Snowed in today here in Dallas, TX (no that’s not a typo) so figured I would be productive and post another wallpaper. Click the wallpaper to download the full sized version (1280 x 800).
Keys For Oregon
Offensively, the biggest challenge will be to control Auburn’s defensive line. Nick Fairley has been an absolute monster all season long from the defensive tackle position as well as Antoine Carter from the defensive end spot. Those two alone have combined for 15 sacks and a whopping 31 tackles for losses. Oregon’s offense is incredibly mobile and fast so this will be key to ensure that Darron Thomas and LaMichael James get off to a fast start. As proven in previous BCS Championship games, a dominant defensive line can be the difference (see Troy Smith against Florida circa January 2007). Auburn’s defense is 10th in college football against the run so the zone option reads will be crucial to ensure that they can set up the pass. Balance is a huge part of Oregon’s offense so they need to keep this. Oregon also needs to dictate the pace and use their high tempo offense to gas out Auburn. For how physical Auburn’s defense is, I have a hard time believing that they will be able to keep up with Oregon, especially if they can get them gassed. Defensively, Oregon needs to keep Cam Newton in the pocket and try to limit his rushing yards. One thing I took away from the Alabama – Auburn game is that on early downs, Alabama blitzed often to take away the zone read and blow it up. Oregon needs to follow this model of success to stop both Newton, Dyer, McCalebb, and Fannin. While Newton is the best runner, Auburn has a stable of capable and solid running backs. If they can get Auburn in long 3rd down situations, they can have a more effective defense at keeping Cam Newton contained. If they can’t, the they need to make sure that the defensive ends like Brandon Bair set the edge and funnel Newton towards the middle.
Keys For Auburn
Offensively, Auburn needs to get the run going. A huge part of their offense is the zone read; in fact I’d wager that it’s the key to their offensive success. If they can get the run going, they can keep Oregon’s offense off the field and can also set up the play action pass which opens up Auburn’s big play opportunities. If they can run the ball well, it will also leave them in situations where the defense won’t be able to key into whether it’s a pass or run. Another thing I would like Auburn’s offense to do is be unpredictable. If it’s 3rd and 1, everyone is going to expect Newton to run a QB sneak or run. Instead, use that to go deep with a play action pass or a misdirection run. This could be huge in the goal line where Auburn should be able to run boot legs on Oregon all day. Defensively, Auburn has to win the turnover battle and get Oregon to make mistakes. It’s the easiest way to kill a drive as I’m not confident Auburn can consistently contain Oregon’s offense. Instead they should aim to force errant throws or try and strip James when he’s running from the ball. While Auburn has a good defensive line, I question their linebackers and secondary. A big part of this will be having Fairley get after the quarterback and force bad decisions. If they can get after Thomas, they can also keep Oregon from running deep routes and hopefully shorten the playing field. If not, Oregon will stretch the field vertically as they have all season long. Lastly, Auburn needs to be physical. They need to get in the Oregon receiver’s faces and jam them all day. Disrupting routes and the timing of Oregon’s offense will go a long way when all is said and done.
While I really want Oregon to win this game, Cam Newton eerily reminds me of Vince Young when he was at Texas which is how I can see this one ending. I think Oregon will take the lead with a field goal towards the end , but Newton’s running will be the way he leads them to victory in my opinion. It wouldn’t be the first time he lead Auburn to an epic comeback win. It pains me to say it, but I think this is Auburn’s year to win it all (unfortunately).
Auburn – 42
Oregon – 38
After two and a half seasons of being the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Mike Singletary has been fired now that they have been eliminated from playoff contention. He started out hot in San Fran taking over for Mike Nolan after he was fired in the 2008 season. As the interim head coach, he helped the team finish 5-4 and was signed on to be officially be the head coach. In 2009 he helped the 49ers have their first non-losing record since 2002 going 8-8. With a lack of talented teams in the NFC West, the 49ers were the chic pick to win the NFC West but failed to do so which is sad considering that the team who will win the division will be 8-8. A sad end to one of the most respectable and honorable coaches out there, and he took it in stride and was incredibly grateful for the opportunity. I would expect nothing less from Singletary as he’s a high-character guy. Getting him to speak ill or negatively about someone is like getting Tom Brady to throw an INT at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him land somewhere as a defensive coordinator real quick as he’s one of the best. With so many teams switching to 3-4 defenses, Singletary will be in high demand. As for San Francisco, they’ve announced that their looking for an experienced GM to find them an experienced head coach stating they’re exclusively looking for experienced candidates. What they really need is a solid QB who can perform consistently and manage the offense all season long. For far too long they’ve used scrubs like Troy Smith, Shaun Hill, Alex Smith, and even Trent Dilfer. Who are they fooling thinking Alex Smith or David Carr are “the answer”? If the 49ers want to turn it around, get a QB people actually have to prepare for and not just wait around for an errant throw. If they were smart, they’d draft someone like Ryan Mallett round 1 or trade for someone like Kyle Orton.
Kind of a surprise considering two teams in the AFC are considered locks, but no team in the NFC can rest easy just yet. Nobody has clinched a spot and everyone can slip and miss the playoffs with a string of losses. This will most likely change after this weekend as 3 teams should emerge as locks for the playoffs as long as they win their respective games. Until then however, this category remains empty.
Sitting Pretty: Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants
Atlanta has the top record so obviously they’re sitting pretty. They can afford to lose 2 games and should still make the playoffs easy and are close to clinching. They’ve played great all season long and always find ways to win. As for the Saints, they are 1 game behind the Falcons and on their heels. They have a tough schedule as they play Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Baltimore. They should be fine with 1 win, but should aim for 2 to get a better seed. If they land the 5th seed, they’ll get the gift of destroying the NFC West Champions. The Eagles and the Giants are in good position as they are both tied for first in the NFC East. They both play each other this week which should determine who’s in good position to win the division and who should aim for the wild card spot. Philly finishes the season with Minnesota and Dallas so their road isn’t incredibly tumultuous. The Giants have to still play at Lambeau Field against a Packers team that must win and at Washington. While they have some tough battles, they control their own destiny.
In The Hunt: St Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Bucaneers, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears
Here’s where things get interesting. The five teams above are still in the playoff race, but need to play flawless football. St Louis and Seattle is an interesting battle. If either team loses 2 games San Francisco enters the picture if they can win out. Seattle plays two teams with winning records while St Louis plays Kansas City. To make things real interesting (something the NFC West hasn’t seen in ages) they also play each other the final week of the season which could be a winner take all situation. Tama Bay has had a great season thus far and yet is still a game behind the final playoff team. Out of their final games, the only real challenge is New Orleans week 17. However, they will need some help in the form of either of NFC East team losing at least 2 games. For right now they need to win at least 2. The Packers and Bears will be the most interesting playoff race out of them all. Green Bay has one hell of a final stretch as they play 3 playoff teams in the Patriots, Giants, and the Bear at home. It could get real interesting if they beat the Giants and the Giants lose against the Eagles next week which could be the easiest road to the playoffs for the Packers. The Bears on the other hand play the Vikings, Jets, and Packers. They’ve played well enough to win lately, but they’re still the Bears and could choke away a few games to slip away.
Barely Alive: San Francisco 49ers
Much like their bay area counterparts, the San Francisco 49ers are on the outside looking in. However, they still have a shot to make the playoffs. First off, they need to win out which includes a division game against St Louis and a tough road test against San Diego. They also need both St Louis and Seattle to lose at least 2 games each which is possible as St Louis plays Kansas City and San Francisco while the Seahawks play Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and St Louis. Nobody has an easy road in the NFC West and it will come down to who can win when it counts (which has been nobody this season).
Eliminated: Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys
The above teams have no chance at all and are already looking forward to next season. The Panthers haven’t been ready to play all season and had a serious down year with some bad play at the QB position. They are most likely going to pick first in the NFL draft and should take Andrew Luck. The Cardinals have fallen hard as well for a slew of reasons which is sad as 3 of the NFC West teams are still in contention with losing records. Detroit is still Detroit, although they’ve shown improvement. They just seem to always get bad breaks (Calvin Johnson no TD, Stafford injury, etc). They still have some building blocks to work with and are slowing turning everything around. Minnesota has been a hot topic because of Brett Favre but more importantly because they went from the NFC Championship game to eliminated by week 14. Leslie Frazier has done well so far, but there’s a lot of work left to be done. As for the Redskins, they’ve only made the playoffs once with Dan Snyder as owner so it’s to be expected. They overpay undeserving players drastically and trade away all their draft picks. Lastly, the Dallas Cowboys. I could talk for days how Romo let them down, or their sense of entitlement got to the heads, or how Wade Phillips should of been fired last season; instead I’ll just say they’ve been a disappointment.
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles
NFC North: Chicago Bears
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons
NFC West: St Louis Rams
Wild Card: New Orleans Saints
Wild Card: Green Bay Packers
Oh, Daunte Culpepper, how quickly you fell from the top. After a stellar 4 years at UCF, he was drafted 11th pick overall by the Minnesota Vikings. He didn’t play during his rookie year, but ended up starting his sophomore year and made it count, passing for over 3,900 yards with 33 TDs and only 16 INTs with many of those yards and TDs going to Randy Moss. He did so well he made the Madden video game cover for the 2002 season. However, he hit a bit of a rough patch the next 2 seasons before returning to prime form the following 2 seasons. However, after being named All Pro in 2004, after a season of 39 TDs and 11 INTs, Culpepper was never the same. He was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2006, but never lived up to expectations, frequently being booed and even some people asking him to be benched in favor of Joey Harrington. After his 1 season in Miami, Oakland gave him a shot, hoping his downfield passing would jump-start his career again. It didn’t, and he ended up getting cut midseason. Before the 2008 season, Culpepper retired from football only to come back and serve as the backup for the Detroit Lions. He was given a chance to start in 2 seasons, but still was terrible and has the dubious honor of saying he was part of the team in 2008 that went winless the entire season. Where is he now you may ask? Well, Culpepper is playing in the UFL for the Sacramento Mountain Lions which has served in some ways as a minor league system for the NFL. His stats from this most recent season? 1,732 yards passing, 9 TDs, 11 INTs, with a QB rating of 73. Despite a promising start to his career, Culpepper fell off hard and was never the same, earning him our spot as December’s Has Been Of The Month.
