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.

An excuse to bench Jake Delhomme?

It has come to everyone’s attention that Jake Delhomme, the beleaguered quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, seems to have broken a finger on his throwing hand late in the game Sunday against the New York Jets. It allegedly happened on a pass to Dwayne Jarrett which was thankfully completed.

Video shows Jake running to the line of scrimmage after the play waving his right (throwing) hand to get the team ready for the next play. Please don’t make yourself sick all over again by watching the whole video. The play in question starts at 2:17 of the video.

Jake continues to play the game and shows no sign of any pain for nine more passes or in the after game interviews.

Hmmmm.

I wonder if this is Coach Fox’s way of benching Jake and saving face at the same time? He doesn’t have to bench him because of performance, because, let’s face it, Coach Fox will never do that. Jake doesn’t have to be the laughing stock of the NFL (he almost is, but I think the Cleveland Browns has that position wrapped up). And best of all, it just might be good for the fans.

I hope that last part doesn’t surprise anyone. How many times has a backup QB come on in the middle of a season (or at anytime for that matter) and taken over the team and gone on to greatness? Can anyone say Tom Brady? Tony Romo? Hey, what about Jake Delhomme?

Yes, Jake is one of those QBs who stepped in for either an injured or poor performing starting QB and went on to greatness. In his case it was Rodney Pete who was hit in a game and suffered from internal bleeding that let Jake loose on us all. He took the Panthers to the Superbowl in 2003 and to the playoffs in 2005 and 2008. We all know how that one ended.

Maybe it is Jake’s turn to be replaced by an up and coming backup quarterback.

Problem is…we don’t have one.

It’s that time of year again

Yes, the holidays are upon us. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year! The smells, the sights, the pumpkin pies! And with Christmas now right around the corner I have put on the Christmas theme for my blog and will leave it up through the holidays.

Speaking of which, my wonderful wife has just baked three of the most scrumptious pumpkin pies to date! One is actually a pumpkin banana meringue and I have to wait until tomorrow and an entire car trip to Fort Bragg before I can have any! Bah, hum-bug!

We are going out to Fort Bragg to see Suzanne’s sister and her family. Aaron, her husband, joined the Army this year and he is now stationed out there. We are very proud of his decision and fully support him. They have just arrived last month to their new home and a new state. We were very surprised that they wanted to host Thanksgiving dinner…but who are we to argue with that 🙂

Well, now that the NASCAR season is over I will refocus on my other favorite sport and post more about the Carolina Panthers. It’s not looking good for the home team. After going 0-3 to start they went 4-2 over the next six games to get to 4-5. Then Miami came to town. To get to .500 all we needed to do was what we did against Atlanta just four days earlier, but it didn’t work out. Not that the Panthers did really anything wrong, but it seemed that they couldn’t keep thing going.

They did have some great moments. Steve Smith’s touchdown catch stands out to me. It was a great catch at a great time to cap off a great drive. I know I have been critical of Jake on this blog before and have called for him to be replaced, but I am willing to give him a couple more weeks.

This Sunday they play at the New York Jets and then back at home against division rivals, the Bucs. If they can squeak through these games with a couple of wins and depending on Jake’s performance in those games, I will get off his back. But I see no hope in making the playoffs this year with the last four games being against the Patriots, the Vikings, the Giants, and the Saints.

If you had asked me last year if we could roll into the playoffs with wins against those four teams I would have said no problem.

This year?

Maybe next year.

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.

A six-pack of Superbowls!

Well the NFL season is officially over except for that one game that the all-stars get to play in sunny Hawaii next week that doesn’t really matter for a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things. So are you ticked that the Steelers won? Upset that the final Cardinals play WAS NOT reviewed? Steaming over the fact that Santonio Holmes got his toes down? Mad that Harrison ran for 100 yards for a Superbowl record longest play ever? Does it matter now? No it doesn’t. The game is over, the Steelers are the Superbowl champions (notice I did not say the best team I the NFL), and the Cardinals will have to go home and try again next year. Do I think they will be in the playoffs next year? Yes, if they can keep everyone around that helped them make it this year. Will they make it to the big dance again? Who knows. No one thought they would be here this year. Only time will tell.

I do know this. Kurt Warner had a heck of a game. Ben Roethlisberger redeemed himself from his poor performance in Superbowl XL where he went 9/21 for 123 yards and 2 interceptions. He did rush for a touchdown in that game and almost got one in this one, but as a passer he did horrible in SB XL. Not this time. Kurt Warner probably cemented his spot in the Hall of Fame unless something dreadful happens.

Who did I root for? Not really sure. Like my wife I was rooting for a great game and I think we got one. No, I know we got one. Best ever? No. Top 3? Maybe. Top 5? Absolutely. To see Pittsburgh grab their 6th title was pretty cool. It would have been just as cool to see the Cardinals put an end to a 61 year drought without a title. Ok I was pulling for the Cardinals a little bit more than the Steelers. There are so many Pittsburgh fans in Charlotte, it makes me sick. One of the reasons I cannot stand the Tarheels (or tar-holes as me and my brother like to call them) is because everyone who has a nose on their face is a fan. There are just too many of them, but that is for another post. Back to the game.

There were a few things that could have gone either way. But if it was the old days, before instant reply, it would not have mattered in the least and the outcome would have been the same. The Cardinals killed themselves with 3 personal fouls that kept a Steelers drive alive more than once. You CANNOT do that and win the Superbowl. Never gonna happen.

It was an exciting year to say the least. Ok so you are wondering who I think the best team in the NFL is? Well I will try to answer and no it isn’t the Panthers although they are in the top 5. So here is my list:

1. Tennessee Titans

2. New York Giants

3. Carolina Panthers

4. Baltimore Ravens

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

I’m sure I will take flake for that list, so be it. Bigger and better things are on the horizon. 12 days and 20 hours until the green flag drops at Daytona 🙂

I’m sure I will talk about the draft and training camp and preseason, but until August, except for NASCAR, there won’t be much sports to talk about. Yeah there is Baseball and the college basketball tourney, but those really don’t count now do they….

Elliott Sadler to sue Gillett Evernham Motorsports for No. 19 rights – ESPN

I know I was going to talk about the NFL playoffs and I will but I had to post this. Just read it seems that Elliott Sadler is going to sue Gillett Evernham Motorsports over the fact that he may not be driving the number 19 for them even though he has a contract to do so through the 2010 season (that’s two more full years!). Rumor has it that Sadler heard through one of his sponsors that AJ Almendinger will be in the number 19. I don’t know what is going on over at GEM, but I don’t like this at all. Read it for yourself. Elliott Sadler to sue Gillett Evernham Motorsports for No. 19 rights – ESPN.

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Well the divisional round is all set with the Chargers at Steelers, Ravens at Titans, Eagles at Giants, and the Cardinals at the Panthers. All of these games are rematches from this earlier this season. And the home teams in these four games all won the game earlier except for the Giants/Eagles who beat each other on the road. Who do I think will come out on top and move on to the Championship games? Glad you asked 🙂

My picks:

Panthers 27 Arizona 17

Eagles 17 Giants 13

Steelers 24 Chargers 21

Titans 27 Ravens 24

We shall see! GO PANTHERS!!!!