Day: August 29, 2010

Gridiron Blitz: Chicago Bears 2010 Season Preview

The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the Chicago Bears

Music to listen to: They Say by Common ft. Kanye West

These are the artists I had to choose from. Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Alison Krauss, house music, polka, Styx, Chicago, Cheap Trick, Mudvayne, Fall Out Boy, Ministry, Smashing Pumpkins, Ministry, Eddie Vedder, Tom Morello of Rage, Adam Jones from Tool, Kanye West, Common, Twista, R. Kelly and Lupe Fiasco.

That was a frickin hard choice. I went with the Chicago duo.

Current State: Since facing the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl in 2006, the Bears are 23-25 with no playoff appearances and only one winning season.

Chicago tried to change this with the acquisition of quarterback Jay Cutler last offseason but the squad finished 7-9 and he had a substandard season and threw an NFL-high 26 interceptions. This offseason, the Bears acquired defensive end Julius Peppers in hopes that this will improve the defense.

All of these are desperate moves by a franchise that clearly sees two of its main rivals, Minnesota and Green Bay become better than it and positive growth in Detroit.

Furthermore, head coach Lovie Smith needs a big season to retain his job as well as general manager Jerry Angelo. Things have gotten so desperate that the Bears have hired Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator. How his offense will work in the cold weather of Chicago with an inaccurate quarterback like Cutler will be a sight to see.

Biggest Offseason Change: The biggest additions arguably of any team to its personnel and coaching staff.

Peppers physically is one of the most talented players in the NFL. He will help solidify the front seven of the Bears who also hope to get a healthy Brian Urlacher back from a broken wrist that caused the linebacker to miss most of the 2009 season.

However, Peppers also has shown major inconsistency in his play and that was before he signed his major contract. The hope is that he will be motivated by financial security and contract incentives.

Martz will try to fix a broken offense with an undisciplined quarterback, a good running back, bad offensive line and weak receivers. Martz has worked with quarterbacks such as Kurt Warner, Mark Bulger, Jeff Garcia and others who’s accuracy and timing were their strengths. Cutler doesn’t have any of that. Running back Matt Forte will be a nice tool for him to work with but the receivers aren’t even on the same playing level as Martz’s old crew in St. Louis.

Plus, one has to question how well the offense will work outside of the dome stadiums where it had its most success in St. Louis and Detroit.

Uniform Grade: They have had the same uniforms forever and no one complains, so all must be well. Don’t wear those orange jerseys again though. Grade: B

Best Player: The Bears have some good players but many of them are either on the decline or coming off injury like Urlacher, Tommy Harris or Forte.

A case can be made for Lance Briggs because he makes a lot of Pro Bowls and has a big name but that doesn’t impress me as much. Devin Hester has this title for a moment but since he’s become a full-time receiver, his return skills have become mortal.

I’ll still say that its Cutler but last season wasn’t the impression you want to leave on your career.

Most Important Player: I’ve been harping on Cutler enough so I’ll say this one is Urlacher.

The defense wasn’t terrible last season but wasn’t up to the Bears standards. If Urlacher can return to his form than Chicago has a chance to have a winning record in 2010.

Best Case: Martz’s offense works well for Chicago and the defense finds its health. Seven wins.

Worst Case: Cutler stills shows a lack of discipline and throws more than 20 interceptions. Forte’s knee isn’t fully healthy. Peppers continues his inconsistent play. Last place in the NFC North.

Coaching: I addressed Lovie Smith and his situation above.

First memory of team: I always respected Mike Singletary. When other linebackers and defensive players would get compared to my favorite football player growing up, Lawrence Taylor, I would get mad accept when it came to Singletary.

Also, they have gotten annoying over the years, more the fans than the actual players, but the 1985 Bears were beasts.

Schedule: The Bears will have to deal with Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota in the division.

The home games are against Seattle, Washington, Philadelphia, New England and the New York Jets. The away games are at Dallas, the New York Giants, Carolina, Buffalo and Miami.

City Nicknames: The Windy City is good. Chi-town is OK. I don’t like Second City.

Fantasy Focus: I would take a flyer on Forte.

Overall Outlook: The Bears may be a surprise tea in the NFL but I just don’t see it. There are too many adjustments that must be made on offense and reliance on the health of top players on defense for the team to succeed.

Final Record: 5-11

Gridiron Blitz 2010 Season Previews:

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Miami Dolphins

AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Baltimore Ravens

Pittsbirgh Steelers

AFC South:

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Houston Texans

Tennessee Titans

AFC West

Denver Broncos

San Diego Chargers

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

New York Giants

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Triple Option Attack: #7 Oklahoma

Next up on the Triple Option Attack is #7 Oklahoma

Music to listen to: Early in the Morning by The Gap Band

I really was tempted to put some Hanson up there because the members are from Tulsa, Oklahoma but I won’t do that to you. Those boys were and still are talented. Color Me Badd also hails from Oklahoma.

The state has some excellent musicians, especially in the country music genre with Toby Keith, Blake Shelton, Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill and others.

