensive line was one of the bright spots for the D, helping keep Ponder in check and helping to hold Peterson to only 86 yards on the ground, with a 15 yard TD run being the longest allowed. The combination of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy again gave the Vikes offensive line fits, with Johnson racking up another sack & 2 more QB pressures, along with rookie Terrell McClain. Hardy didn’t have a sack, but knocked the ball down once, almost picking off one of those. The front 4 disrupted Ponder enough into mistakes, and played lights out at times, forcing the Vikings to go 3 & out 7/14 times. Honorable mention to DE Antwan Applewhite, played a solid game and has been playing well for a while.

Linebackers: D

The Vikings had the Panthers linebackers running around all day and although they kept the Vikings offense in check in the 1st half, they eventually grew tired and cracks appeared. LB Omar Gaither had a solid game and had to play more once LB Thomas Williams went down with a neck injury early in the game. Gaither finished with 7 solo tackles and a sack, James Anderson added 7 tackles with 4 solo stops, and Dan Connor only made 2 stops. The group was out of position at times, especially when they were sucked up in blocks on Adrian Peterson’s screen pass TD in the 2nd quarter. The LBs also couldn’t stop Peterson at the goal line, allowing him to rumble in for a 9 yard run, and couldn’t stop Percy Harvin from scoring up the middle in the 1st. Toby Gerhart was also popping off nice runs (26 on 5 carries) until he went out with an injury – a relief for the defense at that point. The LBs (and safeties) had trouble containing Ponder’s safety valves of TE’s Visanthe Shiancoe & Kyle Rudolph who picked up some nice gains that helped the Vikings keep the ball moving. Overall, this group is hurting and more injuries are just wearing on this group and the defense.

Secondary: C

The secondary didn’t have a bad day compared to the linebackers, especially Captain Munnerlyn. Munnerlyn was everywhere, on special teams he was covering kicks like a demon and on D, he helped contain the Ponder passing attack. He had a key strip of Percy Harvin inside the 10, wrestling the ball from Harvin’s grip and showing the tenacity you know coach Ron Rivera loves. He also added a sack on a blitz, jumping Ponder from behind. Safety Sherrod Martin had a game to forget, all over the place and not in a good way. He couldn’t wrap Peterson up at the goal line, allowing him to spin out of the tackle and score. Charles Godfrey had 9 stops and several good ones on RB Peterson. Chris Gamble struggled against Percy Harvin at times, especially in the 4th when he missed a tackle on Harvin that kept the Vikes drive alive to get the game-winning FG.  Overall, the unit held the key guys in Ponder 18/28 for 236 and Harvin to 58 yard on 4 catches, however the Vikes were efficient enough to get enough points to win. The Panthers could’ve done with defensive back Darius Butler, who had to miss the game to be with his daughter, who had open heart surgery. (She’s expected to make a full recovery.)

Overall Special Teams: F

When the game starts out with a 78 yard kickoff return by the Vikings and ends with a missed 31-yard FG attempt by Olindo Mare, the unit is headed for a F – no matter what they do in between. Panthers kick returner Kealoha Pilares fumbled twice, recovering both and didn’t do much else in returning the ball. Armanti Edwards fielded the ball well and picked up minimal yards on punt returns. The kick coverage team forced the ball inside the 10 a couple of times, helping out the D with field position and punter Jason Baker had a solid day, not making any glaring mistakes.

Overall Coaching: C

Coach Ron Rivera has this group in the right direction, no doubt. They’ve been competitive in every game, taken it to some of the better teams in the leagues and for a young group with several key injuries, they’re doing better than a lot of people originally thought. This game was winnable, as were a few earlier in the season. But that’s the mark of a young team. Penalties, errors.. things that good teams eliminate so in that same situation, they win rather than come away with an ‘almost win.’ Against the Vikings, the Panthers had a good gameplan on both sides and were able to execute for the most part. After the 2nd half, the Vikings controlled the game on both sides and without that lull in the 3rd, the Panthers probably would’ve won the game. Small things, finishing drives rather than go 3 & out – are marks of a young team. The D was on the field way too long in the 2nd half (another mark of a young team & a patchwork D) and no doubt the Panthers need some help at LB and possibly another DB, whether late this season or next season. The Panthers are yet to play a complete game, with special teams being the main problem this time around. Overall, hard to criticize the coaches except when Rivera decided to end the 1st half and let the clock run out, rather than try a FG (which in the end, would’ve tied the game & changed the outcome.) Execution is the main problem with this group, and the Panthers have the bye week to work that and any other kinks out before Tennessee in week 10.

Game ball:

Cam Newton: Played an almost mistake free game, was poised in the pocket, used his legs and helped move the chains and put points on the board. Leads from the front, helps Smith get his 100 and drove the team down the field in the final seconds, doing all he could to help get a win.

Stats: 22/35 for 290 yards, 3 TDs, O interceptions, 117.6 QB rating & 6 carries for 53 yards and 2 fumbles.

Goat of the Week: Olindo Mare: It should never come down to one play where the blame is laid upon just one guy, but it’s kind of his job. From 31 yards out, usually it’s a money kick. A chip shot. Almost an extra point attempt. One play is all the Panthers needed him to execute, and he choked – handing the Vikings a win rather than a chance to win in overtime, and dropping the Panthers to 2-6, heading into their bye week.

Stats: 0/1on field goals, 3/3 on extra points, 3 touchbacks.

Next up for Carolina: Bye week.

Sound FX: Ron Rivera and the Panthers:

Rivera loves him some Cam Newton. And when I say love, I mean l-o-v-e. Here

2 Minute Drill: Week 7 in Review:

What a weird and ‘off’ week it was in the NFL in week 7 action. But that’s the NFL for you. Any given Sunday, shit can happen. Or maybe it was simply a case of a lot of players had their attentions elsewhere.. maybe say, on the release of Battlefield 3? I would say the probability of that is 94%. I would also say I’m not qualified to make probability assessments, as my math teacher will tell you.

Story of the week was no doubt the Kansas City D shutting out the Raiders & Tim Tebow coming back vs. Miami after 55 minutes of crappy, un-NFL play.

Time to huddle up, and get this game winning drive going before week 8.

1st and 10 at the 20: What does this Tebow thing mean for the Broncos? No doubt he played well in the final 5 minutes, but it also leaves more questions than answers. He and the offense sucked for 55 minutes before getting lucky thanks to a variety of factors – the Dolphins D, great playcalling, and of course, luck. Not taking anything away from him, but he was hardly the hero people are making him out to be; any person who watches football would recognize that. You play hard for 60 minutes and things go your way.

How about those Chiefs? Or should I say, how about Carson Palmer & Kyle Boller, showing how not to play QB. Sheeesh. What a fail. But give credit where credit is due. The Chiefs have turned their season around. Initially, they were headed for a top 5 draft pick next April. Now, if they win on Monday Night Football vs. the Chargers, they’ll be tied for the lead in the AFC West. Their D shut the Raiders out last week and they haven’t allowed a point since the second quarter against Indy in Week 5. Pretty good for a team with this guy as coach..

Catch along the sidelines, out of bounds, 20 yard gain. Arian Foster is carrying the Texans. The kid is insane. No doubt, fantasy players will be picking him #1 or #2 in fantasy league next season. 100 yards on the ground and 100 receiving yards? Wow. This isn’t college, that’s not supposed to happen. But it did vs. the Titans as they killed them 41-7. Meanwhile, on the opposite sideline last week, CJ only rushed 10 times for 18 yards. He’s at 2.9 ypc this season, looks bad and despite his Oline, just isn’t playing good right now. But at least he got paid, right?! Right now, CJ2K is a prime candidate for our “Check the Carton Award” for ’11.

2nd down, 1 minute left, ball at the 50 yard line. How ’bout those Lions? First Shake Gate, now Ankle Gate. What is going on? Surely a gate salesman must be making a killing off the Lions weekly headline-stealing ways. 2 home losses, maybe the road will provide some redemption this week as they travel to the gateless Colorado wilderness to take on Tebow.

Think the Bucs are the NFL’s favourite team to embarrass on an international stage? The whipping boy, if you will. The Bucs are 0-2 across the pond. There was 35-7 slapping that the Pats gave them back in 2009 and then in week 7, they got bent over and given a reach around by Cutler and Bears. Think Raheem Morris & QB Josh Freeman are looking forward to never seeing Big Ben and Wembley ever again? It would probably serve them well to either avoid the trip altogether or learn how to win consistently like the Packers do.

Speaking of the Packers, no doubt they’re the best team in the NFL. Undefeated since about week 16 of last season, they’re on a roll like a fat kid rollerblading down a hill in San Francisco. Aaron Rodgers is well on his way to Peyton status, putting up impressive numbers and even cornier commercials. Watch your back Peyton.. oh wait, you can’t turn around because of the neck thing.. that’s right. My bad.

1st down, ball on the 40, 50 seconds left. Vikings rookie QB Christian Ponder looked more like a seasoned vet in his first start vs. the Packers last week, and faces another test vs. the Panthers stingy pass defense & fellow rookie QB Cam Newton.  He was one of 6 different QBs starting last week, and was one of the more impressive ones of the pack. His numbers don’t tell the full story (13/32 for 219 yards, 2 TDs & 2 picks) but it’ll only be a matter of time before he has the city of Minnesota fully behind him, much like the rookie QB on the opposite sidelines this week in Newton.

So that was a painful showing on MNF, for the players, coaches and everyone watching. Lists were being created about “Better things to do than watch MNF” and in the end, it was Del Rio’s men who outlasted the Ravens. The Jags won on the back of Josh Scobee’s leg and some good D that forced Joe Flacco to struggle. Although, it wasn’t just him putting the ball on the ground. Maurice Jones-Drew dropped and fumbled the ball more times than he had yards and Flacco couldn’t get a 1st down until the 2nd half. If Flacco doesn’t turn it around, he’s a real candidate for the “313 Check the Carton Award for 2011.”

With the Pro Bowl voting underway, the game and selection process is as irrelevant to actual play of players during the season as ever. Years ago, you knew if a guy went to 7 Pro Bowls, he was good. Now, an overrated lineman and household name RB like Chris Johnson will get selected, even though they don’t deserve to, snubbing a more worthy & deserving candidate. Early candidates for the popularity contest include Steve Smith, Wes Welker, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson, Matt Forte, Arian Foster and that’s not even getting into the defensive players. But guessing who goes right now is as silly as the voting process itself where voting should be done at seasons end.

3rd down, ball on the 30, 30 seconds. Think Curtis Painter is making Bill Polian and Jim Isray’s job easier about firing Jim Caldwell. Or maybe Isray should fire Polian for such shitty GM work. Just goes to show that building around 1 player all these years, never quite works out well in the end. No doubt the Colts have good players, but without their QB to operate the machine, the machine and system have fallen apart. When the Saints can hang 63 points on a NFL-caliber team like the Colts, is it saying more about the Saints ability to score or is it saying more about the Colts problems?

The Chargers screwed a W against the Jets with Plaxiglass nabbing 3 TDs, the Panthers could get on a 3 game winning streak, the Bills head to Toronto this week for more fun, Big Ben is ballin’ with a worn down Steelers team and..

TOUCHDOWN. Now onto our weekly awards.

313 Week 7 Awards:

So another week is again done & dusted as we hit the halfway point of the 2011-12 season. Before we jump onto week 8, here’s a quick recap on week 7 NFL action. What we liked, and what we didn’t like so much. (This is a quickened version of what will hopefully come a weekly roundup, earlier during the week.)

Offensive Player of the Week:

DeMarco Murray, RB – Dallas Cowboys

Anytime a guy can just come off the bench, put his helmet on the right way and then proceed to scamper for a franchise-best 253 yards, breaking Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith’s team record.. it’s a pretty good day and definitely award-worthy. Murray did just that in week 7 vs. the Rams, with a 91 yard TD run on his first carry of the game. Blame the Rams, credit the Cowboys and Murray.. whatever way you look at it, spin it or dissect it; it’s an impressive outing. Congrats DeMarco.

