DAN HAS SOME STRONG OPINIONS ON LOCAL SPORTS…..CHECK HIM OUT WHEN YOU GET A CHANCE….LOVE HIS WRITING STYLE..
DAN HAS SOME STRONG OPINIONS ON LOCAL SPORTS…..CHECK HIM OUT WHEN YOU GET A CHANCE….LOVE HIS WRITING STYLE..
BY KEVIN HARRIMAN
Boston Sports Desk Publisher
HOLLYWOOD, CA – It was a crazy night to say the least. ! I didn’t know quite what to expect from the 83rd Oscars event held last night in Hollywood. But I will say, I would never have imagined the level of excitement that the event generated. From the stars, to the guests, to the employees, everyone was celebrating.
The Boston Sports Desk was given access by The Academy to report from the event last night and I must say, it was an extremely well run event that involved thousands of security personel and Academy employees that made sure this night went off without incident.
Fashion was all around me. While not a big “fashion” person myself, I will admit that observing the sartorial statements being made was impressive. Long gowns and jewelry that dazzled were the norm. Red was the color of the night. The glitz of one celebrity after another was mind-numbing. This sea of who’s-who in the motion picture industry never seemed to cease.
When I arrived (late) for the event on Hollywood Blvd, I was greeted with a crazy visual of armoured assault vehicles and limos making their way to the event. L.A. Swat Teams were in place for the event and security was in high gear.
It was difficult to manuever through the event with your credentials being asked for what seemed like every 100 feet. But it was well worth it. Metal detectors at the entrance to the thearter were set up, but no one seemed to care about the time it took to navigate the maze. Everyone was here for a party. And a party is what they got !
At the risk of sounding too cliche, there were no losers here last night that I saw. This event culminated a year of work by thousands of people -both infront and behind the camera- who all finally exhaled last night in the form of one big-league bash.
I was able to meet and talk to a number of “A” and “B” List celebs last night along with a host of people who made this event shine. Stage designers, art designers, sound production people…they all came together and raised their glasses in celebration last night about mid-nite L.A. time for a job well done.
There were a number of questions raised by people I talked to last night. The biggest one was: “are you really from Boston and what is Mark Wahlberg really like”. I’ve never met Mr.Wahlberg, but it didn’t matter to them, I was just one of the media “celebrating” a great year in motion pictures.
Tim Gunn of Project Runway was one of the celebs that stopped by and talked to me. He was gracious and accomadeting. More than that, he was very polite and just laughed and winked when I asked him about my attire: my dad’s old blue blazzer, a pair of comfortable jeans, my polo shirt and BSD press pass.
Greatly under-dressed ? Yes. But did it matter to him? No ! This was just about having a fun night for me. Gunn agreed. “This whole night is just a special event and a special time”, said Gunn. “We’re all here to celebrate and congratulate one another for a job well done.”
I will say it was most interesting sitting next to Gunn and listening to his comments on the outfits being worn last night. His thought process was amazing. Most of it went right over my head, but the crowd around me certainly wanted to hear what he had to say. The looks I got from the other media members was priceless.
“Who the hell is this guy from Boston Sports Desk and why is Tim Gunn actually hanging out with him ?” Priceless, I tell you.
BY LORI MITCHENER
Boston Sports Desk Correspondent
Did the hockey season end? I must have missed it between summer skills, street hockey, and Bruins camp; alas that is the life of the “rabid hockey mom” as a friend of my so affectionately refers to me. You can add coach to that title now, and winning coach to boot, we won our first game today! While the hockey season never really ends when we wear our helmets, when we wear our Black and Gold we are keenly aware that the 2009-2010 season came to a screeching train wreck of an end. That was painful.
Game seven snapped a 12 game win streak for my six-year-old; he had never seen the Bruins lose in person. We stayed for all three periods. Walking out he asked, “Does this mean we have to root for the Habs?” Kids say the darndest things. We did not root for the Habs; however I am glad the front office kept our former Canadian. Of course the knee jerk reaction was to show Claude Julien the door once all the rally towels were cleared. One can only hope that Peter Chiarelli (GM) realized that he was equally to blame in the implosion on ice and decided to keep Julien and build a better team. The decision to bring on Julien’s old bench-mate, Doug Jarvis, was a sound idea, provided he reminds the team that THERE ARE THREE PERIODS IN A HOCKEY GAME.
Someone who is keenly aware that there are indeed three periods in a hockey games is of course Bam Bam Cam (Cam Neely). Yes, Bruins hockey needs three well executed periods, but does it need three vice presidents? I dare say not. Alas, what else to do with Cam Neely? Making him head coach could be disastrous. What if the team failed to produce, and did not make it into round two of the playoffs even? Could the Black and Gold faithful endure Bam Bam Cam as the face of failure? Evidently we could not. However, making him president could be the shot in the anemic arm we as fans needed. Oh fearless leader, we will follow you anywhere so long as we may drink from The Cup.
How many times will I have to scream “What the Ference?” on the way to The Stanley Cup? He is not pretty in the corners, but I’ll take him over (Dennis) Wideman any day. I frolicked poolside as the text alert came across my phone that we traded Wideman for Horton. All of the ifs and injuries aside, Horton is a welcome compliment to the offense. We have never recovered from the loss of (Phil) Kessel and the defense is plenty deep (though I will miss Sobotka). Another forward to watch, though I suspect he will have limited ice time is Tyler Seguin. Some question why our first round draft pick made the roster only to be a glass banger. It is back to the implosion on the ice: he is good for business. He is the face of the next generation. I hope he can keep up with the learning curve.
The hockey season never really ends it just slows down long enough for us to lick our collective wounds, apply the tourniquet and mend the heart that bleeds Black and Gold. Ask me any day and my answer will always be the same: Who is going to win The Stanley Cup this year? The Bruins, did you really have to ask?
BY JAKE SALTZMAN
Boston Sports Desk Correspondent
This is part 7 of an 8 part series in which I will examine each division within the National Football League. Last time, I took a look at the AFC North, which in 2010 is the Baltimore Ravens’ to lose. Today I’m looking at the AFC South, which again in 2010 figures to be dominated by Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts.
The AFC South has been one of the two most lopsided division in the NFL in recent years (the other being the AFC West), as the Indianapolis Colts have won the division in six of the last seven seasons, and have been the only team in the division to reach the Super Bowl since the turn of the century. 2010 will not serve as the year the trend is broken either, as the Colts remain heavy division favorites, the Houston Texans have been decimated by injuries prior to the season even starting, the Tennessee Titans lack a defense capable of stopping the better offenses in the league and the Jacksonville Jaguars are a year or two (and a quarterback) away from being able to contend. However, in 2009 only one team in the South finished with a record below .500, and that team, Jacksonville, was still in the playoff hunt at the start of the final week of last season after beating the New York Jets on the road a year ago. If the Colts played in another division the AFC South would undoubtedly be the most competitive division in football, no questions about that. However, because the Colts aren’t going away, the AFC South remains as predictable a division as any other in professional sports.
Players to Watch: RB Chris Johnson, QB Vince Young, TE Jared Cook, WR Kenny Britt, DE William Hayes, CB Alterraun Verner.