I cannot remember the last time the Indianapolis Colts encountered a must-win regular season game, but it certainly was the case Thursday night as they squeaked by the Tennessee Titans with a 30-28 victory. In the prior three-game losing streak, Peyton Manning looked overwhelmed, racking up eight touchdowns to eleven interceptions (four of them being returned for six). The Colts were on the verge of missing the playoffs. I haven’t seen a string of awful performances from Manning since his rookie campaign. It was so surprising that Bob Lamey, the voice of the Colts, stated that the NFL had “figured” Manning out and suggested they start back-up Curtis Painter. I’m sure all Colts’ fans never want to go down that road; luckily on Thursday night, Manning looked liked his star-studded self, carving up 319 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
“Somebody asked, ‘Are you in a slump?’” Peyton Manning said. “And I said, ‘Well, I guess maybe I was, but I’ve been on about an eight-and-a-half year hitting streak going into that.'”
What separates great players from good players is how they overcome adversity and Peyton certainly did remind us why he is a great NFL quarterback. He showed excellent poise and leadership under pressure as we expect from a vet. The Colts can write their own destiny next Sunday when they face the division leading Jacksonville Jaguars.
How the game was won?
They say a quarterback’s best friend is a running game and it certainly was Manning’s best friend Thursday night. Even though the Colts were only able to salvage 87 yards rushing, it was good enough to prevent the Colts’ offense from being one-dimensional. Donald Brown and Javarris James were able to convert key conversions allowing Peyton to open up the play-action. Establishing the running game early led to Manning’s big night. In the three previous losses, the Colts were simply throwing too much. In those three games, Manning had 52, 48, and 48 pass attempts. So far this season, Manning is averaging 44.5 pass attempts a game which is a lot higher from his previous seasons (35.7 in 2009, 34.7 in 2008, and 32.2 in 2007). Regardless of the quarterback, if your team is one-dimensional it will be difficult to succeed. With so many pass attempts, your quarterback and offensive-lineman are bound to make mistakes; resulting in things like Peyton’s interception party. As long as Manning gets some support from his ground game, he will be able to keep teams off-balance instead of facing the pass-rush every down.
Peyton Manning has tied Dan Marino’s NFL record of most career 300-yard passing games with 63.
Manning has thrown for over 4,000 yards for the 11th time in his career which is five more times than anyone in NFL history.
A lot of times when people get bored, they tend to ask the hypothetical question “would you do this for a million dollars?” A lot of times, it’s something embarrassing to try and test the other person’s limits, but here’s an easy one. Would you play nose tackle in a 3-4 defense in the NFL for $100 million dollars over 7 years? As simple as an answer as this should be, Albert Haynesworth seems to be leaning towards no. Following 2 all pro seasons with his former team, the Tennessee Titans, Haynesworth signed the first 9 figure contract by any defensive player with the Washington Redskins (which isn’t all that surprising considering it’s Dan Snyder). Everything was fine until this offseason when Mike Shanahan was hired as coach and decided to run a 3-4 defense in which Haynesworth would need to play nose tackle. He pouted all season, not showing up for a good majority of training camp, or claiming he was injured before he finally started practicing. Haynesworth seemed to be getting back on track until Mike Shanahan suspended him on Tuesday for the rest of the season for “conduct detrimental to the team” in which they claimed he wasn’t participating in practices and wasn’t even speaking with the coaches.
He didn’t like the 4-3 defense a year ago. He didn’t like the base defense. He didn’t like the nickel defense. He didn’t want to play nose tackle, didn’t want to play defensive end (in the 3-4 defense). We got him playing the nickel package, first and second and third down. He didn’t like first- and second-down nickel, wanted to play third-down nickel in passing situations. Hey, it was just time. – Mike Shanahan
At this point, I applaud Shanahan for suspending him. It became painfully obvious that he didn’t want to play in Washington anymore with his lackluster attitude, and I’m sure having all the money he’ll need until he dies isn’t motivating him otherwise. With no other options present outside of releasing him, which would include a monster cap hit, Shanahan did the next best thing. It definitely sends a message to the other players on the team that everyone get on the same page or you will be gone. If he has no problem suspending one of the highest paid players in the NFL, what’s stopping him from punishing everyone else? I hope for Washington’s sake they can find some way to rid themselves of the headache better known Haynesworth. He needs to enjoy his money because I doubt any other team will ever be willing to pay him the big dollars ever again.