Defensive Player of the Week:

Brandon Flowers/Kansas City Chiefs D

You could argue that it’s all about individual performances that should go here but I have the blog so nah nah eat my shorts. The Chiefs D shutout the Raiders, a divisional foe and intercepted the Raiders 6 times on the day, harassing the Raiders offense with new QB Carson Palmer AT the Black Hole. Hard to do at home, at all let alone on the road in a hostile environment. But they did, and Flowers ended up with 2 picks (1 for a pick 6) on the day, shutting down the Raiders vertical passing game and adding 3 tackles on the day. An honourable mention to Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson, for his 13 tackle effort in helping the Chiefs shutout the Raiders. A couple of huge plays lead by Johnson in the 2nd quarters, thwarted the Raiders only real chance to score. A fantastic group effort.

Special Teams Player of the Week:

Red Bryant, DE – Seattle Seahawks.

Big Red gets the award this week, after showing up big time on Sunday in a loss to Cleveland. Look like his big offseason finally paid off. Blocked field goals are a rarity in the NFL, so when it happens twice some recognition needs to be shown to the big guy who got it done for his team (as much as possible without playing RB.) Bryant blocked a 24 yard chip shot and a 48 yarder, as well as adding 4 tackles, a half sack on D as well as an ejection for getting into it with Browns TE Alex Smith. Quite the eventful outing for what Hawks fans have dubbed a recent draft “bust.”

Coach of the Week:

Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans.

You could put Ron Rivera here, you could put Todd Haley here or even Jack Del Rio for his team’s gritty win on Monday Night Football, whilst being on the hot seat and most likely, the chopping block. But it was Kubiak against the Titans who enjoyed a nice offensive outing on the back of Arian Foster. A 41-7 win over the division rival Titans and the Texans look set to enjoy a playoff berth and maybe some postseason success, with the Colts, Jaguars and Titans falling behind the times in the AFC South and the Texans reaping the benefits.

Rookie of the Week:

Cam Newton, QB – Carolina Panthers

Once again, I could put a few young guys here. There are a few rookies deserving, Von Miller in Denver, Murray in Dallas and Ponder in Minnesota making his debut. But this week, it was again Cam Newton who lead the Panthers to  their 2nd victory over the Redskins, earning himself this award and the Panthers game ball. While statistically he wasn’t eye-popping, he still managed to throw for 256 yards for a TD, completing 78.3% but also (and this is a big also) rushing for 59 yards and 1 TD. On one of those rushes, he managed to avoid the entire Redskins defense after being flushed out of the pocket, and turn it into a gain of 25 yards before stepping out of bounds. With his feet doing the talking, he managed to still ignite Steve Smith and help the Panthers put up 33 points on the day.

Headline of the Week:

‘Blame Sparano for Tebowmania.’

 Quote of the Week:

“Glad to report my genitalia are in stable condition and expected to make a full recovery!”

– Packers lineman TJ Lang, tweeting after the game. Lang was stomped in the groin area by Vikings defensive end Brian Robson during an altercation.

Not-So-Great-Play of the Week:

Curtis Painter, QB, Colts.

Painter will probably be blamed for a lot of things.. the firing of Caldwell, the extended period of time that Peyton is out for, World War 3, Tim Tebow, Jersey Shore, constant world hunger and Fergie. But one thing he does deserve, is a down right slap upside the head for this play:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/auto/09000d5d8236989f/Painter-fumbles-snap

HE TOOK A SNAP TO THE FACE. TO. THE. FACE.

At least if you’re going to fumble the ball, make it worth while. Do what David Carr used to do.. run around in your own endzone for a while before going into turtle mode or do what Romo does when he fumbles.. tries to run with it before blaming the rookie centre. Come on Curtis, you’re better than that. You’re making Peyton upset and when Peyton gets upset, he makes more commercials. Noooo!

Surprising Team of the Week:

Jaguars defeating Baltimore on Monday Night Football

Disappointing Team of the Week:

The Lions Losing to the Falcons. I really, really, really don’t like Atlanta.

Bust of the Week:

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

And so that’s it for another week of awards and accolades. Now it’s onto week 8 of NFL action. Good luck to all your teams this week! Until next time, keep it crispy.

 

GTA 5: Waiting on Answers

When I first saw the news on Twitter about Grand Theft Auto 5 and that it does actually exist; along with a premiere trailer release just around the corner, a little bit of pee came out. We’re all friends here.. it was a joyous moment. Not unlike watching Cam Newton throw to Steve Smith really. Pure excitement exited my body, at the very thought of a game that could be the best GTA to date and hopefully, top GTA IV.

For me, GTA San Andreas was one of the best, if not the best released GTA game of all by Rockstar Games, but I really got into GTA IV and the expansion packs. Addictive, it had a different tone and a much more realistic storyline. If the 2 of those games can be combined in one, awesome game with a few tweaks here and there, I’m in.

(Let’s be honest here for a second as we’re still all friends here.. I’m in just at the mention of GTA – or any game made by Rockstar. See: Red Dead, LA Noire etc.)

Wednesday, November 2nd. Mark it in your diaries. Mark it on your hand after marking it in your diaries and then set an alarm every hour until November 2nd. (It will be a Thursday here in Australia, but nonetheless, an extra 24hrs won’t kill me.) November 2nd is when the wait is over and we finally get to see some action from GTA V. How much? Who knows. Hopefully, basing off the first trailer from GTA IV back in 2007, they’ll reveal just as much if not more.

The GTA IV trailer revealed the location, the main protagonist and the start to the storyline of Niko leaving the ship on the docks of Liberty City to come to America. Who knows what questions will be answered this time around, if any at all get answered. No doubt, we’ll be left excited yet with many more unanswered questions.

Rumour around the interwebz is that the location has been confirmed by sources as Los Angeles, which I love. I liked San Andreas, but I loved the big city feel of Liberty City. LA can provide that, along with something entwined with Hollywood and Beverly Hills most likely. No doubt it’ll basically be as if they turned LA Noire into GTA 5 except with a few differences in character and gameplay. (And time period.) But will those rumours turn out to be true? Maybe the sources are just a smokescreen for something bigger? Washington DC? Philadelphia? Boston? Dallas? VEGAS?!

Another rumour is that GTA 5 will be returning to San Andreas for a 2nd time around. I don’t see it, returning to the same location (although awesome) for an entire game but, they might just return there for the start of the storyline, as evidenced by this ticket from the end of GTA IV – that is, if they continue on from GTA IV, whether in a big way or just to tie in some type of backstory (eg. reading about the bank robbery/aftermath of the robbery from GTA IV in the local LA paper or something like that.)

I for one loved Niko. Yeah, he was a bit serious but he kicked ass. If he and Packie have something to do with GTA 5, that would unbelievably cool. Word on the street is that you’ll be controlling multiple people, rather than just 1 player like you had with Niko. Different protagonists could me we control Packie, Niko and the new, main guy? All speculation at this point, and until we see more.. that’s all we can really do. Discuss and speculate; procrastinate.

So now we wait. For the trailer, for more details, for leaks. Anything, to feed our need of information on the new GTA game. Realistically, we’re probably 12 months away or so from release. Based on the time from when the first trailer of GTA IV (end of March ’07) was released and the actual game release, it was around 12-13 months, 29th April 2008. Expect it to be ready to ship out before Christmas in 2012. But hey, that’s just assuming based on past history. Maybe they’re only 6 months away. Maybe they’re already finalizing the minor details and are just polishing DVDs. WHO KNOWS?!

One thing is for sure. Expect a showing at E3 in 2012. There wasn’t a hint or mention of GTA V at E3 this year and there’s little doubt they’ll miss the opportunity to further build up suspense at the one of the world’s biggest gaming expos, especially since the expo is in LA (as is GTAV rumoured to be.)

All that remains are lots of questions. What will the game show? Will Niko be back? Will there be any follow on from GTA IV or will this be a complete new, separate game? Will there be gameplay and multiplayer improvements? What, sweet-ass cool things will we be able to do? Will there be expansion packs and if so, how many? Am I getting too worked up over this GTA news??

So what say you.. What are your thoughts and guesses on GTA 5? What are your wishes?

Feel free to comment away, let’s pass the time until November 2nd!

Carolina Panthers (1-4) at Atlanta Falcons (2-3) Preview:

Almost. Almost, but not quite.

One or two plays is all it takes in the NFL. A couple of plays here and there and a young team could be 4-1 rather than 1-4. But that’s the difference between the good teams in this league and the rebuilding ones that are still developing their team.

Not quite good enough, not quite ripe enough is how you can describe the Carolina Panthers season to date. A young team, hanging in games but not quite there yet. Not experienced enough to close out those close games, to finish drives and to put teams away.

And while they’re 1-4, there’s hope. Little consolation to the Panthers players and fans, but after going 2-14 last season with a QB carousel and numerous big questions looming over this team, the way Cam Newton and new head coach Ron Rivera have breathed life back into the team and the city of Charlotte, is something that must not be taken lightly.

When Ron Rivera was first hired and he put together his staff, I was excited. My thoughts were, it would take a couple of off-season’s to get this team turned around, from a John Fox team to a Rivera team. Players have to shake what they know and inhale a whole new system, a new philosophy and way of playing football. The X’s & O’s are basically the same, but it’s the way the team carries itself, the mindset, along with the roster – getting that to Rivera’s liking that would take it’s time.

No need to look any further than my good friend, the Detroit Lions. Look at where they’ve come from. A couple of seasons under Jim Schwartz and some solid offseasons of free agency and drafting and they’re sitting at 5 & freakin’ 0. The Motown is dancin’ in the streets and for good reason. That gives me hope, that a team that was once 0-16 or a team that was 2-14 can turn it around and get back to being a great, consistently good football team that fans will want to come and see, each and every Sunday. It just takes time. The team needs to gel, become experienced so in the redzone, they can put up 6 instead of 3. In the 4th quarter, they can comeback from 14 down to win by a TD. Less penalties, less coaching errors.. better play all around. Sharper, smoother; a well oiled machine.

The Panthers aren’t there yet. They’ve shown signs of a young team that should be capable in the future. For the most part, they’ve done as well as can be expected with a rookie head coach, quarterback and a defense full of band-aid players. They’ve done well to revitalize veteran All-Pro wide receiver Steve Smith, forgotten for a couple of seasons, now once again relevant as one of the best WRs in the game. He was always good, he just needed help getting the ball delivered. The Panthers have done well to produce 2 solid DE’s who through 5 games, have 9 sacks combined. It’s like Peppers and Rucker on the edge again (which I love.. all starts in the trenches.) The middle of the line has been the problem, with 2 rookies starting and other serviceable guys rotating in there. The linebackers and secondary have been hit hard by injury and have held their own against top passing offenses like Green Bay & New Orleans, despite giving up chunks of yards. They’ve done well to stay in games, but once again.. not good enough. And don’t even get me started on special teams play this season. However, like all areas as the season progresses.. improvement is showing.

This week the Panthers take their fantasy football road show into rival Georgia, down the I-85. The Panthers hope to finally put a complete game together of offense, coaching, defense and special teams against a struggling 2-3 Atlanta Falcons team.