However, I’m taking The Gap Band. War Charlie Wilson!!

The Story: Last season was supposed to be better than the 8-5 record.

The Sooners had the Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford, back with top talent on both sides of the ball. However, Bradford got hurt in the season opening loss to BYU and eventually was out for the rest of the season. This started a trend of many of the top players missing time at some point to injuries.

The good news is that many of the current players, particularly starting quarterback Landry Jones, got invaluable playing time last season that will be useful.

Last Season: Finished 8-5, including losses to BYU, Texas, Miami and Nebraska, all ranked teams and all non-home contests. The other loss was on the road as well at Texas Tech. The Sooners did defeat Stanford in the Sun Bowl.

Injuries were an issue but the squad still had four first-round NFL picks on the roster in Bradford, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, offensive lineman Trent Williams and tight end Jermaine Gresham, who to be fair missed all of the season with a knee injury.

However, that’s too much talent to have a five-loss season.

Offense: While the unit may not return to its prolific level of 2008, it is still one of the top units in the nation.

It will be led by Jones, who played well in replacing Bradford. He will have the benefit of playing behind an offensive line that will start five players either returning from last year or has extensive experience.

The leading rusher will once again be senior DeMarco Murray, who will have the chance to not only break former Heisman Trophy Billy Sims’ mark for most career rushing yards in school history but get the trophy himself.

Jones will also be throwing to junior Ryan Broyles who caught 89 passes for more than 1,100 yards last season.

Defense: The unit does lose McCoy but returns potential All-Big 12 performers including end Jeremy Beal, linebacker Travis Lee and free safety Quinton Carter.

The linebackers and secondary should be fine but the interior line is an area of concern.

The Schedule

Sept. 4 Utah State

Sept. 11 Florida State

Sept. 18 Air Force

Sept. 25 at Cincinnati

Oct. 2 vs. Texas (at Dallas)

Oct. 16 Iowa State

Oct. 23 at Missouri

Oct. 30 Colorado

Nov. 6 at Texas A&M

Nov. 13 Texas Tech

Nov. 20 at Baylor

Nov. 27 at Oklahoma State

The schedule looks trickier in a second look. You notice that Nebraska isn’t on it but the Sooners will probably have to face the Huskers in the Big 12 title game anyway.

Oklahoma has to host the potential ACC champion in Florida State, dark horse Mountain West title contender Air Force and its unique offense and travel to possible Big East favorite Cincinnati. That doesn’t even include traveling to Missouri, Texas A&M and Okie State in the season finale. There’s also that small contest on Oct. 2 in Dallas.

Most Famous Sports Alum: There have been many to come over the years but this is about the most famous alum currently. I came down to two people.

Adrian Peterson, stating running back for the Minnesota Vikings and Jim Ross, longtime professional wrestling commentator. While AP is known by a lot of people, I can argue that Jim Ross has just as much fame, especially since he joined World Wrestling Entertainment years ago.

In the end, the NFL is the king of sports right now so that’s where I have to side.

Celebrity Alum “Crush:” When I found out that she went to Oklahoma, it was easy.

Olivia Munn, host of various shows on the G4 Network, current correspondent on The Daily Show on Comedy Central and just did a Google search, she’s joining the cast of one of my favorite shows, Chuck, on NBC. She a winner in so many ways!

 

Prediction: 10-2

The only loss that I’m ready to almost guarantee is the Texas contest. Outside of that, another loss may be hard to find. I doubt that they will drop a contest at home. The road games to Texas A&M and Okie State are possible stumbling blocks.

Sports Inquirer Top-25 Preseason College Football Poll:

#25 West Virginia

#24 South Carolina

#23 Auburn

#22 Oregon State

#21 Arkansas

#20 Florida State

#19 Georgia

#18 North Carolina

#17 Georgia Tech

#16 LSU

#15 Pittsburgh

#14 Penn State

#13 Miami

#12 Wisconsin

#11 Oregon

#10 Iowa

#9 Nebraska

#8 TCU

Gridiron Blitz: New York Giants 2010 Season Preview

The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the New York Giants

Music to listen to: My Philosophy by Boogie Down Productions or The River by Bruce Springsteen

 

 

I needed to have a song from a New York and New Jersey artist each. The Giants used to play in Yankee Stadium in The Bronx in the NYC so I had to have a resident from that area, hence KRS One. The Giants currently play in Jersey and Bruce is Jersey music so there you go.

Current State: After winning the Super Bowl in 2007, the Giants have had some transitions on the field. First defensive lineman Michael Strahan retired, than wide receiver Plaxico Burress is arrested and cut from the squad during the 2008 season. Oh, star defensive end Osi Umenyiora tears his knee ligaments in at preseason contest and missed all of 2008 as well. In that same season the Giants finish the regular season 12-4 but suffer and embarrassing home playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Last season, the Giants started 5-0 but finished 3-8 and missed the playoffs.

How will the Giants respond when everyone else in its division has improved in some form the last three years since their Super Bowl victory?

