Friday, November 30, 2007

Notes from the Packers/Cowboys

Last night's game between the Cowboys and the Packers was very much an emotional roller coaster. I'm came really close to calling my friend Steve during the second quarter and beginning the celebration. If I had, I'm sure the Packers would have completed their comeback. I did get to watch the game (thank you, Direct TV) and I also listened it on the Cowboys network broadcast over the internet (thank you, high speed internet). I came away with several thoughts.

1. The Cowboys had to win that game. Not in a if they didn't the season was a failure or a playoff game at Lambeau Field is certain death, but considering the circumstances, they had to win the game. The game was at home. The Packers were dealing with injuries even before Favre got hurt: with the injuries to Charles Woodson and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila the Packers were hampered on the defensive end of the field. The Cowboys had to take advantage of the injuries. I think we'll see people who downplay the win because of the Packer injuries. Well, too bad. That's football. The Cowboys have been blessed with amazing health (knock on wood). I don't know if it's luck or conditioning (maybe both), but they have had an amazing run. The one major injury the Cowboys have had to face is Terry Glenn. Can you imagine what this offense would be like if Terry Glenn was playing? The sound you hear is defensive coordinators around the league shuddering.

2. If Brett Favre had played the whole, it may have been a complete blowout. I think after Favre went down, the Cowboys defense let up and let the Packers back in the game. Give the Packers credit. They didn't quit. Aaron Rogers played really well. They have some really good receivers and their running back, Ryan Grant looked really good. It proves my theory that you can find a running back just about anywhere and unless you have an Emmitt Smith, there's no reason to spend a high draft pick on a running back or sign a running back to big free agent contract. Ask the Chiefs. Are they happy about Larry Johnson and he 70 yards a game average? How about Seattle and Shaun Alexander not even getting that much?

3. Speaking of running backs, on the 4th and 2 in the third, I was all for going for it (shoot, I'm a fan. I always want to go for it). But why give the ball to Julius Jones when you have a battering ram in Marion Barber? Was there anyone who believed Jones would get those two yards? I didn't. I think Jones would have gotten those two yards and then ran over a DB picking up 4 more yards. I liked Jones when they first got him. He had burst and he made people miss, a true home run hitter. Now, he rarely gets in the open and, when he does, he can't make safeties miss him. That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if he's back here next year because I wonder if anyone else will pay him what he thinks he's worth. Barber is the horse the Cowboys ride to win. That last drive was like watching vintage Emmitt Smith. The Cowboys knew they were gonna run, the Packers knew they were gonna and, the Cowboys ran down the field for the game sealing field goal.

4. DeMarcus Ware is the man and he made the most important defensive play to this point in the season. It's 27-24 early in the 4th. The Packers had just picked off Tony Romo in the end zone on the drop by TO. The Packers had up to that point scored 14 unanswered points and had already moved the ball 20 yards to their own 40. Third down and 5 and Ware just abused Chad Clifton (the brother in law of one of my co-workers, fyi) and just swallowed Aaron Rogers. That's the kind of play that gets a guy defensive player of the year. For three years now we've been wondering about whether the Cowboys were right about Ware over Shawne Merriman. But that play and a later play when he dropped back into coverage and deflected a pass show that Ware is true all round line backer and one of the best in the NFL.

5. I don't know about that pass interference call on the Cowboys last touchdown. Looked like a tough call to me. If that had been called on the Cowboys, I would have been mad.

6. I don't know for sure that the Cowboys are a shoe-in for home field advantage. They don't have an easy schedule down the stretch. There'll be favored in every game, but maybe only one is without true concern:
A. At Detroit: They have lots of talented receivers and the Cowboys lost to them last year. One good thing: The Cowboys have 10 days off before then.
B. Philadelphia at home: Who will be QB for the Eagles? Was the game they played against the Patriots a mirage or is this team together? Will they have another game like it? The Boys blew them out the Philly and this is at home.
C. At Carolina: The Panthers will trot out either Vinny Testaverde, David Carr, or Matt Moore, whom the Cowboys cut in the preseason. As they say, 'Nuff said.
D. At Washington: It doesn't matter what is happening around the rest of the season, this game is almost always close. Hopefully the Cowboys won't need it for home field and can rest a few guys. I'm just saying don't hand the Cowboys home field before the playoffs start.

All in all, great win by the Cowboys. But as they've been saying the last several weeks: It's been nice to get these wins, but it's not the final goal. For the first time since maybe 1996 the Cowboys have a team that they can legitimately say are Super Bowl contenders. It's a great place to be.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A real national champion: Week Thirteen

There was quite a shuffle in the seedings this week. After a week on the outside looking in, Oklahoma is back in. A loss this week in the Big XII championship game would again remove them from the tourney, so they are playing a must win game this week. Their opponent, Missouri, is not in must win mode, but a win would lock up their #1 seeding for the tournament, which is always desirable. Moving into the tourney field for the first time this year is USC, thanks to their win over Arizona State, who find themselves bounced after holding the four seed as recently as three weeks ago. USC and Oklahoma also combine for a very intriguing 8 v 9 first round matchup. Several other tourney tickets will be punched this weekend as the conference championships are decided. This season is begging for a playoff.

For previous weeks, see Week Seven, Week Eight, Week Nine, Week Ten and Week Twelve.

1) Missouri (Big 12)
16) Central Florida (Conference USA)

8) USC (Pac-10)
9) Oklahoma (At large)

4) Georgia (At large)
13) BYU (Mountain West)

5) Kansas (At large)
12) Hawaii (WAC)

3) Ohio State (Big Ten)
14) Troy (Sun Belt)

6) Virginia Tech (ACC)
11) Boston College (At large)

7) LSU (SEC)
10) Florida (At large)

2) West Virginia (Big East)
15) Central Michigan (MAC)

Missed the cut (BCS rank):
Arizona State (13)
Tennessee (14)
Illinois (15)
Clemson (16)
Oregon (17)

Monday, November 19, 2007

A real national champion: Week Twelve

Sorry I missed last week--I was a little busy relaxing in Hawaii. The last two weeks have been interesting. We have seen Ohio State and then Oregon fall from the top spot, and Oklahoma's loss this week was very costly, knocking them out of the field. There have been a few substitutions of conference leaders, with Virginia taking over the ACC from BC, Central Florida taking the lead in C-USA from Houston and Arizona State benefiting from Oregon's loss. It's been wild, but it isn't over yet.

For previous weeks, see Week Seven, Week Eight, Week Nine and Week Ten.

1) LSU (SEC)
16) Central Florida (Conference USA)

8) Virginia Tech (At large)
9) Oregon (At large)

4) Missouri (At large)
13) BYU (Mountain West)

5) Ohio State (Big Ten)
12) Connecticut (Big East)

3) West Virginia (At large)
14) Troy (Sun Belt)

6) Arizona State (Pac-10)
11) Virginia (ACC)

7) Georgia (At large)
10) Hawaii (WAC)

2) Kansas (Big 12)
15) Central Michigan (MAC)

Missed the cut (BCS rank):
Oklahoma (10)
USC (11)
Florida (12)
Texas (13)
Boston College (14)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Credit, Where It is Due

I was very unhappy with the Cowboys hire of Wade Phillips. Actually, I was cautiously optimistic until Chris dragged out my real feelings. I thought that he was a retread coach who had failed his previous two coaching chances with the Broncos and the Bills. I was annoyed by Jerry Jones hiring his offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, before he even hired his head coach. I was was leery of Garrett anyway because he had one year of coaching experience, an decorated year as the QBs coach at Miami.
However, after an 8-1 start to the season in which the offense looks like a juggernaut and the defense is improving dramatically as it continues to return starters such as Greg Ellis, Terrence Newman, and Anthony Henry, I have to admit that, at this point, I was wrong. Wade Phillips has been exactly what this team needed after Bill Parcells. He has allowed the team to play looser and more confidently.
I give Jason Garrett a lot of credit for the development of Tony Romo. I love the aggressiveness that the offense shows every week. I think this team is going places.
Up until the last couple of weeks, the Cowboys had not played a tough schedule. Their biggest game was the Patriots game at home. As I look back on that game, I'm feeling better and better about their chances. They led late in the 3rd quarter and were ready to retake the lead when a penalty killed a drive and the next drive ended in a turnover. Now every single game turns on penalties and turnovers. It's often the difference between winning and losing. Case in point is last weeks Giant's game. As the Giants are ready to tie to ballgame, a holding call on Brandon Jacobs' touchdown run forces the Giants to settle for a field goal and the Cowboys never looked back. But in the Patriots game, they went toe to toe, but they lost. No one else except for the Colts have even given them a game.
The question for this team is will the avoid the late season meltdown that plagued them during the Bill Parcells years. Baring injuries, I expect the Cowboys to continue to win leading up to the big game against the Packers. That may be for home field advantage in the playoffs. Once you get to the playoffs anything can happen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A real national champion: Week Ten

No changes in the participants this week, but the Arizona State and Boston College losses did shuffle the seedings a bit. ASU dropped to nine and handed over the Pac-10 lead to Oregon. BC still leads the ACC, but has dropped to the eighth seed.

This could be an interesting weekend, because even though there aren't any big games between those currently seeded, there are quite a few rival games that could shake things up a bit. Find out next week.

For previous weeks, see Week Seven, Week Eight and Week Nine.

1) Ohio State (Big Ten)
16) Houston (Conference USA)

8) Boston College (ACC)
9) Arizona State (At large)

4) Kansas (Big 12)
13) BYU (Mountain West)

5) Oklahoma (At large)
12) Hawaii (WAC)

3) Oregon (Pac-10)
14) Troy (Sun Belt)

6) Missouri (At large)
11) Connecticut (Big East)

7) West Virginia (At large)
10) Georgia (At large)

2) LSU (SEC)
15) Central Michigan (MAC)

Missed the cut (BCS rank):
Virginia Tech (11)
Michigan (12)
Texas (14)
Florida (15)
USC (17)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Financial Craziness...

So, building on Rus' (Chris - Is it Rus' or Rus's ?) posting about A-Rod, it has come out that he was seeking a contract from the Yankees worth approximately $350 Million. Those numbers are astounding. I can't really begin to think in terms like that, but more and more, large numbers (maybe not this large, but still) are becoming more accepted. For instance, Jason Spezza recently got a contract extension for 7 years $49 Million. If you are like 98% of the people reading this, you are wondering. Who the heck is Jason Spezza? He's a center for the Ottawa Senators. That's right. Professional hockey players are still getting contracts that get them in excess of $7 million per year. At first, I thought Ah, well the Sens have Spezza locked up until 2015. Great for them.

Then, the reality of that hit me. I see half empty buildings on game night every time I turn on a hockey game. If I can find it on TV at all. Where is this revenue coming from? Aren't the owners just going back to doing business the same way they were before the lockout?

Baseball, specifically the Yankees (yes I know.. and the Red Sox now..) can afford to do this, but for how long will it remain lucrative to sign free agents in this manner as salaries climb higher and higher? And without results (except for the Sox - go Red Sox).

I was glad to see Dallas not over-spend for a free agent who would likely under-deliver, but I wished they would have at least signed some scoring help. I wonder what the going rate is for a 30 goal scorer is anymore?