This game should be a fantastic game. 2 dangerous teams, the Falcons coming off a home loss against the Packers and the Panthers coming off another close loss against another division rival in the Saints. Realistically, the game could go either way. The arm wrestle could come down to a field goal, rather than a shootout. Both offenses may struggle, or both defenses may fail. Always an entertaining game, let’s break it down a little more closely:

The quarterback situation for both teams is intriguing. Matty “Ice” Ryan’s ice has melted into a pool of murky, smelly (typical for the area) watery goo this season. With the tag of being overrated around the league, Ryan has struggled immensely this season, already throwing 6 interceptions (tied for 4th in the NFL with Carolina’s Newton), throwing 196 times (3rd in the NFL behind Drew Brees & Tom Brady) and only completing only 61.2% of his throws. With a QB rating of 79.9, he’s been sacked 14 times (tied for 6th, along with Eli Manning & Phil Rivers) and only has 13 plays of over 20+ yards – most to receiver Roddy White, who is tied for 2rd in the NFL in receptions with 32. Overall, not exactly a balanced offense, with star RB Michael Turner only getting the call on 84 carries, for an average of 4.3ypc. The Falcons have put 104 (20.8, ranked 19th) points on the board against opponents this season, but have allowed 130 points (26ppg, ranked 24th.)  No doubt, the Falcons could’ve won a few more games had the offense clicked, had there not been some key injuries and had Roddy White’s hands not been made of stone. (See, game vs. Bucs, week 3.)

On the injury front, the Falcons will be missing veteran lineman Todd McClure and rookie WR Julio Jones who is due to miss with a jamstring injury. (Not a typo, will let you think about that one.) They’ll also be missing star defensive end John Abraham, who’s out with a knee injury and no doubt would have been a thorn for the rookie Cam Newton.

But so far, everything Newton has faced, every defense he has seen (some good ones, including Capers’ Packers D, Gregg Williams dirty Saints D & Del Rio’s D in Jacksonville) the rookie has taken in stride and won the battle numerous times, even if the war itself wasn’t won in the end. An impressive start and unheard of, the Panthers QB who is gaining a cult-like following not only in Carolina but all over the US, is playing well above his age and expectations. What’s even more impressive is despite his multiple 300 & 400 yard games, he just wants to play football & win.

This week, he’ll face a Falcon D that ranks 24th in yards allowed per game, a passing D that is allowing 294.2 yards passing per game (ranked 28th) and a rushing D that has given up an average of 89.2 yards per game on the ground (6th in the NFL). The key for the rookie will be to help establish the run, get the D playing the run so later in the game, the pass is opened up with the safeties playing closer to the line of scrimmage, because of the run.

No doubt Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will want a balanced offense as we’ve seen (except for the first few games, in which the Panthers went pass-happy) to keep the Falcons guessing. The Panthers need to control the time of possession and convert on 3rd down – something they’ve been improving upon, but need to get better in. Drew Brees and the Saints last week, showed the Panthers first hand last week how you do it on 3rd down. Keep your D rested, tire the other D out and keep a guy like Matt Ryan and Michael Turner, cold on the bench. Basic football principals that just need to be executed.

Coming into this game, the Panthers offense has done a complete 180 degree turn, ranking 5th in the NFL with an average of 428.2 total offense per game, scoring 23.2 point a game, good for 15th in the NFL. Throwing to Smith, early and often while still establishing the running game is key for Carolina. Good things happen when you give your key players the touches and feeding Williams, Stewart, Smith & TE Greg Olsen early and often, should pay dividends for the Panthers, if their D can keep up with their offense.

Key matchups for Carolina in this game:

QB Cam Newton vs. Falcons defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder

Going into this week 6 matchup, both QB’s have similar stats. Newton has shown great poise in the pocket as well as being able to make plays with his feet when he’s needed to. He’s passed for 1,610 yards so far – best for 4th in the NFL, on 194 attempts (completion percentage of 58.2) with a QB rating of 84.3 (ranking 15th in the league). Although he only has 7 TDs to go with his 6 interceptions, he’s also scored 5 TDs with his feet already. That will be a factor for the Falcons defense, and what kind of looks they’ll show. Do they keep a spy on him ala what the Panthers did in ’05 vs. Michael Vick, do they commit to the pass knowing they’re capable of stopping the run or do they force him to beat their D with his arm? If I were Newton, I’d be liking the challenge of trying to beat this D with his arm. Bring it on, throw it over CB Dunta Robinsons way and move the chains. Can Newton eclipse the 400 yard mark yet again? Although that would be awesome, if he has to throw it 35 times a game, that usually means the running game isn’t working which makes the offense one dimensional in which case, the Falcons suddenly have the advantage of knowing.

RB DeAngelo Williams/Jonathon Stewart vs. LB Curtis Lofton 

Only recently have the Panthers been able to get their running game on the move. Last week, DeAngelo Williams broke the century mark for the first time this season and scored on a 69 yard QB option play. The Panthers finally looked balanced, driving up and down the field in trying to keep up with Brees and the Saints. If the Panthers can have continued success on the ground and get chunks of yards on 1st and 2nd down, it’ll ease the load on rookie QB Newton and keep the Falcons off the field, so long as they can convert on 3rd down. And while most of the attention has been on Williams this week, Stewart is making his presence felt in other parts of the offense, having already had a 100 yard game earlier in the year; however, that 100 yard game was receiving yards. With Stewart the go-to back on passing downs in both pass-catching and blocking, the Panthers have a dual threat, not only on the ground but also in the passing game. Both backs can be elusive in the screen game and out in the flats, making life a little more difficult for the Falcons linebacking duo of Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon. Both LBs are having solid years and lead a Falcons D stout against the run. This week will be another big test, as the Panthers are just finding their feet in the running game and could potentially explode if not contained early on.

WR Steve Smith vs. CB Dunta Robinson

Other than Calvin Johnson & Wes Welker, no WR is hotter in the NFL right now. Smith has been given a legit QB to get the ball to him, with Smith 2nd in the NFL in receiving yards with 609 yards, with  27 receptions and 3 TDs to date. This week, he faces a prime matchup that favours the ever passionate Smith. CB Dunta Robinson has been thrown to 27 times with 21 completions and his partner in Brent Grimes, thrown to 26 times with 14 completions. No doubt, Smith will get doubled. If the run game can have success and the TE’s can get in the game early, look for that safety to worry less about Smith, leaving Smith one on one with Robinson or Grimes – a dangerous move if you’re Atlanta’s defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder. Either way, Smith will be a factor as a target or a decoy.

DE Charles Johnson vs. OT Sam Baker

Charles Johnson has more than earned his big pay check that he earned this offseason. Going into week 6, he has a sack in every game (12 sacks in his last 12 games) & is a constant threat, pressuring and harassing quarterbacks. Along with the Panthers other starter at DE, Greg Hardy, the Panthers pass rush continues to improve. Look for the Panthers to have some more success against a shaky Falcons offensive line that has given up 14 sacks already this season. The Panthers D must be licking their chops, knowing what kind of success they could potentially have if they execute. Either a sack or some turnovers would suffice, just so long as QB Ryan stays off the field, along with his battered offensive line.  Look for a TE or a double team to possibly come over to Baker’s side to help seal the edge to give Ryan more time in the pocket to find his WRs downfield.

CB Chris Gamble vs. WR Roddy White

Looking at tape this week & watching some of the numerous drops Roddy White has had this season, Panthers CB Chris Gamble must be loving the thought of how good he might have it come Sunday. No doubt, the WR dropping a few here and there will make his life easier but at any time, White is a threat and could find his hands this week. Gamble still has to do his job and to date, has had an exceptional season shadowing some of the league’s best WRs. If he can shutdown White and keep Ryan’s target to TE Tony Gonzalez, that will help the Panthers D not have to worry about one less threat, as they’ll no doubt have their hands full with Gonzalez over the middle and RB Michael Turner churning out some solid yardage also, this season. The Panthers D ranks 15th in passing defense, giving up an average of 231 yards per game. If the Panthers can keep Ryan to 150-200 yards with a TD and a few turnovers, the offense should be able to take over and capitalize.

As the players take to the field for another divisional matchup in a few hours time, no doubt it will be a game added to the history between these 2 clubs. Coming into this week, the Falcons historically hold the edge over the Panthers with a 20-12 lead since Carolina came into the league in ’95. Both teams are looking to rebound, having a less than ideal start to the season, Carolina losing 3 straight now, the Falcons coming off a big loss against the Packers, it will be a fun game for Falcon & Panther fans alike.

The key to this game, what it all comes down to in the end is QB play – stating the obvious. Ryan has looked less than sharp; unable to make the plays he did in seasons past and the rookie sensation Cam Newton – an unknown to the Falcons, stealing the spotlight and looking to get the offense balanced, consistent and on their way to hopefully, their 2nd win of the year and the start of a streak.

Big plays are key for the Panthers. They’ve turned this offense around from a boring season last year to an explosive, high scoring offense this season, lead by Smith & Newton. If they can take advantage of the Falcons less than solid D, they’ll force Ryan to have to make plays with his arm, rather than have their O pound away with Turner which is what they’ll aim to do early. The Falcons O, will want to control the game with Turner and take advantage of the Panthers soft run D. The Panthers run D has been average, getting gashed for big yards in 4 out of the 5 games they’ve played. If Atlanta can keep their offense on the field and Cam Newton off the field, it’ll make things exceptionally hard for the Panthers to try and score with less plays. Playing from behind is the last thing Carolina needs right now.

Both teams would prefer to hold the ball, win the time of possession battle and keep their opposing offenses on the sidelines but one team. We should see a heavy dose of run early from both teams, maybe a few exchanges of punts and a real slog fest. I expect a lower scoring game for both teams, as both sides are evenly matched. It will be an arm wrestle, but in the end I see Carolina prevailing 24-17 with Newton throwing 2 TDs and DeAngelo Williams scoring on the other one. I expect a big day from Panthers WR Steve Smith and Falcons RB Michael Turner, but I expect Ryan to turn the ball over, helping the Panthers get a lead early and sitting on it, forcing the Falcons to win on the back of Ryan.

NFL Players: Nicest vs. Meanest, Who Wins?

Sports Illustrated recently polled 287 players and 272 players respectively, on who were the meanest and the nicest players in the NFL today. Before we check out the results, considering there are 15 on each poll, imagine 2 teams of nice vs. evil, good vs. bad, going head-to-head in a Pro Bowl-type match. (Well, not the Pro Bowl because no one cares about that game but some form of exhibition game.) That begs the question though, who would win, mean or nice?

Would the nice team be so friendly, it’d mess with the mean guys heads and psych them out or would the mean players be way too mean and beat the crap out of the nice guys?

The majority of the nice players are on offense, full of QBs, RBs & WRs. Conversely, it’s quite a contrast to what the majority is on the Mean Team. Mainly defense, especially linebackers and linemen. Wonder why? Maybe because it’s what they do – be the aggressor, the attacker; even if a few do take it a little too far at times.

Funnily enough, one team had the 2 top ranked (or polled) players. Pittsburgh Steelers – James Harrison & Troy Polamalu. Weird and kind of suspicious.

So, do nice guys always finish last? Or do mean guys finish last because they keep getting penalized?

I’ll let you think about that, but in the meantime here are the results:

Meanest:

1. James Harrison – Pittsburgh Steelers

The often outspoken linebacker was quoted in the infamous “Hitman-Men’s Journal” article as saying, “If that man (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn’t do it. I hate him and will never respect him.” Numerous hard hits (giving him the name “Hitman”, incidents on & off the field have caused this linebacker numerous All-Pro honours, a DPOY award in ’08 and a bad ass rep, to go nicely with his 2 rings.

2. Ray Lewis – Baltimore Ravens

The heart & soul of the Ravens for so long, he killed a guy. (And it wasn’t Dustin Keller..)

3. Ndamukong Suh – Detroit Lions

Half man, half beast. Some say he only eats the flesh of college kids, others say he line dances with the elderly every Wednesday night. All Jake Delhomme knows it that it hurts to get your helmet twisted by Suh. Some will say he’s dirty, some will say he plays hard. Either way, don’t piss him off & don’t challenge him to a line-dance-off. It won’t end well for you.

4. Richard Seymour – Oakland Raiders

You saw what he did in that Pats-Raiders game in week 4 right?

Nuff said. He plays hard, he plays with passion. See: Suh. (Above.)

5. Richie Incognito – Miami Dolphins

Originally drafted by the Rams, he’s a nasty kid to play against. Frequently ranks as one of the dirtiest players to play against. He’s been known to headbutt players, chop block, abuse officials & often gets fined by the league for his play. Protect the eyes, because he’ll come after you and probably snack on your ear at halftime.

6. Terrell Suggs – Baltimore Ravens

Something about these Rex Ryan taught players that have a common link. Either way, Suggs is one bad ass mutha. Whether he’s wearing a mean shirt poking fun at Steelers or sacking your grandmother, don’t make eye contact with him.

7. Harvey Dahl – St. Louis Rams

Known to push the limits, even after the whistle, most guys don’t like to play against him. He’ll get under your skin and in your face.. literally. Plays hard, blocks late in plays.. good player to have on your team, annoying player to play against.

8. Hines Ward – Pittsburgh Steelers

Some call him dirty, some call him a classic WR who likes to get in there and help his team with the run blocking. He takes cheap shots, but for the most part he’s a hard hitting WR who plays hard, pushes the limits and is a player you’d hate to face but love to have on your side. Much like a few of these players on the list.

9. Laron Landry – Washington Redskins

Hard nosed, built, hard hitting safety who’s still making a name for himself with hits like this, game in & game out:

10. Olin Kreutz – New Orleans Saints

From the Bears comes Kreutz. A veteran of multiple awards who gained some street cred for breaking the jaw of fellow OL Fred Miller back in’05 during an off-field incident. It only takes one incident and your whole image can be changed/marked for your career.

11. Jared Allen – Minnesota Vikings

The Cowboy himself is a wild animal. He loves to hunt, was a roadie for Motorhead when he was younger, once blindsided Johnny Knoxville in Jackass 3D, loves to sack QBs and he’s a blue collar boy from Texas who likes his mane longer than most. With the handlebar mo, he rocks the Metrodome and opposing QBs with his determination, his high-energy motor and his sometimes borderline dirty play. He walks the line, and that’s what makes him great. One of the best DE’s in the game, he’s entertaining to watch and a pain in the ass if you’re playing against him.

12. Steve Smith – Carolina Panthers

One of the few offensive players on the list (which says a lot) Smitty carries a chip, plays with passion & uses every pound of his body to make plays. His competitiveness & fire is what makes him the great player he is, sometimes that fire can ignite and get out of hand and his teammates (twice) can cop it or the other team can. Just last week, he took care of Malcolm Jenkins by the face mask..

Players have taunted him, before and during the game & it never ends well. A fired up Smith is what the Panthers like, and what opposing teams fear.. and yet they still do it. Hard not to like the little guy. Just don’t call him little to his face.

13. Jerome Harrison – Detroit Lions

Unless he’s related to James, not sure why he’s on here. (Unless Lions fans just wanted to win at something.. hah, can’t use that joke anymore. Fail.)

14. Cortland Finnegan – Tennessee Titans

Fancypants is just on here because he “scuffled” with Andre Johnson. He’s more of a bitch than a mean player.

15. Shawne Merriman – Buffalo Bills

Not as bad ass in recent times (mainly due to unproductive/injury-plagued seasons), but the guy has the nickname “Lights Out” for a reason. Still a threat to cause some pain on the field, if not off the field, even if he is ‘roided up most of the time. Either way, he’s scary to look at & he probably cut someone off in traffic once which makes him mean.

Nicest:

1. Troy Polamalu – Pittsburgh Steelers

He has nice hair. It’s soft. A mean guy doesn’t have soft hair.

2. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints

I don’t get why he is on here. He cured cancer? No. He played QB in a city that had a hurricane. Oh ok.. cool story.

3. Peyton Manning – Indianapolis Colts

If the NFL had a version of the Lady Byng Trophy for Gentlemanly Conduct and Nice Play, he’d probably get it every season. That and he plays for the Colts, was coached under super nice guy Tony Dungy and makes awesomely ridiculous (and lots of them) commercials. Some may call him a douche, but they’re most likely Pats fans.

4. Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals

He’s quiet, humble & he’s smart. A good choice for the list. Plus he gives to charity which although a lot of players do, he seems less douchey about it and more horse-like.

5. Matt Hasselbeck – Tennessee Titans

I don’t know why he’s on here. I think players just named QBs of small-town football teams. Maybe because he’s bald & everyone felt sorry for him?

6. Tim Tebow – Denver Broncos

Yeah.. is he really that nice?

7. LaDainian Tomlinson – New York Jets

One of the great RB’s of our generation, he’s a quiet and humble man beneath that famous dark visor & helmet and lets his play on the field do all the talking. Have to admire athletes like him, a refreshing change from what we see when guys like Chad Ocho Cinco & Terrell Owens yap it up, steal the spotlight. Unselfish is what is when you keep your mouth shut. No mouthing at the officials, no chirping at the other team, just go out and play football.

8. Tom Brady – New England Patriots

He’s Tom Brady, not Tom Cruise. I find that just because he’s a QB, doesn’t make him nice. I’m sure he’s frightened small children before. I’m sure of it.

9. Jeff Saturday – Indianapolis Colts

Maybe it’s because he’s a centre, maybe it’s because he’s a Christian, maybe it’s because he was coached under Dungy, or maybe it’s because he plays with Manning. Personally, I think the reason he’s so nice.. how can you NOT like a guy with those eyes..

10. Nnamdi Asomugha – Philadelphia Eagles

Aso is a great corner, but an even better philanthropist. Off the field, he spends most of his time helping in education and in the community. He has the Asomugha Foundation, aimed at providing shelter for orphans and widows in need in Nigera as well as teaming up with selected students across the Bay Area and taking them on tours to colleges across the country. He’s a regular guest at the Clinton Global Initiative. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinton_Global_Initiative)

His list of community service and accolades in trying to make the world a better place are too long to list here, but he’s a good guy. He may not be the nicest person on the field, but he’d be up there and as soon as the pads come off, you know he’s out there helping provide to others what they’re not as fortunate to have as he is.

11. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers

Why isn’t Rodgers #1? Srsly. This is a guy I’d have a beer with.

12. Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions

A quiet achiever in the NFL, much like Pavel Datsyuk with the Red Wings. CJ is an underrated player in the league (much like Datsyuk) and yet is one of the league’s best at what he does, in a freakish, I-can’t-believe-he-just-did-that-OMG-my-pants-are-wet-and-on-my-head-where-did-I-put-my-finger-it-smells kind of way.

13. Tony Romo – Dallas Cowboys

Really? Hah.. nice joke guys. Who’s at 14.. seriously?

Is he on here because he almost married Jessica Simpson?

14. Donovan McNabb – Minnesota Vikings

He has a nice smile and apparently smells like apricots. Apart from that, he had to put up with the T.O saga and didn’t smash T.O in the face, even when everyone else would’ve turned a blind eye if he did. He put up with Vick and Kolb coming in & basically taking his job from him in Philadelphia & all with a smile and no trash talk, taking it in stride. Then he survived the benching in DC, only to move to Minny where he’s no doubt copping more crap and all this & he’s still a really nice guy. Hard not like a guy who just won’t quit & just won’t let all that get to him.

15. Brian Dawkins – Denver Broncos

Former team mate of McNabb, Brian Dawkins is a long time vet, long time good guy. Has been nominated for the Walter Payton Award of the Year & after Dawk signed with the Broncos in ’09, an Eagles employee who was a ‘gate chief’ at Lincoln Financial Field was fired by the Eagles after he posted on his Facebook page expressing his disappointment in the Eagles. Dawk announced that he would give his two allotted game tickets for the Eagles-Broncos game to the guy, saying, “I felt it would be a good thing, to reach out to that individual and just let him know how much I appreciate it.” Classy guy, future HoFer no doubt.

So there we have it. 2 contrasting lists, 15 very different players of different levels.

Personally, I think getting 2 teams like this together, to compete against each other is genius. There’s a movie plot in here. Evil vs. good, angels vs. demons.. who doesn’t love a good face-off?!

Considering this idea would never reach Goodell’s desk (unless I mail the proposed blueprint & slip it inside his birthday card) here is an idea worth sharing if you have the time. Potentially go into Madden, create 2 teams, add these players in, simulate the game between the 2 & see what happens..

I know, it’s borderline insane. And I know this is way too much analysis for a fluff piece, but I might as well get some ludicrous ideas into your mind while you waste your time reading this blog, like how the uniforms could be that of red and black for mean, white on white for nice. Halo on the helmet, horns on the other.

Now that, that would be cool.

So what say you? Agree/disagree with some of these selections? Would you add in any other players or take some out, on your own list?

Let us know!

Sources:  

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mul…ontent.12.html

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/1110/nfl.poll.nicest.player/content.15.html

The Epic 2011-2012 Detroit Red Wings Preview

Finally, it’s here.

The sun shines bright, the sky is clear. A leaf falls from a tree, standing along the banks of the Detroit River. The smell in the air is more than that of a Michigan Fall day. Adjacent to the trees that shed their leaves ready for winter, stands the historic sports colosseum that many call home; formerly known as Joe Louis Arena.

Hockey is back in Detroit. The smell of excitement for a new beginning is apparent as is the smell of success that the Detroit Red Wings name carries. It’s that time of the year, when  the 3 major sports in Detroit eclipse one another and this time around, the theme for this season is hope. The Tigers are inching closer to a World Series birth, knocking off the Yankees on Thursday night. Then the Lions and Michigan Wolverines move on with undefeated records. Once losing teams, now playing lights out football. Hope for fans that things are changing. Just like the hope that is held when the Detroit Red Wings take to the ice for their first game. Now it’s the Red Wings turn to do what they’ve done best for decades.. win.

Friday night at the Joe was the home & season opener, a complete and beautiful success with the Red Wings winning over the Senators, 5-3 after going up 5-0 until the 3rd period.

The Red Wings kicked off their season with a moving and emotional pregame tribute, honouring the 3 fallen members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team which included 3 former Wings players; Ruslan Salei, Stefan Liv & newly hired head coach of Lokomotiv, Brad McCrimmon.) McCrimmon’s wife and family were part of the ceremony where McCrimmon, who was known to many as “Beast”, had his #2 jumper presented to his family, with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg & Nick Lidstrom with them to present the jumpers, on behalf of the Red Wings family.

With emotions high at the Joe, the Wings and Senators – coached by former Wings assistant coach Paul MacLean, prepared themselves for what was ahead, the 2011-12 NHL season. A blank slate for both teams, an opportunity to prove for many players.

High expectations – a Cup or bust journey to their 21st consecutive playoff appearance, is where it all begins for the Red Wings. Besides the familiar face on the opposite bench, there were a few newer faces in Wings jumpers. Gone are those favourite sweaters of Osgood, Draper, Rafalski, Meech & Modano. But with the old, comes the new. Ian White, Mike Commodore, Ty Conklin – back with the Wings for a 2nd time, a 2nd chance. The Wings have reloaded, mostly with youth – expecting players like Jan Mursak, Fabian Brunnstrom & Cory Emmerton to step up and chip in with some offense as the season progresses.

The puck dropped at Joe Louis Arena on Friday night, with a sellout crowd of over 20,000 fans, witnessing what would be the first of 82 games. Todd Bertuzzi opened the scoring for the Wings, scoring on a breakaway feed from Darren Helm, who was assisted by defenseman Jakub Kindl on the play. Big Bert took the pass before wristing the shot over newly acquired Senators goalie Craig Anderson’s glove hand.

On the first goal of the regular season, 3 players I expect to have big years started off on the right foot.