Key Games: Week 1 vs. Oakland, Week 4 vs. Denver, Week 5 @ Dallas, Week 8 @ San Diego, Week 12 @ Houston, Week 14 vs. Indianapolis.
2010 Projected Record: 8-8, T-3rd AFC South
2009 Record: 8-8, 3rd AFC South
Who’s In: -DE Derrick Morgan
-WR Damian Williams
-CB Alterraun Verner
-DE Jason Babin
-RB LeGarrette Blount
-MLB Will Witherspoon
-LB Rennie Curran
Who’s Out: -RB LenDale White
-TE Alge Crumpler
-LB Keith Bulluck
-CB Nick Harper
-DE Kyle Vanden Bosch
-DT Kevin Vickerson
-C Kevin Mawae
-Shaking inconsistency is absolutely key for the Tennessee Titans. Many people believe the Titans have a better shot than do division rivals Jacksonville and Houston at upending the Indianapolis Colts in the division, and that thought ultimately is not overly unreasonable. Chris Johnson, the NFL’s reigning running champion is healthy, Vince Young is presently as confident under center as he has ever been in the NFL, and the defense, while by no means impenetrable, isn’t terrible. However, if the Titans start 0-8 like they did a year ago, or score a combined 22 points like they did in three of their four final games (including playoffs) like they did two years ago, the Titans will have no such chance. The inconsistency factor comes into play when you consider that the Titans finished last year with a .500 record (after the 0-8 start) and went 14-2 in the regular season two years ago, despite being outscored mightily in their last five games. The overall talent on the Tennessee roster is glaring, especially on offense and special teams; but in order for the Titans to do anything considerable this year, some sort of positive trend must emerge from this football team
-The spread between the talent on offense and lack of it on defense may be too great of one for the Titans to head into the postseason with. On offense, the Titans may have as solid an overall unit as any in the NFL. Though the offensive line loses its biggest name, center Kevin Mawae this season, veterans Jake Scott, Eugene Amano and Michael Roos all seem capable of picking up the slack. Adding to the blocking game will be a trio of battering ram tight ends in Bo Scaife, Jared Cook and Craig Stevens. Everyone knows just how good a back Chris Johnson is, and the bottom line is that if the Titans played without an O-line altogether in 2010, Johnson and his fullback Ahmard Hall would still put up rushing numbers slightly better than those churned out by the entire Cleveland Browns backfield. Johnson is the best pure running back in the league right now, and is already motivated to show that his record-breaking 2009 season was no fluke. At receiver, Damian Williams was picked up in the draft to add another dimension to the receiving corps, and should be a nice target for Vince Young who already has two tall veterans on either side of the line of scrimmage in Kenny Britt and Justin Gage. Offensively, the Titans are just fine.
Defense however is an area of concern. Defensive end William Hayes, the surprise pick of the 2008 draft has shown he can be a force on the line, but while he is poised for a breakout year, he’ll be hard-pressed not to miss the now-departed Kyle Vanden Bosch. Jason Babin was brought in during the summer, and former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Derrick Morgan was drafted to help quell the situation which will inevitably result due to Vanden Bosch’s departure, but neither one (at least in Morgan’s case not yet) is presently capable of anchoring the D-line. Keith Bulluck, the team’s second leading tackler from a year ago is gone as well, and his absence will be felt heavily among the linebackers, even though Stephen Tulloch and rookie Rennie Curran eagerly await the start of the Titans’ first season since 2000 without Bulluck. In the secondary Cortland Finnegan is as solid as they come, and the rest of the defensive backs are capable of effectively defending the pass. But with the questions up front, the Titans will have their hands full this season if they cannot stop the run.
Players to Watch: DT Earl Mitchell, TE Owen Daniels, TE Joel Dreessen, WR Jacoby Jones, CB Glover Quin, QB Matt Schaub, DE Mario Williams.
Key Games: Week 1 vs. Indianapolis, Week 3 vs. Dallas, Week 8 @ Indianapolis, Week 11 @ NY Jets, Week 14 vs. Baltimore.
2009 Record: 9-7, 2nd AFC South
2010 Projected Record: 9-7, 2nd AFC South
Who’s In: -K Neil Rackers
-LB Danny Clark
-WR/TE/FB Dorin Dickerson
-KR Trindon Holliday
-CB Kareem Jackson
-OT Wade Smith
-RB Ben Tate (INJURED)
-RB Derrick Ward
-LB Darryl Sharpton
Who’s Out: -RB Ryan Moats
-QB Rex Grossman
-DB John Busing
-DB Dunta Robinson
-DT Jeff Zgonina
-DB Fred Bennett
-OT Chester Pitts
-OT Ephraim Salaam
-CB Jacques Reeves
-The Houston Texans are doing something no other team in the AFC is doing as we enter the final week before the start of the NFL season, and that is keeping every team-selection from the latest draft on the active roster to begin play here in 2010. Though not all nine of the draft picks will be playing this year, the Texans are confident that they are smart enough drafters to know who can be and who cannot be inserted into the lineup without costing the team. Based upon what the Texans were able to do with their rookies a year ago, letting tight ends Anthony Hill and James Casey both see the field in Owen Daniels’ absence, and relying upon first year cornerback Glover Quin to play alongside veterans Bernard Pollard and Dunta Robinson, I would say Head coach Gary Kubiak has an exciting team in 2010. This year’s rookie class, which was headed by running back Ben Tate until a devastating ankle injury, will be relied upon heavily this season, especially on an already-young defensive unit, as Kareem Jackson and Earl Mitchell are set to contribute in the secondary and on the D-line respectively. The already-mentioned Glover Quin performed so well in his rookie season that, along with Jackson, Pollard and Dominique Barber, the Texans will have one of the NFL’s best secondaries this season, even without Dunta Robinson who opted to head to Atlanta. Unlike their three division rivals, the Texans should be just as exciting on defense as they should be on offense, as, in addition to a sparkling secondary, the linebacking corps and D-line feature stars such as DeMeco Ryans, Zac Diles and Mario Williams. The defense will get even better around week 5 when last season’s defensive rookie of the year Brian Cushing returns from suspension. Look for the defense to play a big factor in Houston’s week 8 game at Indianapolis. The Texans have never beaten the Colts in Indy, but have a great, midseason opportunity to do so in 2010.
Offensively, quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson are arguably the best deep threat tandem in the game, and both are healthy for week 1. Though running back Ben Tate is out for what coach Gary Kubiak believes is a “significant amount of time,” Steve Slaton is by no means an incapable number one back, as the Texans planned to feature Slaton in certain packages even before Tate’s injury. Tight end Owen Daniel’s is back healthy, and while Anthony Hill is out for at least the first six weeks of the season, any Texans fan will tell you this situation is much preferred to the reverse, which occurred last season. Keep an eye on number two tight end Joel Dreessen as well, who emerged as a viable target for Matt Schaub in the later weeks of 2009. I like the Texans to contend for a wildcard spot in 2010, and are as close to a season or two away from being serious contenders for the division title.
Players to Watch: QB Peyton Manning, DE Jerry Hughes, LB Pat Angerer, RB Mike Hart, CB Jacob Lacey, DB Deshea Townsend.
Key Games: Week 1 @ Houston, Week 2 vs. NY Giants, Week 3 @ Denver, Week 8 vs. Houston, Week 11 @ New England, Week 12 vs. San Diego, Week 13 vs. Dallas.
2009 Record: 13-3, 1st AFC South
2010 Projected Record: 12-4, 1st AFC South
Who’s In: -DB Deshea Townsend
-DE Jerry Hughes
-LB Pat Angerer
-DB Brandon King
-CB Justin Tryon
-KR/RB Devin Moore
-T Ricardo Matthews
Who’s Out: -RB/KR Chad Simpson
-WR Hank Baskett
-K Matt Stover
-DB T.J. Rushing
-DB Tim Jennings
-LB Freddy Keiaho
-DE Raheem Brock
-S Aaron Francisco
-LB Tyjuan Hagler
-DT Ed Johnson
-DB Marlin Jackson
-OT Adam Terry
-Perhaps because the Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts seemingly every year, (and seemingly every year but this one on the road) the names the Colts have let go in preparation for this season seem a little too prominent to be tossed into the garbage can that is NFL free agency. Chad Simpson, who, despite being a constant on special teams, and who, despite carrying the ball for the Colts only 15 times last season rushed for over 100 yards signed with the Bills, Freddy Keiaho, a longtime Patriot nemesis was allowed to sign with Jacksonville, and Raheem Brock, who always seemed to be at his best in big games, was deemed expendable by his employer for his first 8 NFL seasons. Do not be fooled however, as just like the Patriots were able to do with the likes of Don Davis, Larry Izzo, Otis Smith and even Lawyer Milloy, guys who seemed to play prominent roles in championships, because the Indianapolis coaching staff is so good at using players at the right times, and in the right spots, thought-to-be big name players are constantly being let go, as they are in fact just small pieces of a much larger puzzle. Jerry Hughes and Pat Angerer were taken in the draft to fill the holes left behind by Brock and Keiaho on defense, former Wyoming Cowboy Devin Moore was given Chad Simpson’s roster spot and undrafted free agent Brandon King will be given a long look at cornerback by Head coach Jim Caldwell.
Offensively, as long as Peyton Manning is in the huddle, the Colts will be big scorers. Manning has somehow managed to stay healthy throughout his career despite playing behind what is becoming one of the NFL’s older offensive lines, and will be helped again this season by the return of receivers Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. Brody Eldridge was drafted to provide the Colts with yet another offensive weapon, though don’t expect anybody to take playing time away from starting tight end Dallas Clark. Regardless of what defenses have come up with, with the possible exception of the New Orleans Saints in last year’s Super Bowl, nobody has been able to slow down the Colts offense consistently at any point in the last four years. With their potent offense, and with positive steps (Townsend, Hughes and Angerer) being taken on defense, there is little separating the Colts from another AFC championship and subsequent Super Bowl run. Little, in the way.
Players to Watch: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Rashad Jennings, FB Montell Owens, FB Brock Bolen, CB Derek Cox, TE Zach Miller, TE Marcedes Lewis, WR Kassim Osgood.
Key Games: Week 2 @ San Diego, Week 7 @ Kansas City, Week 8 @ Dallas, Week 11 vs. Cleveland, Week 15 @ Indianapolis, Week 17 @ Houston.
2009 Record: 7-9, 4th AFC South
2010 Projected Record: 8-8, T-3rd AFC South
Who’s In: -WR Kassim Osgood
-DE Tyson Alualu
-LB Jacob Cutrera
-DT Leger Douzable
-DE Larry Hart
-DT Aaron Kampman
-LB Freddy Keiaho
-KR Scotty McGee
-LB Kirk Morrison
-G Justin Smiley
-DT D’Anthony Smith
-CB David Jones
Who’s Out: -WR Torry Holt
– TE/WR Ernest Wilford
-WR Troy Williamson
-LB Clint Ingram
-DE John Henderson
-LB Quentin Groves
-DB Brian Iwuh
-DT Montavious Stanley
-S Gerald Alexander
-DE Attiyah Ellison
My View: Clearly, the already-young Jacksonville Jaguars are attempting to get even younger here in 2010. There is really no disputing that. Guys like Torry Holt and Gerald Alexander were clearly on their way out, but guys such as Ernest Wilford and Attiyah Ellison, who very well could have made the roster, were cut on the final roster-trimming day before the start of the season. Instead, the Jaguars are going with guys like defensive end Tyson Alualu, a defensive end who nearly everybody except Jaguars management feels was an enormous reach at tenth overall. Alualu may be just that, but there is no question he will add size, youth and physicality to a defensive line which both needs to be, and figures to be, greatly improved this season. On the D-line, the Jaguars made a big splash by bringing in Aaron Kampman to work alongside Alualu, and both players are just as valuable, plus younger, than John Henderson, now an Oakland Raider. An influx of youth can also be found in the secondary, where as a rookie just a year ago, Derek Cox, widely overlooked as a draft prospect from William & Mary, performed very well at corner. Cox, one of three acclaimed rookie defensive backs in the AFC a year ago, along with Houston’s Glover Quin and Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd, now has that key first year under his belt and is poised to do big things in the secondary again this season. Having veteran Sean Considine at short safety will be a good thing for the Jaguars secondary as well.
Offensively, if not for Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew would be the best running back in the AFC. Unfortunately for Jones-Drew, Johnson not only plays in the same conference, but also in the same division. Jones-Drew figures to be a workhorse for the Jaguars again this season, and for all involved, as well as many fantasy owners, that’s just fine. Do, however, expect second year man Rashad Jennings to see some time in the Jacksonville backfield, as he improved significantly after a slow start a year ago. Further aiding the Jaguars in the backfield is fullback Brock Bolen. Bolen finally made the Jaguars this season after having one of the best individual preseason performances in recent memory, and should figure to allow University of Maine’s gift to the NFL Montell Owens, one of three fullbacks on the Jaguars’ roster, to play strictly on special teams where both he and the Jaguars are most comfortable.
David Garrard is not the quarterback of the future for the Jaguars, even though the quarterback of the future remains unidentified and is probably still in college. Garrard is by no means a superstar, but for what it’s worth, he is a veteran leader and is more than capable of handing the ball off 30 times a game. If Garrard continues to develop an aerial rapport with Mike Sims-Walker however, it is not hard to imagine the two becoming the third best passing combo in the division behind Schaub/Johnson and Manning/Wayne.
-Special teams however will once again be Jacksonville’s biggest strength in 2010, just as it has been for several seasons. Last season, Montell Owens very well could have made the Pro Bowl as the AFC’s special teams’ representative, but lost out to the Chargers’ Kassim Osgood, also a deserving player. With the old adage being if you can’t beat ‘em sign ‘em, the Jaguars went out and signed Osgood this summer, undoubtedly making their special teams unit even stronger. The Jaguars also figure to use Osgood on offense as a receiver, (something San Diego did little of) but if you ever find yourself watching a replay of punt coverage, there is a good chance you are also watching a Jaguars game.
BY JAKE SALTZMAN
Boston Sports Desk Correspondent
This is part 5 of an 8 part series in which I have set out to preview each of the NFL’s 8 divisions just prior to the 2010 regular season getting underway. Last time, I looked at the NFC East, and today I’m switching conferences as I break down the AFC North.
