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Post NFL season prediction examination

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

As the NFL season is now at an end, it’s time to see how pathetic my pre-season predictions were which you can see in this previous post from September – https://smegheaddave.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/nfl-predictions/

Well, here are how the standings actually finished, with my pre-season prediction in brackets:

AFC East

1. New England Patriots 14-2 (12-4 – 2 games out, not bad)

2. New York Jets 11-5 (9-7 – 2 games out, not bad but underestimated)

3. Miami Dolphins 7-9 (8-8 – 1 game out, pretty good)

4. Buffalo Bills 4-12 (5-11 – 1 game out, ok but a bit generous with the wins)

AFC North

1. Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4 (8-8 – 4 games out, what was I drinking?)

2. Baltimore Ravens 12-4 (13-3 – 1 game out)

3. Cleveland Browns 5-11 (3-13 – 2 games out, not bad)

4. Cincinnati Bengals 4-12 (8-8 – 4 games out, wow they were bad)

AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts 10-6 (13-3 – 3 games out, can I blame injuries?)

2. Jacksonville Jaguars 8 -8 (7-9 – 1 game out, alright)

3. Houston Texans 6-10 (8-8 – 2 games out, not bad but I thought this was to conservative)

4. Tennessee Titans 6-10 (10-6 – 4 games out, a rusty like Smith prediction)

AFC West

1. Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 (4-12 – 6 games out, those Chiefs are fast…)

2. San Diego Chargers 9-7 (11-5 – 2 games out, not bad but I’ll blame injuries again)

3. Oakland Raiders 8-8 (5-11 – 3 games out, underestimated)

4. Denver Broncos 4-12 (6-10 – 2 games out, not bad but overestimated)

NFC East

1. Philadelphia Eagles 10-6 (8-8 – 2 games out, not bad, this was made when Kolb was the guy)

2. New York Giants 10-6 (7-9 – 3 games out, can’t remember my reasoning for this)

3. Dallas Cowboys 6-10 (11-5 – 5 games out, doubt I was alone with this poor judgement)

4. Washington Redskins 6-10 (6-10 – NAILED IT, I love a nice predictable franchise with no drama…)

NFC North

1. Chicago Bears 11-5 (4-12 – 7 games out, yeah I’m sorry Chicago)

2. Green Bay Packers 10-6 (13-3 – 3 games out, not the worst ‘3 games out’ ever)

3. Detroit Lions 6-10 (5-11 – 1 game out, pretty good)

4. Minnesota Vikings 6-10 (11-5 – 5 games out, bye bye Brett)

NFC South

1. Atlanta Falcons 13-3 (9-7 – 4 games out, poorly underestimated)

2. New Orleans Saints 11-5 (12-4 – 1 game out, pretty good)

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6 (3-13 – 7 games out, maybe worse than my Chicago prediction)

4. Carolina Panthers 2-14 (6-10 – 4 games out, massively overestimated)

NFC West

1. Seattle Seahawks 7-9 (9-7 – 2 games out, not bad and I didn’t know anyone else picking them for the division)

2. St Louis Rams 7-9 (5-11 – 2 games out, not bad but clearly a bit better than I thought)

3. San Francisco 49ers 6-10 (9-7 – 3 games out, not good)

4. Arizona Cardinals 5-11 (8-8 – 3 games out, ‘3 games out’ also the Cardinals quarterback philosophy)

In terms of the playoffs, I did predict the Packers to reach the Super Bowl but I had them losing to the Colts so I can’t really claim to much of a victory in that. Anyway, roll on the new season and lets sort this Collective Bargaining Agreement out and get back to the action.

NFL Celebration Hypocrisy

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

This is something that has never made sense to me for a while and since Mike Carlson mentioned it this week during Sunday Night Football on Channel 4, it proves I am not the only one who has a problem with it. For those unaware who Mike Carlson is, he is the studio analyst on Channel 4 for Sunday Night Football as well as being the greatest football analyst/presenter/commentator/journalist, whatever you want to call him in the UK or the USA or anywhere else for that matter.

Anyway, the issue I am referring to is the NFL’s policy on over celebrating and how referees can hand out immediate 15 yard penalty’s to a team if players are deemed to have celebrated ‘over the top’. For the past few years, the league has been trying to curtail players’ celebrations after scoring a touchdown.

Chad Ochocinco one of a number of players renowned for his touchdown celebrations

There are a number of players who have made a name for ‘creative’ celebrations after scoring. Some of the most memorable in recent history include Terrell Owens signing a football, Chad Ochocinco giving CPR to the football, proposing to a cheerleader and playing a golf shot with an end zone pylon, Steve Smith (Panthers, not Giants) creating a snow angel and cradling the ball like a baby, Randy Moss mimicking mooning the Green Bay crowd after scoring for Minnesota and Joe Horn phoning his mum on a phone hidden in the padding of the goalpost.

Throughout the game there have been a lot of famous celebrations. Billy ‘White Shoes’ Johnson always performed the funky chicken dance after every score and for a period in the early 80’s the Washington Redskins team performed a group high-five after scoring. All of these celebrations have endeared the players to a lot of supporters providing an extra dose of entertainment to the games. There are of course those who find the celebrations far too excessive and egotistical as the game is all about the team and not the individual.

Players are no longer allowed to leave their feet or use props or have pre organised celebration routines. For example, this season we saw Dallas Cowboys’ offensive lineman Marc Colombo penalised 15 yards after Jason Witten’s touchdown. Witten gave the ball to his lineman to spike (spiking the ball is still allowed) before the two performed a jumping chest bump (also allowed even though they are jumping off the ground), however Colombo last his balance and stumbled to the ground, the referees then threw the flag and penalised the Cowboys 15 yards on the kick off for this.

This is not the most baffling thing I find about the rules however, if the league wants to ban excessive celebrations then that’s their choice and although I personally think it removes something from the game, plenty of others agree with the NFL. However, there is one GLARING omission that it is just beyond belief. The Lambeau Leap.

The famous Lambeau Leap

Any football fan knows what the Lambeau Leap is, for those who don’t it is a celebration performed by Green Bay Packers players at their home stadium, Lambeau Field. After scoring, the Packers player leaps into the crowd of celebrating Packers fans. Now, if Marc Colombo is being penalised for falling over as it breaks the rules of going to ground, how is sprinting over to the crowd and leaping into the stands after every score not against these rules!? Don’t misunderstand me here, I enjoy the Lambeau Leap and love to see it whenever watching the Packers, but why do players from every other team have to behave like robots after scoring like it means nothing to them when Packers players can display the emotion and delight of scoring in this manner!?

Those who support the lack of celebrations, but also support the Lambeau Leap will argue the usual point of it being ‘tradition’, well how is it any more of a special tradition to general celebrating? NFL players had been performing all sorts of celebrations before the Lambeau Leap was ever performed. It just seems that they should enforce the penalty on this along with other celebrations if they are serious about the rule

If I was suddenly appointed as the commissioner of the NFL, it’s a long shot I know; I’d simply remove this rule entirely and allow players to design and perform as elaborate a celebration as they want. This really is just another example of the NFL standing for the ‘No Fun League’.

Defense Wins Championships?

October 14, 2010 Leave a comment

So long a cliché in the NFL, the statement ‘defense wins championships’ has those who believe it and those who refute it. A number of NFL pundits and fans will say that defense will give you a chance, but a team needs to put up points if they are going to win. However, regardless of your view on this defensive philosophy, you can’t ignore what is happening after the first 5 weeks this season.