Todd Bertuzzi is coming off a solid season where he managed to stay healthy, playing 81 of 82 games, scoring 16 goals and 29 assists. Already through the preseason & 2 games with Helm as his linemate, Bert looks hungrier than years past and has settled into Babcock’s system the 2nd time around. A good year and he could net 20-25 goals which would be valuable depth production, especially if he’s partnered with Helm for the majority of the season. He’s already displayed his scoring finesse with a preseason highlight goal & the bruising power forward is at his best when he’s throwing his weight around and making life hard for opposing defensemen and goalies, which is why partnering him up with Helm and Abdelkader seems like a brilliant idea, even if the 36 year old does see less minutes. One thing the line will create is energy. With 2 young guys alongside him, it should help keep Bert feeling hungry and revitalized, hopefully helping him hit that 20-goal mark. Along with offense, Bert’s role defensively has grown. In the last season or so, Bert has also matched up on the opposing team’s best player & has proven that he can shutdown the big name players, when called upon.

Then there’s Darren Helm, aka Danger. His speed is mesmerizing & his hustle and heart has made him a known name and fan favourite. After 4 years in the pros, Helm is ready to explode and take the next step. He’s learned how to use his speed and agility to beat out defenders and create plays. Now, he looks ready to add a scoring touch to his repertoire. Always carrying the label of having “stone hands”, Helm put up career best numbers last season over 82 games, helping with 12 goals and 20 assists. With Draper gone leaving no more original Grind Line members on the Wings, Helm has already been dubbed the “next Draper.” He can kill penalties & do the small details and if he produces, look for him to possibly get some powerplay time. With Bert on his wing & Abdelkader on the other, this 3rd line can be the 2011 version of the Grind Line, with Bert’s added scoring touch, Helm’s quickness and tenacity and Abby’s hard hitting.. look out for this line to make some noise.

Lastly, there’s Jakub Kindl. A young puck-moving defenseman looking to show what he can do. Drafted in 2005 19th overall, he spent 4 years in Grand Rapids, maturing and honing his skills. Though he started off shaky in the minors, over time his confidence has grown and his decision making has improved as has his confidence. Now he’s been given a bigger chance after playing 48 games last season, partnering up with former Griffin’s team mate, Jonathon Ericsson. Both young players have the pressure on them to perform this season, with big expectations of both to hold down the 3rd defensive pairing. But Kindl is the player that all eyes are on. He’s had a big offseason, bulking up and adding muscle so he can hold his own, especially along the boards. He’s earned high praise from his coaches during the preseason and looks set to finally show the fans and the outside media, that the future of blue liners in Detroit is bright. Once Lidstrom retires, a huge hole will be left no doubt. No one man can fill that void, but hopefully by committee, the Red Wings can compensate with young talent on D. With Mike Commodore injured until at least this Friday, Kindl has already played 2 solid games & the better he plays, the more games he’ll get – the better he’ll become. No doubt, it’s a good situation to have for Wings coach Mike Babcock if both of his young defenseman are succeeding, with Mike Commodore still to return and Brendan Smith looking to into some games this season (once his suspension is over.)

After Bertuzzi’s goal, the Red Wings came to play in the 2nd. Led by none other than the captain himself, Nicklas Lidstrom once again proving age is no limit as he read a hurried pass from the Sens Chris Phillips on a Red Wings forecheck, picking it off and walking in on Craig Anderson, where he snapped the puck past the glove and into the twine for a 2-0 lead.

From there, the Wings aggressive pressure forced the Senators to turn it over again in the Wings zone, this time the 4th line was on the end of the hard work. Drew Miller took out a Sens player along the boards, feeding it to Red Wings newbie Cory Emmerton, who drove the net & finished it off with a nice move to make it 3-0.

After the puck was stolen by none other than Pavel Datsyuk, he found Jiri Hudler on the rush, who backhanded the goal past Anderson to make it 4-0 in the 2nd period. Then in the 3rd, Ian White in his debut as a Red Wing, slapped one home as the puck had eyes, making its way through traffic straight off the faceoff.

The Wings then proceeded to take the foot off the gas pedal and just let the car roll down the hill. After a couple of penalties, some lucky bounces going Ottawa’s way and also from their hard work, the Senators managed to claw back 3 goals, making the score respectable and frustrating Wings coach Mike Babcock. While not pretty in the end, it was a W.. 2 points, as was Saturday night’s game against Colorado, with the Wings winning 3-0.

It’s a long season & all that matters in the end is those W’s, no matter how ugly or close. Last season the Red Wings started the season 2-0 before going on to win the Central Division title with a 47-25-10 record & 104 points. No doubt they can do better in 2012.

This season is a new sheet, a new chance to be better than 104 points and with the pieces added in the offseason, you can bet that the next time the Wings return to the playoffs, it won’t be because of an early or unexpected exit, especially if they face the San Jose Sharks again.

This offseason, the Red Wings were eager to make some moves, some improvements. And that started with none other than the coaching staff. Leaving the Wings were Paul MacLean and Brad McCrimmon, both leaving for head coaching gigs elsewhere. The Wings search to find 2 assistants who could help tweak the team ended with the hirings of Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters. With the new hirings should come some much improved defence and special teams units. With a powerplay unit that ranked 5th in the NHL & a penalty killing unit that ranked 17th along with a 23rd goals against ranking for the season, the defensive side of the Wings will look to improve. If the Red Wings can get back to their defensive game that won them the Cup in 2008, that will only help out goaltenders Jimmy Howard & Ty Conklin and will make the Red Wings a force to reckoned with.

No doubt, the Red Wings are always Cup contenders. With captain Nicklas Lidstrom entering his 20th season, he leads a Red Wings team that knows how to play and how to win the right way. Lidstrom is already in the discussion for his 8th Norris Trophy, and we’re only 2 games into the season. No doubt the best defensemen of our generation, if this is his final season (which it most likely will be), the farewell tour has begun. It will be the last time we see the #5 jersey, a thought unfathomable to all Wings fans. No doubt, the Wings will want to make this season one to remember.

Here are Delvecchio (10) players I expect big things from this season:

-Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm, Jakub Kindl (see above.)

Valtteri Filppula: Flip had another stellar season in 2010-11, but the Wings are still waiting for him to step up and contribute 50 points, hopefully with 20-25 goals in a 2nd line role, feeding the Mule. Defensively sound and bucket loads of potential with flashes shown in the past of what he’s capable of doing, it’s just a matter of time. All on Val to step up in the regular season, be consistent night after night. Is there a time limit though? Wings fans have been waiting a while with some having him marked down as a possible 70pt player.

Jiri Hudler: After a disappointing homecoming to Detroit last season, Hudler took it upon himself to get into the best shape of his career, training with Jonathan Chambers who trains a handful of UFC fighters. So far, it’s paid off with Hudler registering a goal & assist through 2 games and looking like the Hudler that contributed 50+ points during their cup run in 2009. Time will only tell if he’ll stay in Detroit, or if GM Ken Holland will trade him when his value is high.

Niklas Kronwall: With Kronner wearing an “A” this season, big things are expected of him as Lidstrom’s career winds down. Now 30, he’s become a core member and should be able to put up career bests, now with Rafalski retired. Partnering back up with Brad Stuart – a very good 2nd defensive pairing, should see Kronner’s game lift. One thing fans will want to see more of is his big time open ice hits. Everyone needs a good Kronwalling every now & then.

Ian White: With Brian Rafalski leaving a gaping hole in the Wings D, the Wings looked to find a suitable replacement. Enter Ian White. Not the biggest or fastest, but he can play hockey. He’s smart with the puck and gritty. And he’s a right handed shot – something the Wings value, especially on the powerplay. Partnering with Lidstrom, White could potentially reach career highs statistically & help solidify a unit that is able to suffocate opposing teams.

Justin Abdelkader: Abby is a hometown hero and fan favourite & no doubt, his role is growing on the team. With Helm and Eaves, he’ll be looking to replace what was once the original Grind Line in Detroit. The power forward provides grit and playing with Bertuzzi and Helm should see him hit career highs offensively. The Wings need him to step up, take less penalties and chip in with the hits, the fights & scoring when called upon.

Johan Franzen: Not enough can be said about The Mule. An elite player, you can usually expect him to hit 30 goals. But what the Wings will be expecting this season is for the big sniping forward to stay healthy so he can finally reach his potential in hitting the 40 goal plateau. He has the skills, it’s just a matter of luck and working hard. Being consistent would also be a big plus, if he can do so. Like Filppula, it’s all about desire, night in & out.

#10: The Detroit Red Wings coaching staff.

* * * * *

It will be interesting to see just how well the Detroit Red Wings of 2011-2012 perform, with some huge names retiring and a couple of big names making their debut in the Winged Wheel this season. Gone are the veterans that we’ve come to love and know as part of the family, gone are the veterans. As another retires, another strand from the past disappears. Tomas Holmstrom and Lidstrom are the only 2 remaining members of the Wings Cup winning team from the late 90’s. But with the end comes a new beginning. A new era where depth is more important than ever. In 2012, I fully expect the depth players to help out the already proven stars, the likes of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Lidstrom and goalie Jimmy Howard.

Those stars that I mentioned, are going to do their thing. They’ll get the All-Star nod, the highlight plays, their number on the backs of hundreds of adoring fans. They’re stars, but every team has stars. It’s the depth, that will take you to the Cup, just like in 2002 & 2008. When you roll one line & they have success, another line can come on and follow that success or if a couple of lines are down, the other lines can pick up the slack and grind out a W. It’s the carriages behind these towing behind the lead cars that need to step up so that the load as a team is easier to carry and pull up the hill as it gets steeper, as the journey keeps on going. Bad train analogies aside, these are the wildcard players that could help or hinder the Red Wings season. Guys like Fabian Bruunstrom, the kid who got a professional tryout and did nothing but impress the Wings enough to get a 2-way deal. Cory Emmerton, another young player making the most of his chances. Ty Conklin, a solid vet netminder who has won before in Detroit and knows his role and does it well. Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller – 3rd and 4th line players who know the system and who’s roles are increasing, despite fighting for playing time and a consistent game day jumper. Chris Connor & Garnett Exelby; 2 newly acquired guys who’ll see valuable time in the minors and possibly with the Wings, who will help the younger guys coming through like Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar  & Jan Mursak.

Last season left a bitter taste in all Red Wings players and fans. Losing veteran guys didn’t help & it was sad that they weren’t able to go out on top with a Cup, but that’s hockey. (3-4 cups is usually enough, isn’t it?) That is the power of the Hockey Gods. Some teams get Yzerman and Lidstrom, other teams get bad management and constant cap problems, feeding the bottom for years & showcasing fans that attend games with paper bags on their heads.

Here in Hockeytown, we’re often spoiled with the players we have, the history and tradition of the franchise and the constant winning.. but hey, we’re not complaining. If the Hockey Gods smile on us again in 2011-12, what a beautiful fall day it will be 12 months from now, with a different smell in the air to start the 2012-13 season..

Detroit Red Wings: Reigning Stanley Cup Champions, for the 12th time..

Don’t Stop Believin’.


313 Week 4 Awards

So another week is already in the books, and what an interesting week it was. Before we begin week 5 today, here’s a quick recap on week 4 NFL action. What we liked, and what we didn’t like so much. (This is a quickened version of what will hopefully come a weekly roundup, earlier during the week.)

Offensive Player of the Week:

Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay Packers

A big week of big QB play, but it was the reigning Super Bowl MVP who took it to a whole ‘nother level at Mile High Stadium in Denver. 6 total TDs, including 2 rushing & over 400 yards passing. Just another day at the office for the stud QB who’s looking better and better each game. With Peyton Manning out for a while, the title for sheriff is going to be a wrestle between Brady & A-Rod.

Defensive Player of the Week:

Lardarius Webb, CB/Haloti Ngata, DT – Baltimore Ravens

I split this award because of the day they had making Mark Sanchez’s day complete and utter poo. With an already thin secondary, the Ravens with Ngata up front managed to upset Sanchez into completing only 11 of 35 passes, forcing the Jets O to sputter and turn over the ball, which Sanchez ended up doing 4 times (3 times for defensive TDs) none more important than the game-winning TD, a Lardarius Webb interception which he took back 73 yards for the score. Who needs offense when your D can put up points for you?!

Special Teams Player of the Week:

Devin Hester, WR/KR/PR – Chicago Bears.

As soon as Carolina Panthers punter Jason Baker had followed through on his punt, the whole of Soldier Field knew it was a bad idea. The punt was an Australian rules-style punt, chosen poorly and executed even worse by Baker. Down the throat of Hester it went and before you could blink, Hester was gone 69 yards for his 11th career punt return for a TD, surpassing the previous holder Eric Metcalf. (Hester also had a 73 yard kickoff return, just to add to his impressive day.)

Coach of the Week:

Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers.

I could put Lions coach Jim Schwartz here, as the Lions did have an impressive win over the Cowboys but I believe Harbaugh had the better day, outcoaching Eagles coach Andy Reid and rallying his Niners to a 20-point comeback W against the Eagles potent offense. With the win, the Niners sit atop the NFC West standings at 3-1 & things seem to be turning around in the Bay City.

Rookie of the Week:

Cam Newton, QB – Carolina Panthers

I could put a few young guys here, no doubt. And without bias, statistically the Panthers QB had the most impressive day. He threw for 374 yards, one touchdown with one interception, and rushed for 35 yards and two scores in a 34-29 loss to the Chicago Bears. What’s more phenomenal than his stats to date is his ability to compete at a pro level, so well and so early on. He has poise in the pocket, has the awareness to keep his eyes downfield and despite being a threat on the ground at Auburn, has not relied on his legs to do all the talking but rather his arm, which has helped rebirth Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith, making the 2 one of the newest and biggest threats in the NFC.

Headline of the Week:

Al Davis Passes Away at 82

Quote of the Week:

“I’m glad the third-best wide receiver on the Cowboys is on our team.”

-Lions coach Jim Schwartz, sending one right back to the Cowboys and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan who added fuel to the fire before the game, stating that he thought when asked about Lions WR Calvin Johnson, “We work against better WRs (in Bryant & Austin) in practice.” Oh snap!

Not-So-Great-Play of the Week:

Ronnie Brown, RB, Philly.

-At the goal line and trying to pound it in for a score, Ronnie Brown did what most would deem unthinkable. In the midst of being tackled to the ground, Brown attempted to throw the ball (to what looked to be to nearby FB Owen Schmitt) but failed miserably. The Niners recovered the fumble & we were all left scratching our heads. “Hey Ronnie, it wasn’t a wildcat play.”

Surprising Team of the Week:

Niners beating Philadelphia.

Disappointing Team of the Week:

Bills losing to Cincinnati.

Top 5 Plays of Week 4:

Pierre Garcon – 87 yard TD vs. the Bucs on MNF.

Vincent Jackson – Out stretches for the catch, gets up & scores.

Devin Hester – Goes 69 yards for the punt return TD.

Calvin Johnson – Out-leaps 3 Cowboys defenders and still comes down with the TD catch.

Dwayne Bowe –  Cassel finds him down the sideline, dodges defenders & takes it the distance.

Now onto Week 5! 

Game on!

313 NFL Weekly Rankings – Week 5

Here we are.. The weekly, 4 times monthly, 21 times a year, 210 times a decade rankings.

These are the rankings that make Ditka cry. The rankings that make silky juice drip from a rock. They are The 313 Weekly NFL Rankings. 

The rankings that show no bias, no sentimental attachment or no agenda. Nothing. No east coast crap like you read on ESPN. No favouring a team for what they’ve done in 2008, when it’s 2011. The rankings will be based upon record and how the team has played as of late. If a lesser known, small market team is 4-0, they’ll be near the top. Don’t care. If a big market team is sucking the big one and is 2-7, they’ll be near the bottom. Not my fault they suck. Look at the W’s and L’s first, tell me the rest later is how we roll.

So here’s our first shot at them. We wrote a lot, so you may need to nap in between or make a God damn snack. Either way, enjoy and don’t forget to share some feedback.

1. Green Bay Packers (4-0)

With the Packers knocking off the Denver Broncos for their 10th consecutive win since week 15 of last season & Aaron Rodgers in MVP form scoring 6 total TDs, the Packers have a tight grip on the #1 ranking atop our board. Until other teams prove otherwise, the reigning Super Bowl champs will be at the top for good while, especially as they head onto the road to take on Atlanta, before going back home to Lambeau to play the Rams – both expected W’s for McCarthy’s men.

2. Detroit Lions (4-0)
Unlike other notable media outlets rankings, I’ll actually put the teams that deserve to be up the top, based on record, rather than who the team is. The Lions deserve to be ranked #2 right now after playing the right way and getting some gritty W’s, especially coming back vs. the Vikings in front of an uninviting Metrodome crowd & backing it up last week vs. the Cowboys in front of a shocked Dallas crowd. The Lions will quickly become America’s team as they have a chance to go 5-0 on Monday Night Football action vs. the rival Bears at Ford Field; a very winnable game.

3. Buffalo Bills (3-1)
How about them Bills? Buffalo is rockin’ as their Bills continue to create headlines, even though they almost came away from last week’s game 4-0 vs. the Bengals until Bengals kicker Mike Nugent put through the game-winning field goal. Don’t put them down just yet though. I don’t know what juice Chan Gailey is giving his men at half time, but it’s working. Now they have to get back up after 4 huge weeks as they go on the road and take on the Dream Team, lead by 1-3 QB Michael Vick. It’s still a test and with Fred Jackson leading the way, averaging at 5.8ypc, next week we could very well be talking about the 4-1 Bills. Wow. Who would’ve thunk it after 5 weeks?!
 
4. Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
 
Oi vey. What a poo-slinging game that was vs. the Jets on Sunday Night Football. I expected Jets QB Mark Sanchez to struggle vs. the Ravens D, but not Joe Flacco. Flacco, for the night was 10/31 for 161 and 0 TD’s. The inconsistent offense you can be sure, will be working out their kinks for the next 2 weeks, as they get to have the bye this week (and not because there were viewer complaints of just horrible football being played by 2 former 1st round QBs.) The bright spot of the night was Ravens DB Lardarius Webb who snagged the ball out of the air and returned it 73 yards for a TD for what was the game-winning TD. On the night he also had 3 passes defended and 2 tackles.

5. New Orleans Saints (3-1)
You could put a few teams there at 3-1 but just quietly the Saints have managed to get to 3-1 without too much hype. They black and gold train is rolling. This week the train rolls into Charlotte to take on the division rivals and Cam Newton. Last season vs. Carolina, the Saints did what they wanted. This time around may be a tougher challenge for the former champs. However, with the versatile backfield of Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram and with tight end Jimmy Graham continuing to dominate opposing defences, the Panthers will certainly have their hands full trying to stop the supporting cast of Drew Brees, who ranks 5th in the NFL with a QB rating of 102.9; 10 TDs on the year with 4 picks in the last 2 weeks.

6. New England Patriots (3-1)
The Patriots sit here at #6 because their offense has been playing great football as of late but it is the D of New England that is the problem, as witnessed largely in the game vs. Buffalo in week 3. It wasn’t until after halftime where the Bills came out ballin’ and fucked up Brady & Co, forcing him into a field day for the Bills secondary.  The Pats will be fine as long as they can tweak the D going into this weeks game vs. the Jets at Foxboro, a test that should be an easy task for the D if you’re going on the last game Jets QB Mark Sanchez played. In fact, Coach Belichick may just be tempted to put in reserves vs. the Jets offense, just to piss Rex Ryan off.

7. Houston Texans (3-1)
Wow. Right now, fantasy owners who own Texans players are on suicide watch. Stud All-Pro wideout Andre Johnson was injured in last week’s game vs. the Steelers, a huge cost despite the win. RB Ben Tate was also injured in the win, making the list of injured Texans as big as.. well, Texas. This week they face Oakland, a huge test since the Raiders won’t have to worry about the threat of Johnson, though they still have fantasy stud TE Owen Daniels. Arian Foster better be healthy if his team is to have any chance and based on last year’s numbers vs. Oakland, that could very well happen. (133 yards in 1 half of football.)

8. San Diego Chargers (3-1)
Really, you could probably put Houston here. It’s still early in the season with a log jam up in here. After 4 weeks of the season, the Chargers are winning again at 3-1. With some big games coming up – a trifecta road trip, the Chargers have a great chance to make some noise in the AFC if they can grind out some W’s. As long as QB Philip Rivers and WR Vincent Jackson keep making plays like last week vs. Kansas City on a consistent basis, things will look good for the team from A Whale’s Vagina. And keep an eye on 2nd year RB Ryan Mathews, who’s starting to get going and could break out vs. John Fox’s Denver Broncos aka The Hochuli Bowl.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)
What a game on Monday Night Football vs. the Peyton-less Colts. The Colts almost Painter-ed Raymond James Stadium a nice blue, if it weren’t for the Bucs penalties & the Bucs inconsistent play. Enter LeGarrette Blount who took the game over and scored the game-winning TD run. The Bucs are finding ways to win, whether it’s through the D-line ballin’ with Adrian Clayborn & Gerald McCoy laying the wood on QBs or Freeman putting up some purdy fantasy numbers to his receivers Arrelious Benn and the waiver wire pickup Preston Parker. The Bucs have a real good chance to move to 4-1 after this week as they take on the Niners, at Candlestick Park.

10. Washington Redskins (3-1)
Who would’ve thought the Skins would be starting the 2011 season after week 4, at .750?! Especially with Rex Grossman under centre. Kudos to head coach Mike Shanahan for getting his team to win, no matter how ugly. With W’s vs. the Giants, Cardinals and Rams & a close loss to the Cowboys (that they should’ve won), the Skins face an ever tougher challenge this week vs. the bye.  The rest will do Shanny’s men a world of good, especially RB’s Tim Hightower and Ryan Torain who along with solid D are helping bring some non-political excitement back to DC.

11. New York Giants (3-1)
Losing to the Redskins in the season opener was a tough pill to swallow & may have been a sign of things to come but through some tight D from defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and some luck (how ’bout the Cruz call?) the Giants are 2nd in the NFC East after 4 weeks and are on track for a solid year. However, although the Giants are winning, the NFC East is looking like one of the weaker divisions in football this season. With Dallas failing thanks to Romo doing his thing and Philly being more of a Dreaming Team, it’s only a matter of time before Sexy Rexy screws up, which leaves  Super Bowl XLII MVP Eli Manning & his Giants as the only legit threat left in the NFC East. Good times.

12. Tennessee Titans (3-1)
It was a sad, somber week for the Titans family after the passing of former Titans OC MikeHeimerdinger on Saturday. No doubt he would’ve been proud of the performance the next day, as the Titans schooled the  Browns in a 31-13 win, with RB Chris Johnson finally getting going with his 1st 100 yard performance of 2011. But it’s former Hawks QB Matt Hasselbeck who’s stunning critics with another multiple TD game, 8 TDs on the year so far which is getting him some hype for a possible MVP nomination come the end of the season – a lifetime away yet. This team has a good young D, forcing Browns QB Colt McCoy to throw 61 times and keeping the Browns at 8/20 on 3rd down. With TE’s Jared Cook & Craig Stevens, WR’s Washington & Williams helping to fill the void in the absence of WR Kenny Britt, this team could end up challenging for a wildcard spot in January.

13. San Francisco 49ers (3-1)
The 49ers are gutting out wins this season. Their first two victories were against fairly mediocre teams in the Seahawks and Bengals, but people took notice when they toppled the overrated team of the Philadelphia Eagles. Sure it was a 1 point win, but the fact that they did it by coming from behind, being lead by Alex Smith and still having a fairly banged up Michael Crabtree shows this team can play the game this season.

14. Atlanta Falcons (2-2)
Well, there goes my Super Bowl winner prediction. Sure, 2-2 isn’t a bad record, but when you’re in the 1st or 2nd toughest division in the entire NFL, it’s not good. The Falcons almost blew it again last Sunday against the Seahawks, only winning by 2. Mike Smith has to find out their major problem and fix it ASAP if he want his team to still go places this season.

15. Chicago Bears (2-2)
The Bears were lucky to escape with a victory against the Panthers last Sunday. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous Offensive Pass Interference call on Jeremy Shockey, the Bears would be 1-3 right now. The Bears are, yet again, having O-Line problems, and they’re going to need to get it right for this week’s Monday Night Football game against the Lions.

16. Oakland Raiders (2-2)
Oakland are a solid team with a tough schedule. Their running game is lights out with Darren McFadden carving it up every week. But they just faced the Patriots and now they take on the red-hot Texans in Houston. Hue Jackson’s not having the best season so far, but hopefully Al Davis can see the team’s headed in the right direction.

The rest of the league..

17. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) – A surprising 2-2 team with a rookie QB under center, the Bengals take on a poor Jacksonville team this week.

18. Cleveland Browns (2-2) – Cleveland’s on the bye this week, but have been underwhelming to say the least so far.

19. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) – After being destroyed by the Ravens in week 1, the Steelers have looked disappointing thus far, with their D being a far cry from what it used to be.

20. New York Jets (2-2) – Overrated teams are overrated for a reason.

21. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – Blowing 24 point leads never gets you in the good books.

22. Carolina Panthers (1-3) – Definitely the best 1-3 team around, the Panthers have been competitive and close in every game thus far. Reminiscent of the Lions of 2010. They’ll blow it up next year.

23. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) – Crappy experiment is crap.

24. Seattle Seahawks (1-3) – They came close to a major upset last week, but couldn’t pull it off. They have another chance to pull a rabbit out of the hat against the Giants this week.

25. Arizona Cardinals (1-3) – When your starting CB’s have next to no NFL experience, bad things are bound to happen.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – They should’ve kept David Garrard.

27. Denver Broncos (1-3) They got walloped by the Packers last week and take on the Chargers this week. Good luck with that.

28. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – I can’t believe the Chiefs won a game, 0-16 looked destined at one point. Not that the team they beat were good (Vikings).

29. Indianapolis Colts (0-4) – The Colts looked competitive against the Buccaneers on MNF, so hopefully they can get a win this week against KC.

30. Miami Dolphins (0-4) – The Dolphins are the favourites for Luck now with Henne out for the year. Tough luck for Henne. First his season, then his job. Yikes.

31. St. Louis Rams (0-4) – Ya see, wha, wha, what happened was…Yeah, we don’t know, and neither does Spagnuolo. Back to the top 5 of picking for them.

32. Minnesota Vikings (0-4) – I can’t believe they lost to the Chiefs. Pathetic team; put Ponder in already.

Intro, Teams 1-12 by Mackk
Teams 13-32 by AD (As you can tell)

Dexter: Season 6 Premiere


I’ve been waiting all year long for the return of my favorite dark hero. It’s like the NFL season.. you only get so many weeks of entertainment and then it’s over, followed by a long offseason of waiting.

Finally, the premiere came and I was eager to see what kind of rebound season Dexter would have. It wasn’t so much that last season was bad, it’s just that the other seasons to precede it were better. After the titles and the 1st scene, I was smiling.. as was Dexter. In the first 2 seasons, the show was dark and funny. Almost a “perverse humour” to such violent and morally wrong acts. In the first episode, I felt those same ingredients of success as the episode seems to have set the tone for season 6; a lighter tone. And I loved it.

 The episode, “Those Kinds of Things” starts off with Dexter stumbling around a warehouse district, struggling to breathe & holding his stomach where an apparent wound appears to be. He dials 911 whilst holding a bloody knife in the other hand. Immediately, my heart races. “What the hell has happened?! How could he have gotten injured?” I then thought about something along the lines of maybe there was a scenario involving Miami PD & Deb, where he found himself caught and vulnerable to the point that he’s been shot or stabbed. Either way, it wasn’t the start I’d expected. Basically, it was a knee-jerk, “here we go again.”

The EMT’s arrive and attend to Dexter who is laying on his back. BOOM! With one quick, cat-like action, he strikes both EMT’s in the neck with his patented animal tranquilizer and we realize that this was all just part of the perfect setup to lure his victims. Wow, brilliant. We soon find out they’ve been a part of a ring that was harvesting human organs, killing their patients on purpose so they could do so. Dexter promptly puts them in the ambulance before electrocuting both of them with a defibrillator simultaneously. Dexter narrates and gloats that things have been great for him lately, a hint that things are moving forward for our dark hero and although we all loved Rita and the kids, solo Dexter is just much more fun to watch. No strings, just Dexter taming that dark passenger. And just like that, the show lifts off and it feels like classic Dexter again.

From there, the show hits many high notes and highlights – not all of which I’m going to list here. i rec

The whole theme of the episode is based around new and change and moving forward. We see Dexter has extended his apartment by buying the apartment next door and he has a new nanny, Angel’s sister who is way too observant of Dexter’s movements which I’m guessing the writers will do something with later on. Immediately as she was introduced, I did the, “Oh come on man.” Although she is quite attractive, you gotta think they’ll also do something with that later on.

As the show progresses, Dexter faces the religion theme. As Harrison is attending preschool, Angel has recommended a Catholic preschool, one that is ‘a breeding ground for Ivy league schools.’ Dexter has the question put to him upon the visit to the preschool with Deb, “What religion are you?” As we know, Dexter hasn’t had much experience in theology and lives by his own rules, not someone else’s. He admits to both the head nun that he doesn’t believe in anything except a “set of rules” to which Deb tells him that it’s like a puppy following rules and is “cold and empty.” She tells Dexter to think about this, as it’s not just about him anymore. Deb’s wisdom send Dexter into some deep thinking.

Meanwhile, Dexter is also getting ready to attend his 20 year high school reunion. A stroke of genius by the writers as Dexter is already an alien to society but now, he has to attend the most awkward of social gatherings. Dexter is thrown into the deep end, figuring he’d fly under the radar, swoop in and grab the kill as his targeted victim just happens to be a former classmate Joe – the high school jock; the main reason of course why he’s even bothering to attend the reunion in the first place.

However in a twist of events, he ends up being the opposite of what he was in high school.. popular. How? First off he’s suffered a tragedy which has everyone giving them their condolences and feeling sorry for him; secondly, he looks better than he was before and thirdly, he’s got a cool job that puts him in the paper from time to time.

The reunion is one of the highlights of the show for me. The setting and the creative ways that the writers used to create the environment for Dexter to operate is pretty impressive. It’s the awkward moments and humour that make it gold to watch. You’re right there with him as he awkwardly tries to get out of conversations with former cheerleaders and classmates, trying to get closer to his target. The look on Dexter’s face as he moves around the room,  before finally sending himself to a timeout in the bathroom where Harry gives him a pep talk and tells him to just have fun, to which Dexter does much to our amusement. He loosens up & pure entertainment follows. He gets dragged onto the dance floor, busting moves to MC Hammer much to my amusement. I could not wipe the smile off my face, as I looked on in wonder and happiness at what was happening.  A classic line that will be quoted for years to come, Dexter says about MC Hammer, “I have no idea what Hammer Time is or how it differs from regular time.”

From there the show cuts to a dark swamp where it’s not all what it seems. 2 men, paddle in a boat (because let’s be real, what else are paddles used for?) at night, looking for a pregnant snake. Eerie enough as all that sounds, the camera then zooms into the snakes belly where you can see the baby snakes move inside the pregnant snake. You know that’s probably never good in Dexter. One of those guys, Tom Hanks’ son Colin, is assumed to be the apprentice of the master. As daylight comes around, they head to a roadside fruit stall, whereby Hanks’ character proceeds to take a large machete and give him the business. Soon after, the police department turn up to the fruit stall, where a large amount of human intestines are found sitting in a scale, with no trace of the body but with a blood trail that leads to nowhere.

Not long after, a body is washed up and found on the beach. Sure enough, it’s our fruit Joe, as the police find out when they check out his ID. They check his chest & sure enough, 2 from 2.. his intestines appear to have been removed, as he’s been cut open and sewn back up. However, the stitching is in the shape of Alpha and Omega, some weird religious cult – again, tying in with the religion theme that season 6 looks to heading for.  As the team inspect the torso, they notice something moving inside, under the skin of the deceased. Promptly, they cut open the stitching, only to find snakes crawling out of the opening. Deb freaks out and takes a step back, Dexter jumps in and the look on his face says it all – he is astonished at the craftsmanship and uniqueness of the crime. The contrast is humorous, as everyone around him (including Vince’s intern who faints) is horrified.. but not Dexter.

Next we see Dexter back at the office, studying up online, terminology of football and football plays.. trying to get the X’s & O’s of football down before the flag football game he signed up for – all so he could get a blood sample to match Joe to the crime; a positive match needed, just to be sure. We then see Dexter take part in the reunion flag football game, with Dexter not exactly knowing which way to move (& getting owned, to my surprise) but more so just wingin’ it and following the QB around. I was laughing, until the defensive lineman came on through and knocked Dexter down. He loses his needle that he was planning on using to get a sample of the Joe’s blood, so Dex calls in some coaching advice from Harry. Harry tells him that as an offensive lineman, his job is to protect the quarterback and in the process, to “accidentally” elbow him. Dexter does just that, allowing the defensive lineman to push him back enough where Dexter pulls back his arm and WHACK, smacks the QB in the nose and drawing blood. Dexter grabs his wristband and tries to be the on-field medic, discreetly obtaining a blood sample to which he does match to the suspect back at the department HQ. Joe angrily asks Dexter, “Who taught you how to play football?” & Dexter responds “My Dad.” I smiled and remembered just why I fell in love with this show.

As Dexter roams the hallways of his former school ready for the night to “the night”, he runs into the former Prom Queen, Trish. She tells him what the go is straight up and pushes him into the science lab where she proceeds to strip and give him some action. Instead of awkwardly trying to excuse himself, Dexter loosens up and just enjoys it to the point where he lets out some loud moaning, almost a primal release. As soon as the deed is done, Trisha thanks him and Dexter pockets her phone, hoping to lure Joe to the football shed with a single text message. Joe takes the bait, where Dexter is lurking the shadows ready to tranquilize him. Before Joe can figure out what’s going on, despite a fight – like many others before him, he ends up wrapped up, on a scoreboard (an awesome touch by the writers) and under Dexter’s final interrogation. During the questioning, Dexter sees Joe’s cross on his neck and a tattoo on his upper chest of Jesus, to which Dexter starts asking questions about faith and trying to understand, just how Joe could justify murdering his wife. He asks about forgiveness and repentance & for a moment, it feels like Dexter might let him go, as Joe pleads Dexter to do so. But what kind of start to a season would that be? Dexter going soft.. awful. But he doesn’t, and that made me happy. Before Joe can say anymore, Dexter smashes him with a hammer and finishes him off with a knife before dumping his body into the ocean as usual. Dexter gets his man, and we get Dexter back for another season.

There are a lot of high expectations for season 6 and a lot of questions to be answered going forward. A lot I left out, eg. Deb and Quinn (a minor storyline in the season opener) but no doubt, in the next few episodes, the structure will be built for what I’m hoping, will be on the best seasons to date, since season 4 with Trinity. Will Dexter meet a girl or fly solo? Will someone find out his secret again? Will Deb find out his secret, this season? What will this new serial killer (Hanks) be like & where will Mos Def fit in? And this religion thing.. will Dexter be a believer, or will he just be more open to other ideas and possibilities for his son?

One thing about Dexter is for sure & that is that it’s great to have Michael C. Hall and the crew back on the box, doing what they do best. As a fan, all that matters at the end of the day is having him back, making me smile as he smiles along with us.