The AFC North is a tremendously compelling division for several reasons. While the quality of football has by no means been a poor one, it has been an inconsistent one. Nonetheless, 2010 should be a fascinating year in the AFC North. In 2009, the Cincinnati Bengals were a perfect eight for eight in divisional contests, yet went only two and six in non-divisional games. In their first round playoff matchup with the New York Jets, the Bengals could muster little momentum on either side of the ball, and as a result saw their magical regular year become greatly overshadowed by continued postseason disappointment. The Baltimore Ravens meanwhile, as a wildcard representative of the AFC in the 2009 NFL playoffs, looked spectacular on offense in their first round game against the Patriots, and held the almighty Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to just 20 points one round later. This year, Baltimore expects big things from newly-acquired receiver Anquan Boldin, as well as from running back Ray Rice, as they begin the 2010 season as division favorites. In Cleveland, Eric Mangini just barely managed to retain his Head coaching job this off-season, but nevertheless claims to be on the same page with new team President Mike Holmgren. Not much is expected from the Browns yet again in 2010, but Mangini and Holmgren do in fact have some young weapons with whom to work offensively this year. The Pittsburgh Steelers on the other hand are a franchise enveloped in a web uncertainty to begin play here in 2010, as Pro Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is suspended for the first four games of the regular season. Head coach Mike Tomlin claims to be fully confident in backup quarterback Byron Leftwich’s abilities to run the offense, but should Leftwich falter early, Pittsburgh’s season could very well be one of little significance come Thanksgiving.
Players to Watch: RB Ray Rice, WR Anquan Boldin, QB Joe Flacco, DT Terrence Cody, SS Dawan Landry, CB Chris Carr, FS Tom Zbikowski.
Key Games: Week 1 @ NY Jets, Week 6 @ New England, Week 15 vs. New Orleans, Week 17 vs. Cincinnati.
2009 Record: 9-7, 2nd AFC North
2010 Projected Record: 11-5, 1st AFC North
Who’s In: -WR Anquan Boldin
-QB Marc Bulger
-TE Ed Dickson
-DT Terrence Cody
-K Shayne Graham
-DB Ken Hamlin
-LB Sergio Kindle
-WR Donte’ Stallworth
Who’s Out: -WR Kelley Washington
-DT Dwan Edwards
-DT Justin Bannan
-CB Corey Ivy
-DB Frank Walker
-On paper, it is safe to say the Baltimore Ravens had the most noteworthy off-season of any team in the AFC. Bringing in Anquan Boldin will be a big help to the deep passing attack, and though one never knows what to expect from a rookie, the Ravens surely got their fair share of attention by drafting Ed Dickson, Sergio Kindle and Dennis Pitta. For a franchise so renowned for their defense, so praised for their veteran leadership, and with so much anticipation on offense, a flashy showing in the draft and on the free agent market was to be expected. Even bringing in Marc Bulger at quarterback was a significant move, as former Heisman Trophy winner and former number two quarterback Troy Smith has all of a sudden been pushed even further away from an NFL starting job. Not surprisingly, Smith asked for a trade over the summer, yet at present remains on the Ravens roster. Generally, I tend not to support an off-season dictated by the signing of big-name free agents and the drafting of more than one or two showy prospects. In fact, I do not think such a summer is going to pay complete dividends for the New York Jets come autumn and winter.
Yet, with regards to Baltimore, I understand what the Ravens have done here in preparation for 2010, and though it pains me mightily to admit so, I admire it. Ravens management was careful not to at all alter the longtime image of Ravens football, as veterans Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Todd Heap and Matt Birk, all experienced football players, were kept on and allowed to retain their respective starting spots. Though the Ravens hope and fully expect Sergio Kindle to eventually captain the linebacking corps, and though the drafting of two big-name tight end prospects will eventually signal the end of a brilliant career as Baltimore’s starting tight end for Todd Heap, that time is not now. And what makes that situation so scary for the rest of the AFC, is the fact that Baltimore is very much a championship contender right now, and could very well continue to be for years to come. If injuries on defense can be resolved and worked through, which one would have to expect to happen given Baltimore’s defensive credentials of the past, 2010 may very well be the year Baltimore returns to the Super Bowl.
Players to Watch: RB Jerome Harrison, FB Lawrence Vickers, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, WR Chansi Stuckey, LB Blake Costanzo, OT Joe Thomas, C Alex Mack, FS T.J. Ward.
Key Games: Week 1 @ Tampa Bay, Week 2 vs. Kansas City, Week 4 vs. Cincinnati, Week 7 @ New Orleans, Week 10 vs. NY Jets, Week 14 @ Buffalo
2009 Record: 5-11, 4th AFC North
2010 Projected Record: 6-10, 4th AFC North
Who’s In: -DB Sheldon Brown
-QB Jake Delhomme
-QB Seneca Wallace
-WR Bobby Engram
-LB Scott Fujita
-DE Clifton Geathers
-LB Chris Gocong
-DB Joe Haden
-FS T.J. Ward
-RB Montario Hardesty
-FB Peyton Hillis
-G Scott Kooistra
-WR Carlton Mitchell
-TE Ben Watson
-QB Colt McCoy
Who’s Out: -LB Kamerion Wimbley
-QB Brady Quinn
-QB Derek Anderson
-HB Jamal Lewis
-ATH Mike Furrey
-TE Steve Heiden
-TE/FB Michael Gaines
-DB Brodney Pool
-DT Corey Williams
-CB Hank Poteat
-CB Ramzee Robinson
-LB Arnold Harrison
-It is difficult to see the 2010 Cleveland Browns finishing the season with a record of.500 or better. Their division is far too strong, and while their non-divisional schedule has some winnable games, it also has several tough ones. It will also be difficult for the Browns to move the ball on offense, via a complete makeover a quarterback and a questionable ground game. In at quarterback are Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, two proven veterans who are more than capable of handling the grind of a full NFL season at the QB position. Neither man is an elite passer however, as Wallace is very much a running quarterback, and Delhomme’s career is winding down. A strong backfield could be able to alleviate some of the potential concerns under center, but Jamal Lewis is enjoying his first year of retirement and projected starter Jerome Harrison, while he will have every chance to succeed, has essentially been a career backup until this point. The Browns plan on continuing to use converted quarterback and All-Pro kick returner Josh Cribbs in wildcat packages, and barring injuries these plays could yet again be quite successful for an otherwise very vanilla Cleveland offense. A very young offensive line has quietly become one of the better ones in the game, as tackle Joe Thomas has been to three straight Pro Bowls, and second year center Alex Mack seems headed in that direction. The selection of Arizona State guard Shaun Lauvao could also pay huge dividends for the O-Line, as team first year team President Mike Holmgren can rest assured that Lauvao received quality pro-style coaching in college from an ASU coaching staff headed by former NFL coach Dennis Erickson. At receiver, rising second year man Mohamed Massaquoi really emerged as a legitimate number one receiver in the final weeks of last season, and was a big part of the Browns’ week 16 win against Oakland. Chansi Stuckey struggled initially after coming over from the New York Jets in the mid-season Braylon Edwards deal, but he too has adjusted nicely to life in Cleveland and should be a solid possession-type target for Delhomme this season, so long as the deep routes are left to Massaquoi and rookie Carlton Mitchell.
