Shanahan fired by Broncos

On January 7, 2009 by

Last week, the Denver Broncos sacked head coach, Mike Shanahan, after the club failed to reach the play-offs following a poor run of form. Shanahan joined the club as head coach in 1995 after being associated with them in one way or another for many years and he experienced some success during his reign.

The Broncos won the Super Bowl in 1998 and managed to defend their title the following year. Although the club won half of their matches this season, several bad results towards the latter stages left them unable to be a part of the play-offs. During his time at the club, Shanahan won 146 matches and lost a total of 89.

Shanahan’s sacking has come as a shock to many, especially since he was such an experienced coach. Only Jeff Fisher, who became head coach of Tennessee in the early 1990s, had been serving as a coach for longer than Shanahan.

The owner of the Denver Broncos, Pat Bowlen, revealed that the decision to sack him was extremely

Wildcard Weekend Reaction

On January 5, 2009 by

Four teams are down and eight are kick kicking -– the NFL play-offs are under way in spectacular style with three thrilling games out of the four going down to the final few minutes.

The biggest shock for me came in San Deigo as the Indianapolis Colts went into California riding a nine-game win streak but came a cropper in Overtime 23-17. A big sack on Peyton Manning on 3rd down in the Colts’ final drive ensured they would punt and the Chargers marched down the field for the tying Field Goal.

The Chargers would win the coin toss and receive. Aided by two questionable 3rd down flags against the defense, nullifying potential stops, the home team would score and rubber stamp their place in next weekend’s round of games and a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.

In the other AFC match-up, the #6 seed Ravens took the #3 seed Dolphins apart on their way to a 27-9 mauling of their hosts. A four pick day from Chad Pennington isn’t what you are looking for in the play-offs and when you consider that the Dolphins turned the ball over less than anyone in the NFL this season then it must be regarded as a pretty big shock as well.

Behind rookie QB Joe Flacco and the irrepressible Ed Reed, the Ravens breezed through and look forward to going to Tennessee next week to face the top seeded Titans.

Over in the NFC the Arizona Cardinals won their first play-off game at home in 61 and their first anywhere since 1998 as they overcame the Atlanta Falcons 30-24. Behind the play of veteran QB Kurt Warner (who I think is HoF bound) the Cardinals did just enough to stay in the end of season tournament but it all probably ends next week in Carolina.

The final game was the Eagles going into Minnesota to take on the Vikings and the away side won for the second time this weekend. Behind solid if unspectacular play from QB Donovan McNabb, the Eagles scored enough and with arguably the most dominant defensive display of the weekend, they held the Viking to a couple of big plays to beat them by a couple of scores.

They go to the Meadowlands next week to face the defending champion Giants in what is the most enticing match-up of round two of the 2009 NFL play-offs.

NFL leading scorer of all time retires

On December 10, 2008 by

The all-time top scorer in the NFL has decided to leave the sport after suffering persistent knee injuries. Morten Andersen, who is forty-eight years of age, has been playing for Atlanta for the last two seasons but has since been out of contract.

Knee problems have plagued him recently, leaving him, in his own words, unable to

BCS match-ups announced – no shocks here

On December 8, 2008 by

The BCS has had its fair share of controversy but when the selections came out on Sunday there wasn’t a surprise to be had. So what are your BCS games for the 2008/2009 Season?

We’ll start off at the Orange Bowl where the Big East Champion Cincinnati will take on the winner out of the ACC Virginia Tech. This is not a surprise as the Orange Bowl had the final pick below the Sugar and Fiesta Bowls and they took at-large teams over the Big East entrant.

Next we’ll go down to the Sugar Bowl where the unbeaten Utah will face the team who were #1 in the country going into the weekend, Alabama. Utah are undefeated and are the BCS buster for this year whereas Alabama have had a great season but the Sugar Bowl will feel like a let down after being so close to playing for all the marbles.

The Fiesta Bowl next and we start the big heavyweight match-ups. Two at-large picks here as Ohio State beats off Boise State for the right to take on Texas in Arizona. Texas in my opinion should be playing for the title but due to some convoluted logic Oklahoma got the nod.

The granddaddy of them all is the Rose Bowl where the Pac-10 Champ USC will play yet again and take on my Nittany Lions of Penn State coming out of the Big Ten. Both teams were very close to going undefeated and playing for the title but close losses at Oregon State and at Iowa put pay to those ambitions. This game will be a lot closer than the experts think.

And on to the BCS National Championship game where we find the SEC Champ Florida and the top dogs in the Big 12 Oklahoma. The Gators are widely regarded as the best team in the nation having just bumped off #1 Alabama and Oklahoma have won out in that quite sensational Big 12 South.

This really would’ve been a great year for the play-off. The Big East and ACC should be struck off from the automatic bids as neither conference is that strong. That would’ve left us with the Champions from the Big 12 (Oklahoma), SEC (Florida), Big Ten (Penn State) and Pac-10 (USC). That leaves us with four at-large spots which would go to Texas and Alabama as no brainers and then you got Utah, Boise State, Texas Tech and Ohio State (in my order of personal preference).

Those Fiesta, Rose and BCS games do look rather tasty though I must say…

2009 London Match-up announced – Pats @ Bucs @ Wembley

On December 2, 2008 by

So after weeks of speculation we have our 2009 London match-up and it is between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New England Patriots.

I was obviously hoping to see my Jags come over but the chance to watch the great Tom Brady is one that whets the appetite. The Patriots have been the team of the decade and even though they lost their star QB in Game 1 (which may well of screwed up more than one fantasy team) understudy Matt Cassel has done a surprisingly decent job and has kept them in the AFC East and AFC Wildcard race.

The Bucs will be designated the home team and are also in play-off contention this year. The currently have a 9-3 record in the NFC and lead the NFC South and face a huge Monday Night Football game next week when they travel to North Carolina to face the Panthers.

The London game will be the third one played in the regular season and with a 2010 game already agreed in principle, it looks like the game looks set for a long future and maybe opening the door in the long term for a franchise to be based in London, which is starting to become more feasible.

The National Football League dominates the domestic front but they don’t want to rest on their laurels. The London game has been a huge success so far and with the sport growing in stature here in the UK, you can expect more of the same in the future.

I know looking forward to this match-up. Yes -– it could’ve been better but getting the Pats to agree to come to London is a huge coup for NFL UK and these are two of the biggest supported franchises over here.

Does the NFL have a future outside of the States?

Texas shafted by the BCS – won’t play for the Big 12 title.

On December 1, 2008 by

The BCS system is a mess. We all know it and we’ve all known it for years. This year we see that Oklahoma has been declared Big 12 South Champion despite not beating Texas. Can the BCS go through one year without a monumental cock-up?

Some would argue that Oklahoma’s wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma State at the end of the year shows that they are a better side. However just because those results are fresh in the mind does it really mean they should leapfrog Texas and play Missouri in the Big 12 Title game?

I’ve ended the last two paragraphs with question marks -– how rare.

Anyway -– I don’t. I look at the two losses they had. Texas lost to Texas Tech on a last play miracle catch, spin and run into the end zone. They had beaten Oklahoma (#1), Missouri (#11) and Oklahoma State (#6) on the spin before going into Lubbock and losing on that play. It was a brutal schedule and even losing a game you had to like them the rest of the way.

The win over Oklahoma was on a neutral site whereas Oklahoma’s win over Texas Tech was at home. Texas Tech were mauled by Oklahoma yes but they were always a fraud and this was their first trip to a ranked team all season long. The fact that in one swift loss they have dropped all the way from the BCS Championship Game all the way down to the Cotton Bowl says a lot.

So it was really a straight shoot-out between Texas and Oklahoma for that spot in the Big 12 Title Game and they have already played each other on a neutral site. Surely that should be the ultimate deciding factor? Texas’ 45-35 win over then #1 Oklahoma was very impressive and remember Oklahoma have not beaten a #1 ranked team (Texas Tech were #2 when they played).

The whole BCS has always been a bone for much contention and this year is no different. If you had an eight-team play-off then both Oklahoma and Texas would get in but possibly Florida would not if they lost to Alabama. So you have to work out if winning your BCS conference should lead to an automatic play-off spot (look at the ACC and Big East) and say that if the winner wasn’t ranked in the top 16 then you could give that spot to an at-large.

If this was the case then you would see Penn State, USC, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Utah and then Ohio State or Boise State is an eight-team play-off. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Week 12 – NFL Playoff Predictions

On November 24, 2008 by

So the countdown to the Superbowl is on and we ask who do we expect to be playing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Superbowl XLIII.

The AFC was so dominant last season that it came as a massive surprise that the NFC Champion NY Giants walked away with all the marbles. This time around though the AFC has been more than disappointing with the Chargers, Jaguars and Broncos all looking much worse than we anticipated. The big surprise have been the 10-1 Titans who are more than nasty on defense and with Kerry Collins managing the team like he did the 1995 Rose Bowl Champion Penn State -– they are a complete team.

The Patriots lost Tom Brady but look good enough to fight for the AFC East. The Colts started off sluggish but are coming on strong and will be a very dangerous wildcard team. The Jets with Brett Favre under center are decent and I expect they’ll be in the hunt. The Ravens and Steelers are both good but not great in the AFC North and the AFC West just flat out stinks.

Over in the NFC you have to start in the East where the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys all look set to go to the playoffs. The Giants are rightly the favourites to lift the trophy as they are good all over the shop. The Cowboys have so many strengths on offense that they can score points in flurries. The Redskins are also a nice looking team and if anyone gets a wildcard spot from outside the East then I would be stunned.