 

In terms of giving up points per game, the top 6 defenses in the league are:

 

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers               12.5
  2. Atlanta Falcons                       14
  3. Kansas City Chiefs                 14.2
  4. Baltimore Ravens                  14.4
  5. Chicago Bears                         14.8
  6. New York Jets                        16.2

 

The 6 best records so far this season:

 

  1. Baltimore Ravens                 4-1
  2. Atlanta Falcons                     4-1
  3. Chicago Bears                         4-1
  4. New York Jets                        4-1
  5. Kansas City Chiefs                 3-1
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers               3-1

 

Notice a pattern here? At the moment, the teams with the best defenses are the best teams in the league. An obvious statement maybe? Well, to win games, they need to score points. Do they have the 6 best offenses as well? The simple answer is no. The top ranked offensive team in points per game out of these 6 are the New York Jets (4th, 27 ppg). As for the rest, Atlanta Falcons (10th, 22.6 ppg), Pittsburgh Steelers (12th, 21.5 ppg), Kansas City Chiefs (19th, 19.2 ppg), Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears (joint 22nd, 18.4 ppg).

 

Other than the Jets, and to a lesser extent the Falcons, these teams have been winning with great defense whilst having just enough on offense. If the Steelers defense hadn’t started so well, Ben Roethlisberger could well have returned to a 0-4 or 1-3 team.

 

There are two other teams sitting at a .750 record and they are the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both at 3-1. The Patriots currently average the most points per game in the NFL.

 

Unlike the top defenses, having an offense that puts points on the board hasn’t necessarily led to success so far this year. Of the top 6, there are the Jets at 4-1 and Patriots 3-1. There are however two teams with losing records in the San Diego Chargers (2-3) who are averaging 28 points per game and the Detroit Lions (1-4) averaging 25.2. The Lions stats have been skewed with them putting up 44 points in their win over St Louis, but they still averaged 20 points per game before this, putting them ahead of the Chiefs, Ravens and Bears offenses.

 

Having great offenses has always proved successful throughout the years, especially in recent times with teams like the Colts, Saints and Patriots dominating the league with their offenses. For instance, looking at last season the Saints won the Super Bowl with the 20th ranked defense in the league.

 

Maybe this season, the cliché becomes a reality and defense really does win championships. Maybe the high powered offensive teams such as the Houston Texans, San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints will get back to some consistent form and win games regardless of their defenses.

 

However, if the season continues as it has begun, who’s to say we won’t see a Super Bowl involving the Jets and the Falcons or the Steelers and the Bears battling to see who can limit the other teams scoring the best.

 

 

NFL Predictions

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

The season is almost here!! And here are my predictions for how I see the season possibly panning out.

To come up with these predictions, I have taken into account each team’s schedules and predicting the outcome of each game, as well as looking at their performance last season and deciding if I think they will improve or take a step back this season. Feel free to yell at me and tell me I’m an idiot but this is how I see the season going.

AFC East

1. New England Patriots (12-4)

2. New York Jets (9-7)

3. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

4. Buffalo Bills (5-11)

AFC North

1. Baltimore Ravens (13-3)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

3. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)

4. Cleveland Browns (3-13)

AFC South

1. Indianapolis Colts (13-3)

2. Tennessee Titans (10-6)

3. Houston Texans (8-8)

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9)

AFC West

1. San Diego Chargers (11-5)

2. Denver Broncos (6-10)

3. Oakland Raiders (5-11)

4. Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)

NFC East

1. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)

2. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)

3. New York Giants (7-9)

4. Washington Redskins (6-10)

NFC North

1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)

2. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)

3. Detroit Lions (5-11)

4. Chicago Bears (4-12)

NFC South

1. New Orleans Saints (12-4)

2. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)

3. Carolina Panthers (6-10)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13)

NFC West

1. Seattle Seahawks (9-7)

2. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)

3. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

4. St Louis Rams (5-11)

PLAYOFFS

Seedings:

AFC

1. Indianapolis Colts

2. New England Patriots (take tie breaker with Ravens with win week 9)

3. Baltimore Ravens

4. San Diego Chargers

5. Tennessee  Titans

6. New York Jets

NFC

1. Green Bay Packers

2. New Orleans Saints

3. Dallas Cowboys

4. Seattle Seahawks

5. Minnesota Vikings

6. Atlanta Falcons (take tie breaker with 49ers with win week 4)

Wildcard Round:

