Eli Manning Belongs In The Pro Football Hall of Fame

With Eli Manning calling it a career we have been inundated with sportswriters and t.v. pundits debating his Hall of Fame candidacy. Over the last 15 years we have seen the pendulum swing where weak pundits want to equate everything to just a series of stats. For those of us who know this game and it’s vast history, players also make the Pro Football Hall of Fame based on performing heroic feats.

Manning’s detractors will point to his 117-117 record and try to reduce his influence to just his Super Bowl XLII upset of the undefeated New England Patriots. “Oh he only won because of the great Giants pass rush.” is a scoff we hear when Eli and this game is brought up.

Yet before we get started let The Chancellor share with you several of his feats:

  • 1 of 5 two time Super Bowl MVPs XLII & XLVI (3 of 4 are in the PFHOF/ Brady awaits)
  • 1 of 3 QBs to win 2 conference championships on road (Elway in PFHOF/Brady awaits)
  • 1 of 2 QBs to lead game winning Super Bowl drives twice (Brady other with 4)
  • Tied with Tom Brady with 4 postseason wins over teams with 13 regular season wins.
  • Only QB in history with 2 postseason wins over teams with 15 regular season wins (07 Pats 16-0 & ’11 Packers 15-1)
  • 2nd in road /neutral site playoff wins in NFL history with 7 (Brady 1st with 9)
  • Won the Super Bowl in 2011 with the worst regular season record ever at 9-7. (broke Joe Montana’s ’88 team who went 10-6/ Montana in PFHOF)

When every other QB Manning has performed these feats next to are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame…?? Ok not yet.

Now to crush a few misnomers about Eli… Did you know when Manning led the Giants XLVI championship he won it with the lowest rated defense in Super Bowl history ranked 27th? Take a guess who passed for the most yardage in a regular season (4,933 yards) to win the Super Bowl? You guessed it Eli Manning in XLVI.

Did you notice Peyton Manning didn’t come up once in any of these feats? Most would assume his name would come up and not Eli by the way the media shaped their narratives.

Stop and think of the signature games Eli has in his back pocket. Everyone remembers the run to the Super Bowl in 2007 especially the Dallas Cowboys. Remember that group?? An emerging Tony Romo and Terrell Owens sparkled as they ran to an NFC best 13-3 record and the championship of the Eastern Division. Then in a frigid Lambeau Field took down the 13-3 Green Bay in Brett Favre’s last game as a Packer. Don’t forget he returned to win a 2nd in Lambeau when he gunned down Aaron Rodgers 37-20 in the 2011 NFC Divisional.

Keep in mind he is the only QB in history with 2 playoff wins on the road at Lambeau Field and the only one to beat both Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre in postseason play.

We have to remember he was a 2 time Super Bowl winning quarterback although the sporting press doesn’t cover him like one. He isn’t coddled like his brother when it comes to his short comings. Think about it for a second…. Had Eli Manning thrown a 4th quarter interception to seal his team’s fate in a Super Bowl you would never have heard the end of it. Peyton did that in Super Bowl XLIV to New Orleans’ Tracy Porter.

We hardly hear of his triumph in Super Bowl XLII, he’s treated like a supporting actor to the upset itself or even David Tyree’s helmet catch. Neither of which could have taken place without Eli’s heroics. If you can remember Eli had to break free of two linemen and scrambled before throwing that famous pass to Tyree.

One of the best throws in Super Bowl history. Who knew he would upstage it with the best throw ever in XLVI?? With just 3:46 remaining and down 17-15 and at his 12 yard line, Manning facing a Cover 2 had Mario Manningham break outside CB Sterling Moore when…

Quite simply it’s a pass that shouldn’t have been thrown when it comes to football schematics. Not against Cover 2 yet if the pass was 1 yard shorter it would have been knocked away by Moore. If the pass was to the outside 1 yard Mario Manningham doesn’t get his feet in. If the pass was 1 yard over in the field of play FS Chung would have intercepted or knocked the ball down. Yet in the money time with his team losing Eli delivered this 38 yard “Rembrandt” which was the centerpiece to a game winning drive and a 21-17 win.

It was Eli’s 6th 4th quarter comeback in 2011 alone…and by the way since he did it the week before in the NFC Championship against the 49ers, Eli is the only QB in history with back to back 4th quarter comebacks to win a conference championship and Super Bowl in the same season. Yet I digress…

 

It was Eli who spotted Manningham break a cardinal rule in Cover 2, reroute the receiver to the inside and funnel him up to the safety. When he didn’t Manning took two steps toward the receiver to change the trajectory and let fly. Great great throw.

Eli finished with an 8-4 record in the playoffs and get this he was 7-2 away from home in the playoffs including the Super Bowl, for his career. Contrast that against Peyton’s 3-6 record away from home in the playoffs, which includes a 41-0 devastating loss to the New York Jets. Understand Eli doesn’t have a lopsided postseason loss to that degree on his resume’.

No one even comes close to his road post season record. He’s quiet and tremendously unassuming off the field. Yet it’s at this moment your mind has to change when it comes to Hall of Fame worthiness. You’d think that the coddling the media gave his brother would have rubbed off on him. That it hasn’t gave him a thicker skin and stronger resolve. One exhibited time after time in 2 tremendous playoff runs.

He’s had other moments like when he came within 45 yards of the all time NFL record of 554 yards passing in 2012. Remember that? Yes he threw for an NFL record 245 yards 25 points in the 4th quarter to beat the Bucs 41-34 in week 2. Manning threw for 510 yards in another come from behind win.

For his career he completed 4,895 of 8,119 for 57,023 yards 366 TDs and 244 interceptions. His performance was that of a great “B” student yet when the money was on the line he delivered “A+” material.

With his total of 27 4th quarter come from behind wins Eli has more than Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Joe Montana, Warren Moon, & Dan Fouts. Only one short of Brett Favre Yet you don’t think he belongs??

Then many of you want to call Tom Brady the greatest quarterback ever for winning 6 Super Bowls…well .. What do you call Eli who holds a winning record against him 3-2, twice beating Brady in Super Bowls?? For good measure is the only starting QB to beat him twice in the same season in 2011. What do you call Eli?? Not elite Tiki Barber… you call him a Hall of Famer!

For induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame I present Eli Manning!

The Chancellor’s other pieces written advocating players Hall of Fame candidacy:

Kevin Greene (written Mar 2, 2011 / enshrined 2016)

Robert Brazile (written Mar 2, 2011/ enshrined 2018)

Jerry Kramer (written July 26, 2011 / enshrined 2018)

Ken Stabler (written July 12, 2015 / enshrined 2016)

Terrell Davis (written July 5, 2011 / enshrined 2017)

Randy Moss (written Aug 2, 2011/ enshrined 2018)

Cris Carter (written Dec 2, 2011/ enshrined 2013)

Andre Reed (written Aug 11, 2013 / enshrined 2014)

Edgerrin James (written Jan 19, 2013/ induction year 2020)

 

New York Giants Super Bowl XLVI Ring: A Design For All Seasons

The exquisite ring designed for the New York Giant’s Super Bowl XLVI win over New England.

One of the greatest championship rings ever commissioned. When you look at the ring the first thing you look at are the sapphire stones that adorn the “World Championsip” moniker as though its’ the lighted ring around the new Meadowlands.  Yet it’s the old fashioned “NY” adorned in blue that really sets this ring off. Although the Giants have amassed 8 NFL titles, they have garnered 4 in the Super Bowl era. Hence the four Super Bowl trophies atop the design.

One of the more intriguing aspects of this ring is the fact that they used the block “GIANTS” logo from the previous era (1980’s-1999). This being put on the same side as the Super Bowl trophy and score, a 21-17 triumph over Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. In our CEO’s estimation, this is the best looking Super Bowl ring ever.

Eli Manning showing off his second earned Super Bowl ring.

An irony that can’t go dismissed is the fact that in a stadium that Peyton Manning’s success help construct, his little brother dispatched this generation’s greatest quarterback in Brady, for a second time in the Super Bowl in a 4 year period.

Now Eli Manning has brought another title to Gotham and is just now entering his prime. Think about that for a second. A fleet of receivers and with the rule changes favoring the passing game, he became the quarterback with the most passing yards in a single season to win a Super Bowl with 4,933.

In other words he and the Giants will be back for another one within 3 years. Mark it down in 3 inch bold letters… As for now congratulations to the New York Giants who will be receiving these rings at a gala ceremony sometime in June when they are all finished.

So as we did last year to commemorate the unveiling of the championship ring for the new year, but to offer those rings of  years gone by….

This is the ring for the 1956 New York Giants to commemorate the 1956 NFL Title Game. The Giants won 47-7  in the famous house that “Ruth built”, Yankee Stadium. The 50.000 plus braved the elements to watch Vince Lombardi’s offense put up 47 points and Tom Landry’s defense allowed only 1 touchdown.  The Giants appeared in 6 world championship games between 1956-1963 with the lone year they won in 1956.

The famous chant of “defense…defense” rose from the rafters of Yankee Stadium during this era as well as the original mastery of Tom Landry’s 4-3 defense bore fruit. It became the rage of the league and a staple of how modern NFL teams would platoon their 11 defenders. One note to offer is that the 4-3 as a defense gained it’s notoriety here although it’s original teachings came from head coach Joe Kuharick out of Philadelphia. Landry and New York got the credit because they won with it. Something to think about.

The Giants only won one championship during this era while dropping 2 titles in 1958 and 1959 to the Baltimore Colts. Then dropping two to Green Bay in 1961 and 1962…then a famous defensive struggle to the Chicago Bears in 1963. They were a juggernaut that dominated an era that ushered in pro football as the premier sport of America and fruit that sprang forth from this team were two of the greatest coaches in NFL history.