Biggest Offseason Change: Following last season’s collapse, some expected major changes for the Giants, including the release of head coach Tom Coughlin. However, he kept his job.

The Giants do have a new defensive coordinator in Perry Fewell, who worked with Coughlin back with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

New York is hoping that the injuries that happened last year don’t take place this year and the offseason gave many players health. Running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, defensive ends Justin Tuck and Umenyiora all had their 2009 seasons affected by injury.

There were some offseason free agent signings, especially on defense. The Giants got defensive tackle Chris Canty and safety Antrel Rolle to improve the underwhelming unit.

Uniform Grade: I like the home uniforms. The red jerseys have to go though, they are hideous. The road outfits are ok, even though the white jerseys with the grey pants looks mismatched. I was very happy when they upgraded the team logo from the underlined word “Giants” to the “NY” logo you can see above. Grade: B without the red jerseys, C with the red jerseys.

Best Player: This mantle has gone to different guys the past three years. Jacobs, Bradshaw, Tuck and Osi have held this title.

Right now, I would have to say that on pure talent it’s Tuck because his rushing ability along with run defense keys the defensive line which is the strength of the Giants.

Also up for consideration is wide receiver Steve Smith, who leads an underrated receiving unit with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.

Most Important Player: When I don’t name Eli Manning in the list of best players for the Giants, that’s a problem. There is little doubt that he is the most important player on the team for reaching its goals.

Manning showed some of the promise during last regular season that he had during the 2007 playoffs.

An outsider looks at Manning and sees a Super Bowl-winning quarterback who has had a nice career. An observant fan who has seen him play every season of his career sees someone who has the talent to be a top-five NFL quarterback but plays inconsistently, especially with long balls, and that hinders the growth of the offense overall.

To be fair to Manning, the running backs and offensive line underachieved as units last season, placing more pressure on him than normal. Those two units look to be back to normal this year.

So why isn’t Bradshaw or Jacobs the most important player on the team because the Giants’ running attack must be effective for the offense to work at all?

If you want to win a Super Bowl and the Giants have an outside shot of doing that this year, you have to receive top play from your quarterback. The days of Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer winning Super Bowls are few and far between in 2010.

Manning has to reach his maximum potential for the Giants to reach its goals.

Best Case: Manning plays like he did in the end of 2007. The offensive and defensive lines along with the running backs get healthy. The secondary fixes its holes from last season.

Worst Case: The end of the 2009 season.

Coaching: Coughlin has been with the Giants since 2004 and he has changed along with the times to winning results. He was known for his overbearing disciplinary tone of coaching, often in conflict with veteran players such as Strahan and former running back Tiki Barber.

However, before the 2007 season, Coughlin loosened his reins on the team, put more trust on the veterans and rode it all the way to a Super Bowl title.

Now that the Giants have taken a downturn, fans and analysts alike are wondering what direction the franchise is going. There should be no argument if a collapse takes place in 2010 similar to 2009, New York will be looking for a new head coach.

The problems of 2009 weren’t completely on Coughlin. Injuries happen and while the defense did struggle mightily, he has hired a new defensive coordinator and brought in players to hopefully improve on that.

All of this is to say that the verdict on Coughlin is still out but by the end of this upcoming season, it will be clear.

First memory of team: So many but I’ll keep it simple.

When you’re a young buck growing up in the NYC, you have some choices to make. You’re either a Mets or Yankees fan. You will support completely or have no alliance to the Knicks. You decide if you are going to be a hockey fan and if so, it’s the Rangers or Islanders.

For football, you’re either a Jets or Giants fan.

I can’t be legit about hating on frontrunners when I practiced it when I became a Giants fan. If I’m going to talk crap about Cowboys fans, I have to take my own medicine. The Giants were good and the Jets were borderline terrible.

I liked the whole vibe of the Giants from LT to Mark Bavaro to my other favorite player Carl Banks. Parcells had that northeastern swagger that I gravitated to as a New Yorker. Even the colors of blue and red got me excited.

Watching Super Bowl 25 as a nine-year old got me hooked and its been a love affair ever since.

Schedule: The Giants will have to deal with Washington, Dallas and Philadelphia in the division.

The home games are against Carolina, Tennessee, Chicago, Detroit and Jacksonville The away games are at Indianapolis, Houston, Seattle, Minnesota and Green Bay. They can be a favorite in each non-division home game and an underdog in each road game of the same distinction this season accept for Seattle.

City Nicknames: I’ve always like Gotham City or The NYC. Only tourists use “The Big Apple.” 

Fantasy Focus: I would be weary of taking a Giants’ receiver because an extra emphasis is going to go into the running backs on offense.

Overall Outlook: The schedule has the potential makings of a 10-win season which will get the Giants back into the playoffs. However, they must improve its defensive holes, especially at linebacker, for this to happen.

Final Record: 10-6

Gridiron Blitz 2010 Season Previews:

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Miami Dolphins

AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Baltimore Ravens

Pittsbirgh Steelers

AFC South:

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Houston Texans

Tennessee Titans

AFC West

Denver Broncos

San Diego Chargers

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins