Jan 5th 2009 1:00PM by Ryan Wilson (author feed)
Filed under: Cowboys, Ravens, Steelers, AFC North, NFL Fans, NFL AwardsI’ll admit it: I’m shocked. James Harrison has been named the NFL’s 2008 Defensive Player of the Year. I certainly thought he deserved to be in the conversation, and since I’m a Steelers fan, I’m obviously happy for him. But I also fully expect the Ed Reed and DeMarcus Ware supporters to make a spirited case for why their guy got hosed.
It’s hard to dispute Reed’s ability to blow your mind on a weekly basis, but he got off to a slow start (only one pick in the first 10 games, which, when you consider that he wasn’t supposed to be playing — maybe ever again — is impressive in its own right), but the eight interceptions over the final six weeks of the season puts him in the mix. That he had a lot to do with the Ravens’ making it to the postseason further strengthens his case.
Ware, on the other hand, recorded 20 sacks, but the Cowboys, like the rest of us, watched the playoffs from the couch last weekend. I know, I know, playing on a team not coached by Wade Phillips doesn’t automatically disqualify you for Player of the Year, but there’s no way Ware gets it over Harrison or Reed, two guys still playing.Continue Reading
Jan 5th 2009 8:27PM by JJ Cooper (author feed)
Filed under: Chargers, Steelers, AFC North, AFC WestAfter a week off, Ben Roethlisberger returned to the practice field on Monday after passing his final post-concussion tests.
Just a little over a week after he was carted off the Heinz Field immobilized in a neck brace, Roethlisberger apparently is fully cleared to start on Sunday against the Chargers. Roethlisberger threw for over 300 yards in his regular season game against the Chargers, but he was sacked four times.
As Steelers fans will remember, the last time Roethlisberger was carted off the field with a concussion, he played the worst game of his career the next week–a four-interception debacle against the Raiders. The Steelers don’t need Roethlisberger to win the game this weekend as much as they need him to be efficient, move the chains and avoid mistakes, but if he does show signs of rustiness, it will be interesting to see if Mike Tomlin would pull him for Byron Leftwich. My guess is Roethlisberger takes every snap unless he’s injured, no matter how he plays.
Jan 5th 2009 8:38AM by JJ Cooper (author feed)
Filed under: AZ Cardinals, Chargers, Eagles, Giants, Panthers, Ravens, Steelers, Titans, NFL PlayoffsWhen you get to the playoffs, it’s worth keeping one eye on the weather–Chargers fans rightfully believe they would have made it to the Super Bowl in 1981 if it wasn’t for a record cold snap in Cincinnati. And there are Cowboys players from the 1960s who still have frozen fingers from the Ice Bowl.
We shouldn’t see anything like that this weekend, but it appears that three of the four second-round playoff games could see some inclement weather.
The Titans-Ravens game could be a turnover-fest, as rain and potential snow showers are forecast for Saturday with a high of 38 degrees. And the Chargers should be ready to bundle up as the projected high in Pittsburgh on Sunday is 23 (with mild winds) and occasional snow showers are forecast.
The Giants-Eagles game will be played in very mild conditions for a Giants-Eagles’ game in January–30 degrees and sunny, while the Panthers-Cardinals game may see rain–as the early forecast is for 52 degrees and rain. While rain might affect the Cardinals’ passing game, they surely would prefer to have 52 degrees and rain to another snowstorm like the one that buried them in New England last month.
These are forecasts for six or seven days in the future, so there is a chance that they will change over the next week. But if they don’t change we could see some interesting weather this weekend, which usually makes playoff games even more interesting.
Jan 3rd 2009 11:45PM by JJ Cooper (author feed)
Filed under: Steelers, Titans, NFL PlayoffsWhether you’re the Steelers or the Titans, you have to breathe a little easier seeing Indianapolis knocked out in the first round of the playoffs — like the Patriots when they have Tom Brady, the Colts with Peyton Manning are just a team you’d rather not face in the playoffs.
But as Tennessee and Pittsburgh wait to find out who they’ll face in their first playoff games, doesn’t it feel like the Titans are getting screwed by how the seedings have set up this year?
If you’re ranking the remaining playoff teams in order of who you wouldn’t want to face, it’s the sixth-seeded Ravens who are the team to most avoid. They’ve got a great defense, a pretty good offense, and even if you beat them, you know you’re going to be battered and bruised and likely without a key player or two the next week.
Jan 2nd 2009 3:45PM by Matt Snyder (author feed)
Filed under: AZ Cardinals, Chargers, Colts, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Panthers, Ravens, Steelers, Titans, Vikings, AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, NFC East, NFC North, NFC South, NFC West, Fantasy Football, NFL PlayoffsThere are several different fantasy playoffs models, so it’s difficult to accommodate everyone when doing any set of fantasy advice for the real playoffs. Most common models require you to do a bit of prognosticating as far as the actual game winners. To that, I say good luck. This isn’t like last year, where we all knew the Patriots were going to the Super Bowl. This season the playoffs are wide open, and no, I don’t think the Giants are a sure thing to make the big game. They are the surest bet, but it’s still a bet.
Anyway, we’re going to analyze some of the players.