Tom Landry who went on to win 2 championships while piloting the Dallas Cowboys from 1960-1989. Then Vince Lombardi, the universally accepted greatest coach of all time, who was the winningest coach of the 1960’s with 5 title wins in a decade with the Green Bay Packers. He became the measure of all NFL coaches once his tenure was over and had the Giants not accepted racial and religious popular prejudice during that long forgotten time, could have had an Italian Catholic rule the football world the same year an Irish Catholic in John F Kennedy became President of the United States.

After a 30 year drought, the New York Giants became the world champion after bludgeoning the Denver Broncos 39-20 out in Pasadena for Super Bowl XXI. NFL MVP Lawrence Taylor and the Giants defense was in the  midst of allowing only 2 yards during the 3rd period. While consequently the Giants, led by Super Bowl XXI MVP Phil Simms, was in the midst of scoring 17 unanswered points to pull ahead 26-10. Erasing a 10-9 halftime lead that the Broncos had everything go right for them yet were undone after a brilliant goal line stand.

Once that stand had taken place and the Broncos Rich Karlis missed two chip shot field goals, the Broncos fate was sealed as the Giants roared back. Bill Parcells had restored the dignity of a once proud franchise with this win and an up and coming Bill Belichick was the architect of this swarming 3-4 defense.

In the NFC playoff games that preceded Super Bowl XXI, the Giants had bested the San Francisco 49ers (team of the 1980s) by a score of 49-3 and the Washington Redskins in the NFC Championship 17-0. The win over the Niners was one of the most lopsided in modern NFL history and was one where the Giants defense knocked Joe Montana from the game. Many speculated that this would be the end for Montana’s playing career. He did come back yet thoughts of this game lingered whenever the Giants played the 49ers for the rest of the decade.

The NFC championship represented the third straight year the game ended in a shutout. It also marked the 2nd time in 3 years that the loser of the NFC Championship would go on to win the Super Bowl the following year. So 1986 was the Giant’s year….Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms, NFL MVP Lawrence Taylor. and 1,516 yard rusher and 21TDs from RB Joe Morris powered this championship. Bill Parcells became a household name as coach and a little known defensive co-ordinator in Bill Belichick started receiving recognition.

Coming on the heels of that ’86 champion some 4 years later was a monumental champion that somehow seems forgotten about in remembrance. The 1990 unit that won it all in Super Bowl XXV was the first team ever to average less than a turnover a game (13 in 16 games) and had to overcome the two time defending champion San Francisco 49ers 15-13  in the NFC Championship just to make it to the big dance.

Once there they had to best the greatest AFC team in a decade to win it all. So powerful was that 1990 Buffalo Bills squad that they had won the AFC Championship 51-3 while forcing the Raiders to just 3 turnovers. They were that much better than their AFC counterpart on that day. Yet the Giants roped them into a defensive slugfest while employing just two defensive linemen and funneling the Bills potent receivers into the middle of a defense that had linebackers waiting for them.

Although Phil Simms sat on the sideline, the ’90 Giants became the second team to win it all with a quarterback who began the season as second string. Jeff Hostetler ironically repaced the incumbent Simms during a week 13 game against the Buffalo Bills where Phil was lost for the season with a foot injury. He added a scrambling element that supplemented the power running game of Ottis OJ Anderson (the [[_]]) to keep defenses guessing and furthermore blitzing. This was the missing ingredient to a rather pedestrian offense that gave the Giants an edge once the post season came around. Teams already had to account for the dangerous Dave Meggett, and now were totally afraid to blitz the conservative Giants QB for fear of what could now be gained with his scrambling ability.

Not only was this the last championship won by Bill Parcells, Lawrence Taylor, Bill Belichick and George Young. The Giants won with a young WR coach in Tom Coughlin who had a protege in WR Mark Ingram, who’s son would go on to win the Heisman Trophy in 2009. The Giants also featured DE Leonard Marshall, who should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Marshall is the only Giant to record sacks in both Super Bowl XXI and XXV triumphs along with new ILB starter Thomas “Pepper” Johnson who would go on to the New England Patriots with Romeo Crennel and go on to win 3 Super Bowls as a member of that staff under Bill Belichick.

Speaking of Bill Belichick, after a failed stint in Cleveland he resurfaced with the New England Patriots to start the 2000 season.  He along with the aforementioned former Giants went on to create a dynasty 2 decades later in New England. Their crowning jewel was to become the first 19-0 NFL champion ever.

After winning 3 Super Bowls in 4 years, it seemed the Patritots had run their course as the NFL’s vanguard. With some slight retooling, they acquired WR Randy Moss and WR Wes Welker and went on to become the winningest team in NFL history at 16-0 and became it’s highest scoring ever with 589 points during the 2007 NFL season. To become the greatest ever all they had to do was win Super Bowl XLII. Easy money…right?? After all they beat the Giants in the final week 38-35.

Well after Randy Moss scored to make it 17-14, the Patriots had finally overcome the New York pass rush, which had hounded Brady all night long. Eli Manning started his ascent to greatness with several plays in the final drive. He did have a little bit of luck though… Asante Samuel had the win sealed for the Patriots….but he dropped the interception.

Never give your enemy a second chance.

With that came one of the most famous plays in Super Bowl history. Eli broke free from two Patriots who had their hands on him… he broke free to scramble right and heaved a prayer of a pass that David Tyree caught using the top of his helmet. Once that happened the will of the Patriots totally broke as Eli and the Giants marched into history with a monumental upset. So resigned to their fate where the Patriots they left CB Ellis Hobbs (5″10) alone on Plaxico Burress (6’5) and blitzed while Eli feathered a pass into the left flank of the endzone. Michael Strahan finished his distinguished career as a Super Bowl champion. Champagne popped for Head Coach Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, Michael Strahan, the New York Giants…AND the ’72 Dolphins!! Perfect!!

Now the Giants proved it was no fluke beating the Patriots again and had this latest crown jewel to add to their collection. Enjoy it for one more year and the Giants aren’t finished yet either. They will be back for their 5th Super Bowl win within the next few years…quite possibly when their Meadowlands hosts the first outdoor cold weather Super Bowl. Stay tuned… Eli is a silent killer.

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Super Bowl XLVI: The Chancellor’s Thoughts On The Game

Now that was a hell of a Super Bowl. The New York Giants roped the New England Patriots into another slugfest and won their eighth world championship 21-17. It was a mirror of Super Bowl XLII all over again only this time there was a glaring difference. The Patriots were unable to stretch the field as they could in 2007 and the Giants knew it. During the second half of yesterday’s football game the Giants played plenty of subtle tricks on Tom Brady that ultimately won the game. OK Eli Manning had something to do with it.

Now a two time Super Bowl winning coach in 4 years; What’s Tom Coughlin’s chances for the Hall of Fame??

Once the Giants gave up the touchdown to start the second half, the Giants deployed an interesting defense. They came out in a nickel cover 2 look with a linebacker taking the deep zone and safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrell Rolle actually playing just fifteen yards downfield.  They stayed put rather than go deep. Think back to the Patriots final drive. Remember the two passes over the middle that were incomplete to Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez?? Well the first one you’ll note was tipped by Phillips and went behind Branch. The second Hernandez took his eye off the football. This was an example of that play. Another was when we watched LB Chase Blackburn run all the way down the field to intercept a bomb for Gronkowski.

You’ll notice that Tom Brady had to come off his first and second reads many times in that second half and up until that final drive was the story of the game. They got pressure on him by crowding his crossing routes without a deep threat.  The forgotten sparkplug to it all was Antrel Rolle (The [[_]]) who came over from the Arizona Cardinals over a season ago. His athleticism as a former cornerback, helped disguise when the Giants were going to blitz,  go man to man, or deploy him as a slot corner with his taking on Wes Welker much of the evening.  Welker caught 7 balls for 60 yards and had little yardage after the catch. These defensive tactics were overlooked by pundits thanks to Eli Manning’s final drive. The Patriots were exposed for being slow just as the Jets had in last year’s AFC divisional playoff loss.

Eli avoids Ninkovich to throw during Super Bowl XVLI

Yet there was Eli Manning, whom we dubbed the silent killer before the NFC Championship Game, just played his way into the Hall of Fame.  How?? Did you see that laser of a pass to Manningham for 38 yards at the start of that final 88 yard drive?? In the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl with everything on the line, he threw atop the cornerback and before the safety in cover 2?? In XLII, he fought off the pass rush and got lucky with David Tyree holding the ball against his helmet making a circus catch. This time he looked off the safety, kept his feet in throwing position and rotated into the throw. One of the best passes ever in a championship game. The throw was perfect and took guts.

Today’s quarterbacking has been reduced to throwing to the running back if the read takes away your receivers. Very passive. Manning knew where he was going the whole time. Even when the read tells him to go elsewhere with the ball. You’ll notice him take those subtle steps in the direction of Manningham to shorten the throw and gain the trajectory necessary to squeeze that throw in there taking the angle away from S Patrick Chung. THAT is quarterbacking!! Not only did Eli Manning gain 7 first downs on that drive, just like Super Bowl XLII. Not one of his throws was off during that final drive as he methodically marched the Giants to the go ahead touchdown. Going 30 for 40 for 296 yards and 1 touchdown.

Hall of Fame?? Well the last time we saw Peyton Manning in a Super Bowl, he threw the critical interception that Tracy Porter  returned for a touchdown to put the nail in the Colts coffin in Super Bowl XLIV. Eli didn’t do that. What about the 92 yard drive in Super Bowl XXIII, when Joe Montana drove the 49ers to the winning touchdown against Cincinnati?? Eli equaled that with an 88 yard drive in this one and Montana didn’t have a throw as lethal as the 38 yarder to Manningham. Eight years ago in Super Bowl XXXVIII, we anointed Tom Brady to Hall of Fame status when leading his second Super Bowl winning drive against the Carolina Panthers. Well guess what Eli just led his second. Yes he’s a Hall of Famer!! Yes we said it just as we forshadowed this may be his run to greatness before the NFC Championship Game.

What is the legacy of Tom Coughlin now that his Giants won Super Bowl XLVI over the Patriots this past Sunday?? Talking heads are bantering in Indianapolis over this 5 game run to the Super Bowl, yet no one is regarding that he may be a great coach. He won his second  Vince Lombardi trophy in five years. Equal to that of his mentor Bill Parcells who won two in a four year span.  Is he a Hall of Fame coach?? Well they just removed the 1988 San Francisco 49ers from the record book for winning the Super Bowl with the lowest record. (9-7 to 10-6 for 49ers)

Super Bowl XLII Championship Ring

Everyone also forgets he almost went undefeated in 1999. His Jacksonville Jaguars went 14-2 and had homefield throughout the playoffs. Before game 15 they were on pace to break the record for fewest points allowed in a 16 game season also. However they got swept during the regular season by the Tennessee Titans and Jeff Fisher. The Titans also beat them in the AFC Championship Game to end Coughlin’s Jags season 33-14. They did have a rousing win in the AFC Divisional round with a 61-7 win over Jimmy Johnson’s Miami Dolphins.

Eli Manning just became a Hall of Fame quarterback tying Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr as fellow 2 time Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks.

Want some irony?? Fisher had some parting verbal shots at Jacksonville and the Jaguars were never the same. Coughlin gets fired a few years later. Fisher goes on to lose Super Bowl XXXIV to the St. Louis Rams. Now Jeff Fisher is the St. Louis Rams head coach after NOT winning a Super Bowl in Tennessee. Guess what Fisher did this Sunday?? He sat his ass on a couch and watched Tom Coughlin win his second Super Bowl to put his name on the short list of great coaches who have accomplished that.

Right now, the New York Giants are World Champions and a parade awaits. Congratulations on a remarkable run.

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Super Bowl XLVI Preview:Bill Belichick & His Place In History

The best coach of the last 50 years and possibly in the history of the NFL

When you talk of the great coaches in NFL history, even the ardent Patriot hater has to put Bill Belichick on the short list. If his team leaves Lucas Oil Stadium with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, it’s namesake will be the only coach he can be compared to. It would be his fourth championship as a head coach and sixth overall. All of this coming in the modern era with player movement in true free agency?? Yikes!! You’d have to look at it like this… Vince Lombardi was the greatest coach in the first 50 years of NFL history (1920-1969) and Belichick would be the greatest from 1970 to the present.

How can we say that?? First let’s dispel the “Spy Gate” situation. In a game of simulated war with blitzes and bombs and protecting zone areas on a field / map: wouldn’t you expect some sort of espionage?? Dont forget that in 1958 John Steadman of the Baltimore Sun Times reported that Baltimore Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom had an assistant watch the New York Giants practice before the NFL Championship Game. Rosenbloom assured him that if he were caught, he’d have a job for life with the team. Watch the NFL Films production on the 1958 Championship and you can hear it first hand.

Then somewhere in the 60’s to put an end to this, Pete Rozell put in Tuesday film swap day. That way the teams could share intel on each other to put the spy thing to bed. Yet everyone is always trying to steal other team’s signals. Fast forward to Bill Walsh in 1979 who was the first to script his 15 plays and have an elaborate sheet with plays in front of him.  He was the first head coach to be completely under a headset all game long. Whenever he would call plays he would use his play sheet to cover his mouth to protect himself from lip readers. This practice is still in place today. Watch the playcaller on the sideline and where once teams had elaborate hand signals, now hold up a play sheet. Quarterbacks have transmitters in their helmets now.

So quit hawking Belichick about that already. Now back to what we were saying…

If you look at his tenure against other coaches from 1970 on, you can’t come up with a more successful coach. He just made his 5th Super Bowl to tie Tom Landry. If he wins he’ll have tied Chuck Noll with 4 Super Bowl titles. Yet what sets him apart is only Tom Brady remains from his 2001 championship where Noll won with primarily the same players. Hell, only 1 defensive starter remains from the 2007 defense that went 16-0. That would be Vince Wilfork. Noll never returned to the Super Bowl and only made 1 AFC Championship after the 70’s run. Belichick has won with 3 incarnations of the Patriots since 2001. Tom Landry and Don Shula did that but neither could get past 2 championships with Belichick going for number 4. Which would put him ahead of Bill Walsh who has 3.

So it’s at this point, the New York Giants are the gatekeepers to history. With this win Belichick will ascend to the rank of the greatest coach in the last 50 years of the NFL. Ironically he won his first two as a defensive co-ordinator for the New York Giants. Another irony is he doesn’t seem to be close to retirement. If there are other championships in his future he would even have to best Lombardi and be thought of as the greatest ever coach.

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2011 Predictions Continued …and the winner of the NFC is…??

The new version of the George S. Halas trophy given out last year. Emblematic of the Champion of the NFC

With every NFL season comes the prognostication of who will win each division and then who will win the Super Bowl. Well we’re not going to reveal that just yet but we are certain of several things. One, is our crystal ball is a little hazy but it usually works. It uses D Cell batteries and Duracell usua…..oops ,excuse me.  This happens whenever I write the article myself while having tequila…yet I digress

Our choices to make this year’s NFC Championship race are as follows:

1. Green Bay Packers – NFC North Champs w/ homefield advantage throughout playoffs.

2. Atlanta Falcons – NFC South Champs w/ second seed in the playoffs. If the Packers stumble in the divisional round, Falcons would host the NFC Championship Game.

3. Philadelphia Eagles -NFC East Champs. Will participate in the wildcard round and can only host the NFC Championship Game if #3 seed and lower meet. Will host the 6th seed wildcard weekend.

4. St. Louis Rams – NFC West Champs. Will participate in the wildcard round and can only host the NFC Championship Game if #4 seed and lower meet. Will host the 5th seed wildcard weekend.

5. Detroit Lions – The top record of non divisional winners and will face the 4th seeded team on the road during Wildcard weekend. Could only host the NFC Championship Game if #5 and #6 teams were to meet. (Has never happened)

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The second best record of a non division winner and will face the 3rd seed during Wildcard weekend on the road. Cannot host any playoff game no matter what.

Now that the lesser teams are vanquished, how would the playoffs line up.  Try the St. Louis Rams hosting the Detroit Lions during wildcard weekend. This would be a game to determine who would have the upper hand between two teams that would figure prominently in the Super Bowl chase in the upcoming years. In a game like that we would have to take the team with the most playmakers and that would be the Lions moving on.  In the other wildcard matchup, Tampa would face Philadelphia in a matchup to mimic those from the 2000 -2003 where a physical battle would be determined by mistake proof football.  The big question would be “Can Philadelphia stand up to the battle-hardened Buccaneers??” We say no…just like in 2010 and most of Michael Vick’s career he would be recovering from a late season injury and wouldn’t be 100%. This game would be a 50/50 toss up and would tilt in the upstarts favor if the game stayed tight.  In a game like this, the Eagles would have to get on top of the Bucs, 14- 0 or 20-3, and get them out of their gameplan early. Being a finesse team would play against the Eagles and they’d go down in wildcard weekend in the second upset of the playoffs.

On to the divisional round where the big boys would then kick things into high gear.  First the Buccaneers would take on the Atlanta Falcons for the third time in the season and would play them to a stalemate. However being that the Bucs were in their first foray late in the playoffs you’d have to figure the Falcons would force an additional turnover that would send Tampa to defeat. The Falcons would then make the pilgrimage to the NFC Championship game for the second time in their history.

There they would take on the Green Bay Packers who would best a Lion team who was in the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. The Lions would be arriving on the scene a year too early for their best effort and would lose to the Packers setting up the NFC Championship Game. Atlanta Falcons @ Green Bay Packers.

In a rematch of the previous year’s divisional playoff game won by the Packers 48-21, this would be a little closer based upon the cold weather. Yes, we’re saying that being in Lambeau Field would benefit the Falcon defense. The year before, the Falcons were carved up in a controlled environment at home.  In the arctic climes of Lambeau, the playing style would bring the teams closer together in terms of score. Yet the Packers would prevail 26-17 to make it to their second straight Super Bowl with the George S. Halas Trophy presented by former Packer legend Jerry Kramer. Hopefully Kramer would be there to deliver the trophy on the backdrop that he would be a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Packer faithful would then descend on Indianapolis in search of their 14th championship.  Would they get it?? Sorry, you’ll have to stay tuned for that.  As for this look into the crystal ball… Green Bay would represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVI… So who would they play??

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Next Up: AFC West Predictions

2011 Atlanta Falcons Preview

The 2010 season was a banner year for the Atlanta Falcon franchise.  Although it ended in disappointment, they came back to dethrone the defending Super Bowl champion Saints and reclaim the NFC South, as they won in 2008 also.  They have a nucleus of talent that is still young and growing, they just happened to run into a buzzsaw in Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs.  They were beaten in the playoffs by the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers who made two herculean interceptions by Tremond Williams to turn the tide, one of which returned for a halftime touchdown, iced the game. Yet through the 2010 season we learned about this team. They were battle tested in facing Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC, then the Eagles, Packers, Seahawks, and split with the Saints.  Thats right 7 playoff teams and thats before we bring up the season sweep of the 10-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers that kept them from the playoffs.  This team has won 2 of 3 division titles in the toughest division in football, the NFC South.  So where do they go from here?? What do they do for an encore??

Quarterback: This team is set at quarterback for many years to come in Matt Ryan.  Not only does he pass the eyeball test, “Matty Ice” is going to be one of the faces of the NFL through his play over the next decade barring injury.  His third season was a fruitful one completing 357 of 571 passes for 3,705 yards, 28 TDs and only 9 interceptions.  If you only saw his playoff game and saw that late 2nd quarter interception that put the Falcons behind by two scores at the half, you’re short changing one of 2010’s best pressure qbs.  He led drives to take the lead in 7 games last year, most notably, games 3 and 4 in the upset win of New Orleans and San Francsico to get the Falcons season underway.  Then rose to the occasion to do the same in what many thought could be a Super Bowl preview against the Baltimore Ravens in week 9 on a Monday Night.  The 26-21 win with the last second touchdown pass to Roddy White will be the calling card of his career until he wins a playoff game or a Super Bowl.

Ryan has worked hard on his footwork within the pocket.  He always keeps his feet set for to throw and doesn’t throw off his backfoot which caused some balls to sail on him in his first two years.  Another quality he’s worked on is not staring down his receiver allowing the defender to get a jump on his throws.  The playoff interception was an aberration because he was scrambling to that half of the field with time running out and should have thrown it away. Little more improvement and we’re looking at a perennial NFC Pro Bowl quarterback.  Its just time for him to win a playoff game.  Clearly on the rise…Super Bowl quality

Offensive Backfield: One of the NFC’s best and most physical rushing attacks with Michael Turner and Jason Snelling.  They are still scratching their heads in San Diego over why they didn’t re-sign Turner who used to spell LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego, opting for the undersized Darren Sproles…yet i digress.  Turner has been a constant force for this Falcons team since his arrival.  In 2010 he was 2nd in the NFC and 6th in the NFL overall with 1,371 yards rushing with a gaudy 4.1 yards per rush average.  Turner is only 3 seasons removed from a career year of 1,699 yards rushing and may be able to best that mark this year.  He’s not much of a threat as a receiver with only 12 catches yet with the Falcons play action passing attack he’s utilized more as a pass blocker.  He can push the pile and fall forward for the extra yards that sustain drives.

With Turner going into his 8th season there is a chance he could start slowing due to hits piling up on that body.  Enter Jason Snelling.  Most teams have a second running back that comes in with a slightly different running style than the starter, not here.  Snelling comes in with his 223lbs. and slashes into the hole and physically finishes off runs the same as Turner.  In his five years he has averaged 4.1 yards per rush and the Falcons can run for a tough 3rd and 2 attempt with either back.  A luxury many teams don’t have.  Running downhill is what this team does.

Rushing attack from time to time is too centered in power football and needs a little bit of wiggle.  Could see a third down back or a scat back to add to their arsenal of backs.  A draft could be used here to pick up a wildcard type of player to provide a little explosion to the mix.  Especially once the bruisers have softened up the underbelly of opponents defenses.  If they stand pat, still an impressive backfield.

Receivers: It all starts with Roddy White, the best receiver in the NFL.  He led the league with 115 receptions for 1,389 yards and 10 TDs.  A Pro Bowl starter and 1st team All pro performer that has a volatile streak is actually the emotional sparkplug for this team.  From time to time the coaches reel him in a little bit but they know they can’t turn him into a church-mouse.  His personality and fight permeates this team and propels his play and if you curb that, the team would go flat.  Coming off 4 straight 1,000 yard seasons this was no fluke.  White is in the prime of his career and should be catching Ryan passes the rest of the decade.  Michael Jenkins is a solid receiver who disappears at times during games. However he had 41 receptions and averaged 12.3 yards per receptions to keep the chains moving.  He only scored twice and needs to break more plays for the Falcons.  At receiver the Falcons could use a boost here in the draft..

Tony Gonzalez showed up as the all time leader in receptions for an NFL tight end and didn’t disappoint with a 70 reception season for nearly 700 yards and 6 touchdowns.  He gave Matt Ryan the safety valve necessary to stay calm in the pocket and get into a passing rhythm week after week.  The Falcons hope to coax another season out of Gonzalez that could propel both to their first Super Bowl victories.  At least that is the plan.  Receiver is great with a little room for improvement from Jenkins or a rookie to step in and help.

Offensive Line: Aside from C Todd McClure, the remaining 4 linemen have 5 years or less on their resume, with McClure entering his 11th.  Not one of the five starters for Atlanta missed a start in 2010 and their performance bore this out.  They were 3rd in the NFL with only 23 sacks allowed while paving the way for 497 carries and 1,891 yards and 14 TDs.  Although the rushing total was only good enough to rank 12th, only the New York Giants and the New England Patriots could boast more rushing yards and less than25 sacks allowed.

Lets face facts, this is a quality line whose cohesion and youth should serve them well in what will be a dogfight in football’s best division.  For the Falcons to reach Super Bowl XLVI this line will need another great year from this offensive line.  Sam Baker (T) and Justin Blaylock (G) man the left side and keep blindside blitzers off of Ryan.  Each one of them are entering only their 3rd year.  Harvey Dahl (RG) and Tyson Clabo (RT) are each entering only their 5th seasons.  This is arguably the best line in football and should continue to improve.  Coach Mike Smith knows his team wins or loses it in the trenches and the heartbeat of this team is the offensive line.  Super Bowl Caliber

Defensive Line: This defense had a decent year in the statistical sense but its totally misleading.  John Abraham had a good year with 13 of the 20 sacks garnered by the defensive line.  However they could use more force at defensive tackle and here is the dilemma:  Although the defense ranked 10th against the run, this team ranked 25th in yards given up per rush with 4.6.  Thats terrible.  Jonathon Babineaux and Corey Peters need to eat up those blockers yet not get pushed off the ball so much.  More pressure is needed from the defensive end opposite Abraham, Kroy Bierman’s 3 sacks is nowhere near enough for a starting defensive end in a 4-3 defense.  Could see several draft picks used on the defensive line although Peters at DT was a rookie.  Abraham is going into his 11th year and has had injury issues throughout his career.

This team’s defense relies on their offense running the ball after getting a lead and controlling the clock to keep them off the field. However as evidenced in the 48-21 divisional playoff loss to the Packers, if the defense can’t force teams off the field on their own the wheels can come off quickly.  This also happened in Philadelphia early in the season in a 31-17 loss.  Spend a couple draft picks to bolster this defensive line. Coaxing another year out of this line as it is wouldn’t be wise…not against up and coming Tampa Bay and the dangerous Saints in the division.  They have to get better. This defensive line is below average…they achieved through smoke and mirrors last year

Linebacker: Curtis Lofton had a solid 2010 at MLB and finished with a team leading 118 total tackles.  He was able to get 2 sacks and force 3 fumbles.  However too often opposing linemen were able to push through the Falcon front and gobble up the smallish linebacker (6’0 /244lbs.) which is a two fold issue.  He has to shed blockers a little better if the defensive front doesn’t improve.  He has good range but what most teams will do is run directly at the Falcon middle until they prove they can stop it.  Steven Nicholas has good speed and range and finished the season with 78 total tackles yet only 1 interception and no sacks.  Needs to make a few more plays like he did in the 1st quarter of the playoff loss when he chased Packer WR Greg Jennings down and forced a fumble 25 yards downfield.  An amazing play.  Solid and strong on the outside should get a few more interceptions facing tight ends.  Mike Peterson is going into year 12 and should give way to the younger Sean Weatherspoon, last year’s 1st round pick, who did start 5 games in place of Nicholas last year.  Either he or Nicholas needs to move in and replace an aging Peterson and get a little more athleticism on the field.  Falcon linebackers are solid but not spectacular…if Weatherspoon can get on the field and pan out…this could change.

Secondary: A funny thing happened here last year.  After making a splash with the free agent signing of CB Dunte Robinson, the play of CB Brent Grimes improved dramatically.  Grimes went to his first pro bowl after leading the Falcons with 5 interceptions, highlighted by a game clinching interception in a week 12 showdown with Tampa for first place. Grimes finished second on the team with 87 tackles showing he will support the run. Tremendous season for the other cornerback.  Robinson only finished with 1 interception and needs a better second season in Atlanta.  Of course the company line is he was getting used to the Falcon system yet was last seen struggling against the Packers.  He definitely needs a bounce back year and he should.  He’s only entering his 6th season and is a physical corner.  He gains some humility from watching Grimes become a prime time player could propel this team into having the best set of cornerbacks in the NFC.  Two young safeties in William Moore and Thomas McCloud have played solid but not spectacular.  Moore tied for the team lead with 5 interceptions.  A very good secondary and if the Falcons can muster a real pass rush can be Super Bowl quality.

Overall: This is the team that will make the pilgrimmage up north to take on the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field for the NFC Championship Game.  The Falcons were 13-3 last year yet they need to improve on the defensive lines and the other wideout needs to make a few more plays.  Yet how they play now it would bode well in Green Bay.  Aaron Rodgers isn’t going to throw for 400 yards in below zero weather outdoors as he did in last year’s domed playoff game.  Stranger things have happened and a piece of history to take with you is that in 2002 the Atlanta Falcons went to Green Bay and won a playoff game in the snow.  The first ever post season loss at Lambeau….ever.   Just sayin’….

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