2010 Off To A Great Start

Well 2009 has come and gone. 2010 has started with a bang!

The Saints won Super Bowl XLIV in fine fashion. It was the franchises first trip to the Big Game in its 44 year history which started just 2 months before the first Super Bowl was played Jan 15, 1967. This years Super Bowl took over the top spot for the highest viewed program ever, ending a 27 year run by the final episode of M*A*S*H, with an average audience of 106.5 million viewers.

Kevin Harvick won the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. Not a points race for the Sprint Cup season but more of a pre-season all-star race which included all 12 drivers from the 2009 Chase, the 2009 Rookie of the Year (Joey Logano), past Sprint Cup Champions, past Shootout winners, and past winners of the Daytona 500 and Pepsi 400 (the July race at Daytona). In all 24 of 28 eligible drivers were in the race. Kevin won last year also to become only the fourth driver to win back-to-back shootout races joining Neil Bonnett, Ken Schrader, and Tony Stewart.

The Daytona 500 is lining up to be a great race (isn’t it always!) with Mark Martin getting the Pole and Dale Jr to the outside of row one. We will get the lineup for the rest of the field in the two Gatorade Duel races this Thursday.

With some of the rule changes recently made by NASCAR this year should be more enjoyable for the fans. They are lifting the restriction on bump drafting at the high speed tracks and giving them a less restrictive restrictor plate for the same races. They are letting the drivers police themselves which is a much welcome change to at least one NASCAR fan (me). It shows that NASCAR realizes that they have to trust the drivers on the track and not dictate so much to them.

Yes, make the cars safe, make the track safe, but for goodness sake, let the drivers DRIVE! I think they got this one right.

There is only one full time team at the Sprint Cup level driving Dodge cars this year and that is Roger Penske Racing. With three drivers in his stable he gets to have all the attention and (more importantly) money from the Dodge Motorsports folks. Hopefully their research and development programs will provide these cars and their teams some of the best that Dodge has to offer. Don’t forget, Kurt Busch finished fourth last year. One of only two Dodges in the top ten (Kasey Kahne finished tenth) and the first non-Chevy after the Hendricks juggernaut.

So for this year as a new proud owner of a 2010 Dodge Charger R/T I will be cheering the Penske teams to victory. Those drivers include the aforementioned Kurt Busch, Sam Hornish Jr, and Brad Keselowski.

Yes I will still cheer for Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson. I am forever a fan of these two drivers!

See you at the track!

I wish!

Colts and Panthers and Bears Oh My!

Well what a weekend for NFL football. I mean, who would have thought the Colts would loose, the Panthers would win, and the Bears would wake up and play some football?

The Colts were on their way to NFL Greatness and made an “organizational” decision to bench their star players including Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark half way through the third quarter with a mere 5 point lead. That opened the door for the Jets to take over and win the game, improving their chances of getting into the playoffs if they can win against the Bengals next week. That game will be in Giants Stadium where the Panthers handed the Giants their worst home loss since 1998.

Speaking of the Panthers, they have won two in a row over teams I had marked down as losses and teams that could have been playing for a spot in the Super Bowl. After handing the Vikings a 26-7 loss at Bank of America Stadium the Panthers went up to New York and thrashed the Giants 41-9. The most obvious part of that win for the Panthers would be the missed tackles by the Giants. They just could not stop Jonathan Stewart who ran for a career high 206 yards and a touchdown.

Steve Smith (the Panther, not the Giant) was also having a great game until he caught a touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter and got hit on his left forearm and broke it. This man did not even grimace. Not even one little bit! He is my vote for Tough Guy of the Week, if not the season.

Last night I witnessed what was probably the best game I have seen all year. There were times where it wasn’t that pretty for either team. But what it lacked in elegance it completely made up for in sheer thrill.

The Bears were playing at home and have already been eliminated from the playoffs so this was just for pride. The Vikings took game one from the Bears in Week 12 with a 36-10 win, so this one was for a little payback.

I must say I was impressed with Jay Cutler. That is the quarterback the Bears were hoping they got when they traded Kyle Orton to Denver for him. Also Devin Aromashodu, who isn’t a rookie but has only started in three games in his four year career, had a career high 150 yards receiving with one touchdown which was also his longest reception at 39 yards which was also the game winner.

The whole Bears defense was up to the task as well keeping Adrian Peterson below 100 yards rushing for the sixth straight game, although he did compile 137 yards total for the game. They also recovered two Vikings fumbles.

The game was all Bears in the first half, but after the break it seemed like the polarity of a battery had been reversed. The Vikes came out down 16-0 and scored on their opening drive and looked to take over. The game went to overtime where it went back and forth twice before the Bears were able to score the winning touchdown.

The Bears looked like they were playing in the playoffs and it looked good.

Did it matter? To the Bears, no. To the Vikings, yes. After the New Orleans Saints lost earlier in the day the Vikings chances of getting home field throughout the playoffs increased.

But with the loss to the Bears, that is out the window.

So who is the hottest team in the league right now? I would have said either the Colts, Saints, or Vikings, but after all three lost this weekend in one fashion or another, my hottest team right now is the San Diego Chargers, winners of 10 in a row.

One week left in the regular season.

Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Panthers Upset the Saints?

That would be cool.

It wasn’t that long ago I had expressed my displeasure with the Carolina Panthers. Now here I am hoping for an upset over the undefeated New Orleans Saints. Do I really think it will happen? Hey, it’s the NFL. Anything can happen!

The season didn’t start so great for the Panthers. When the schedule came out before spring training, I took one look at it and said they will start 0-3. I wish I hadn’t been so accurate with my prediction. But since then, the Panthers have gone 3-1 with a miserable “here we go again” loss to the Buffalo Bills who were 2-4 at the time and struggling themselves. We have wins against Washington, Tampa Bay, and Arizona in what can only be described as complete irony in that Kurt Warner had exactly the same number and types of turnovers that Jake Delhomme did when we lost to them in the playoffs last January. He threw five interceptions and lost a fumble.

But you know what won that game for us? The running game. In that game last week DeAngelo Williams ran for 158 yards and Jonathan Stewart scrambled for another 87 yards and two touchdowns. Do they always need a huge running game to win? Not really. In the win over the Redskins, the two backs ran for a combined 79 yards and one touchdown. But against the Bucaneers they ran for 262 yards and three touchdowns! In the first three games of the season however, the dynamic duo only broke one hundred yards rushing against the Falcons.

What I believe the Panthers need to do to win today against the Saints is to run the ball more than anything else. The Saints aren’t the best rushing defense in the league but they have allowed 102 yards a game on the ground and nine touchdowns with a 4.4 yards per rush average allowed. If DeAngelo Williams can get it going, early and often, the Panthers will have a chance to steal a win from the Saints in New Orleans. That would be huge. That would be bigger than huge. A divisional game on the road over one of the last two undefeated teams in the NFL? Talk about a shot in the arm.

If last weeks emotional win on the road over the team that made the Panthers look like a junior varsity team in the playoffs wasn’t enough, a win today, on the road, in the loud, thunderous Superdome would absolutely turn this team around for good.

Do they have enough to make the playoffs? Not sure. They still have to play the Vikings, the Patriots, the Giants, and the Saints again. But if they can just string a couple of wins together, maybe, just maybe, they can squeak out a winning season to have their first back to back winning seasons in team history.

That would be cool.