Ohio University Marching Band Party Rocks

I love the song Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO.

So anything to do with that song, I’ll generally like. I mean who doesn’t love to shuffle?

Everyday, you’re shufflin’. Go out to pick up the morning paper off the front lawn in boxers, a Red Wings t-shirt and you hear that song.. can’t help but shuffle. (Much to your neighbor’s amusement as more than your dance skills reveals itself.)

In the supermarket, trying to decide between beef and chicken in your stir fry.. song booms over the PA and pretty soon you’re shufflin’ into the dairy aisle thinking about some of that sweet custard later on tonight.

So naturally, when the Ohio University Marching Band performs the hit by LMFAO, it’s worth checking out and when I did.. I was not dissapointed at all.

Check out the moves.. and in sync. Amazing. Epic. All you need to do is hear the response from the crowd to know that they had scored a big touchdown on that play.

Well done Ohio University. You have mine and many other’s attention now.

Maybe the NFL should take a leaf out of the NCAA’s book, or at the very least look into an idea like this, rather than showboating old, washed-up performers (*cough* Madonna *cough*) that no sane person would want to see.

(Other than Bruce Springsteen & Prince, which were 2 fantastic half time shows. Kudos NFL for getting 2 out 6 or so right.)

Enjoy.

The 313 Things to Watch: NFL Week 4 Edition

Welcome to our 1st installment of what will be a weekly edition of “The 3-1-3 Things to Watch” feature. Every week, I’ll feature 7 “things to watch items.” Why 7? Because 3+1+3 = 7. Duh.

Week 4 in the NFL and we have 3 undefeated teams and 5 very, very defeated teams sitting at 0-3.

As usual, we’ll be watching our teams face off and hope for a W. But on a NFL-wide scale, here are some other notes and headlines that might be of interest to keep an eye on this weekend.

1. Can the Eagles offensive line keep Vick’s uniform crinkle-free?

After the game in week 3, Eagles QB Michael Vick, frustrated with being knocked around vs. the Giants, let it all out at the post-game press conference by “critiquing” the way the referees officiated the game, before later offering an apology of sorts to the officials and going back on what he said about getting hit after he’d released the ball. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see if the VP of Officiating Carl Johnson & his crew listened & if his offensive line mates took it upon themselves to make sure that no defender even got the chance for a late hit on Vick. Even though suffering a broken hand in the loss vs. the rival G-men, Vick plans to play. You can bet your house Reid will make sure there’s more protection there than a Presidential appearance at a Condom Expo in Mexico.

2. The Rivera Show Returns for revenge to Solider Field

While he might not say as much, former Bears defensive coordinator, now Panthers head coach  Ron Rivera had this game marked on the calendar as soon as the schedule was released. Rivera was fired from Chicago, although technically he was ‘not rehired’ by Bears head coach Smith in favour of linebackers coach Bob Babich, despite an outstanding unit that ranked as one of the best under Rivera. You can bet that Rivera will be more than ready to taste the sweet, sweet tears of Smith, as will Panthers tight end Greg Olsen who was traded by the Bears this offseason, after seeking a trade. Relationships were stretched and the Panthers have benefited from the move with OIsen becoming one of rookie QB Cam Newton’s primary targets in offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s offense. With both the Panthers and Bears standing at 1-2, this game is vital to each team’s season. (Heading into week 5 is a lot easier at 2-2 than 1-3, as Captain Obvious points out.)

3. Can Roddy White overcome his stone hands vs. the Hawks?

Going into week 4, Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White leads the NFL in dropped passes with 4, including a huge late, game-changing drop vs. the Bucs in week 3. QB Matt Ryan found White and would’ve had a clear path to the endzone had his hands not been made of brick. While White is known as one of the better WRs in the NFL, he certainly needs to work on the one stat that will keep him from being a great receiver. Although he led the NFL in receptions last season with 115, he only dropped 3 passes. Can he rebound vs. the Seahawks? There should be plenty of opportunities for himself and Ryan to make some plays, it’s just a matter of if he can hang onto the ball long enough to complete those plays. Week 4 is the perfect time for White to turn things around.

 4. Can the Pats D do a 180 degree turn and match their offence?

In week 1 action vs. Miami, QB Tom Brady (with his long locks flowing in the wind) threw for 517 yards and 4 TDs, including the memorable 99 yard TD pass to Wes Welker. Week 2, he threw for 423 in another W. Then came Buffalo. With Brady leading his team 21-10 into halftime, it all was looking like a 3-0 start for the Patriots. Then came the halftime adjustments from Buffalo and the major LOLFAIL from the Patriots D. There are major problems with the Pats D, no doubt. To date, they’re giving up 468.7 yards per game. All you had to do was listen to Boston sports talk back radio after the game last week to know that the hot topic was defence (& Tom Brady’s luscious hair. Meow). Enter, the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are looking rejuvenated under Hue Jackson, with Darren McFadden leading the NFL in rushing after 3 weeks. How will Bill Belichick contain Run DMC when the Pats D missed some big opportunities in wrapping up Bills RB Fred Jackson, late in the 4th quarter last week. It’s concerning, and it’s just one of the many questions in this game including, how will former Pats Super Bowl winning defensive lineman Richard Seymour play going against his old team for the first time since getting traded? Another question is, who will get more TDs and touches? Welker or Run DMC? Either way, it’s an underrated matchup worth checking out in week 4.

5. Romo’s Ribs: Meet Ndamukong Suh

I can just see it now. Romo drops back (with one of the few non-fumbled snaps) and as he plants his foot, he scans the field. As he looks, completely unaware, Lions defensive tackle and man beast Ndamukong Suh has beaten his man. Boom. Romo is down, Suh lays a vicious hit that we’ve all seen before and all that is left is Romo laying on the turf yelling, ” NN DAM U KONG!” (Had to do it, I’m sorry.) Anyway, last week it was DeAngelo Hall talking trash about Romo’s ribs. This week, Suh has been quoted as saying, “That’s not my style. If I’m coming in from that side and I accidentally hit it, then so be it. That’s not my problem. That’s not my issue to deal with. I’m going to continue to play. I’m not planning on putting my helmet in his ribs or anything of that sort. I’m going to go after the ball. The ball is the most important. That’s the only thing that can really hurt you.” Suh is licking his chops, even if it is to get into the head of centre Phil Costa & QB Tony Romo to cause a few miscues. No doubt, it’s a matchup to watch for and a game that is definitely game of the week. The Lions face their toughest test yet (you can read Ash’s write up on the game here) and no doubt, it will be a game that will answer a lot of questions for both teams.

6. The Jared Allen Bowl

What a game. Two 0-3 teams going head to head, Jared Allen facing off against the team that traded him.. will the Vikings blow ANOTHER halftime lead? Talk about must-watch-TV. In all seriousness, something has to give this weekend, for one of these 2 teams. Both 0-3, both having 2 very different seasons so far. During the week, Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe blamed the shortened preseason for the Chiefs start slow start. (Read here, via Yahoo Sports’ Doug Farrar.) He could’ve put it on injuries, but put it down to “lack of timing”. Ok Dwayne. We’ll just see if the defending AFC West champs figure out a way to get things moving, finally. With the Vikings coming to town however, that train might take a little longer to depart, especially with the Cowboy himself bearing down on QB Matt Cassel, trying to once again show the Chief’s Clark Hunt and then GM Carl Peterson, what a mistake they made when he traded Allen back in the offseason of 2008.

 7. Ryan faces off against the Purple Machine he built

I could probably put a few other items here. Curtis Painter facing off against the Bucs on MNF. Ryan Fitzpatrick going against his former team the Bengals after 3 fantastic wins. Or even asking the question of why several RBs in this league have gone MIA. But instead, I’ll choose to focus on a great matchup. The overrated Jets and their head coach Rex Ryan travel to Baltimore for the 1st time since Ryan landed the head gig in NY. This will be a game worth watching featuring 2 teams who are emotional and highly physical; funnily enough, 2 characteristics of Ryan. There will be a lot of grudges facing off in this game. Rex Ryan, Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and recently, Derrick Mason are all former Ravens who wouldn’t mind a nice bit of payback in their former home stadium. But it’s not just the Ravens D and all the familiar faces that will be playing, that will be a key to watch this week. The Ravens offense has exploded in 2011, with Joe Flacco throwing a career best 389 yards vs. St Louis last week in a 37-7 trouncing, thanks to a little help from new fantasy waiver-wire pickup Torrey Smith. Smith is a legit concern for the Jets D.  If he consumes the coverage of Revis Island, it can potentially leave some other opportunities open for Flacco to expose Ryan’s current D that he’s created in New York. You can bet that when this game is all said and done, it will be bittersweet for a few players and leave a bad taste in a few others.

So that’s it for this week’s edition.. our first edition. Remember to keep an eye on these few story lines during this fine Sunday afternoon of pigskin watchin.’ Until next week, good luck and enjoy.

Panthers LB Davis Not Planning On Retirement Just Yet

Per the National Football Post, Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has said that he’s not done yet in the NFL.

“”And for those of you who have asked, NO way am I going to retire.” 

 

“Met with Dr. Andrews today. He doesn’t see a reason why I wont be able to play next season. Having surgery in the a.m.”

 

-Thomas Davis, via his twitter account.

Davis is scheduled to go under the knife on his right knee for the 3rd straight season after tearing his ACL in week 2 action vs. the Green Bay Packers in the Panthers home opener.

Just a week after seeing team mate and the heart and soul of the Panthers defence, linebacker Jon Beason go down with a torn Achilles in the season opener at Arizona, Davis is standing his ground and plans to go through the rehabilitation process and line up for the 2012-13 NFL season.

But the team that Davis will be lining up for, remains the biggest question of all, after the question of whether or not he can come back and stay healthy – the biggest concern for Carolina.

Davis, 28, recently signed a 5 year, $36.5 million dollar contract extension this offseason however, the Panthers protected themselves with an $8 million signing bonus guarantee – if such a thing were to happen again. They can cut ties with Davis in 2012 by not exercising the bonus on the third day of the next league year. The alleged five-year deal was actually a one-year, $8 million deal. The Panthers are most likely to release Davis unless a re-worked contract can be agreed upon and some insurance and linebacker is brought in. In that case, the starting job at weak side linebacker will be one position to watch coming into next season’s training camp.

On the field and when healthy, Davis can be game changing. He was having a Pro Bowl year in 2009-10 before injuring his knee for the first time. A former safety drafted out of Georgia, he made a name for himself in his rookie season when former Panthers head coach used Davis in a “spy” role on the Falcons QB, Michael Vick. The Panthers went onto contain Vick and win the game, Davis and the defence being the main reason why. After playing one season at safety, Davis made the move to linebacker the following season and has been a phenomenal, ever-improving player and fan favorite ever since.

Source:

http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Thomas-Davis-says-hes-not-retiring-after-3rd-ACL-replacement.html

Big Bert & That Delicious Shootout Goal.

By now, many of you have probably seen it. (I know I’m a few days behind.)

If you’re a Red Wings fan or a Hawks fan, you’ve almost certainly seen it on a few highlight shows.

It’s only preseason but the Detroit Red Wings again look hungry to get all the way to back the Finals in 2011-12. On Sunday night, the Red Wings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in a shootout. The winner? Enter, Todd Bertuzzi.

It’s no secret the big guy has soft hands. But this.. Wow. This goal just goes to show you what soft touch he possesses. And it’s not the first time we’ve seen a goal like this from #44.

But for such a rugged, scary looking man, he must moisturize the shit out of those hands.

Pavel Datsyuk would wink in approval of such a sick move.

So whether you’ve seen it or haven’t seen it, sit back & enjoy the beautiful, sweet shootout goal. (For best results, remove pants and enjoy with a beverage.)

Now let’s all do the Todd Bertuzzi.