First, here are the regular-season defensive rankings for the teams playing this postseason.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1, 2, 1, 1)
Baltimore Ravens (2, 3, 2, 3)
Philadelphia Eagles (3, 4, 3, 4)
New York Giants (5, 9, 8, 5)
Minnesota Vikings (6, 1, 18, 13)
Tennessee Titans (7, 6, 9, 2)
Indianapolis Colts (11, 24, 6, 7)
Miami Dolphins (15, 10, 25, 9)
Carolina Panthers (18, 20, 16, 12)
Arizona Cardinals (19, 16, 21, 28)
Atlanta Falcons (24, 25, 22, 11)
San Diego Chargers (25, 11, 31, 15)Continue Reading
Dec 31st 2008 3:45PM by Matt Snyder (author feed)
Filed under: Bears, Browns, Dolphins, Jets, Lions, Packers, Steelers, Texans, AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, NFC North, NFL Referees
Before I go getting all sentimental, we have a few plays to check out for this week.
1. The Bears got jobbed on a spot in their game on a third down. It appeared it should have been about a yard and a half or even two yards to gain for a first down. The spot ended up being about a half yard short of the line to gain. I have no problem with the officials, because in fast motion it appeared the receiver wasn’t touched before rolling forward for just over a yard. Plus, due to positioning circumstances, they’d be in a huge hurry to get the exact line. Those are tough. My problem, however, lies in the replay rules. The Bears were not allowed to challenge the spot because the Texans didn’t gain a first down.Continue Reading
Dec 30th 2008 11:04PM by JJ Cooper (author feed)
Filed under: Steelers, AFC North, NFL PlayoffsAs you would expect, when the Steelers took the practice field on Tuesday, Ben Roethlisberger was standing on the sideline.
Roethlisberger continues to undergo tests to determine whether he has recovered from the concussion he suffered on Sunday. What’s amazing is that some sources inside the Steelers organization are now calling it a mild concussion, even though Roethlisberger laid on the Heinz Field turf for 15 minutes, was carted off the field in a neck brace, and has some initial numbness in his hand.
But he appears to have recovered quickly, and while it’s still up in the air on whether he’ll practice at all this week, coach Mike Tomlin seems very confident that he will play the Steelers first playoff game.
“We’re going to proceed slowly with him because we have that luxury,” Tomlin said today, “but we feel comfortable with where he is relative to Sunday and where he’s capable of being next week in preparation for our game.”
Dec 30th 2008 8:30AM by JJ Cooper (author feed)
Filed under: AZ Cardinals, Chargers, Colts, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Panthers, Ravens, Steelers, Titans, Vikings, NFL PlayoffsWe all know that NFL records are not always created equal, and life isn’t fair.
That explains why the 11-5 Patriots are sitting at home while the 8-8 Chargers are preparing for the playoffs. But now that the playoff pairings have been set, it is pretty easy to get a quick-and-dirty look at which teams were tested during the regular season and which teams skated into the playoffs thanks to very forgiving schedules.
To get a better look at how the playoff teams matched up, I compiled each playoff team’s record against the other playoff teams. It’s a look that has some flaws — a win against the 8-8 Chargers counts while a win against the Patriots doesn’t, but it is a very good, and quick, way to see how many tough games each team played during the regular season.
So which teams earned their way and which ones snuck in? Well, the Dolphins shouldn’t be too proud, while the Eagles didn’t exactly back their way in, even if they had to win on Sunday to snag the NFC’s last wild-card spot.Continue Reading
Dec 28th 2008 2:45PM by Michael David Smith (author feed)
Filed under: Steelers, NFL Injuries
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was carted off the field with an apparent concussion in the second quarter of today’s game against the Cleveland Browns.
On the first play after the two-minute warning, Roethlisberger was hit as he threw a pass by Browns linebackers D’Qwell Jackson and Willie McGinest. He lay motionless on the ground for several minutes as the medical staff checked on him, and he was eventually put on a stretcher and taken to the locker room, making a thumbs-up gesture as he left the field. There was no flag on the play. Byron Leftwich replaced Roethlisberger.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will no doubt face criticism this week for having Roethlisberger in the game at all. After all, the Steelers are already locked into the No. 2 AFC seed, so the game is meaningless in terms of the team’s playoff position. On the other hand, after the success of the Giants and Patriots a year ago, it’s hard to fault NFL coaches who play their top players in Week 17.
The Steelers have two weeks off before they host a divisional playoff game. There’s no word yet on how serious Roethlisberger’s injury is.
UPDATE: Video of the hit is below.Continue Reading
Dec 28th 2008 9:51PM by JJ Cooper (author feed)
Filed under: Browns, Steelers, AFC NorthMike Tomlin said that no matter what Sunday’s game meant, he was going to play his guys. With just under two minutes to go in the first half of Sunday’s game, that looked like the worst decision of Tomlin’s young coaching career.
When Ben Roethlisberger was slammed to the ground like your three wood after you shank a shot into the woods, the Steelers rosy playoff hopes all of a sudden looked very dim. Byron Leftwich may be one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league, but he’s still someone who has thrown less than 100 passes in the past two years.
The good news is that Roethlisberger seems OK after suffering a concussion and apparently some momentary numbness. After the game, Mike Tomlin said that the Steelers expect him to play in two weeks in the Steelers’ first playoff game. Tomlin and the Steelers may have dodged a disaster.
The bad news is that the injury is another concussion for Roethlisberger. He suffered two concussions in 2006 (one when he took the header into a car and another against the Falcons). The last time he suffered a concussion in a game, he returned one week later to play his worst game as a pro–throwing four interceptions in a loss to the Raiders.