Defensively, Cleveland made several moves to better a defense that last year surprisingly head opponents to under 20 points on six occasions, most notably bringing in Super Bowl champion Scott Fujita to anchor a linebacking corps from which Kamerion Wimbley has departed. Sheldon Brown too comes in, he from Philadelphia, and though Brown’s best days are behind him, the move could be a brilliant one, as the secondary is talented, young, and in need of a veteran to tie things together. Do not be mistaken however, as the Browns are very high on the likes of rookies Joe Haden, T.J. Ward and Larry Asante, as well as on fourth-year man Eric Wright. Despite this, the defensive will be troublesome for the Browns in 2010, as defensive tackle Shaun Rogers has had all kinds of off-field troubles this summer, and is lucky not to be facing a suspension. Big things will be needed once again from end Robaire Smith, though now in year 11 it remains to be seen if Smith’s body can hold up. Furthermore, C.J. Mosley remains off of the practice field, and in order for Cleveland’s D-line to be an effective one, Mosley will have to stay healthy as well as improve upon his 2008 average of one tackle a game. While I do think the Browns are headed in the right direction, success may very well come later rather than sooner.
Players to Watch: RB Cedric Benson, WR Terrell Owens, CB Leon Hall, KR/WR Quan Cosby, TE Jermaine Gresham, RB Brian Leonard, DT Pat Sims, OG/C Otis Hudson.
Key Games: Week 1 @ New England, Week 2 vs. Baltimore, Week 8 vs. Miami, Week 10 @ Indianapolis, Week 12 @ NY Jets, Week 13 vs. New Orleans, Week 16 vs. San Diego
2009 Record: 10-6, 1st AFC North
2010 Projected Record: 10-6, 2nd AFC North
Who’s In: -WR Terrell Owens
-DE Carlos Dunlap
-DB Brandon Ghee
-TE Jermaine Gresham
-OG/C Otis Hudson
-DB/KR Adam Jones
-WR Matt Jones
-K Mike Nugent
-K Dave Rayner
-WR Jordan Shipley
-DB Gibril Wilson
Who’s Out: -RB Larry Johnson
-FB Jeremi Johnson
-WR Laveranues Coles
-TE J.P. Foschi
-K Shayne Graham
-DT Shaun Smith
-LS Brad St. Louis
-For a team so heavily plagued by player-misconduct over the last few years, the Bengals’ signing of Terrell Owens mystified me greatly. Then again, so did last year’s signing of Larry Johnson, and this early summer’s signing of Adam Jones. I’m not one to question success, and the 2009 Bengals certainly had plenty of that, especially given the multiple tragedies endured by the Cincinnati football community a year ago. Coach Marvin Lewis has a solid grasp on what surely has been, and on what will continue to be a rowdy, hot-headed locker room, though I don’t think for one minute anybody is any longer capable of keeping 24/7 tabs on T.O. nor the man he’ll be lining up opposite in a couple of weeks, Chad Ochocinco. Having veterans Dhani Jones, Leon Hall and Abdul Hodge around might help keep the defense in its place, however. As mentioned in the intro, the Bengals were perfect in their division last year. While I don’t see that happening again, there is no reason for the Bengals not to have a winning record against the likes of the Steelers, Browns and Ravens. The two “wildcard” games the Bengals have on their AFC schedule are brutal however, against the Colts and Chargers, and so while a playoff appearance is projected, a 10-6 record is probably a little generous.
Offensively, there are no questions about the talent among the receivers and halfbacks. Chad Ochocinco is a rare talent, Terrell Owens still has plenty left a 15-year veteran, Andre Caldwell is a solid third or fourth option, and if he can stay out of legal trouble, Cedric Benson is as consistent a running back as any other in the league. Though fullback Jeremi Johnson is out, the Bengals are high on his replacement Fui Vakapuna, as are they on specialists Brian Leonard and Bernard Scott. Any one of the three is capable of spelling Benson for a snap or two, though don’t expect Benson, if he’s active, to see the bench much. The offensive line is a good one, despite lacking a big name, and is equally adept to run and pass protection. Fifth round draft pick Otis Hudson could prove to be a draft steal along the O-line. The only possible concern for the offense is at the tight end position, which has been the Achilles Heel for the Bengals for quite some time. Last year’s starter J.P. Foschi is now in Buffalo, and his replacement, rookie Jermaine Gresham, has had an impressive preseason. With the regular season right around the corner, any sort of last-minute setback at the tight end position would be devastating for Carson Palmer and the offense.
Defense was an on again/off again problem for the Bengals last season, as evidenced by a perfect division record, yet relatively poor showings against Detroit and Houston in the regular season, as well as against the Jets in the postseason. Carlos Dunlap is a solid addition to the D-line, yet I’m not sure the Gibril Wilson pickup makes sense for the secondary. The defensive backfield, along with special teams (also an area for concern in 2009) were the two areas Cincinnati really could have afforded to get young on this off-season, and while cornerback Brandon Ghee was also added, Chris Crocker and Jonathan Joseph have 13 years of combined experience. Even still, the Bengals are serious playoff contenders again in 2010, and while they lack it in the secondary, good young talent is plentiful among the linebackers, as well as on the defensive line.
Players to Watch: QB Dennis Dixon, WR Mike Wallace, LB Larry Foote, LB Thaddeus Gibson, RB Mewelde Moore, RB Frank Summers.
Key Games: Week 4 vs. Baltimore, Week 8 @ New Orleans, Week 9 @ Cincinnati, Week 10 vs. New England, Week 15 vs. NY Jets
2009 Record: 9-7, 3rd AFC North
2010 Projected Record: 8-8, 3rd AFC North
Who’s In: -OT Flozell Adams
-DB Will Allen
-WR Arnaz Battle
-LB Larry Foote
-LB Thaddeus Gibson
-QB Byron Leftwich
-C Maurkice Pouncey
-DB Bryant McFadden
-WR Antwaan Randle El
-WR Emmanuel Sanders
-DE Jason Worilds
-OT Jonathan Scott
Who’s Out: -WR Santonio Holmes
-RB Willie Parker
-RB Carey Davis
-DB Tyrone Carter
-DB Deshea Townsend
-DE Travis Kirschke
-LB Rocky Boiman
-Mike Tomlin and his Pittsburgh Steelers made several moves this off-season to reformat their football team in an effort to recreate the Steelers of five years ago. Antwaan Randle El and Larry Foote are back in the mix, Hines Ward has been retained and upgrades to the legendary Steel City offensive line have also been made. Pittsburgh is an enigma in that while it is clear what type of identity the Steelers are seeking here in 2010, nobody, including Head coach Mike Tomlin knows just how that type of identity will be reached. On offense, the Steelers are very reliant upon the speed of their youngsters, namely running back Mewelde Moore and receivers Limas Sweed and Mike Wallace, yet still anticipate a good number of touches for crafty, possession-type receivers like Antwaan Randle El, as well as for the crafty veteran Hines Ward. Thus, it is unclear how the Steelers’ offense will adjust when put to the test physically up the middle and beyond the line of scrimmage. That job of course does not rest upon the shoulders of just the skill players (backs, receivers) but instead the offensive line and tight ends. The revamped O-line gets a big boost from the arrival of former Dallas Cowboy Flozell Adams, as well as from first overall team draft selection Maurkice Pouncey, but will have to adjust to the scrambling, outside the pocket passing style of Byron Leftwich for the first four games of the regular year, and then back to the more conventional style of Ben Roethlisberger for the remainder of the campaign. Due to the new arrivals along the line, it remains to be seen just how smoothly (or chaotically) the transitions will go. At tight end, while few in the business are as good at catching the ball as Heath Miller, I still think Pittsburgh whiffed in the draft by not selecting a big, blocking-first tight end to both aid and compliment the deep passing attack.
