Friday, January 30, 2009

Cohen's Super Bowl XLIII Pick

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (14-4) vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (12-7) 6:30 NBC: Enough with all the pomp and circumstance. Enough with all the media analysis on TV, the Internet and in the papers. Enough with all the sad personal stories; these players are multi-millionaires; they don't deserve our sympathy. Enough with the over-hyped commercials, and the over-hyped pre-game ceremonies. Enough already! It is time to strap on those chinstraps and get ready to smack someone's head off.

Finally, Super Bowl XLIII is 48 hours away. (Look at Arizona stats). (Look at Pittsburgh stats).

All the talk over the past two weeks focuses on the miracle season for the Arizona Cardinals. They have exorcised the demons of 61 years of bad memories and a rather mediocre 9-7 regular season to put together an improbable playoff run. Quarterback Kurt Warner has been excellent; running back Edgerin James has done a decent job on the ground, and receiver Larry Fitzgerald has had an historic postseason.

That being said, it will be hard for Arizona to hold off a Steelers defense that was first in the NFL in total defense, recording 51 sacks and 20 interceptions on the way. The key for the Cards is the running game. In their three playoff wins, James and Tim Hightower played a big part in keeping opposing defenses on their toes. Against Carolina, Hightower rushed for 76 yards, while James put in 57 more. Against a stout Philadelphia Eagles defense, James ran for 73 yards in Arizona's 32-25 victory. (WATCH CARDINALS PLAYOFF VIDEO!!)

The problem for the Cards is the fact that no one can run on the Steelers. Chargers running back Darren Sproles, who ate up the Colts for over 300 total yards in the wild card game, mustered only 15 yards against the Steelers. Even Willis McGahee couldn't do anything for the Ravens the following week against Pittsburgh.

Expect to see the Steelers completely shut down the Cardinals running game. Arizona will try to kick the run to the outside in space, but that won't be enough with blitzing safties like Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark charging into the gaps. (WATCH STEELERS PLAYOFF VIDEO!!)
Lack of a running game will put tremendous pressure on Kurt Warner. Warner does not move well in the pocket at all but is known as a quarterback with a quick release to make up for it. He will have to do that and more in order to avoid the heavy blitzes from defensive end James Harrison and linebacker Lamar Woodley.

The one advantage Arizona has is the deep ball. If the Cards can stretch the field with Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, then they will be in prime position to beat the Steelers.

Keep in mind the Steelers shut down a big time offense four times this year. They held the Chargers to 10 points in their first game, and only 24 in game two. They held the high powered Cowboys with Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, Roy Williams and Jason Witten to 10 points and held the Patriots with Randy Moss and Wes Welker to 10 points for the game. In other words, the Steelers know how to play an offense as good as Arizona.

On the opposite side of the ball. The Steelers have to run the football in this game. Arizona gave up 110.3 yards per game on the ground this year but have picked it up nicely in the playoffs. This means that the Steelers offensive line has to find a way to keep the likes of Bertrand Berry, Karlos Dansby and Chike Okeafor in check. If they do, Willie Parker could have a big night on the ground.

Protecting Ben Roethlisberger is a must in this game. The Steelers quarterback has been banged up all year with arm injuies, rib injuries, neck injuries, and knee injuries. They are going to have to keep off a Cardinal pass rush that smacked around Donovan McNabb in the NFC title game.

As for Roethlisberger, he is big enough to scramble around the pocket and find the open receiver in broken coverage, i.e., a wide open Santonio Holmes for a touchdown in the AFC title game against Baltimore. If Roethlisberger can make time for himself, he will find a way to avoid corner Antrel Rolle and saftey Adrian Wilson. Both played a big part in frustrating Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme in the divisional game, as Delhomme threw five interceptions that night. If the Steelers can keep from turning the ball over in this game, they should be fine.

What should viewers expect? If Arizona can force a couple of turnovers and find a way to pass on the Steelers defense, then this game will be very close and could come down to one drive in the fourth quarter. If Pittsburgh can get pressure on Warner, force him to throw interceptions and stop the Cards running attack, the game will be a total blowout in Steelers fashion, which at times can be quite boring to watch.

PICK: I can't remember a time in a playoff scenerio where the team with the better offense found a way to win the game. It is always the team with the big defense that finds a way to win. Last year's Giants used a strong defense to stop the high-powered Patriots. In 2001, the Patriots had a very good defense, and they shut down Kurt Warner and the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf." Therefore, this game will be ... a steel:
STEELERS 27, CARDINALS 14.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

43 Reasons To Watch (Or Not To Watch) The Super Bowl

There are only three days left until Super Bowl XLIII, a fitting end to a wacky 2008 season, as the old guard Pittsburgh Steelers take on the surprising Arizona Cardinals. Whenever Super Bowl time comes up, it is really a frustrating holiday for true die hard fans of the NFL. For starters, the NFL tries its best to pander to the casual fans, who know virtually nothing about football, so they, and various other companies, can score big in TV ratings.

The die hard's are left out in the cold, forced to listen to people at Super Bowl parties make remarks like "Wow, there is a team named the Cardinals? How many Super Bowl's have they won?" Or, "I hate those Steeler uniforms; why don't they try nicer colors?" Or, "Hey! How about that commercial with Burt Reynolds and Peter Griffin from Family Guy?" It's enough to make a genuine football fan want to run out of the room screaming!

If it were up to me, a true football fan, the Super Bowl would kick off at 2:00 PM ET, not 6:45 P.M., which is when the game is scheduled to kick, after the pomp and circumstance of player introductions. The Super Bowl would be played in cold weather stadiums, like Lambeau field or Giants Stadium; and, like Major League Baseball, the Super Bowl should be played in the stadium of the team with the better record. What? Never heard of home field advantage?

Anyway, here are 43 reasons (yes, 43) to watch or not watch this year's Super Bowl.

43) It's the only half-way decent game on TV.

42) Anything is better than watching the Knicks or Nets play basketball.

41) The Super Bowl is a great excuse to skip work next day.

40) It is a great time to get together with old college friends.

39) The Cardinals are in the Super Bowl. Remember that, so don't expect a great game if the Cards' history is any indication.

38) No Janet Jackson. No Wardrobe Malfunction.

37) If it's a blowout, start flipping through the channels.

36) NBC will interrupt this game with 10 million commercials, extending a normal three hour game to four and a half hours!

35) When you are stuck watching a commercial featuring Jerry Seinfeld wrestling an 800 pound gorilla in an ad for car insurance, you know it is time to put on a movie.

34) John Madden. Take him or leave him.

33) Is there enough air in one room for blowhard's like Al Michaels, Bob Costas, Tiki Barber and Keith Olbermann? Didn't think so.

32) If you are tired listening to the commentators in number 33, there is always a mute button.

31) The fact that the Cardinals can score points like the 1999 Rams is always a good sell.

30) If you are forced to watch a game with people who can't tell the difference between a first down and a touchdown.

29) If you are watching the game with your girlfriend, or wife, then life is good.

28) No Bill Belichick! Hip Hip Hurray!

27) No Phil Simms to talk about how wonderful Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is.

26) Bruce Springsteen. Finally, the NFL gets America a halftime they can watch.
That's boss.

25) Without T.O., Tony Romo, and Jessica Simpson, this game will have no juice at all.

24) Angry Giants fans, who can't watch a Super Bowl without Big Blue.

23) Angry Jet fans, who paid for playoff and Super Bowl tickets, before Thanksgiving!

22) How many times do they have to make a e-Trade commercial with that weird baby?

21) If you love defense, then you will love watching the Steelers rip apart the Cardinals.

20) If only the winner got a Madden turkey, along with the Lombardi Trophy.

19) Al Michaels needs to retire and let someone else run the show.

18) The number of times NBC will promote each of its shows like Heroes, The Apprentice and Chuck.

17) The number of points scored by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Will 17 be enough to win the big game this year?

16) As long as there is a commercial with Peyton and Eli Manning, I will be happy.

15) President Obama makes an appreance and gives the trophy to the Super Bowl winner. That would be interesting.

14) The number of letters in Ben Roethlisberger's last name.

13) If Manny Ramirez should sign with a new team, will NBC break the news? Or, should I flip to ESPN real fast?

12) I hate all these commercials, where is the @%$#%#^#ing game.

11) At least the Super Bowl gives you something to talk about at the water cooler on Monday.

10) Number of letters in Larry Fitzgerald's last name.

9) Brett Favre calls Peter King live at halftime and tells the world he will retire now but will un-retire on July 31 so he can play for the Vikings.

8) You can eat all the pizza, chips and other garbage you want.

7) If it's 42-10 in the third quarter, end the party. It's been a fun night anyway.

6) Number of championships that the Steelers are shooting for.

5) I want to feel hip.

4) Similar to what he did during the 2007 World Series, Alex Rodriguez will call executives at NBC to annoucne that he is marrying Madonna and will leave the Yankees to practice professional dancing.

3) 24 is on Monday; LOST is on Wednesday; Deal or No Deal is on Thursday. There is nothing else on on Sunday night, so watch a little bit of the Super Bowl.

2) After this game, there is no more football until August.

1) After the Super Bowl, there are only 13 days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

History Awaits Tomlin & Whisenhunt

With Super Bowl winning coaches like Bill Cowher, Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren and Tony Dungy all likely to take a year off in 2009, it is now clear that the NFL is entering a new era for head coaches.

For the past 20 plus years, fans and pundits alike have considered the names above, as well as the old guards of Bill Parcells, Dick Vermil, Dan Reeves and Jimmy Johnson to be the best coaches in the league. Now neither will be coaching a game in 2009. Thus, the winner of Super Bowl XLIII will be the welcomed in as the next great head coach.

This new generation of head coach is younger, more fit, more hip to modern technology, and a player coach who still maintains enough discipline and commands enough respect from his ball club.

Mike Tomlin and Ken Whisenhunt are about to enter this fraternity. Tomlin, after taking over for Cowher after the 2006 season as a virtual unknown from Jon Gruden's Tampa Bay coaching staff, has lit a fire under the Steelers. Tomlin's strong demeanour, on-field emotion and no-nonsense approach to coaching his players and answering the media is a trademark of many great coaches. His record speaks for itself: 22-10 in the regular season and 2-1 in the playoffs. That is pretty good for a guy who is in only his second year as a head coach.

At this rate, Tomlin will become a coach that many will want to talk to when his contract nears the end in Pittsburgh, but knowing that the Steelers have had only three coaches since the late 1960's, it is likely that Tomlin will call Pittsburgh home for 12 to 15 more seasons.

As for Whisenhunt, he grew up in Cowher's system, rising to the club's offensive coordinator position in 2004 and was part of the staff that won a Super Bowl in 2005. The fact that Whisenhunt was able to turn around a dead franchise like the Cardinals is a true testament to his work as a leader and communicator; again, these are important characteristics of a great head coach.

With the success of these two, the NFL has jumped on the bandwagon of hiring young coaches and assistants. The Dolphins hired Cowboys offensive line coach Tony Sparano in 2008, and he took the team to a AFC East title. The Falcons hired Mike Smith from Jacksonville, and Smith led Atlanta to a 11-5 mark and a playoff appearance.

In 2009, more assistants will join the NFL in the hope that they can become the next great head coach. Detroit hired Titans offensive coordinator Jim Schwartz; the Jets hired Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan; the Broncos hired Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who is only 32-years-old, and the Buccaneers hired 32-year-old Raheem Morris to be their next head coach.

The job of NFL head coach now requires someone who is younger and more willing to take on the duties of 18 hour days, constant phone calls to players and agents, scouting college players at the NFL combine and leading both off-season mini-camps in March and May.

It's a new generation of NFL head coaches sweeping through the NFL; Tomlin and Whisenhunt will be the first two to shoot for immortailty, paving the way for others to follow.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Manuel Sticks Foot Into Mouth on Manny Talk

Jerry Manuel did the Mets front office no favors when he went on SNY's Daily News Live program on Monday, and stated that he would love to have troubled slugger Manny Ramirez on the Mets in 2009.

"I don't have a problem with people that produce in the form and fashion that Manny Ramirez produces," Manuel said on SNY. "We shouldn't spend that much time in the locker room anyway.

"Our job is to be on the field, and Manny Ramirez has proven that he is probably one of the best right-handed hitters of our generation. To have a shot at managing him would be exciting for me. I've had Albert Belle, Frank Thomas, tremendous right-handed hitters. I would love to have the opportunity to watch Manny hit every day."

This amounts to a disturbing quote from the Mets manager, considering that Mets COO Jeff Wilpon stated during the weekend that the Mets and GM Omar Minaya have no interest in acquiring the complex Ramirez.

Granted Ramirez is a great talent, but what is scaring teams away from him is the fact that he dogged it during his final season with the Boston Red Sox, telling every media person in town about how unhappy he was with the team, and he did not put any effort into helping his team win games. Ramirez was finally traded to the L.A. Dodgers on July 31 and did a great job in leading that team to the postseason. Still, people are afraid that performance was Manny playing for a bigger contract and not Manny playing because he loved the game.

The Mets should stay away from Ramirez; they have enough clowns on the ball club in the form of Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, and Billy Wagner. If the Mets are to improve at all in 2009, they need to get players who want to win, not players who just want to goof off and cash their paychecks.

So far, only the Dodgers have shown interest in to sign Ramirez. They have extended a two year $45 million contract, but that was rejected. The San Francisco Giants are also believed to be interested in Ramirez.

King: Favre Is Done With Jets

According to a story in the New York Post, Peter King of Sports Illustrated told some in the media that he believes that Brett Favre is likely done playing football at the professional level.

However, King hinted that if Favre comes back, he wants to play for the Minnesota Vikings, not the Jets. One reason Favre does not want to return to the Jets is the fact that he will have to participate in off-season workouts, something the lazy Favre hates to do. "You're kidding yourself if you think he's going to move back to New Jersey for 12 to 16 weeks in March. 'I've never been in a [full] offseason program,' Favre told me a month ago," King writes.

Favre's stay with the Jets was a rather weird one. He was received well by the fans and some of his teammates when he first arrived in August, but there were other problems brewing in the clubhouse. First it was Lavernous Coles vile hatred for Favre, as well as Thomas Jones' hatred of Favre for throwing big interceptions down the stretch of the season. Then came anonymously cited stories stating that Favre never hung around with his Jet teammates, and that Eric Mangini was never thrilled about having Favre on the team. Top that off with a disastrous 1-4 finish to the season that killed New York's playoff chances, whereby Favre's stay will be remembered rather infamously forever.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Super Pressure Is On Cardinals

Usually when faced with a David vs. Goliath type match-up in the NFL either in the regular season or postseason, most consider the pressure to be squarely on the shoulders of the favorite. Last year the pressure was on an undefeated New England Patriots squad that was looking to become the first ever 19-0 team. A loss in the Super Bowl would be devastating to the Pats, who were perfect for so long. Well, that loss did happen, and a year and Tom Brady's gimp knee later, the Patriots were out of the postseason party in 2008.

This year, however, all of the pressure is on the David: the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are coming into Super Sunday with a huge fanfare. The little engine that could never get up that steep hill has finally made it, and everyone wants to meet and greet them. A franchise once believed to be a doormat to the NFL is now one step away from immortality. How these young red birds handle the pressure of Super Bowl week will go a long way toward determing how they will perform on Sunday.

Tuesday morning is media day, a day where players are gathered onto the field to answer questions from hundreds of reporters from all over the world. The questions range from the serious to the absolutely ridiculous, so patience is a virtue for anyone not used to a media frenzy.

The Cards are not used to seeing a lot of media. They come from a part of the country that is still growing as a sports city and are a franchise that no one has paid attention to until their 33-13 victory over Carolina in the Divisional round of the playoffs.

If Arizona uses this recent bandwagon as motivation to stick it to those who didn't believe in them before, or even now, it will go a long way in determining how good a game Super Bowl XLIII will be. The Cardinals must find a way to ignore all of the distractions that surround them on this Super Bowl week and foucus primarily on the game. It is the only way they can succeed.

Once Sunday comes, a different kind of emotion will sweep the Cards when they take the field for the opening ceremonies. There could be a sense of "Wow, this is the Super Bowl, we really made it." That feeling must be destroyed immediately for Arizona to succeed.

The Steelers will be ready to play; they are used to these types of games, having played in several championship games in their history. The spotlight is expected for the Steelers. The Steeler players are used to seeing extra media in attendance at their games because they are a national franchise. If the Cardinals come out riding on too much of a high on Sunday, they will fall behind so fast that it will be hard to come back, even with a veteran of big games in Kurt Warner on their side.

The pressure is on the Cards to make this Super Bowl a successful one for the NFL. They have to go out and prove that they belong in this moment; they must crave and own this moment because it may never come again.

Pettite Set To Re-Join Yankees

Andy Pettite and the New York Yankees have agreed to a one year $5.5 million contract for the 2009 season. Pettite can make as much as $6.5 million with performance bonuses.

Last season Pettite had one of the worst years of his career. After being mired in the Roger Clemens steroid scandal, Pettite went 14-14 with a 4.51 ERA but was 2-7 with a 6.23 ERA in his last 11 starts. The lone bright spot for the veteran lefty in 2008 was pitching in the final game ever at the real Yankee Stadium.

Pettite solidifies a Yankee rotation of C.C. Sabathia, Chien Ming Wang, A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlin and Phil Hughes. If Pettite can stay healthy, the Yankees could move Chamberlin back to his more natural spot in the bullpen.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Torre Rips Yankees In Latest Book

It seems that former Yankee manager Joe Torre had a lot of time on his hands the past few months. The four time World Champion manager put a book together with Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci titled The Yankee Years, which highlights Torre's bumpy 12 year stay as manager.

In fact, the book goes deeply into Torre's unhappiness with the Bombers in his last few years with the team. Torre claims that superstar third basemen Alex Rodriguez drew the ire of his teammates, who labeled him "A-Fraud" in the clubhouse, and that Rodriguez felt he was competing for the spotlight with short stop Derek Jeter.

The book goes into the tensions Torre had with Yankee management. Torre says that GM Brian Cashman betrayed him when the club was ready to let Torre go.

The book comes out February 3, but Torre is expected to make a few public appearances on David Letterman, and probably Mike Francesa's radio program on WFAN to talk about the book.

This is the first time since Torre's firing a year and a half ago that he has spoken about his time with the Yankees. It should be interesting to see how the Yankees answer constant questions about the book, instead of talking about the signings of Mark Tiexeria and C.C. Sabathia. Last year the Yankees had to deal with the black eye of Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite's steroid scandals just weeks before spring training. Now they have this latest distraction.

A Season That Never Was...

A week from today, America will brace for its annual TV sports spectacle, the Super Bowl, for the XLIII straight year, and, unlike previous Super Bowls that usually carry with it heavy storylines and dramatic subplots, this one that features the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, could easily be the worst matchup in Super Bowl history.

In one corner is a perennial winner in the Steelers, owners of five world titles and one of the best run franchises in football. In the other corner is the Cardinals: perennial losers and the NFL's oldest franchise, who's only championship came 61 years ago. During that 61 year drought the Cards have become the NFL's biggest laughing stock next to the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns, but it is only now that the Cards have exorcised the demons to get to this game.

Sure,the Cardinals history is a great storyline. The matchup of two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks is another, and the fact that Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, who used to be the Pittsburgh offensive coordinator and was a favorite to get the Steelers head coaching job two years ago before Mike Tomlin took the job, is another. But, while looking back at this 2008 NFL season, it is hard not to think about what could have been a bigger postseason and a quite possibly a more attractive Super Bowl.

On Monday November 24, just three days before Thanksgiving, the New York Giants were 11-1 and the New York Jets were 8-3. Fans across the tri-state area were going ga ga about the possibility that both New York franchises would make a run at the Super Bowl in the same season. Giants/Jets may not have seemed attractive to people in Denver, or Phoenix, or Dallas, but it would have garnered a lot more hype than the matchup we have before us now.

Giants/Jets would have easily have been the biggest sports week and game in New York/New Jersey history. It would have been the defending champions against Brett Favre, who would have resurrected the Jets into a winner again.

Those dreams are gone with the wind now. The Jets suffered a collapse that would make the New York Mets blush, losing four of their final five games to finish at 9-7, missing the postseason. The meltdown cost coach Eric Mangini his job and led fans and players to criticize Favre as washed up and careless with the football.

The Giants played equally lousy down the stretch, losing three of four and were lucky to beat Carolina on a windy Sunday night if it were not for Carolina's kicker missing a game winning field goal. The Giants entered January as cold as the 16 degree weather that has ravaged New Jersey for the past month. The Eagles came into Giants Stadium and did away with Big Blue as if they were some pesky fly. Eli Manning got reintroduced to the boo birds that marred his career before "The Helmet Catch Game" a year ago, and highly touted defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo left to coach the St. Louis Rams.

Now both franchises are left to wonder what if: If only the Jets had shown up in Oakland, San Francisco and Seattle, then, maybe, today would be a different story. If only Plaxico Burress decided not to stuff a pistol down his pants one infamous Saturday night, this week could have been different. If only Brett Favre didn't look like a 50-year-old man, things may have been different. If only Eric Mangini showed a little more interest, the Jets may have played a game in January. If only the Giants hadn't laid down down in the stretch, it could have been better than this. If only the Giants had run Brandon Jacobs all day against the Eagles, the Giants would have been in Tampa Bay today.

Hypotheticals. That is all Giant and Jet fans have to contemplate. Super Bowl XLIII will be played to joyous fans in Pittsburgh and Arizona, but to fans in New York and in New Jersey, the game will feel more like a boring mid-season matchup between the Steelers and the Cardinals. The excitment just won't be there for Cardinals/Steelers unless the game is close. Yes, Super Bowl XLIII would have been, could have been, and should have been something so much more, something really ... super.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Knicks Stay Hot; Extend Winning Streak To Three

KNICKS 108
GRIZZLIES 88

After falling behind by as many as 15 in the opening quarter, the Knicks stormed back and thumped the struggling Memphis Grizzlies 108-88 at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.

The Knicks needed to get a win against an inferior opponent,after their dramatic win against the Phenoix Suns on Wednesday, and they got it to improve to 18-24 on the season.

The Knicks blew out Memphis 29-17 in the second quarter to take a 56-45 lead into the break. The Knicks pulled away with a 36 point fourth quarter to win the game by 20. New York shot 50 percent from the floor (38 for 76) and 85 percent from the free throw line.

David Lee led the way for the Knicks with 19 points on six for eleven shooting. Lee also grabbed 14 rebounds in the effort. Al Harrington and Nate Robinson both added 16 points each, while rookie sensation Danilo Gallinari contributed 11 points.

The Knicks are now tenth in the Eastern confernece, which is just a game behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the playoff qualifing eighth seed.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Woody Johnson Has To Back Track After Remarks

On the day that he welcomed a brand new head coach, Jets owner Woody Johnson let one slip through his tounge when he told reporters: "We've been preoccupied with building the stadium and this (facility), and now we're really focused on the most important aspect, and that's the team." (Qutd. New York Post).

The quote didn't really shake fans or media until today, as it was construed to mean that Johnson and Company did not care about winning at all, and was more concerned about selling PSL's.

Some people claim that the quote is evidence as to why the team did not get Bill Cowher as the head coach, and still wants an aging Brett Favre on the team, so Favre can sell tickets with his big ticket name. CHECK OUT "The Roberts Rant" from WFAN.com titled "It's All About The Stadium"

Johnson tried to back track on the quote when he told WFAN host Mike Francesa "That clearly was not what I meant to communicate. I was trying to communicate that we have accomplished quite a bit with a new stadium and practice facility."

Highlights of Super Bowl Participents: Steelers & Cardinals


Here are two viedos created by myself on NFL.com highlighting the road to Super Bowl XLIII for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.

Keep posted with Cohen's Corner Sports at http://cohenscornersports.blogspot.com/ for more Super Bowl analysis in the coming days.

The Steelers highlight viedo covers three crucial games for Pittsburgh, that includes both the divisional playoff game against San Diego and the AFC title game against Baltimore. The Steelers controversial win in Baltimore on December 14 is also covered in the film. WATCH VIEDO NOW! Make sure you have the sound on on your computer to listen to the music that goes along with the film.

The Cardinals highlight viedo covers all three Arizona playoff games against the Falcons, Panthers and Eagles. It was a great run for Arizona and after watching the film, you might begin to think that this year's Super Bowl could be a close one. WATCH VIEDO NOW!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ryan Talks Tough In His Jets Debut

The New York/New Jersey media got a big taste of what Rex Ryan has to offer Wednesday morning when he was introduced as the 17th coach in New York Jets history.

Ryan immediately made reference to new President Barack Obama, saying, "We have a new president now, and, hopefully we can meet him in a couple of years," referencing the tradition that the year's Super Bowl Champion makes a trip to the White House to meet the President of the United States.

Ryan came across as the anti-Mangini. He was stoic, confident, cocky, funny and socialble in his press conference. That was in stark contrast to Mangini, who was tight-lipped, unemotional, humorless and who came across as a man who was anti-social and unfriendly. Some have speculated that Mangini's prickly behavior may have lost the team down the stretch this season, ultimately leading to his departure.

Ryan was not shy about letting the NFL know how he feels about his new ballclub: "The message to the rest of the league is `Hey, the Jets are coming, and we're going to give you everything we got. And I think that's going to be more than you can handle.'" (Qtd. A.P. in the Star Ledger). Ryan went on to add that if any opponent should take a swipe at a Jet player, the Jets will retaliate. In other words, maybe Patriots quarterback Tom Brady should consider staying on the DL when the Jets and Patriots meet again next season.
In addressing the Brett Favre issue that has been in the atmosphere for the Jets this off-season, Ryan said that any coach would want to have Favre on his team. One could get the feeling that Ryan would welcome the Hall of Famer back, and why not, considering that Kellen Clemens is not that good, and top prospect Brett Ratliff may not be ready to take over as the starting quarterback.

Ryan also mentioned he is bringing with him Ravens linebackers coach Mike Pettine as the new Jets defensive coordinator replacing the pathetic Bob Sutton. Ryan welcomed back special teams coach Mike Westhoff and offensive line coach Bill Callahan, but did not welcome back offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Ryan wants to meet with Schottenheimer personally to gauge his interst in returning.

Year one will be a challenging one for Ryan. If Favre doesn't return, he will need to find someone to develop Ratliff quickly so he can take over as the starter; otherwise, the Jets can turn to a veteran in Clemens, or sign an average veteran like Kerry Collins or Jeff Garcia. No wonder Ryan would welcome Favre back with open arms.

Ryan is going to bring his style of blitzing defense to the Jets and there is good chance that second year player Vernon Gholston and veteran saftey Kerry Rhodes will have a big impact in Ryan's plans.

Now a coach is in place, and it is time to see how he does. Hopefully, for Jet fans, Ryan may represent lucky number 17.

Shaq To Save Nets In Jersey?

In a interesting op ed from Star Ledger columnist Steve Politi, he discusses the problems the Nets have been having in trying to develop their new home in Brooklyn New York. The deal has been postponed for years already after it was proposed in 2004. The new ground breaking was supposed to commence this Spring, but there are prevailing rumors, according to Politi, that the architect Frank Gehry may have his contract with the Nets broken up.

So where do the Nets go? Logic would tell everyone that they should go to Newark's Prudential Center which is home to the first place Devils. Having an NBA franchise in the heart of a big baseketball town like Newark makes too much sense.

Politi then goes on to speculate that Shaquille O'Neal the future Hall of Fame center from the L.A. Lakers and Miami Heat, will one day buy the franchise from Bruce Ratner and keep them in Jersey. Politi comes to this conclusion from intrerviews he had with Shaq, as the big man said he had a strong interest in real estate in the Newark area, his childhood home, as well as owning a NBA franchise, and is puzzled that the Nets have not made a deal with the Devils to share the arena. READ ENTIRE ARTICLE FOR YOURSELF!

It's all speculation. Personally, I find it hard to believe that a guy who is as big as Shaq would want to come back to New Jersey to own the Nets, of all teams. A superstar like him, who has played in LA and Miami would logically want to be a west coast guy owning a team that gets him some national and international publicity. If he did come east, the Knicks are a sexier team to own then the Nets; but James Dolan will never sell the Knickenbokers.

As for the Nets, if Brooklyn does not work out, and all signs point to that it won't, Ratner should sell the team to a New Jersey/New York business man who is smart enough to put the team where it belongs in Newark. Otherwise, there is a new arena in Kansas City, Missouri that may lure the New York Islanders in a couple of years, and the Nets could always follow.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Jets Hire Ryan As Next Head Coach

ESPN is reporting that the Jets and Ravens Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan have agreed in principle to a four year contract to become the next head coach of the New York Jets.

Ryan helped lead a Ravens D that was second in the NFL in total defense; the Ravens made it to their second AFC Championship game in franchise history, only to lose to Pittsburgh 23-14, Sunday night.

The move ends what has been a bizarre three weeks for the Jets; they fired Eric Mangini as a scapegoat for Brett Favre's nine interceptions in the final five weeks of the season. The Jets move to terminate Mangini looked that much worse when Jets owner Woody Johnson decided to spend a week on vacation when a more credible coach, like Bill Cowher, was avaiable for an interview. Cowher had a slight interest in coming to the Jets but was turned off by Johnson's seemingly disinterested approach to talking to him by spending time away from the Jets facility.

Other coaches like Jon Gruden, Mike Shanahan, Brian Billick and Mike Holmgren were available, but Holmgren told the Jets he wanted to take a year off, while the Jets said they had no interest in interviewing three Super Bowl winning coaches in Billick, Shanahan and Gruden.

The Jets better hope and pray that Ryan turns out to be as successful over the long term as Andy Reid in Philadelphia, or Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh; otherwise, they will lay an egg as big as the Ritz. It is not often when five Super Bowl winning coaches are on the market. Chances are all five will be scooped up next off-season, and none of them will be availble to the Jets if Ryan crashes and burns in year one.

Hiring any coach is a gamble, but hiring an inexpierenced head coach who will be successsful right away, like the few freak success stories this season such as Mike Smith in Atlanta, Tony Sparano in Miami, and John Harbaugh in Baltimore, is usually not the norm. The norm is the type of first year coach the Jets have been hiring throughout the franchise's history - mediocrity in year one, underachievment in year two, and hopefully, by year three some success. Alexander Pope once wrote, and it may be applicable here: "Be not the first the lay the old aside nor last to embrace the new."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Steelers Beat Up Ravens In Ugly Brawl

STEELERS 23
RAVENS 14

It was not pretty but the Steelers are on their way to the Super Bowl for the seventh time in franchise history where they will look to become the most successful franchise in NFL history with a sixth Super Bowl title.

How did Pittsburgh get back to the Bowl? They beat up the rival Baltimore Ravens in snowy and cold Pittsburgh Sunday night.Offensivley the Steelers had trouble at times navigating through the tough Ravens defense, but they found ways to eat up enough clock with short passes and a decent running game. But the story of the day had to be the Steelers defense. (What else is new!)

The Steelers defense dominated the Ravens entire offense, putting tons of pressue on rookie Joe Flacco, who was completely flat tonight. Statistically, Flacco was 13 of 30 for 141 yards and three interceptions, which comes out to a quarterback rating of 18.2.

Still, the Ravens found a way to hang around. Entering the fourth quarter down 16-7, the Ravens took advantage of good field position to stick the ball in the end zone to put some heat on the Steelers. Flacco hit Mark Clayton for 16 yards to get the ball to the Pittsburgh 42. Later he connected with Derrick Mason on gains of 14 and 11 yards to get to the Steeler 24 yard line. Willis McGahee finished it off with a one yard touchdown to make it 16-14.

Just when the Ravens had taken all the momentum away from the Steelers, they gave it back. On punt coverage, a Raven player violently threw a Steeler to the ground while out of bounds. The result was a 25 yard pentaly that cost Baltimore good field position at their own 41 yard line. Instead the Ravens started at their 14.

The field position turned out to be key. While under duress Flacco tried to force a pass to Mason, but it was picked off by Troy Polamalu, who sprinted through the Ravens offense for a 40 yard touchdown. Ball game over.

Scary moment. Late in the game, as the Ravens tried to make one last comeback; Willie McGahee collided head to head with Ryan Clark, causing McGahee to fumble. Both players were on the ground for several minutes. Clark got up woozy and slowly walked to the sideline, but McGahee never got up. He remained on the ground and had to be tied to a board and put onto a stretcher. Usually when players suffer a bad injury and have to be wheeled off, they motion to the crowd with a gesture. McGahee did not gesture at all. It is not known how the running back is doing at this moment in time.

As for the Steelers, they were the best team from start to finish this year, so, in a way, it is fitting that they have made it to the big show. No team faced a tougher schedule than the Steelers, and they met that, along with injuries to their quarterback and running back and still found a way to win 14 games this season.

Hell On Ice: Cardinals Are Going To The Super Bowl

CARDINALS 32
EAGLES 25

If it seems unseasonably cold around where you live it is because Hell has frozen over, and the planets have realigned. The Arizona Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl! That's right; this is not a typo; the Arizona Cardinals are going to Super Bowl XLIII. BOXSCORE.

The Cards are indeed the Cinderlla story of 2008-2009 after a come-from-behind 32-25 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at University of Phenoix Stadium in Glendale Arizona. The Cards showed great heart after blowing a 24-6 halftime lead only to see Donovan McNabb light it up in the second half to take a 25-24 lead late in the fourth quarter. Most teams would crawl under the benches when a better team like the Eagles makes a great comeback, but not this version of the Cardinals.

Kurt Warner, who was brilliant all day, completing 21 of 28 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns, engineered a 14 play 72 yard drive for the winning touchdown. On second and 10 from the Arizona 27, Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald for a 15 yard gain to move the ball to the 42 yard line . Five plays later, Warner hit Fitzgerald again for 18 yards to spot the ball at the Eagles 23 yard line.

The fans could feel it; the Cardinals could taste it. Just a few more plays of positive yardage and good fortune and the Cardinals would make their first ever Super Bowl appearance. After Tim Hightower moved the ball to the Eagle nine with a five yard scamper up the middle, Warner hit Hightower alone in the end zone for the tochdown. Warner then hit Bobby Patrick for the two point conversion to make it a seven point game.

McNabb, who had received praise from the media for shutting up his critics, woke them up with his pathetic play in the first half and in the final minutes of the game. McNabb was inconsistent all day long as he was smacked around by a defense that was not known for rushing the passer. McNabb was sacked twice and knocked down several times. On the final Eagle drive, McNabb threw four straight incompletions to ice the game for the Cards, killing the Eagles season and their hopes of making it to the Big Dance for the second time this decade.

The Cardinals are the NFL's oldest franchise in existence today, and had not been involved in a championship game of any kind since 1947. They moved from Chicago to St. Louis and finally to Arizona in 1988. Any fan who has rooted for this ball club for a good part of the team's 61 years of futility is crying tears of joy tonight. The Cards are going where no Cardinal team has been before.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Devils Ice Islanders

DEVILS 3
ISLANDERS 1
Maybe the New York Islanders should consider their move to Kansas City more seriously, with play like this; no one will want to see them in New York again. The New Jersey Devils dominated the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum Saturday night by a score of 3-1, handing New York its seventh staright defeat. For the Devils, they move into a first place tie with the Rangers at 27-15-3.
New Jersey scored early and often in this contest. Travis Zajac scored his 14th goal of the year on an empty netter after rookie goalie Yann Danis was standing behind the goal.
Zach Parise scored his 26 on a power play to make it 2-0, and David Clarkson added his ninth minutes later to make it 3-0 Devils.
Devils goalie Scott Clemmenson had 32 saves in the effort.

Nets Show Little Fight Against Celtics

CELTICS 105
NETS 85
The New Jersey Nets are halfway through this painful season, and it becomes obvious with each day that this is a team with no clue and no idenity. The Nets were noncompetitive against the World Champion Boston Celtics, losing 105-85 Saturday at the IZOD Center in East Ruterford, New Jersey.
Boston jumped out to a fast 8-0 lead in this game and cruised through the first two quarters. Boston enjoyed a dominating 68-39 lead going into half time. No wonder nobody shows up to see Net games; these guys just stink.
Ray Allen led the Celtics with 25 points; he shot 8 for 12 from the floor and was a perfect six for six from the free throw line. Paul Pierce and Eddie House each contributed 13 points, while big man Kevin Garnett dropped 12 on New Jersey.
The only Net who decided to show up was rookie Brook Lopez who had 28 points on 12 of 17 shooting.
The Nets are now 19-22 on the season and 12.5 games behind Boston. In other words, the season is over!!

Spagnuolo Goes To Rams

Cross Steve Spagnuolo's name off of the Jets coaching wish list. The former Giants defensive coordinator, who helped spark a defense that beat up Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in last year's Super Bowl, will become the head coach of the St. Louis Rams.

Spagnuolo was a finalist for the Jets job but was a distant second to get the job behind Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. Ryan still appears to be the favorite to get the Jets job, even with ex-Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden on the market.

Spagnuolo will coach the Rams for four years at a reported $11.5 million. The Rams were 2-14 this season under Scott Linehan and Jim Hasslett. The Rams need a defensive guru to fix one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and Spagnuolo fits the bill.

It is not clear as to who will replace Spagnuolo as the Giants defensive coordinator. Spagnuolo's presence will certainly be missed on the Giants sidelines in 2009.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Gruden Fired By Buccaneers; Jets Must Get Him

BREAKING NEWS: Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden has just been fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gruden spent seven seasons as the Bucs head man, leading the team to a Super Bowl title in 2002, his first season with the team.

Gruden's fiery personality and no-nonsense approach must have worn thin on Bucs management after the team failed to make the playoffs in a 9-3 start on the season.

With this development, the Jets must do everything in their power to bring Gruden to the Big Apple. Gruden is an experienced NFL head coach who would demand instant respect and crisp play from his players, and he would keep the team in order, something that was a problem down the stretch this year with Laverneous Coles and Thomas Jones ripping Brett Favre in the media.

Gruden would spark a Jet fan base that is desperate for a coach as fiesty and as hungry as they are. If the Jets want to sell out their remaing PSLs, then hiring Gruden would most certainly do it.
The Jets have been seriously considering hiring either Rex Ryan, Steve Spagnuolo, or Brian Schottenheimer. Ryan has become the favorite to take the job after a five hour interview with the Jets last week. That being said, Gruden deserves a look, before any final decisions are reached on a head coach.

Islanders Could Be Heading To Kansas City

There are rumors that have started that the New York Islanders hockey team could be moving out of Long Island.

From a blog on Yahoo.com, the Islanders have agreed to play a pre-season game in Kansas City Missouri next season. Some wonder if this is a shot at New York politicians, as the "Lighthouse Development" project continues to hit a snag and a new arena in Long Island has yet to be built.
The project proposes more than just a new arena. It proposes "300 hotel rooms, 200,000 square feet of convention space, 1 million square feet of office space and 2,300 luxury apartments (Newsday). The project keeps getting delayed because of the size of the plans, economically, enviormentally, and physically in the Hempstead area.

The Islanders want a new stadium to play their games, but there has been very little progress. Could the agreement to play games in Kansas City be more than meets the eye? Only time will tell.
Newsday also caught onto this developing situation. Apparently there is a stadium in Kansas City that is ready for either a hockey or baseketball team. They are looking for a tenant to occupy the 18,000 seat arena. The stadium was built in the summer of 2007, and will host part of this year's NCAA basketball tournament.
The Islanders are currently mired in last place in the Atlantic Division at 12-28-4.

Cohen's AFC Championship Coverage

BALTIMORE RAVENS (13-5) @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13-4)

It is good thing that this game will be higlighted in prime time on Sunday night, because it is the type of game that you keep the kids away from watching. No the game is not rated TV-MA, but considering the number of bone-crushing hits that are to occur in this one, it might as well have a rating.

The Ravens and Steelers hate each other with a passion. It is a rivarly that goes all the way back to when the Ravens used to be the Cleveland Browns, before moving to Baltimore in 1996, as the Browns and Steelers always met to clash for a division title in the old AFC Central.

Since the Ravens came into existence, the theme has stayed the same, especially this year. In week 15, the Steelers stood at 10-3 and the Ravens were just a game behind at 9-4. The winner would not only win the AFC North, but would have the inside track on the number two seed in the AFC playoffs.

The Ravens had the upper hand for three quarters as they built up a 9-3 lead, forcing two turnovers and smacking around quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Yet the Steelers would not go away. Late in the game with Baltimore up 9-6, and the Steelers moving into field goal range, all the Ravens needed was one stop and they would have won the game.

On third down and four at the Ravens four yard line, Roethlisberger hit a wide open Santonio Holmes near the goalline. Holmes hauled the pass into his grasp, and had both feet down in the endzone, but never had the ball over the plain for the touchdown. The play was orginally spotted at the one yard line, but after an offical review, the Steelers were awarded a touchdown and the 13-9 victory.

That game was a pain in the Ravens side ever since. It was their opportunity to win the division and they blew it on a disputed call. Expect to see a highly motivated Ravens team on the field for this title game.

The Ravens use a vast assortment of blitzes to confuse opposing offenses, and quarterbacks. The Ravens were second in the NFL behind Pittsburgh in total defense and have forced seven turnovers this postseason.

Offensively, Joe Flacco has done a nice job leading the team at quarterback, but has completed only 20 passes in 45 attempts in the playoffs. Against Pittsburgh in December, Flacco was awful completing only 39 percent of his passes and getting picked off twice. Flacco will need to pick it up if the Ravens are to win this ball game.

As for the Steelers, they have arguably been the most consistent team all season. They played the toughest schedule in the league entering 2008, and found a way to win 12 games convincingly. The Steelers had the number one defense in football, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a big year in spite of injuries and a lack of a consistent running game. Expect Pittsburgh to find a little something to match that intesity of the Ravens and take advantage of a few fumbles here and there to win this football game.

It will be a tight contest, in bitter cold weather, with a chance of snow. Can you ask for better in a championship game? PICK: STEELERS 20, RAVENS 10.

Cohen's NFC Championship Coverage

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (11-6-1) @ ARIZONA CARDINALS (11-7)

If someone came up to me on Thanksgiving night, November 27, and told me that the prime time game between the Eagles and Cardinals would be a preview of the NFC Championship game some two months later, I would consider this person insane.

But it is true the Cards and Eagles are here and have earned it every step of the way.

After stumbling down the stretch and finishing at 9-7, noone expected much noise from the Cardinals in the postseason. They failed to win games on the east coast, failed to run the football effectively and failed to stop any opposing offense during the regular season. Something changed in the playoffs. The Cards discovered a ground attack with Edgerin James rushing for 73 yards on Atlanta in the wild card playoffs. Kurt Warner was decent in the game, completing 19 of 32 passes and throwing two touchdowns as Arizona outlasted the Falcons 30-24.

However, it was their performance against the Panthers that is the benchmark for Arizona this season. Carolina came in as huge favorite to slap the Cardinals, who were 0-5 on the east coast. Instead it was the Cards who took it to the Panthers. Arizona forced six Panther turnovers, including five Jake Delhomme interceptions as the Cards romped 33-13. Now they are in their first NFC Title game ever, and first championship game of any kind in 61 years.

As for the Eagles, they had to sneak into the playoffs. After a 10-3 loss to Washington in week 16, the Eagles needed to beat the Cowboys and hope that both the Chicago Bears and Tampa Buccaneers would lose their respective games in order for Philly to get in. The Bears and Bucs lost, and the Eagles proceeded to run over the Boys 44-6 that evening, propelling the birds into the postseason.

From there the Eagles outlasted the Vikings and thumped the world champion Giants to get to this point. This is a moment of vindication for Eagles quarterback Donavan McNabb, who was benched during a 36-7 loss to the Ravens in week 11. There was question as wheter McNabb's career in Philadelphia was over; but like a champion, McNabb came back, destroyed the Cardinals on Thanksgiving night 48-20, and has been in the driver seat ever since. Noone has questioned McNabb's status again.

So in a way this matchup is a twist of irony. The Cardinals were the team that McNabb resurected his career agaisnt just two short months ago, and now the Cards will be looking for revenge. In the past few years the NFL has had one Cinderalla march through the playoffs. In 2005 it was the Steelers who won four road games to win the Super Bowl. In 2006 it was the Saints who were finally de-railed by the Bears in the NFC Title game, and in 2007 it was the Giants who, like Pittsburgh, won four straight road games to win the whole thing.
Who is Cinderalla here? It is hard to tell. Both teams were left for dead before Christmas, and here they are now in the NFC title game. Let's just say there are not enough glass slippers to go around.

Expect to see the Eagles put on a heavy scheme of blitzes on Warner; the one way to rattle him is to get enough pressure that he throws up a couple of mistakes. Cards' receiver Anquan Bolden is expected to play, but he is coming off an injury so his impact could be limited. Expect the Eagles to do a lot of bump and run coverage on the Cards tall and lanky receivers.

The key for the Eagles is protecting the football. Coach Andy Ried loves to throw the football, and he will have to re-think that plan after the Cards picked off Delhomme five times. Expect to see a heavy dose of Brian Westbrook and Correl Buckhaulter against that shaky Cardinals run defense. PICK: EAGLES 30, CARDINALS 21.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jets Now Target Ryan and Spagnuolo

The Jets whacky and weird coaching search could be coming to an end ... in three more weeks.
The Jets are apparently willing to wait for the Ravens season to end before making an offer to defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to be the club's latest head coach. Ryan interviewed with the Jets on Sunday, and, according to the Star Ledger, the two sides hit it off well.

The Jets are also strongly interested in Steve Spagnuolo, the Giants defensive coordinator. If the Jets want Spagnuolo to be their coach, they don't have to wait since the Giants season is over after a 23-11 loss to the Eagles on Sunday.

Ryan would be interesting; his defenses have been in the top five each of the last three seasons ever since he has been defensive coordinator. The Ravens had the second best defense in the NFL in 2008 behind only the Steelers.

Meanwhile, Spagnuolo could be getting offers from elsewhere. The Lions and Rams are also interested in the Giants D-coordinator.

What Giants Must Do In Off-Season

The taste of champagne and victory that the New York Giants tasted about a year ago, now seems like a distant memory after Sunday's debacle against the Eagles. Now New York has to pick up the pieces of a season that could have been so much more. Here is a list of to-dos for Giants GM Jerry Resse before mini-camps open in late May.

1) Let Plaxico Burress walk: The GM said he was open to the idea of bringing back Burress, but it is hard to imagine that Coach Tom Coughlin will want him back. Sure Burress had the game-winning catch in Super Bowl XLII, but after getting suspended twice this year for conduct detrimental to the team and going on to prove a huge off-field distraction after shooting himself, Burress is unreliable. How many second and third chances does a guy deserve?

2) Bring In a Big Receiver: A lot of fans have brought up the idea of trading for Cardinals receiver Anquan Bolden, but let's not forget that Bolden gets injured a lot. He has missed significant time twice this year, including this year's playoffs. Bolden is also under contract for two more years with Arizona, so the Giants would have to give up a lot to get him.

The Giants should try to find a receiver on the free-agent market. Even if they struggle to find one and must swing a trade, the Giants should not bring back Burress.

3) Sign Brandon Jacobs: This sounds obvious, but Big Blue has to keep Jacobs over Derrick Ward. Jacobs is a physical freak who shreds opposing defenses with his power and speed. He had 92 yards on 19 carries against the Eagles on Sunday, and if the Giants had utilized him well in the game, he could have easily rushed for 170 yards. Jacobs is just too valuable to let go. As for Ward, nobody knows how he would handle being an every-down back, and it is not worth the gamble to try now.

4) Get Lawrance Tynes healthy: The kicker who kicked the Giants into the Super Bowl with an OT field goal against the Packers must return healthy. The Giants have to let kicker Jon Carney go after he missed two crucial field goals against the Eagles. The debate will be made that Tynes would have not missed if he were on the field.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

From Champs To Chumps! Giants Derailed By Eagles

EAGLES 23
GIANTS 11

The clock has struck midnight for the New York Giants and their defense of a world championship. A year ago, the Giants were the hottest team in football, capturing the attention of all New Jersey and New York fans as they triumphed over the unbeaten Patriots. Today, the Giants were chumps, losing their fourth game of their last five and playing mistake-filled football all afternoon. All the good will that the Giants created over the last year is now gone. The critics of Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin will be back very soon, especially after today's performance.

Eli Manning looked a lot like the Eli Manning that was villified by New Yorkers from 2004 to the mid-season of 2007. Manning undershot his receivers all day long; his passes floated listlessly in the air, hitting the ground in front of desperate receivers who had to come back to the ball in order to catch it. It didn't help that receivers Steve Smith and Domieck Hixon kept dropping passes, making it obvious that the Giants missed superjerk Plaxico Burress.

For the day' Manning completed only 52 percent of his passes and was picked off twice in the game. He could have easily thrown five interceptions if it were not for Philly defenders dropping some of Manning throws.

What was most peculiar about the Giants effort today was the fact that they tried to do everything but run Brandon Jacobs. Throughout the first half, the Giants were more committed to throwing the ball in the whacky winds of Giants Stadium instead of running Jacobs, who was running all over the Phialdelphia defense when he touched the rock.

With New York up 3-0, the Giants had a first and ten at their own 10 yard line; instead of logically running the ball, the Giants decided to throw it. Manning's pass was picked off by Asante Samuel, who dashed to the Giants one yard line. Three plays later, Donovan McNabb took it in himself to give the Eagles a 7-3 lead.

Manning was not the only Giant having a bad day, kicker John Carney had a brutal afternoon. With Philly up 7-5, Carney missed a 51 yard field goal wide right, preventing New York from taking the lead. In the third quarter with the Eagles up 13-11, Carney missed another field goal from 47 yards out costing the Giants a 14-13 lead. It was just not meant to be for Big Blue.

The Eagles were not perfect offensively, but they answered when they needed it most. Just before the half, McNabb completed five straight passes to move the Eagles to the Giants 34 yard line. McNabb then ran it for nine more to move the ball to the Giants seven yard line, good enough to set up David Akers for a cheap shot field goal to make it 10-8 Philly at the break.

Afer Carney missed his second field goal, the Eagles took the time to go right down the field and plug it in the end zone to ice this contest. McNabb hit Kevin Curtis for eight yards to midfield. Later, McNabb hit Curtis again for a 15 yard gain to spot the ball at the Giants 29. Finally, McNabb hit a wide open Brent Celeck in the end zone for the touchdown.

Down 20-11, the Giants decided to run the football. The Giants faced a fourth and one at midfield; Manning tried to get the yard with a quarterback sneak but he was pushed back for a one yard loss, killing the drive. Later, the Giants faced a fourth and two at their own 47. Instead of trying to trick the Eagles with a play-action or a naked bootleg, the Giants decided to ram it up the middle with Derrick Ward. Turned out to be a big mistake; Ward was stopped for no gain.

With the ball back, the Eagles put the game away. McNabb hit DeSean Jackson in stride down the sideline for 48 yards to the Giants one yard line. The Eagles settled for the field goal to make it 23-11.

It was a nice run by the Giants, but the 2008 season will be defined by a team that got off to too hot a start early in the season and suffered from the distractions created by Plaxico Burress and Antonio Pierce in December. The Giants were never the same offensively without Burress; his presence was missed down the stretch. Plus, Big Blue was playing bad football down the stretch, something that will have to be addressed in training camp.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cardinals Destroy Panthers; Head to First Ever NFC Title Game

CARDINALS 33
PANTHERS 13

Every year a team seemingly comes out of nowhere, that nobody talks about, finds a way to not only win in the postseason but make histroy by doing it. The Cardinals, who are the NFL's oldest franchise and one of six teams to have never played in a Super Bowl will be going to the NFC Championship Game for the first time ever.

The Cardinals dominated the Carolina Panthers 33-13, as they tormented Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, picking off the quarterback five times and stripping him for a fumble. As a result, the Cards scored 23 points off Carolina turnovers on the evening and look like world beaters after everyone counted them out before the playoffs started.

If you need to know how much the Cards were expected to lose today, in the New York Post the paper listed the betting lines to win the Super Bowl for each of the remaining eight teams; the Cardinals were 35-1!

After a quick start by Carolina, the Cardinals settled down and set the tone. The Cards answered Carolina's opening score with a score of their own as Kurt Warner hit Tim Hightower for a three yard touchdown to tie the game at seven. Before that TD, Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald for 41 yards down the sideline to set up the tying score.

Minutes later, the Cards took control. Delhomme was stripped of the football by Araon Smith, who recovered it at the Panthers 11 yard line. Edgerin James took up the middle from four yards out to give the Cards a 14-7 lead.

Later in the second quarter with Arizona up 17-7, Delhomme hurried his throw and was picked off by Gilbert Hayes, setting up the Cards nicely at midfield. Three plays later, Warner found a wide open Larry Fitzgerald near the one yard line from 29 yards out. Fitzgerald made the catch then stuck the ball over the pylon to give the Cardinals a 24-7 lead.

It was a dominating performance for Arizona. Warner completed 65 percent of his passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns. For Warner, this is the second time he is taking a woebegone franchise to the NFC title game. In 1999, he took the miserable St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory over the Tennessee Titans. As for Fitzgerald, he had a huge day for the Cardinals when he recorded eight catches for 166 yards and a TD. Fitzgerald did a great job in picking up his game for the injured Anquan Bolden.

The Cards are moving on to the NFC title game for the first time ever. This is the best story in the league right now; no one thought the Cardinals would be here, and they deserve all the credit and attention that they should get this week in preperation for the Giants or Eagles. If Philly wins tomorrow in Giants Stadium, the Cards could be favored to go to the Super Bowl.

Ravens Out-Smack Titans In Chilly Slugfest

RAVENS 13
TITANS 10

History worth repeating? Eight years ago the Ravens had to beat the 13-3 Tennessee Titans in the divisional round to get on the roll that would take them to their first ever Super Bowl title. Well, in 2009, it appears that it is happening again.

The Ravens took advantage of key Titian turnovers and missed opportunties to beat the Titans in chilly Tennessee 13-10 Saturday evening.

The Ravens once again displayed a physical and unforgiving brand of defense. They were all over quarterback Kerry Collins, forcing the quaterback in key mistakes and hitting him even without recording a sack.

With the score tied at seven in the second quarter, the Titans were marching right down the field on an impressive eight minute drive that started at the Tennessee one yard line. Collins had completed five straight passes on the drive including a 24 yarder to Justin Gage to spot the ball in Baltimore territory. With the Titans now at the Raven 32, and in position to get some points on the board, Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan sent in a blitz that surrounded the quarterback. Collins heaved up the ball in desperation and it was picked off by Samari Rolle killing the drive and Tennessee's chances.

Later in the third, the Titans were able to move once again. Collins hit LenDale White in the flat for 19 yards to the Ravens 36. Three plays later, kicker Rod Bironas, who is usually very reliable for the Titans missed the field right to the left to cost Tennessee the lead.

At the end of the third, the Ravens finally got it together. Rookie Joe Flacco hit Mark Clayton in near the sideline for a 37 yard gain to the Titans four yard line. Clayton lept over two Tennessee defenders to make the catch. A few plays later, the Ravens took a 10-7 lead with a Matt Stover field goal.

Still Tennessee would not go away. The Titans put together a 5:30 minute drive, with Collins completing three passes of over ten yards to get the ball to the Raven 14. On second and nine, Collins hit a wide open tight end Algee Crumpler who tried to turn upfield toward the endzone. As he was moving upfield, Crumpler was smashed by two Raven defenders, causing Crumpler to cough up the football as the Ravens recovered it killing the drive.

The Titans would eventually tie the game late in the fourth, but there was still enough time for the Ravens to win this game. Flacco hit Todd Heap for 23 yards to mid field on a huge third and two. Later, Flacco hit Clayton for eight yards to move the ball to the Tennessee 25. Stover came out once again and kicked the winning field goal from 43 yards out.

The Titans failed to move the ball on their final possession and the Ravens went into a frenzy on the sidelines. The Ravens are now in the AFC Championship game scheduled for next Sunday at 6:30 pm.

Friday, January 9, 2009

RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE: GIANTS VS. EAGLES PREVIEW

EAGLES (10-6-1) @ GIANTS (12-4): Oh! So now after an unimpressive victory against the Vikings, the Eagles are suddenly this year's version of the 2007 New York Giants. Nothing could be more ridiculous.

Sure there are some parallels: Coach Andy Ried has come under fire for his teams under achieving performances, just like Tom Coughlin did a year ago. Philadelphia fans are ready to run Donavan McNabb out of town, just the way Giant fans were ready to run Eli Manning out of town a year ago before winning the Super Bowl. But to go so far as to claim that an Eagles team that lost to the Redskins three weeks ago, an Eagles team that forgot the overtime rules in a tie against the Bengals at mid-season, an Eagles team that allowed a bad Minnesota Viking team to hang around for three and a half quarters of last weeks wild card game is as hot as the Giants were last year is a total joke. The Eagles are playing good football, but they are not the hottest team in the NFL, that distinction belongs to the San Diego Chargers.

The Eagles have been playing well, mostly because of the superior play of the Eagles defense, and the inspired play of Brian Westbrook. Westbrook rushed for 936 yards in the regular season, had 402 yards receiving this year for a grand total of 14 touchdowns. He has been great and is the main reason that the Eagles are here today.

Defensively, the Eagles were third in the NFL in total defense, allowing only 274.3 yards per game, and have allowed their opponents to convert only 32 percent of their third downs. That is a deadly proposition for Eagle opponents, especially teams that have to rely on the running game like the Giants.

A silent weapon that the Giants will have to keep track of is receiver DeSean Jackson, who led the team with 912 yards receiving and 440 yards on punt returns. He is very fast, and would create a huge field position advantage for Philadelphia if he is allowed to. Expect Giants punter Jeff Feagles to punt away from Jackson.

For the Giants to have success they have to exercise some recent demons. The Giants offense has been exposed because of the loss of Plaxico Burress, and have had no choice but to rely more on the legs of Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward. Against Carolina in week 16, the pair rushed for over 250 yards as the Giants came back to beat the Panthers. The Giants will have to hope that Jacobs and Ward will have similar success against the Eagles tough defense. If their running game is nutrilized by Philadelphia it will be a long day for Eli Manning.

Defensively, expect the Giants to go hard after McNabb. McNabb does not run as well as he used to; he is a bit overweight and is really a pocket passer now as a result. If the Giants can get in his face like they did in a 2007 game when the sacked McNabb nine times in a game, the Giants should be ok.

Expect to see a heavy dose of Brandon Jacobs in this game. He is healthy now, after taking the last two weeks off, so his legs should be fresh. If Jacobs gets going in this game, the Eagles will be cooked. Don't be suprised if the Giants come up with something to corrale Westbrook. Maybe the Giants put an extra man in the box up front, or even put a spy on him. Remember the Eagles have been playing well, but they are not the hottest team in the league. PICK: GIANTS 24, EAGLES 10.

Cohen's Divisional Weekend: Steelers vs. Chargers

CHARGERS (9-8) @ STEELERS (12-4): Everyone is going bananas over how hot the Philadelphia Eagles have been the past month, but the fact remains that the Eagles are not the hottest team in football right now, that title belongs to the San Diego Chargers.

For the last five weeks San Diego has won ball games with a huge amount of emotion and guts. They have fought, scratched and crawled through each of their games, capturing a divison title at 8-8 and beating up the Colts a week ago. The Chargers success really got going in week 16 on a trip to Tampa Bay. The Bolts who struggled all season on the east coast, not only beat the Buccaneers, they came from behind in the second half and turned that game into a 48-24 laugher.

Credit has to go to Phillip Rivers, who has really been the most deserving league MVP. Rivers threw for 4,009 yards and 34 touchdowns in the regular season. He is the heart and soul of San Diego and he proves it each week with one gutsy performacne after another.

Darren Sproles, who will start at tailback for the injured LaDanlian Tomlinson, burned the Colts for 300 all purpose yards, and is arguably the fastest man in football next to Carolina's DeAngelo Williams and Jon Stewart.

Yes, these Chargers are red hot, the hottest team in all of football. So will the bone chilling cold of Pittsburgh bother them? In years past we have seen red hot teams play well in spite of the elements, last year's Giants come to mind when the beat the Packers 31-28 in -4 temperatures in Green Bay. But the Chargers are a west coast team, that is accustomed to beautiful weather, traveling to a field that is the worst in football to play on.

The Steelers for their part were the best team in the AFC during the regular season. Ben Roethlisberger overcame several injuries to his arms and legs to throw for 3,301 yards and 17 touchdowns. This with a banged up offensive line and an ineffective running game. The key for Pittsburgh will be to keep Roethlisberger, who is overcoming a concussion he suffered against the Browns in week 17, upright. If he can stand the pressure Pittsburgh should win.

The Steelers defense, is one of the best. Next to the Ravens, no defense is more physical than the Steelers. The pass rush of James Farrior and James Harrison and the play of saftey Troy Polamalu in the secondary will present a huge challenge for the Chargers. Expect the Chargers to get smacked around in this game, something that didnot happen against the Colts soft defense.

This one will be the best game of the weekend. It will go back and forth and noone will know who wins until it is finally over. PICK: STEELERS 20, CHARGERS 17.

Mets Continue to Fool Themselves

A lot of people are going crazy about the fact that the Mets were able to obtain the rights to closers Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz, but the fact remains that the Mets really have done nothing to improve a club that has choked for two straight seasons.

Instead of bringing in a proven winner like Derek Lowe to be the Mets number two starter, the Mets will bring in Tim Redding, who is one of the worst pitchers in baseball on a one year $2.25 million deal. Redding is a career 34-51 with an ERA of 4.92. Not exactly the kind of guy you want as the number four starter.

To make matters worse the Mets are seriously considering bringing back Pedro Martinez, who is basically washed up after spending each of the last three years on the Mets disabled list. If the Mets fail to improve their rotation, forget about a choke in 2009, because the Mets won't even be competative enough to matter.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cohen's Divisional Week Selections

Some consider divisional weekend in the NFL playoffs the best week of football since it pits the so- called top seeds against some red hot wild card winners from the week before. This is the week people start to look for upsets. Which top seed will go down? Which wild card team will run the table? These questions and more will be asked in this weekend, as the NFL paints the pitcure for the final four.

RAVENS (12-5) @ TITANS (13-3): Eight years ago the Ravens were in a very familiar position. After winning their wild card game against the Denver Broncos that year, the Ravens traveled to Tennessee to take on the defending AFC champion Titans. Everyone expected Tennessee to run all over the Ravens; instead, the lasting image from that divisional playoff game is Ray Lewis running back a Steve McNair interception for a touchdown as Baltimore romped Tennessee en route to their first ever Super Bowl title.

This year, Baltimore is hoping for similar magic. The Ravens defense is as nasty as that group from 2000. A week ago against the Dolphins, the Ravens forced five turnovers, including four interceptions from Chad Pennington. The Ravens are a group that creates a lot of confusion at the line for opposing offenses and are the most physical team in the league when it comes to defending the pass.

That does not bode well for a Titans team that has a soft offense. Sure Chris Johnson and LenDale White have had good years running the football, but it is the Titans passing game that is suspect. With a receiving corps that includes Justin Gage, Justin McCareins and Brandon Jones, as well as a bad big game quarterback in Kerry Collins, clearly the Titans have concerns for this game.

Still, the Titans possess a very good defense. The Titans D was sixth against the run and ninth against the pass this season. They were also second in the league in points allowed (234). This does not bode well for the Ravens offense. Last week, rookie Joe Flacco was pathetic against the Dolphins, completing only nine passes for the entire game. If Flacco and the Ravens are to score any points in this game, they will need to find a way to get around a group that beat up the Ravens in week five. Flacco was dreadful against Tennessee in week five, throwing two interceptions and 153 yards in the effort.

Don't forget, Titans coach Jeff Fisher was the Tennessee coach eight years ago when Baltimore beat the Titans in the playoffs and does not want to see a rerun. Expect a low-scoring brawl. PICK:RAVENS 15, TITANS 12.

CARDINALS (10-7) @ PANTHERS (12-4): If you have something better to do on a Saturday night, do it. Maybe go to one of those Academy Award nominated movies, or go out to eat, or maybe slip in a DVD ... do anything but watch this disgraceful matchup. The Cardinals beat an equally lousy team a week ago in the Atlanta Falcons and will have to hope that their sixth trip to the East Coast pays some dividends. The Cards are 0-5 in games they have played on the East Coast this season, and it should not get any better against a red hot Carolina Panthers team.

The Cards run the ball only sparingly and rely mostly on the big, but risky, arm of Kurt Warner. Warner did have a nice season, but expect him to get ripped apart against a good Panthers defense.

As for Carolina, they boast the best one-two punch at running back in the NFL. DeAngelo Williams is flat out explosive when he gets into space and between the tackles, while Jonathan Stewart is faster than Williams, which is saying a lot. The Cards have a suspect defense, so expect Carolina to ram it down the Cardinals throats all night long. Jake Delhomme will hit Steve Smith and Mushin Muhammad for a couple of touchdowns and this game will be over at 8:30 pm. PICK: PANTHERS 48, CARDINALS 21.