Having said that if the season ended today then neither the Redskins or Cowboys would get in. The NFC South would get three teams in with Tampa Bay as champ and the Panthers and the season’s biggest surprise by a country mile Falcons getting in. In the West the Cardinals and my MVP tip Kurt Warner are going to the big dance where they might surprise one or two as they have the best WR trio around.

Then we come to the NFC North and the Vikings, Bears and Packers all duking it out to win that division. I still think the Packers are the best team so I would think they would come through but this one goes down to the final day.

So on to my predictions where you can all call me out on being an idiot when January comes about:

AFC

1. Titans
2. Steelers
3. Patriots
4. Broncos
5. Ravens
6. Colts

NFC

1. Giants
2. Panthers
3. Cardinals
4. Packers
5. Cowboys
6. Redskins

What do we think?

What to do about the BCS vs Play-off debate

On November 6, 2008 by

I doubt there are too many fans of American Football over here in the UK that watch the NCAA as well as the NFL but I am one of them. Every year we hear BCS this and BCS that and 2008 is no different.

With both presidential candidates weighing in on the issue (for the record President-Elect Obama favours an eight team play-off with the six winners of the BCS conferences, the highest ranked non-BCS conference team and then give the final spot to an at-large team in one of the BCS conferences) you know that it is a serious issue. Some cynics claim that his idea was to help him carry the bellwether state of Pennsylvania where head coach Paterno of Penn State has long been a proponent of a play-off system.

The problem with the BCS is that it is very subjective. For instance if things ended today the title game would be between Alabama and Texas Tech. This is despite Texas Tech being down at #3 in both the Coaches and Harris Polls which make up 2/3 of the BCS formula (they have Penn State at #2). This would cause outrage that yet another undefeated Penn State team would be denied the opportunity to play for the National Championship.

There are five weeks left of the season so a lot can happen but if Texas Tech roll through the Big 12 and Alabama roll through the SEC then they are playing for it all. However in this scenario Penn State, should they win at Iowa and at home to Indiana and Michigan State would go to the Rose Bowl and yet again wouldn’t play for it all.

The three proposals with chances of success are the ‘+1′ system, four-team play-off or the eight-team version. Let’s have a look at all three:

+1

This would be the easiest to get up and running. The Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Rose Bowls would happen as usual and then after all these games were played the Coaches/AP/Harris/Computers -– whoever they decide would then rank all the teams (presumably the winners of the four BCS bowls would be ranked 1-4) and they would decide who would go on to play for the National Championship.

This would mean that everyone gets to see the top teams and they could probably put together a good National Championship game. However it could still mean that an undefeated team could in theory be kept out of the title game and that is what we are desperately trying to avoid.

Four-team play-off

This would eliminate any real chance of an undefeated team not playing for the big marbles. The issue with this format is how would you decide which four teams got the nod. Champions of the BCS conferences would miss out and the likelihood of a BCS buster would all but go out of the window. Who would chose whether a 1-loss Pac-10 Champion is more than than a 1-loss SEC team who didn’t win their own conference?

This one isn’t for me either.

Eight-team play-off

Now if you are going to have a play-off system then an eight-team tournament is the only way you can go. All the Champions get in from the major conferences as well as an at-large and a BCS buster. This way everyone gets a fair crack of the whip and the regular season isn’t devalued. You win your conference and you are in. At the moment you can win your conference and all you are guaranteed is playing in a BCS bowl. Some will argue that four teams in the Big 12 are all better than whoever wins the ACC or the Big East but you can’t please everybody.

Thoughts?

Saints Prevail at Wembley Stadium

On October 31, 2008 by

The New Orleans Saints secured a convincing victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday in the second National Football League (NFL) game to be played at Wembley Stadium.

Thankfully, the match was not played in the driving rain which affected last season’s international series game but the glitz and glamour that has charmed American audiences for decades was transferred brilliantly from the vast stadiums of the US to England’s most historic venue.

After last year’s inaugural game at Wembley, Sky Sports saw a massive 45% increase in British viewers watching NFL games. A quick glance through the search engines reveals that the sport is thriving in the UK and participation in both adult and junior leagues is growing by an average of 12% a year. There are three professional adult leagues, an annual

London to get its own NFL team?

On October 30, 2008 by

Over 83,000 fans of the NFL watched the fixture between New Orleans and San Diego at Wembley over the weekend, and many more observed the action on television.

It is clear that the NFL is growing in popularity in the UK and, since the match on Sunday, there has been more exciting news for the ever-increasing British fan base. Roger Goodell, the league’s chief, has revealed his belief that London could host a full-time NFL team in the near future.

Goodell believes that this is a