AFC – Baltimore Ravens beat New York Jets & San Diego Chargers beat Tennessee Titans

NFC – Dallas Cowboys beat Atlanta Falcons & Minnesota Vikings beat Seattle Seahawks

Divisional Round:

AFC – Indianapolis Colts beat San Diego Chargers & New England Patriots beat Baltimore Ravens

NFC – Green Bay Packers beat Minnesota Vikings & Dallas Cowboys beat New Orleans Saints

Conference Championships:

AFC – Indianapolis Colts beat New England Patriots

NFC – Green Bay Packers beat Dallas Cowboys

Super Bowl:

Indianapolis Colts beat Green Bay Packers

Of course, this will be probably be miles off what actually transpires and come the end of the season I will look back at these predictions and see how close I got.

Bulgaria lose chance to register Arteta over surname complications

September 3, 2010 Leave a comment

After turning down the chance to register to play for England, international football hopeful Mikel Arteta has now refused the offer from the Bulgarian national team to come and play for them. The Bulgarian coach, Stanimir Stoilov claimed that “we offered Mikel the chance to register to play for Bulgaria having found out his parents once visited Plovdiv for a weekend 15 years ago and everything was going smoothly until the issue of the name came up”. For many years now it has been a tradition that all players who represent Bulgaria must have a surname that ends with ‘ov’. Many players have had to change their names to accommodate this tradition including Stilian and Martin Petrov whose previous surnames were the same as Chelsea stopper Petr Cech’s forname. However, the confused Everton playmaker questioned Stoilov when this was put to him.

It is understand Arteta changed his name to Artetaov for a week to ‘see how it felt’ but dour faced Everton boss David Moyes found problems with this when his star midfielder seemed to ignore him for the entire week, perplexed as to why Moyes was shouting ‘Artetaov’ in his direction. Subsequently the chance registering of Arteta to turn out for Bulgaria was lost as the player couldn’t get used to the name and claimed he wouldn’t know what was going on with the rest of his teammates having similar sounding names.

Arteta lashes out upon announcement of latest Spain squad.

Stoilov expressed his disappointment on missing out on such a talented player, “it all seemed to be going well, he enjoyed his tour round Sofia and after attending a training session he realised there would be no trouble in getting selected, it’s just a pity we couldn’t come to an agreement on the name.”

Arteta then still waits for a suitable country to represent while Spain still seems reluctant to select him on the grounds that he doesn’t play for Barcelona.

Football Coaching for the Future

September 1, 2010 Leave a comment

After the poor performance by the England football team in the World Cup over in South Africa, supporters have been debating the reasons behind the dismal campaign. After the dust had settled on the Spanish victory in soccer city, the inquest into England’s failure began. One hotly debated and discussed topic is the current standard of football coaching at all levels of the sport, from the grass-roots involved with getting youngsters into the game and developing their abilities all the way up to the elite level competitions. When looking purely at the statistics, it is clear to see that the English coaching power is a long way off some of the other major football nations.

Spanish players celebrate the culmination of a successful system by lifting the World Cup

The number of coaches qualified at the highest level with the UEFA ‘A’ licence and the UEFA pro licence in England is 1,010. Comparing this to the current European and World champions Spain, where 14,860 coaches are qualified at these levels, it becomes apparent that there needs to be a concerted effort to increase the number of English coaches qualified at the highest levels who can provide the players of the future with the ability to develop them into world-class performers. It is not just Spain who vastly outnumbers England in this department, other top nations such as Germany (6,570), France (2,588), Italy (1,810) and Holland (1,137) can all boast a larger crop of top coaches, thus proving that the number of top coaches needs to be increased.

Of course, simply increasing the number of coaches is not going to ensure instant success on the field. The coaches themselves need to be competent in what they are doing, and this competency should be achieved whilst gaining the qualifications. Learning from the Spanish system of coaching, where all the coaches are promoting and teaching the same style of football across the country, we can say ways in which the English coaching system could potentially be improved. During the past decade, Spanish football has been developing successfully due to this philosophy of teaching a single style of football across the country and ingraining this style of play in the young players so by the time they get to the senior level of competition, it becomes natural to them, and they can all work well together. The result of this combined effort from coaches and players has resulted in resounding success for Spanish football. Since 1998, Spanish youth teams from under-16 to under-21 level have won 19 UEFA and FIFA championships. During this same period, England have won one.

The English FA need to focus on both increasing the number of qualified coaches as well as making sure there is a clear system of coaching in place through all levels and age groups so that there is a continuous development of players coming through the ranks, all playing to the same style. It is not essential to simply copy the Spanish system and try to implement exactly what has worked so successfully in Spain into our own game, however a potentially similar coaching system could seriously benefit the English game and lead to future success in the major competitions.

AFC East Preview

September 1, 2010 Leave a comment

With the NFL regular season just around the corner, now is a good time to have a look over each division and the possible championship contenders as well as those just looking to pick up a few wins that would constitute a successful season. Beginning in the AFC East, it appears there will be a two-way battle for the division title between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. The Patriots last year were third in the league in offense and with Brady, Moss, Welker, Maroney, Taylor and co, they are still going to be able to put up plenty of points. Therefore, their relatively young defense won’t be under to much pressure in a lot of games and they can just try and contain the opposition and get the high powered offense on the field for as long as possible. The Jets were the top ranked team in total defense last season and head coach Rex Ryan will hope to keep that defensive momentum that took his team all the way to the AFC championship game a year ago. One major worry for Jets fans is the continued hold out of pro bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis who is an essential part of that feared defense.

Revis still holding out

With no real progress being made between the two parties, Jets fans will be desperate that the contract dispute will be resolved as soon as possible and that Revis will be back on the field keeping the league’s top receivers under control. If Revis isn’t available for some or all of the season, the defense will undoubtedly suffer and put more pressure on the offense and second year quarterback Mark Sanchez. Last year Sanchez threw 12 touchdowns with 20 interceptions and if more pressure was to be put upon his shoulders there is a chance he will try to force to many throws into dangerous areas resulting in an increased number of turnovers and adding an ageing LaDainian Tomlinson to the roster isn’t going to improve the offense a whole lot.
Picking a winner from these two sides is tricky and both teams may well end with similar records with a one or two game difference, but I see the Patriots taking the top spot this season as their offense will consistently win them nine or ten games and with the Revis uncertainty, the Jets defense may suffer early on in the season, putting the pressure on Sanchez and his offense. However, no matter which of these teams takes the top spot, the other will definietly be challenging for one of the two wildcard spots from the AFC.

Moving onto the other two teams contesting the division, we have the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills. The Dolphins will feel they have an outside chance of a winning season with a schedule that sees them with some attractive home ties against Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago, however I think they will be realistically looking at a final record of around 8-8 or 7-9. Last season they were 26th in the league in offensive yards per game, however they do have a strong defense that will help put them in winning positions. The Dolphins will be hoping that Chad Henne, Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Bradon Marshall and the rest of the offense can siginificantly improve and give them an outside chance of challenging for a wildcard spot.

The Buffalo Bills are the overwhelming favourites to prop up the division. Even with the addition of first round draft selection CJ Spiller at running back that will improve a good ground attack, they will struggle to win many games. Whether it’s Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick or even Brian Brohm or rookie Levi Brown at quaterback, throwing to Lee Evans and Roscoe Parish, the Bills will struggle to do much through the air. They will also struggle on the defensive side of the ball where last year they conceded 348 yards per game which was good enough to be the fourth worst defense. No doubt the addition of Spiller will give them a bigger points threat, but I can’t see much hope for more than 4 or 5 wins at best this season for the Bills.

Predicition:

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Miami Dolphins

Buffalo Bills