Physicality on defense however is a complete non-issue, as Casey Hampton and James Harrison remain on the roster, meaning you can bet the black and gold will make their presence felt on the D-line and among the linebacking group again in 2010. Larry Foote returns after spending 2009 in Detroit, and should be a major bonus for a defense he already knows quite well. The secondary too lacks any glaring weaknesses, but it will be tested at times simply because of the fact that the Steelers matchup against Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and Tom Brady respectively, going back-to-back-to-back in weeks 8, 9 and 10. I think Pittsburgh will be a contender for a wildcard position in 2010, and in my mind there is really no reason the Steelers cannot do serious damage in the playoffs should they get there. Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension is more than an inconvenience, as a poor start could be irreversible; but should the Steelers play solid football early on, Pittsburgh could be last year’s Cincinnati here in 2010
By: Mark Harriman, Editor
COMMENTARY -Your humble scribe will assume that you have heard about the 17 year old high school senior at the Phillies-Cardinals game earlier this week and all of the controversy which now surrounds the incident.
But if you haven’t, here’s the edited version: The offending youth called his father from the stands to ask permission to run out on the field just for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. His father suggested that it wouldn’t be a good thing, but in the top of the 8th inning, the kid decided he knew better.
Wearing a hat, his best Phillies NLCS Championship jersey, cargo shorts laundered by mom and probably really expensive sneakers, he raced to the outfield, waving a white towel as if he were ML Carr on the Celtics sidelines.
Naturally, upwards of seven security officials quickly attempted to shut down this little stunt. You’ve probably seen this drill a hundred times. Track the perpetrator. Slowly close in on him. Let him get winded or bored. Or both. Then go in for the tackle, slap the cuffs on and drag him out of there with his feet barely touching the ground.
But the sporting world suddenly changed in that 8th inning: One of the members of the security team pulled out his Taser gun, took aim and nailed the kid in the back.
He went down suddenly like a water buffalo in one of those hunting documentaries. Bang! Buffalo stopped in its tracks. Deed done.
However, in the 30 seconds that it took for the kid to recover and be hauled off the field, controversy erupted across the country. To Tase or not to Tase?
Was it excessive force, or just the further evolution of the times we now live in?
This writer says good for the Taser guy! The only question here is what took you so long? This technology has been around for years.
People need to be held accountable for their actions. And no longer is the threat of a night in the pokey a deterrent.
A fine and a misdemeanor on your record for criminal trespassing is but a small price to pay in this Age of Instant News where you can be famous forever.
You do something stupid or illegal and younot only make the ESPN highlight reels, but you get yourself on YouTube and any number of social networking sites. Thanks to Google, you’re now out there. Forever. Oh, and your friends think you’re cool.
But in the middle of his ill-fated jaunt Little Johnny was quickly reminded that this is a different world.
Just ask Monica Seles how different it is. She was knifed during a match by a crazed Steffi Graf fan and never really returned to her former level of greatness.
Just ask former Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa. He was attacked during a game by a father and son combo at the old Comiskey Park in Chicago. As if one cheap shot artist wasn’t enough. Two has to be better, right?
Just ask umpire Laz Diaz. He was jumped in the south side of Chicago, too, several months after the Gamboa assault. Luckily, Diaz slipped off the tackle and the players on the field took justice into their own hands. The perp was seen leaving the stadium with a bloody bandage on his head and later convicted of aggravated assault.
Critics of the Philadelphia Taser incident are quick to point out that it was a harmless stunt and that using the gun was excessive force. One argument overheard was that the kid could have been killed by the electric shock if he had a heart condition.
Newsflash: If he had a heart condition, he shouldn’t have been running around on the field.
We live in different times, boys and girls. This isn’t the much more benign 70’s and 80’s when Morgana The Kissing Bandit was plying her campy shtick in stadiums throughout the country. Back then her anticswere considered funny and cute. Not any more.
We live in a time when bad people do bad things for bad reasons. This is a time of terrorists, both domestic and abroad. This is a time of deranged people doing dangerous things. And what about the security folks? What if they get hurt chasing knuckleheads around the field?
You just can’t take the risk.
True, Little Johnny didn’t look like a terrorist, but only daddy and son knew his intentions. From the standpoint of Citizens Bank security personnel was it a joy run, or did he intend to hurt somebody, or himself for that matter? They couldn’t tell.
Which is why security staffs across the US need to use Taser guns whenever they feel it is necessary.
Teach Little Johnny an adult lesson: that your actions have consequences. Teach the father and son combo that assault is a bad thing. And send a message to anyone else who wants to disrupt an event or hurt someone: we won’t stand for it. You will be taken down.
Oh, did you hear about yesterday’s unruly and drunken fan at The Players Championship golf match at Pontra Vedra? Yep. They Tased him. Good to know that the PGA security is on board.
So go ahead, Bro. Tase ‘em.
By: Mark Harriman
BOSTON- If you’ve ever been to an event at the old Boston Garden or its younger brother in the past 53 years, chances are Dan McMorrow helped you find your seat at some point.
He’s the diminutive Irishman with the life-long crew cut, a charming smile and a quick step. And don’t forget the unmistakable accent straight from Dorchester Avenue.
Like all of the other rookies in the old place, McMorrow started his career up in the second balcony where roof leaks seemed to outnumber tickets sold in the joint and sawdust was thrown on the floor to soak it all up.
“No one wanted to do the concerts or the wrestling matches, so I took ‘em,” McMorrow says proudly of his first years at The Garden.
Former Boston Bruins left winger John Carter knew Dan from his playing days in the 1980’s and sees him quite frequently up on the ninth floor where McMorrow reigns today as the usher with the most seniority in the house.
“He’s treated every guest I’ve brought up here incredibly well,” Carter praises his friend from his seat in the Bruins’ Alumni Box during a recent game. “He loves this place like he’s guarding Fort Knox.”
Back in 1957 McMorrow’s future father-in-law was head of the usher’s association –now a union affiliated with the IBEW- and needed some help filling the roster for some matinee shows. Dan was a traffic checker for the MBTA and he took the job for some extra money.
Working an event netted the ushers seven bucks in those days and the cash came in a nightly envelope. But while the pay was good, work was spotty for his first five years as he made his way up the ladder. McMorrow took whatever shifts came his way.
One of the greatest satisfactions of his Garden career, he says, has been getting kids he knows on the ice or in the circus rings during the shows. And yes, a little bit of second generational nepotism has been thrown in for good measure. Dan proudly crows that his daughter was once Queen of Ringling Brothers circus.
Entering his seventh decade on Causeway Street, he is a bit older now –approaching his mid-70’s- somewhat slower and long since retired from The T as a Deputy Superintendant.
Back in the day at Cathedral High School, though, he starred in basketball and track. And he was known as Crazy Legs for good reason.
“I could run,” he says while pointing yet another patron in the right direction. He recollected that he won more than his fair share of track races in his career.
But these days the plural of Crazy Legs has been shortened to the singular, as circulation problems took his left leg back in January 2003. He was on the disabled list for 11 months and the layoff was tough, not only on him, but also on Helen, his wife of 50 years.
“She didn’t like me retired,” he confides in a loud whisper, looking over his shoulder as if she suddenly appeared around a corner. “She says she married me for better or worse, but not for lunch.”
So he came back to work as soon as a laborious rehab allowed him to recapture the well-timed moves he learned after years in the aisles.
Think of Havlicek in 1976, Bobby Orr at the end of his Bruins career or Larry Bird in the early 1990’s. He worked just as hard as those guys to come back to a career that has put a stamp on his life.
Golf, his favorite pastime, really isn’t in the cards anymore, though he gets out on the course a few times a year just to keep his sons honest.
But don’t feel bad for Dan, because he doesn’t feel bad for himself. He has no plans to retire any time soon from what he considers to be the best job in Boston. “I’ll go until I can’t do it anymore,” he yells over his shoulder as he scurries after yet another wayward ticketholder.
After all, seniority has it privileges. Just ask George Flynn, who ranks second on the depth chart with his own forty two years tucked under his standard issue golden vest.
Flynn shares the top floor duties with his friend McMorrow and they’ve been together so long, they anticipate each other’s moves when an usher’s duty calls.
A jazz lover and retired postal inspector, he says that he and McMorrow have mellowed over the years.
“We used to live and die with each win or loss,” says the former marathoner who still occasionally laces up his sneakers and dons his ipod.
But decades later things have changed. “They win. They lose. We go home,” he now concedes.
“And one game is enough,” McMorrow chimes in, making his only concession to age these days. “Can’t do double-headers anymore.” Not only is it tough on the new leg, but Helen worries when he’s gone too long.
The Beanpot Tournament is a different story, though. An exception is always made to McMorrow’s twin bill rule when it comes to rooting for Harvard and his love for (former) coach Bill Cleary’s infectious enthusiasm. He delights in remembering his favorite team’s eight Beanpot titles on the Garden ice. “It’s a late night, but it’s good,” he offers, trying to downplay his Crimson loyalty.
And all those Harvard wins rank up there in his cranial trophy case with some of the other Garden moments he’s witnessed.
Bob Cousy’s retirement, with the classic scream ‘We love you, Cous!’ Ray Bourque handing over number 7 to Phil Esposito. Celtics and Bruins numbers hoisted to the rafters by the banner-load .
But few topped Bobby Orr’s 1979 farewell.
The Bruins were playing the Soviet Union in an exhibition game, a year before there was to be the Miracle On Ice at Lake Placid. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the building,” McMorrow remembers vividly, replaying that thunderous thirty minute standing ovation in his mind.
“Orr and Bird. No one compared,” Flynn offers, introducing another Boston legend to the conversation.
Which, of course, launches McMorrow into another one of his classic stories from his redoubtable career.
It was Game 7 of the 1987 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit. Boston was down by one. Bird stole the inbounds pass from Isiah Thomas and dumped the ball to Dennis Johnson before falling out of bounds. Johnson laid in a right-handed layup from underneath the left side of the basket.
Boston had a one point lead and ultimately preserved a 108-107 win. “I thought we lost it that night,” he vividly recalls in a classic understatement.
What he didn’t say was that most of the ushers took their lives in their own hands during most nights during that incredible Celtics’ run in the Bird era.
Crowd control was almost an after thought those days and the ushers sat on the hoop stanchions while the game wound down. The Garden brass always tried to stop the crowd from storming the court, but reality was always something different.
Back in 1987 Johnson scores and radio announcer Johnny Most sums it up perfectly in his staccato voice: “Oh, my! This place is going crazy!”
“There was no way you could you could stop ‘em” McMorrow says as he flexes his right shoulder almost as a reminder of punishment caused by the crush of humanity that swamped the court that afternoon. “You either gave up your body or you got out of the way.”
You can’t have a conversation with McMorrow without asking about one of the major people-watching opportunities associated with the old Garden -its annual string of Grateful Dead concerts. The stories have now become the stuff of legend and you just have to ask.
Back in those days, McMorrow worked the outer doors of the Garden. “One day this woman stood in front of the door and kept spinning around. She was getting me dizzy. I’m not sure what she was on.” And they all had the best counterfeit tickets he’s ever seen. That pretty much sums up those strange nights from a Garden employee’s perspective.
While the Dead Heads were always interesting, the music wasn’t really his style. He’s an avowed Elton John and Paul McCartney kind of guy, as caught up on the pop-culture music scene as any usher half his age.
So if you’re up on the ninth floor, head over and say hello to Dan. He’ll be glad to help you find your seat and offer a story or two if you ask. But if you don’t have a ticket, don’t even think of slipping past him. He’s still Crazy after all these years.
By: CJ Nadeau, Intern
When the playoffs began the Nadeau crystal ball saw the Saints and Chargers taking the Super Bowl down to the wire in a replay of a Patriots-like nail biter. But my AFC pick was ruined by the New York Jets, who are currently playing with more swagger than Elvis Presley on a particularly good day (that is the skinny Elvis, not the fat one in the white jump suit and cape).
After watching the Jets defense manhandle the Chargers, though, I’m going to jump onto their bandwagon. I like them for several reasons: Mark Sanchez proved that all he has to do is manage his mistakes and turnovers to win in the playoffs, Thomas Jones or Shonn Greene can pound the ball against opposing defenses and Darrelle Revis continues to give opposing QB’s nightmares.
After the game the Jets’ rookie head coach Rex Ryan stated that the Colts and J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets! game is “a matchup that probably nobody wanted, but too bad. Here we come!”
Rex Ryan’s in-your-face attitude has propelled the somewhat average 9-7 Jets into feeling like the Belichick/Brady three-time Super Bowl champs.
When New York clinched its playoff berth, Rex Ryan’s Joe Montana-esque exclamation of being Super Bowl bound was laughable. The Jets, who started off their roller-coaster of a season winning their first three and then losing the next three, didn’t find their rhythm until after a week 11 loss to New England. They were forced to win five of their last six just to sneak into the playoffs.
Now his prediction is one win away from making him one look like one of the elite coaches in football.
This Sunday the Jets take on the Colts in Indianapolis in what could prove to be a very intriguing matchup. The Colts folded in their final two games, which arguably punched the Jets’ ticket for the playoffs. Their head coach, Jim Caldwell, was vilified for resting his starters.
While Peyton Manning and his Colts put on a clinic against Ray Lewis and his Ravens, it is not safe to say that the same will happen in the AFC Championship game. I think that the Jets have an edge with their old school playoff style. Their defense gave up only 87 yards on the ground in just under twenty carries against the Ravens.
On the flip side, the Colts have the 14th ranked pass defense in the league and only the 24th ranked run defense. Meanwhile, the Jets have averaged 170 yards rushing per game this postseason.
Look for Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to develop a game plan to allow their backs to break off some big gains against a weak Colts run defense.
For the Jets, the key to this game will be controlling Mark Sanchez’s mistakes, who threw 20 interceptions in his rookie season, compared to only twelve passing TDs.
The Jets are 4-7 when Sanchez has over 20 passing attempts, compared to the 6-0 when he stays under 20. If the Colts cannot generate enough pressure on the run game and can’t force Sanchez into making mistakes, they will be hitting the golf course early this year.
While the NFC did not have any surprising upsets in the divisional round, the powers of the NFC proved why they held the top two seeds in the conference.
Both the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings flexed their football muscles and carried their victories in blow out fashion.
Brett Favre made it clear why he came back this season, adding another four touchdowns to the 33 already on his shelf. If the Vike’s have any hopes of beating the Saints in the NFC tilt, Favre will need to remain stingy with his interceptions, having only thrown seven this season.
Last week against Arizona, the Saints, who stumbled into the playoffs with three consecutive losses, and QB Drew Brees proved why they were still undefeated until week 15 by dominating Kurt Warner’s Cardinals 45-14.
Saints QB Drew Brees was coming off his fourth consecutive season with over 4,000 passing yards (and sixth consecutive season with over 3,000 yards) to go along with 34 passing touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. He only continued his brilliance against Arizona.
In this NFC duel I like the Saints for the two reasons: Brees strong performance this year and the fact that Minnesota’s ‘All Day’ Adrian Peterson hasn’t been ‘All Day’ since week 10.
For whatever reason, AP hasn’t been himself, gaining over 100 yards rushing in three games this season. In the past eight games, however, he seems to have shown a hint of resilience, with seven TD’s.
With Brett Favre holding the reins of the Vikings’offense this season I like their chance to make it a close game with the Saints, whose porous defense is ranked no higher than 20th in any of the major categories.
I look for AP to get out of his slump early in this game, but the Saints will find a way to win behind the arm of Drew Brees.
By Mark Harriman, Editor
December 22nd would have been my father’s 78th birthday. We lost him two years ago when that 200 year old oak tree was slow in getting out of his way.
He survived for a short while after the accident and even joked about his condition in the emergency room, laughing at his mishap despite more broken bones than Evel Knievel on a bad day.
Jerry Harriman was a true Renaissance Man to the end, the last of a dying breed around these parts. A great roadmap for a life well lived.
He spoke fluent French, finished three books a week over a period of 50 years (that’s over 7,000 titles in his adult lifetime) and spent almost 30 years in elected office.
After graduating from Providence College, he joined the Army and became a spy at the tail end of the Korean War, spending countless hours trailing the Russians in Tokyo. When that job was done, he earned his master’s degree in history and toyed with the teaching profession.
He eventually embarked on a career in banking and lived in New York in the late 1950’s, where he met my mother. He used to say “We had New York when it was good.” Mays, Mantle and Snider each played center field and all was right with the world.
My parents ultimately moved back to Massachusetts and when the Knights of Columbus needed someone to cater an event, Jerry led the crew of a few select pals and his famous fiery chili recipes were born. I hated watching those beans soak for days on end.
When the pastor wanted to a throw a Communion Breakfast, no problem. Jerry and his cooking buddies went to work and they did steak and eggs for 200 without a hitch.
When the pastor called back about a 100th anniversary celebration for the parish, Jerry offered his familiar refrain. “Piece of cake,” he said. It didn’t matter that he had never tackled a clambake for 1,200 before. He led his crew like he earned a degree from Johnson & Wales.
When Jerry decided to retire after a long career in banking, he didn’t take up golf. That wasn’t suited to his style.
He went to law school with students less than half his age, passed the bar on his first try and opened up his own law practice.
My mother was a legal secretary for many years and she eagerly worked along side him. When he hung out his shingle, I called to congratulate him and asked what he was doing on his first day as a lawyer.
He deadpanned “I’m chasing my secretary around the desk. I’m the only guy in town who can do that and not get in trouble!”
He practiced law for over 12 years and took just about as many pro bono cases as he did paying ones.
Jerry was also a devoted husband and father, who always found time to attend our games. One year he estimated that he and my mother saw about 80 basketball games played by my three siblings and me. I was less than a gifted athlete, but I always heard a cheer whenever I touched the ball.
Despite his many accomplishments in life and for all of his wonderful traits, my father did have one major character flaw, though. We often went to great lengths to hide the fact that he was an ardent Yankee fan.
Based on his misdirected passion, we always felt that he was incapable of having an intelligent conversation about baseball. And to top it all off, he lived less than 20 miles from Fenway Park. In our house, it was ‘Blasphemy in Boston’ on a regular basis.
In his yearly breakdown of the American League, the Yankees were always going to come out on top, even after they landed Ken Phelps and Dave LaRoche.
He reveled in wearing his Yankee cap out in public and for years ‘Reggie Bars’ were a staple of his diet. He loved to quote the eponymous creator of that candy bar. “Chocolate and nutty, just like me.” It wasn’t a reference to anything in particular. He just liked to say it.
In Jerry’s eyes, the Blessed Trinity consisted of Mantle, Berra and Whitey Ford. And George Steinbrenner always sat at the right hand of The Lord.
He was at Fenway in 1978 for the one game playoff and, whenever possible , he quoted Sox manager Don Zimmer from his post game press conference that day. At the most inappropriate Red Sox moment he always blurted out “Bucky Bleepin’ Dent” and cast a pall over the room.
We weren’t without our own zingers, though. In cleaning out his papers, I discovered a dozen hand-made birthday cards we gave him over the years. Given the content, I can only speculate as to why he would have ever kept them.
Invariably, they would say something like “We love you, Dad. It’s the Yankees we hate.” Or “You’re not too bad for a Yankee fan.” Pretty tough stuff coming from a pack of prepubescent Sox fans.
Given his undying love of the Bronx Nine, Jerry even tried to secretly convert us to the Dark Side at an early age. And it is here that I must make a confession: My very first Major League Baseball game wasn’t at Fenway Park.
You guessed it. Yankee Stadium. Summer 1973. Complete with the old monuments in center field. Yankees and Rangers, with this new thing called a designated hitter. How dare he? I was practically traumatized at the age of 7.
As you can imagine, in our house it was always Yankees versus Red Sox. And there was never any middle ground. Up until 2004, he always won, though somehow even after the Sox grabbed two World Series titles in four seasons, he still wouldn’t give up and admit the obvious. He’d just start ripping off statistics about consecutive championships and various Yankee dynasties. Yada, yada, yada.
I know for a fact that it upset him even more that I didn’t call him the night the Sox beat New York in the ’04 ALCS. I gleefully waited for two days. When we did finally speak, I think I opened with a comment about the weather in October. I could practically see the steam coming out of the phone.
But something changed after we lost Jerry in January 2008. After that, whenever I saw some guy in a Yankee hat walking down the street, I no longer felt the urge to toss a barb or two in that direction. Suddenly, the sight of that navy blue hat with the embroidered ‘NY’ on the front made me think longingly of him.
When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira before the 2009 season, I didn’t howl that the Evil Empire swooped in at the last minute and stole him from Our Guys. Things were different now. Calmer. More introspective. My first reaction was “Gee. The Yanks really made themselves better for the next couple of years.”
It’s all different now that he’s gone. What I wouldn’t give to talk baseball with him one more time.
Happy Birthday, Dad. As you used to say, we’re glad you came to live with us.
I guess the Yankees aren’t so bad after all.